Last modified: February 12, 2021
In the 1960s, the truth about asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma surfaced. A wave of lawsuits soon poured into courts around the world, and governments began restricting and banning the use of asbestos.
But while concerned scientists and doctors were busy trying to reveal the dangers of the toxic mineral, the asbestos industry was formulating its counter attack. This led to industry-backed lobbying organizations.
Through tactics such as intimidating activists, suppressing research, controlling local media and buying out politicians, these groups push the money-making agenda of asbestos companies. Despite the condemning evidence against the mineral, modern-day production of asbestos is going strong.
Active Pro-Asbestos Lobbying Organizations
The global asbestos industry preys on weak regulatory environments in developing nations. Pro-asbestos interests also have close relationships with the governments of Russia and the U.S.
International Chrysotile Association
The International Chrysotile Association (ICA) was founded in the U.K. in 1976, originally called the “Asbestos International Association.” Since then, it has changed its name and headquarters as asbestos has become unwelcome in most of the developed world.
Today, the ICA’s directors mainly come from developing nations where asbestos is still commonly used. The ICA works to block asbestos bans whenever they are proposed. It sponsors corrupt science and spreads disinformation, employing many of the same strategies as the tobacco industry.
Russian Chrysotile Association
Russia leads the world in asbestos mining, and the Chrysotile Association is one of the toxic mineral’s most stalwart advocates. The organization effectively blurs the boundary between the Russian government and mining titans such as Uralasbest.
Exporting asbestos is a multibillion-dollar industry in Russia. The Chrysotile Association exists to protect those profits and ensure asbestos continues to flow into the developing world.
Indian Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association
The Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (ACPMA) lobbies for the asbestos industry in India, one of the world’s top consumers of asbestos. The organization receives industry funding to spread misinformation. Even while acknowledging the asbestos death toll in the West, it claims asbestos will not cause illness in Indians.
The ACPMA’s lobbying efforts no doubt played a role in the failure of proposed asbestos bans in 2011 and 2012.
Mexican Institute of Fiber Industries
Based in Mexico, the Mexican Institute of Fiber Industries (IMFI) works to prevent asbestos regulation all throughout Latin America. The asbestos industry once had a powerful grip over the region because of cooperation between IMFI and smaller national lobbying organizations.
Thankfully, the asbestos lobby has lost much ground in Latin America in recent years. But that has not stopped the IMFI from continuing to deny the health hazards of working with asbestos. It enjoys a close relationship with the Mexican government, to the detriment of Mexican workers and residents.
American Chemistry Council
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) lobbies for a variety of industries in America. The ACC’s Chlorine Institute is one of the primary organizations still working to prevent a U.S. asbestos ban.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been effectively subjected to the ACC’s influence in recent years. Many activists doubt the EPA will take asbestos risks seriously as long as it is controlled by business-friendly leadership.
Historical Pro-Asbestos Lobbying Organizations
The news isn’t all bad. Anti-asbestos activists have scored significant victories, as shown by the list of defunct pro-asbestos organizations in the U.S., Canada and Brazil.
Asbestos Information Association – North America
The Asbestos Information Association (AIA/NA) was a trade group founded during the final years of the asbestos cover-up in the U.S.
It attempted to discredit Dr. Irving Selikoff and other researchers reporting on asbestos-related diseases. The AIA/NA launched personal attacks against them and cast doubt on the science behind their findings.
Johns-Manville was the primary force behind the AIA/NA, though its members included numerous other asbestos industry companies. Many of those companies have since sought bankruptcy protection because of asbestos lawsuits.
Canadian Chrysotile Institute
Canada became a leading world supplier of asbestos during the 20th century. To ensure it stayed that way, its Chrysotile Institute worked closely with the International Chrysotile Association and other lobbying organizations around the world.
The Chrysotile Institute held out until 2012, when the last asbestos mines in Canada closed and the institute lost its main source of funding.
Brazilian Chrysotile Institute
Brazil’s Chrysotile Institute was modeled after the lobbying organizations in Canada, Russia and other asbestos exporters.
After Canadian exports dwindled, Brazil enjoyed a position as the top asbestos supplier to the U.S. for a time. But when Brazil banned asbestos in 2017, Russia secured its almost unchallenged control over the asbestos mining trade.
U.S. Anti-Litigation Lobbying Organizations
Asbestos litigation is America’s longest-running mass tort — which has given it plenty of time to make powerful enemies such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several trade organizations.
Asbestos Study Group
The Asbestos Study Group is an alliance of companies that acquired asbestos liabilities by buying former asbestos industry companies. The organization has spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to pass legislation that would limit people’s ability to sue over asbestos-related diseases.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce / Institute for Legal Reform
The Chamber of Commerce is a powerful lobbying organization for big businesses in America. It channels millions of dollars toward campaigns to pass bills designed by business-friendly organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council.
American Legislative Exchange Council
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is officially a group of state legislators that cooperate on designing laws. In practice, however, it receives most of its funding and inspiration from businesses. Company-sponsored think tanks craft business-friendly “model bills” for ALEC members to introduce in state legislatures.
The ALEC has succeeded in getting many states to pass laws that create obstacles for people seeking compensation for asbestos exposure.
American Tort Reform Association
The American Tort Reform Association lobbies on behalf of companies who are liable to be sued because of harmful business practices such as using asbestos. This organization promotes legal reforms that would limit the amount of compensation people can receive and make it harder to sue businesses.
National Association of Manufacturers
The National Association of Manufacturers represents thousands of U.S. manufacturing companies. Among the many issues it advocates for, it supports legal reforms designed to shield companies from asbestos liabilities.
American Insurance Association / National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
The American Insurance Association and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies represent thousands of companies that provide property and casualty insurance. When companies have to pay large settlements or verdicts to people harmed by asbestos exposure, they often rely on insurance policies.
Big Business Asbestos Defendants
In addition to supporting trade groups, individual companies also contribute to the campaigns of business-friendly politicians.
Many companies with major asbestos liabilities are also top political donors such as:
- 3M Company
- ACE INA Holdings
- Allstate Insurance Company
- Chubb Corporation
- Crown Holdings
- Ford Motor
- Hartford Financial Services Group
- Honeywell International Inc.
- Koch Industries
- Liberty Mutual Group
- Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
- Occidental Petroleum Corporation
- Smiths Group Services Corporation
- The Travelers Companies
- W.R. Grace
- Zurich Insurance Group
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