It might come as a surprise for some to learn that asbestos is still being imported to a number of countries, mostly in the developing world, as a cheap source material for use in the manufacture of a variety of products.
Since the raising of asbestos awareness, which showed the material as being a cause of fatal cancers such as asbestosis and the more aggressive, malignant form, mesothelioma, the widespread working with the deadly material has mostly stopped in the UK, Europe and the US since the 1970s and 80s.
However, this has appeared not to have stopped the export of asbestos to other parts of the world, including India, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
Recently, a delegation visit to the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations called on Canada to halt promotion of asbestos exports to the developing world, and thus, lending support to the asbestos industry lobby. The delegation included Trade Union representatives of building workers, metal workers and those working in the chemical, energy and mining industries, as being most directly affected by the use of imported asbestos.
As industrialised nations move forward with bringing about a total ban on asbestos, there is still an asbestos industry lobby which continues to expand exports of this known killer to the developing world.
It is estimated that 93 per cent of the chrysotile asbestos imported by the Philippines is from Canada, raising the concern that it is the very countries least equipped to handle an epidemic of asbestos-related diseases who are being targeted by the industry. In addition, it has been stated that 60 per cent of occupational deaths in Quebec is related to asbestos.
It is well known that asbestos-related diseases have a long latency period, of up to 40 years or more, before asbestosis symptoms are likely to appear, so even if a ban was implemented today, many workers would still face suffering from ultimately, fatal asbestos-related disease for decades to come.
One telling example are the many young and uneducated workers employed in the shipbreaker yards of the Indian sub continent, where the possibility of pursuing an asbestosis claim for asbestos compensation, is non-existent.
Recently, hundreds of Indian building workers assembled to make their protest in support of a ban on the use of asbestos and the country has been called upon to immediately ban all asbestos imports from countries such as Canada who have stopped using asbestos but continue to ‘dump’ it on countries like India.