International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Jun 21, 2018

A Russian language article on a Latvian news website documents the desperation of asbestos vested interests in Russia and resultant drastic measures being taken by them, including the publication of a comic book with a hero called “Chrysotile,” competitions for students to encourage the use of asbestos in building products, conflicts of interest of Russian scientists with proven links to the chrysotile industry working with the IARC to “research” the occupational impact of asbestos exposures, etc. See: Асбест вызывает рак. В России его все равно добывают и используют в строительстве [Asbestos causes cancer. In Russia, it is still mined and used in construction].

Jun 21, 2018

An article about the health hazard posed by human exposures to asbestos has been published on a website in the Urals, the asbestos mining region of Russia. The headline and the contents refute industry propaganda that Russian asbestos is not hazardous. Although the contents of this piece have been sourced from an article on the Meduza website, it is noteworthy that the Meduza website is based in Latvia and this article appeared on a website based in the Urals, Russia. See: Расследование: В Ясном производят асбест, он вызывает рак [Investigation: Asbestos, it causes Cancer].

Jun 21, 2018

A review of the epidemiology substantiating the outbreak of the deadly mesothelioma epidemic in the area of Casale Monferrato, in the Piedmont Region of Italy, the location of the Eternit asbestos-cement factory, has been undertaken by Italian researchers. The authors conclude that: “The experience of Casale Monferrato represents a lesson in several terms, from the epidemiological surveillance to the health care of the victims and the relationship between epidemiologists, victims, their relatives and residents in contaminated areas.” See: Mesothelioma in Italy: the Casale Monferrato model to a national epidemiological surveillance system.

Jun 21, 2018

It has been reported that authorities in the Czech Republic found asbestos contamination in make-up sold for children by the US company Claire’s. This development was reported to the European Rapid Alert System which should automatically result in the product being withdrawn from the European market. On June 19, the Spanish Organization of Consumers and Users issued warnings about the make-up kit; it has been withdrawn from sale in Spain. The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products is being urged to carry out an inspection of all Claire's products. See: Detectado amianto en un kit de maquillaje infantil que ya se ha retirado de las tiendas [Asbestos detected in a children's makeup kit already withdrawn from sale].

Jun 21, 2018

Despite adopting a ban on the use of asbestos in 1992, Italy continues to pay dearly for its industrial asbestos past. In 2017, there were 6,000 asbestos-related deaths – of which 1,800 were caused by the cancer mesothelioma – with the peak in the national epidemic not expected until 2030. The presence of 40 million tonnes of asbestos incorporated within the national infrastructure remains a clear and present danger to the health of both workers and members of the public. It is believed that a million private and public buildings, including 2,400 schools, 250 hospitals and 1,000 libraries and cultural sites, are contaminated. See: Amianto: 6.000 morti e 40 milioni di tonnellate da bonificare [Asbestos: 6,000 dead and 40 million tons to be reclaimed].

Jun 21, 2018

The consequences of the mining and processing of crocidolite (blue) asbestos fiber at the Wittenoom mine in Western Australia are the focus of a four-minute video entitled Wittenoom: An Australian Tragedy. The clip begins with Bronwen Duke who lost her parents, both her grandparents, her brother, three uncles and four cousins to asbestos-related diseases; the whole extended family had lived in the asbestos company town of town Wittenoom. Although the mine ceased operations in the 1960s, people continue to die from the long latency diseases caused by exposures to asbestos. See: Wittenoom: An Australian Tragedy.

Jun 19, 2018

Ben Hills, one of Australia’s foremost investigative journalists, died on June 10, 2018 after several battles with cancer. In his first book – Blue Murder (1986) – Hills told the “shocking truth about Wittenoom’ s deadly dust.” In the 200+ pages of this exposé, Hills detailed the horrendous conditions and deadly repercussions for those who worked and lived in the former crocidolite asbestos mining town in Western Australia. The book, long out of print, remains a testament to the men and women who worked to reveal this scandal and support all those whose lives had been sacrificed for the profits of the corporate giant operating the mine. See: A ‘slap-up party’ to send off journalist Ben Hills.

Jun 19, 2018

Second only to Maria Callas, legendary Italian opera singer Edith Martelli has died from mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure at La Scala and other opera houses; she sang in Madrid, New York, Berlin, Salzburg and Tokyo. When she was diagnosed 14 years ago, she was given a prognosis of just 12 months. Commenting on the toxic exposures she received, her son Antonio said that his mother “had unknowingly and systematically” inhaled the invisible asbestos fibers contained in stage equipment, curtains, etc. which were found in the 1980s in theaters, including La Scala. See: Legnano, Edith Martelli è morta per l’amianto respirato alla Scala [Legnano, Edith Martelli died of asbestos breathed at La Scala].

Jun 19, 2018

A quality inspector who worked for seven years for TMD Friction do Brasil SA, a company which manufactured auto parts, succeeded in increasing his compensation for workplace asbestos exposure which resulted in him contracting bronchial asthma from R$15,000 (US$4,020) to R$80,000 (US$21,500) in a unanimous decision by the Superior Labor Tribunal. The plaintiff had claimed R$317,000 (US$85,000) in moral damages. See: Turma aumenta indenização a inspetor que desenvolveu asma brônquica por exposição ao Amianto [Compensation increased for inspector who developed bronchial asthma due to exposure to asbestos].

