That’s the question posed by Jon Stewart’s Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi in his “Ored to Death” segment broadcast on May 12. Mandvi interviews G. Bernard Coulombe, the general manager of the proposed Jeffrey asbestos mine in Quebec, Canada, who reports the mine will produce 200 TONS annually of chrysotile fibers. In the segment, Mandvi really asks:
“does asbestos mean something different in French than it does in English?? Because in English it means it means a SLOW, HACKING DEATH.”
The fact that this five minute “news” segment appears on Comedy Central doesn’t take away from the seriousness that the government of Quebec is proposing to subsidize this mining operation, and its export of asbestos will result in hundreds of thousands of people (or more) being exposed to this deadly mineral.
Mandvi interviews Georges-AndrÃ© GagnÃ©, the director general of the town of Asbestos, Quebec, who says despite the bans on asbestos in some parts of the world,
“we’re telling you, you should use more asbestos.”
“Yes. …the way we fight back, by informing all the governments and trying to use the social networks, like Facebook and Twitter.”
“How many friends on Facebook does asbestos have?”
The Daily Show correspondent also interviews Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, the deputy editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The CMA has been an outspoken public-health voice against the economic interests who claim chrysotile asbestos is not dangerous. It has called on the Canadian government to stop the mining and export of asbestos.
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization’s Linda Reinstein also saw the Daily Show segment and called it segment “brilliant,” adding:
“Thank you, Aasif Mandvi. You are a hero to asbestos victims communities around the world!”
The segement ended with the Town of Asbestos’ Director GagnÃ© insisting that chrysotile asbestos is safe. He tells Mandvi,
“You drove in our city and you saw that nobody is sick here.”
The segment incorporates footage produced originally by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) for their 2010 documentary “Canada’s Ugly Secret.” CBC reporter Melissa Fung provided video of workers in Ahmdabad, Gujarat India tossing piles of chrysotile asbestos bare handed, wearing cotton bandanas over their mouths, and dripping with asbestos dust. You’ll have to watch for yourself to hear businessman G. Bernard Coulombe’s assertion about why it’s safe for Indian workers to be covered from head to toe in chrysotile fibers.