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chrysotile asbestos

New Evidence Reveals That Scientists Were Paid by Chrysotile Industry to Write Pro-Asbestos Article

asbestos industryWhen is a grant not a grant?  When it is really a consulting fee, according to a group of angry asbestos activists, including several physicians. The asbestos activists recently wrote a scathing letter to the editor of a medical journal to protest an article it published that was favorable to asbestos. In their letter, which is posted on the Asian Ban Asbestos Network’s Facebook page, the asbestos activists cite new evidence that the scientists who authored the article received consulting fees – not an unrestricted grant – from the International Chrysotile Association (ICA), as stated in the article.

They further note that the medical journal’s editor Roger McClellan, to whom the letter is addressed, is a personal friend of the article’s lead author David Bernstein PhD. and that McClellan himself also at one time received payment to testify on behalf of an asbestos company.

“We believe the article violates ethical standards of disclosure that all scientists and scientific publications are expected to uphold,” the asbestos activists state in the letter protesting the article “Health Risks of Chrysotile Revisited,” published in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology.

Chrysotile, a white asbestos, is the most widely used form of asbestos, making up about 95% of the asbestos in the United States and a similar level in other countries.  It has been included along with other forms of asbestos as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Epidemiologists and other scientists have published peer reviewed scientific papers establishing chrysotile as a leading cause of mesothelioma.

Chrysotile has been recommended for inclusion in the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent, an international treaty restricting global trade in hazardous materials. If listed, exports of chrysotile would be allowed only to countries that explicitly consent to importing it. Canada, a major chrysotile producer, has been criticized by the Canadian Medical Association for opposing including chrysotile in the Convention.

The letter to McClellan is signed by Canadian asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff and four physicians, three Canadian and one Korean, who specialize in public health and preventive medicine.

The asbestos activists’ letter objects to the fact that undisclosed financial interests of scientists who claim to be impartial may have influenced them to conclude that chrysotile may not be so bad after all.  The article in question concludes, “The importance of the present and other similar reviews is that the studies they report show that low exposures to chrysotile do not present a detectable risk to health.”

The letter writers state that a key ICA official has confirmed that Bernstein invoiced ICA a total of $200,000 to write those words and that he has in the past been paid by asbestos producer Georgia Pacific to write similar articles.  “A New York court has ruled that such conduct by Dr. Bernstein constitutes potential crime-fraud,” the letter says.

The Chrysotile Asbestos Lobby: Denying Scientific Truth

chrysotile asbestosFor more than 70 years, scientists have released study after study demonstrating how all forms of asbestos, particularly including the chrysotile form, are dangerous because they cause fatal diseases such as malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. Between this research and the growing amount of outrage coming from consumers, it would be reasonable to expect every government in the world to ban the production, mining, and sale of the material.

Yet the fact remains that asbestos continues to be used in the manufacturing of many products around the world. It’s a fact that’s quite appalling to us at Kazan Law.

Why is this allowed to happen? This continuing use of asbestos can largely be chalked up to the continuing efforts of the asbestos lobby to undermine credible science.

Industry buys good face for five decades

For all practical reasons, the asbestos industry should have folded under the overwhelming evidence implicating the mineral in the deaths of people who developed diseases resulting from asbestos exposure. One of the reasons why the industry has survived is the presence of a few studies that suggest chrysotile asbestos is relatively safe to use. McGill University in Canada, which bought and paid for, is one institution that released such research.

Of course, there’s a problem with these studies: They were conducted with the use of funding from the asbestos industry, often concealed, dating all the way back to the 1960s. Even though the university asserted that its experiments demonstrating the relative safety of chrysotile asbestos were replicated, experts from the University of Alberta pointed out that the only studies that were able to achieve this were also funded by the asbestos industry.

What does the most recent data tell us about chrysotile asbestos?

These studies are only a small fraction of the number that was conducted on chrysotile asbestos. One team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, decided to take a view of the larger picture by conducting a worldwide review of research papers that discussed chrysotile asbestos and mesothelioma.

The review, which was published in the Annals of Epidemiology in 2012, concluded that chrysotile asbestos is linked to cases of mesothelioma from all around the world, and that a global ban of all types of asbestos in an effort to stop an epidemic is warranted.

Still, the industry has proven itself stubborn and outright unethical.

Asbestos stakeholders are dragging scientists down

One of the latest examples of the asbestos industry’s questionable ethics was the execution of the Chrysotile Asbestos: Risk Assessment and Management conference in Ukraine in 2012. Russia is the world’s lead producer of asbestos fiber and its asbestos industry has great government support. What made the event especially baffling was the fact that not only did organizers send an invitation to a scientist from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, but also that she accepted.

