We, workers, former employees, victims, widowed, relatives of patients and those deceased because of asbestos, institutions and governmental organizations, NGOs and undersigned academics; draw the attention of States, representatives of public authorities, scientific institutions and other academic and public opinion organizations in each country, about the health issues raised by persistent use of all forms of asbestos.
Asbestos - a silicate mineral in fibrous form, whose fibers (microscopic) can trigger serious diseases with long latency (15 to 20 years from the time of exposure)- is being banned in many countries of the world which understand that this measure is the only way to protect people's health, and considers, inter alia, the prohibition of extracting, producing and marketing both raw asbestos and raw asbestos products.
The amphiboles and serpentines generate lung cancer (bronchogenic carcinoma) of the peritoneum or pleura (mesothelioma, dependent solely from exposure to asbestos), progressive disabling and fatal espiratory failure asbestosis). It constitutes a serious public health issue and is considered a danger to avoidable causes over 100,000 deaths per year in the world (ILO, Jukka Takala, Conference in Dresden, 2005), identified despite the massive underreporting of cases. Its use left behind a growing and painful legacy of avoidable deaths and disability, unnecessary suffering and pain. Realize all this at an alarming statistics of developed countries that consider the diseases linked to asbestos as a major epidemic of non-communicable diseases in the decades to come.
However this incontrovertible reality and the weight of the available scientific evidence showing the damage that serpentines and amphiboles cause to human life, some industry sectors of chrysotile persist in denying its potential lethality and promoting their sale from an intentionally wrong risk / benefit viewpoint. Consequently, mining, milling and production of goods for consumption, marketing, import, export and various uses of asbestos, still continues in several countries of Latin America and worldwide, in which asbestos must be considered a factor of inequality, a negative determinant for good health, an obstacle to the achievement of the MDGs.
Therefore, regarding the Brazilian and Peruvian civil society organizations’ proposal from April 28 last in memory of victims of asbestos, with the support of the Department of Toxicology of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the problem of asbestos is to be considered an issue related to human rights (Charter of Buenos Aires, 2001), more than a danger linked to work or a public health problem.
Our intention is:
Reaffirming our commitment to the banning of asbestos in all forms, and recognition, health care and fair compensation for all victims in our countries and worldwide.
Reaffirming the prevalence of life and health in comparison with the profit-expected economic and trade interests at the expense of maintaining the validity of the use of asbestos.
Reaffirming our position for social and environmental justice, recalling that "man has the right to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature" (Earth Charter, Rio de Janeiro 1992) and it is vital “to counteract the pressures towards harmful products, resource depletion, unhealthy living conditions and environments, and bad nutrition; and to focus attention on public health issues such as pollution, occupational hazards, housing and settlements; (Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. 1986).
We, therefore, call the public authorities and the influence they have on the entire community of countries that still retain permissive standards for the use or sale of asbestos, to:
- Assume a policy of total prohibition of Asbestos
- Improve the level of identification, monitoring and recognition of asbestos-related diseases in appropriate administrative time and without violating the right to care / repair of damage to those affected.
- Promote fair compensation to asbestos victims for moral damages, economic and / or health related.
- Establish mechanisms for the complete, accurate and timely information of the risks associated with exposure to asbestos, for all workers exposed, regardless of the conditions of his employment contract.
- Considering that environmental damage will generate a restoration priority, calls for the restitution of previous environmental conditions regarding the extraction / industrialization of asbestos in those areas affected by these tasks.
Similarly, we express our solidarity with workers who do not have sufficient and adequate information about the risks they face from exposure to these carcinogenic compounds. We wish to provide them with updated information, allowing better choices and greater protection for themselves and their families.
Original in Spanish. Translation: Marisol Wexman. Santiago de Chile