Mexican government fails to protect its population from asbestos harm

Wed, Jul 24, 2013


Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada

For the past eight months, sacks of asbestos from Russia, have been left dumped in the open at the port of Veracruz, Mexico. A number of the sacks have split open and asbestos fibres have been blowing in the air, contaminating the environment and endangering the health of workers and nearby residents.

Broken bags of asbestos from Russia dumped at port of Veracruz, Mexico

Between 1960 and 2010, Mexico imported over 500,000 tons of asbestos, most of it from Canada, but today from Russia. Over 2,000 Mexicans have died from mesothelioma between 1979 and 2010. It is estimated that many more thousands of other cancers have been caused by asbestos (see charts below). The true numbers are certainly higher. It has been estimated by health experts in Mexico that only 29% of mesothelioma deaths are reported.

Yet the government of Mexico continues to allow the import of asbestos into the country. At the May 2013 conference of the Rotterdam Convention, the Mexican government, shamefully, did not support the recommendation to place chrysotile asbestos on the UN Convention’s list of hazardous substances. Russia led the opposition to the listing, claiming that exported asbestos is handled under strict, safe conditions around the world and poses no threat to health of anyone.

The Mexican government, like the Russian government, blocks its ears to the scientific evidence and instead it allows the discredited Mexican asbestos lobby group, the Mexican Fibre Industries Institute (Instituto Mexicano de Fibroindustria) to control the government’s policy. As part of its deceptive practices, the Mexican asbestos lobby avoids using the word “asbestos” in marketing asbestos. Instead, it calls the asbestos industry the “fibre industry”. It calls asbestos-cement products “fibre-cement” products.

The Mexican government is putting the vested interests of the asbestos lobby ahead of the lives of the citizens of Mexico.

Two days after the World Health Organization alerted Mexican authorities about the exposed bags of asbestos at the port, the Mexican government’s Federal Commission for Occupational Health & Safety (Cofepris), simply cordoned off the site. They did not cover up the broken sacks of asbestos. No charges have been laid against the companies that practiced such criminal negligence and exposed so many to harm.

In an article of July 19 in the Veracruz newspaper, La Journada, the Mexican government’s Occupational Health Commission, Cofepris, was quoted as follows: No side effects from asbestos, says Cofepris. In the article, Álvaro Pérez Vega stressed, on behalf of Cofepris, that a census is being conducted with the workers at the port of Veracruz to see if any of them have any symptoms that could be associated with asbestos exposure.

Such a statement shows either shameful ignorance or wanton deception. Such a census is meaningless, since mesothelioma and other cancers caused by asbestos take many decades to show symptoms. And what about the families of the workers who were also exposed to harm when the workers came home with asbestos fibres on their work clothing? The health of everyone – workers, family members, residents, anyone who was in the area and exposed to the asbestos – should be carefully monitored for decades to come.

The Mexican government has no way of even knowing who was exposed to the loose asbestos fibres blowing in the wind and has demonstrated extreme negligence.

Health experts in Mexico have strongly criticized the failure of the Mexican government to protect workers and the public from asbestos harm and have called for the Mexican government to ban asbestos.

A counselor at the Centre for Labour Research and Union Couneling AC (CILAS) stated that “This case shows the impunity with which these companies (asbestos companies) operate. They claim that there are no substitutes but now we see that there are other safer materials that are only slightly more expensive and which ensure the lives of all the people who handle the materials”.

Mexican government is betraying its citizens

The Mexican government is failing to protect the health of its population. It is betraying the right to health of the people of Mexico. How many more people have to die painful and unnecessary deaths before the government of Mexico puts the lives of its citizens ahead of the profits of the corrupt asbestos lobby?

Study shows increasing asbestos-related deaths in Mexico

A study carried out by the Mexican Institute of Social Security, entitled Case-control study of pleural mesothelioma in workers with social security in Mexico, that was published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, revealed the increase in mesothelioma-related diseases and deaths among Mexican workers and recommended that Mexico prohibit the use of asbestos.

Case-control study of pleural mesothelioma in workers with social security in Mexico, Aguilar-Madrid G, Robles-Pérez E, Juárez-Pérez CA, Alvarado-Cabrero I, Rico-Méndez FG, Javier KG. Source: Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, Mexico City, Mexico. Am J Ind Med. 2010 Mar;53(3):241-51. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20780.

The Conclusions of the study are as follows:


Our results show that the relationship between industrial uses of all forms of asbestos is generating an increase in mesothelioma-related diseases and deaths among Mexican workers. As a public health policy, Mexico should prohibit the use of asbestos in all production processes with the aim of controlling the epidemic and preventing the occurrence of new cases of MPM (malignant pleural mesothelioma).



1960 13,421 0 0.00 0.00
1970 40,460 0 0.00 0.00
1975 60,395 0 0.00 0.00
1980 79,014 7 11.97 23.94
1985 54,868 29 49.59 99.18
1990 39,316 44 75.24 150.48
1992 20,898 21 35.91 71.82
1993 15,314 35 59.85 119.70
1994 20,886 38 64.98 129.96
1995 19,154 36 61.56 123.12
1996 17,028 26 44.46 88.92
1997 16,230 32 54.72 109.44
1998 16,189 81 138.51 277.02
1999 13,145 95 162.45 324.90
2000 17,133 137 234.27 468.54
2003 20,105 142 242.82 485.64
2004 5,163 154 263.34 526.68
2005 5,692 185 316.35 632.70
2006 7,226 196 335.16 670.32
2007 6,143 206 352.26 704.52
2008 5,060 229 391.59 783.18
2009 5,623 230 393.30 786.60
2010 3,966 231 395.01 790.02
TOTAL 502,428.04 2,154.00 3,683.34 7,366.68



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