The money-making world of the asbestos industry continues to go round. After more than 50 countries instituted laws to ban the use of the harmful mineral linked to the causation of mesothelioma and other devastating diseases, Canada is trying to bring asbestos back into economic fashion.
Don’t be confused; Canadians do not have a sudden urge to erect asbestos towers, nor do they crave asbestos as a dinner seasoning. While Canada has yet to completely ban asbestos, asbestos use within Canada is heavily regulated and generally unused. While only 5% of the mined asbestos fibers stay in Canada, 95% is exported to the developing world. India is the largest importer with a full 43%.
India, however, is not doing anything to stop this concerning global trend that is injecting new life into the asbestos industry. In Patna, India, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi recently denied the harmful health effects of asbestos exposure. We suppose he did not read reports by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that 90,000 people die of asbestos related illnesses globally each year. Critics fearfully estimate that if India does not do more than talk about strict asbestos regulation, this number will skyrocket.
If the asbestos industry were a football team, the fans filling the stands would be the Chrysotile Institute. The Institute has mandated not only to export the deadly fiber to the developing world, but also its “unique expertise on safe and responsible use,” including “expert” statements such as:
“The chrysotile asbestos industry should, of course, always assume its responsibility, and under these conditions, it could continue to flourish, and there are excellent reasons for that. India, like all developing countries, has enormous infrastructure needs. Its immense population requires reliable and low-cost materials for housing. As was the case for developed countries after the Second World War, chrysotile is an affordable material that effectively meets those needs.” – The Chrysotile Institute
It’s true that asbestos flaunts the tempting reality of low-cost building materials. India’s infrastructural needs may be met and the numbers may look good on paper. Houses will be built, and people will have places to live.
However, as seen by WHO’s research there is a very big price to pay. The economy does not suffer from this toxic dust if it is not well-regulated in India. The people do.
For more information on the issue, check out the Mesothelioma Resource Center’s blog post “India Refuses to Ban Asbestos, Canada Rejoices” or IBN Live’s report from India.