Deadly, deceptive letter from the International Chrysotile Association

Mon, Feb 25, 2013


Below is a letter from Chairman of the International Chrysotile Association (ICA), a lobby organisation that represents the global asbestos industry. The ICA is seeking to prevent Pakistan from banning asbestos. The letter cites scientists, such as David Bernstein, whose research has been financed by the asbestos industry and has zero credibility in the reputable scientific community.

As reported in Retraction Watch, Bernstein and the journal that publishes his work, Inhalation Toxicology, were forced recently to publish an apology for putting forward a number of articles by Bernstein as being independent research, when they were, in reality, financed by and controlled by the corporation Georgia Pacific, in order to be used in court cases the corporation was facing from workers and their families, who had been harmed by the asbestos Georgia Pacific used.

As the Centre for Public Integrity reports, Bernstein has a long history of conducting asbestos-friendly research funded by Georgia-Pacific and other companies in the industry:

“Bernstein is the most active of a dozen or so industry-backed scientists who have helped fuel the asbestos trade by producing papers, lecturing, and testifying on the relative safety of chrysotile. The industry has spent tens of millions of dollars funding their studies, which have been cited some 5,000 times in the medical literature as well as by lobby groups from India to Canada. Bernstein’s work alone has been cited 460 times. He has been quoted or mentioned in Zimbabwe’s Financial Gazette, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post and other publications around the world. His curriculum vitae suggests that he’s been a one-man road show for chrysotile, giving talks in 19 countries since 1999. Among his stops: Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam. The industry paid for all of his travel, Bernstein told [the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists] in an interview.”

It is because of the deceptive misinformation, financed by the asbestos industry, from scientists like David Bernstein, whose research was previously financed by the tobacco industry, that the use of asbestos in the world has not declined over the past two decades and that thousands will continue to die tragic deaths.

If the slogan used by the ICA were to tell the truth, it would say – For destruction of environmental, occupational health, and for unsafe and irresponsible use of asbestos.

Scientists, unions and organisations around the world, who defend public health, issued a Statement, condemning the deadly misinformation contained in the ICA letter.

Kathleen Ruff,

**                                                      **

For environmental, occupational health, safe and responsible use

ICA International Chrysotile Association

P.O. Box 2227, Arlington, VA 22202-9227 USA
Tel : 418.332.3871 Fax : 418.332.2904

January 31, 2013

Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
#3 UN Boulevard Diplomatic Enclave-1, G-5
Islamabad, Pakistan

Dear Dr. Khwaja :

It has recently come to our attention that The Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Resource Development earlier this month decided to recommend a complete ban on the import and use of asbestos (ail types). We respectfully submit that before pursuing this important decision that consideration be given to a comprehensive review of the current scientific evidence regarding the significant difference in risk between asbestos fiber types.

Please permit us to describe briefly our organization for the benefit of interested parties considering or participating in this process. The International Chrysotile  Association (ICA) is an incorporated, non-profit organization whole membership from 21 countries includes national chrysotile associations and companies using chrysotile fibers in the manufacture of products. The purposes of ICA are:

1. To promote the worldwide safe and responsible use of chrysotile; this mandate is derived from Convention 162 of the International Labor Organization concerning Safety in the Use of Asbestos as approved in 1986;

2. To create a full awareness of potential health problems associated with the irresponsible use of chrysotile;

3. To disseminate and provide prompt information service to member associations and other parties covering medical, scientific and technical matters, both occupational and environmental;

4. To put forward the view of the international chrysotile industry and defend it from unwarranted attack.

We submit that it is critical in reaching an informed and objective decision to recognize the distinction between asbestos fiber types and their relative risks to health. As you know, «asbestos» is a generic name given to the fibrous variety of six naturally occurring minerals that have been used in commercial products. The minerals that can crystallize as asbestos belong to two groups: serpentine (chrysotile) and amphibole (crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite). There is overwhelming scientific evidence proving that chrysotile presents a vastly smaller health risk than do amphibole fibers.

The number of scientific studies demonstrating that chrysotile can and is being used safely, i.e. at low exposures it does not present a detectable risk to health, is numerous. The most recent instance of a peer reviewed study of para mount relevance to your deliberations is entitled «Health risk of chrysotile revisted» and is published in Issue 2 of Volume 43 of Critical Reviews in Toxicology (February — March 2013). Its publication is now on-line and the link is . We are forwarding a copy of this study herewith for your convenience and urge your and your colleagues’ close attention to its contents.
Two excerpts from the study’s abstract are quoted below:

This review provides a basis for substantiating both kinetically and pathologically the differences between chrysotile and amphibole asbestos. Chrysotile which is rapidly attacked by the acid environment of the macrophage, falls apart in the lung into short fibers and particles, white the amphibole asbestos persist creating a response to the fibrous structure of this mineral.

The importance of the present and other similar reviews is that the studies they report show that low exposures to chrysotile do not present a detectable risk to health. Since total dose over time decides the likelihood of disease occurrence and progression, they also suggest that the risk of an adverse outcome may be low with even high exposures experienced over a short duration.

