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Asbestos is a disaster.1 It has been responsible for over 200 000 deaths in the USA, for 400 000 deaths in Europe and continues today to cause an estimated 180 000 deaths each year worldwide.2 Asbestos is a known cause of cancer, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers all forms of asbestos—including chrysotile, the form in major use today—to be proven human carcinogens.3 Asbestos causes cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary as well as malignant mesothelioma. It is associated with stomach, pharyngeal and colorectal cancer. It causes asbestos-related non-malignant respiratory disease. No form of asbestos is safe and no level of exposure is safe. The WHO,4 the International Labour Organisation5 and the Collegium Ramazzini6 have called for a global ban on all production and use of asbestos.
Despite widespread knowledge of asbestos’ dangers, global production and sales remain strong. Two million tons were produced worldwide in 2013, down from a peak of 5 million tons per year in the 1980s, but similar to levels in each of the three preceding years. Russia (1 million tons annually), China (420 000 tons), Brazil (300 000 tons) and Kazakhstan (240 000 tons) are the top producer nations.7 Canada was previously a major producer but has now ceased all production. The …
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.