What is going on in Kazakhstan?
According to the most recently released data on global asbestos trends, in 2011 national asbestos consumption1 was highest in: China (637,735 tonnes), India (321,803 tonnes), Russia (251,427 tonnes), Brazil (185,332 tonnes) and Kazakhstan (155,166 tonnes). Nothing extraordinary about this, is there? Well, yes there is. Let's look closer at the figures for Kazakhstan.
Table 1. Asbestos Consumption
in Kazakhstan, 2001-2011
As can be seen from Table 1, in the last few years, the annual usage of asbestos in Kazakhstan has experienced dramatic shifts from year to year, seemingly down somewhat on previous levels. Even so, when we carried out a recent study comparing global asbestos trade figures for 2001 and 20102, we found a very high per capita usage in Kazakhstan in 2010: a staggering 3,849 kg per 1000 citizens.
Table 2. Per Capita Asbestos Consumption Data, 2010
Comparing consumption figures for Kazakhstan to those from other countries (Table 2) reveals a startling situation: per capita, Kazakhstan used almost twice as much asbestos as Sri Lanka, the second highest per capita user in this table. However, calculating an average consumption figure for the entire period shown in table 1 reveals a far worse situation: an apparent per capita consumption of 9,500 kg per 1000 population in Kazakhstan nearly 10 tonnes. What does all this mean? Either Kazakhstan is using massive amounts of asbestos or the figures on which these calculations are based are incorrect. As the source of the data is authoritative the United States Geological Survey and United Nations Trade Data it seems the discrepancy will remain unexplained for some while longer. In the meantime, it might be a good idea for someone in the Kazakh government to begin an investigation into this dangerous situation.
March 7, 2013
1 Consumption here means apparent consumption for asbestos producing nations essentially the difference between production and exports, for consuming nations the difference between imports and exports.
2 Production and consumption figures quoted for 2001 were calculated as the averages of those reported for the years 2000, 2001 and 2002; those for 2010 were calculated similarly.