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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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May 23, 2018

In what has been described as a “historic judgment,” the Council of State has accepted an appeal by a local environmental action group which will forestall the construction of an asbestos dumpsite in Lombardy, northern Italy. After previous setbacks, campaigners were celebrating this decision which, they said, confirmed that exhaustive and participatory measures must be followed to safeguard human health and the environment; their appeal had categorized the environmental impact assessment produced by the company behind the scheme as “incomplete, badly deficient.” See: Treviglio, discarica di amianto: stop dal Consiglio di Stato [Treviglio, asbestos dump: stopped by the Council of State].

May 23, 2018

The latest annual financial results for James Hardie, Australia’s former asbestos giant, has included an extra US$200m above original estimates for asbestos related claims; the year’s profits were $194m, down by almost 50% despite a small increase in sales. Former assumptions based on a fall in the number of mesothelioma claims have proved erroneous and a new reality has been accepted: “As claim numbers continue to be elevated, KPMG Australia has formed the view that the increases in mesothelioma claims reporting seen in recent years was a permanent effect, and therefore increased the projected number of future mesothelioma cases…” See: James Hardie profit tumbles on mounting asbestos claims.

May 23, 2018

An article by Hans-Joachim Woitowitz and Xaver Baur reviewing the strategy used by asbestos industry lobbyists and asbestos defendants to misrepresent the toxic nature of chrysotile asbestos focuses on a recent “publication on asbestos fibre burden in human lungs […which] exhibits serious inconsistencies and obvious mismeasurements and significant methodological problems. The conclusion of the authors that fibre analysis of workers' lungs ‘is of high significance for differential diagnosis, risk assessment and occupational compensation’ is,” the Woitowitz and Baur article states “unfounded and reprehensible.” See: Misleading “New Insights into the Chrysotile Debate”.

May 23, 2018

Seven attempts since 2007 at banning asbestos in Colombia have failed because of aggressive lobbying by the industry lobby says Greenpeace Colombia. A new ban asbestos bill, named in honor of mesothelioma victim Ana Cecilia Niño, is now proceeding through the Senate. Greenpeace spokesperson for Colombia Silvia Gómez is urging politicians to support the “project of national interest that seeks to save lives,” saying: “The president of the Senate last week received a letter from Ascolfibras, saying that they were very concerned about the project and that it should have regional public hearings.” See: Colombia, el país con 500 víctimas de asbesto al año y que se niega a prohibirlo [Colombia, the country with 500 asbestos victims a year refuses to ban it].

May 23, 2018

A 25-minute podcast by The Guardian’s Science Weekly considers the UK’s asbestos legacy against a backdrop of ongoing asbestos consumption in the industrializing world. The blame for the global asbestos epidemic is laid firmly at the door of the asbestos industry which has used “horrific deceit” to skew national discussions on asbestos despite epidemiological and scientific data documenting a huge number of deaths caused by occupational and environmental asbestos exposures. The program makes the argument that in 2018 there can be no justification for the use of asbestos, a substance which cannot be controlled or used safely. See: Why is asbestos still killing people?.

May 23, 2018

On May 11, 2018, the legislature of another Brazilian state decreed that “The use of products, materials or devices intended for the consumer, containing asbestos fibers in their composition, is prohibited within the State of Paraíba.” Furthermore, the new law also prohibited the selling and installing of any form of asbestos-containing material and stipulated the use of protective measures for workers required to have contact with previously installed asbestos products. Although the Brazilian Supreme Court banned asbestos throughout the country by a decision handed down in November 2017, state prohibitions are still required. See: Lei Nº 11121 DE 11/05/2018 [Law Nº 11121 OF 05/11/2018].

May 17, 2018

Shabanie Mashava Mine (SMM) – the company that owns the Zvishavane and Gaths chrysotile (white) asbestos mines in Mashava – has announced plans to sell off thousands of housing units and 1500 hectares of land to raise funds for the redevelopment of the mothballed mines which, they allege, have ore reserves worth $1 billion. According to SMM Chief Executive Officer Chirandu Dhlembeu the company is hoping to raise $250 million from the sale of its property. See: SMM to dispose of its houses, vast tracts of land to revive asbestos mine.

May 17, 2018

Portugal’s Environmental Inspectorate and the Environment Agency received a total of 41 complaints in 2017 regarding asbestos in derelict buildings which provide a threat to public health, irregular and non-compliant asbestos removal and disposal, including the dumping of toxic waste on public roads, and illegal asbestos operations by commercial waste management operators. See: Autoridades receberam 41 denúncias relacionadas com amianto em 2017 [Authorities received 41 asbestos complaints in 2017].

