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The New Asbestos Industry Allies

asbestos lobbyAlthough civilization has used asbestos in manufacturing for centuries, the last seven decades of scientific research found an undeniable link between the mineral and deadly diseases such as malignant mesothelioma. Slowly but surely, responsible companies in industrialized nations have made it a priority to reduce their use of asbestos.

However, developing nations aren’t as fortunate. Their respective economies leave them with few alternatives to accepting exports from richer countries that mine and produce asbestos-containing materials, and that’s an outrageous injustice.

The international trade community had a chance to right this wrong at this year’s United Nation’s Rotterdam Convention. In the days leading up to the meeting, one activist noted a particularly disturbing trend: While one country that advocated for the asbestos industry has stepped down, two others have taken its place as asbestos industry allies.

Canada disappears from industry’s corner
The Rotterdam Convention is an international, U.N.-sponsored meeting in which international trade stakeholders come together and decide whether certain products for export are to be considered hazardous to human health, making them rightfully difficult to peddle.

During the last few assemblies of the Rotterdam Convention, Canada refused to cooperate with international efforts to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance. This is appalling, considering that the mineral is considered dangerous within the country’s own borders. Canada’s fight against the Rotterdam Convention on this matter was driven in large part by its once-thriving asbestos industry.

However, in 2011, officials from Quebec announced that they would stop subsidizing the asbestos industry. Kathleen Ruff, co-coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance, argued that this move is behind what she calls Canada’s new, cynically driven stance on no longer opposing adding chrysotile asbestos to the list of hazardous materials. That’s not to say that Canada will be vocally supporting the move, either, Ruff said.

Two countries fill Canada’s shoes
Ruff’s new concern is that there are two countries that will pick up where Canada left off on the chrysotile asbestos matter as asbestos industry allies: Russia and Zimbabwe.
Here’s how Ruff described the situation in an editorial for The Star in Canada:

“Russia will be attending for the first time as a party to the convention. It has indicated that it intends to use its new status to prevent chrysotile asbestos from being put on the hazardous substance list,” Ruff wrote. “In Russia, with a population of 141 million people, there is not a single scientist or a single scientific organization that opposes the government’s pro-asbestos policy. Or, at any rate, there is not a single scientist or scientific body that dares to do so publicly.”

Additionally, Zimbabwe has indicated interest in reopening its own asbestos mines. Between these two countries, many people will needlessly die from preventable asbestos-induced diseases, including asbestosis and lung cancer.

There are asbestos industry lobbyists who argue that the wealth of scientific information connecting the mineral to health problems has led to safety measures that are adequate enough to not require additional restrictions. However, experts point out that developing countries, some of which have to accept asbestos-tainted exports, don’t have the necessary regulatory bodies to adequately enforce these safety measures.

Let’s not forget how powerful the asbestos lobby is. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a serious crackdown on asbestos use in 1989, but two years later, the industry successfully got most of the ban overturned in federal court. As a result, asbestos is still allowed in many manufacturing processes in the U.S.

Rotterdam Convention a Scandal

Rotterdam ConventionA press release came across my desk this morning that is alarming to the protection of humanity. Today marks the final day of the Rotterdam Convention, a global treaty which promotes open exchange of information between countries and calls on exporters of hazardous chemicals to use proper labeling, include directions on safe handling, and inform purchasers of any known restrictions or bans.

This sixth meeting of the Rotterdam Conference began on April 28th in Geneva, Switzerland. Now for the fourth time, a handful of countries allied to the asbestos industry have refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be added to the Convention’s list of hazardous substances, even though the Convention’s expert scientific committee has repeatedly recommended that it be listed. In the previous meeting of the conference in 2001, Canada was the only Western country that refused to allow the addition of chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention.

Kathleen Ruff, co-coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention reports “It is outrageous that seven countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, India and Vietnam –are turning the Rotterdam Convention into a Convention that protects profits of the asbestos industry, instead of protecting human health and the environment.”

