Why the Deadly Asbestos Industry is Still Alive and Well


The asbestos industry is able to thrive
in Russia because very little attention is given to human rights or civil rights. Putin really basically runs the show one might ask what is the future of
asbestos production in use as long as There’s profit to be made and officials to
be bribed, this will continue but if you can’t control asbestos the most notorious
industrial carcinogen known what can you control? asbestos is a remarkable mineral
actually stone, it is made up of tiny but extremely strong and flexible fibers it
was absolutely fire safe and water couldn’t harm it. We suggest you consider
this material for your home. Designed to last a lifetime, a trouble free
lifetime! Asbestos was once widely used in homes and buildings across the US but is now known as a carcinogen and hazardous substance because of the dangerous
health risks from exposure to this toxic mineral enormous effort is put into
removing it from houses and materials because asbestos kills more than a
hundred thousand people a year and is Banned in 59 countries. But rather than being left in the ground countries like Russia one of the world’s
largest producer of asbestos mines about a million tons of it a year and supplies
more than half the world’s asbestos to find out why anyone would still work with and sell such a dangerous substance we went to the home of the
world’s largest asbestos mine in a place so proud of their industry they named the
town after it Asbest, Russia Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that
asbestos exposure causes cancer as we drove through the town all we saw were
signs of local prime and a monument literally made out of a chunk of
asbestos Asebstos is often mined by using dynamite unfortunately that means the deadly
fibers are spread into the air which made me terrified of standing close to
the pit without full protective gear when I turned up wearing what’s legally
required in the USA and Europe I felt like an alien and really stood out from the
locals as it turns up the Euro Alaska Mine
is the local tourist attraction and if sightseers want to learn more they can visit a museum in town
dedicated to it asbestos mining boomed during the Soviet
era This formerly agrarian region became one of the hundreds of soviet mono towns who’s
entire economy was built around a single mine or factory to this day the Euro asbest mine provide seventy percent of the town’s income which means that
banning it would be economically devastating We visited the home of a local man who worked as an excavator drivers in the asbestos mine he
had lived his whole life in Asbest just a few minutes walk from the open
pit because of the impact this interview could have on his job and his family we
had to conceal his identity does everything in Asbest revolve
around the asbestos industry? Are you worried about any hazards that come with
working with asbestos? After this Euro Asbest employee surprisingly conveyed
that he was not fearful to handle asbestos we met a retired mine worker
who had a more skeptical outlook on the situation We wanted to find out more about the health risks of asbestos exposure we spoke to an expert
on the subject the esteemed epidemiologist Dr. Arthur Frank the term asbestos
refers to six naturally occurring minerals chrysotile being one of them it
is the only serpentine form the other five are called amphiboles they are
structurally different but medically have the same properties asbestos at one
time was called the magic mineral because it was utilized for many useful
things insulation materials it didn’t conduct electricity it was used as a
filtering agent over three to four thousand products alone and the United
States one time had asbestos. It was a wonderful material unfortunately it also
killed people what happens when you’re exposed is you both inhale it and you
ingest it. The asbestos has the ability to alter the nucleus of the cells so that
these cells now become cancerous get a lung cancer or the disease we call
mesothelioma this cancer of the lining of the lung that fills the lung with
fluid in most cases and then over time literally suffocates you and will
ultimately kill you in the United States this had a
devastating effect on those people exposed essentially everyone in the
construction trades was exposed shipyard workers were exposed and many others
have been exposed over time the effects of asbestos exposure in the United
States is evident in mining towns like Libby, Montana water, soil, home, school playgrounds in industrial sites in Libby were contaminated with asbestos as a result of a nearby vermiculite mine
and processing operation owned by WR Grace and Company normally safe and used
in many products the vermiculite in the mine was heavily contaminated with asbestos
and as a result over 400 people have died in Libby due to exposure to
asbestos or from asbestos related diseases She comes down here in her cart, leaves it right here, gets out, goes to the bathroom She…She can’t even brush her teeth and she has to come out here and stand here and get her breath before she can even sit down because it makes her worse when she sits down for a couple seconds. It’s terrible she got a special bed, she has to have Don Munsel never worked in the mine himself. His stepfather did and the asbestos dust in the clothes he brought back from work was enough to
give Don severe mesothelioma I just think I’ve been cheated They should have warned the people in this town about the seriousness of it they got away with murder I didn’t think I’d ever get it cause i never
