Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca
In response to the overwhelming scientific evidence that all forms of asbestos are deadly and in response to global momentum from scientists, the trade union movement, health defenders and asbestos victims for a global ban on asbestos, the industry is fighting for the survival of its profits.
Russia, which produces 1 million tons of the 2 million tons of asbestos produced globally each year, is determined to take every measure possible to ensure continued use of asbestos in Asia, its key market. Russia exports 85% of the asbestos it produces, shipping most of it to Asia. Consequently, its profits depend on ensuring continued, and preferably increased, use of asbestos in Asia.
On October 25, 2013, the asbestos lobby held a conference in Manila to promote asbestos use. The event was sponsored by the International Chrysotile Association, the Association of Chrysotile Industries of the Philippines and the Chrysotile information Center of Thailand.
Asbestos imported by the Philippines has shrunk from 4,136 tons in 2006 to 1,970 tons in 2012. In Thailand, import of asbestos has fallen from 140,861 tons in 2006 to 58,008 in 2012. The global asbestos industry is fighting to turn this situation around and is using internal asbestos lobby groups inside these countries to achieve its deadly agenda of increased use of asbestos in these countries.
India – the global asbestos industry’s greatest success story
India is by far the biggest importer of asbestos in the world, most of it coming from Russia. India is the global asbestos industry’s greatest success story, with import of asbestos rising from 253,382 tons in 2006 to 473,240 in 2012, a 186% increase.
The asbestos industry is determined to maintain its profitable export of asbestos to India. On December 3 & 4, 2013, the asbestos industry will therefore hold another conference, this time in New Delhi, India. The conference is once again organised by the International Chrysotile Association, this time in conjunction with the Asbestos Cement Products Association of India.
Both the conference in Manila and the conference in New Delhi feature scientists who are allied to and financed by the asbestos industry and who promote use of chrysotile asbestos. A key presenter at both events is David Bernstein. Bernstein received financing from the International Chrysotile Association to write a paper entitled Health Risks of Chrysotile Revisited, which, like all asbestos industry financed research, claims that chrysotile asbestos can be safely used without causing harm to health.
A New York court has ruled that a number of scientific articles written by Bernstein may constitute crime-fraud. The articles were financed by an asbestos products company which was seeking to defeat a case filed by asbestos victims seeking compensation. The court noted that the studies were intended to cast doubt on the capability of chrysotile asbestos to cause cancer and that, rather than being independent scientific work, the authors did not disclose that the asbestos company’s lawyer participated in lengthy discussions of the manuscripts and suggested revisions.
Before working for the asbestos industry, Bernstein did research for sixteen years that was financed by the tobacco industry.
Both the Manila and the New Delhi conferences feature presenters from Russia. In Manila, a Russian trade unionist, Dmitry Selyanin, put forward the pro-asbestos position of the International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations Chrysotile.
At the New Delhi conference, Dr. Sergey Kashansky will put forward the position of Russia, which supports continued use of chrysotile asbestos.
It is extremely disturbing that Dr. Kashansky has been appointed by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a collaborating scientist in an IARC asbestos research project in Uralasbest, Russia. Dr. Kashansky denies all the scientific evidence regarding chrysotile asbestos, is a longtime promoter of asbestos use and works to defeat the WHO’s policy of ending all use of asbestos.
Benefiting from the complicity of internal asbestos lobby organisations in Asia and the complicity of industry allied scientists, including an IARC collaborating scientist, the global asbestos industry is engaged in a ruthless campaign to promote the use of asbestos in Asia, a campaign which will cause suffering and loss of life for decades to come.