The Asbestos Industry 2021: Debunked, Discredited & Defunct
The eyes of the world have been on the outcome of this months discussions at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.1 Did this event attract the attention of asbestos industry stakeholders Im guessing not. Why not? Because their prime directive has always been the generation of profits regardless of the impact of their operations on human beings or the environment.
Although it is patently obvious, it needs to be said that the asbestos industrys commercial myopia is more misguided now than it has ever been. 2021 is not 2001 and the actions which result from the business-as-usual mindset of asbestos vested interests constitute an assault on human life and the environment. Asbestos producers, like purveyors of coal, petrol and natural gas, are peddlers of substances which are destroying our planet and the people living on it.
On October 8, 2021, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution recognizing the right of human beings to live a life free from exposures to deadly toxins. The same day the International Labor Organization (ILO), adopted a code of practice on safety and health for industrial sectors in which more than sixty million people work which provided: comprehensive and practical advice on how to eliminate, reduce and control all major hazards and risks. This includes chemical substances, ergonomic and physical hazards, tools, machines and equipment, as well as building and fire safety.2
Members of the European Union continue to press for increased safeguards against the asbestos hazard as seen by the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan (October 2021) which called for protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work.3 An October 19, 2021 vote in Strasbourg urged the European Commission to reduce occupational exposure limits for asbestos from the current limit of 0.1 fibers/cm3 to 0.001 fibers/cm3. In addition, Members of the European Parliament called for a strategy to eradicate the asbestos hazard from the built environment.4
Within days of the UN Climate Change Conference beginning in Glasgow, a peer-reviewed paper was published which eviscerated propaganda still being advanced by the asbestos industry: to wit that the use of asbestos was indispensable to 21st century life. The paper, entitled Asbestos Removal Acceleration for New Jobs and Fossil Fuel Use Reduction for Public Health and Climate Readiness: A Contribution to the Revival of the Italian Economy Post-COVID-19, demonstrated that the use of asbestos-cement roofing material was less effective and more toxic than alternatives.5 Co-authors A. Angelini and S. Silvestri undertook calculations which showed that the thermal insulation and energy saving properties of asbestos-cement roofing were inferior to those of asbestos-free material. It was recommended that the eradication of asbestos products from the Italian infrastructure would make a significant contribution to plans for a transition to a green economy with eco-sustainable development.
Removal of this asbestos containing material (ACM) would contribute to three pandemic and economic recovery objectives: job creation, reduction of greenhouse gasses (thru energy savings), and public health improvements. Though asbestos was used for its excellent thermal insulation properties, we provide calculations that demonstrate that the cement binding in AC roofing negates the asbestos insulation function. Therefore, replacing AC roofing with roofs made with alternative materials with better thermal transmission coefficients can contribute significantly to energy savings, reduce the risk of asbestos-related morbidity and mortality, and establish substantial economic activity.6
The evidence on the climate crisis facing humanity is beyond doubt. Unilateral asbestos bans and comprehensive phased removal of asbestos from national infrastructures should be part of plans towards building a greener, safer and sustainable post-Covid world. Asbestos fiber is only exported from Russia and Kazakhstan;7 these two countries must take steps to support the transition of local economies reliant on asbestos mining. Facing the eminent destruction of our planet, asbestos lobbyists can no longer hold the world to ransom. The future is asbestos-free.
November 11, 2021
2 Press Release. Asbestos Technology, Unsustainable & Unacceptable: Official. October 15, 2021.
3 In the document entitled: Commission Work Programme: Annex 1: New Initiatives, under point 13, preventing occupational exposures to asbestos was cited as one of the initiatives to increase protections for workers.
4 L'amianto uccide ancora 30mila europei ogni anno. Strasburgo: "Rimuoverlo da tutti gli edifici" [Asbestos still kills 30,000 Europeans every year. Strasbourg: Remove it from all buildings]. October 21, 2021.
5 Angelini, A., Silvestri, S. Asbestos Removal Acceleration for New Jobs and Fossil Fuel Use Reduction for Public Health and Climate Readiness: A Contribution to the Revival of the Italian Economy Post-COVID-19. November 2, 2021.
7 Some asbestos is still being exported from Brazil despite the fact that the Supreme Court banned the commercial exploitation of asbestos in 2017. This loophole is likely to be closed in due course.