Asbestos on Agenda of Taiwan Conference 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



A conference on occupational and environmental medicine, Epioch Medichem 2010,1 took place in Taipei, Taiwan on April 20-25, 2010. The events, which were hosted by academic institutions, medical associations and government departments2 included 16 plenary lectures, 222 oral presentations and 95 posters. Despite travel chaos caused by the volcano in Iceland, 582 delegates from 35 countries attended the conference. Speakers whose plans were disrupted by the volcano, participated by skype conference calls and by sending video recordings of their presentations.

As the main theme of the conference was Occupational Health under Globalization and New Technology and as sub-themes included chemicals of emerging concern, corporate social responsibility and ethics, human rights and social justice, it was predictable that asbestos would feature prominently on the agenda. On April 22, there were three 90 minute sessions on asbestos. The earlier ones were: Asbestos exposure and mesothelioma: the up-to-date diagnostic method for mesothelioma and Epidemiology of asbestos diseases: present and future in the Asian region and the world. According to the co-chairs of the epidemiology session:

“Asbestos causes about half of all deaths from occupational cancers. Asbestos may also operate as an environmental risk factor or co-factor impacting a wider range of diseases than previously thought. Fueled by the rapidly growing economy, the Asian region remains the world's center of consuming asbestos. This is in strong contrast to other regions of the world where asbestos consumption has been substantially reduced or eliminated. The irony is that the tragic experiences which arose from sustained dependence on asbestos in the Western countries have not been taken seriously or intentionally ignored by other countries. Hence epidemiology is tasked with renewed roles to reconstitute the societal perception towards the hazards of asbestos use. In this symposium, up-to-date epidemiological experiences representing a diverse region and large population will be shared and discussed. Collectively, the symposium will aim at formulating a regional and global perspective on the present and future situation of “asbestos-related” diseases.”

The final asbestos symposium, which took place at 15:30-17:00 on April 22, was entitled: How to make good epidemiology with wrong numbers? A multidisciplinary approach to silicosis and asbestos related diseases in France and Japan. This session provided the opportunity for an analysis of medical, legal, sociological, ethical, epidemiological, technological and other issues arising from a bilateral research program conducted in Europe and Asia. The aim of the discussion was, as Co-chair Paul Jobin said, “to suggest a new approach for more active prevention at source in emerging countries where health statistics and data are often unavailable.”

A declaration calling for a Global Ban on Asbestos which was presented at the conference stated that: “All countries should immediately ban the trade, import, production, manufacture, and use of products containing all types of asbestos, including chrysotile.”


The Declaration was signed by more than 150 delegates from 18 countries.

May 15, 2010



2 These included: the Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, National Taiwan University, Taipei Veteran General Hospital, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan Environmental and Occupational Medicine Association, Occupational Hygiene Association of Taiwan, Taiwan Occupational Health Nursing Association and Taiwan Occupational Safety Association.



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