THE TRAGEDY OF ASBESTOS – Research sheds light on international asbestos cartel

28 July 2005

THE TRAGEDY OF ASBESTOS – Research sheds light on international asbestos cartel

Employers who expose their workers to deadly dangers – firms which mislead the public authorities and manipulate research findings – corporations responsible for hundreds of thousands of victims. This is the picture presented in Het asbestdrama (The tragedy of asbestos), a book which tells the story of a hundred years of the asbestos industry. In the Netherlands alone to date 7000 people have died from asbestos-related cancer, a figure which will grow by around 12,000 in the next 25 years. In western Europe 250,000 people will die, while the worldwide toll will be far greater still than this.

Book coverHet asbestdrama reveals that Eternit firms knew about the dangers of asbestos as long ago as the 1920s, yet despite this went ahead with production. Authors Bob Ruers and Nico Schouten expose the existence and activities of an international cartel of asbestos corporations, a cartel which manipulated the results of medical research into these dangers and lobbied to influence legislation in numerous countries. It also reveals that Eternit firms blocked the development of alternatives. The large amounts of money gained through asbestos production went in large proportion into the pockets of a few families, such as the Emsens in Belgium.

Ruers en Schouten make a number of recommendations for the Netherlands. They want to see an inventory of all asbestos to be found in the soil and in buildings. The contaminated ground in the vicinity of the Eternit factory in Goor and the former Asbestonafabriek plant in Harderwijk should be cleaned up and the bill footed by the Belgian mother firm. In addition, all victims of exposure to asbestos must be compensated financially. Above all, however, such abuses must never be allowed to be repeated. To that end, the authors call for a parliamentary enquiry into the role played by the state and public authorities in this tragedy, the tragedy of asbestos.

The report will be available next month in English in pdf form.

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