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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Globalization, China and the “Chrysotile Defense”

In asbestos litigation, the "chrysotile defense" is a loose term covering a wide range of arguments that generally relate to chrysotile fibers relative lack of toxicity when compared to amphibole fibers. The arguments are not becoming simpler as globalization moves forward. For example, for many years, most (not all) arguments about chrysotile fibers were tied to studies of disease in persons who worked with or were otherwise "exposed" to fiber from mines in Canada, Europe and South Africa. However, over the last few years, the scientific literature increasingly has included articles regarding chrysotile fibers mined and used in China and other nations that were seldom mentioned in the past. A recent article on a "mesothelioma" web page highlights a recent article focused on China, as follows:

"Two new reports highlight the fact that mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are global issues.


At the same time, in China, researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong studying occupational exposure to asbestos say that “urgent efforts” must be made to increase regulations to protect workers from mesothelioma and other asbestos caused diseases. China has been the world’s top producer and consumer of chrysotile asbestos although the national mortality rate for asbestos-related diseases is unknown. An analysis of recent studies found mortality rates for lung cancer in Chinese asbestos workers and miners to be four times higher than expected, but found “surprisingly few” cases of mesothelioma which the researchers say may be due to problems in diagnosis. In its early stages, mesothelioma may cause vague symptoms that make it difficult to diagnose.

The Chinese researchers call for “improvements in diagnostic and systematic recording of the incidence and mortality of asbestos-related diseases” to decrease the future risk of mesothelioma and other diseases among asbestos workers. Although many countries have banned the use of asbestos, neither China nor the U.S. has done so. The World Health Organization estimates that 90,000 mesothelioma deaths annually are attributable to asbestos exposure.


Wang, X, et al, “Mortality in chrysotile asbestos workers in China”, March 2012, Current Opinions in Pulmonary Medicine, pp. 169-173.

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