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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Mar 25, 2019

An eagerly awaited ruling by the Court of Cassation regarding the extension of eligibility to compensation (currently valued at between €4,000 and €15,000; US$~4500-$17,000) for anxiety caused by asbestos exposures to all asbestos-exposed workers in France which was scheduled to be handed down on March 22 has been postponed until April 5. Currently, only someone who had been employed in specific companies listed on an official decree has the right to bring such a claim. See: «Travailleurs de l'amiante»: la décision de la Cour de cassation reportée au 5 avril [“Asbestos workers”: the decision of the Court of Cassation postponed to April 5].

Mar 25, 2019

A Labor Court in Bahia, Brazil issued a claimant’s verdict to the family of a worker who had been negligently exposed to asbestos at a thermal insulation factory belonging to the Calorisol company. The deceased had been employed from 1974 to 1976, during which time she handled asbestos-containing products on a daily basis. She was diagnosed in 2014 with mesothelioma and died in 2015, aged 58. The total sum awarded to her surviving family exceeded one million reais (~US$256,175). See: Justiça do Trabalho da Bahia condena a CALORISOL pela morte de trabalhadora por mesotelioma - o câncer do Amianto [Labor Court of Bahia condemns CALORISOL for the asbestos cancer (mesothelioma) death of a worker].

Mar 25, 2019

The Milan Court of Appeals confirmed the guilt of two former managers of the Fibronit di Broni company in a case first heard by a court in Pavia. Michele Cardinale and Lorenzo Mo had been convicted of the manslaughter of 27 Fibronit workers and residents who lived near the site of the company’s factory. The Court of Appeals reduced their prison sentences from 4 years to 3 years and eight months for Cardinale (74) and from 3 years and 4 months to three years for 70-year old Mo. See: Voghera, pene ridotte ai manager Fibronit [Voghera, penalties reduced for Fibronit managers].

Mar 25, 2019

Even though asbestos was banned in Egypt in 2005, cases of asbestos-related diseases are still being diagnosed and the presence of asbestos within the national infrastructure remains an ongoing risk to citizens. In the absence of mandatory asbestos inventories, the deterioration of older buildings creates hazardous conditions for residents as well as workers and building users. In addition, loopholes to the asbestos ban regulations mean that the import of some asbestos-containing products can continue. See: Asbestos Use in Egypt: a Growing Threat to Public Health?.

Mar 22, 2019

In the run-up to the 2019 meeting of the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention, the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) – the mouthpiece for global asbestos vested interests – has ratcheted up efforts to block UN action on asbestos. A 28-page document produced by the ICA for just this purpose – Rotterdam Convention COP-9 MEETING – 2019 – rehashes threadbare arguments, carefully crafted by scientists with links to the asbestos industry, and relaunches attacks on international agencies such as the World Health Organizational and the International Labor Organization, which believe that to protect human life asbestos should be banned. See: International asbestos lobby campaigns to undermine UN Convention and deny asbestos harm.

Mar 22, 2019

On March 20, 2019, the Flemish Parliament mandated that prior to the sale of buildings constructed before 2001, an asbestos inventory must be presented. It has been estimated that buildings and infrastructure in the Flemish Region still contain two million tonnes of asbestos, including many schools built in the 1970s and 1980s. The Flemish government has allocated 7.5 million euros for asbestos removal in schools. See: La Flandre instaure une obligation d’inventaire amiante pour les édifices d’avant 2001 [Flanders introduces an asbestos inventory requirement for pre-2001 buildings].

Mar 22, 2019

According to an interview just published, lawyers at the Ronda Collective, Barcelona have worked to obtain recognition and compensation for citizens injured by occupational, domestic and environmental exposures to asbestos for over 30 years. In collaboration with activists from the Association of the Handicapped and those affected by Asbestos (Region of Murcia), they progress efforts to raise awareness and educate the public about the asbestos hazard. As 2.6m tonnes of asbestos were used in Spain and water delivery systems in all municipalities employ asbestos pipes, there is considerable work to be done. See: Cartagena es una de las zonas con más trabajadores expuestos al amianto de España [Cartagena is one of the areas with the most workers exposed to asbestos in Spain].

Mar 21, 2019

Three hundred and fourteen students from schools in Kościelisko, Dzianisz and Witów took part in an art competition, the principal theme of which was “the impact of asbestos on health and the environment,” organized by the Kościelisko commune. The aim of the event was to raise asbestos awareness not only amongst children but also amongst their parents and grandparents. Awards were presented to 27 students. The Polish government has set 2032 as the deadline for asbestos decontamination of the national infrastructure. See: Dzieci pokazały jak niebezpieczny jest azbest [Children showed how dangerous asbestos is].

