Landmark Asbestos Initiative in Brazil
In Minas Gerais, the Brazilian state with the countrys highest incidence of the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma, a remarkable grassroots initiative took place last week. A mobile CT scanner and medical personnel from the Barretos Cancer Hospital, Belo Horizonte State arrived in the city of São José da Lapa on September 22, 2019 to examine former and current employees of the Precon company formerly a manufacturer of asbestos-cement building products and other asbestos-using companies. Precon has consistently denied the potential hazard posed to workers by exposures to asbestos and the municipal authorities have turned a blind eye to the towns high incidence of asbestos cancer.
The medical outreach program, which was supported by the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) and the Public Prosecution Service of Belo Horizonte, was operational until September 27 and provided medical check-ups for ~230 people from Pedro Leopoldo and neighboring cities. The purpose of the healthcare initiative was to screen asbestos-exposed workers for symptoms of cancers such as mesothelioma, the signature disease associated with asbestos exposure, in order to facilitate early diagnoses of disease. The sooner these cancers and respiratory conditions were diagnosed, the better the chances were for successful medical interventions. 1
Commenting on this initiative, Rio de Janeiro lawyer Leonardo Amarante said:
It is necessary that such actions are taken in order to minimize the effects of the disease as much as possible. It is sad to note that these workers, in addition to suffering from a possible disease, live with the pressure of lawsuits that take on average 10 years or more, from the filing of the case to the actual receipt of compensation.
According to ABREA President Eliezer João de Souza:
For decades Brazilian asbestos companies like Precon failed to protect their workers from toxic exposures. The sick and the injured remain marginalized, ignored and unable to access the healthcare they need. ABREA was proud to work with our partners to take the means of diagnoses to the workers rather than the other way around. The response from people we saw last week was been extremely positive. Unfortunately, we identified several people who will require further investigation as they may have contracted asbestos-related cancers. We call on the municipality, the State and the company to accept their responsibility to look after the injured.
October 2, 2019
1 Mutirão para rastrear doenças relacionadas ao amianto acontece em São José da Lapa [Joint initiative to screen for asbestos-related diseases takes place in São José da Lapa]. September 25, 2019.