Friday, 8 January 2016

The Crime Of Asbestos.

       Throughout capitalism there has been a constant trait and it still persists. That trait has been as mining and manufacture of materials developed, dangers to workers health became apparent. In most of these cases the pattern was/is the same, first the employers try to conceal the dangers, then trash any results proving the danger, as well as trashing the reputation of those bring forward the evidence of health dangers. In most cases they can fall back on the state legislators to be on their side, as they drag their feet in introducing any meaningful legislation to try and control that danger.
        Probably one of the most brutal and callous cases of this festering marriage between employers and state in safeguarding profits at the expense of workers health has been asbestos. The dangers to workers and the public's health from asbestos was being raised in the 1800's, but the substances was still being used here in the UK well into the 20th. century. We all know now that asbestos is a killer, it is the cause of the incurable disease of mesothelioma. However it was know for years and the companies mining it and manufacturing it continued to deny any such danger, and went into the arena of dirty tricks to conceal the facts.
        One of the worlds largest manufacturers of asbestos products was Turner and Newall and they pulled out all the stops to have the reputations trashed of anyone involved in revealing the dangers of asbestos. The even called on the disgraced MP Cyril Smith to rubbish the claims at a Commons Select Committee, there was more stings to this vipers tongue that most people ever suspected. 
         From its first entry into our lives, it is impossible to put an accurate figure on the number of people who died a horrible death from asbestos mesothelioma, and the deaths still continue to this day. The crime is that the manufacturers were well aware of those dangers and with money and power, attempted to conceal the facts for generations. Our legislators, the state, are complicit in this vicious and brutal crime.
        As the West began to be forced to legislate against asbestos and around the 60's, there were calls to ban asbestos in countries like the UK, America and Australia, you would imagine that as these bans came into force, the mining of this killer would start to fall off. On the contrary, from the 60's on, mining of asbestos started to rocket. The callous reasoning behind this strange fact is that the asbestos industry realised that they were losing a vast market, so they went into overdrive in marketing their filthy product to the third world, Africa and China. Thus with one aim, increasing their profits, they spread the death dealing disease of mesothelioma to new generations of workers.
       People today are still dying from this profit driven disease, mesothelioma, as asbestos found its way into all aspects of our lives, industry, homes, cars etc. and it has not yet been all cleaned up, this killer still lurks in corners of our society, waiting to be disturbed and do its deadly deed. All thanks to the drive for profit from unscrupulous and greedy corporations.
          Turner and Newall archives reveals that executives had sent a staff member to an asbestos campaign meeting posing as a member of the public, who then sent back a three-page report detailing everything that was said. 
        The executives also revealed they had ordered a “very confidential report” to be made on researchers involved in a Yorkshire TV documentary, Alice: A Fight for Life, which told the story of 47-year-old former asbestos worker Alice Jefferson, who was dying from malignant pleural mesothelioma. The film, directed by award-winning film maker John Willis, explicitly linked asbestos to cancer and attacked the Government’s perceived complacency in limiting the manufacture of asbestos in Britain.
         At the time of the film, asbestos as a health hazard was not widely known to the public, and mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos, was even less wellknown. The Government and leading doctors told people that asbestos was a vital industry and that its manufacture was safe.-------

Asbestos: The slow clean-up
  • 1898 Factory inspectors express concern about the “evil effects” of asbestos dust.
  • 1911 The first cases of asbestos deaths in factories are confirmed and recommendations made for improved ventilation.
  • 1924 The death of a textile worker in Rochdale is the first published case of asbestosis. The firm pays no compensation to the bereaved family.
  • 1931 Asbestos industry regulations introduced. Home Office survey finds widespread asbestos disease in the UK.
  • 1967 The asbestos register is established. Safety limits are proposed the following year. 
  • 1972 The first personal injury claim succeeds.
  • 1983 Asbestos licensing regulations are introduced.
  • 1985 Regulations introduce a ban on crocidolite (blue) asbestos and amosite (brown) asbestos.
  • 1987 Control of asbestos at work regulations introduced to protect workers from fibre exposure.
  • 1992 Laws are amended to ban rarer forms of amphibole asbestos. Later followed by a ban on chrysotile asbestos.
  • 1995 A report shows that asbestos deaths are increasing at an alarming rate. A quarter are away from asbestos manufacturing industries.
  • 1996 A report claims asbestos protection is vastly inferior to the claims stated by its manufacturers.
  • 1999 Asbestos regulations introduce a final, comprehensive ban on asbestos.
  • 2002 New regulations mean businesses have to start identifying and managing asbestos in their properties.
  • 2006 Previous regulations are brought together in the new Control of Asbestos Regulations.

When The Time-bomb Goes Off.

The bike just sits there
dust covering its lovely sheen
puffing up the Fintry Hills
well, it's no longer my scene.
Y'see, as a Clydeside apprentice
I proudly learnt the tradesman's skill
little did I know then
the price, asbestos lungs that kill.
Now I just sit here through the painful day
gasping each mouthful of air,  wondering
how can I make the bastards pay.
They new it was a killer
a time-bomb in our lungs
but,  because it was so quick and cheap
they firmly held their tongues.
So what if it cost the workman's life
there's always a couple of new workers
in the care of the worker's wife.
Please try to understand my anger
as I and others bear their cost
a slow death from asbestos lungs
a vibrant life lost.
Anguish for a family and friends
all in the name of profit;
now that really does offend.
Our anger without direction
is a blind archer behind the bow
we have to use our anger
to smash the status quo.
Perhaps making my dying public
might provoke righteous indignation
at a system that puts profit
before the health of a nation.
Visit ann arky's home at


No comments:

Post a Comment