Trades of dangers: A study of asbestos industry transfer cases in Asia

Authors

  • Yeyong Choi MPH,

    1. Asian Citizen's Center for Environment and Health, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
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  • Sinye Lim MD, MPH, PhD,

    1. Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Kyung Hee University Hospital, Seoul, Korea
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  • Dr. Domyung Paek MD, MSc, ScD

    Corresponding author
    1. Asian Citizen's Center for Environment and Health, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
    • Asian Citizen's Center for Environment and Health, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea, 599 Gwanak-ro, Gwanak-gu, Seoul 151-742, Korea.
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  • Disclosure Statement: The authors report no conflicts of interests.

Abstract

Background

In a study of asbestos industry transfers in Asia, we examined the transfer of health and safety measures at the time of industry transfer and resulting health outcomes thereafter.

Methods

Field surveys were conducted in Japan, Germany, Indonesia, and South Korea over a 5 year period beginning in 2007. The surveys involved interviews and field assessments of health and safety conditions.

Results

Even when there were transfers of entire engineering plant processes, we observed that the health and safety measures that should have accompanied the transfer, including technical capacities of risk assessment and management, regulatory protection, and cultural practices, were not actually transferred. According to work environment assessment records, there were differences in airborne asbestos levels of approximately 5–6 fibers/cc between the exporting and importing sides of the transfer. This amounted to a 10 years of time delay in comparable health and safety conditions. These differences resulted in repeated adverse health consequences at each factory operation site.

Conclusions

Dangerous transfers of asbestos industry technology have occurred repeatedly over the years with the result that Asia has become the largest consumer of asbestos in the world. No effective internationally accepted safety measures have been introduced in the region. The study results support the need for both improved public awareness and international cooperation, such as sharing of substitute material technologies by the exporting countries, and provide the rationale for the creation of an Asian fund for asbestos victims. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:335–346, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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