(Updated May 2018)
Asbestos has been described as "the grand-daddy of all occupational killers." It affects people who come in contact with it at every stage of the production process. It contaminated the miners who pulled it from the ground, the millers who processed the raw fiber, the men who transported the hessian bags of fiber from South Africa, Canada, Australia, the dockers [A Sad Legacy, Asbestos and Dockers] who unloaded the cargo, the factory workers who manufactured asbestos products, the wives who washed their clothes and the children who were present at the time [Canadian Asbestos : A Global Concern, Literature Review, Literature Review, General Motors St. Catharines Cancer Cluster].
The incidence of asbestos-related mortality has been particularly high amongst those who received hazardous asbestos exposures whilst working in heavy industries such as shipbuilding, railway engineering and the insulation industry [Oral Histories of the Asbestos Tragedy in Scotland, Asbestos in Scotland, Literature Review (2008), Report on Seminar on Asbestos Hazard (India)]. Elevated disease levels have also been found amongst naval personnel exposed to asbestos on board ships [see: Asbestos and Merchant Navy].
Building workers who used asbestos-containing products in the construction of domestic and commercial properties and D-I-Y enthusiasts have also contracted deadly diseases [New Zealand: Asbestos Epidemic, Mesothelioma: Australian Data and Research, The Problems of Asbestos in Poland as seen by Labor Inspectors].
Asbestos-containing materials in public buildings [Next Wave of Asbestos Victims?, Asbestos Reverberations in Australia] such as hospitals and schools [Asbestos Hazard in UK Schools] and in private residences constitute an on-going risk to professional and amateur workmen. People who continue to work in, inhabit or maintain buildings which contain deteriorating asbestos products are at risk. Asbestos deaths among caretakers and maintenance men of such buildings are higher than average.
In the 21st century, hazardous exposures remain routine for workers in ship-breaking yards in Turkey, India and Bangladesh, asbestos factories in India, Thailand and Vietnam and on construction sites in Pakistan, China and Indonesia [Asian Asbestos Conference 2006, Dismantling & Recycling Decommissioned Ships].
The contamination of raw materials with asbestos [Hyundai Steel: A Corporate Criminal], the dispersal of asbestos fiber into the environment by mining and manufacturing processes [ALERT: Asbestos Public Health Hazard, Press Release: India’s Asbestos Killing Fields], the presence of asbestos-containing products onboard ships [Why Most Ships Still Contain Asbestos], the illegal import of asbestos-containing products [Press Release: UK Toxic Asbestos Imports from China?], demolition and building work on unremediated buildings [Media Release: Albania Asbestos Crisis], and the contamination of baby powder by tremolite asbestos [Toxic Talc and Mesothelioma] are examples of the ongoing occupational and environmental hazard posed to human health by asbestos.
The World Health Organization estimates that today 125 million people are being occupationally exposed to asbestos and that such exposure lead to 90,000 deaths every year [Asian Asbestos Conference (AAC 2006)]; the ILO believes that 100,000 people die annually from workplace asbestos exposures [Asbestos Policies of Major International Agencies)]. In 2017, researchers produced figures which indicated that the total annual global mortality “from all asbestos-related exposures could exceed 300,000” [Global Asbestos Mortality Data].
Research from almost every continent has confirmed the link between hazardous environmental exposures to asbestos and asbestos-related disease. Airborne contamination generated by mining or processing of asbestos and the liberation of fibers through physical manipulation, man-made or natural catastrophes endanger human health [Environmental Hazard, Asbestos in the environment].
Instances of environmental asbestos contamination include:
Updated May, 2018