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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Apr 2, 2017

On March 30, 2017, Zimbabwe’s Deputy labour minister Tapiwa Matangaidze lied about the asbestos hazard at a Harare meeting claiming that use of asbestos produced at the Shabanie and Mashava mines was safe. IndustriALL Global Union’s Atle Hoie, also at the meeting, told journalists that the claims were “lies” saying: “the world called for the ban on asbestos after realizing it is the worst killer in the planet. If a country produces asbestos, it is responsible for the people dying.” The meeting was held in the run up to a pivotal meeting of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention where asbestos remains a hot issue topic. See: Minister lied about asbestos, says IndustriALL Global Union.

Apr 1, 2017

On the same day this week that a landmark asbestos victory was achieved by a victim’s family in Belgium, the government announced controversial changes to the operation of the national Asbestos Fund. Since it was established a decade ago, the Fund, co-financed by the state and employers, has built up a surplus. Instead of using this to compensate ineligible claimants – such as people suffering from asbestos-related lung cancer – or finance medical research, future contributions will be frozen until there is a zero surplus. See: Fonds amiante: un financement au rabais (OPINION) [Asbestos Fund: Discount Financing (OPINION)].

Mar 27, 2017

Residents of the Russian town of Asbestos – home to a chrysotile (white) asbestos mine “nearly half the size of Manhattan” – are up in arms about plans by the National Antimony Company to build a factory processing antimony in the town. Politicians addressing a rally last week expressed concerns about the “very harmful” impact possible emissions from the plant could have on the health of local people. A petition circulated at the rally collected hundreds of signatures. Plans to build the plant in Degtyarsk were abandoned after protests. See: Тысячи граждан протестовали против нового завода Ротенберга — Асбест [Thousands of citizens protested against the new Rothenberg plant – Asbestos].

Mar 27, 2017

At a conference last week in Quebec’s former asbestos heartland, Thetford Mines (TM) officials said they felt abandoned by the Quebec government in the aftermath of its withdrawal of support for the asbestos industry. As a result of its decision, the province’s asbestos industry became unsustainable. Despite promises of millions of dollars to help affected communities diversify their economies, according to Mayor Marc-Alexandre Brousseau: “Asbestos (town) has received 50 million to face the same impacts as us. We did not have anything.” See: Amiante: les élus de Thetford Mines se sentent abandonnés [Asbestos: The elected representatives of Thetford Mines feel abandoned].

Mar 27, 2017

Referencing outrage voiced at last week’s meeting of the Australian Labour Party, the Health Minister of the Northern Territories (NT) Natasha Fyles commented: “The Northern Territory Government takes the asbestos issues seriously and will consider all of the concerns raised at this weekend's Labor conference.” Months after media reports exposed the scandal relating to asbestos contamination of housing in Tennant Creek, the lives of residents and young children were still “being put at risk” according to trade unionist Andrew Ramsay, Vice President of an asbestos victims’ support group. See: Asbestos in NT to become responsibility of Territory Government after ALP pass motion.

Mar 24, 2017

A Spanish translation of an Italian book entitled: “Il grande processo” [The Great Trial] by Rosalba Altopiedi and Sara Panelli has been updated and published online this week. The authors report and analyse legal actions in Italy against Swiss asbestos magnate Stephan Schmidheiny which included criminal as well as civil proceedings for alleged crimes relating to asbestos deaths of thousands of workers and residents in Eternit towns. See: El Gran Proceso de Turín (2009-2014) contra el magnate Stephan Schmidheiny, propietario de Eternit Italia, el negocio del Amianto [The Great Trial of Turin (2009-2014) against the magnate Stephan Schmidheiny, owner of Eternit Italia, the asbestos giant].

Mar 24, 2017

Quebec’s Commission on Occupational Standards, Equity, Health and Safety is refusing compensation to many workers dying from asbestos-related diseases according to a documentary broadcast on March 23 entitled: Malades de l’amiante… et laissés pour compte [Workers with asbestos diseases .. abandoned], by Radio-Canada’s award-winning TV program, Enquête. The program detailed numerous examples of legitimate claims being obstructed by negligent employers, including public authorities, intent on minimizing future liabilities. See: Quebec: Asbestos injustice against workers continues.

Mar 24, 2017

On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, Bob Pointer, Chair of the Cumbria Asbestos Related Disease Support Group, urged Barrow Borough Council to show its support for services provided to asbestos victims in Barrow and throughout England by staff at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) base in Phoenix House (PH), Barrow – scheduled to be shut down as a result of government cutbacks – during a speech he made to a council meeting. Pointer asked that the council write to the Secretary of State to reinforce the importance of the work done by those at PH. The leader of the council and a number of councillors are supportive of calls to safeguard the expertise of PH staff. See: Asbestos campaigner makes plea for Barrow service.

