It may come as no surprise to hear the news from Australia that asbestos has been found in the engine gaskets and exhaust systems of imported cars manufactured in China despite assurances from the car makers that all regulations are complied with and a denial that asbestos is used in the production process.

Despite the import and use of the most toxic asbestos types finally being banned since the mid 1980s onwards in more than 40 countries around the world, including the UK, USA and all 25 European Union members, the mining of white chrysotile by China, Russia and notably, Canada, continues to increase. Most asbestos is exported to countries of the developing world, such as India, Pakistan, Colombia and Vietnam.

Raising asbestos awareness to the long term health risks of asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer with culpable governments has been an urgent concern of the international community in their repeated attempts to place chrysotile white asbestos on the Prior Informed Consent list for hazardous materials. Although a ban on the export of asbestos would not be imposed, permission would have to be specifically obtained by importers in asbestos-using countries.

It may not be generally known that white asbestos importation was only banned in the UK in 1999 and in Australia from 2004. However, since 2009, nearly 25,000 Chinese cars from two different manufacturers, Great Wall and Chery, have been imported into Australia, which have only been recently discovered to contain the deadly material in nearly 30 different engine gaskets and also in the exhaust system.

The Australian importing company claim they were given “written assurances” by the Chinese manufacturers that no asbestos was present and are considering a vehicle recall. In the meanwhile, part replacements are being offered but incredibly, only as part of a routine car service.

Of concern is the intention by the Chinese car makers to enter both the US and European markets after using Australia as a “testing ground”, with plans for a doubling of overseas assembly plants within three years to increase output.

Meanwhile, the incidence of asbestos–related deaths in Australia, already one of the highest in the world, continues to rise. Since the early 1980s, more than 10,000 Australians have died of mesothelioma, and it is estimated that fatalities will reach 25,000 by 2050.

Worldwide production of asbestos had already grown by over 2.1 million tons at the start of the millenium to meet industrial demand and as a result, it is predicted that mesothelioma fatality will continue on an upward curve to reach around 10 million by 2030.