Posted on April 30, 2019

Only a week after the ADAO community gathered in Washington, D.C to protect victims and stand up for asbestos safety, chemical industry executives in Russia and Kazakhstan were holding a different kind of gathering.

According to “Chrysotile,” an international coalition of asbestos industry giants in Eastern Europe, workers assembled to observe and celebrate “Chrysotile Asbestos Protection Day” on April 16th.

Although information on the supposed celebration is difficult to find outside of a press release issued by the organization itself, the day was purportedly dedicated to “call

[ing] on people to remember the role that the chrysotile industry plays in providing millions of people with affordable products made with chrysotile asbestos.” Chrysotile issued a similar press release in 2013, marking a previous celebration that was also scarcely reported on or mentioned outside of official industry press materials.

As advocates, we are passionately dedicated to the well-being of asbestos workers all over the world. Labor representatives play a huge role in the work that ADAO does, having spoken at our conferences and assisted us in preventing exposure within the asbestos labor force on an international level.

Despite this commitment, we encourage our readers to be incredulous of an industry-issued press release that flies in the face of worldwide medical consensus. Let us clear the air: all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic, chrysotile included. There is no safe or controlled use of this deadly fiber.

The workers allegedly participating in the celebration of this mineral – which kills more than 100,000 workers around the world each year – also issued a message to the delegates of the Rotterdam Convention, where countries will be gathering next week to discuss international regulation of hazardous chemicals. Thanks to lobbying by powerful institutions like Chrysotile, chrysotile asbestos has been left off of the “Prior Informed Consent” (PIC) issued by the Convention. Under this lack of regulation, companies are free to trade chrysotile asbestos internationally without a single obligation to inform their customers of its health risks. According to their press release, Chrysotile’s workers have apparently asked that the delegates keep things that way.

ADAO and 30 other public health groups have called on the delegates to subject chrysotile to PIC procedures, in the interest of saving thousands of lives.

The industry-issued calls for “protecting” chrysotile don’t stop there, however. In one of their most colorful pieces of propaganda yet, the industry is publishing a book entitled A Generation of Winners, romantically recounting the history of 130 years of chrysotile mining in Russia. Whether or not it conveniently neglects the mineral’s deadly past remains to be seen. I’m not holding my breath.

As U.S. asbestos imports surge – especially from Russia, where companies are using Trump’s image to brand their products – the greed and recklessness of these corporations only grows. It is vital that we respond in tandem.

The United States must stand up to the nations who seek to profit off of risking the lives of their labor force. ADAO encourages you to call your Congressperson now and voice your support for the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019. By cutting these companies off from the U.S. market, we can show them how workers really feel about “protecting” chrysotile asbestos.

Outrageous, but no surprise from the world leaders of chrysotile asbestos. 

Linda Reinstein
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