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International Health Officials Release Statement Calling for Asbestos Ban

Globe importantA new statement released by a number of organizations and supported by more than 150 health groups and scientists in twenty countries is calling on the complete and total ban of asbestos mining, use and exportation.

The statement comes amid controversy over the Quebec government’s decision to extend a loan to help revitalize the Jeffrey asbestos mine in the town of Asbestos. Critics of the move have pointed to Canada’s seemingly contradictory policies of restricting asbestos use at home while continuing to export the carcinogenic material to developing countries.
“Continued use of asbestos will lead to a public health disaster of asbestos-related illness and premature death for decades to come, repeating the epidemic we are witnessing today in industrialized countries that used asbestos in the past,” Dr. Stanley Weiss, chair of the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology (JPC-SE), said in a statement.

Weiss pointed to the “irrefutable scientific evidence of harm to human health resulting from exposure to all forms of asbestos,” which includes the development of illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.

Dr. Robert Hiatt, a representative of the American College of Epidemiology, added in the statement that the health groups were calling on countries such as Canada, Russia, Brazil and Kazakhstan to stop mining and exporting the dangerous material, and assist their mining communities with this shift.

Evidence of asbestos dangers seen around the world

The statement, which is 25 pages, posits that in addition to dangers posed by the exportation of asbestos to developing countries, mining nations are also endangering their own citizens. One look at the community of Libby, Montana, offers evidence to this assertion, as 400 people in the area have been killed by asbestos-related diseases and another 1,700 have been sickened as a result of the operations of the W.R. Grace and Company vermiculite operations.

In the statement, the health organizations criticize asbestos industry groups over what they believe has been intimidation tactics designed to suppress the thoughts of scientists.

Despite any attempts, however, the evidence is clear. The World Health Organization estimates that asbestos-related diseases claim the lives of approximately 107,000 individuals each year.

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