May 13, 2018

In Japan, asbestos victims have established a movement to provide support by asbestos-affected individuals for others in the same position. The “Mesothelioma Peer Support Caravan (MPSC)” was founded in mid-2017; since then, more than 100 mesothelioma sufferers have been contacted at home or hospital or via group meetings. Thirty mesothelioma sufferers with scores of other asbestos victims are to meet with government officials on June 1, 2018 to explain the reality of living and dying with asbestos diseases. In addition, 3 Japanese mesothelioma sufferers have just returned from Korea where they met with colleagues from the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) to prepare for BANKO’s 10th anniversary event on July 3-4, 2018.

May 13, 2018

Ten years after his death, the widow of a worker from Central Italy was awarded compensation for his death from pulmonary adenocarcinoma due to occupational asbestos exposure. As part of his duties the deceased, who worked from 1970 to 1992 for a company manufacturing ovens, checked “the quality of the products, breathing asbestos present in the insulation of screws, bolts, seals and panels, which had led him to contract the lung cancer.” Asbestos sheets were cut on-site and placed in the ovens and under cooking plates. See: Rieti, operaio morì per l'amianto Tribunale decide risarcimento alla vedova [Rieti, a worker died of asbestos, Court awards compensation to the widow].

May 13, 2018

On May 4, 2018 a commitment was given by participants at the 32nd meeting of the International Congress on Occupational Health, held by the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), “to take action for prevention of occupational cancer and Asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) in collaboration with other relevant international actors” in a document entitled “the Dublin Statement.” Action points listed included: drawing up a covenant for the global ban on asbestos, providing support for countries willing to ban asbestos and implement Programmes for Elimination of Asbestos-related Diseases and making public investment, loans and development aid conditional on asbestos bans. See: ICOH Dublin Statement on Occupational Health.

May 10, 2018

On Friday, May 11, 2018 hearings instituted by the Asbestos Metro Commission will begin with evidence submitted by one of the company’s employees affected by hazardous workplace exposures. According to trade union sources, the witness is a maintenance worker who started his employment with Metro Madrid in the 1980s. So far, the company has recognized asbestos illnesses of three former workers as occupationally caused. See: Arranca este viernes la comisión sobre el amianto en Metro con la comparecencia de uno de los empleados Afectados [Friday the commission on asbestos in the Metro begins with the appearance of one of the affected employees].

May 10, 2018

The 13th Social Court of Barcelona, Spain has issued the first verdict condemning the “Generalitat” (Catalonia's government) for failing to protect a firefighter from asbestos exposure as a result of which he has contracted asbestosis. During the 1980s firemen in Barcelona City were provided with personal protective equipment made of asbestos and until the 1990s, contrary to health and safety regulations, the firemen were responsible for cleaning their work clothes and equipment. See: Primera sentencia que condena a una Administración Pública por la exposición al amianto de un bomber [First sentence condemning a Public Administration for the exposure to asbestos of a firefighter].

May 10, 2018

A new program providing financial subsidies for the dismantling, transporting and disposing of asbestos-containing material has been announced by the Sztum municipality in northern Poland. Residents of the town can apply to the “Removal of asbestos-containing products from the Pomeranian Voivodeship” Program of the Provincial Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management (Gdansk) for up to 70% of the costs incurred up to a specified maximum amount. See: Gmina Sztum wnioskuje o dofinansowanie usuwania azbestu. Złóż wniosek! [Sztum applies for co-financing for the removal of asbestos. Submit an application!].

May 10, 2018

The current issue of the Journal of Occupational Health for Southern Africa features a tribute to historian Jock McCulloch, who died from mesothelioma contracted as a result of research undertaken in Africa’s asbestos regions. The article, compiled by the editor-in-chief of the journal, calls Jock: “One of the Greats of occupational health.” Comments included from leading academics and campaigners, reinforced the collaborative nature and pioneering role that Jock played in the struggle to address the injustices endured by those employed in southern Africa’s mining industry. See: Jock McCulloch (1945-2018) Professor, International Development Program, School of Social Science and Planning, RMIT University, Australia.

May 9, 2018

One day after trial proceedings began in Brisbane’s Supreme Court, a landmark asbestos case was settled when an out-of-court settlement was reached by former asbestos giant James Hardie and mesothelioma claimant Syd Lacey, who was suing the construction company for $5.9 million to provide funds for the care of his disabled wife after his impending demise. In a statement issued by Mr Lacey's lawyers, they said the settlement would provide financial assistance for the care of their client’s wife Marion - who has epilepsy, anxiety and is profoundly deaf. See: James Hardie settles Qld asbestos claim.

