Asbestos on PAHO Agenda 

by Dr. Barry Castleman



Dr. Devra Davis gave a presentation on April 30, 2008 at the Pan American Health Association in Washington, D.C. on occupational and environmental cancer. Dr. Davis, author of the new book The Secret History of the War on Cancer stressed asbestos as an example of a major cause of cancer and urged PAHO to work actively with the Latin American countries that have not banned asbestos. Thirty PAHO affiliated offices in the Caribbean and Latin American regions were video-linked to the conference, which was also attended by 100 guests in Washington. Copies of the WHO policy statement on eliminating asbestos disease and the editorial by Drs. Castleman and Joshi The Global Asbestos Struggle Today were made available to attendees of the presentation. Dr. Mirta Rosas, PAHO Director, also spoke at the seminar and was supportive of a greater role for PAHO in occupational and environmental cancer prevention.

Afterwards, there was a discussion with PAHO Regional Advisor for Workers' Health, Maritsa Tennassee, and Andreas Ulrich, Medical Officer for Cancer Control from WHO in Geneva and Jane Hingston, Global Health Communications, U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The similarities of the tactics of the asbestos industry and the tobacco industry were noted. Dr. Barry Castleman, who accompanied Dr. Davis to the meeting, suggested that PAHO try to get the member countries that have implemented asbestos bans to instruct other countries in the "nuts and bolts" of putting this policy in place. He also highlighted the need for training in the diagnosis and follow-up of mesothelioma cases in asbestos-consuming countries. It was also suggested that every country be asked to survey its asbestos industry and develop information on all plants using asbestos, including what plans there are for each to phase out asbestos.


May 1, 2008



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