In her report, my sister, Laurie Kazan-Allen, coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat describes this ruthless conduct as the end of innocence. “The Convention requires that countries practice responsible trade by obtaining prior informed consent before they export hazardous substances to another country. But these seven countries are determined to practice irresponsible trade and to hide the hazards of chrysotile asbestos,” said Laurie.

Last year, an Italian court sentenced two asbestos executives to 16 years in jail for criminally suppressing information about the hazards of asbestos. Their crime resulted in up to 3000 deaths, including citizens living near their asbestos-cement factories.

“By not listing chrysotile asbestos, the Convention is enabling the industry to carry on the same criminal cover-up of the hazards of chrysotile asbestos, which will result in hundreds of thousands more tragic deaths, which could and should be prevented,” said Dr. Barry Castleman, former consultant on asbestos to the World Bank. “This is a crime against humanity and the whole world should be scandalized.”

United States’ Failed Asbestos Ban

asbestos_banWhenever scientists discover that a chemical utilized in the manufacturing of products is actually harmful to people who use them, they may push public health or government officials to curb use of that chemical. When it comes to an asbestos ban, I’m often left with the following question: Why hasn’t the American government banned the use of asbestos? The mineral has been tied to an increased risk of deadly diseases, including malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer, so why hasn’t the government done anything about it?

The answer is that the government did institute an asbestos ban – but the asbestos industry succeeded in pulling most of the teeth out of this ban. Not only was this disappointing for all of us at Kazan Law, but it also continues the incidence of asbestos-related diseases to this day.

Tackling the asbestos ban problem

Asbestos fibers are carcinogenic, meaning that once they enter the body and settle into the tissues, they cause changes in the cells that can lead to the development of cancer. This is especially true for the organs of the respiratory system, a fact that scientists have known for more than 70 years.

One of the earliest government actions against the asbestos industry took place in 1973, when the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of spray-applied asbestos material for the purposes of fireproofing or insulation. Over the next four years, this asbestos ban expanded to include wrap and block insulation for boilers and hot water tanks, artificial fireplace embers and wall patch compounds.

In 1979, the EPA announced that it was considering regulation of asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. Members of the asbestos industry objected because they argued it would put people out of work. When the EPA caved in 1984 and said it would defer regulation to other government agencies, employees of the EPA protested publicly because they knew how dangerous asbestos was. This led the EPA to reverse its position.

A potential victory dies in court

By 1989, the EPA made a sweeping ban of all asbestos use after the completion of a 10-year study on the dangers of the mineral. This policy under the TSCA law would’ve curbed asbestos use by 94 percent, removing the mineral from the manufacturing of roofing materials, insulation and car brakes, and using safer alternative materials.

However, the sweeping victory was short-lived. Members of the American and Canadian asbestos industry took the TSCA asbestos ban to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in the manufacturers’ favor. Nowhere in the court’s ruling did it dispute the fact that asbestos can potentially cause cancer.

As it stands now, asbestos isn’t allowed in products such as commercial paper and flooring felt. It can still be used to make a large variety of items, including cement shingles, disk brake pads, automatic transmission components, roof coating and vinyl floor tiles.

Asbestos is no longer mined in the U.S., but our country does import more than 1,000 tons of the mineral every year.

Thus far, government efforts to control asbestos consumption in the U.S. have been gravely disappointing, but the lack of meaningful progress doesn’t mean that we should give up the fight against irresponsible industries. The Environmental Working Group encourages you to act by contacting your federal legislators and voicing your concerns about the dangers of asbestos.

On a global scale, the World Health Organization is working with various intergovernmental agencies to reduce occupational exposure to asbestos, which claims the lives of more than 107,000 people internationally every year. These efforts include educational campaigns on materials that can substitute for asbestos and support for research into the prevention and treatment of asbestos-related diseases.

