Perus Pandoras Box: Made of Asbestos
A new research paper by a team of scientists from Peru has aired the inconvenient truth about the countrys failure to stem the tide of deaths caused by occupational and environmental exposures to asbestos.1 The fact that the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos remains legal in Peru and that imports of crocidolite (blue) asbestos were only banned in 2014 are serious grounds for concern according to the authors of this text. Having correlated asbestos import data between 1965 and 2010 with the incidence of mesothelioma mortality between 2005 and 2014 (430 deaths), the scientists reported that the highest incidences of mesothelioma mortality were for the cities of Arequipa, Callao and Huancavelica and that multiple opportunities to eradicate the problem had been wasted.
While mesothelioma mortality and asbestos import data were updated by this study, the background to the situation discussed in the above paper Geographic study of mortality due to mesothelioma in Peru and its evolution was known more than a decade ago. On September 12, 2003, Dr. Eva Delgado Rosas gave a presentation entitled: The Impact of Canadian Chrysotile in Peru at an asbestos seminar in the Canadian Parliament, during which dramatic pictures were shown revealing the everyday nature of asbestos exposures in Peru: piles of loose fiber were observed in several factory settings, lack of protective and respiratory equipment was usual and unsupervised building and demolition work was rife.2
The human consequences of these hazardous practices were, Dr. Delgado Rosas said, predictable. In 2000, medical examinations of 197 asbestos and former asbestos workers found that 60% of them had asbestosis; the health of a further 39% provided cause for concern. The General Hospital in Lima had diagnosed 133 cases of mesothelioma. Unfortunately, little was done by the authorities or employers to help asbestos victims such as Rafel Carhuachin and an unidentified female mesothelioma sufferer, whose photographs were shown during the 2003 presentation.
Despite intensive lobbying by Perus Asbestos Victims Group, the asbestos industry continued to control the national asbestos agenda. As a result, draft legislation to ban asbestos proposed in 2001 was eventually derailed and industrys policy of controlled use of asbestos remained in place. A more recent attempt to ban asbestos proposed by Congressman Jaime Delgado Zegarra at a meeting of the Congressional Multisectoral Technical Committee in 2013 met the same fate.3 Alas, nothing seems have changed since then as the 2020 research paper concluded with a recommendation that Peru should boost strategies towards the total ban of all forms of asbestos.
August 21, 2020
2 Kazan-Allen, L. Canadian Asbestos: A Global Concern. October 23, 2003.
3 Empresas prohíben uso de asbesto por ser cancerígeno [Companies ban asbestos use for being carcinogenic]. Aug. 24, 2013.