International Conference on Asbestos-Related Diseases: “There Is No Safe Use of Asbestos” — Call for Global Ban

by Sokolove Law

The International Conference on Monitoring and Surveillance of Asbestos-Related Diseases held February 11-13, 2014 in Espoo, Finland, brought together 140 experts from 23 countries. Keynote speakers included researchers from Brown University (U.S.), the American Cancer Society, and others from the U.K., Japan, Italy, and host country Finland. 
A 30-member International Expert Group met during the conference to update the Helsinki Declaration on Management and Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases for 2014. The Helsinki Declaration, last updated in 1997, contains expert recommendations for assessing asbestos exposure among workers and members of the public; diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related diseases; and prevention of asbestos exposure, which is known to cause serious diseases. It is used in many countries in guiding policy and research. 
The new Helsinki Declaration states that the only good way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to prevent asbestos exposure in the first place; that joint international actions are needed to create and enforce a global ban on asbestos; and that practical measures should be taken to protect workers, bystanders, and the public at large during renovations and removal of asbestos-containing materials from homes, public buildings, and other places where asbestos is currently found. 
It recommends following workers for many years, as asbestos-related diseases can take decades to develop after exposure to asbestos. It encourages early diagnosis of asbestos-related diseases to improve treatment options.
According to conference organizers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, “The main message from the conference is that there is no safe use of asbestos…The only way of preventing asbestos-related deaths [is] by banning the new use of asbestos.” 

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