UK Judge Rules In Mesothelioma Victims' Favor - and Right-Wing Journalist Is Not Pleased
Part 1 of 2
Perhaps it is not fair to label U.K. journalist Christopher Booker as "right wing." Nonetheless, many of his views on science – including asbestos disease – bear more than a passing resemblance to the rants we hear in this country on FOX "News" and from their ignorant disciples who still believe that the sun goes around the earth.
More frighteningly however is the fact that Booker is not ignorant. He is in fact, well-versed in science – but like his Murdochite counterparts here on this side of the pond, he is also good at spinning the facts by carefully choosing his sources. For example, he correctly acknowledges that the substance we know as "asbestos" is really two distinct minerals: chrysotile, or "white" asbestos, which is made of magnesium silicate, and amphibole, or "blue" and "brown" asbestos, which consists of ferrous (iron) silicate. Of the two, the latter is far more deadly and medically proven to cause mesothelioma. Amphibole fibers act as hard, microscopic needles that literally drill through lung tissue from the inside out. Recent medical research indicates that as these ferrous fibers travel, they cause chronic inflammation. This in turn has an effect on cells at the DNA level, causing them to mutate and ultimately become malignant.
Back in the day, "white" chrysotile asbestos was far more commonly used than amphibole, accounting for 95-98% of all commercial asbestos. It was found in almost any product you can name, from building materials to home appliances. Because chrysotile is still found in serpentine rock as well as brake linings, there is also a fair amount of it in the atmosphere; virtually everyone on the planet has been exposed to chrysotile to some degree. Although chrysotile is no longer produced in the U.S., it is still mined in Canada, China and Russia, and used in many commercial products coming out of Chinese and Indian factories that make their way to this country.
Mr. Booker freely acknowledges this. However, quoting a 2000 study commissioned by the U.K.'s Health and Safety Executive, he says that the risk from exposure to chrysotile is "virtually zero."
Tell that to the asbestos miners of Libby, Montana.
Earlier in March, Lord Phillips, who presides over the U.K. Supreme Court, declared that "in most cases, indeed possibly all cases, it is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres" when he upheld damages in two asbestos cases in that country. According to Booker, this will lead to "an explosion of compensation claims, like the ones in the US" – all because "innocuous" chrysotile is lumped together with deadly amphibole under the umbrella term of "asbestos." Booker fears that U.K. building contractors will "cash in on the pressure that the ruling will bring to remove all asbestos from schools" (and presumably other public buildings as well) when it is, in his opinion, unnecessary.
Now, nobody argues that amphibole fibers are deadly. Booker points out the possibility that exposure to a polio vaccine used in the late 1950s and early 1960s may also cause mesothelioma. He also claims that perhaps as much as a quarter of all mesothelioma cases are due to "natural causes."
These claims about the connection between mesothelioma and "natural causes" are questionable, though he may have a point about the polio vaccine (more on this in a future post). Nonetheless, his claim that chrysotile asbestos is harmless is downright ludicrous. The next post will examine what medical science has to say on the subject.
Booker, Christopher. "Billions to be Spent on Nonexistent Risk." The [UK] Telegraph, 13 Jan 2003.
Booker, Christopher. "The Supreme Court has Given the Asbestos Scam a Great Big Hand. The [UK] Telegraph, 12 Mar 2011.