Mesothelioma and Asbestos Around the Globe

Mesothelioma and asbestos exposure are a worldwide concern. Though many countries have banned asbestos and continue to raise awareness about its dangers, some countries continue to mine asbestos which continues to cause mesothelioma. 

Stats About Mesothelioma Worldwide 

According to the World Health Organization, 125 million people are exposed to asbestos in the workplace annually. Similarly, the International Labour Organization estimates that more than 107,000 workers die from an asbestos-related disease each year.

Asbestos-related deaths have increased due to environmental asbestos exposure. 

Continuation to Mine Asbestos

Even though thousands of people die each year due to exposure, asbestos continues to be mined around the globe. Developing nations are especially prone to mining asbestos due to its affordability and ability to be mass produced. In fact, recent years have shown asbestos to be on the rise. 

According to a US Geological Survey, Russia, Brazil, and China still mined asbestos as of 2015 and 2016, though Brazil announced an asbestos ban in 2017. These developed countries often export asbestos to developing countries. 

As of 2016, Russia and China were the biggest producers for asbestos. China is also the leader in asbestos consumption. In 2013 alone, China consumed 765 times more asbestos than that of the US. Russia is the second largest asbestos consumer. 

Efforts to Ban Asbestos 

Given that asbestos use and production are on the rise, many countries and world health organizations aim to ban asbestos around the globe. The American Public Health Association is just one example of a large organization striving for global ban. 

The International Commission on Occupational Health, the World Federation of Public Health Organizations, and the International Trade Union Confederation have all recommended the same ban on asbestos. 

The World Health Organization 

The World Health Organization has been one of the biggest supporters for banning asbestos worldwide. Since 2005, they have urged organizations to ban asbestos and other carcinogens to eliminate mesothelioma around the world. In 2007, the World Health Assembly even asked WHO to launch an international campaign concerning asbestos-related diseases. 

Six years later, in 2013, the World Health Organization presented a global action plan to target asbestos-related diseases by 2020. Below is a list of important steps that WHO incorporated into the plan: 

  • End worldwide use of asbestos 
  • Assist countries in switching to safer substitutes 
  • Enhance early diagnosis, treatment, and rehab regarding asbestos-related illnesses 
  • Create registries of those exposed to asbestos 

Conflicting Responses: Rotterdam Convention 

Because of the harmful effects of asbestos, countries have voted to add asbestos to the Rotterdam hazardous substance list. Any countries that export submissions on the list must inform other countries of the health risks involved with the substance. 

Despite the overwhelming support of this addition, seven countries voted against the addition.

These countries included Cuba, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, and Zimbabwe. Since Rotterdam requires a unanimous vote, asbestos has not been added to the list yet. The Rotterdam convention simultaneously shows a global effort to ban asbestos despite its continued usage.