Bitter Fruits of Industrialization
Sources in the Indian media as well as a major scientific news website report a new study indicating that rates of asbestos disease in Asia are on the increase – and will peak over the next two decades. The study was conducted by Dr. Ken Takahashi of the World Health Organization.
The study was published in Respirology, a journal published by the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR). The findings were disturbing, but in light of historical trends and the headlong rush toward globalization, hardly surprising. Developing nations have long been the source of raw materials for colonial powers as well as the dumping ground for those countries' unwanted toxins. Though "colonialism" in the political sense has been all but dead since the 1960s, in the global corporate sense it is still very much alive.
One of the tragic results of corporate colonialism is the startling fact that whereas during the fifty years between 1920 and 1970, Asian countries accounted for a mere 14% of global asbestos consumption, that figure has increased by 450% since 1980.
The other factor in this deadly equation is the desire on the part of developing nations to play "catchup" and start to share in the lavish lifestyles long enjoyed by the Western colonial powers. (Of course, those "lavish lifestyles" were made possible mainly be colonial exploitation – as they are today – but that's a whole other rant.) As a result, they are putting industrialization on a very fast track, and Western corporations (particularly in the U.S.) in search of cheap labor, low or no taxes and no bothersome environmental regulations, are more than happy to help out.
The fact that asbestos is still very cheap to buy is also a factor. Never mind that the health costs of asbestos are huge; that is not the corporations' problem during an era in which profits are privatized and costs are socialized.
As reported in an earlier post, the rise of asbestos disease in Asian countries is due to a cozy arrangement between Western countries such as Canada and the U.S., who ship their asbestos (either directly as ore or indirectly aboard derelict marine vessels) to these countries, and those Asian governments who refuse to ban, or even regulate the use of asbestos.
N/A. "Death, Morbidity From Asbestos-Related Diseases to Increase in 20 Years. NewsTrack India, 10 June 2011 (http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/224393). Accessed 10 June 2011.
N/A. "Deaths and Major Morbidity from Asbestos-Related Diseases in Asia Likely to Surge in Next 20 Years, Experts Warn." Science Daily, 9 June 2011 (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110609151531.htm). Accessed 10 June 2011.