Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) Laurie Kazan-Allen recently wrote about the discoveries of the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), highlighting how those in the country who wish to continue the use of chrysotile asbestos are using a PR firm to do their dirty work.
PR firm meets with government officials
A recent statement issued by CAP revealed that representatives of APCO Worldwide – the PR firm – were at a gathering of Malaysia’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). At that meeting, which occurred in late May, a consensus was reportedly reached that would have banned chrysotile (or white) asbestos.
However, APCO personnel argued that such a ban could have serious consequences on the economy of Malaysia, which imported 11,491 tons of asbestos in 2010, according to the United States Geological Survey.
APCO’s shady past
According to author George Monbiot, APCO, which has offices around the world, has spent time working for the tobacco industry. During this time, the PR firm advised tobacco companies to not have their own representatives argue their case.
“No matter how strong the arguments, industry spokespeople are, in and of themselves, not always credible or appropriate messengers,” someone from APCO allegedly told a Philip Morris executive.
In addition, the Association of Professional Political Consultants – a UK organization that monitors the PR industry – reports that personnel from APCO’s London office represented an organization called “Russian Chrysotile.” Ms. Kazan-Allen surmises that this is a group that supports the use of chrysotile asbestos from Russia.
Asbestos’ serious health risks
Despite arguments from APCO and others (including a number of Canadian politicians) claiming that chrysotile asbestos does not pose health risks if it is used properly, it has been proven that all forms of the naturally occurring mineral can cause a range of serious illnesses.
Lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma – a rare and deadly cancer – are some of the illnesses that can result from exposure to the deadly mineral fibers.
According to the World Health Organization, such diseases claim the lives of 107,000 people each year around the world.