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Asbestos used to be widely employed because of its ability to fireproof hardened materials, whether roof sheets, floor tiles, furnaces and wiring, or cement building blocks. Once invisible particles of asbestos are deeply inhaled into the lung, they can leave telltale scars that can give rise – sometimes forty years later – to lung cancer or to mesothelioma.

The dangers of asbestos have been known since the 1930s. When disrupted from pipe or attic insulation, this invisible, fire-proof mineral can release millions of ultra-fine particles into the air that can be lodged deeply in the lung. Up to five decades after asbestos exposure first occurs, people can develop crippling lung disease and cancers. A long-awaited congressional report is expected to be released soon that confirms EPA’s failures to tell people about the hidden and persistant risks from exposure to cancer-causing asbestos in home insulation in Spokane, Washington, Portland, Oregon and more than two hundred other communities. Vermiculite from the mines of Libby, Montana, is a form of asbestos that was widely used throughout the country in kitty litter, attic insulation, and potting soil. Recently EPA posted a warning notice about avoided exposures to vermiculite based attic insulation on its web site.

But, people have to know enough to look for the advice and there is no national campaign even at this stage to get information out about this insidiously slow hazard. Today in Germany, France and Italy, and the U.S., one in three cases of mesethelioma, a rare cancer thought to be uniquely tied with asbestos exposures that can take place decades earlier, occurs in a person who has no history of working with asbestos. This tells us that there are exposures out there that have been hidden for years. One of the less well acknowledged asbestos hazards came from the practice of using asbestos to filter Kent cigarettes—a practice that only ended because the filters worked too well, removing too much taste and nicotine.

Canada and the U.S. are the only two modern nations not to have banned asbestos. Working with unions and other public groups, the foundation will provide technical and public policy advice to those working to ban this well-known cancer-causing agent.

The EPA web site contains information on an important avoidable sources of asbestos—vermiculate insulation called zonolite. If you suspect your attic may be insulated with this material, do not touch it. Contact a certified asbestos inspector to advise you on appropriate remedies.


Breathtaking – A personal investigation into the present day use of asbestos | Details (pdf)


New Study Finds increased Risk of Fatal Lung Cancer in Workers and in Persons Living Near Asbestos Production in Italy. Read the report.

French photo ad on asbestos | Download it (pdf)

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Dr. Davis sends message regarding tobacco and asbesto to UN Rotterdam Treaty Negotiation, in Rome, in La Stampa, a major Italian newspaper.
See the Italian version | Read the English version

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An interview on the causes of the delay in taking action against agents related to cancer. Tobacco and asbestos are the main issues of the talk. Read more

Canada helps keep asbestos type off watchlist
A type of asbestos sold around the world by Canada and several other countries will remain off an international watchlist of dangerous chemicals for at least another two years. “I’m absolutely flabbergasted to realize that the asbestos industry is just following the playbook of the tobacco industry — and it’s still working,” [Dr. Devra Davis] said. Read More

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