Asbestos: A silent killer

Only 55 nations around the world have prohibited the use of these silicate minerals

Danger  Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral fiber commonly used in constructions, buildings, automobiles, and in the textile industry, among others. Due to its physicochemical properties, it is a material widely used and it is easy to be found in everyday items. Unfortunately, this material is also responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people; according to the World Health Organization, at least 107.000 people die each year of asbestos related diseases. Those who are exposed either inhale it or ingest the fibers causing cells to become cancerous.

Sufficient scientific evidence supports that asbestos is a carcinogen substance that causes mesothelioma (a cancer that affects the thin membrane tissue that covers many internal organs) and cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovaries. People who are often exposed are those who work in the asbestos industry. However, family members can also be in danger as fibers are likely to be carried home on the worker’s clothing.

A group of nations have established laws prohibiting the use of asbestos. Although most them are European countries, in Latin America (LA), 4 nations have joined the movement against the deadly mineral. The first Latin American country to introduce legislation against the use of asbestos was Argentina in the year 2000. Later, Chile, Uruguay, and Honduras stablished similar legal actions banning the use and importation of this material.

To reach a complete prohibition of asbestos is not an easy task. Due to its importance in national economies, the ban may impact many workers’ source of income. Moreover, the lobbying of companies producing and consuming the mineral are a strong force against the restriction.

However, as Dr. Nicholas Ashford, former chair of the National Advisory Committee, stated: “If you cannot control asbestos, the most notorious industrial carcinogen known, what can you control?”.

LatinAmerican Post | Laura Iguavita
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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