No more asbestos: in Latin America it is still legal

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This harmful material is still used despite the fact that it has been linked to the appearance of diseases such as cancer

No more asbestos: in Latin America it is still legal

On March 4, Leonardo Gallego, administrative judge of Bogotá, put a stop to the use of asbestos in Colombia. The ruling orders that the State implement a policy to replace the use of this material. The term to replace the dangerous mineral is 5 years.

Leer en español: La guerra contra el asbesto: en Latinoamérica todavía es legal

Gallego made the decision, subject to be appealed and resolved by the Administrative Court of Cundinamarca, after evaluating that this mineral is harmful to health. Different institutions such as the Department of Health and Human Services of the United States (HHS), the International Office for Cancer Research (IARC), and the Office of Environmental Protection (EPA) have classified this material as carcinogenic.

However, the material is still used to make tiles and cement products. For its part, the ILO, since 1986, had warned "that it is a danger to humanity, asbestos diseases can occur 20 years after having had contact with this material."

The WHO, 26 years ago, warned that this carcinogen can produce:

  • Lung cancer
  • Larynx cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Respiratory diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis

IARC has found that there are other types of cancer that would occur such as:

  • Stomach cancer
  • Pharynx cancer
  • Colon and rectum cancer

The decision is historic and would protect thousands of people who work and who buy products that contain this material. However, the ruling has already met with detractors, such as the mayor of Campamento, Antioquia, Jorge Durán. The president alleges that this town is the only one with an asbestos mine in Colombia, which would leave a large number of people unemployed.

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The question would be, what is more important: life or mining? Figures from the WHO reveal that there are 107,000 deaths annually from direct contact with asbestos.

Asbestos in Latin America

The interesting thing is that not only in Colombia this material is still used. In fact, according to EFE, only six countries in Latin America veto it:

  1. Chile: since 2002, the southern country has banned the production, import, distribution, sale, and use of materials that have asbestos.
  2. Argentina: this nation did the same in 2003 and eliminated the use of this material.
  3. Uruguay: Like Chile, in 2002, this Latin American country banned the production and commercialization of asbestos.
  4. Peru: In 2014, the Inca country "banned the use of amphibole asbestos and regulated the use of chrysotile asbestos".
  5. Dominican Republic: the country restricted the use of this mineral after adhering to the Rotterdam Convention (2006) and the 160 asbestos agreement.
  6. Brazil: in 2017, the Latin American giant restricted the use, production and market of any type of asbestos.
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In other Latin countries, the use is regulated, but not eliminated or prohibited. For example, in Paraguay it is used, although companies are required to guarantee the safety of their employees exposed to asbestos particles. In Bolivia, there is a current law that ratifies the ILO convention on regulations for workers in contact with asbestos.

In Panama, the workers' union alleges that despite the existence of regulations for protection, use is not restricted or regulated. In Mexico, on the other hand, EFE explains that "the General Law for Health and the General Law for the Integral Prevention of Waste prohibits the use of asbestos and in 2011 the General Health Law of Mexico City adopted measures on the use of that material to limit exposure to it".


LatinAmerican Post | Marcela Peñaloza
Translated from "La guerra contra el asbesto: en Latinoamérica todavía es legal"

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