EU experts project that 500,000 people in Western Europe will die from asbestos-related causes in the first thirty years of the 21st century! Even though it was known to cause cancer as long ago as the early 1950s, asbestos use reached its peak of popularity in industrialized countries in the 1970s.
The European Union was not to adopt a directive banning the marketing and use of asbestos products until 1999. Meanwhile, millions of European workers – mostly manual workers – fell victim to pleural plaque, asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma, the infamously still incurable form of malignant pleural or peritoneal cancer.
Despite this human and social catastrophe, the mineral fibre is still being mined, especially in Quebec, and used to manufacture asbestos-cement construction products for emerging economies like China, India and Brazil. Some unscrupulous industry groups continue to pocket fat profits in the full knowledge that their workers will develop serious diseases a few years down the line.
Their refusal to admit the dangers of asbestos echoes that of firms like Turner & Newall, Saint-Gobain and Eternit in Europe who have been hauled through the courts over the years by former workers and victims' groups. It is time to close the deadliest chapter in industrial history by banning the use of asbestos in all its forms everywhere in the world.
Maria Roselli, journalist