The future: More victims here and abroad
By BILL BURKE, The Virginian-Pilot
© May 10, 2001
Asbestos use is now banned or highly restricted in most of the world's
developed nations. But, as is the case with so many products that have
been deemed too dangerous for North Americans and Western Europeans, miners
and manufacturers have tapped markets in Thailand, Singapore, Brazil,
India and other developing nations.
Canada, second only to Russia in production of the mineral, exports 95
percent of the asbestos it mines, mostly to Asian countries.
Medical experts worry that workers in those countries -- laboring virtually
unprotected, just like American shipyard workers 50 years ago -- ultimately
will develop lung afflictions that will sicken or kill them.
The asbestos industry says it promotes safe use of its products, and
that the deaths and disease caused by asbestos use in the United States
and Europe during the past century will not be repeated elsewhere in decades
to come. Modern manufacturing processes are well-ventilated, producing
minimal dust, industry defenders say.
Critics scoff at such claims. They cite unventilated factories in Brazil
and other countries. Some even offer as proof slides of children in India
exposed to dust produced by men sawing asbestos. Though there is deep
disagreement over the current safety of and need for asbestos products,
both sides on this debate agree on one thing: Asbestos can kill.