The Asbestos Lobby: Kazan Law and Consumers Fight Back

asbestos_lobbyThe global asbestos industry through the asbestos lobby  is desperate to make consumers forget that their business is tied to increasing rates of deadly diseases such as malignant mesothelioma. Proponents’ attempts to flat-out deny this link have shown that they are not above using faulty science to deceive lawmakers or the general public, no matter the cost.

However, that’s not to say that people are helpless to do anything – far from it. As we all know, education is the best way to fight deception and protect ourselves.

The asbestos lobby wants to get a foothold in the developing world

As if it weren’t bad enough that the asbestos lobby essentially rendered federal laws reducing asbestos use toothless, proponents are also pushing for the use of the mineral in nations such as Brazil, China and India. There are several things that are disturbing about these efforts.

Studies are showing that the incidence of mesothelioma and other asbestos-induced diseases eventually shift downstream, from the miners and manufacturers to the carpenters, plumbers and other tradespeople who have to handle the material. This same pattern can eventually emerge in nations that still mine asbestos.

Organizations that lobby for the asbestos industry have sometimes suggested that knowledge of the risks associated with asbestos leads to the possibility of handling the mineral safely. However, in developing nations, the regulations needed to enforce safety measures are rarely in place.

Perhaps most disturbing, though, is the fact that science hasn’t proved that there’s a safe level of exposure to chrysotile asbestos. If even minute amounts of this mineral can cause cancer, there’s no denying that it has to be banned.

Still, the chrysotile asbestos lobby has fought large-scale government efforts to crack down on asbestos use. That doesn’t mean that consumers should give up the fight.

Kazan Law stands up for consumers

Time and again, the courts have listened to us at Kazan Law when we told them how maliciously irresponsible companies have disregarded the health of consumers and tradespeople.

We first beat the “chrysotile is safe” defense argument almost 40 years ago. There are a couple of recent examples. In 2010, we represented a mesothelioma patient who worked with Rockbestos brand wire insulation as a machinist from 1969 to 1971, as did his mother before him. A jury ruled that Rockbestos ignored more than 60 years’ worth of scientific evidence linking asbestos to mesothelioma, and that the company demonstrated malice in failing to warn customers about the risks until 1979.

In 2011, we proved to a jury that brake manufacturer Pneumo Abex was aware of the ties between asbestos and cancer since at least the 1940s, but failed to warn consumers or brake specialists. When a part-man from Oakland developed the deadly disease, we represented him.

These juries awarded more than $20 million for our clients.

We don’t just act locally, though. We have a proud history of supporting scientific studies that develop better treatments for mesothelioma. During the most recent meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group, several researchers presented work that they completed with our financial help. These included efforts to enhance the immune system’s response against cancer cells and manipulate genes associated with the development of mesothelioma.

We also support global efforts to ban the use of asbestos. We work closely with the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, which helps organize educational conferences all around the world.

If you find yourself wondering whether you, too, can help fight the chrysotile asbestos industry and the asbestos lobby, remember that you have a voice as well. Don’t keep your concerns, frustrations and anger to yourself. Put them to good use and contact your lawmakers to let them know how you feel about these issues. If you want to spread the word, write a letter to the editorial section of your local newspaper and tell your story about how asbestos exposure has impacted your life.

It’s guaranteed that you’re not alone, and the influence of the asbestos lobby is nothing compared to the collective voice of everyday people like you. Send a copy to us and we will publish it online!

The Chrysotile Asbestos Lobby: Denying Scientific Truth

chrysotile asbestosFor more than 70 years, scientists have released study after study demonstrating how all forms of asbestos, particularly including the chrysotile form, are dangerous because they cause fatal diseases such as malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. Between this research and the growing amount of outrage coming from consumers, it would be reasonable to expect every government in the world to ban the production, mining, and sale of the material.

Yet the fact remains that asbestos continues to be used in the manufacturing of many products around the world. It’s a fact that’s quite appalling to us at Kazan Law.

Why is this allowed to happen? This continuing use of asbestos can largely be chalked up to the continuing efforts of the asbestos lobby to undermine credible science.

