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More on Booker’s bogus claims about asbestos

with 2 comments

Alongside his more grandiose claims about the “magic mineral” (which I highlight in detail in “Don’t Get Fooled Again”), Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker has repeatedly alleged – echoing John Bridle – that white asbestos (chrysotile) cement is safe because the toxic fibres cannot physically be released from the cement in a “respirable” form.

This claim was examined in detail in a lab investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, in November 2007. The HSL found that:

As would be expected in a sample of asbestos cement most of the chrysotile fibres were encapsulated in the cement matrix, often as quite large fibre bundles which are clearly visible to the eye.

When the cement is broken or crushed the chrysotile fibres are released from the cement. The fibres released were examined by analytical transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to determine whether they had been altered and were no longer identifiable as chrysotile asbestos….

The analysis carried out showed that the asbestos cement contained fibres of chrysotile asbestos and released chrysotile asbestos fibres to air when sufficiently disturbed…

Claims being made in Internet articles and in some sections of the newspaper industry are not supported by this investigation.

Epidemiology has shown that chrysotile is a human carcinogen. Animal experiments have shown no evidence that the chrysotile asbestos extracted from the weathered surface of A/C products is less carcinogenic than UICC standard chrysotile asbestos…

See also: “Booker’s 38 bogus claims promoting white asbestos”, and “Bridle unbuttoned”.

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2 Responses

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  1. White asbestos or chrisotile asbestos is listed as a class 1 carcinogen, but so are leather, alcohol, sawdust, coins amongst many others.
    Lets have a little perspective please, rather than emotional irrationality!


    January 11, 2009 at 5:24 pm

  2. I’m all for perspective, Paul, and you can put me down for the “bloggers against emotional irrationality” campaign any time you like… But the fact that wood dust is also believed to be carcinogenic does not mean that chrysotile is safe – it doesn’t even mean that it’s as safe as wood dust. Two carcinogenic substances may have significantly different levels of risk associated with them. The information I’ve seen – including research papers that Booker has repeatedly misquoted and misrepresented, suggests that chrysotile presents a significant risk, and that we shouldn’t be sprinkling it around the place willy-nilly…

    The science is clearly fairly complex on this issue, and I’m sure there’s room for debate and discussion around how the various bits of research should be interpreted. I’m all for honest debate and discussion – but telling lies about what scientists have said, and dishonestly misrepresenting their research, is, in my view, a somewhat different issue. (see also: and )

    What really interests me about this topic is the way that Booker has systematically made false claims (see: about what the scientists are actually saying, and repeatedly parroted the asbestos industry’s misleading claims (see: I’m sure some people would say that journalists have a right to tell lies and make false claims if they want to, but it’s my view that if a columnist on a national newspaper is misleading the public (knowingly or otherwise), then the public deserves to know about it… That was why I decided to include the case in “Don’t Get Fooled Again”, and why I’ve focused on it so much on this blog.

    See also:




    The Telegraph now routinely refuses to publish letters from genuine scientists correctly Booker’s false claims, but then perhaps that’s not so surprising…

    Richard Wilson

    January 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm

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