Asbestos World Watch for February 22nd, 2009

In TOKYO, JAPAN, counseling to cancer patients is being offered by a researcher and professor at Juntendo University’s School of Medicine in Bunkyo Ward. During his 30 years of cancer research, Okio Hino had developed a new method to diagnose mesothelioma. He also had tried to avoid patient contact, but he changed his aloof policy toward patients in 2005 when he was the head of an outpatient treatment facility for mesothelioma patients. Hino said, “The experience revived the motivation I had when I began pursuing a career in medicine–can’t I do something for patients?” At the urging of a director of one of the Juntendo University hospitals, Hino started a three-month “Cancer Philosophy Clinic” to help outpatients deal with the psychological trauma of having a terminal cancer like mesothelioma. Several of his patients requested that he hold free counseling services. Hino has applied to have a nonprofit organizational status granted by the government to his group. In UK, the toxic ship Clemenceau was scheduled to be dismantled in a British port, which made it the largest ship scrapped in Europe. Teesside was the final destination for the 878-foot-long former aircraft carrier, but its arrival in Britain was strongly debated by environmentalists and health advocates who thought the 27,000 tons of toxins in the ships construction too dangerous to be recycled in the English port. An estimated 700 tons of that are thought to be asbestos, a common construction material of the early 20th century that is a known carcinogen.

Able UK agreed to purchase the ship for recycling, as it had done with four other “ghost ships.” All five of these ships were taken apart simultaneously at Able UK’s yard in Graythorp, Teesside, near Hartlepool. After being pulled from service in 1997, the ship’s status was hotly contested. It sat in port at Brest, France, from 2006 until it was moved to the Tesside harbor. In 2006, then President Jacques Chirac had to request that the ship be sent back from India where it was initially to be recycled. The urging of the French people concerned about exposing the Indian workers to the ship’s toxins convinced the president to recall the ship. The Friends of Hartlepool, a group opposed to the ship’s scrapping, could not get a legal ruling in time to prevent the ship from being moved. Environmental regulations would normally have prevented Able UK from recycling the materials in the Clemenceau, but sections of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 were waved by the Health and Safety Executive to allow Able UK to undertake the dismantling of the ship. In SAULT STE. MARIE, CANADA, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is seeking information about the amounts of asbestos in the city’s buildings. The proposed project would inventory the 18 MTO buildings for asbestos. According to the technical services supervisor for the area, the buildings “are of an age that construction back then may have had asbestos.” Asbestos only poses a problem if it is friable, allowing it to be broken into small bits and become airborne. Once in the air, the asbestos fibers can be inhaled where they can cause cancer to develop decades later.