Industry buys good face for five decades

For all practical reasons, the asbestos industry should have folded under the overwhelming evidence implicating the mineral in the deaths of people who developed diseases resulting from asbestos exposure. One of the reasons why the industry has survived is the presence of a few studies that suggest chrysotile asbestos is relatively safe to use. McGill University in Canada, which bought and paid for, is one institution that released such research.

Of course, there’s a problem with these studies: They were conducted with the use of funding from the asbestos industry, often concealed, dating all the way back to the 1960s. Even though the university asserted that its experiments demonstrating the relative safety of chrysotile asbestos were replicated, experts from the University of Alberta pointed out that the only studies that were able to achieve this were also funded by the asbestos industry.

What does the most recent data tell us about chrysotile asbestos?

These studies are only a small fraction of the number that was conducted on chrysotile asbestos. One team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, decided to take a view of the larger picture by conducting a worldwide review of research papers that discussed chrysotile asbestos and mesothelioma.

The review, which was published in the Annals of Epidemiology in 2012, concluded that chrysotile asbestos is linked to cases of mesothelioma from all around the world, and that a global ban of all types of asbestos in an effort to stop an epidemic is warranted.

Still, the industry has proven itself stubborn and outright unethical.

Asbestos stakeholders are dragging scientists down

One of the latest examples of the asbestos industry’s questionable ethics was the execution of the Chrysotile Asbestos: Risk Assessment and Management conference in Ukraine in 2012. Russia is the world’s lead producer of asbestos fiber and its asbestos industry has great government support. What made the event especially baffling was the fact that not only did organizers send an invitation to a scientist from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, but also that she accepted.

Members of the IARC defended the decision of the scientist, Valerie McCormack, by saying the conference was an opportunity for her to present the latest research on the dangers of chrysotile asbestos. However, critics pointed out that the study she was scheduled to present was out of date and undersold the true level of risk.

The involvement of the IARC in this conference tarnishes the agency’s name, but perhaps more importantly, it provides the Russian asbestos industry with some much-needed cover. This month, the Rotterdam Convention will convene, and participating nations all around the world will decide whether to require warnings on asbestos shipped from one country to another.

However, it’s important not to be discouraged by these developments. The asbestos industry may be able to buy good face, but in the end, it cannot buy good science, or truth, both of which stand with the victims, who have the power to fight back.

International Cancer Group Loses Credibility Over Ties to Asbestos Proponents

UNThe global nature of the economy makes it difficult for certain public health concerns to remain geographically isolated. That includes asbestos exposure. Thankfully, the strong body of scientific evidence linking asbestos to a range of potentially fatal diseases is proving too difficult for several government groups, as well as non-government organizations, to deny. This is a promising trend, especially in light of the upcoming Rotterdam Convention, an international conference with an agenda that may include adding the chrysotile form of asbestos to its List of Hazardous Substances.

Unfortunately, the asbestos industry is still influential in several pockets of the world. One disturbing story currently unfolding is the participation of a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) at a recent conference which, according to some people, was coordinated with underlying intentions of obstructing efforts to curb the use of chrysotile.

A news report, published by The Lancet, suggests that this participation also jeopardizes the integrity of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Conference suspicions
During the latter half of 2012, the Russian Scientific Research Institute of Occupational Health and other organizers began planning for a conference titled Chrysotile Asbestos: Risk Assessment and Management, which was to take place in Kiev, Ukraine. Many international groups and public health experts suspected that the event had close ties to Russia’s asbestos industry.

An invitation to the conference was extended to Valerie McCormack, a scientist working for the IARC. In light of the suspicious nature of the event, many individuals in the medical community were baffled to learn that McCormack accepted the invitation and would be presenting a paper on asbestos and lung cancer. Furthermore, IARC officials said this would be an opportunity for McCormack to present up-to-date views on the dangers of asbestos.