Mar 21, 2019

In a ruling handed down by the US Supreme Court on March 19, 2019, by a 6:3 majority the Court ruled that under maritime law manufacturers had a duty to warn about the dangers posed by asbestos subsequently added onto their products by third parties. The case was brought on behalf of Kenneth McAfee and John DeVries, two Navy veterans, who were exposed to asbestos on ships and developed cancer. As the decision, unfortunately, is limited to maritime law, to be covered an injured party must have been a sailor or employee of a maritime shipping company. See: US Supreme Court ruling: Air & Liquid Systems Corp. et al. v. Devries, individually and as administratrix of the estate of Devries, deceased, et al.

Mar 21, 2019

The infamous West Australian town of Wittenoom, formerly home to thousands of people working at the blue asbestos mine and mill situated there, will be shut down permanently under provisions of the Wittenoom Closure Bill 2019 which will enable compulsory acquisition of the remaining 17 privately owned lots by the government. Politicians have expressed the hope that a settlement can be reached to forestall evictions but one way or the other the time has finally come for Wittenoom. It has been estimated that three million tonnes of asbestos tailings remain in Wittenoom Gorge and throughout the surrounding area. See: State Government to close down Wittenoom.

Mar 21, 2019

Although all educational establishments in France are required to have asbestos technical files detailing where asbestos products are and what state they are in, 30% of primary and kindergarten schools have still not compiled the mandatory audits. Campaigners working to address the widespread contamination of French schools have highlighted the urgent need for these audits to prevent future endangerment of students and staff. In light of the continued failure of the authorities to take this matter seriously, activists have launched a citizens’ survey on asbestos in schools in collaboration with NGOs and asbestos victims’ groups. See: Amiante dans les écoles: lançons une enquête citoyenne! [Asbestos in schools: citizens’ survey!].

Mar 20, 2019

After traces of asbestos were found on samples taken of debris from the Morandi Bridge – which collapsed in Genoa in August 2018 killing 43 people – plans to use explosives to demolish the remaining structure have been abandoned. A request from trade unionists has asked the public prosecutor to investigate the presence of asbestos on the site. Concern has been raised by the fire brigade about the hazard posed by the asbestos to first responders in the aftermath of the bridge’s collapse last year. See: Ponte Morandi, anche dai vigili del fuoco un esposto sulla presenza di Amianto [Ponte Morandi, also from the fire brigade a statement on the presence of asbestos].

Mar 20, 2019

The second issue in a two part series about the global chlorine industry has been published that focuses on the situation in Asian countries. Only 5 of the 60 plants in the Phase 2 study used asbestos diaphragm technology along with PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) membrane cells to produce chlorine. One of them was in Saudi Arabia and the other four were in China, where asbestos diaphragms were the most common in chlor-alkali technology until the 2000s. An estimated 18% of the world’s chlor-alkali capacity is based on asbestos diaphragms with 67% of the world’s chlor-alkali production using asbestos diaphragms taking place in the US. See: Chlorine and Building Materials A Global Inventory of Production Technologies and Markets Phase 2: Asia • Including Worldwide Findings.

Mar 20, 2019

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has reported that dozens of refugees to Australia now living in the Fly Camp settlement on the island of Nauru are being exposed to large quantities of asbestos stored in open shipping containers. The ABC reported that refugees had been “using the asbestos to build sheds.” According to Iranian refugee Ellie Shakiba: “We haven't seen any trucks or anyone who is going to move it. [The Australian Government] knows about it, [a Brisbane construction firm] Canstruct knows about it, but nobody cares.” See: Nauru refugees exposed to asbestos after shipping containers dumped just metres away.

Mar 20, 2019

Last week, US Representative Debbie Dingell introduced a bill that would mandate makers of cosmetics marketed to children to provide evidence to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that they are asbestos free or include a written warning to parents about the potential risk. Representative Jan Schakowsky, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that Americans are unaware that personal care products are among the least-regulated items on the market and that the FDA lacks the authority to force the recall of toxic products. See: Kids cosmetics would carry toxin warning label under Dingell bill.

Mar 19, 2019

On March 15, 2019, it was reported that a craze for unusual photos has driven users of various social media platforms to visit the toxic Western Australian town of Wittenoom, the location of the defunct crocidolite (blue) asbestos mine which has been responsible for thousands of deaths amongst former townspeople as well as mine and mill workers. Photos of visitors posing in the town and nearby gorges show them walking on asbestos waste piles and breaking into mine shafts. Commenting on these activities, local politician Rob Paull “strongly” encouraged people not to go to Wittenoom. See: Fears Insta fame driving tourists to WA’s deadly cancer town.

