Also participating in this trip, I returned to Russia for the first time after 30 years, which bring me an opportunity to immerse myself in the beauty of Russian autumn and the land of world largest chrysotile mines. Located in the region are the towns filled with vitality where most of the buildings are contructed with chrysotile containing materials. During this time, I attended multiple meetings with Russian scientists and management agencies to find the answer for chrysotile issues.
Not far from Orenburg mine, one of the world largest chrysotile mines, are a blue lake and a beautiful forest. This is the place where most of Yasniy residents and mining workers visit and relex after a long working week. Dozens of tents are built around the lake for picnic with an unique Russian style sauna. Mr. Vacheslav Matusevich – the President of Labour Union of Orenburg Minerals invited everyone to come into the tent to enjoy the delicious Russian barbecue meat with beluga vodka.
The Russians always say some reasons to celebrate before raising glasses. I think about Matusevich, a 60 years old man with more than 37 years working at the chrysotile mine. He has three children and four grandchildren. He still plays ice horkey, football and other sports. This morning, when leading us during the visit to the mining site and manufacture area, he revealed that his offsprings would continue this work when he retired. The weather in this region is very extreme that it can be over 40 degree Celsius in the summer and less than -40 degrees in the winter. Most of the buildings in this town are constructed from chrysotile cement which keeps the house warm during the winter and cool in the summer. Even in the Cosmetras hotel where we are staying, the wall is lined with chrysotile board.
Mr. Andrey Holm, the General Director of Orenburg Minerals also attends the barbeque. He adds that Orenburg Minerals has worked with Vietnamese parters for more than 50 years and Vietnam was a large market. The experts have been regularly sent to Vietnam to share experieence and technology to protect workers’ health. The company also has a product development team to diversify the products. It has been 56 years since the company was founded, no workers or Yasniy residents have been dignosed with chrysotile related diseases. The company has collaborated with the Vietnam Ministry of Health because Vietnam has imported a large volume of chrysotile. In fact, Vietnam has not detected any cases of asbestos-related diseases. Therefore, the whole recently controvesy in this issue was simple an economic war when an expensive product wants to push cheaper one out of market.
It reminds me of the meeting with Ms. Silanteva Tatyana – the Mayor of Yasniy. She shared that many organizations had promoted that even inhaling a single chrysotile fiber could lead to lung diseases and cancers. However, many people had worked at the factory next to 1 billion tons of chrysotile for many years. They have been living there for decades and given birth. The birth rate of the city was the highest in Orenburg province; whereas, the rate of diseases was the lowest.
We are served by the waiter named Natasya with the eyes as blue as Russian autumn sky. She somehow reminds me of my memories in Russia 30 years ago. During the short study course in May 1988, I visited Tula, the hometown of Lev Tolstoy, the author of the famous War and Peace with the touching romance between of Natasya and Andray. I would never forget Lev Tolstoy’s tomb covered by green grass sit under the tall oaks in Yasnaya Palyana farm.
Also in that time, I visited a farm for a gathering with members of Youth Union. The party secretary was also named Natasya with the eyes as blue as Russian autumn sky. Our group went apple picking at the farm. On the vast field, the cottages and apple warehouses were all roofed by AC roof sheets which had been used in Russia for decades. People ate the fresh apples while listening to the Russian folks sung by Natasya.
In the meeting with the authorities of Orenburg and Yasniy, a delegate of Vietnam questions if the people are aware of the WHO recommendation, how is their reaction? Ms. Silanteva Tatyana, the Mayor of Yasniy, says that people read not only domestic researches but also the international ones. All people are aware of the recommendation but we trust our own studies. We believe that the safe mining and controlled use of chrysotile will not cause cancer.
For over a week of working with the Russian Institute of Occupational Health, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Health, I have realized that chrysotile is a major concern in Russia.
Professor. Rubtsova Nina Borisovna – the Head of Science Research, Institute of Occupational Health says that apart from amphibole which is identified worldwide as a carcinogen, chrysotile has been studies intensively by the Institute in the last 28 years. Working closely with many cancer research institutes and organizations, the Institute has not found any association between chrysotile and cancer. The existence of that association is supported by the Western countries. The Institute holds its own opinion based on its scientific studies.
Professor. Kovalevskiy Evgeniy Vilevich – The research expert of the Russian Institute of Occupational Health adds that the studies on chrysotile could be divided into two groups. The political related group claims that asbestos is dangerous and even inhaling a single fiber can lead to the death. The other group coming from research institutes those studies have shown similar results to those of the Russian Institute of Occupational Health. The studies of this group have indicated that most countries suffering from asbestos-related diseases due to their use of amphibole in the past, there have been no cases of asbestos-related diseases in countries with controlled use of chrysotile.
Ms. Koschenko Hatalia Alecxeevna – The Deputy Head of the Science, Technology Development and Heath Risks Management – says that the key issue of the controversy lay in the share commercial term of these groups of fibers. In fact, while amphibole fibers are very difficult to be disposed from the body, the chrysotile fibers are quickly disposed or dissolved in human lung. Therefore, it is crucial to distinguish two groups of fibers while studying on this issue. Currently, the Government of Russia allows the use of chrysotile after the Ministry of Health confirmed that chrysotile does not pose any risk on human health if its use is strictly controlled.
Mr. Le Hong Tinh – The Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Science, Technology and Environment states that the environment protection and public health have always been a top concern of the Government. Conferences and debates on chrysotile are worth for references. He requestes the delegates to report honestly what they had witnessed during the trip to help the policy-makers and communities have better understanding on chrysotile hence promulgate appropriate policies in current social-economic situation.