Warning about Asian asbestos disease ‘tsunami’

Use of asbestos is increasing in Asia and the continent could face an asbestos disease ‘tsunami’ as a result, researchers have warned. Writing in the journal Respirology, experts from Australia, Indonesia and the UK note: “Although some countries such as Japan, Korea and Singapore have curtailed the use of this mineral, there are numerous countries in Asia that continue to mine, import and use this fibre, particularly China, which is one of the largest consumers in the world.” The paper adds: “Numerous factors ranging from political and economic to the lack of understanding of asbestos and the management of asbestos-related lung disease are keys to this observed trend. Awareness of these factors combined with early intervention may prevent the predicted Asian ‘tsunami’ of asbestos diseases.”

The paper spells out the measures necessary to achieve this. “Asbestos is widely used in Asia with little occupational protection and thus will produce many thousands of cases of asbestos related disease in the next decades. Reducing the risks of such diseases will require reduction in the use of asbestos, careful surveillance for asbestos related diseases and improved levels of training in the recognition and diagnosis of these disease, and cooperation among government and non-government groups in the prevention of these diseases.”

A related editorial notes: “How can we solve this asbestos time bomb that Asia is facing? Should we continue with the mining and export of asbestos? Should we go for short-term profit and accept the occupational hazards?” It concludes: “Short-sightedness is not acceptable anymore. Asbestos is a major health threat; it has already ruined too many lives. Therefore, we must help the developing world by finding suitable alternatives for asbestos as soon as possible or we will face an immense loss of quality of life and working potential in these countries.”

Su Lyn Leong, Rizka Zainudin, Laurie Kazan-Allen and Bruce W Robinson. Asbestos in Asia, Respirology, early view, published online ahead of print, 29 March 2015.
Paul Baas and Sjaak Burgers. ASIA: Asbestos stop in Asia, Editorial, Respirology, early view, published online ahead of print, 31 March 2015.

3 thoughts on “Warning about Asian asbestos disease ‘tsunami’”

  1. Rory: Thank you for your ongoing effort to curtail and ban the use of asbestos. Please send me an email address so I can send you information and the poster I just created for my new exhibit:
    BADGES: A Memorial Tribute to Asbestos Workers. The exhibit was sponsored by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Org. for their annual meeting April 18-19, then it moves to the headquarters of the AFL-CIO for Workers Memorial Day Observance events. Thank you, Earl

    1. great to hear from you Earl… as you know we love your work, and really wish we had someone doing similar over here. My email address is editor@hazards.org You might also like our Workers’ Memorial Day webpages, http://www.28april.org I’d love to give your exhibit a big push on this webpage and in the print magazine. Give me my orders.

      Great to hear from you… Your friend, Rory

  2. Thanks for highlighting these two papers. Their publication is timely as the meeting of the Rotterdam Convention which will, once again, consider including chrysotile asbestos on Annex III will be in May 2015. As one of the co-authors of the first paper cited, let me reconfirm my belief that the only way to end the global scourge of asbestos is to institute a global ban on production, use and sale.

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