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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

News text:

Nov 29, 2022

A cross-border investigation supported by Jouranlismfund.eu into the deadly repercussions of Europe’s use of asbestos, has resulted in the publication this month (November, 2022) of a series of articles and TV programs in Denmark, Croatia, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, etc. which revealed the ubiquitous presence of asbestos throughout the European infrastructure; the ongoing epidemic of asbestos-related deaths; and the calls by trade unionists and campaigners for regional action to impose stricter workplace regulations. See: Asbestos: The Lethal Legacy.

Nov 29, 2022

During Australia’s annual asbestos awareness week – which started this year on November 21 – new data was published which confirmed the ongoing deadly legacy posed by the country’s widespread use of asbestos throughout the national infrastructure. According to the Federal Government, one in every three homes remains contaminated by toxic material; this situation continues to pose an imminent risk not only to residents but also to tradespeople. Nearly four times the number of Australians are killed annually by asbestos-related diseases as die from road traffic accidents. See: Asbestos warning as 4000 Aussies killed every year.

Nov 29, 2022

The Bologna Court of Appeal ruled that the Ministry of Education and not the Municipality of Bologna, the owner of the school, was liable for the 2017 mesothelioma death of a teacher who had been exposed to asbestos in the school where she had taught from 1981 until 1990. Judicial proceedings which had been launched before her death finally resulted in a judicial verdict awarding compensation of 930,000 euros (US$965,100) to the deceased’s children. See: Morta per l’amianto nella scuola. Una sentenza di condanna del Ministero che fa discutere [Death due to asbestos [exposure] in school. Controversy over sentence imposed on Ministry].

Nov 28, 2022

It was announced this month that Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice had ordered the cessation of asbestos mining at the country’s sole asbestos mine, which had been producing asbestos for export despite an earlier Supreme Court (2017) ruling banning asbestos production, sale and use. The judgment annulled an injunction (2019) obtained by the mine owners - Sama Mineração S/A, a company of the Eternit group – under which operations had continued. It remains unknown whether Sama will abide by the new ruling. See: STJ ordena que Sama pare de extrair amianto em Minaçu [STJ orders Sama to stop extracting asbestos in Minaçu].

Nov 28, 2022

A 28-page review of UK asbestos management published this month (November 2022) revealed that 20 years after the Duty to Manage Asbestos became law, the majority of UK buildings contained asbestos material, much of which could pose “a potential risk to public health, and which need remediation or removal.” The authors of the report recommended that further measures be taken to expand the investigation, standardize data collection and identify toxic material in buildings. See: Review of UK Asbestos Management 2022.

Oct 31, 2022

From May 2023, there will be a total ban on the import of all goods containing asbestos to Taiwan; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, this measure was being taken to protect the health of citizens. Since 1999, regulations for importers bringing asbestos products into the country had grown increasingly stricter. Since January 1, 2018, all imports were banned except for asbestos products brought into the country for research, experimentation, and education. See: 《產業》石棉產品明年5月起全面禁止輸入 違者最高罰30萬 [“Industry” asbestos products will be completely banned from being imported from May next year, and violators will be fined up to 300,000].

Oct 31, 2022

An article by Vietnamese medical expert Dr. Nguyen Kinh Kha explained various types of pleural cancers, their symptoms, genesis of the diseases and various types of medical protocols used for diagnosing and treating patients. Under the section headed: What is lung cancer, the first cancer discussed was mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. The first cause listed for mesothelioma was “long time direct exposure to asbestos,” a substance banned in 55+ countries around the world but still commonly used in Vietnam, especially amongst ethnic communities. See: Ung thư màng phổi: dấu hiệu, chẩn đoán và cách điều trị [Lung cancer: signs, diagnosis and treatment].

Oct 31, 2022

Asbestos contamination has plagued several neighborhoods in the Spanish town of Toledo for several years. On October 28, 2022, city councillor Julio Comendador, addressing a plenary session of the City Council, warned that there was an environmental disaster due to the presence of asbestos in houses which are more than fifty years old owned by the Ministry of Defence in the Santa Bárbara neighborhood, in close proximity to a school and playground. See: Cs pide medidas para retirar el amianto de los edificios [Cs calls for measures to remove asbestos from buildings].

Oct 31, 2022

Following the precedent set by Flanders, a Brussels MP is pushing the Brussels Region to impose a certification scheme under which properties put up for sale will require a document attesting to the fact that they are free of asbestos material. Unfortunately, Alain Maron – Minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region – replied that such a scheme would impose a “cumbersome” burden on property owners which could depress sales of real estate in Brussels. Existing regulations, Maron said, provide sufficient protection. See: Transaction immobilière: vers un certificat “garanti sans amianto” à Bruxelles? [Real estate transaction: towards a “guaranteed asbestos-free” certificate in Brussels?].

