The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization has announced its support of the first ever one day national stakeholder’s conference Ban Asbestos Pakistan in Karachi, Pakistan on February 1. The event, with the theme “Awareness, Health & Safety,” is the result of years of research, persistence and collaboration between a Pakistani family and an international team determined to ban the toxic substance in the country.
Although the harmful effects of asbestos have been documented extensively, and the World Health Organization estimates over 100,000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestos use is banned in just 55 countries, according to a tally maintained by International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. Asbestos use remains legal in the United States.
However, the Ahmed family, determined to prevent other families from losing a loved one to the hazards of asbestos, have shown that with diligence and resolve, they can make a difference. When Syed Mezab Ahmed and Syed Haroon Ahmed lost their father and brother, respectively, to cancer in 2007, they feared his death was due to asbestos exposure at his job at Dadex in Karachi, Pakistan. Dadex, which operates three factories in Pakistan – in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sunder Industrial Estate (near Lahore) – boasts on its website that it “has been manufacturing Chrysotile Cement (CC) pipe systems for over 45 years in Pakistan.”
The Ahmed family filed a criminal complaint in 2009 against the factory saying Mr. Ahmed’s cancer was caused by the “polluted environment of the industrial unit.” Although the case is still pending, the action spurred local and global anti-asbestos organizations into action to help raise awareness of the far-reaching dangers of asbestos in Pakistan and to rally others to urge the government to ban the product.
Through a report commissioned on the petition of the Ahmed’s, over two million residents in Karachi were found to be at danger of exposure to asbestos. According to the ADAO, in 2012, Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Resource Development “recommended a complete ban on the import and use of dangerous chemical ‘asbestos’ in 22 industries of the country to safeguard the health of workers.”
Linda Reinstein, co-founder and President/CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, wrote in an article announcing the conference:
“The Ahmed family wants the same treatment for Pakistanis that other countries have fought for and won. They want the company that exposed people to deadly asbestos to be responsible for their medical care. They want the company to take action and to dispose of asbestos debris safely to prevent future asbestos exposure to workers, children and nearby residents of Karachi. And above all, they want Pakistan to ban asbestos.”
Ms. Reinstein and Lou Williams, a mesothelioma sufferer who lives in Australia and is the Asbestos Awareness, Information and Support Officer of the Bernie Banton Foundation, will be presenting to the attendees, including Pakistani dignitaries and experts in the field of mesothelioma and on the dangers of asbestos, via Skype.
“I am very, very proud of what they are doing with their conference and with the global support of everyone – it will be a good success and a start in the right direction,” said Lou in an email to MesotheliomaHelp.
The International Commission on Occupational Health, the world’s leading international scientific society in the field of occupational health, along with many other global organizations, calls for a global ban on the mining, sale and use of all forms of asbestos and the elimination of asbestos-related diseases. To accomplish the elimination of asbestos-related diseases the Commission urges “each and every individual country to implement a total ban on production and use of asbestos.”
The World Health Organization supports this position and reports that “the only way to prevent mesothelioma is by eliminating exposure to asbestos.” WHO is calling for a ban of asbestos use throughout the world.