Russia Hides Cancer Risks

As you read this article, please keep in mind that the US has a higher rate of cancer without asbestos than most countries with it. My opinion is that our US government should clean up a lot of our cancer risk problems.

The first thing that comes to mind in the U.S. when we hear the word Asbestos, is cancer!  Well, this is not so in Russia where the asbestos industry is not just alive, but thriving.  There are six types of asbestos minerals such as chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite, which are all carcinogenic to humans.

Occurring in a variety of commercial products, this asbestos is so toxic that even low-level exposure can cause lung cancer and other terminal diseases, that includes mesothelioma, a form of cancer that can develop in the lungs, stomach or heart.  Most who have this disease have a very low survival rate.

The asbestos industry still remains profitable in nations that include the U.S., Russia, China and India.  The world’s largest asbestos mine is in Asbest, Russia on the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains and home to 70,000 people independent on the asbestos mine.

Asbestos kills more than 100,000 people each year and is banned in 60 countries, but Russia showcases its pride for asbestos exporting more than 1/2 of the world’s asbestos supply.  Asbest is proud of their asbestos industry and promotes with banners hung all over the town.  They embrace asbestos despite the health risks.  According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, there is no safe level of exposure from asbestos.  A Russian government study counted 467 cities and 332 smaller towns that depend on a single factory or mine of asbestos.  From Russia’s population of 142 million, 25 million live in towns with only one main industry that can’t close, even though it is polluting.

A layer of asbestos dust covers everything from their homes to their vegetable gardens and many are unafraid of the health risks.  They report that it’s impossible to know how many workers have been sickened by the mine and factories are too proud to admit that.  The locals refuse to talk candidly about the dangers of asbestos.  The most common types of cancer are lung cancer in men and breast cancer in women, but they deny having been sickened from asbestos.

Russia is so protective of its asbestos industry that it has stopped recording mesothelioma as a separate type of cancer and is lumping it in with other diseases so it’s no longer identifiable, according to Dr. Arthur Frank, professor and chair emeritus of environmental and occupational health at Drexel University.

Thousands of American products are made with asbestos, and at one time had a booming industry mining 137,000 tons at its peak in 1973.  It was deemed the “magic mineral” where the military relied on the mineral to fireproof ships, tanks, aircraft and vehicles.  Relying so extensively on asbestos, about 33% of mesothelioma victims the U.S. are military veterans. Many American products are still legal on the U.S. such as clothing, pipeline wrap, vinyl floor tire, friction materials, roof coatings and brake blocks.  Products such as corrugated paper, rollboard, commercial paper, specialty paper and flooring felt are now banned in the U.S.  The U.S. still imports about 1,000 tons of asbestos where most of it comes from Brazil.

American homes built before 1980 still contain asbestos that can be found in floor tiles, roofs, furnaces, plumbing, appliances, fireplaces and window caulking.  There are ways to protect yourself against exposure.  Most of those exposed to asbestos are construction workers as they come across the materials when working in homes or buildings where it was previously installed.  To help avoid exposure wear protective gear including a suitable face mask, use hand tools instead of power tools to reduce dust, clean up as you go to prevent waste buildup, use a Type H vacuum or wet rags to clean up, do not sweep up dust and debris and wash before breaks and before going home.

Dr Fredda Branyon