Taking the Air

beach-walkby Laurie Kazan-Allen  

The American humorist Bill Bryson once remarked that Britain was the only country which recognized breathing as a leisure time activity. The idea of a seaside stroll to “take the air” persists to this day. It basically consists of walking up and down the promenade by the seaside breathing gusts of ozone-laden air. Nothing wrong with that, I say, especially if you manage to do so on a sunny summer’s day.

The very opposite of this health-inducing regime, however took place in the Italian town of Casale Monferrato. The dire consequences of living in an environment contaminated by the fallout from the local asbestos-cement factory was corroborated yet again in a paper published earlier this year entitled: Pleural mesothelioma: forecasts of the death toll in the area of Casale Monferrato, Italy. Over nearly eighty years, production at the Eternit plant spewed asbestos fibers into the atmosphere as a result of which thousands of people have contracted the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Scientists predict that a further 500+ inhabitants from this Piemonte town of 36,000 people will contract mesothelioma as a result of past exposures. Evidence documenting the tragic scale of environmentally-caused cases of mesothelioma is plentiful. From Ambler, Pennsylvania to Casale Monferrato from Kuruman, South Africa to Armley, England local people have paid with their lives for the asbestos industry’s profits.

Consider, if you will, the almost hysterical global reaction to the outbreak of swine flu in 2009. The World Health Organization reacted quickly, sending out a pandemic alert for the H1N1 virus and newspapers were full of dire warnings with governments stockpiling supplies of drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza; the UK had enough medication for 33 million people! It has been estimated that 18,000 deaths occurred during the pandemic. And yet, there are no front-page articles about the tsunami of asbestos-related deaths which is causing more than 100,000 deaths every year. I don’t understand this; do you?

About Laurie Kazan-Allen

Ms. Laurie Kazan-Allen has been researching, writing and campaigning on asbestos issues for more than twenty years. The British Asbestos Newsletter, the quarterly publication she founded in 1990, is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative contemporary sources of information by the UK community of asbestos activists. In collaboration with international colleagues, in 1999 she established The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). As the IBAS Coordinator she has organized and/or participated in asbestos events on six continents, amongst the most recent of which was an asbestos hearing at the European Parliament. 

As an adviser to the UK All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group, Ms. Kazan-Allen helps organize the annual Parliamentary asbestos seminar. Kazan-Allen has written prolifically about asbestos issues in 85+ issues of the British Asbestos Newsletter and in IBAS publications such as Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial, Report on the Asian Asbestos Conference 2009, India’s Asbestos Time Bomb and Killing the Future – Asbestos Use in Asia. These and other texts can be accessed on the websites: www.britishasbestosnewsletter.org and www.ibasecretariat.org

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