No matter how much the asbestos bullies rant and rave, and trust me they are doing plenty of both, there is no doubt about the irreparable harm done by asbestos exposure to human beings. Four papers published in the last few months document various aspects of the asbestos hazard and add to the encyclopedic knowledge regarding the dreadful price paid by human beings for the profits of asbestos entrepreneurs. The editorial which appeared in the October 2012 issue of the Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health is my favourite if only for the title: Asbestos Kills No Matter How You Cut the Data.1 It is truly a shame that access to this two-page document costs $43.00. Authors D.R. Smith and E.J. Beth conclude:
'Indeed, there are no non-hazardous forms of the material [asbestos] and all types are now proven human carcinogens. Much has been made of the seemingly less-hazardous chrysotile type, even though it is also a proven human carcinogen and being less dangerous than amphiboles hardly means safe. Although asbestos has now lost its place in modern commerce to safer substitutes, the long lag-time between exposure and disease means that even in countries where its use is now banned, rates of asbestosis have continued to rise.'
The other three papers will be dealt with in chronological order.
In July a paper entitled: Compensation of Pleural Mesothelioma in France: Data from the French National Mesothelioma Surveillance Programme revealed that there is a significant under-recognition and compensation of mesothelioma in France with up to 30% of patients neither seeking recognition of their disease as occupationally related nor applying for compensation.2
In August Asbestos Exposure among Mitering Workers exposed the fallacy propagated by industry that asbestos can be used safely under controlled conditions by examining the situation created by the processing of asbestos-cement roofing material on construction sites. Research conducted in Thailand showed that high levels of asbestos fibers are created by the mitering of asbestos-cement sheets with the use of a high-speed motor saw with fiber blade and a hand saw. The AC sheets release asbestos dust at concentrations harmful not only to the workers, but also to the general public. The researchers call on the government to promote the use of asbestos-free substitutes. 3
In September, An Updated Review on Asbestos and Related Diseases in China confirmed the status of China as the world's top chrysotile consumer and second largest producer. Over a million people may be occupationally exposed, yet reliable disease statistics are unavailable and the national burden of asbestos-related disease is not well known.4 In an important conclusion, the authors state: China must choose to eliminate asbestos today in order to reduce an inevitably heavier disease burden in the future.
November 11, 2012