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Report Warns of Coming Increase in Asbestos Disease in Asia

Efforts to eradicate asbestos-related disease continue throughout Europe, Australia and the United States, but in other areas of the world, asbestos use continues to rise. Health experts are now warning that there will be a dramatic increase in the number of cases of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other diseases in those countries over the next few decades.

According to a report published in the journal Respirology, there are several countries located throughout Asia that are increasing their mining, their import, and their use of asbestos despite the fact that it has been well established that the material is a deadly carcinogen. Three of the world’s top five asbestos consumers are located in Asia, and health experts are warning that China, India and Indonesia will soon experience a ‘tsunami’ of asbestos-related disease.

The world currently sees approximately 107,000 asbestos-related deaths every year, though it is difficult to determine the exact number because countries that use the material are not tracking the disease in the way that countries that have abandoned its use do. Additionally, because asbestos-related diseases typically take decades to develop and for symptoms to appear, it is difficult to predict exactly what the impact will be. According to Laurie Kazan-Allen, one of the study’s authors and coordinator of the International Bas Asbestos Secretariat, “In most of the countries where asbestos is used, there is no health and safety protection for workers, consumers and members of the public who are routinely exposed to this known carcinogen.”

It is no coincidence that the countries that have minimized or abandoned their use of asbestos are also the ones that are most assiduous about tracking the incidence of asbestos-related disease; it is also no coincidence that countries where it is being used extensively are failing to collect data. The continued and increasing use of the deadly material is being blamed on a high demand for housing, as well as the fact that asbestos is an extremely inexpensive and widely available material. It is this same profit-driven mindset that led asbestos manufacturers to continue using the product in the United States in the 20th century, after its dangers were known.

Not all Asian countries are in the same position – the use of asbestos was banned in Singapore in the 1980s, and there are discussions of doing the same in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. Still, Indonesia has doubled its use of the material in the last two decades, raising concerns for workers and consumers alike.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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