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Dennis Bernstein and the Myth of Bio-Persistence

David Bernstein, a Swiss toxicology consultant named in the recent report “Dangers in the Dust,” makes his living promoting death, as he travels the world extolling the virtues of chrysotile.

David Bernstein is known in scientific circles for his theory of “biopersistence,” claiming chrysotile fibers do not last long enough in the human body to cause cancer. His 2003 paper based on animal studies, “The Biopersistence of Canadian Chrysotile Asbestos,” was commissioned by the Asbestos Institute, later renamed the Chrysotile Institute, for $1 million.

What do non-industry experts have to say about bio-persistence? Read the article in Mining Watch Canada.

Dr. David Egilman from Brown University says, “The so-called ‘clearance’ of chrysotile fibres from the lungs is an irrelevance as most of the fibers are not expelled from the body but are broken down into thinner fibers which do not disappear but are just too small to be seen. Some of these fibers migrate to the pleura where they accumulate and can cause cancer… The fact that the research by Bernstein et al. avoids testing at the sites where asbestos-related cancer occurs is an intentional sleight-of-hand designed to produce the result wanted by their industry paymasters which is a clean bill of health for chrysotile.”

Dr. Barry Castleman, a member of the Collegium Ramazzini, says that the issue of biopersistence “is a red herring. Many chemicals don’t last long in the body, but along the way they cause cancer.”

Dr. Morris Greenberg, a retired UK Factory Inspector, adds, “The speed with which mineral fibres produce their effects in vitro, literally within minutes, makes me question the relevance of biopersistence. In other words, the damage done by the inhaled fibres can take place in a relatively short period of time and thus the clearance or dissolution of the fibres does not affect their carcinogenic potential…”

“We can use chrysotile safely if it is cleverly used,” Bernstein has said, in an interview in The Nation.

“Cleverly used,” Mr. Bernstein? Is it “clever” to import this substance to the developing world, where regulations to protect workers are virtually non-existent? Pat Martin, a member of Canada’s parliament and a former asbestos miner, doesn’t think so. “If we in the developed world haven’t found a way to handle chrysotile safely, how can we expect them to do so in developing nations?”

Read the related article in The Lancet here.

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