Mar 23, 2017

This online article highlights the deadly legacy of asbestos use and processing in the Madhya Pradesh industrial town of Kymore, in central India. Citing details from a new report by international experts, the authors state that: “Kymore seems to be built of asbestos. It is incorporated in school, playgrounds, the corrugated iron roofs of the houses of the factory workers. Many of these buildings are in bad shape and crumble. Moreover, the asbestos waste was dumped for years on meadows around the [asbestos] factory and unsafe landfill… during the period of the Belgian Etex, which was later turned into Eternit Everest.” See: Belgian report alleges MNC Etex responsible for asbestos pollution in Madhya Pradesh town Kymore.

Mar 23, 2017

On March 16, 2017, Germany’s Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs published recommendations under the accident insurance scheme to recognize asbestos-related ovarian cancer as an occupational disease under certain circumstances: the ovarian carcinoma must be associated with asbestosis or a disease of the pleura caused by asbestos and the claimant must be able to demonstrate an occupational asbestos fiber dose of at least 25 fiber years. See: Eierstockkrebs durch Asbest - Anerkennung “wie eine Berufskrankheit” möglich [Ovarian cancer from asbestos exposure recognized as an occupational disease].

Mar 23, 2017

On the agenda of a seminar in Hong Kong on March 20, 2017 were issues relating to environmental exposures of people living in asbestos-contaminated housing as well as occupational exposures to at-risk workers such as people in the construction sector. Of particular interest to many of the delegates was information presented by the Secretary General of the Pneumoconiosis Compensation Fund Board which administers the Pneumoconiosis and Mesothelioma (Compensation) Ordinance of Hong Kong. The Fund has, he said, compensated thousands of individuals including both employees and non-employees. The import, transhipment, supply and use of asbestos was banned in Hong Kong as of April 4, 2014.

Mar 22, 2017

In a decisive verdict handed down yesterday by a court in Rio de Janeiro, the Eternit company – Brazil’s biggest asbestos manufacturer – was ordered to eliminate asbestos use within the next 18 months. The decision is a result of proceedings by the Public Ministry of Labor which had filed a civil action over hazardous workplace exposures to asbestos at Eternit’s Guadalupe, Rio de Janerio plant. Not only did the court order Eternit to transition to asbestos-free technology, but it also specified that exposure levels be kept to the legal limit and that current and former employees be provided with free medical examinations. See: Eternit do Rio de Janeiro condenada a substituir o Amianto em 18 meses [Eternit in Rio de Janeiro condemned to replace asbestos in 18 months].

Mar 22, 2017

A letter by Jagdish Patel, National Coordinator of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India, addressed to Anil Madhav Dave, India’s Minister of Environment and Forests, has been uploaded to the internet. In this document Mr. Patel reiterates requests that “the Government, as a party to the Rotterdam Convention, … support the amendment to the Rotterdam Convention that a group of twelve African countries have submitted to the Secretariat and that will be discussed at the COP 8.” This letter is signed by groups representing Indian workers, health activists and campaigners. See: Support amendment to Rotterdam Convention for listing of chrysotile asbestos at COP 8.

Mar 22, 2017

On March 20, 2017 a new formula came into effect as a result of amendments to current legislation which lowered the discount rate from 2.5% to minus 0.75%. One of the results of the change made by the Ministry of Justice will be the increase of compensation payments to personal injury claimants including asbestos victims. There is no certainty that this change will be secure from attack by the insurance industry and negligent employers; the Government is consulting on this issue with vested interests such as insurers who are, no doubt, hoping the discount rate will be increased. See: New discount rate for personal injury claims announced.

Mar 21, 2017

A Conduct Adjustment Agreement has been signed by the Public Labor Ministry in Rio de Janeiro with the construction materials company Casalite, based in the city of Duque de Caxias in the state of Rio de Janeiro, to cease using asbestos for the production of roofing tiles and gutters. This agreement is part of a Brazilian program – National Asbestos Banishment Program of the Public Labor Ministry – aimed at eliminating the use of asbestos in Brazil. See: MPT-RJ firma acordo com empresa para substituir o amianto de seus processos de produção [MPT-RJ signs agreement with company to replace asbestos from its production processes].

Mar 20, 2017

According to Giorgio Demezzi, a former Mayor of Casale Monferrato, to date more than €80m has been allocated by the Italian government for asbestos remediation of the town over the last 20 years. Unfortunately, disputes are ongoing over the administrative processing and bureaucratic dispensation of remediation funds by city hall personnel. The municipality aims to make Casale Monferrato asbestos free by 2020. To that end, work is proceeding, says the current Mayor, at new construction sites. See: I conti dell’amianto in 20 anni: ecco le bonifiche. Finora trasferiti dallo Stato 80 milioni [20 years of asbestos land reclamation has, till now, cost the state 80 million].

