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PIA Press Release

Chrysotile industry insists on safety of asbestos

Manila (2 February) -- The Association of Chrysotile Industry of the Philippines (ACIP) has insisted that chrysotile asbestos is safe. During the December 2009 meeting on the development of a national program for the elimination of asbestos related diseases (NPEAD), ACIP agreed to present results of medical surveillance of workers as proof that their workers have not contracted asbestos related diseases.

ACIP went on to address the matter during the 6 January 2010 meeting, or so they thought. Instead, ACIP presented biopersistence studies in 2005 for chrysotile by Dr. D.M. Bernstein and others showing that chrysotile fibers do not stay long in the lungs to cause diseases.

The presentation did not go uninterrupted.

Dr. Teresita Cucueco of the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) who was chairing the meeting reminded ACIP that the presentation was supposed to be about the results of medical surveillance of workers. Dr. Maria Beatriz Villanueva, also of OSHC, explained that medical surveillance is not about one-time results but summary of results over the years in reply to ACIP?s contention that they already submitted some documents and results of medical records of some workers in previous meeting.

ACIP backtracked and said it was their understanding to present why chrysotile asbestos is safe based on the biopersistence studies. Biased biopersistence studies have been misused by the industry as shown in a paper released in January 2009 by independent scientist Dr. Henri Pezerat, countered the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and the Associated Labor Unions (ALU).

Quoting from the paper, TUCP and ALU said that "This dangerous assertion [that chrysotile is harmless] particularly compromises the health of workers in developing countries where living and working conditions, combined with inadequate health care, add to the morbidity and mortality resulting from exposure to chrysotile."

Results of medical surveillance would show the health situation of workers. It was the consensus that companies are required to keep and submit to the government annual medical reports of their workers so ACIP must have records to start with. The Department of Health volunteered to help in analyzing the results if needed.

Cornered, ACIP asked for two months to compile the medical records of their workers when asked how soon they could present the results. The next meeting was scheduled on 12 March to give ACIP time to prepare their presentation.

Asbestos substitutes and health hazards assessment was also discussed in the meeting by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO/ILO (International Labor Organization) outline for the NPEAD was discussed by TUCP/ALU with emphasis on actionable items and timelines. The WHO would be willing to find resources for some activities leading to the adoption of a national program. (DMT/PIA-Surigao del Norte) [top]

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