Mar 25, 2019

According to a 2019 paper entitled Environmental asbestos exposure in childhood and risk of mesothelioma later in life: a long-term follow-up register-based cohort study people who went to one of four schools near an asbestos-cement factory in Aalborg, Denmark have a 7-fold increase in the risk of mesothelioma – the signature cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. This finding, which was supported by earlier research into the causation of mesothelioma amongst women in Aalborg, has been widely circulated throughout the country and has spurred calls for the government to compensate all those suffering from this disease. [Read full article]

Mar 18, 2019

A commentary on the “second major asbestos spying scandal of the 21st century” details the facts of an international effort by asbestos vested interests to infiltrate the ban asbestos network (ban) with a focus on attempts by a British operative commissioned by K2 Intelligence Ltd. to insinuate himself into the network. The covert operation – codenamed “Project Spring” – was conducted over a four-year period during which the spy visited multiple locations in the UK, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Canada and the US. This article first appeared in Issue 108 of the British Asbestos Newsletter (Autumn-Winter 2018-19). [Read full article]

Feb 4, 2019

Throughout Europe, the legacy of widespread asbestos use continues to manifest itself in cancer registries and coroners’ courts. While EU countries have adopted innovative and pro-active measures to address national asbestos legacies, the UK government’s entrenched policy of denial and delay continues to endanger the lives of workers as well as members of the public. Compared to the deadlines for asbestos removal in the Netherlands and Poland, the financial incentives to replace asbestos roofs in Italy and nationwide measures to monitor at-risk individuals in Germany, the UK policy of “safe management of asbestos in schools” is a manifestation of an ostrich mentality which continues to endanger children as well as staff. [Read full article]

Jan 15, 2019

Reacting to news that Eternit S.A. was phasing out asbestos use in Brazil but continuing to mine and export asbestos fiber, there has been a furore of outrage from groups at home and abroad who condemned this policy as a “national disgrace”. Ban asbestos activists in India and Indonesia denounced Eternit’s actions asking the company: “How many more people will you kill?” and stating: “Your hypocritical behaviour is the cause of a humanitarian disaster for Asian countries and we publicly condemn you for your actions.” On behalf of a global federation representing millions of construction workers, Fiona Murie said: “It is simply unacceptable for Eternit Brazil to dump its asbestos on industrializing countries…” [Read full article]

Jan 8, 2019

Permission to translate this October 2018 article by Taras Volya, of Ukraine’s Journalists Against Corruption, was obtained in November 2018 and translated by Mick Antoniw in December. The edited English language text highlights the economic and political pressures brought by foreign asbestos vested interests to continue sales of a class 1 carcinogen to Ukraine despite efforts by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health to ban asbestos, and names institutions and corporations in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan profiting from asbestos sales to Ukraine. Despite Ukraine’s war with Russia, the trade in asbestos persists with Russian and Kazakh asbestos sales to Ukraine valued at $7.2 million in 2016. [Read full article]

Dec 17, 2018

Concerns regarding the purchase by a UK company of an asbestos-laden passenger ship from Portugal were raised at a meeting of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group in the House of Commons on December 12, 2018. The Sub-Group was informed that a Portuguese cruise ship named MV Funchal containing “about 100 tons of asbestos in a friable state, namely composed of the fiber types chrysotile, amosite and tremolite” had been purchased at a December 5, 2018 auction in Lisbon by a UK-based hotel group which plans to berth the vessel in Central London where it will be used to provide hotel accommodation. [Read full article]

Dec 13, 2018

2018 has been an extraordinary year for the global ban asbestos campaign, with long-awaited prohibitions coming into force and others moving ahead swiftly. The progress achieved this year has almost surpassed expectations with many landmark developments and solid progress made in identifying asbestos victims, mobilizing at-risk workers, building medical capacity, supporting communities devastated by environmental contamination, facilitating access to medical treatment and compensation, engaging with medical researchers progressing new treatments for mesothelioma, collaborating on initiatives to raise asbestos awareness and exposing the dirty tricks used to forestall efforts to protect public and occupational health endangered by asbestos exposures. [Read full article]

Nov 22, 2018

The text of this paper formed the basis for a presentation made on November 15, 2018 at the First International Asbestos Conference [in Portugal] held in Lisbon. Having detailed annual asbestos trade data and exhibited a graphic showing national levels of global consumption and national asbestos bans, the speaker contrasted the legacies of asbestos use in the UK and India before highlighting the progress being made in Asian countries working to end asbestos use. A report disclosed by the speaker which had been issued by a Portuguese asbestos-cement lobbying association for a meeting of the Asbestos International Association in London 2001 was of obvious interest to Portuguese delegates. [Read full article]