Oct 31, 2022

In an ironic twist of fate, a conglomerate which had been a prolific user and promoter of asbestos building products in Europe, Latin America and around the world is now championing the use of sustainable and alternative technologies in Vietnam. For the eighth year, Saint-Gobain sponsored an award which recognized the work of property developers in Vietnam “dedicated to raising the standard of living for all walks of life, while satisfying extensive environmental friendliness criteria.” See: Saint-Gobain Việt Nam đồng hành cùng PropertyGuru Vietnam Property Awards lần thứ 8 [Saint-Gobain Vietnam accompanies the 8th PropertyGuru Vietnam Property Awards].

Oct 31, 2022

The commentary referenced below was written by a technical asbestos expert whose grandfather was routinely exposed to asbestos at UK worksites; the text provides a useful recap of asbestos facts, regulations and responsibilities. According to UK regulations, duty holders must identify asbestos and take action to minimize exposures by managing or removing it: “As a rule of thumb, when planning to carry out any work on a building that has been built or refurbished before 2000, assume that ACMs [asbestos-containing materials] are present until you know otherwise.” See: Managing asbestos and its risks.

Oct 28, 2022

A French court case which has been languishing for 26 years will be heard in a Paris Court in 2023. Eighteen hundred members of a class action are bringing charges against 14 “national actors” for failures to prevent a national catastrophe which caused more than 100,000 French deaths from asbestos-related diseases. Amongst those accused are asbestos industrialists and senior officials from government ministries. If convicted, the accused could be jailed for up to ten years. See (subscription site): Le procès pénal du scandale sanitaire de l’amiante devrait s’ouvrir à la fin de 2023, vingt-six ans après la première plainte [Asbestos health scandal criminal trial set to open at end of 2023, 26 years after first complaint].

Oct 28, 2022

As of November 23, 2022, anyone selling a domestic property in Flanders will be required to have an asbestos certificate for all structures built before 2001. The mandatory document will consist of a detailed inventory of all material present which contains asbestos and must be prepared by an authorized specialist. The cost of an asbestos inspection will be between €300 and €600 (US$604); registering the document with OVAM – the Public Waste Agency in the region of Flanders – will cost another €50. See: La Flandre exige désormais un certificat amiante [Flanders now requires an asbestos certificate].

Oct 28, 2022

Asbestos exposure remains the leading cause of work-related deaths in British Columbia (BC). WorkSafeBC – the statutory agency in BC tasked with preventing occupational injury and disease – recently reminded homeowners of their responsibility to protect workers from asbestos exposures: “Homeowners must get their homes tested for asbestos before renovation or demolition work begins… While there are monetary costs associated with asbestos surveying and safe abatement, the human cost of not doing this is far greater.” See: Homeowners have responsibility to protect workers from asbestos exposure: WorkSafeBC.

Oct 28, 2022

On October 25, 2022 Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba, a Member of the Executive Council of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial government who is responsible for human settlements and public works, launched the Province’s asbestos roofing eradication program. Under this initiative, asbestos roofing on domestic properties will be replaced; the toxic roofing is mostly found in former black townships built during the apartheid regime and Bantustan homeland governments. Asbestos removal work, which will begin in Estcourt township, will be carried out in Umlazi and KwaMashu in Durban, Mondlo in Vryheid and parts of Mbali township in Pietermaritzburg. See: KwaZulu-Natal launches its asbestos roofing eradication programme, starting in Estcourt.

Oct 28, 2022

The Andalusia branch of the Spanish trade union CCOO has demanded that asbestos be removed from educational buildings “without further delay” as a matter of top priority. At a recent meeting of the Committee for Health and Safety of Andalusian teachers, a spokesperson for the union said that “despite the commitment made by the Andalusian Administration many educational centers still have asbestos in their facilities.” See: CCOO-A exige la retirada "sin más dilaciones" del amianto de centros educativos: "Denota nula preocupación por la salud" [CCOO-A demands the removal “without further delay” of asbestos from educational centers: “Denotes no concern for health”].

