International Chrysotile Association
Based on new evidence
Chrysotile is entitled to fair and balanced treatment
August 5, 2005. Based on results obtained in many recent studies, ICA feels that chrysotile is entitled to fair and balanced treatment, as it is known today that safe and responsible use is effective and a reality in many countries of the world.
These studies indicate that the longer the biopersistence, the greater the health risk. The finding that chrysotile has a biopersistence of less than16 days shows once again that safe and responsible use of chrysotile is the route to take, since its biopersistence is clearly lower than that of amphibole fibres and many replacement fibres.
ICA is aware of the present media campaign in Japan on asbestos and would like to point out that victims are not only of the heritage left over from improper use of amphibole asbestos fibres in the past, but also of pressure from the industries producing replacement fibres, even though an increasing number of scientists are raising concerns about the possible harmful health effects of these fibres. With the good results of the chrysotile biopersistency studies the burden of proof now lies with the replacement fibres.
For many years in Japan usage of amphiboles, such as crocidolite and amosite was most common. Japan manufactured calcium silicate insulation boards, fibre cement pipes and asbestos textile products. Many people, in particular workers in the manufacturing facilities were exposed to these amphiboles and regretfully today Japan is suffering the results.
In order to provide adequate information to the general public, it should be said that there is a big difference between chrysotile (white asbestos) and amphiboles as indicated by many different and recent studies. The differences are important in terms of the potential risks, even their chemical composition. And, this should be known.
ICA is requesting competent authorities in Japan to publish not only the data they have on industries having used in the past all kinds of asbestos fibres, but in particular to publish the data on those industries and manufacturers who have not used amphibole fibres. It would be interesting to know the rate of mortality and diseases in those factories.
A responsible approach should always be focused on minimizing worker exposure, whether it is working with chrysotile asbestos, managing the errors of the past related to amphibole use, or handling replacement fibres. International awareness to the importance of safe and responsible use, since an outright ban resolves nothing, should be a priority
The responsible use of chrysotile today suffers under the legacy of its misuse whether through ignorance or negligence, of asbestos minerals in the past. As with all aspects of life, the use of chrysotile has inherent risks associated with it. In the past, high levels of exposure over long periods of time produced high rates of disease. Today, low-level, environmental or even occupational, exposure to chrysotile makes an insignificant contribution to the background of other chemicals in the environment that we are exposed to. Industrial exposures today are so low that no epidemiological technique will be able to detect if current exposure levels cause an increase in disease.
Unfortunately, the past has left a legacy of fear in the general population which put political pressure on government legislators. It also provides a marketing opportunity. The current antithesis to chrysotile is being driven by commercial, emotional and political issues. Health-related concerns or scientific arguments have been pushed out of the discussion. The risks from lifelong exposure to the low levels of chrysotile generally found in the environment are negligible and fade completely when set against other life-style risks.
International Chrysotile Association
PMB 114, 1235 Jefferson Davis Hwy
Arlington, VA 22202, USA
Tel: (514)861-1153, Fax: (514) 861-1152