The government in Zimbabwe is set to create a revival plan for two of the largest asbestos mines in the region, the Shabanie and Mashava mines. The mines, formerly owned by Afaras Gwaradzimba, were recently handed over to the government. When the mines were previously in operation, they produced 180,000 tons of asbestos fibers each year. Although some European countries and various others around the globe have banned the use of asbestos, it is still in high demand in many developing countries. The United States currently only prevents the use of asbestos in six products but has yet to ban the toxic mineral. Asbestos exposure has been linked to the development of diseases such as malignant mesothelioma . Despite uncertainties on whether or not asbestos mining will continue, Brazil, Russia, India and China are expected to maintain a demand for asbestos over the next 20 years. The revival effort is spearheaded by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Gift Chimanikire has indicated that the Zimbabwe government would enact a revival plan to ensure that the mines would resume operations. An estimated $200 million in U.S. dollars would be required to reopen the mines. Before their closure, the mines employed more than 4,000 workers. However, much of the equipment that was used to run the mines was destroyed by flooding over a year ago. Analysts in the government have pushed for an urgent reopening of the mine, due to the world’s fastest growing economies’ immense demand for asbestos. According to analysts’ projections, local demand for asbestos could exceed $2 billion in U.S. dollars per year. China, the second largest economy in the world, is a leader in asbestos product manufacturing with over one billion consumers of asbestos products. The country is also expected to continue expanding production. However, Zimbabwe’s neighbor, South Africa, who was previously the biggest importer of Zimbabwe asbestos, has halted use of asbestos products. In 1989 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempted to place a ban on asbestos in the United States, but their actions were overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991. Activists across the United States and the globe are calling for worldwide bans on asbestos to reduce and eventually prevent future incidence of asbestos-related diseases. Additional information on mesothelioma can be found through the Mesothelioma Center.
The annual National Asbestos Awareness Week kicked off on April 1 in Atlanta, Ga. with the Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference. The conference was sponsored by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), a group committed to education, advocacy and support of mesothelioma patients and their families. The ADAO’s goal is to serve as the united voice for all asbestos victims and educate the public and medical community about asbestos-related diseases. They support research that leads to earlier detection, prevention and a cure for asbestos-related diseases. Each year, the international conference strives to unite scientists and doctors with patients and their families to discuss new treatments for malignant mesothelioma and advocate ways to prevent further asbestos exposure. Asbestos exposure has been linked to mesothelioma, an uncommon and aggressive form of cancer that affects the vital linings of the lungs and abdomen. Organizers believe that knowledge is power in spreading the global message to end asbestos disease. The conference, which ran from April 1-3, provides information and inspiration to those impacted by asbestos-related disease as well as others who advocate safe working environments. Topics addressed at the conference included advanced medical, occupational and environmental information to prevent home, school and work-related asbestos exposure. The conference also honors the people who attempt to bring a higher level of awareness to the toxic effects of asbestos. This year, U.S. Senator Max Baucus will be honored for his steadfast commitment and determination to ban asbestos in the United States. Through Mr. Baucus’ hard work, a resolution was passed to declare the first week of April as National Asbestos Awareness Week in order to “raise public awareness about the prevalence of asbestos-related diseases and the dangers of asbestos exposure.” In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 10,000 people in the United States and 107,000 worldwide died from asbestos-related diseases. Organizations like the ADAO struggle to prevent the spread of asbestos around the world. Their continued efforts work to reduce the growing asbestos public health problem that affects families across the globe. Additional information about mesothelioma and asbestos awareness may be found through the Mesothelioma Center.