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World Health Oganisation Asbestos Policy Criticised by Eminent Scientists

October 05, 2006

The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s September 2006 policy on asbestos related diseases has come under attack. Leading scientists have peer reviewed the paper, criticising it for "not making a persuasive argument in explaining why a ban on chrysotile (white asbestos) is necessary, or even helpful, in reducing asbestos related diseases".

The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s September 2006 policy on asbestos related diseases has come under attack.
Leading scientists have peer reviewed the paper, criticising it for "not making a persuasive argument in explaining why a ban on chrysotile (white asbestos) is necessary, or even helpful, in reducing asbestos related diseases".
 
Two eminent scientists, Richard Wilson from Harvard University, Massachusetts and Robert Nolan from the International Environmental Research Foundation, New York, have suggested that any justification to ban chrysotile (white asbestos) should be based on its individual properties (being the last remaining commercially used asbestos fibre) rather than the combined hazards of all types of asbestos fibres that are already banned and vary greatly from chrysotile.
 
The latest Policy Paper circulated by the WHO at the end of last year makes no acknowledgement that not only are exposure levels 100 times lower than they were previously in peak asbestos usage, but the dangerous forms of asbestos fibres have now been eliminated from today’s products. The WHO instead uses data pertaining to the risks from different fibres with greatly elevated toxicities (blue and brown asbestos), that no longer exist in usage today, to justify banning a fibre of significantly reduced toxicity (white asbestos).

It is also interesting to note that the WHO makes no comment on why a US judge overturned an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ban on white asbestos in 1991, nor do they mention that some of the alternatives for asbestos, such as ductile iron and PVC pipes so heavily promoted by ‘ban asbestos’ campaigns, are also human carcinogens.
Even the critics of the WHO position, however, still miss the most important factor; it is products made from asbestos fibres that should be assessed for risk, not the raw fibres tested in artificial saturation conditions in laboratories that bears no similarity to the presence of asbestos in products in the built environment.
 
With such glaring inconsistencies displayed by the world’s leading health organisation, it is little wonder that by the time the information filters down to individual legislative bodies in the UK the facts are so obscured as to be open to any interpretation unscrupulous third parties see fit to make.

Asbestos Watchdog

Asbestos Watchdog

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