Media Speculates that Asbestos Caused “Mystery Illness”

The U.S. and South Africa have over the years had many things in common, not all of them positive. Over the years, both countries have had to deal with similar social and economic issues. Arguably, the U.S. has made far more progress on a number of these issues, but South Africans are making efforts to catch up. Apparently, however, one of the things these two countries still share is a corporate media that is all too often biased and untrustworthy, that sells fear and sensationalism rather than objective facts–and is almost completely useless when it comes to fulfilling its stated purpose, which is to inform the public. Consider a recent “asbestos scare” in South Africa. At the Gingindlovu Primary School in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province, 23 students suddenly became ill.

Symptoms included nausea, a burning sensation on the lips, itchiness, headaches, stomach pains–and difficulty breathing. Immediately, the South African media reported ” School children suffer from asbestos poisoning!” South Africa has had an extensive history with asbestos, and in fact, the pre-fabricated classrooms contain a fair amount of the stuff. However, if you have spent any time at all here at, you know by now that asbestos illness has a long latency period. While it is a sad possibility that a number of these school children and their teachers will ultimately contract mesothelioma or another asbestos disease, these symptoms will not appear for at least ten years–and in all probability, not for twenty to fifty.

That is what Dr. Jim Te Water-Naude of South Africa’s Asbestos Relief Trust had to say on the subject. It fell to the provincial health department to inform the South Africa Times that any reports of asbestos poisoning among the children was “merely speculation”–something in which reputable journalists are not supposed to be engaging unless stating as such. In the meantime, the children were taken to a local hospital, treated and released. However, the doctors who treated them refused to reveal their diagnoses. However, the school will remain closed until the cause of the sudden illness has been determined.