The Campaign for an International Ban
The Campaign for an International Ban
According to data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the global value of annual asbestos production is believed to be as much as $1.3 billion.
Asbestos remains a profitable industry in many countries and it wields significant political and financial influence.
Yet where ever it exists it faces people campaigning for justice for the injured and an end to this indefensible trade.
To find out more about the international trade and how to help stop it continuing reading.
In 1990, China was the fourth largest supplier of raw asbestos and the third largest consumer. Nowadays, China is the second most important supplier, accounting for 21% of global production, and the biggest consumer (530,834t in 2012). Chinese asbestos markets account for 27% of worldwide consumption.
Considering the considerable clout that asbestos stakeholders have in China, it is little short of miraculous that on April 4, 2014, Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, banned asbestos.
This was achieved trough mobilizations and political pressure in which the “No More Asbestos in Hong Kong Alliance” played a prominent part.
In 1990, the Soviet Union produced 2,400,000t and used 2,151,800t of asbestos accounting, respectively, for 55% and 49% of all global trade.
In 2012, the corresponding figures for Russia were 1,000,000t and 155,476t, making Russia the world’s biggest asbestos supplier and fourth biggest user.
Asbestos remains big busines in Russia and the asbestos mafia has close and enduring ties with the political establishment. Despite a climate which actively discourages discussion of the hazard, activists have undertaken research and begun a dialogue on asbestos.
Volgograd, a city in the midst of Russia’s asbestos heartland, was the venue for a series of asbestos events organized in 2012 including a workshop, radio interview and discussions with key stakeholders.
This workshop was co-organized by Russian NGOs: the Eco-Accord Program on Chemical Safety and Volgograd-Ecopress, and attended by representatives of state environmental bodies, medical professionals,
occupational health research bodies, regional trade unions, local authorities and local non-governmental organizations.
Prior to this event, many of them had been unaware of the health effects of exposure to asbestos.
In 1990, India’s ranking in asbestos league tables was of minor significance. The country produced 26,053t and used 118,964t. By 2012, the situation had changed radically and India had become the world’s largest asbestos importer (493,086t), with the world’s second biggest asbestos market.
The campaign to ban asbestos has been growing in India for a number of years.
The work of asbestos victims as well as campaigners from Non Governmental Organisations has ensured new voices are being heard in a debate formally controlled by commercial interests.
While industry lobbyists maintain that asbestos can be used “safely under controlled conditions,” the faces of India’s asbestos victims tell another story.
It is these faces which make visible a problem long suppressed – the human price paid for asbestos industry profits.
A pilot project being progressed by Drs. Helen Clayson and Abhijeet Jadhav aims to deliver evidence-based low-tech, low-cost techniques and strategies to Indians affected by advanced asbestosis with the intention of relieving the suffering caused by breathlessness in asbestos hotspots such as Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
This program has the potential of not only benefiting the injured but increasing the visibility of their plight.
Twenty-five years ago four million tonnes of asbestos were used annually by 64 countries; consumption has now halved with fewer than half that number of hard-core countries consuming more than 1,000t/year.
That any profitability remains in the sale of asbestos is solely due to the feverish and aggressive methods pursued by commercial and government stakeholders.
Yet we know achieving bans and delivering justice to the injured is possible.
Every year brings new campaigns which capture public and media attention, integrate awareness projects within comprehensive frameworks and use innovative methods for communicating the message.
The international movement to ban asbestos has achieved a prominence and momentum that are undeniable.