By Dr. John Samuel
Canada has plenty of asbestos the use of which for construction and other uses leads to a special type of terminal cancer – mesothelioma. Canada does not want to use it at home since the results are well known. Therefore, it is exported to whoever wants it. India wants it badly, especially in Gujarat, where they are looking for shortcuts to construction. The guaranteed result is increased incidence of mesothelioma.
In the US the past use of asbestos causes 3,000 deaths annually, let alone years and years of suffering before death, the saviour, arrives. Yet, India wants this deadly product very badly. Canada gladly exports it especially from Quebec where unemployment rate is high and where there is plenty of supply of this deadly material.
Who should be blamed? Canada that wants to export it with vigour and enthusiasm or India which wants to import it with even greater vigour and enthusiasm?
The question is somewhat similar to the export of harmful drugs from Latin America that destroys the lives of people. Everyone knows such drugs cause inexplicable and unavoidable harm to humans. But drug cartels with or without the implicit look-in-the-other-direction kind of attitudes of several Latin American countries get them by hook or crook to affluent North America where there is a ready market among those who look forward to the deadly short-term pleasure of its use.
The use of asbestos as construction material in the short term is attractive; but its long-term effects are extremely well known by this time. Who should intervene to prevent its exports and, more importantly, prevent its imports. Since the ominous effects are more at the receiving end, it should be India that should take measures to stop its import. Otherwise, India would have to pay dearly for its deleterious effects of illness, suffering and early deaths.
Does anyone care?
Dr. John Samuel is President and Managing Editor of South Asia Mail.