7 May 2007

Concern over asbestos deposits in north of New Caledonia

7:04 am on 7 May 2007

A study in New Caledonia has found that tribes in the north who live in the middle of asbestos rock deposits are endangering their health, and that cancer rates in the archipelago are unusually high.

Mariann Houchot, from the University of New Caledonia, studied several tribes from the Hienghene valley in the north of New Caledonia island as part of a global survey to identify areas where asbestos is concentrated.

She says photographs show children playing in the dust, close to bulldozers clearing the rock and releasing large numbers of fibres into the air.

According to the Pasteur Institute, the number of mesotheliomas -- a cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibres -- is 30 times higher in New Caledonia than in France, while the rate of lung cancer is also significantly higher.