Last week, 20 of the world’s major players met in Hamburg to discuss any number of topics, including international trade and world economic growth. Among those 20 countries represented at the highly-talked about meeting were 8 major powers that still haven’t banned asbestos.
While nearly 200,000 people die of asbestos-related mesothelioma worldwide each year, points out Linda Reinstein – CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization – in a recent Huffington Post article, these countries continue to mine, use, and/or trade the toxic mineral.
Of further concern to Reinstein and her organization’s members is the fact that both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are extremely pro-asbestos, regularly touting the positive qualities of the material (good insulator, low cost) and ignoring the realty that asbestos kills.
Russia mines more than one million metric tons of chrysotile (white) asbestos each year, and Putin and his cohorts stick to the premise that this type of asbestos is not dangerous, even though agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) have deemed it otherwise.
Russia has even instated a “Chrysotile Appreciation Day”, Reinstein points out, a day when mine workers are “asked” to speak about how the mineral in this form is safe.
Trump, of course, has also lauded the properties of asbestos, claiming that the Twin Towers never would have fallen if asbestos had been used as an insulator instead or more flammable materials.
Separately, advocates of banning asbestos see the two as dangerous allies but, together, they can do even more damage, Reinstein argues.
“Now, Russia has been producing and exporting asbestos for decades, and the U.S. has long been importing the substance,” she explains. “What’s interesting, though, is that 2016 is the first time on record that the U.S. purchased asbestos from Russia.
That’s right — despite the sanctions against Russia, we started paying them last year to ship us a known carcinogen that kills as many as 15,000 Americans every year.”
Trump is eager to deregulate industry in general and has appointed an EPA leader who has publicly admitted to not believing in the organization’s mission. Putin and Russia, along with five other countries, led the campaign to keep chrysotile asbestos off the UN’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list at the recent 2017 Rotterdam Convention.
While the Convention doesn’t prohibit trade, it does establish a protocol in regards to warning potential consumers about the hazards of any products on the PIC list.
Now, says Reinstein, it seems those who are seeking a ban on asbestos in the U.S. have even more to worry about.
“The disregard for human health and general wellbeing exhibited be these two uber-powerful world leaders is chilling,” she concludes. “[Trump and Putin’s] relationship — and the economic relationship between the countries they lead — must remain a concern to all.”