Killing The Future: Asbestos Use In Asia

Setting the Scene

Setting the Scene

The Shift in global asbestos consumption patterns which began in the 1980s continued into the new century: while industrialized economies shunned asbestos, developing countries increased consumption in response to economic changes and aggressive marketing campaigns by industry stakeholders. Figures released in early 2007 confirm the prominence of Asian asbestos markets; 90% of the countries with the highest percent increase in consumption are in Asia (Appendix A)1. In 2005, India's asbesos-cement industry accounted for nearly 10% of worldwide asbestos consumption.

The effects of the increasing utilization of asbestos in Asia are as predictable as they are avoidable. Wherever asbestos has been used ill-health, disability, death and environmental pollution have followed. Decades after reports by factory inspectors, victims' groups and trade unions of the tragic consequences of hazardous exposures, scientists finally confirmed the existence of a European epidemic of asbestos-related disease.2 The same year (1999), the use of all types of asbestos was banned thoughout the European Union (EU) Member States,3 most other developed countries have also banned or seriously restricted the use of this acknowledged carcinogen. Unfortunately, the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases means that asbestos deaths in Europe will continue for decaded to come (Appendix B). In Asia, where only one country has banned asbestos, the situation is bound to get worse as exposure to the world's biggest industrial killer increases. The majority of people currently being exposed to asbestos live in Asian countries.


  1. Unless otherwise specified, the information included in this text is from material presented at the Asian Asbestos Conference held in Bangkok on July 26 & 27, 2006. Some of the measurements are in kilograms and some in tonnes; discrepancies in consumption and production figures underline the fact that data collection in a wide range of asbestos issues remains unsatisfactory.
  2. Peto J, Decarli A, La Vecchia C, Levi F, Negri E. The European Mesothelioma Epidemic. British Journal of Cancer (1999); 79(3/4):666-672.
  3. Whilst the EU ban asbestos directive (1999/77/EC) was enacted in 1999, the deadline for the introduction of national asbestos prohibitions in all Member States was January 1, 2005.

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