September 29, 2011
Dear Ms Kraus:
APCO Worldwide states that, as part of its key values and mission, it will act with integrity, honesty and transparency and will tell the truth.
Furthermore, APCO Worldwide states that it will comply with the Code of Ethics of the Council of PR Firms. The Code states:
In communicating with the public and media, member firms will maintain total accuracy and truthfulness. To preserve both the reality and perception of professional integrity, information that is found to be misleading or erroneous will be promptly corrected and the sources of communications and sponsors of activities will not be concealed.
We are extremely disturbed to see APCO Worldwide currently acting in a manner that violates all your above commitments.
The Department of Occupational Safety & Health in Malaysia has called for a ban on all forms of asbestos in order to save people’s lives. As you perhaps know, the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization, as well as the 175 million workers in 151 countries who belong to the International Trade Union Confederation, have all called for a global ban on asbestos as the only way to prevent a continuing tragic and unnecessary epidemic of asbestos-related deaths.
We are shocked to learn that APCO Worldwide is lobbying the government of Malaysia, on behalf of an undisclosed client, to exclude chrysotile asbestos from the ban. Chrysotile asbestos represents 100% of the global asbestos trade today. The scientific consensus is clear – just as it is on tobacco – that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, other cancers and asbestosis and that safe use is not possible.
Only lobby organizations that have a financial interest in selling asbestos claim that asbestos can be safely used, just as the lobby organizations acting on behalf of the tobacco industry have denied the clear science on tobacco harm.
APCO Worldwide has refused requests to disclose who is the client who has hired APCO Worldwide to carry out this political lobbying. Where is the transparency and honesty that APCO Worldwide has promised to demonstrate? Such conduct is a serious threat to democracy and accountability.
We call on you to immediately:
- Disclose the full identity and location of the organization on whose behalf you are endeavoring to block the proposed ban on chrysotile asbestos
- Act truthfully and respect the clear, reputable science regarding chrysotile asbestos and disassociate yourself from the discredited and deadly propaganda of the asbestos industry
- Inform the government of Malaysia that you put public health ahead of financial gain and that you support the proposed ban on all forms of asbestos.
We understand that the client who has hired APCO Worldwide to oppose the ban is, in fact, the International Chrysotile Association, which represents the global asbestos industry.
As the Consumer Association of Penang has stated, “It is imperative that Malaysia joins this global campaign to ban the use of all types of asbestos and not bow to pressure by groups that place financial gains before public health.”
As we are sure you agree, this is an issue of extreme seriousness and urgency. We therefore ask for your immediate attention to this matter. We are ready to meet with you, should you so wish, or to provide further information.
We look forward to your speedy response.
Kathleen Ruff, International co-coordinator, Rotterdam Convention Alliance; Senior human rights adviser, Rideau Institute; 2011 CPHA National Public Health Hero award, Canada
SM Mohamed Idris, President, Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia
Dr Fernand Turcotte, MD, MPH, FRCPC, Professor Emeritus of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Québec, Canada
Dr Barry Castleman, Environmental Consultant; recent consultant to World Bank and World Health Organization on asbestos, US
Kelle Louaillier, Executive Director, Corporate Accountability International, US