The Union for the International Control of Cancer calls for a global ban on asbestos

Sun, Sep 2, 2012

Asbestos, Misc.

The Union for the International Control of Cancer (UICC) has called for a global ban on the mining, use and export of asbestos.

The call came at the end of the UICC’s World Cancer Congress, held in Montreal, Quebec from August 27 to 30, when the UICC, for the first time, passed a motion in support of a global ban on asbestos and for transition assistance to be provided to asbestos-mining communities. The UICC comprises more than 700 member organisations in 155 countries.

At the World Cancer Congress, a session was held on Asbestos: policies and action to reduce the cancer burden. At this session, the Position Statement on Asbestos of the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology (JPC-SE) was presented. One of the recommendations made by the JPC-SE in their Position Statement calls on public health organisations and agencies to adopt a position in support of a ban on the mining, use, and export of all forms of asbestos and for transition assistance to be provided to asbestos-mining communities.

At the session, an appeal was  made to the UICC to ask its 700 member organisations, particularly in countries still using asbestos, such as India, Russia, Indonesia and Mexico, to issue a statement in their own respective countries, calling for a ban on asbestos.

The news that a developed country like Canada had decided to give financial support for the re-opening of an asbestos mine created a shock wave throughout the cancer prevention world, Terry Slevin, a spokesperson for the World Cancer Congress, told the Montreal newspaper, La Presse. Many participants at the Congress expressed their incredulity in learning of this fact, said Slevin. Most people are shocked to know about such a deliberate action to export asbestos, principally to developing countries. The Congress provided an opportunity to once again confirm the toxicity of all forms of asbestos, Slevin noted.

Slevin is director of Education and Research at the Cancer Council of Western Australia. He stated that the asbestos industry will continue to kill thousands of people, despite the precautions that it claims to want to implement in factories overseas. He noted that the history of asbestos in the world shows that people are exposed to it and that this brings risks for health. We are continuing to experience this cancer burden and this burden is becoming heavier and heavier in developing countries, Slevin stated. This burden is present for as long as asbestos is there and for the following 30 to 40 years, said Slevin.

Cancers caused by asbestos offer a very bad prognosis, wherever in the world they happen, noted Slevin. These are diseases that are very difficult to treat.

The UICC is to be congratulated for taking a strong clear position calling for a global ban on asbestos in order to prevent further unnecessary, tragic deaths caused by asbestos.

Kathleen Ruff, founder of

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