Global Asbestos Congress 2004
Ms. Mitsuko Horiuchi
Director ILO Office, Tokyo
Millions of workers have been and continue to be exposed to hazardous asbestos dusts that cause serious illnesses and death. The ILO estimates that every year at least 100,000 workers die from asbestos-related cancers and many more are disabled or killed by asbestosis. Although its devastating effects on workers' health are well-known, about 2.5 million tons of asbestos are still manufactured every year. Past exposures in developed countries have caused a widespread epidemic of asbestos-related diseases that is impossible to control as they are incurable. The lessons learnt have not been properly applied but comprehension is growing today. Twenty eight countries have already banned asbestos, some are considering a ban and some have decided to phase it out. Despite huge human suffering of asbestos victims today, its use is increasing in countries in transition and in developing countries. Japan improved and implemented in October 2004, its regulation to ban certain materials / products contained more than one percent of asbestos taking into account their possible alternative product for asbestos materials.
Consequences might be far more tragic in these countries as the hazard controls are generally weaker there and exposure levels are higher. Thus, the most effective way to prevent asbestos-related illnesses is to eliminate exposure to asbestos with the ultimate goal to terminate its use worldwide.