Kingston, Jamaica - As cases of asbestos-related diseases continue to rise in Jamaica, experts in the field of asbestos management predict that – before long – both government agencies and Jamaican companies will be hit with related lawsuits, states an article in the Jamaica Observer.
According to statistics from the Registrar General’s Department, 20 Jamaicans died of asbestos-linked illnesses between the years 2006 and 2011. Specifically, 12 of those individuals died after being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer and the other 8 developed pneumoconiosis, which is also associated with inhaling asbestos (and other) mineral fibers.
In Jamaica, the presence of asbestos in the workplace has recently been the focus of concern throughout the country. The article sites a recent work stoppage in two fire stations where firefighters complained that sections of their buildings contained asbestos that was in a hazardous state.
Similarly, at the Carib Cement Company in the capital city of Kingston, workers went on strike last month when they were informed that several buildings in the complex were constructed using asbestos materials. The employees at Carib have asked that the asbestos be removed from the structures and have indicated that they are unhappy with what is being done to ensure their safety, even though the company has scheduled a review of the extent of the asbestos contamination and its subsequent removal.
The general secretary of the National Workers Union, Granville Valentine, has spoken out publicly about the situation at Carib. He insists that the asbestos be removed “in short order” and that the results of air quality tests performed since the strike be made public. He believes company owners are making light of the situation.
According to Professor Ishenkumba Kahwa, Dean of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Science at the University of the West Indies, Jamaicans are no longer content just sitting back and accepting what appears to be negligence by employers who express little or no concern about their health. He believes that the age of asbestos-related lawsuits is just around the corner in Jamaica and also agrees that plans to remove asbestos from factories and other locations throughout the country must commence before the material begins to deteriorate, resulting in widespread asbestos exposure.