Asbestos industry continues to pay powerful lobby organisation to defeat proposed ban on asbestos in Malaysia

Sat, Aug 29, 2015


Kathleen Ruff,

In 2011, the Malaysian government’s Department of Occupational Safety & Health proposed that import of asbestos should be banned so as to protect public health. In an effort to defeat the proposed ban, the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) hired one of the world’s most powerful public relations companies, APCO Worldwide, to carry out political lobbying in Malaysia. APCO is notorious for the work it carried out on behalf of the tobacco industry.

The ICA is still today secretly funding APCO to carry out activities in Malaysia to block the proposed ban.

In February 2015, Robert Nolan, who has a PhD in chemistry, made a Power Point presentation in Malaysia, entitled Scientific Update on Safe Use of Asbestos. The International Chrysotile Association (ICA) posted his presentation on its website. No information was provided by the ICA as to whom Nolan made his presentation. It seems to have been made behind closed doors.

In an August 27, 2015 court deposition, Nolan states that he was funded by the Chrysotile Institute to make the February 2015 presentation in Malaysia. The Chrysotile Institute was, however, dissolved on March 1, 2013. Nolan was therefore, it seems, funded by the ICA, which is still based in Quebec and has, in the past, been virtually indistinguishable from the Chrysotile Institute, sharing the same address in Montreal and some of the same board members.

In addition to the February presentation, Nolan stated that in May 2015 he had a conversation with the Deputy Minister for Health of Malaysia. It seems that, funded by the ICA, Nolan has been quite active behind closed doors to promote continued use of chrysotile asbestos in Malaysia.

Working secretly behind closed doors: undermining democracy and public health

The Consumers Association of Penang has been working for many years to achieve a ban on asbestos in Malaysia. It has been doing so openly and democratically.

The asbestos industry has been doing the opposite. It has been secretly funding political lobbying behind closed doors to ensure continuance of its profitable and deadly trade.

In a letter sent on September 29, 2011, the president of the Consumers Association of Penang and others called on APCO Worldwide to disassociate itself from the discredited and deadly propaganda of the asbestos industry and to publicly reveal who was paying it to defeat the ban.

APCO refused to disclose who its client was, but it was learned that the ICA was the client that was paying APCO to carry out this campaign to defeat the proposed ban.

Four years after the asbestos ban was proposed by Malaysia’s Department of Occupational Safety & Health, the ICA continues to pay a powerful organisation, APCO Worldwide, to carry out lobbying activities to sabotage the proposed ban.

It seems that most of the funding the ICA receives comes from the Russian asbestos mines and possibly the Russian government. Over two thirds of the asbestos exported in the world in 2014 was exported by Russia.

The Russian asbestos mines and the Russian government are determined to keep profiting from exporting asbestos, regardless of how many lives are destroyed in the process. Any time any country seeks to ban asbestos, the ICA and asbestos exporting countries like Russia intervene to defeat public health protection and to defeat democracy.

Nolan has a consulting company with the imposing name, International Environmental Research Foundation, Inc. Its board of directors consists of Nolan, Charles W. Axten, Ph.D. and J. Beresford Packham.

In 2008, Nolan testified at legislative hearings in the United States to oppose a ban on asbestos. He was a speaker at the conference held in Kiev in November 2012, which was organised by the asbestos industry to defeat the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance at the upcoming 2013 Rotterdam Convention conference. Like the other scientists who are paid by the asbestos industry, Nolan supports continued use of chrysotile asbestos.

Nolan will continue testifying in the US court case next week.


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