International Group Calls for Global Asbestos Ban, Acknowledges Link to Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer
For the first time ever, organizations from across the globe joined together to call for “a global ban on the mining, use, and export of all forms of asbestos.” A committee of scientists from 13 epidemiology societies issued the statement this week after confirming “that all types of asbestos fiber are causally implicated in the development of various diseases and premature death.” The group specifically cited mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis as debilitating diseases caused by exposure to the toxic mineral.
The Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology, that announced the ban, was joined by over 150 public health, civil society organizations and individual scientists from twenty countries who endorsed the ban, according to the statement. Asbestos is a known carcinogen that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been issuing warnings about for years. In fact, the EPA recently reported that there is no safe level of exposure of asbestos.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), asbestos causes approximately half of all deaths from occupational cancer with 125 million people worldwide exposed to asbestos in the workplace. In addition, WHO reports more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure.
“Continued use of asbestos will lead to a public health disaster of asbestos-related illness and premature death for decades to come, repeating the epidemic we are witnessing today in industrialised countries that used asbestos in the past,” stated Dr. Stanley Weiss, chair of the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology (JPC-SE), which released the statement.
The Joint Policy Committee coordinates policy actions among 13 U.S., Canadian and international epidemiology societies. The group’s 25-page statement details the latest scientific evidence about asbestos and expressed “grave concern” that the governments of Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam are putting their own citizens and others in peril by allowing asbestos mining.
The authors noted that the use of asbestos is increasing in low-to-middle income countries, and that there is little awareness in these countries of the risk that asbestos poses to health. They further note that asbestos safety regulations are weak to non-existent, putting workers and residents in danger of asbestos-related diseases.
Pleural mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive form of lung cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, is one of the most difficult cancers to treat and is diagnosed in close to 3,000 Americans each year. The cancer has an extended latency period and often takes decades after asbestos exposure for a person to be diagnosed with the deadly disease.