Friday, January 14, 2011

Controlled Use: Myth or Reality?

International experts recognize that controlled-use exists and that when implemented, provides adequate protection to workers health and safety in the mining and manufacturing sectors.
Thus, by applying the specific and necessary measures, including education and training, recommended work methods and the use of appropriate tools and equipment the risk to the health of workers, will be undetectably low. The principle of controlled-use was not created by the chrysotile industry and does not apply to this industry alone.  This is a general principle of risk management recommended for all products or technologies that may present a risk to health, in the absence of appropriate controls and guidelines. 
Industrial development has brought us numerous potentially hazardous products which we use daily and which are possibly more risky than chrysotile and thus must be used in a responsible manner. For example, the use of certain natural resources like lead, mercury, cellulose, as well as most chemicals such as pesticides, must always be controlled in order to prevent possible negative health effects to humans and the general environment.
This brings us to an interesting paradox. Opponents to the safe and controlled-use of chrysotile assert, without hesitation, that this practice is a myth. They even qualify it as a "fantasy", since there are inconveniences that make its application “impossible”. How can an unskilled worker, when he is manipulating products that contain chrysotile and faced with these "inconveniences", alternatively, meticulously, use substitute products safely at a similar worksite, but cannot do so with products containing chrysotile?  This lack of logic makes us wonder.

The implementation of the controlled-use principle is the responsibility of both industry and the workers. Ignorance of this principle for chrysotile is not only refusing to believe the evidence, but also accepting the fact that as soon as a product presents a potential risk to the health and safety of the workers who handle it, it must be prohibited.  In this way, the door is wide open to the adoption of excessive protectionist regulations for unspecified public health issues, or due to the pressure of lobbying from competing alternative products manufacturers.  Recently, the European Union selected for prohibition or strict regulations nearly 1,500 natural substances and industrial products, including a possible progressive prohibition of PVC.
It is undeniable that industrial development has contributed to improving our societies, but it has also taught us to create and manage many products that are potentially dangerous. International standards were developed and implemented to ensure manufacturing and the use of numerous products while minimizing the risks. The search for “zero” risk that underlies all of the anti-chrysotile propaganda is unrealistic. All activities involve some risk.

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