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Written by Kim Milan

Recently we posted a report on the town of “Asbestos” in Quebec. 

This report told of a town where previously asbestos mining was the main economy of the town and the rest of the town relied heavily on contributions from the mine owners to include local schools, churches and even the local baseball team.  Thankfully the mine is now closed and the town is investing in re-developing itself as asbestos free.

Our previous story can be read here.

There are however other places in the world where asbestos mining is still in operation and it continues to form the main local economy.


One such place is the city of “Asbest” in Russia.

Asbest has a population 70,000 and a large percentage of the population work in the mine or in businesses owned by the mine operator.

This video shows that residents of Asbest have no fear of asbestos whatsoever.

The workers in the mine make comments such as, “once I have touched asbestos, if I wash my hands I will be ok”.

Others say they, “I am not scared of asbestos, why should I be, it is harmless”

Others even believe that, “if you are not scared of asbestos, then the body will heal itself”.

The video then shows mine workers going to and from the mine in just their jeans and jackets wearing no protective equipment whatsoever, not even basic face masks.

There is also has an asbestos museum and many people flock to the city to visit the tourist attraction.

People pose in front of the mine on large viewing platform and some people have bizarrely even chosen to get married there.

So why are the Asbest mine workers and other Russians so care free regarding the dangers of asbestos?

The hidden danger

The answer may well be in the fact that they are told by government officials, oncologists and the mine owners that asbestos is a non-harmful product.

Russian statistics

Russia now purposely rarely distinguishes between asbestos related cancers and non-asbestos related cancers. This results statistically in Russia having an extremely low asbestos related lung cancer mortality rate. This also fuels the mine owner’s claims that asbestos is a non-harmful product.

Russian oncologists

Dr Sergey Berezin, a lead oncologist at the Yekatarinburg Oncology Centre admits that lung cancer amongst men is the highest cancer incidence in Russia, but states that he does not get more patients from Asbest than anywhere else.

Dr Berezin goes on to boast that he has conducted two medical residencies in Asbest and that he actually liked being there. He goes on to call the air, “quite satisfying”.

In the video Dr Berezin then proudly takes a piece of asbestos from his book shelf to show the reporter and tells her all about his asbestos roof on his summer house sauna which he has had for over 30 years.

Russian Research Institute of Occupational Health

Dr Evgeny Kovalevskiy is the Head Researcher at the Research Institute of Occupational Health.

Dr Kovalevskiy is asked whether his research results, which stem from 2009, show that asbestos is dangerous. Dr Kovalevskiy replies to state that he has no clear answer as yet as research takes years to compile. The report however seems very doubtful of Dr Kovalevskiy’s answer as it appears he is simply avoiding the questions.

Dr Kovalevskiy’s research is now being called in to question by many other lead researchers in the world and there have been calls for the World Health Organisation to end all relationships with Dr Kovalevskiy. Dr Arthur Frank has even stated that Dr Kovalevskiy’s research “constitutes scientific misconduct” over ethical questions surrounding his advice to the Russian Asbestos Industry.

The Russian economy

Russia’s economy relies on asbestos mining and asbestos exports. Many countries in the world still use asbestos and therefore pay high prices to Countries that are still willing to mine the product.

The impact on the Russian economy probably goes a long way to explaining why Russia’s oncologists and research centres refuse to acknowledge that asbestos is dangerous and also towards explaining why asbestos related cancers are not distinguished statistically.

Boyes Turner believe that a human life can never be quantified in financial terms and that Russia should close all of its asbestos mines immediately and look to regenerate the town in the same way officials did in the town of Asbestos in Quebec.