French protesters call for asbestos prosecutions

October 5th, 2006

Several thousand protesters took to the streets in Paris to demand criminal proceedings against the companies whose asbestos products have caused the deaths of thousands of French citizens. The protest was organized by the National association for the defense of asbestos victims (Andeva), an asbestos pressure group.

Although France banned the use of asbestos in 1997, the country still averages about 3,000 annual deaths from asbestos-related conditions, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. Andeva estimates that France may see 100,000 deaths from asbestos-related conditions over the next 20 years.

Andeva says that criminal proceedings against the makers of asbestos products are necessary not only because of the harm they have inflicted on the French population but to point out the larger causes of the asbestos problem. “We can draw consequences from our experiences with asbestos when it comes to risk prevention,” says Michel Parigot, Andeva’s vice president. “We know that controlled use of a product that is known to be a carcinogen cannot work when the product is widely present in the public domain.”

Parigot noted that in addition to demonstrating the need for safer use of hazardous commercial products, criminal proceedings would punish the large companies that continued to make money from asbestos products even after they were aware of their dangers. “The big international companies organized themselves on the international arena since the 1960s and lobbied extensively on this issue,” he says. “These are the companies that were making a profit from asbestos—and not the small construction companies that were using it, which often didn’t know about the risks involved because they had not been informed.”

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