An international consortium of researchers, led by Joseph LaDou, M.D., is asking yet again that nations of the world, and most specifically Canada, ban the mining and manufacture of asbestos into products that, when sold, endanger the health of everyone who comes in contact with them.
LaDou, a member of the Collegium Ramazzini, joined Fellows Barry Castleman, Arthur Frank, Michael Gochfeld, Morris Greenberg, James Huff, Tushar Kant Joshi, Philip J. Landrigan, Richard Lemen, Jonny Myers, Morando Soffritti, Colin L. Soskolne, Ken Takahashi, Daniel Teitelaum, Benedetto Terrachini, and Andrew Watterson in asking for the global ban.
The Collegium Ramazzini is an international society comprised of 180 clinicians and scientists around the globe who explore and assess occupational and environmental health issues. Founded in 1982, and headquartered in Carpa, Italy, the Collegium was founded to recognize the work of one of the world’s first occupational medicine doctors, Bernardino Ramazzini.
Their admonition about asbestos appeared in the July Issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, a recognized, peer-reviewed journal which explores the impact of environment on human health. The open-access journal is sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Together, the Collegium Fellows hope to persuade the Canadian government to stop mining asbestos, stop asbestos exports, and stop subsidizing Canadian companies with a vested interest in the asbestos supply chain, from mining to shipping.
According to the Collegium, asbestos has been boycotted in 52 nations worldwide. In spite of that, world production of the mineral – once used widely in the building and automotive industries – still exceeds two million metric tonnes, which jeopardize the health of about 125 million people who are exposed through their occupations.
Asbestos’ threat to health and life has been recognized for decades, according to Mount Sinai School of Medicine physician Dr. Philip Landrigan, who also heads the Collegium. In fact, Landrigan adds, all forms of asbestos are known human carcinogens.
These forms, which include tremolite, actinolite, anthophyllite, amosite, crocidolite, and chrysotile – the type most commonly used in the United States – have been studied extensively in both animals and humans, Landrigan notes, and the link between asbestos and cancers (small-cell and non-small cell tumors of the lungs and digestive system, as well as mesothelioma) is definitive.
In spite of that, the use of asbestos continues, especially among third-world countries, where no adequate protection exists. These countries then export the finished products to the developed world, thus spreading the danger.
In fact, neither OSHA, the CDC, nor the American Cancer Society has ever established minimum, safe levels of exposure to asbestos; a day or a lifetime can trigger mesothelioma. In spite of that, the U.S. alone imported 1,880 tons of the mineral between 2007 and 2008, a rise of almost nine percent, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
In an effort to mitigate this situation, the Collegium Fellows have asked Quebec Premier Jean Charest in a letter to suspend the $58-million loan guarantee to the Jeffrey Mine, located in Asbestos.
The Collegium has been joined in its effort by a number of Canadian groups, including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the National Specialty Society for Community Medicine.
Globally, the groups note, about 90,000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases contracted at work. In the U.S., the death toll is about 10,000, with 25 percent of those attributed to mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by asbestos fibers which typically lies dormant for up to five decades before exploding into a fast-acting, painful and lethal cancer of the protective linings around the lungs, heart and digestive organs.
Sources: MSNBC, University of California at Riverside Newsroom, Montreal Gazette, Enviornmental Working Group