Corruption in Brazil Concerning Asbestos Use

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once commonly used in constructing buildings and other forms of industry across the world. Unfortunately, what was once considered a “miracle mineral” was actually found to be a deadly carcinogen that is directly responsible for causing various illness and disease, including a terminal type of cancer called mesothelioma. The negative health effects have caused asbestos to be regulated or banned in much of the developed world. However, countries such as Brazil continue to use asbestos as a viable construction material largely because powerful Brazilian mining corporations and corrupt politicians continue to ignore health concerns in the name of profit. Many homes in Brazil are made from “A/C sheets”, short for asbestos-cement roofing sheets. Commonly called chrysotile, but perhaps better known as white asbestos, this natural mineral is mined at the SAMA-owned Cana Brava Mine in Brazil. SAMA sells chrysotile to Eternit Group, who is the largest producer of chrysotile and “A/C sheets”. These two companies were the driving force behind the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute (IBC), whose purpose was to market chrysotile as a safely controlled form of asbestos. When it became apparent in 2008 that Brazil's Supreme Court would move to ban asbestos, these lobbying groups sprang into action by calling on Congressmen and Senators to whom they had donated large amounts of money. Congressman Carlos Alberto Lereia alone received more than $300,000 Brazilian reais in campaign funds from SAMA. Congressman Lereia along with then-Senators Marconi Perillo and Demosthanes Torres agreed to a meeting with both the President of Eternit and the Director of SAMA Following that meeting, Senator Perillo, along with the President of Eternit, met with the President of the Supreme Court. The Senator claimed to have scientific reports that showed asbestos use is not at all harmful to health, despite the conflict that all of the research within the report was sponsored by Eternit, SAMA and the IBC. Conveniently, Eternit's President was not officially mentioned as having been at the meeting. There are signs that Brazil's rampant corruption is coming to an end. The Chrysotile Institute of Canada, who sponsored the IBC, has closed and Eternit's formers owners are currently serving time for exposing workers and the public to the toxic substance. Bringing these “backroom deals” to public light is hopefully one of the first steps to ending the Brazilian Government's cozy relationship with chrysotile. Reference: Previous: EPA releases estimates of asbestos toxicity in Libby, Montana Next: Ship Blocked from Entering Scrap Yard by Indian Court