The Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) in Australia has intensified its campaign for a worldwide ban on the use of asbestos.
ADRI is producing a special issue for the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that includes the first scientific collaboration of so many global leaders aimed at banning asbestos.
“This is a big step, something that’s never been done before, the research examining the societal transition required for countries to phase out asbestos,” Dr. Ken Takahashi, ADRI director, told Asbestos.com. “It’s not going to be an easy task, but we’re moving in that direction.”
The special issue, “Global Panorama of National Experiences in Public Health Actions to Ban Asbestos,” is aimed particularly at developing countries that need a roadmap to instituting a ban.
There are 61 countries in the world that have banned asbestos, according to International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), but Japan is the only one of the 10 most populous countries to do it. That leaves almost 140 countries and more than six billion people, according to Takahashi, still vulnerable to continued use of asbestos.
Brazil, for example, is the fifth most populous country in the world with more than 207 million people. It is still producing an estimated 300,000 tons of asbestos annually — most of it for exportation.
China, with a world-leading 1.4 billion people, produces 400,000 tons of asbestos each year.
The special issue documents the experiences and technologies that have been used to institute bans in respective countries, moving them from asbestos-using cultures to economies no longer dependent on the toxic mineral.
“We needed some kind of documented reference points so that developing countries who have an intention to move toward banning asbestos have a path to follow,” Takahashi said. “This special issue is dedicated to that purpose.”
Takahashi, who orchestrated this ongoing collaboration, joined ADRI less than a year ago after more than a decade at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health in Japan.
ADRI, which formed in 2009, is the world’s only research institute focused exclusively on asbestos and asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral still coveted in some countries for its heat resistance, tensile strength and affordability.
Unfortunately, it also becomes toxic as it ages or when it is disturbed. Asbestos exposure can lead to a range of serious health issues, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Takahashi is a renowned epidemiologist whose career has been focused on the prevention of asbestos-related diseases.
His research in Japan often attracted worldwide attention. In his previous position, he organized annual international conferences aimed at drawing awareness to the dangers of asbestos.
Even before Takahashi joined ADRI, his research prompted several countries that had banned asbestos to provide support for a global ban.
“So many people around the world don’t realize what a problem [asbestos] is,” he said. “And asbestos-related disease is 100 percent preventable.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 100,000 people die each year from an asbestos-related disease.
The special issue includes papers on legal and regulatory measures used to phase out asbestos, marketing strategies and engineering breakthroughs for safer materials.
The first six articles in the issue are from authors in Sweden, Italy, Japan, Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Authors from the U.S., Finland and Australia are having submissions reviewed and should be available soon.
“Our hope is that developing countries, especially the administrators from those countries, can absorb what they read and fit that knowledge into their own unique situation,” Takahashi said. “Hopefully, this can speed up the process and move us closer to a global ban.”