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Asbestos Issue Rising to the Forefront in Brazil

Like a number of countries around the world, Brazil is currently in the midst of tackling a major public health issue that has continued to pose a serious risk to its citizens for years: asbestos.

Brazil has been one of the countries at the forefront of the asbestos issue since the Global Asbestos Congress was held in the nation in 2000. A number of Brazil’s major states – including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul have already moved to ban the carcinogenic substance, while similar legislation is circulating in other regions of the country as well.

According to Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator for International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), while the asbestos lobbyists in Brazil have taken a serious hit, resistance to the ban is still pretty prevalent throughout the country. Wealthy asbestos backers have pushed for the status quo, which supports the “controlled use of asbestos,” according to Kazan-Allen.

Asbestos hearings headed to Brazilian Supreme Court

August marks an important month for the fate of asbestos in Brazil. Kazan-Allen notes that the Brazilian Supreme Court is set to take on the issue, hearing from local and international experts ranging from supporters of the ban to industry backers.

Last week, an agenda was set for the initial round of hearings on the asbestos issue, with more than 35 speakers scheduled to testify on the issue, including some of the world’s most notorious asbestos supporters. Scientific experts from Italy, Brazil and the U.S. are also scheduled to appear during the court hearings.

As Kazan-Allen notes, the international importance of the court hearings can be seen in the fact that the end-of-the-month proceedings will be translated into English.

Despite scientific evidence, asbestos issue rolls on

Though many states in Brazil have banned the substance, the fact that asbestos industry supporters still have a voice is alarming considering the plethora of evidence pointing to the serious risks caused by exposure to the carcinogenic material.

The dangers of asbestos have been seen as far back as the days of Pliny the Elder, the Roman philosopher who noticed that slaves who worked with asbestos appeared to suffer a “sickness of the lungs.”

Fast forward to 2012, and it has been well-documented that asbestos exposure can lead to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma. All told, the World Health Organization estimates that such asbestos-related diseases kill approximately 107,000 people around the world each year.

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