4. “U. S. Exports Death: The Third World Asbestos Industry”

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Much attention has been focused recently on the health hazards of asbestos particularly with its use in school classroom ceilings and in hair driers.

That health danger, however, is somewhat less than that to persons who work in asbestos plants.

Research indicates that people who work in asbestos plants and inhale the fibers run a significantly higher risk of contracting lung cancer (20 times higher than for people who smoke).

Other ailments include the respiratory disease asbestosis and mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the chest). There also is a 300 to 400 percent increase in gastrointestinal cancer due to the fact that those who inhale the fibers also swallow them.

The situation is all the more tragic in light of the fact that the asbestos industry has been aware of the deadliness of their product since the 1930’s and has done nothing about it.

Then, in the late 1960’s, the U. S. government finally began regulating the asbestos industry.

What the American public does not know is that the asbestos manufacturers responded to the new regulations by moving their factories to Third World nations such as Taiwan, South Korea, India, Brazil, and Mexico where the regulations were either minimal or nonexistent. And where the profits were even higher because of lower wages.

The working conditions in these foreign plants are horrendous. Investiga­tions of asbestos manufacturing plants such as Amatex, which has plants just across the border from El Paso, Texas, and Douglas, Arizona, found the air in the factories thick with asbestos fibers and large clumps of the material clinging to nearby bushes and fences where children play. The penchant young people have for putting things in their mouths makes the situation all the more frightening:

Due to little or no regulation and the reduced wages in Third World countries, once the material is manufactured, it is resold here in the U.S. at a greater profit:

Finally, the U.S. government actually is subsidizing some of these foreign ventures.

The failure of the mass media to inform the American public of this lethal exploitation of Third World countries qualifies this story for nomination as one of the “best censored” stories of 1978.


Guardian, December 20, 1978, p. 9, “Asbestos: U. S. Exports Death.”