May 21, 2018

This press release has been issued today by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum (UK) and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat; it expresses serious concerns over the discovery of tremolite asbestos in products being sold in the UK. The analysis of items purchased in April 2018 in a London suburb was undertaken by Sean Fitzgerald, a US expert who had previously found asbestos contamination in 24 talc-based make-up items sold by the US chain of Claire’s Accessories. Fitzgerald reported the presence of tremolite, an amphibole type of asbestos fiber, in various eyeshadow and blusher products purchased at this shop. [Read full article]

May 16, 2018

Asbestos victims’ groups, campaigning bodies and NGOs have today issued an open letter to the asbestos industry which declares: “the end for the deadly asbestos industry is fast approaching.” Supported by signatories from Asia, Latin America, Europe, Australia and Africa, the text highlights recent measures called for by regional bodies and international agencies to address the global asbestos crisis including: securing a covenant for implementing a global ban on asbestos, providing financial, technical and educational support for countries seeking to achieve a ban, implementing programs to minimize hazardous exposures and eliminate asbestos diseases and making public investment and development aid conditional on banning asbestos [Русской версии]. [Read full article]

May 15, 2018

A grassroots effort to identify workers with asbestos-related disease from an asbestos factory in Kolkata, India has resulted in the suspension of two workers who had been involved in organizing the initiative. Angered by the management’s attempts to intimidate the workforce and punish full-time factory workers Arun Chakraborty and Goutam Sardar, former workmates have formed a “Struggle Committee” to increase the pressure on the management of Everest Industries Ltd. to withdraw the suspension orders and to progress efforts to improve the occupational health and safety regime at their workplace. [Read full article]

May 15, 2018

As the UK asbestos death toll mounts, concerns have been expressed by civil society representatives regarding the impact of a potential UK-US trade agreement and the diminution of measures to safeguard human health from toxic exposures after our exit from the European Union. There is evidence of the importation of asbestos contaminated products even under present conditions; certainly no room for any relaxation of controls. The author concluded: “With the world’s highest asbestos-related disease mortality rate and regulatory authorities facing brutal financial cutbacks, the last thing anyone wants is the import of more toxic material or a watering down of health and safety protections.” [Read full article]

May 5, 2018

On April 6, 2018, an asbestos awareness event was held for community members in the Loopeng Village Community Hall by the Asbestos Interest Group (AIG), a grassroots group from Kuruman in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Addressing the audience were palliative care and cancer specialists – who provided information on a multitude of aspects affecting people with asbestos-related diseases – as well as representatives of the municipality. The exchange of information was facilitated by questions and answers sessions as well as the provision of handouts, leaflets and pamphlets. Photographs of the day’s activities illustrate the text of this report. [Read full article]

May 3, 2018

Figures published recently by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reveal a sharp drop in asbestos production during the period 2012-2015 – down by around 31% over the four years. The fall depends primarily on a revision of Russian production levels for that period, which earlier USGS reports had recorded as being virtually static at around 1 million tonnes per annum (since 2007). Based on our analysis of the new data, comparative tables and graphics have been produced to depict the impact of the revisions on levels of national asbestos consumption. There is good news and bad: the good news is that global asbestos consumption had reportedly fallen to ~1.4 million tonnes by 2016; the bad news is that there is little change in the proportion used in Asia. [Read full article]

May 2, 2018

Judicial proceedings continued in April 2018 over the illegitimacy of action taken by Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice and the State Regulatory Service to quash the national ban on all types of asbestos including chrysotile adopted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in March 2017 and invalidated the following October. On April 18, 2018, the litigants attended the second hearing of the proceedings instigated by the MoH to effect the reinstatement of the prohibitions. Applications made by the plaintiffs were approved which will allow the submission of evidence documenting the health hazards posed by chrysotile asbestos and a short delay in proceedings to obtain a crucial report from Ukraine’s Academy of Sciences. [Read full article]

Apr 16, 2018

A historic breakthrough occurred in a US courtroom this month when a New Jersey jury handed down the first mesothelioma claimant’s verdict against Johnson & Johnson to Stephen Lanzo, a 46-year-old investment banker, who contracted the fatal asbestos cancer after decades of exposure to the company’s talc-based baby powder. On Thursday, April 5, 2018, $30 million was awarded to Mr. Lanzo with a further $7 million to his wife Kendra. On April 11, 2018, the jurors decided that the defendants’ “outrageous and egregious” behaviour warranted further censure and ordered that a further $80 million in punitive damages be paid. Pivotal to the outcome of this case was evidence and corporate strategies revealed in confidential corporate documents. [Read full article]