In addition, we invite your attention to a few other studies that underscore the major difference in health risk between chrysotile and amphiboles:

1. The Biopersistence of Canadian Chrysotile Asbestos following Inhalation authored by David M. Bernstein, Rick Rogers and Paul Smith and published in the journal  Inhalation Toxicology, Volume 15, Number 13, November 2003. The last sentence of the abstract states, «Taken in context with scientific literature to date, this report provides new robust data that clearly support the difference seen epidemiologically between chrysotile and amphibole asbestos.»

2. Comparison of Calidria Chrysotile Asbestos U.S.A. to pure Tremolite: Inhalation Biopersistence and Histopathology Following Short-Term Exposure. Authored by David M. Bernstein, Jorg Chevalier and Paul Smith and published in the journal Inhalation Toxicology, Volume 15, Number 14, December 2003. The last sentence of the abstract states «As Calidria chrysotile has been certified to have no tremolite fiber, the results of the current study together with the results from toxicological and epidemiological studies indicate that the fiber is not associated with lung disease.

3. The Biopersistence of Brazilian Chrysotile Asbestos following Inhalation authored by David M. Bernstein, Rick Rogers and Paul Smith and published in the journal, Inhalation Toxicology, Volume 16, Nos 11 -12, 2004. The last sentence of the abstract states, «These results support the evidence presented by McDonald and McDonald (1997) that the chrysotile fibers are rapidly cleared from the lung in marked contrast to amphibole fibers which persist.»

4. Environmental and occupational health hazards associated with the presence of asbestos in brake linings and pads (1900 to present): A «State-of-the-art» review authored by Dennis J. Paustenback, Brent L. Finley, Elizabeth T. Lu, Gregory P. Brorby and Patrick J. Sheehan and published in Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 7:33-110, 2004. The last sentence of the abstract states, «These studies indicated that these workers were historically exposed to concentrations of chrysotile fibers perhaps 10 to 50 times greater than those of brake mechanics, but the risk of asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer, if any was not apparent, except for those workers who had some degree of exposure to amphibole asbestos during their careers.»

Yet another relevant reference that directly pertains to chrysotile and its sage use is a «To Whom It May Concern» document dated November 2010, authored by six international scientists, entitled «On the Safety in Use of Chrysotile Asbestos» and copy is attached. Its conclusions a ppear belows:

The latest scientific evidence published strongly supports the following views:

1. Chrysotile is significantly less hazardous than the amphibole forms of asbestos (e.g. crocidolite and amosite);

2. When properly controlled and used, chrysotile asbestos in the modern day high-density applications does not present risks of any significance to public and/or worker health. As to chrysotile cernent building materials, it is well known that they are dense, non-friable, durable and cost competitive. With the application of simple control measures, these products do not present any significant risk to workers, the general public or the environnent. We enclose two documents: a study entitled A survey of the health problems associated with the production and use of high density chrysotile products (J.A. Hoskins and J.H. Lange) and a Chrysotile Cernent Building Materials (brochure) that provide a comprehensive review of these high quality products that have benefited society for almost 100 years.

From the above comments and attachments, there is conclusive evidence that chrysotile cernent building materials can and are being manufactured, installed and used safely. The same cannot be said that substitute fibers used as chrysotile substitutes. These substitute fibers are non-regulated, more expensive, less durable and, unlike the minimal risk associated with chrysotile, their potential risk to the health of workers in unknown. We believe that the producers/manufacturers of chrysotile substitutes bear the responsibility of providing sound, scientific evidence of the safety of these substitutes and should be held to the same standard of scrutiny as in the case of chrysotile fibers.

It is surely appropriate to underscore that an asbestos ban has NOT occurred in either Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam or the United States and other 129 countries Member States of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The overwhelming majority of bans have occurred within the European Union where political and economic issues are relevant. The attempt to ban most asbestos-containing products published in 1989 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency did not stand when scrutinized by a court of law. A ban of any product, or course, is the most burdensome of regulation and deserves to be weighed carefully. The U.S. EPA ban was challenged in the U.S. court system by a number of interested parties and the ban was overturned completely by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on October 18, 1991. There were a number of reasons for this result including the fact that the U.S. EPA failed to prove an unreasonable risk existed from the use of products banned, that such action would actually «do more harm than good,» and the agency «failed to evaluate the harm that would results from increased risk of substitute products.» Enclosed is a summary of the current status of asbestos-containing products in the United States. And, it should be noted that asbestos cernent products are authorized for manufacture and use.

In conclusion, we are persuaded the scientific evidence is overwhelming which supports the safe and responsible use of chrysotile and that there is no basis for prohibiting its use in today’s high density products.

We hope that our comments above and the attachments hereto will be helpful. Please let us know should you have questions or if we can be of any further assistance.


Jean-Marc Leblond
International Chrysotile Association

1. Health risk of chrysotile revisited
2. Inhalation Toxicology, Volume 15, Number 13, November 2003 (Canada)
3. Inhalation Toxicology, Volume 15, Number 14, December 2003 (Calidria, U.S.A.)
4. The Toxicological Response of Brazilian Chrysotile Asbestos
5. On the Safety in use of Chrysotile Asbestos, November 2010
6. Chrysotile cement Building Materials, brochure
7. Review of EPA’s attempt to ban most asbestos-containing products in the USA, January 2013
8. Review of the differences between chrysotile and amphibole asbestos, August. 2009
9. Recent studies published on chrysotile fibers (1998-2005)
10. Compendium of articles and scientific studies published on chrysotile fibers (2006-2011)

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