The latest developments in the global asbestos industry were discussed during the annual seminar of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group in the House of Commons in London earlier this week.
The meeting featured presentations from a number of UK specialists and international experts, who updated the asbestos victims community, environmental activists, lawyers and campaigners on the dangers of the carcinogenic substance and its continued use around the world.
Keynote speaker Barrister Tublu Mukherjee delivered a presentation on the issues of asbestos in India, noting that consumption of the material has grown due to commercial and political reasons. Specifically, Mukherjee pointed to the role of British institutions, which have helped to keep the industry afloat in India. Mukherjee’s comments sparked discussions among delegates to determine which steps should be taken to reduce Britain’s role.
The presentation that perhaps highlighted the importance of the meeting the most, though, was “The Asbestos Frontline,” delivered by Canadian Ban Asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff.
‘Huge Gains’ in Canadian asbestos industry
Only a few short years ago, the asbestos industry was widely supported in Canada, including by every political party in the Canadian House of Commons and the Quebec National Assembly, Ruff noted. Since that time, though, support for the asbestos trade has dwindled, led by scientists, government health officials and public health organizations. These groups have come out in opposition of plans by the Canadian government to revive the industry and claim that asbestos can be used safely.
Fortunately, the opposition to the asbestos industry has science on their side in this instance. Asbestos, which was once widely used because of its fire-resistant properties and utility as an insulator, has been proven to cause a range of serious diseases since the mid-1960s. Overall, these illnesses – which include asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma – claim the lives of approximately 107,000 people around the world each year, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.
As Ruff notes, Canada is currently at a critical stage in terms of asbestos, as although mines have been closed and opposition has grown, plans remain in place to revitalize the industry. The most important thing anyone can do, Ruff says, is to continue to put pressure on government officials and raise awareness at international meetings.
Read more about the Westminster Asbestos Seminar.