Sunday, April 17, 2011

Profits before people

by Eric Stevenson

Profit first policy endangers people in India and other countries

When it comes to strategies and plans involving major businesses, profits and revenue are what most companies always strive for. A number of businesses in Canada and the United States have put this desire for high profits and revenue above the risk of health problems related to their exports.

The health problems arising from such exports involve the use of asbestos. While it used to be known as one of the most versatile building materials, it’s now known more for its correlation and connection to health problems such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Both of these diseases result from direct exposure to asbestos.

Even though most countries have halted the use of asbestos as a usable product and building material, U.S. and Canadian businesses continue to export asbestos, in order to reap the monetary benefits from that. Canada is now one of the only countries left in the world that actually still mines asbestos. Even though resources are running out as far as Canadian mines are concerned, the businesses continue to mine and export asbestos, in the interest of their profit. In America, they don’t work as a direct exporter of asbestos, but rather as a third party in the asbestos trade. Nevertheless, businesses in both countries are putting their profits and revenue above the possible health risks for the countries they’re exporting to. Even though neither country has been able to “technically” ban the use of asbestos, the material is essentially blacklisted and viewed in a negative light in both countries.

One country in particular, India, has been the topic of research when it comes to the countries that are being exported to. Not only is it the largest of these countries, but it is a country that continues to use asbestos as a construction material. Research in India has also shown that often workers handle asbestos without the proper safety gear, putting them at a major risk regarding associated health problems.

The saddest part of the situation involves the kind of countries the asbestos is exported to. Usually the countries at the expense of which Canada and the US make money are poor and developing countries. This includes many countries in Africa and southern Asia. Moreover, the low affordibility in these countries also implies a major step-down in medical practice and health care. When a material like asbestos is brought into these countries, the people are confronted with a major risk of exposure, as well as all the health problems that often accompany asbestos exposure. Given the poor quality of health care and medical awareness in many of these countries, the people are in danger of serious and sometimes even life-threatening consequences.

For example, mesothelioma is extremely severe, often leaving victims to live only a year after their original diagnosis. Without the proper type of medical care, the health problems connected with asbestos are even more dangerous.

Even though this profit-first policy may have brought business leaders some good fortune, there has certainly been a backlash from media and controversy around the decision to send asbestos out to these countries. Hopefully with an increase in controversy surrounding these practices and the inevitable end of mining resources in Canada, the end to such cynical practices is near.

Image: from Modern Medical Guide

No comments: