Asian Asbestos Initiative

Asia has recently become the world’s center of asbestos consumption. Many Asian countries, particularly those in the midst of rapid industrialization, are increasingly using asbestos at substantial levels. Somehow the burden of asbestos-related diseases has not become apparent in many of these countries, mainly because the latency time has not been reached yet and also because the recognition of these diseases is poor. However, the experiences of industrialized countries that have extensively used asbestos in the past show that an epidemic of asbestos-related diseases is predictable in the region.

The Asian Initiative for the Elimination of ARDs (i.e. the Asian Asbestos Initiative or AAI) aims to develop an academic platform on which researchers and administrators from different countries can share relevant core technologies. The ultimate goal of this project is consistent with the efforts of the WHO and the International Labour Organization, to eliminate ARDs. Proponents agree that the most effective means to prevent ARDs is to discontinue the use of asbestos; however, they acknowledge that the process will require a gradual transition involving progressive steps.

The AAI considers the traditional public health approach as the central pillar on which to develop intervention strategies as this model addresses all three levels of prevention. Thus, clinical technologies (i.e. including the diagnosis and treatment of ARDs) are as important as technologies at the primary level of prevention (i.e. reducing or eliminating exposure). These efforts will focus on Asian countries, while attempting to formulate a regional model from which other parts of the world may benefit. The time is ripe for technology sharing.