At this website our goal is to educate people about the real and often little known facts about asbestos. This is a different kind of post to let you know what is being done in Russia to misinform people about asbestos. The Government of Canada was on this path until recently when it retreated from arguing the safety and benefits of Chrysotile asbestos in the Government’s now abandoned attempts to support the revival of the Canadian asbestos industry. The following was researched and written by Southampton University law student Daniel J. Miskin using original Russian sources translated into English:
The biggest producer of asbestos in the World is now Russia. Almost all developed countries have banned asbestos products for many years now. In Canada and the USA Mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos kills thousands each year from use decades earlier. The banned substance is still being mined throughout the world, and mining was discontinued in Canada in November of 2011. Asbestos from Russia is being sent in huge quantities to China, India, and South East Asia and elsewhere. Russian policy wholeheartedly supports the idea that asbestos can be mined and used safely and does not cause any form of cancer. They say they are fighting a smear campaign against the industry.
In 2011 Canada shut down its last asbestos mine in Quebec. Their main product at the mine was chrysotile asbestos. There are several types of asbestos. The Harper government until recently considered chrysotile asbestos safe for humans. This was clearly wrong, after many studies and deaths proved the harm chrysotile asbestos can cause. The Harper government has now accepted the Rotterdam convention, which labels all asbestos as unsafe. Another type of of asbestos is called ‘amphibole asbestos’ or brown asbestos. The use of brown asbestos is prohibited in Russia, but chrysotile is not forbidden and mined heavily. The belief that Canada’s government once held is still firmly accepted in Russia, that chrysotile asbestos causes no harm to humans.
In America in 1963 suspicion became reality when American medical researcher Dr. Irving Selikoff published case studies of asbestos cancer victims. The American asbestos industry responded with a smear campaign to discredit Dr. Selikoff and his research. For years after the asbestos manufacturers denied the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma. In 1972 six major asbestos manufacturers formed the Asbestos Information Association (AIA). This associations purpose was the counter the growing scientific evidence against asbestos. The AIA was managed by the same firmed working on behalf of Big Tobacco, which was also eagerly denying the connection between smoking and lung cancer at the time.
There is a town in Russia called Asbest. The main activity in this town, as you guessed, is mining asbestos. It is their livelihood, the whole town would not exist without the mine. Most of the residents work at the mine have close ties to the asbestos industry. Asbest is located near the World’s largest open quarry. Many of the locals go to an observation deck in the mountains to watch the massive explosions from the mine. The residents want to prove to the world to live and work there is safe, and they are doing this at all costs.
The town and asbestos mines are trying to get youths involved in their campaign. They have done this by creating a Youth Forum. They are trying to create young activists to create a pro-asbestos campaign. They truly believe asbestos is needed everywhere. The people of this town do not want their livelihood taken away.
The two biggest asbestos manufacturers in Russia are Orenburg Minerals and Uralasblast. The Russian asbestos companies believe a large scale false anti-asbestos campaign has been launched in the West. They believe this is an example of deliberate discretization of an adverse industry, through manipulation of public consciousness.The Russian asbestos industries believe that powerful anti-asbestos lobbyists in the West demonize the image of asbestos with no distinction between the type and forms. Russia does admit that brown asbestos does have very harmful effects on human health. They also believe chrysotile asbestos, which is their whole industry, is harmless to humans.
The Russian asbestos industry hopes Canadian producers will return to work as quick as possible. Russians industries have had talks with several investors – they believe since the Quebec government is not allocating financial resources to the asbestos companies a loan will be found. Clearly they do not understand the situation in Canada. The Russians estimate we lost a lot of asbestos mining this year, but in the next few years we will probably produce 10 -15 million tons. They understand that they are competitors, but also know they must stick together, they do not forget the Canadian producers allegiance to chrysotile for such a long time, almost alone opposing the widening of the anti-asbestos campaign. The Russians know the world’s largest deposits of chrysotile are in Canada, and that the asbestos in Canada is unique in their quality fibre. They even think Canadian chrysotile is the best in the world.
Regrettably the Russians are being helped transport their deadly materials throughout the world. The Europeans let the Russians use their ports, railways and infrastructure for asbestos. Russia has a list of over 3000 different types of products containing chrysotile products that are authorized for use. One of their claims is that asbestos is a natural occurring substance and that the earth’s crust is formed from ⅔ chrysotile asbestos. Their argument is that due to the high quantities of chrysotile asbestos already within the earths crust, it is no danger even though it is being mined out of the crust and inhaled by us.
Currently South East Asia is the worlds biggest consumer of chrysotile. India imports over 400 thousand tons per year, and China consumes over 500 million tons of chrysotile per year. The asbestos industry claims regular metal will rot while asbestos roofing will last 40 years! It is seen as a commodity for the poor. As countries get richer, they will refuse chrysotile.
Will the Russian Asbestos Industry prevail? Or will the critics in the west shut down this toxic industry for good. In the Russian town of Asbest, their livelihood depends on this industry, and they will do everything they can to keep their way of life, even if it is degrading to their health.
Do they cover up illness from asbestos? The likelihood is that many Russians and the customers of their product are getting deadly cancer. Should use be halted? Or should asbestos be used and produced in an even safer way? There are many chemicals in the world that are deadly to humans and are produced everyday in our countries. Tighter regulations around the world, and better ways of cancer prevention need to be enforced if asbestos use is going to continue. I would like to see asbestos use halted, and the thousands of people working in the industry be put in more beneficial industries that help our environment and health instead of degrade it.