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, import, and 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, since asbestos-related diseases typically take decades to develop and for symptoms to appear, it is difficult to predict exactly what the impact will be.
“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,” Laurie Kazan-Allen, one of the study’s authors and coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, said.
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.