Oct 31, 2022

How many people are there who make you smile? I’m betting you can count them on the fingers of one hand. Conrad Atkinson was one of them. I first encountered Conrad some years ago at an international conference in Barrow-in-Furness. He spoke about his landmark piece: Asbestos: The Lungs of Capitalism showing, if memory serves me right, slides of the artwork. I didn’t get it. In 2019, I had the opportunity to see this work at the Tate when museum conservators readied it for installation. I was blown away by its scale, attention to detail, historical content, vivid coloration and vivacity. Here were the lives of people I had read about and worked with spread across a huge museum space. Conrad had studied the daily reality of ordinary people, distilled it through his unique artistic filter and preserved it forever. [Read full article]

Oct 11, 2022

Whose responsibility is the floating can of worms which is the São Paulo? At 32,800 tonnes fully loaded, Brazil’s 265 meter long former flagship has now become a symbol of government malfeasance and criminality. The Brazilian Navy, duplicating the actions of its French counterpart (2000), had hoped to off-load the vessel to a new owner. Clearly, the Latin phrase “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) was not part of the lexicon of Sök Denizcilik, the Turkish shipyard which bought the São Paulo in 2021 for BRL 10.5 million (~US$2m) despite the fact that it was likely to contain asbestos, PCBs, lead/cadmium paint as well as traces of radioactive material. The ship which set sail in August 2022 for a dismantling yard is now back in Brazilian waters having been refused entry into Turkey. It’s fate remains uncertain. [Read full article]

Oct 10, 2022

Last month, the European Commission released long-awaited protocols to address the ongoing asbestos epidemic amongst the Member States of the EU. In 2019, there were 70,000 asbestos deaths in the EU; each one was avoidable. The contents of the Commission’s program seemed to generate as much negative as positive coverage with groups representing workers and labor federations condemning the Commission’s prioritization of commercial interests over the lives of workers. In October 2021, the European Parliament had voted for a new asbestos occupational exposure limit of 0.001 f/cm³; however, the Commission’s 2022 proposal will only impose a limit of 0.01 f/cm³. The new level would be “significantly” higher than the 0.002 f/cm³ limit currently in place in some EU member states. [Read full article]

Sep 21, 2022

A quote made famous by Vladimir Lenin: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,” sprang to mind when I was reviewing progress made this month (September 2022). Recent news received of developments in Latin America, Europe and Asia made manifest the huge strides being achieved in the struggle for asbestos justice. The September breakthroughs were the result of long-term efforts by grassroots campaigners, politicians, civil servants, asbestos victims’ groups, non-governmental organizations, national associations and others working individually and collaboratively to address asbestos corruption and illegalities. [Read full article]

Sep 9, 2022

On September 6, 2022 Parliamentary bill No. 4142, which prohibited the use of all types of asbestos and products containing it in Ukraine, was enacted. As a result, said Ukrainian politician Olena Shulyak: “Finally, we will get rid of the health-threatening Soviet construction legacy and replace it with modern building materials that will preserve the health of both builders and residents of new buildings.” The road to achieving this ban was not straightforward due to aggressive lobbying by Ukrainian and foreign pro-asbestos stakeholders. Judicial as well as legislative actions were blocked on multiple occasions, testing both the stamina and conviction of campaigners in Parliament and civil society organizations. [Read full article]

Sep 6, 2022

With the imposition of trade sanctions on Russian businesses, traditional transport routes were blocked not just for the aggressor but for others who used their ports. A case in point was the situation faced by Kostanay Minerals JSC, Kazakhstan’s sole chrysotile (white) asbestos conglomerate, which had until the outbreak of the 2022 war sent its exports via the Russian ports of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea and St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea. After initial logistical difficulties which forced Kostanay to cease mining operations, new channels of transportation were developed to allow the export of asbestos fiber to resume. An assessment of Russian asbestos exports is not possible at this time due to the lack of reliable data. [Read full article]

Sep 1, 2022

Bowing to the inevitable, on Tuesday August 30, 2022 the Brazilian Agency which had authorized the export of the Navy’s former flagship – the São Paulo – to Turkey called for its immediate return to Brazil following the Turkish Government’s cancellation of its import permit. The international furore caused by the ship’s journey to an Izmir dismantling yard has been colossal with widespread unrest in Turkey over the continued desecration of the environment under the Erdoğan Government. As of August 31, 2022, the São Paulo was off the coast of Morocco. The Basel Action Network which is monitoring the transit of the Dutch tug pulling the aircraft carrier says that the speed has remained consistent and the vessel is on course towards Turkey. [Read full article]

Aug 24, 2022

Today (August 24, 2022), is Independence Day in Ukraine. Under current circumstances, Ukrainians could be forgiven for exuberant displays of nationalism as they celebrate their 31st year of freedom. And yet, even after more than three decades of independence, the country is still under attack. Fighting against the Russians and their collaborators is now a fact of life not only in the streets but also in the Parliament in Kyiv where work to ban asbestos is under a constant bombardment from asbestos industry propagandists determined to quash the sovereign right of Ukraine to act in the best interests of its citizens and outlaw the use of an acknowledged carcinogen as other civilized countries have done. [Read full article]