Members of the IARC defended the decision of the scientist, Valerie McCormack, by saying the conference was an opportunity for her to present the latest research on the dangers of chrysotile asbestos. However, critics pointed out that the study she was scheduled to present was out of date and undersold the true level of risk.

The involvement of the IARC in this conference tarnishes the agency’s name, but perhaps more importantly, it provides the Russian asbestos industry with some much-needed cover. This month, the Rotterdam Convention will convene, and participating nations all around the world will decide whether to require warnings on asbestos shipped from one country to another.

However, it’s important not to be discouraged by these developments. The asbestos industry may be able to buy good face, but in the end, it cannot buy good science, or truth, both of which stand with the victims, who have the power to fight back.

Canadian Prime Minister Attacked for Asbestos Promotion

stephen harperPrime Minister Stephen Harper is holding his second rally in Asbestos, Quebec today, seeking votes by promoting himself as the political leader most dedicated to the asbestos industry. Over twenty health, union and environmental organizations have responded in an open letter urging Harper to end his support for the asbestos trade.

April 26, 2011

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

We urge you to put people’s lives ahead of politics. Please end your support for the deadly asbestos trade.

Canada’s leading medical authorities have all told you that Canada’s export of asbestos is medically and morally indefensible and will lead to an epidemic of asbestos-related disease and death overseas.

We are shocked and dismayed that you are denying the clear scientific evidence and instead are supporting a plan to revive Canada’s bankrupt, dying and deadly asbestos industry.

Public policy should be based on science, not politics. The science is indisputable that all asbestos is deadly. Not a single reputable authority supports your claim that chrysotile asbestos (which represents 100% of the global asbestos trade) can be safely used.

Canada is becoming known as an immoral asbestos pusher and as an enemy of global public health. This is not the role Canadians want to play in the world. This does not reflect Canadian values.

We are appalled that, in order to protect the asbestos industry, you have publicly promised to block the upcoming Conference of the U.N. Environmental Convention (Rotterdam Convention) so as to prevent chrysotile asbestos being listed as a hazardous substance. Chrysotile asbestos is a hazardous substance under Canadian law. It is, in our opinion, hypocritical and contemptuous of the lives of people in the developing world to prevent them from being provided with this critical information, as if their lives were less worthy of protection.

It is with sorrow and shame that we note that Canada is becoming a pariah on the international stage for its obstruction of global efforts to protect health, human rights and the environment.

Prime Minister Harper, you are the only national leader in Canada and in the Western world to promote asbestos. At the same time, Canadian taxpayers are paying millions of dollars to remove asbestos from your official residence and your place of work, the Parliament Buildings, in order to protect you and other Canadian politicians from being harmed by exposure to asbestos.

This election is about trust and integrity. We urgently call on you to show integrity. We ask you to:

Respect the science
Put human life ahead of partisan political interests
Support a ban on asbestos and the provision of transition assistance to the last remaining asbestos miners and their community
Support the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention
Adopt a comprehensive strategy to address Canada’s asbestos disease crisis

We request a response from you. Please do not, as usually happens, forward our letter to Christian Paradis, the Minister of Natural Resources, who is an avid supporter of the asbestos industry and simply puts forward its discredited position.

We urgently await your response on this critical ethical issue.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Ruff
Senior human rights adviser, Rideau Institute

 

ON BEHALF OF:

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Nature Québec
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Canada
Sierra Club Canada
International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada
Maîtres chez nous-21e siècle, Québec
Syndicat des débardeurs de Montréal, SCFP Section locale 375
British Columbia & Yukon Territory Building & Construction Trades Council
Prevent Cancer Now
Atlantic Coast District, International Longshoremen’s Association
Canadian Society for Asbestos Victims
MiningWatch Canada
Asbestos-related Research, Education and Advocacy Fund
Boilermakers Lodge 359
Sheet Metal Local 280
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union Local #2 BC
BC Ferry & Marine Worker’s Union
IBEW Local 993, Northern B.C. & Yukon
I L A, Local 1657,  Montréal
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115

ADDENDUM

1) Reputable Scientific Organisations that Oppose your position on chrysotile asbestos:

The Canadian Medical Association
The Canadian Cancer Society
The Lung Association of Canada
The Quebec Medical Association
The Canadian Public Health Association
The Quebec Association for Public Health
The Quebec Association of Physicians Specializing in Community Health
The Lung Association of Quebec
The National Specialty Society for Community Medicine
The National Public Health Institute of Quebec
The Quebec Association for Occupational Hygiene, Health & Safety
All the Quebec government’s sixteen regional Directors of Public Health
The Quebec College of Physicians
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
The Quebec College of Family Physicians
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The International Social Security Association
The International Labour Organization
The International Commission on Occupational Health
The World Health Organization

2) Reputable Scientific Organisations that Support your position on chrysotile asbestos:

ZERO

 

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