Mar 30, 2017

A historic victory was achieved on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 when the Brussels Court of Appeal upheld a ruling condemning the Belgian asbestos multinational Eternit for environmental asbestos exposure which killed Françoise Vannoorbeek-Jonckheere in 2000. In a 15-page judgment, the three judge panel concluded that Eternit had known asbestos was a carcinogenic substance since the 1970s but had failed to protect workers or local people from hazardous exposures as a result of which Françoise, who lived near the company’s factory in Kapelle-op-den-Bos for decades, contracted the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Eternit asbestos victims around the world will be heartened and inspired by this news. [Read full article]

Mar 20, 2017

In a few weeks, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention (RC) on the Prior Informed Consent Procedures for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade will meet for the eighth time. Pivotal to the success of the meeting and, indeed to the long-term viability of this multinational Convention, will be the decision taken regarding the inclusion of chrysotile (white) asbestos on a list of substances subject to mandatory trade regulations. In light of the intransigence of asbestos lobbyists and the delegations which support them at the RC, a proposal by the African Group of Nations may be the last hope for the Convention’s survival. [Read full article]

Feb 19, 2017

An analysis has been uploaded of a proposed trade deal between India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) which highlights the injustice and deadly consequences of allowing untaxed imports to India of asbestos, an acknowledged human carcinogen, from Russia and Kazakhstan in return for duty-free Indian exports of gherkins, cucumbers and other non carcinogenic produce to the EAEU. The 259-page report on which the contentious treaty is based is also uploaded. It is of relevance to note that while the report has been circulated this month (February 2017) to selected stakeholders, ban asbestos activists in India did not receive copies of this document from government sources. [Read full article]

Feb 7, 2017

News released last week by organizations nearly 5,000 miles apart confirm the existence and scale of an unfolding disaster in shipbreaking on tidal beaches in South Asia which accounted last year (2016) for 87% of all tonnage dismantled. Research by the Brussels-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform and the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation revealed multiple failures by the shipping industry to safely manage the disposal of end-of-life vessels and the deadly impact of hazardous working practices on the lives of shipbreaking workers. Conditions in Bangladesh’s yards are “known to be the worst;” in 2016, 22 workers died with a further 29 suffering serious injuries. [Read full article]

Feb 1, 2017

A presentation made in Japan at the Tokyo Institute of Technology on January 29 delineated current asbestos consumption and production trends around the world, using graphics, charts and maps to underscore areas at most risk from increasing usage. Efforts and progress made in 2016 and 2017 by grassroots campaigners in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe were highlighted; the important work of asbestos victims’ groups was recognized. Some examples of the fightback by asbestos vested interests were discussed including a 2016 revelation of an asbestos espionage operation run by a UK intelligence agency based in London. [Read full article]

Jan 16, 2017

Calculations undertaken for this article suggest that the global trade in deadly asbestos is still worth billions of dollars. Industry stakeholders in producing and consuming nations remain determined to continue business as usual despite the medical and scientific consensus that the best way to end the global epidemic of asbestos diseases is to stop the use of asbestos. The asbestos industry playbook includes a number of well-honed tactics, some of which are illegal and most amoral and unjust. This text documents how corporate wealth has been weaponized and ban asbestos campaigners have been targeted in the pursuit of ever more profits for this industry of mass destruction. [Read full article]

Dec 15, 2016

Civil society groups from around the world have warmly welcomed the news that the Canadian government is to outlaw the use of asbestos by 2018. The fact that Canada, one-time leader in the production of chrysotile asbestos, has taken this step is the latest victory for the global campaign to ban asbestos. This decisive action by the Canadian government is a harbinger of things to come; in the 21st century, the time is past when a dangerous and discredited technology can be allowed to endanger the lives of innocent populations. In a press release issued today calls are made for justice for the injured and definitive action to eradicate the danger posed by asbestos products within national infrastructures. [Read full article]

Dec 9, 2016

For some years, Australian campaigners have designated November as Asbestos Awareness month. This year was no exception with a slew of formal events, outreach initiatives, public meetings and information sessions held throughout the country by asbestos victims’ support groups, campaigning bodies, academics, trade unionists and others. Activities organized by the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) during November are discussed in this article including the Society’s 21st ecumenical service of remembrance on November 25. The work and motivation of the ADSA is contrasted with that of asbestos industry stakeholders who held a large gathering of vested interests in Moscow on November 14. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2016

