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Reliance on Asbestos Runs Deep in Town Named After It

There are some who say the town in eastern Russia, in the valley of the Ural Mountains, is a nice place to live. The 70,000 or so residents are friendly. Crime is low.
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But there is danger every time the wind blows in Asbest, the town named after its livelihood: the asbestos mines that daily continue to be stripped by explosion to fill the global demand.

Our Boston asbestos exposure lawyers know that despite the knowledge that the substance causes a form of terminal cancer known as mesothelioma, not to mention chronic, painful lung diseases such as asbestosis, the people continue to live their daily lives literally shrouded in it.

The New York Times recently chronicled a day in the life of Asbest dwellers, who describe how it collects in a layer on their living room floors. It collects on their linens that hang out in the backyard, to the point that they must shake it off before bringing their laundry inside. Out in their gardens, vegetables and fruits are caked with asbestos dust and women describe sweeping off their windows in the morning.

The town is just one of a number of Russian locations that continue to supply asbestos to various industries around the globe. While a number of nations have barred the substance, the U.S. isn’t among them. Prior to the 1970s, the fibrous mineral was widely used for insulation, fireproofing, bonding and numerous other functions. But the evidence soon began to grow that the substance was harmful and led to a host of respiratory ailments. (In fact, the companies that used asbestos often knew of these dangers, and yet failed to to take action to protect or warn workers or consumers. That is why we continue to see so many lawsuits to this day.)

A previous effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban asbestos was later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Still, there continue to be regulations about how the material must be handled, particularly in renovation and demolition projects. Such protections aren’t in place in Asbest or in many overseas towns just like it. It’s an issue of supply-and-demand like anything else. China and India continue to buy the product in bulk. As long as there continues to be a demand for it, there will be towns like this one where the people continue to be put at risk to supply it.

In Russia, the Russian Chrysotile Association, which is an industry trade group, reports annual sales to about $540 billion. The industry is actually expanding as other countries exit the trade.

The judicial system in Russia overwhelmingly favors powerful producers. There is little chance that those who have been affected or die from exposure to the substance would have any real chance of winning a case in court.

Many in Asbest say they know the dangers, but many say they have grown up there and have no where else to go. Many have persistent cough. Some have odd skin ailments, including strange welts and inflammation.

Scientists have homed in on this location, due to its widespread exposure, to determine whether asbestos may be responsible for other chronic or terminal ailments, such as ovarian cancer. The question isn’t whether asbestos causes cancer, but rather how many kinds of cancer does asbestos cause.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
City in Russia Unable to Kick Asbestos Habit, July 13, 2013, By Andrew E. Kramer, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:
First Responders’ Asbestos Exposure Very Real Concern, July 15, 2013, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog