New uses of asbestos in much of the industrialized world have been reduced. The EU has banned the material and in the U.S., concerns over liability have reduced its application. Of course, in the U.S., it can still be found a wide variety of locations and uses throughout the country.
But the product is just so useful, attractive and profitable that businesses cannot stop themselves from selling it elsewhere. In India, with approximately 800,000 poor who live on less than $1.25, one might ask if some type of permanent shelter is not better than any shelter. However, if the answer includes is asbestos materials, then assuredly it is not.
The asbestos industry is doing a great deal of business in India, importing $235 worth of the material and using it as part of a $2 billion industry. Remarkably, there are no adverse health risks, according to one spokesman for the industry, who said, “Chrysotile you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner!”
This statement comes in spite of authoritative scientific evidence that no form of asbestos is safe.
The appeal of asbestos for India is that it can be used to build inexpensive wall and roofing panels. Asbestos roofing panels sell for less than tin and are much quieter in rain. The danger is that as these panels age and weather, the asbestos fibers will be released, and could be inhaled by individuals living and working in the dwellings.
The audacity of the supporters of this industry is almost as breathtaking the effect mesothelioma has on its victims. They rely on old science or industry-funded scientists, who appear to be better versed in product marketing than rigorous scientific studies.
And sadly, 20 to 40 years from now, as the millions of victims begin to show symptoms of asbestosis and mesothelioma and begin to suffer terrible deaths, the industry will claim with mock innocence that they did not know and that there were no studies proving that these asbestos-laden products were dangerous.
It will sound familiar, because we have heard it all before.