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A Comparative Perspective of Asbestos as an Industrial and Environmental Hazard

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Asbestos as a widely used hazardous material shows an unprecedented, but also exemplary, 'career of a substance' from miracle fiber to deadly dust with epidemic dimensions. In the case studies of four countries, the specific constellations of the asbestos problem are outlined and the story of the interaction of scientific knowledge, corporate practice, and public policy is traced. The analysis focuses on three aspects: the connection between industrial disease and environmental disease, the issue of asbestos knowledge and legislation, and the actions of the major players - the government of each country, multinational corporations, and the victims of asbestos-related diseases. The asbestos story illustrates impressively how much time is required for a society to recognize and deal with the risks of hazardous industrial substances. And the global dimension shows that a precarious substance can still become an acute problem again even after decades of political and scientific regulation.
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Keywords: ABREA; Eternit; Rotterdam Convention; agnotology; asbestos-related disease; controlled use; mesothelioma; occupational disease

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2014

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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