Asbestos, the hazardous building material linked to potentially deadly health problems including cancer and lung problems, has been the focus of a worldwide debate to ban its use in developing countries.
Anti-asbestos activists and asbestos victims – those suffering from the fatal side effects like mesothelioma or asbestosis – met in Turin, Italy to discuss the worldwide ban and justice against the companies that continue to use the material.
Due to its inexpensive nature, the material has been a favorite in developing countries, in part because it has been banned in other countries, including the European Union since 2005. Many of the harmful side effects, like the lung cancer mesothelioma, can take upwards of 30 to 40 years to manifest, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the initial asbestos exposure.
An Italian mesothelioma lawsuit is the largest class action lawsuits in the world, claim a major construction company. Asbestos contamination has affected more than 6,000 people in Italy and claimed the lives of at least 2,000. The plaintiffs – residents of four Italian cities where the company had factories as well as former employees who handled the material – are expected to seek several million Euros in compensation.
Ban Asbestos, a worldwide organization whose goal is ban the fibrous material and “end the impunity” towards companies that use asbestos, organized the meeting.
Although many countries have banned the substance, such as Brazil whose ban was judged constitutional, other countries either do not have a ban in place, or look down on companies that continue to use the substance.
In the United States, products that contain less than one percent of asbestos have not been banned, despite several attempts by lobby groups to enact a nationwide ban.
However, developing countries such as India do not have any bans in place, which allows free reign for the country to import the material from Russia and Canada to be used in housing material for the poor.
Many living in impoverished areas have very limited if any access to legal resources alerting them of the potential dangers of asbestos building materials. Even if they were to contract mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, it would be difficult to contact a mesothelioma attorney to represent them in court against the companies that continue to use the dangerous substance – despite the known risks involved.
Asbestos removal should only be performed by a licensed professional due to the hazardous nature of the material. The World Health Organization has stated that no safe levels of the carcinogen exist, which make it very difficult to just restrict the use to prevent future health problems. The advocacy groups maintain that a full ban is necessary in order to provide full protection against asbestos.