More summaries from ADAO’s annual conference

Thanks to Jessica Like of the Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute for these additional summaries.

Session 4: Global Contamination and Advocacy
Barry Castleman, ScD, Environmental Consultant
U.S. Developments: Legal/ Judicial

Dr. Barry Castleman is without doubt the utmost authority on asbestos – its use or rather abuse – and its hazardous effects on humanity.  Dr. Castleman quickly summarized the developments on the Ban Asbestos Act which was unanimously passed through the Senate in October 2007.  What later came to light were significant changes amounting to asbestos allowance in products up to 1% by weight and providing no limitations on liability for those companies using asbestos in products.  Giving the audience some enlightenment on the legislative process, Dr. Castleman speculated that the bans changes may have appeased the committee in charge of sand and gravel amongst other appeasements in order to pass unanimously.

He reiterated the need for reasonable substitutes to be enacted quickly and better analysis to determine the presence of asbestos. In a humorous aside to the audience, Dr. Castleman asked for any insight on two specific lines in the ban which apparently have everyone baffled as to what the language actually means.  Due to time constraints, Dr. Castleman summarized his points quickly and it was unfortunate there was not more time to hear his opinions on the ban.

Dr. Bishakha Ghose, Head, Department of Community Medicine BGC Trust Medical College Chandanaish Chittagong, Bangladesh
Asbestos in Shipbreaking: A Deadly Reality in Bangladesh

US citizens have a reputation from remaining unaware of how our actions affect people throughout the world.  Dr. Ghose brought the message home to us as she discussed shipbreaking, a common job for workers in Bangladesh which brings retired ships into the shallow harbors and ports in order to slowly break them apart and reuse the materials.  Images of shoeless workers with white dust up to their knees and in their hair standing on beaches in front of ships whose hulls had been cracked apart by the workers flew across the screen.

Clearly these laborers who perform no easy task are largely exposed to asbestos, but Dr. Ghose informed the audience that the country does not acknowledge asbestos-related diseases and maintains that the work is safe and good stimulus for the economy.   More emphasis should be placed on the far-reaching affects of asbestos products.  We may be well aware of first-hand and second-hand exposure to smoking but with asbestos, everyone who comes into contact is at risk – first, second, third, fourth-hand exposure, etc. is just as deadly.

Robert Jones, Environmental Researcher Rhodes University
Trail of Tears: South African Communities at Risk from Environmental Exposures

A few years ago Robert Jones transplanted his family from Maryland to South Africa, a mid-life crisis he jokes.  But Mr. Jones decided to study and bring awareness to the environmental exposures South African communities are facing with asbestos.

Poignant pictures of small children in asbestos-laden schools, walking along asbestos-contaminated roads, to return home to their asbestos-filled homes highlighted the health risks many of these communities face.  Crocidolite, blue asbestos, is visible among the paths that locals use daily.  The rampant asbestos contamination (strewn across thousands of square kilometers) is due in part to the poor containment strategies of local mines and also the inadequate planning of local communities.  As an example, Mr. Jones referred to a school with known asbestos contamination that was slowly deconstructed brick by brick, scattered among the soil which was the site of the new school that took its place, hardly effective removal of the asbestos from that environment.

Mr. Jones is working with the community to create a safer environment and a better knowledge of the extant of the environmental hazards.

Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator, International Ban Asbestos Secretariat
Global Panorama 2008

It would be impossible to miss the energetic Laurie Kazan-Allen anywhere, and she was in her element at the conference.  Ms. Allen is the Coordinator for the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, providing a conduit for information exchange between groups and individuals working to achieve a global asbestos ban and seeking to alleviate the damage caused by widespread asbestos use.

Quick to point out how asbestos industries have controlled the information on asbestos-related diseases, Ms. Allen quoted an article where an industry employee reiterated that asbestos does not cause health problems.  Her passion to raise awareness about asbestos and the despicable actions by companies who knowingly cover up the harmful effects of asbestos is unmatched.

Killing the Future

Ms. Allen works tirelessly to bring about a global ban and she updated the audience on a recent successful conference in Brazil where she was instrumental in bringing groups together to discuss the problems of asbestos and brainstorm solutions.  She praised the work of Dr. Barry Castleman, as well, a well established authority on asbestos and outspoken advocate who may be glimpsed at any asbestos conference around the nation.  Ms. Allen’s latest compilation, “Killing the Future: Asbestos Use in Asia” exposes the far reaching devastation of asbestos throughout Asia and is an eye-opener for anyone who has never stopped to wonder what happens to asbestos-contaminated products circulated throughout the world or sent abroad to be destroyed.


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