by Sasha Chavkin, ProPublica

Asbestos Warning Sign_FeatureAsbestos has long been known to cause debilitating and often fatal diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. It is banned or restricted in 52 countries, and its use has plummeted in the United States since its peak in the early 1970s.

But since the mid-1980s, a global network of lobbyists has spent nearly $100 million to maintain a market for asbestos, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. Borrowing a page from the tobacco industry, these trade associations have funded scientists whose studies raised doubts about the health risks of asbestos and have preserved significant sales by focusing on the developing world.

Today’s remarkable investigation describes the asbestos trade in the countries where it is still flourishing: India, where asbestos use is booming among the rural poor; Brazil, where one federal inspector has battled the industry for a quarter-century; Russia, which produces nearly 1 million tons of asbestos each year; and China, the world’s biggest asbestos consumer.

A leading industry group, the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association, said in the report that the only type of asbestos that is currently used — chrysotile, or white asbestos — is much safer than brown or blue asbestos, which were commonly used in the past.

The investigation cites statements by several health organizations warning that all forms of asbestos are dangerous and carcinogenic. You can read the whole report here.

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.   This article is republished with permission under a Creative Commons license.

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