Joining a number of other global health groups including the World Health Organization, the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) recently issued a statement condemning the use of asbestos and calling for a global ban.
In the statement, the commission notes that after much discussion about the use of the carcinogenic substance in various industries, it decided to encourage each individual country to totally ban the production and use of asbestos.
ICOH pointed specifically to guidance handed down by the World Health Organization in 2006, which said that the most efficient way to reduce the number of asbestos-related diseases would be to halt the use of all types of the carcinogenic material.
The diseases referred to by WHO and the ICOH include lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that attacks the tissues surrounding the majority of the body’s internal organs. WHO estimates indicate that approximately 107,000 individuals succumb to these illnesses around the world each year.
ICOH emphasizes total ban
In its statement, ICOH examined the various manners in which different countries have dealt with the issue of asbestos. While some countries have adopted universal bans of the material, others have halted production and use of amphibole and crocidolite, but not chrysotile.
Still others, like Canada, have taken seemingly contradictory stances over asbestos, giving the green light to the production and exportation of the carcinogen while restricting its use at home. In the statement, ICOH was extremely critical of such practices.
“Some countries have banned the production and/or use of asbestos-containing industrial products, but have continued to mine, sell and export asbestos,” the commission said. “This is an unacceptable policy and should be reconsidered by those countries. In order to be effective, a total ban on production, use and export of all forms of asbestos should be achieved in every country.”
This type of criticism has been leveled by health and safety groups across Canada, many of which have said the country is “exploiting” developing nations such as India by continually exporting asbestos to them.
Recently, much to the chagrin of these organizations, the Quebec government took another step in the wrong direction when it approved a loan that will reportedly revitalize the Jeffrey asbestos mine in the aptly named town of Asbestos.