Asbestos awareness of the deadly health risk of mesothelioma and other asbestosis diseases caused by the breathing in of toxic fibre dust, continues to be ignored in the interests of self-interested, national financial gain.

A recent New York Times story quoted a spokesman for the Russian Chrysotile Association who said that he “didn’t see a problem with asbestos – we consider it safe and its fireproofing abilities saves lives. ”

Economies driven by asbestos mining…

Despite asbestos being banned by more than 50 countries around the world, individual Russian towns continue to thrive with their economies driven by asbestos mining. While the Russian asbestos industry employs nearly 40,000 people throughout Russia, an estimated 400,000 are dependent on asbestos mining and its related production process, which generates an annual revenue of 540 million dollars (£ 350 million).

Gathering global opinion against the continued asbestos use as an insulator in developing economies is expressed at both national and international level through numerous organisations, and is repeatedly on the voting agenda at the Rotterdam Convention to be a listed substance requiring import consent.

Cultural support to asbestos awareness…

Cultural activity can also aid the efforts of mesothelioma victim care support groups and remind all industries, such as construction and manufacturing, of the devastating consequences that exposure to asbestos containing materials can still inflict nearly thirty years since it was first banned in the UK.

A new artwork, which is to be displayed at Tate Modern, aims to bring the singular tragic experience of seven women who lost their lives to the fatal, incurable mesothelioma cancer since the early twentieth century.

For nearly two years, Colombian artist, Guillermo Villamizar has been creating a digital work of art, combining techniques of photography, 2D and 3D digital design, and is based upon his research into the shocking consequences that exposure to asbestos brings to countless thousands of people around the world.

Artwork of female mesothelioma victims…

Entitled “The Female Face of Britain’s Asbestos Catastrophe”, the inspiration of the work came from reading about seven women, some of whom were exposed to asbestos in exceptional ways, such as Nellie Kershaw, the first named victim of asbestos disease in 1924, Nora Dockerty, the first successful British asbestos claimant in 1952 through to Debbie Brewer, who created the Mesothlioma Facebook page and used other social media sites to help spread asbestos awareness, and tragically died of secondary asbestos exposure in 2012.

Guillermo wants to produce twenty pieces which will tell the story of the history behind asbestos and asbestos exposure “at all levels”, including legal, scientific, labour, economic, political, health, environment and medical issues.

Ultimate goal…

As with so many concerned individuals and groups around the world, the artist’s stated “ultimate goal” is for “an asbestos-free world”, which he recognises “will not happen overnight.”

An asbestos-free world may still be a long way off as Russia is followed by China, Brazil, and Kazakhstan in continuing to mine and export white chrysotile asbestos to a number of developing nations, including India and Mexico. Worldwide production has actually risen by over 2.1 million tonnes to meet commercial demand by the building, aerospace and defence industries.

World Health Organisation (WHO) have reported that mesothelioma was responsible for causing 6,000 deaths each year between 1994 and 2008 worldwide, and they estimate that around 107,000 workers now die each year from exposure to asbestos.