Pakistani Trade Union Workers Demand Asbestos Ban
Members of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan attended an informational safety seminar this weekend and, as a result of the data they received, they are demanding that the use of asbestos be banned immediately.
The Pakistani newspaper known as The Nation reported that the seminar entitled “Asbestos: A Dangerous Mineral” prompted outrage by many of the members of the union in this country where mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses kill in large numbers.
“The speakers told that the asbestos in this country was mostly coming from mines in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and used in construction, pipes, boilers, fire-proof products, textile, plaster decoration, automobiles and aviation.
Its side effects, they said, were usually diagnosed after 10 to 15 years – in the form of cancers and other chronic diseases – making it a silent killer,” wrote a staff reporter for the paper.
The speakers also noted that about 600 individuals in Pakistan died due to asbestos exposure at the mines from 1995 to 2003.
Others involved in industries such as shipbuilding and ship-breaking (the dismantling of ships no longer sea-worthy) were also greatly affected by the presence of asbestos in vessels both old and new.
Unfortunately, the numbers provided by the speakers may actually be much higher than indicated as no government organization in Pakistan keeps data on deaths due to exposure to asbestos.
That’s something that should change, say advocates for banning asbestos in that country.
Those who presented at the seminar also explained to the union members that asbestos is dangerous not only to miners, construction workers, shipyard workers, and others who encounter the mineral on the job, but also to women and children who live in the vicinity of the mines or shipyards or whose family members bring home asbestos dust on their clothing.
They also pointed out that the Pakistani government has no provisions in place to help compensate those who’ve been sickened by asbestos, despite the fact that care can be extremely costly for someone with mesothelioma.
The World Health Organization reports that some 125 million individuals are affected by asbestos each year and that about 90 thousand die annually due to some sort of asbestos-related disease.
While more than 60 countries have banned the use of the mineral thus far, both Pakistan and the United States are hold-outs, despite the fact that details about the dangers of asbestos have literally been available for decades.