Financial Case for Brazilian Asbestos Ban
It is rare for an academic paper to have a profound and immediate impact on issues affecting the lives of ordinary people. The research conducted by Professors Ana Lucia Gonçalves da Silva and Carlos Raul Etulain detailed in: The Economic Impact of the Banning of the Use of Asbestos in Brazil (expertly translated from the original Portuguese publication by Dan Berman) is of immense significance not just for Brazil but for other countries still using chrysotile asbestos.
In a nutshell this document blows away the financial case for continuing asbestos use in Brazil. Vested asbestos interests, such as the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute, have long argued that banning asbestos would have a disastrous effect on local, regional and national economies, penalize consumers and put the country at a competitive disadvantage. Not so, say the researchers who counter every one of the industry's assertions with hard facts:
Urging radical and immediate reform, Professors da Silva and Etulain conclude the case for a Brazilian ban by agreeing with the asbestos policies of international agencies such as the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization. Effective control of the risks created by asbestos, the researchers write will require a complete ban on the mining, transport, manufacture, sale, and utilization of asbestos, in all its forms, throughout Brazil. Noting that this action could cost the country $50 million in lost sales, they remark:
Brazil exports asbestos to poorer countries in the so-called periphery, thus putting millions of people at risk for their lives. Ignorance about the malignantly fatal effects of working with asbestos exacts a human price, but this price will not be paid by those who earn big money from this profitable and macabre commerce.
There can be little doubt that many of the arguments supporting a Brazilian asbestos ban advanced in this paper will be equally valid in other asbestos-using countries.
January 16, 2011
1The Brazilian Chrysotile Institute has criticized this study saying that asbestos-free products are 30% more expensive and have a much shorter durability than the asbestos alternatives so widely used in Brazil.
Vialli A. Proibir amianto é viável, revela estudo. January 4, 2011.