Jun 18, 2018

Last week, Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa toured the Mashava Asbestos Mine in Masvingo Province and said that a government investment of $20 million will enable mining operations to recommence by the end of the year. It has been estimated that production of chrysotile (white) asbestos will begin at 40,000 tonnes/year and rise to full capacity of 75,000 tonnes. Four hundred workers are now employed at the facility with a further 1,000 jobs being created in the coming years. Production at the mine had ceased nearly ten years ago. See: Govt comes to Shabanie Mine’s rescue.

Jun 18, 2018

Rio de Janeiro Labor Judge Mariane Bastos Scorsato issued a plaintiff’s verdict ordering a company to pay R$450,000 (~US$120,000) compensation to the wife of a worker who had died from an asbestos-related occupational disease. The deceased had worked for the company from 1964 until 1991. Despite his smoking history, the Judge concluded that the link between the workplace exposure and the disease, and the failures of the company to take adequate safety measures and inform the workers of the asbestos hazard made it liable to pay the moral damages awarded. See: Morte ocorrida por exposição a amianto gera indenização de R$ 450 mil [Death caused by exposure to asbestos generates indemnity of R$450 thousand].

Jun 18, 2018

On June 14, 2018, an appeal court in France upheld a €40,000 suspended fine for a hospital in Besançon, a city in eastern France, which negligently exposed workers to asbestos over a four-year period. The court ruled that the management of the Jean Minjoz University Regional Hospital Center had endangered “others by overt and deliberate violation of a regulatory safety obligation.” See: Besançon: Les salariés exposés pendant quatre ans à l'amiante, 40.000 euros d'amende avec sursis requis contre l'hôpital [Besançon: Employees exposed for four years to asbestos, 40,000 euros in suspended fine against the hospital].

Jun 18, 2018

The cancer incidence of a cohort of ~2,500 asbestos-exposed men from Northeast Italy was compared to that of the general population from the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Amongst the former group, there was an “excess in the incidence of both mesothelioma and lung cancer, showing increasing incidence rates at higher level of asbestos exposure.” The relative incidence of lung cancer was highest among members of the cohort who had worked in shipbuilding between 1974 and 1984. The authors concluded: “Our results confirm that asbestos-related diseases are still a major problem worldwide.” See: Cancer incidence in a cohort of asbestos-exposed workers undergoing health surveillance.

Jun 15, 2018

The bad news regarding the horrendous asbestos exposures experienced by students and teachers in Philadelphia schools continues. A new feature in The Inquirer documented astronomical levels of asbestos on damaged surfaces in classroom 106 at the A.S. Jenks Elementary School: “an alarming 1.15 million asbestos fibers per square centimeter. That’s far higher than the 100,000 measure that experts say requires immediate action.” Teacher Maria Greco, who had been informed classroom 106 had been remediated, found dust and disrepair; as a result of her persistent enquiries, it was revealed that no work had been done and her classroom was still a toxic nightmare. See: Solving the mystery of Room 106.

Jun 15, 2018

After a meeting at the Congress of Deputies last week, the Izquierda Unida (IU) – Spain’s United Left political coalition – called on the Spanish Government and the Board of Communities to implement an action plan for the complete removal of asbestos from the Santa María de Benquerencia neighborhood in Toledo, whose residents have for many years been forced to endure the threat posed by environmental exposure to illegally dumped asbestos-containing debris. Members of the Platform “My neighborhood without asbestos” also took part in the meeting. See: IU exige un Plan conjunto de la Junta y la CHT para la retirada total del Amianto [IU requires a Joint Plan of the Board and the CHT for the total withdrawal of asbestos].

Jun 14, 2018

A media release issued by a trade union calls on Australia’s Foreign and Trade Ministers to open discussions with their American counterparts about the proven hazard posed by human exposures to asbestos in order to counter President Trump’s assertions that asbestos is “100 per cent safe, once applied.” “The Australian Government,” they urge “must come out strongly and condemn the United States for trying to wind back bans on asbestos because there will be knock-on effects for workers there and globally.” See: ETU calls on Ministers Bishop and Ciobo to tell the US asbestos dangers no ‘mafia conspiracy’.

Jun 18, 2018

On June 11, 2018, the District Administrative Court of Kiev published its decision in the case brought by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health (MoH) over the quashing by the Ministry of Justice and the State Regulatory Service (SRS) of 2017 MoH regulations ending the use of asbestos in Ukraine. The ruling of the three-judge panel upheld the human rights of Ukrainians to live a life free from asbestos exposure. A Ukrainian campaigner called this decision “an indisputable victory” by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and its supporters and pledged to continue the struggle “to achieve a total asbestos ban in Ukraine such as that which exists in other European countries.” [Read full article]

Jun 12, 2018

The text of this article appeared as Chapter 10 in the book: Beyond Testimony and Trauma: Oral History in the Aftermath of Mass Violence published by University of British Columbia Press in 2015; the author of this chapter Professor Arthur McIvor and the editor of the book Steven High have given their permission for this seminal text to be uploaded to this website. In his concluding thoughts the author says: “In common with other trauma victims and survivors of mass violence, those with disabling and terminal ARDs feel the need to have those responsible admit their blame and recognize their role in economic violence. This is crucial for reconciliation, social healing, and making sense of their working lives.” [Read full article]

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 issue an open letter to the asbestos industry declaring: “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: securing a covenant for implementing a global ban on asbestos, providing financial, technical and educational support for countries seeking to achieve bans – programs to minimize hazardous exposures and eliminate asbestos diseases, making public investment and development aid conditional on banning asbestos [Русской версии] [Versão em português]. [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]

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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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