Aug 15, 2022

Within hours of Johnson and Johnson’s August 11, 2022 announcement that it planned to withdraw its iconic talc-based baby powder from sale in all global markets next year, the news had spread around the world. Coverage of this development was published in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Qatar, India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Israel, the Gulf States, Brazil and elsewhere. What was remarkable was not the massive interest in this story but the fact that not one of the articles asked why toxic baby powder which had been withdrawn in North America in 2020 was still being sold in their country in 2022. [Read full article]

Aug 12, 2022

Global campaigners have today condemned the decision of the Spanish Supreme Court which this week ruled against the grieving family of José María Iñigo, a famous TV presenter and personality. Mr. Iñigo died in 2018 from mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. He had worked for years in TV studios in Madrid which were full of asbestos-containing insulation products. Despite the evidence, the Court found that his lawyers had not proved that his death was caused by workplace exposures. In today’s press release, activists from Latin America, Europe and Asia expressed outrage at this decision and condolences with the family’s loss [Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español del artículo completo]. [Read full article]

Aug 9, 2022

According to a ruling by a regional court in Rio de Janeiro State, the São Paulo – the former flagship of the Brazilian Navy – should be on its way back to a Brazilian port having set sail on August 4 on its way to a dismantling yard in Turkey. The court issued an order that the ship return to Guanabara Bay as a “precautionary measure.” It has been reported that on August 5, the Supreme Court of Brazil also ordered the São Paulo to return to base and not leave Brazilian waters. As of now, the location of the vessel remains unknown, with one Brazilian military expert speculating that the ship may have turned off its GPS to mask its current position. With the temporary disappearance of the vessel, media attention is growing not only in Brazil but also in Europe. Where is the São Paulo? [Read full article]

Jul 18, 2022

Developments in July 2022 have corroborated the long-standing consensus regarding the global catastrophe caused by the widespread and unregulated use of asbestos. The month began with an announcement by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that, following a consultation of international experts, it had been confirmed that firefighters were at increased risk of contracting mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Events held by UK asbestos campaigners on July 1 raised awareness of the nationwide epidemic killing 5,000+ Britons every year. A few days later, data published by the Health and Safety Executive confirmed that asbestos mortality had increased by more than 6% in just one year. [Read full article]

Jul 13, 2022

On July 7, 2022 Judge Craig Whitley from the US Bankruptcy court in Charlotte, North Carolina, issued the latest ruling in the long running saga of the potentially “fraudulent” bankruptcy of the French-owned American company CertainTeed LLC. The fact that he found favor with allegations that the parent company Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA (Saint Gobain) and its CertainTeed materials division had “hindered the rights of asbestos victims,” breathed new life into the fight to reinstate the rights of dying plaintiffs. The process by which Saint Gobain’s lawyers used the “Texas two-step” to off-load the asbestos liabilities of CertainTeed was forensically exposed by whistleblower Amiel Gross, whose 2021 testimony was viewed with favor by the Judge. [Read full article]

Jun 30, 2022

On June 28, 2022, the European Environment Agency uploaded a report, entitled Beating cancer – the role of Europe’s environment, which laid out a multi-pronged EU strategy for reducing the cost of deadly exposures to toxins. In the 27 EU Member States, ~2.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 1.3 million die from it every year. When looking at the high-profile program to tackle Europe’s asbestos legacy, even the most hardened Brexiteer must have pause for thought. No such programs exist in the UK. A 2021/22 Parliamentary enquiry into the Government’s asbestos policy was hampered from the start by its extremely limited scope. The Committee’s April 21, 2022 report identified significant failings by the Health and Safety Executive. The Government has failed to respond to the report. [Read full article]

Jun 20, 2022

In a media release on June 15, 2022, groups campaigning for occupational rights and social justice denounced a Russian-led cabal for blocking United Nations progress on protecting global populations from a class 1 carcinogen: chrysotile (white) asbestos. A veto by 5 countries of a resolution tabled on June 14 to include chrysotile on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention was a “gross violation of the spirit of the Rotterdam Convention and in total contradiction to the decision taken at the International Labour Conference last Friday by all ILO member countries… to elevate a safe and health working environment to a fundamental principle and right to work.” [Read full article]

Jun 13, 2022

The June 2022 issue of the magazine produced by the NGO Solidar Suisse, which is available online in French, German, and English was on the theme of asbestos, with chapters about the impact of ongoing asbestos consumption in Asia and Africa, the legacy of asbestos use in Switzerland and the work of asbestos lobbyists to undermine efforts to address the global asbestos pandemic. This article is the extended version of my contribution to the above issue. [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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USGS Asbestos Trade Data

Fiber Producers (2020)
(tonnes):
   Russia720,000
   Kazakhstan227,000
   China120,000
   Brazil71,200
   Zimbabwe8,000
    
 Top Five Users (2020)
(tonnes):
   India310,000
   China243,000
   Russia126,000
   Uzbekistan117,000
   Indonesia86,200