Cancer-heavy NCaledonia launches asbestos study

16th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

NOUMEA, Feb 16, 2007 (AFP) - A major investigation is underway in New Caledonia to find out where asbestos, blamed for an unusually high rate of lung cancer on the French Pacific island territory, occurs in the environment.

NOUMEA, Feb 16, 2007 (AFP) - A major investigation is underway in New Caledonia to find out where asbestos, blamed for an unusually high rate of lung cancer on the French Pacific island territory, occurs in the environment.

The study was launched on the recommendation of a French parliamentary committee investigating the effects of asbestos exposure.

It aims to resolve the "uncertainty" of the situation in New Caledonia, where a study by France's main biomedical research agency Inserm found rates of a particular form of lung cancer were 10 times higher than in France.

"We are doing what we can, but we know that zero risk will be hard to achieve given the country's geological history," said Caroline Fuentes, head of environmental health at the Health and Social Affairs Department.

Asbestos occurs naturally in the island's nickel mines. But the head of the Association for the Defence of Asbestos Victims (ADEVA) in New Caledonia has accused the mining industry of operating a "code of silence" on the issue.

In its 1994 study, Inserm linked New Caledonia's high rate of cancer of the pleura -- the lining of the lung -- with the use of tremolite, a naturally occurring asbestos, in the construction of traditional Melanesian huts.

Since then, the huts have been destroyed, but the problem persists.

Scientists are studying the geology and cartography of the affected areas, carrying out epidemiological research and checking air samples.

The results will be validated by a team from France.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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