Sunday, March 30, 2014

A transnational history of asbestos

Perhaps the most litigated environmental issue in US history is harm from asbestos. In the latest issue of Environmental Justice James Rice's "Asbestos and the Globalization of an Occupational and Environmental Hazard, 1960–2011" takes a global view of the subject. The abstract:
Anthophyllite asbestos, Georgia (USGS)
Asbestos is a natural mineral with observable, repeatable effects that have long been observed and repeated. Despite experiential and scientific evidence illustrating its deleterious impact on human health the worldwide production and consumption of asbestos remains substantial. The objective of the present study is to highlight the global decline and resurgence of asbestos over the period 1960–2011. This history is characterized by the predominance of asbestos in the industrialized countries until 1970, decline thereafter, but the precipitous increase of asbestos consumption in the developing countries, particularly the industrializing middle-income nations. In turn, global asbestos consumption in 2011 approximates that observed in 1960; notwithstanding voluminous evidence illustrating it is associated with asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Further, I highlight the rhetoric of denial consistently employed by the industry to generate uncertainty and sustain the demand for asbestos. The conclusion reiterates the need for environmental justice scholars and activists to consider the transnational movement, or risk transference, of recognized occupational and environmental hazards.
I would add that there is room for comparative legal research here, as well: Why has tort law put asbestos companies out of business in the US, but apparently allowed them to flourish in other countries?

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