However, critics say that the paper McCormack presented relied on studies funded by the Canadian asbestos industry, the data was no longer current and the overall risks of asbestos were downplayed.

Outrage precedes upcoming meeting
This upcoming April marks the sixth meeting of the Rotterdam Convention, an international trades meeting that discusses environmental hazards that pose threats to humans. On the List of Hazardous Substances, every form of asbestos is included except for chrysotile, which had been a candidate for addition three times in the past. It was never successfully added to the list because of strong opposition from countries such as Canada, Ukraine, India and Vietnam – all of which eventually reversed their positions as of late 2012.

However, 2013 marks the first time that Russia has veto power at the Convention, and it is expected to put up a fight. The recent conference in Kiev may support arguments to keep chrysotile asbestos off the List of Hazardous Substances.

“The Kiev conference came out of an initiative to destroy the Rotterdam Convention,” Kathleen Ruff, a Canadian human rights campaigner and senior adviser to the Rideau Institute, told The Lancet. “In 2011, those opposing the listing said they wanted a new conference to look at the ‘modern’ data to counteract the Chemical Review Committee’s ruling. Kiev is the result. It is not a bona fide conference, it’s a sham conference, a weapon to undermine the integrity of science, and it’s about more than chrysotile now, it’s about the gutting of a UN convention.”

The international fight goes on
In December 2012, Ruff and her colleagues sent a letter asking the WHO to address the behavior of the IARC in regards to the Kiev conference. To the Rideau Institute’s disappointment, they never got a response.

Most industrialized nations have banned asbestos in an effort to protect their citizens. However, it is still mined, produced and used in developing countries such as China, Brazil and India, according to a report published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Russia is also a major producer of asbestos.

Still Progress to be Made in the Fight Against Asbestos

world signpostsAsbestos was a popular component of many industrial and commercial products that were manufactured during most of the 20th century. However, scientists had known for decades that asbestos exposure could lead to several potentially deadly diseases, a fact that businesses could not deny forever. In many developed nations, this has led to significant reductions, if not outright bans, on the mining and use of asbestos.

However, these policies have not been adopted universally. The asbestos industry still has a strong foothold in the economies of several developing nations.

One researcher from Australia recently published an editorial in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, in which he reviewed the past successes and current challenges of banning the use of asbestos around the world.

Asbestos and the wide range of negative health effects
When most people think of diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, certain respiratory conditions most likely come to mind. However, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that there is evidence that the hazardous material can have an impact on several parts of the body.

The most common respiratory diseases associated with asbestos exposure are malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), asbestosis and lung cancer. The first two illnesses are caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. If these microscopic fragments enter the respiratory system, they can cause chronic inflammation, which may lead to MPM or lung cancer. Furthermore, they may lead to the development of scar tissue in the lungs, which is a characteristic of asbestosis.

Asbestos exposure also causes malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdominal organs. Furthermore, there is some evidence linking asbestos to cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum.

Bans in developed nations
Since the link between asbestos and malignant diseases became common knowledge, various developed nations around the world have been officially banning use of the material. The first policies were adopted in Australia about 30 years ago. Furthermore, in September 2012, the Canadian government decided to stop fighting efforts to have chrysotile asbestos listed as a dangerous substance under the Rotterdam Convention, a move that came on the heels of the cancellation of a major loan to a chrysotile mine.

Also in 2012, two global professional groups called for the elimination of asbestos among their member organizations.

While the efforts to curb asbestos production may help stem the occurrence of illness among miners, other individuals who use asbestos products, such as plumbers, carpenters and other tradespeople, may still be affected for years to come. However, that should not diminish the importance of asbestos bans.

More work needs to be done
The World Health Organization estimates that about 125 million people all over globe are exposed to asbestos through the workplace. Despite growing awareness of asbestos-related diseases in countries such as the U.S., UK and Australia, the mineral is still popular in developing nations such as China, India and Brazil. This is partly attributable to the efforts of lobby groups, such as the now-defunct Chrysotile Institute of Montreal.

