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Double standards: the multinational asbestos industry and asbestos-related disease in South Africa

Tweedale, Geoffrey and McCulloch, Jock (2005) Double standards: the multinational asbestos industry and asbestos-related disease in South Africa. ISSN 0020-7314

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Abstract

This study documents and contrasts the development of knowledge about asbestos-related disease (ARD) in South Africa and the UK. It also contributes to the globalization debate by exploring corporate decision-making in a multinational industry. Between the 1930s and 1960s, the leading UK asbestos companies developed a sophisticated knowledge of ARD, though in South Africa, where the leading companies such as Turner & Newall and Cape Asbestos owned mines, there was little attempt to apply this knowledge. Asbestos mines (and their environments) in South Africa were uniquely dusty and ARD was rife. Social and political factors in South Africa, especially apartheid, allowed these companies to apply double standards, even after 1960 when the much more serious hazard of mesothelioma was identified. This shows the need for greater regulation of multinationals. Because of the lack of such regulation in the early 1960s, an opportunity was lost to prevent the current high morbidity and mortality of ARD both in South Africa and worldwide.

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