Earlier this month (October 2016), a series of events took place in the Brazilian city of Campinas during which medical, legal, social, judicial and environmental challenges posed by the country’s continuing use of chrysotile (white) asbestos were examined by Brazilian and international experts. The fact that these events were paid for by court-awarded penalties against two asbestos manufacturing companies made the medical workshop (October 5), two-day conference: Asbestos: A Socio-Legal Approach (October 6-7) and the First National Meeting of Asbestos Victims and their Families (October 8) truly historic. [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2016

A coalition of Indian and international groups representing asbestos victims, campaigners, environmentalists and health and safety activists from Asia and Europe have today uploaded a devastating report highlighting the toxic environmental legacy left by European asbestos multinationals in rural India. “The dumping of asbestos waste” by Turner & Newall and Etex was, said Barrister Krishnendu Mukherjee, “done in the full knowledge that it would cause serious health problems to the local population. Such behaviour towards mainly poor people, without real access to legal remedies, can only be described as a corporate crime.” [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2016

The toxic legacy left in rural India by European asbestos companies including Britain’s Turner & Newall Ltd. and Belgium’s Etex continues to endanger the lives of thousands of citizens in towns such as Kymore in the state of Madhya Pradesh according to a report uploaded today by civil society groups in India and abroad. Evidence collected by a team of Canadian technical experts documented nearly 600,000 square metres of toxic waste, which would cost up to $88m to make safe. The waste, which is composed of up to 70% asbestos fibers, poses a known public health hazard about which nothing has been done by the polluting enterprises which created it. [Read full article]

Sep 19, 2016

On September 10, 2016, the world came to Casale Monferrato, a small Piemonte town which has become a symbol of the global struggle against asbestos tyranny. On a day of celebration and remembrance, the community marked a new future with the inauguration of the EterNOT park built on the former site of the notorious Eternit asbestos factory. Separated by distances great and small, campaigners for asbestos justice sent tributes to show their solidarity with their Italian allies. Opening the proceedings, Mayor Concetta Palazzetti referenced the global solidarity on display at the front of the chamber and named the associations from Latin America, Asia, Australia and Europe which had sent messages of support. [Read full article]

Sep 10, 2016

Today, the community of Casale Monferrato, for decades the symbol of the struggle for asbestos justice, will mark a landmark event with the dedication of a park built on the infamous site of the Eternit asbestos cement factory. The Eternot Park is not only a memorial to the asbestos dead but also a symbol of a future which can be free of the deadly dust. Campaigning groups from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia have sent a statement – the English version of which is text of this article – with floral tributes expressing solidarity and support for the victims, the activists and the community. (Click here for Italian version.) [Read full article]

Aug 23, 2016

This article by Canadian ban asbestos campaigner and human rights activist Kathleen Ruff puts into context the news that consultations are ongoing regarding a change in Canada’s asbestos policy which could soon make the use, import and sale of asbestos-containing products illegal. According to an adviser to Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott, members of the Trudeau Government are working on drafting a new asbestos policy for Canada, which, it is expected, will, after more than a 100 years, end the country’s love affair with asbestos. Ruff hopes that measures to ban asbestos and protect Canadians from hazardous exposures will be announced when Parliament reconvenes in September 2016. [Read full article]

Aug 22, 2016

Although asbestos has been banned from ships since July 2002, it is still found in over 90% of ships. It is disturbing to learn, from this article by John Chillingworth, that asbestos has been found in over 80% of new ships, even though the shipbuilders have declared the ships to be asbestos free. Chillingworth’s company has found as much as 15% asbestos in materials that have been declared asbestos free in China. Shipyard declarations, which are accepted by the authorities, are often inaccurate as a result of which hazardous exposures continue to occur aboard vessels. Recommendations are made by the author as to how shipowners might take action to remedy this dangerous situation. [Read full article]

Aug 15, 2016

Responding to concerns raised by a coalition of civil society groups disturbed about the possibility of UK imports of asbestos-containing building materials from China, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has taken preliminary action to ascertain whether or not the products used and practises followed by Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd. are in compliance with national legislation. Welcoming the steps taken by the HSE, which are detailed in an email dated August 11, 2016, asbestos victims, trade unionists and campaigners have reiterated the need for the HSE to act decisively to ensure that British workers and members of the public are not exposed to illegal asbestos imports. [Read full article]

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Demonstration in Woluwe Park, Brussels, 2006

Under cloudy skies, members of Belgian and French Asbestos Victims' Associations from Dunkirk and Bourgogne marched side-by-side in the third annual demonstration organized by ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims. Erik Jonckheere, ABEVA's Co-chairman, condemned the government which still refuses to recognize the plight of the asbestos injured.

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Asbestos Trade Data (2014)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,100,000
   China400,000
   Brazil284,000
   Kazakhstan240,000
   India270
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   Russia608,000
   China507,000
   India379,000
   Brazil154,000
   Kazakhstan68,000