Thursday, 17 March 2011

Guest Item: Asbestos - Still a Global Threat


I am very pleased to provide the opportunity and space for a specialist guest-written item on my blog.

I have been approached by Eric Stevenson (a health and safety advocate) to help publicise the continuing global threat posed from asbestos mining, production and use.

There are a lot of resources available to trade unionists on the dangers posed from asbestos and Eric's piece helpfully identifies these, and if you contact me I can send links to these as well

Quebec is home to one of the most successful asbestos mines in history. Since 1879, residents of the town have maintained a working relationship with their namesake. The Jeffrey Mine, today the world’s largest asbestos mine, has produced as much as 150,000 tons of asbestos since 2006. However with the dwindling deposit of the ore available, production has practically halted. That is, until very recently. It has been discovered that beneath the ground of the Jeffrey Mine lies the world’s largest deposit of untouched asbestos. With the discovery have come prospective buyers and investors.

They plan to resurrect the mine and consequently the town by offering jobs to the out of work miners there.However, with the rejuvenation of [] Jeffery Mine comes the medical problem that asbestos poses to employees and to those to whom the product will be exported. Asbestos has been banned from commercial use in several countries, despite its low cost and its fire-resistant properties, largely because asbestos is now widely known as a potent carcinogen.When disturbed, sanded, broken, burnt, or cut, asbestos and asbestos materials release nearly invisible fibers into the air. These fibers settle on the clothes, hair, and shoes of those who handle the product and loved ones and family members are also very likely to come in contact with the fibers. When the fine fibers are inhaled or ingested, tissue scarring results in mesothelioma, a cancer that ravages the lining of the lungs, the abdomen, and the heart.[] Mesothelioma symptom are subtle and very often lie dormant for 20 to 50 years after initial asbestos exposure.

Because workers and those with asbestos products in their homes are unaware of the cancer, it has ample time to metastasize, spreading to other vital organs without triggering symptoms. If mesothelioma is at all diagnosed before the death of the victim, it is often already at a late stage. Victims of the disease suffer from harsh treatment that often proves ineffective.Because many in developing countries are not yet aware of the danger of asbestos, the Jeffrey Mine’s potential buyer plans to export hundreds of thousands of tons of the toxic material to unsuspecting contractors and workers.

Despite the fact that [l] mesothelioma life expectancy[/link] rates are devastatingly low and even Canada has regulations and laws against using asbestos for manufacturing within its borders, the Jeffrey Mine fully insists that the products will not harm other buyers or workers.The refusal of the Jeffrey Mine to accept responsibility for the devastating effects that asbestos will have on those exposed to it shows that ethics is being pushed aside for the more appetizing idea of profit.

As a worldwide community, it is up to all of us, to those who have been made aware of the dangers of such toxins, to put a stop to the blatant violation of human rights and to prevent the [] Mesotheliomafrom unnecessarily affecting others.

Eric Stevenson is a health and safety advocate who resides in the Southeastern US, and has found his voice by shinning light onto commonly overlooked issues.

For questions about this article feel free to contact him at

Please do post items around your own experience of handling cases in the workplace which relate to asbestos and do contact Eric direct with any questions/comments.



Alan said...

Hello Eric (and Ian),

Many thanks for posting this highly thought provoking piece.

As a long-standing trade union health and safety representative in the UK I have been familiar with the historical association of Canada with asbestos production - the unions there though have done some fantastic work in challenging this multi-million dollar trade. The example is from the event held in the UK (supported by Canadian unions) where Ian has used a picture from in posting your article.

I wasn't aware that the Jeffrey mine was being commissioned for use again and like many people who monitor asbestos issues had hoped it was going to be mothballed.

If you can send me any further information directly on the mine's reopening I would be grateful:

Best wishes Eric

Alan Chester
Cheshire, United Kingdom

Pete Eden said...

Hello Eric,

This is a great piece and a good idea to use Ian's blog to reach out to a trade union audience.

I don't know if in the States you have come across Hazards magazine, but in the UK it is the specialist health and safety magazine for trade unionists and has always maintained a heavy focus on asbestos-related issues.

You can see a selection of articles related to asbestos that have been produced by the magazine here:

This magazine is a campaigning organisation also and I think you should try and make a link with them given your health and safety expertise.

In Solidarity.

Peter Edden

Ian Manborde said...

Hello Peter,

Many thanks for your contribution on Eric's piece. I know that he is following responses to his piece so I hope he will follow up the suggestion of making contact with colleagues at Hazards.

Best wishes


Ian Manborde said...

Hello Alan,

Many thanks for posting this highly supportive piece - I am sure that Eric will be appreciative.

Eric is following comments on his item and I do hope he takes up your offer of getting in touch.

Best wishes


Araf Zeinab said...

Great piece - more of this please.