Asbestos World Watch for January 6th, 2009

In NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA, a new “Lung Bus” to assist in the early detection of lung ailments at work sites is planned to begin its services in the second half of 2009. This “Lung Bus” will have improved screening tools over the old “Lung Bus” which served New South Wales work sites since 1992. The goal of the new bus is to provide better and earlier detection of work-related lung diseases, particularly those caused by asbestos . Early detection is the key to saving lives in these deadly illnesses, and the new “Lung Bus” hopes to save many more lives in New South Wales with its improved screening equipment.

In TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA, half of the workplaces do not have an asbestos management plan in place, which places these businesses in violation of work regulations. Additional results of the appraisal of Tasmanian workplaces found that over 40 percent of them contained asbestos. Workers exposed to asbestos fibers or particles are at risk for developing any of the dozens of asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis , lung cancer , and mesothelioma . Only 51 percent of the businesses surveyed had an asbestos register or plan for management in place. Of those workplaces, 9 percent could not find their registers. The study, conducted by Unions Tasmania, highlights the need for a central register mapping asbestos in Tasmania.

In AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS, a Bangladeshi director brings to life the world of ship breaking in a new documentary, “The Last Rites”. Yasmine Kabir premiered her new film at the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam to illustrate the hazards faced by those whose task it is to dismantle ships mainly in South Asian ports. While the jobs the ship breaking provides are welcome, the toxins and hazardous materials inside them are not. Many workers taking apart these ships are subjected to inhalation of asbestos and exposure to other carcinogens throughout their career. Should they continue to be exposed over their careers, they will be destined for an early death from many forms of cancer such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. “The film is a plea to clear ships of hazardous substances before sending them to poor countries,” Kabir said. It seems that the International Maritime Organization has heard the pleas of Kabir and others, as it is pushing a global initiative to improve the safety of ship breaking through increased control and enforcement of safety standards. Kabir saw the ships as coffins and the workers as pallbearers: “The men were like pallbearers carrying the steel plates,” she said. “The impression I got was that I had witnessed a funeral.” The hope is that the funeral will also not be for the workers.