worked there but I did I gotta stand up a little bit and all this talking even shortened my breath out real bad Yeah, I’ve lived in this country all my life I never thought this would happen to me These five tanks last two weeks And now that she’s up on eight I don’t even think it’ll last two weeks if it takes me over 60 seconds to do this, she passes out, she literally will pass out They knew it was bad for us and they let us expose our babies and people that would come and visit us “Oh, the best way to show them how this stuff works is to pop it for them” So you get a little piece of paper, a little piece of the ore, vermiculite and it would be no bigger than a slice of your paper and you’d heat it up and it would *shh* go about this thick It was amazing but it was the worst thing we could’ve done to them I was a foreman and I had to go up a lot and so she’d ride up there with me, and my kids We’d go over there, take them through the plant and show them how it run and stuff and… I miss being spontaneous we loved
to fish, so we’d go behind the screening plant that was a good easy fishing hole
after dinner the babies, I could set them down in that asbestos sand They’d build sandcastles and they’d play and build all kinds of things in this asbestos while I just had fun fishing as beautiful as this country is, it killed us I know it’s gonna kill me and it’s probably gonna kill my kids and husband and it didn’t really kill us, it was W. R. Grace that killed us they knew they knew… In June 2009, The EPA
declared a public health emergency in the town of Libby and surrounding
communities the area is now designated as a Superfund site also known as a
hazardous waste site and the EPA investigation and cleanup of the site is
ongoing the asbestos in libby is a different kind of asbestos than what’s
mined in russia but the scientific community has found that all types of
asbestos can cause cancer and deadly lung diseases to find out why this toxic industry
continues to thrive around the developing world we met with MIT professor and former
chair of the National Advisory Committee on occupational safety and health, Dr.
Nicholas Ashford the asbestos industry today I think
you would have to say is you know a criminal industry and all the
epidemiological societies, fifteen of them, have endorsed the fact that this should be regarded as a hazard and when you deliberately disregard public and worker health you’re committing murder
there’s no other way to put it you could argue that you don’t know
which particular worker you’re murdering but on the whole, the statistics are
very very clear with all the proof from the asbestos exposure in the U.S. we
wondered if physicians and officials in Russia were aware of the risks posed to
the workers of the Euro Asbest asbestos mine and those living nearby so
we drove to the Oncology Center in nearby Yekaterinburg to meet Dr.
Sergey Berezin, hoping he could tell us about the affect the mine in Asbest
was having on the citizens What are the most common types of cancer in this area? Do you have a lot of patients from Asbest? Not only did Dr.Berezin not fear the air in Asbest, he seemed quite fond of
the mineral itself which completely contradicts what oncologists in the West
would have to say about asbestos That’s asbestos! and you can just touch it like that? It’s not dangerous? That was such a strange interview As he wouldn’t let us speak to his patients at the Yekaterinburg Oncology Center We headed to the local hospital in Asbest to see if anyone there would speak out our fixer is trying to talk to one of the patients
now but so far it’s not going so well She doesn’t want anymore it was clear that no one was going to
say anything bad about either asbestos or more importantly the company that
mines it, URALASBEST. URALASBEST owns this town it sponsors, it’s school, the health care system, football teams everyone’s livelihood
is depending on them it’s understandable that people who rely on a single
industry for their livelihood are not going to bite the hand that feeds them
with negative remarks so to find out where russia really stands on the
hazards of asbestos we went to Moscow to speak to the head of the Russian Academy
of Medical Sciences Dr. Kovalevski has Who’s been conducting research on workers in Asbest on behalf of the World Health Organization The people in Asbest
live right next to an open asbestos pit mine, Is this dangerous? Life is dangerous You have been studying the affects of asbestos exposure in Asbest since 2009, what has your research found so far? The problem
however is not that the research will take years but that the research itself
has been called into question by a group of acclaimed scientists like Dr. Arthur
Frank, who have petitioned the World Health Organization to end their relationship
with Dr. Kovalevski over ethical questions surrounding his ties to the
Russian asbestos industry a wealthy and powerful business that is alive and well
in spite of well-documented health risks In russia they have stopped recording
mesothelioma separately as a type of cancer and have lumped it in with other
diseases so that you no longer can identify mesotheliomas what we’ve
learned in public health is the absence of data doesn’t mean the absence of
disease this is the same tactic that the tobacco
companies used and saying we don’t know enough to say that tobacco is harmful we
certainly know enough about a chrysotile asbestos to say that it is harmful the fact that we’ve learned in the west
that asbestos use can cause mesotheliomas and that we’ve had an epidemic that
is continuing and will continue for a number of decades yet is nothing like what we’re going to see
in the developing world like India and China the Indians import a lot of
Russian asbestos and they will have the same epidemic of mesotheliomas and other
asbestos-related cancers as we’ve had in the West because they have not learned
the lessons that we have that asbestos is harmful and that it should not be used

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