Despite irrefutable scientific evidence calling out the dangers of asbestos, 2 million tons of the carcinogen are exported every year to the developing world, where it’s often handled with little to no regulation.
For this episode of VICE Reports, correspondent Milène Larsson traveled to the world’s largest asbestos mine in the eponymous town of Asbest, Russia, to meet workers whose livelihoods revolve entirely around the dangerous mineral. Surprisingly, the risks associated with asbestos mining didn’t seem to worry the inhabitants; in fact, asbestos is the city’s pride, celebrated with monuments, songs, and even its own museum.
Larsson then visits Libby, Montana, another mining town almost on the other side of the globe, where the effects of asbestos exposure are undeniable: 400 townspeople have died from asbestos-related diseases, and many more are slowly choking to death. Why is the deadly industry of mining and selling asbestos still alive and well?