For decades, asbestos was considered the “magic mineral” that helped Japan rise from the ashes after World War II. In 1974 alone, the country imported 350,000 metric tons of the fire-resistant fiber for use in residential and commercial buildings, ships, and factories.
For China, it seems, the worst is yet to come. Jukka Takala, director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, says that the annual death toll from mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases in China may reach 15,000 by 2035.
Asbestos casualties mount amid weak enforcement and a powerful lobby.
In the aptly named city of Asbest, in the Ural Mountains 900 miles (1500 km) northeast of Moscow, the dominance of Russia’s asbestos industry — the world’s largest — is on clear display.
Inching along at rush hour in her battered black Chevrolet Corsa, Fernanda Giannasi joked about the pariah status she’s attained with the Brazilian asbestos industry. “I have no name,” she said. “I’m just ‘That woman.’”
Every day, the swirling waters of the Arabian Sea bring misery to Alang, the world’s largest ship-breaking yard in western India’s Gujarat state. An estimated 55,000 workers, unmindful of the lethal effects of asbestos-laden material in the vessels, slave for long hours and, in the process, are exposed to deadly fibers.
Video of lnttx6fJGqw July 25, 2010, 3:00 pm Sarah Whitmire
April 25, 2012, 3:00 pm
The first sign of trouble came as Bill Rogers was mowing his lawn one morning in January 2007. “As I would go back and forth with the mower, I would run out of air,” says Rogers, 67.
The human toll reaches millions as the asbestos industry expands worldwide.
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