Russian Ministry Planning Action on Asbestos Hazard 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



The news released last week that Russia’s Ministry of Health (MoH) was considering plans to recognize occupational cancers, including those caused by exposures to asbestos, as industrial diseases was as huge a surprise to ban asbestos campaigners as it was a shock to Russian vested interests. Russia has, since the 1980s, been the world’s largest asbestos producer and exporter. The Russian-led asbestos lobby works aggressively to ensure that the status quo is preserved around the world, frustrating all attempts to impose regulation on the global trade of this class 1 carcinogen.

The MoH proposal, which was published on the Ministry’s portal of draft regulatory legal acts, included the addition of cancers caused by workplace exposures to “asbestos, soot, welding aerosols, and so on” to the official list of occupational diseases.1 In the explanatory note to the draft resolution, the MoH wrote:

“The provisions of the current regulatory framework are partially outdated, in particular, in the context of the modern development of medicine, it is [therefore] necessary to revise approaches to classifying the disease as occupational.” 2

According to MoH data the third largest cause of occupational diseases in Russia is exposure to harmful chemicals such as asbestos; the number of Russians affected in this cohort increased by 120% in 2022 compared to 2021. MoH medical expert Igor Bukhtiyarov told journalists last week that every year up to 12,000 occupationally-caused diseases go undiagnosed and unacknowledged in Russia with just a handful being recognized.3 As per official data, four million Russians are currently living with cancer; it is not known how many of these illnesses were due to occupational, domestic or environmental exposures to asbestos.


A sack of Uralasbest chrysotile asbestos produced at the world’s largest open-pit mine located in Asbest, Russia.

Explaining the reasoning behind the MoH’s proposals, Oncologist Andrei Pylev, Head of the Russian Network of Oncology Clinics, told journalists that the proven link between asbestos exposures and lung cancer was established decades ago:

“Everything will depend on the specific carcinogen and the specific production. For example, when similar studies were carried out in the context of asbestos in the 1960-1970s and it was proven that asbestos is a carcinogen that is associated with a high risk of developing lung cancer, approaches to occupational safety in terms of respirators, in terms of standard hours, in terms of direct contact with this carcinogen, which made it possible to reduce the incidence specifically in this group [were put in place]. I think that even now this regulation will be approximately the same. The list of industrial carcinogens and natural carcinogens is quite wide, and it is growing. When we receive reliable information that we have identified another carcinogen that is clearly associated with an increased risk of developing certain diseases, this disease will be included in the list of occupational diseases.”4

The consultation period was due to close yesterday (June 17, 2024). You can be sure that MoH telephone lines, email inboxes and postboxes were full of angry complaints from Orenburg Minerals, Uralasbest and other asbestos stakeholders over the implicit threat to the substance at the heart of their enterprises. After all, if asbestos is hazardous enough to be on the authorized list of diseases caused by occupational exposures in Russia, then the industry propaganda which affirms that asbestos use is safe is patently untrue, as we all know it to be.5

The revised list of diseases will come into force on March 1, 2025; we will be monitoring events with great interest to see if asbestos-related cancers are on it.

June 18, 2024


1 Минздрав предложил признать рак профзаболеванием. Зачем это нужно [The Ministry of Health proposed recognizing cancer as an occupational disease. Why is this necessary?] June 14, 2024.

2 Онкологию могут признать профессиональным заболеванием [Oncology [cancer] may be recognized as an occupational disease]. June 14, 2024.

3 Минздрав предложил признать онкологию профессиональным заболеванием [The Ministry of Health proposed recognizing oncology [cancer] as an occupational disease]. June 14, 2024.

4 Минздрав хочет включить рак в список профессиональных заболеваний [Health Ministry wants to include cancer in list of occupational diseases.]. June 15, 2024.

5 A joint study published in 2024 by researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and Russian institutions “confirmed an increased risk of mesothelioma with high fiber exposure and an increasing mortality for lung cancer in men with increasing dust exposure.”
Schüz, J. et al. Cancer mortality in chrysotile miners and millers, Russian Federation: main results (Asbest Chrysotile Cohort-Study). January 2024.



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