Asbestos lobby group hires same PR agency used by tobacco companies

It appears Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative government have a new ally in their quest to keep exporting carcinogenic asbestos to unsuspecting countries around the world.

The International Chrysotile Association, closely associated with Montreal’s Chrysotile Institute, is apparently worried that developing nations like Malaysia will find out the truth: that asbestos removal is imperative and that any kind of exposure to the fibres can cause terminal illnesses like mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the protective lining around vital organs.

Worried that the rest of the world is figuring out what we Canadians already know, the asbestos lobbyists are turning to PR firm APCO Worldwide.

Does the company’s name ring a bell? APCO Worldwide is the PR agency known for defending the Phillip Morris tobacco company in the early 1990s. It set up a group called The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition and tried to dismiss the world’s worries about second-hand smoke as “junk science.”

This same “noble” company is now trying to convince developing nations like Malaysia, prime importers of asbestos from countries like Canada, that asbestos can be handled safely.

The problem is that developing nations sometimes don’t fully understand that these PR firms and their faulty “science” coalitions are financially motivated to champion carcinogens like tobacco and asbestos. They’re hired by the companies exporting the killer chemicals and fibres!

“Only lobby organizations that have a financial interest in selling asbestos claim that asbestos can be safely used, just as the lobby organizations acting on behalf of the tobacco industry have denied the clear science on tobacco harm,” said Ottawa anti-asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff in a recent letter to APCO Worldwide president Margery Kraus. Ruff is demanding that the company inform Malaysia that it was hired by the International Chrysotile Association.

If asbestos was harmless when handled safely, why is asbestos remediation happening across our country? Why do miners who “safely handled” chrysotile contract lung cancer?

It was shameful for PR agencies to defend tobacco companies and supporting asbestos lobby groups – to manipulate a government that doesn’t have all the facts – is just a shameful.

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