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Asbestos in Developing Countries: Magnitude of Risk and Its Practical Implications

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In developing countries, aggressive marketing of chrysotile asbestos continues as a result of restrictions on its use being imposed by the developed countries. In the Asian continent, China and India are emerging as the major users of asbestos. There is enough evidence to link chrysotile with pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer in humans, even at low levels of exposure, hence the need to apply the Precautionary Principle for phasing out its use globally. Due to poor occupational health and safety systems in developing countries and difficulties in early detection of pulmonary malignancy related to asbestos, the statistics remain sketchy. This is hampering efforts to create pressure on policy makers and to counter the propaganda of the asbestos industry. The International Labour Office believes that more than 100,000 deaths a year occur from asbestos-related disease. In the view of studies published in Europe and Australia, the number of deaths due to such malignancies will peak around the year 2020 and could be anywhere between half a million to a million. That means more than a million deaths will occur in developing countries. At about the same time when asbestos-related deaths start to decrease in developed countries, their number will begin to rise in developing countries. This presents a major challenge to the international scientific community.
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Keywords: chrysotile; developing countries; mesothelioma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Lok Nayak Hospital, New Delhi, India

Publication date: 01 February 2005

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