Put human lives ahead of asbestos profits, public health advocates tell APCO Worldwide

Tue, Oct 4, 2011



Powerful public relations company, APCO Worldwide, is being challenged to stop trying to crush a proposal to ban asbestos, put forward by government health experts in Malaysia.

“APCO was hired by the tobacco industry to undermine efforts by the US government to protect the public from cancer caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. Now APCO is seeking to undermine an initiative to protect people in Malaysia from cancer caused by asbestos,” said Kelle Louaillier, president of Corporate Accountability International. “This is irresponsible corporate behaviour and must stop.”

“APCO refuses to say who has hired them to try to kill the proposed ban on asbestos,” said Kathleen Ruff, who has been given a prestigious National Public Health Hero award by the Canadian Public Health Association for her work in opposing the asbestos industry. “APCO states in its mission statement that it will act with transparency. Where is the transparency in APCO’s covert lobbying to destroy this public health initiative?”

APCO organised meetings in Malaysia to lobby to exclude chrysotile asbestos from the ban. Chrysotile asbestos represents 100% of the global asbestos trade. In the past one hundred years, 95% of all asbestos sold was chrysotile asbestos. The World Health Organization and medical organizations around the world have said that use of chrysotile asbestos must stop in order to save lives.

“We have discovered that APCO’s client is the International Chrysotile Association,” said Barry Castleman, a world expert on the asbestos issue. “It is scandalous that these international influence peddlers representing foreign asbestos companies are blocking public health decisions in Malaysia.”

“We call on APCO to disclose its client, stop pushing the deadly propaganda of the asbestos industry and support the proposed ban,” said Dr Fernand Turcotte, Professor Emeritus of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Quebec. “The world has seen enough asbestos deaths.”

“It is imperative that Malaysia joins the global campaign to ban the use of all types of asbestos and not bow to pressure by groups that place financial gains before public health,” said SM Mohamed Idris, President of the Consumers Association of Penang.

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