Cancer has been a leading cause of death in Cuba for sometime now and worrying new figures suggest that it's on the rise.
When Hurricane Matthew swept through Guantanamo province in early October, news about how Cuban industries making building materials readying to help the victims, immediately appeared on TV screens.
One of the most repeated images broadcast by Cuban TV after a hurricane destroys houses and buildings in Cuba is that of factories manufacturing asbestos-cement roofing sheets, where hard-working workers prepare to make what will become the new roofs of some homes, industries and workplaces, whose original roofs were blown away by the hurricane. However, as their name points out, this roofing material contains asbestos. And asbestos causes cancer.
By means of a European Union (EU) directive, all of its Member States have had to ban the sale or use of any kind of asbestos since 2005, and in 2006, the EU launched a campaign with the bold motto: “Asbestos is deadly serious!”
Asbestos is known to cause diseases when it is inhaled. Its particles do not evaporate into air and they’re not hydrosoluble either, which means that they linger about for a long time, while they are carried far away by the wind and water, before settling. Asbestos fibers can’t move through soil either. Generally-speaking, they don’t break down and they remain for many years. Drinking water can contain asbestos, especially if water pipes are made out of fiber cement.
The link between exposure to asbestos and lung cancer has been known since 1935. Today, asbestos is the most well-known industrial material out of those that are linked to this type of cancer. And in 1991, the World Bank decided not to finance the manufacture or use of products containing asbestos. This subject shocked the world again in 2001, after the World Trade Center collapsed, when asbestos dust was released into the air.
The World Health Organization, international medical institutions and US regulatory authorities have drawn up a list of products that contain asbestos and cause cancer in humans, with a higher mortality rate. The use of asbestos has been banned in every first world country for decades now, although asbestos use continues in some underdeveloped countries. Spain banned it completely in 2001. The international ban on asbestos is governed by the Rotterdam Convention (in effect since 2004), signed by over 100 Member States, but not without controversy as some countries still produce asbestos.