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Whose interests do they defend?

Competition with producers of asbestos substitutes is the main reason for the anti-asbestos campaign that has emerged and now flourishes in the countries lacking asbestos deposits but having powerful chemical and metallurgical industries that produce substitute fibers. The anti-asbestos campaign is supported by enormous financial resources of transnational concerns.

Asbestos opponents deliberately mislead the public opinion about risks of asbestos by making no distinction between its various types. Yet, it is well known that the term “asbestos” is a commercial name given to a group of minerals that possess similar properties but have absolutely different chemical compositions and degrees of health effects.

Global trade war

By definition, the trade war confronts economic agents with each other in order to establish who wins the critical market share as soon as possible to the detriment of another. In case of chrysotile asbestos this war was started by major international monopolies, the same monopolies that profited from asbestos until very recently and had little concern about how it was used and that left the sector at the first sign of anxiety mainly to escape from their liability to the victims of their careless use of asbestos. In order to avoid litigation and responsibilities, still getting profits, they started using asbestos substitutes without any concern for possible risks from their use or consequences related to the quality of products easily placed on the market under the pretext of their being less hazardous.
As for the excessive price of these new products for the developing world and the effect of a delayed development of the infrastructure that is vitally important for the population of the developing countries, they just don’t care.

Double-edged sword

The war requires weapon, and international monopolists used two types of it. Instead of accepting the responsibility and reviewing practices in order to introduce a safe use of chrysotile asbestos they decided to produce substitute fibers and products. But they thought that was not enough and while realizing unique advantages of chrysotile asbestos they decided to radically suppress any competition from chrysotile-containing products. This is why they have inflated and still maintain the worldwide anti-asbestos psychosis particularly by encouraging environmentalists and different unions to demand an international ban on asbestos including chrysotile instead of its safe and properly regulated use. In fact, it is much more important to make chrysotile disappear from all markets since no substitute possesses same properties and durability at the same price.

They acted as if the ban were to solve the problems of the past including buildings with sprayed asbestos and amphiboles; as if other chemicals such as fiberglass, cellulose, glass wool, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and malleable iron were absolutely safe; as if these products could offer the same quality as chrysotile asbestos. In short, their position is penetrated with falseness and is aimed at sustaining and even increasing profits; at the same time, they soothe their conscience with the idea of creating new workplaces in industries developed for the benefit of public health and environment.

As a result, sales of chrysotile asbestos fell rapidly. The global consumption dropped from 5 090 000 metric tons in 1975 to 1 800 000 tons in 1999. After widely reported decisions ofFrance and some other countries about the asbestos ban the European market is almost nonexistent. Nobody denies thatEurope faced problems arising from the irresponsible practices of the past. On the other hand, we must not be misled by the contradiction between what influential international monopolies say and the way they’ve adapted to the situation.