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International Experts Reissue Call for Asbestos Ban

Asbestos is a killer. The prestigious Collegium Ramazzini, an international academic society that examines critical issues in occupational and environmental medicine, re-issued its Call for a Ban on Asbestos a decade after its first call in 1999. The Collegium’s report, Asbestos is Still with Us: Repeat Call for a Universal Ban states that in the last decade as many as over one million workers worldwide have died from asbestos related cancers. The profound tragedy of these deaths caused by asbestos each year is that virtually all of them are preventable. “All countries of the world,” the Collegium argues, “have an obligation to their citizens to join in the international endeavor to ban all forms of asbestos.”

All forms of asbestos are proven human carcinogens; asbestos exposure has been definitively linked to asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, lung, laryngeal, and ovarian cancers, and may cause gastrointestinal and other cancers—all of which are fatal. Globally, asbestos takes the lives of as many as 140,000 workers annually. This number does not include deaths from environmental exposure which remains a serious problem, especially in the developing world. Most of the world’s people still live in countries where asbestos use continues with little or no provision for worker protection or compensation from work-related exposure.

The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that there is no safe minimum exposure level for asbestos. The EPA, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization, and the National Toxicology Program are just a few of the organizations that have recognized the definitive carcinogenicity of asbestos. Still, in the United States, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established a permissible exposure limit that will lead to five deaths from lung cancer and two deaths from asbestosis in every 1,000 workers exposed for a working lifetime. Is even one of these deaths justifiable if it could have been prevented? Why, given the overwhelming evidence and scientific agreement regarding the cost of asbestos use, do the mining and manufacture of asbestos persist?

Safer substitutes for asbestos do exist, but the asbestos industry continues to oppose attempts at a ban. Around the world, the industry’s lobbying power has prevented decisive government action, and well-funded industry science has attempted to hide the clear link between asbestos exposure and fatal disease.

To date, 52 countries have banned the use of asbestos, due largely to the work of an international movement. But even by conservative estimates asbestos may take as many as 10 million lives before it is finally banned worldwide. Each of these deaths could be prevented.

The Kazan Law Firm joins in the call: All countries of the world have an obligation to their citizens to ban all forms of asbestos.

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