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Powerful Lobbying Firm Fights for Asbestos

Asbestos is a harmful substance that kills tens of thousands of people each year around the world through diseases such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis. If the dangers posed by the substance weren’t enough, powerful lobbyists and public relation firms have been fighting to preserve the economic interests of those they represent by fighting bans on asbestos around the world.

The most obvious recent example of this was in Canada, where numerous politicians attempted to revitalize an asbestos mine under the guise of job creation despite protests from the medical community around the world about the incredible danger posed by the naturally occurring substance.

However, Canada is not the only country that has been affected by efforts to keep the asbestos industry going, as Malaysia’s Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) said that people from public relations firm APCO Worldwide were at a gathering of the country’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) to try to stop a ban on asbestos.

APCO Worldwide in Malaysia

According to its website, APCO Worldwide has 30 offices around the world and represents a variety of businesses. It has represented a number of large businesses such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dow Chemical, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble, but it now appears that it is working to preserve asbestos interests in Malaysia.

According to CAP, DOSH had reached a consensus to ban chrysotile (or white) asbestos but Representatives of APCO worked to prevent the ban and also planned to meet with Malaysia’s Minister of Human Resources.

According to an article by Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) Laurie Kazan-Allen, APCO had recommended to tobacco companies that rather than have industry spokespeople defend their indefensible product, they hire PR firms to do their dirty work for them. Ms. Kazan-Allen draws the conclusion that companies that profit off asbestos took this advice to heart, and hired APCO to represent their interests.

APCO’s lobbying efforts

According to OpenSecrets.org, APCO took in $3.3 million in lobbying income in 2011, with $810,000 of that coming from Dow Chemical.

Helping APCO to lobby for various interests are not only seasoned PR veterans but at least one former U.S. congressman as well. According to a press release, former member of the House of Representatives Baron Hill, a Democrat from Indiana, recently joined APCO as “a senior vice president in the company’s government relations practice,” which could likely be pared down to “lobbyist.”

With such powerful figures on the side of a company allegedly involved in the promotion of the deadly asbestos industry, it will be up to asbestos attorneys and mesothelioma lawyers to ensure that the blue-collar workers who become ill through their exposure to the mineral fibers on the job receive justice.

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