“One of the main arguments which had been used by this lobby group and similar groups in other countries is that because asbestos has been around for many decades and has been the subject of considerable research about its cancer risks, the methods to control its use are well known and so it can be safely used,” Malcolm Ross Sim of Monash University wrote in his editorial. “The inadequacy of this argument is readily apparent to anyone with any knowledge of the poorly developed regulatory approach to asbestos and other workplace hazards in many newly industrializing countries.”

Sim notes that there is still progress to be made in the fight against asbestos.

Final Asbestos Mine in Quebec Quits Plans to Reopen

An asbestos mining company in Quebec recently announced that it has abandoned plans to revive one of the last asbestos mines in the province.

The Lac d’Amiante du Canada mine (LAC) at Thetford Mines, Quebec, was closed down after a landslide caused mining operations there to be halted. Following the closure, the Committee to Re-launch the LAC Mine was formed to try to resume operations, according to RightOnCanada.ca.

About two months after the closure the company that operated the LAC mine, LAB Chrysotile Inc., declared bankruptcy. And now Simon Dupéré, the company’s president, has announced that plans to reopen the mine have been suspended indefinitely.

According to the news source the reason for this was because of recent decisions by the Canadian and Quebec governments that signified opposition to the resumption of asbestos mining in the country.

Jeffrey Mine has loan canceled

Earlier this month the president of the Jeffrey Mine in the town of Asbestos, Quebec, Bernard Coulombe, said that the $58 million loan from the government that would have revived the closed mine had been cancelled, reports the Montreal Gazette.

The prospect of the loan has been a major source of controversy in recent years, with health advocates decrying the fact that Canada was exporting asbestos around the world while restricting its use domestically.

Dangers of exporting asbestos

While the use of asbestos is highly dangerous everywhere, it can be especially harmful when used in developing nations – such as the ones that were buying Canadian asbestos – because there are fewer regulations governing its use.

Any amount of asbestos exposure can have deadly consequences as the inhalation of the deadly mineral fibers has been proven for decades to cause a range of serious illnesses such as asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer that attacks the thin membrane that lines the body’s chest, lungs and abdomen.

These diseases claim the lives of 107,000 people each year around the world, according to World Health Organization figures.

New Quebec government deserves praise

Dupéré said that the Parti Québécois’ newly formed government made it clear that the asbestos industry would no longer be supported, according to RightOnCanada.ca. According to Dupéré, it would now be virtually impossible to attract the foreign investors needed to reopen the LAC mine.

UICC Seeks Global Ban of Asbestos

The Union for International Control of Cancer (UICC) took a major step recently when it called for a complete ban on the mining, use and exportation of all forms of asbestos, Right On Canada reported.

According to the news source, the UICC, which includes more than 700 member organizations throughout 155 different countries, pointed specifically to countries that mine and export the carcinogenic substance. The organization sought to halt these mining and exportation practices, while offering economic assistance during the transition period for mining communities.

One community that immediately comes to mind is that of the appropriately named Asbestos, Quebec. With Canada well-known for its exportation of asbestos to developing countries, the town of Asbestos is a major factor, as it hosts the Jeffrey Mine. The mine recently received a boost in the form of a $58 million loan from the government. This, despite a number of calls for Canada to bring its exportation policies more in line with its asbestos restrictions at home.

UICC statement points to scientific evidence

In its Position Statement calling for the ban of asbestos and the halting of such exports, the UICC noted that there has been a known link between asbestos and lung disease since the early part of the 18th century. Since the mid-1960s, it has been known that exposure to asbestos can lead to the development of lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.

Such evidence is a major factor in the decisions of many countries to adopt bans on asbestos, particularly when the true toll of asbestos-related diseases is taken into account. According to the UICC’s statement, more than 92,000 mesothelioma deaths were reported in 83 different countries between 1994 and 2008.

Further, according to the World Health Organization, approximately 107,000 people around the world each year succumb to asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

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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