Mar 8, 2018

On January 31, 2018 the latest salvos were fired in the battle by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health (MoH) against the quashing of its decision to ban asbestos to protect citizens from deadly exposures. On that day, Kiev’s District Administrative Court held the first hearing on a case brought by the MoH to reinstate the 2017 prohibition banning the use of all types of asbestos including chrysotile (white asbestos) which had been invalidated in October 2017. If the MoH succeeds, and one must hope it does, Ukraine will be yet another country – like Brazil – which resorted to judicial action in order to overcome vested interests determined to prioritize corporate profits over human health. [Read full article]

Jan 21, 2018

Our friend Jock McCulloch died on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. The grief caused by his passing is shared by so many who have worked with him to reveal the human cost of the global asbestos trade. It is poignant and tragic that Jock, whose compassion and humanity was so great, shared the fate of so many of the people whose plight he documented. Like them, Jock’s death was caused by exposure to asbestos. At this sad time, our thoughts are with his partner Pavla, their family, his friends and colleagues at RMIT University and so many others whose lives were enriched by knowing Jock. While mourning his passing, we will remain forever grateful for the time we had with him and for the impact he had on our lives. [Read full article]

Jan 4, 2018

As 2018 dawns, the outlook for the ban asbestos campaign looks brighter than ever with progress being made in countries around the world. Pro-asbestos initiatives which might formerly have escaped detection are now being exposed and countered in record time. The ongoing saga of Russia’s strong-arm tactics to force Sri Lanka to rescind its asbestos phase-out has been condemned both at home and internationally. Throughout 2017 the global ban asbestos network, working with partnering organizations, enjoyed huge successes in multiple jurisdictions. Building on those victories and on increasing support for an asbestos-free future, the prospects for 2018 appear very promising! [Read full article]

Jan 3, 2018

International trade unions, health networks, asbestos victims’ groups and NGOs have today issued a media release soundly condemning Russian economic pressure on Sri Lanka which has forced a U-turn in the asbestos phase-out scheduled to begin this month. Sharan Burrow of the International Trade Union Confederation summed up the collective outrage over Russia’s bullying: “Imposing chrysotile asbestos on an unwilling nation is not fair trade, it is culpable homicide… Russia must not and will not be allowed to blow a hole in fair trade rules.” [Read full article]

Dec 22, 2017

On December 16, 2017, 16 civil society groups and trade unions established the Indian Ban Asbestos Network (I-BAN) at a meeting in New Delhi, organized by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India and the Building and Woodworkers International, to progress efforts to ban asbestos in India and eradicate the asbestos hazard from workplaces and infrastructure. The formation of I-BAN was the culmination of the conference: “India Beyond Asbestos – Issues and Strategies” which took place on December 15 and 16. India is one of the world’s largest asbestos markets; in 2015, over 370,000 tonnes of asbestos with a value of $239 million were imported. India is Asia’s 2nd biggest asbestos consumer. [Read full article]

Dec 6, 2017

On December 5, 2017, the High Court declared that historical documents detailing corporate knowledge regarding the asbestos hazard due to be destroyed as part of a confidential agreement must be preserved and shared with parties not involved in the original litigation. The ruling marked a positive outcome for a case brought by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum to obtain information that would facilitate claims by asbestos victims and better understand “the close relationship between the Factory Inspectorate, whose function was supposed to be protecting the health and safety of workers, and the asbestos industry that they were supposed to be regulating.” [Read full article]

Dec 1, 2017

A majority verdict of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) handed down on November 29, 2017, prohibited the mining, processing, marketing and distribution of chrysotile (white) asbestos in Brazil – currently the world’s third largest producer of chrysotile. The judgment was binding on all jurisdictions and on the national congress which is, said the STF, barred from enacting new legislation authorizing the use of asbestos. Commenting on this ruling Fernanda Giannasi, who was been at the forefront of the campaign to ban asbestos in Brazil for 30 years, said: “If an asbestos producer country like Brazil is able to make such a decision, why wouldn’t consumer countries do the same?” Why indeed! [Read full article]

Nov 21, 2017

Untold numbers of workers may have been exposed to asbestos-contaminated blast cleaning abrasives supplied by the Netherlands-based Eurogrit Company, a subsidiary of the Belgian company Sibelco, which were sold to companies in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and possibly elsewhere. The Eurogrit product (Eurogrit coal-slag abrasive (aluminium silicate) at the center of this unfolding health and commercial catastrophe is used primarily for removing rust and dirt from steel surfaces. Compared to well-honed protocols put into action by Dutch stakeholders, the UK’s response to this illegal use of a toxic product has been singularly unimpressive. [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