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The use of asbestos – deadly white lies

There were 2542 recorded deaths in the UK from mesothelioma in 2015. The increase is largely due to an increase in deaths among those aged 75 or above. This is put down to the normal increase in life expectation overall but the reality is that there is no longstop period of risk of mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos. In effect all exposure to asbestos carries a life time risk of fatal disease.

The use of crocidolite asbestos was banned from 1985 and the Asbestos Industry would have you believe that only exposure to that type of asbestos was to blame for mesothelioma deaths, even though it only made up 2% of asbestos imported. As a fall-back position they have argued in the past that any deaths from exposure to chrysotile asbestos are due to tremolite contamination and not exposure to chrysotile asbestos itself. In fact very few mines are contaminated with tremolite.

The Canadian chrysotile producers changed their argument to allow them to continue to sell their product arguing that their mines are tremolite free as this mineral was avoided or removed during the milling process. Neither claim has any basis in fact. Chrysotile asbestos whether contaminated or “pure” causes mesothelioma.

The constant manipulation of data and findings of industry funded research to justify their changing defensive strategy means that little reliance can be placed upon the historic accuracy of scientific claims relating to the safety of chrysotile asbestos.

A 1958 study into asbestos miners for the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association providing this draft: “the number of lung cancer deaths combined with asbestosis is larger than would be expected in each cohort.” 
was changed to: “it seems fair to conclude that the asbestos miners in the province of Quebec do not have a significantly higher death rate from lung cancer than do comparable segments of the general population.”

This view was repeated by QAMA’s funded research by a Professor McDonald whose initial data was so preposterous that it implied there was less chance of lung cancer working with chrysotile in an asbestos mine than from living in Quebec. He quickly amended the data to show that workers could be exposed to very high levels of asbestos without adverse health effects to justify the chrysotile asbestos is “innocuous” argument, still used by that industry today.

There are no depths to which the asbestos industry will not sink. At a recent conference in Tatarstan, in order to promote the use of their chrysotile asbestos products, they offered cash prizes to designers to include these products in their designs for areas including children’s play spaces.

Children are known to be far more susceptible to mesothelioma from asbestos exposure. Sadly, long after this industry is finally shut down people will continue to die from the effects of government acceptance of industry lies in allowing the continued use of a material declared by the WHO to be carcinogenic.