Nov 1, 2018

On October 29, 2018, a bill prohibiting the sale or distribution of asbestos-containing products was unanimously adopted by the New Jersey Assembly. Sponsors of the bill condemned the federal rollback on asbestos protections and declared their determination to protect people in New Jersey from lethal exposures with the bill’s sponsor Assemblywoman Lisa Swain saying: “There is absolutely no reason why any New Jerseyans should be at risk of asbestos exposure… While the current Administration in Washington may be okay with rolling back environmental health standards that protect so many Americans, here in New Jersey we are not, and this bill ensures we will stay proactive in protecting our residents.” [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2018

On October 28, 2018, personnel from leading environmental NGOs joined with municipal and government representatives in Nepal to assess the current situation regarding the effectiveness of legislation banning the import and use of asbestos-containing goods. Although government data shows a dramatic reduction of asbestos imports, more needs to be done to protect people in Nepal from hazardous exposures both to new products but also to asbestos products incorporated within the national infrastructure. Of particular interest was the input from customs officers who are on the front line in preventing the import of more asbestos goods and from civil servants tasked with developing new protocols for the identification of toxic goods. [Read full article]

Oct 19, 2018

This Media Release by a number of labor federations and civil society associations has been uploaded to the IBAS website with the permission of its authors.
 
(Other responses to the sea change in Canadian federal policy on asbestos include a statement by President of the Canadian Labour Congress Hassan Yussuff [see: Canada’s unions applaud asbestos ban regulations]: “This is a critical step on the long road to banning asbestos, and will, without a doubt save lives for generations to come.”)
 
 
[Read full article]

Oct 17, 2018

Recent efforts by grassroots groups and medical associations to address Indonesia’s asbestos challenges are discussed in this article with a focus on a medical seminar held in Jakarta on October 13, 2018 to raise awareness of asbestos-related diseases. During that session, medical experts from Indonesia and Korea reviewed the categories and causes of asbestos-related diseases and discussed state-of-the-art protocols for making diagnoses of these diseases. Concluding the seminar, Professor Jeung Sook Kim, a Korea specialist, highlighted the importance of cooperation between NGOs and scientists in the campaign to ban asbestos. [Read full article]

Oct 15, 2018

Former asbestos worker and founding member of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) João Batista Momi died in Sao Paulo on October 14, 2018 from asbestosis, a disease he contracted from toxic exposures at the Eternit factory in Osasco. Mr. Momi’s pioneering lawsuit against Eternit took 12 years at the civil court – at that time the only court which could hear claims for injuries caused by toxic occupational exposures. In 1998 he was awarded more than 150,000 reais (equivalent in 1998 to US$150,000) for his injuries; the company appealed. After a 2004 constitutional amendment allowed Labour Courts to hear these cases, Mr. Momi received his compensation. [Read full article]

Oct 2, 2018

From the northeast of Brazil to the streets of West Java via a community center in the Northern Cape Provence of South Africa, Autumn 2018 has seen a burgeoning of activities to mobilize support for the asbestos-injured and demand the implementation of environmental remediation programs and national asbestos prohibitions. Members of asbestos victims’ groups, ban asbestos activists, health and safety campaigners, trade unionists, legal practitioners and medical professionals raised the asbestos profile at international conferences, strategy sessions, local meetings and outreach projects in Latin America, North America, Europe and Asia. It is no longer a question of “if” but of “when” asbestos will finally be consigned to the history books. [Read full article]

Sep 20, 2018

Just weeks after the South Asia Asbestos Strategy Meeting took place in Sri Lanka, 100+ delegates from Vietnam and ten other countries – eight of which are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – met at the second annual conference of the Southeast Asia Ban Asbestos Network in Hanoi, Vietnam to progress plans for achieving regional asbestos prohibitions. The conference, broadcast live on GTV multimedia channels, took place on September 13 and 14, 2018 and raised the profile of the struggle to ban asbestos in Vietnam via widespread TV coverage, newspaper articles and social media posts. Speakers lambasted the government’s continued failure to ban asbestos, blaming pressure from local and foreign vested interests. [Read full article]

Sep 19, 2018

Media reports of a warning by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that large numbers of military engineers and former military engineers could have been exposed to asbestos whilst servicing Sea King helicopters highlight not only the historic exposure to asbestos our military personnel have faced, but also the ongoing risks that exist from asbestos that remains in situ. The alert also points once again to an arguable failure of government to fully and appropriately address all of the issues asbestos continues to pose including the access to compensation by injured service personnel. [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 (2015)

Fiber Producers
(tonnes):
   Russia650,000
   Brazil270,000
   China210,000
   Kazakhstan180,000
    
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   India370,000
   China287,000
   Brazil163,000
   Russia124,000
   Indonesia120,000