|►Brazil: Illegal Asbestos Exports Condemned|
|France: Justice for Asbestos Victims|
|Vietnam: Protecting Minors from the Asbestos Hazard|
|UK: Parliament Debates Mesothelioma Scheme|
|Brazil: Eternit Update: Post-Asbestos Profits|
|Italy: Asbestos Remediation of Hospitals|
Mar 5, 2021
On March 2, the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) denounced the illegal shipment of asbestos cargo from the SAMA asbestos mine in Minaçu to the São Paulo port of Santos saying that as per a 2007 State Law and a 2017 Supreme Court decision the production, transport and export of asbestos had been banned. On Tuesday, 10 trucks carrying 340 tonnes of asbestos left the mine. ABREA alerted the: Santos Port Guard Superintendence, São Paulo Sanitary Surveillance Center, Public Ministry of Labor and Highway Police of the State of São Paulo of these activities. See: ABREA denuncia: Sama afronta de novo o STF, tenta exportar 340 toneladas de amianto [ABREA denounces: Sama contravenes the STF again, tries to export 340 tons of asbestos].
Mar 5, 2021
An article in the independent French online investigative journal Médiapart discussed a petition launched by French asbestos victims calling for a major criminal trial to hold decision-makers and executives to account for their role in the national asbestos disaster caused by their actions. The petitioners are asking the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court/SC), François Molins, to prioritize a hearing of an appeal to the SC made by the prosecution to a January 20, 2021 SC annulment of a lower Court’s dismissal of charges against company officers. See: Les victimes de l'amiante appellent "en urgence absolue" à un grand procès pénal [Asbestos victims call “in absolute urgency” for a major criminal trial].
Mar 5, 2021
On March 15, 2021, Vietnamese Circular 09/2020 / TT-BLDTBXH updating the Labor Code on young workers will come into effect. The new guidelines – which are designed to protect people under 18 from detrimental exposures that could affect their physical, mental and personality development – bans minors from employment in hazardous workplaces, including those at which asbestos is handled or processed. See: 6 nơi làm việc gây hại cho sự phát triển của người dưới 18 tuổi [6 workplaces that are detrimental to the development of people under the age of 18].
Mar 5, 2021
On the afternoon of March 2, 2021, there was a one-hour debate in the House of Commons on the Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2021. The motion to approve the regulations was approved after an informative debate by MPs who raised pertinent issues. Amongst the Parliamentarians to take part were MPs: Vicky Foxcroft, Chris Stephens, Stephen Timms, Martin Docherty-Hughes, Wendy Chamberlain, Beth Winter, Kim Johnson, Christine Jardine and Jim Shannon. During the debate, tribute was paid to asbestos victims support groups in Scotland and England including Clydeside Action on Asbestos, Clydebank Asbestos Group and the Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group. See: Hansard. Parliamentary Debate. March 2, 2021.
Mar 5, 2021
The financial results released on March 2, 2021 by Brazil’s former asbestos giant Eternit S.A. continued to show a healthy profit and high stockholder confidence since the company transitioned to asbestos-free technology. In 2020, the company’s shares rose 200%, making it the best performing stock on BOVESPA, the Brazilian stock market. Reflecting on Eternit’s good news, it’s President Luis Augusto Barbosa explained: “A combination of very positive factors favored us. The company's restructuring process, with the replacement of asbestos since 2017, is bearing fruit.” See: Sem amianto e com telha solar, Eternit retoma confiança do investidor [Asbestos-free and with solar tile, investor confidence in Eternit resumes].
Mar 5, 2021
Authorities in the Marche Region, on the east coast of Italy, have allocated €650,000 to remove asbestos from specific sections of designated hospitals in the cities of Petritoli, Montegranaro and Montegiorgio. This work is part of a coordinated program for 21 hospitals and health facilities in the region. Commissioner Baldelli explained that: “the financing of these interventions in the area have been subject to specific priorities and criteria that have taken into consideration health and hospital structures that consider the use of these structures throughout the whole day.” See: Amianto negli ospedali: piano per rimuoverlo [Asbestos in hospitals: plan to remove it].
Mar 4, 2021
Asbestos victims’ groups, trade unions and civil society campaigners have issued a petition calling “for a criminal asbestos trial to finally take place in France” to hold negligent employers, civil servants and others to account for the slaughter that has resulted from their decisions. The petitioners appealed to the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation Mr. François Molins to act expeditiously to bring this appeal before the criminal chamber as a matter of utmost urgency, saying this was a “quest for justice and truth” for the asbestos injured and their families. See: Justice pour les victimes de l’amiante [Justice for asbestos victims].
Mar 4, 2021
A curious article on a Russian language website extolled the virtues of asbestos materials – citing “the incredible characteristics of asbestos” – for those who may need to research active volcano sites in light of the March 1, 2021 lava breakthrough on the Klyuchevskoy volcano in northern Kamchatka, in Russia’s Far East. Asbestos shoes and cloth were used with some success in 1938 by scientists exploring that 20th century eruption. The author of this text made no mention that since that time, technology has evolved and asbestos-free products are available for use by the volcanologists. See: Вулканология, дрейф на лаве и спецснаряжение: асбестовые башмаки для рекорда [Volcanology, lava drift and special gear: asbestos shoes for the record].
Mar 4, 2021
The BBC has reported the scrapping on Indian shipbreaking beaches of two UK cruise ships. At least 13 other UK ships had been similarly disposed of in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh since the start of last year, according to an investigation conducted by the TV program: File on 4. Despite protocols prohibiting the transnational dumping of toxic waste, ships acquired by cash buyers routinely wind up on the unregulated recycling beaches of south Asia. Workers have few, if any, rights and no protection from the toxins including asbestos which are on board the vessels. See: UK cruise ships scrapped in India's 'ship graveyard'.
Mar 4, 2021
It has been estimated that 40 million tonnes of asbestos-containing material remain incorporated within the Italian infrastructure – including 2,400 schools used by 350,000 pupils and 50,000 teachers – despite decades of work to address the contamination. In asbestos hotspots – like the Milan suburb of Sesto San Giovanni where two asbestos factories had been located – two members of the local asbestos defence committee were buried in one week. Gianfranco Rizzieri died from the asbestos cancer peritoneal mesothelioma; he had never worked with asbestos but lived near asbestos-processing factories. The other deceased was Franco Zanon, aged 61. See: Sesto, in una settimana due morti d'amianto [Sixth, two asbestos deaths in one week].
Mar 4, 2021
Sydneysiders have been warned about the presence of asbestos fragments washed up on Little Bay Beach by Randwick Council. The authorities plan to close the beach for two weeks in April in order for an investigation to take place. According to news reports, 1,000 fragments of toxic debris have been washed up on this New South Wales tourist spot since August 2020. Although the Council warned that caution should be taken when handling rocks or shells at the beach, it said that the situation was, according to expert opinion, “not an unacceptable risk public safety.” See: Picturesque beach in Sydney's east will be closed for two weeks as 1000 pieces of material containing asbestos is collected on the sandy shores.
Mar 4, 2021
A damning review of the talc industry’s role in blocking US regulations on cosmetic talc from the 1970s until today presented evidence of how the industry was able to influence: government agencies’ regulatory proceedings; the adoption of testing methods and the disclosure of test results; the nature of press coverage and medical publications. As a result of this manipulation, the industry’s assertion since 1976 that talc was asbestos-free remained unchallenged for decades. The prioritization of corporate profits over public health had disastrous consequences. See: A Review of the Talc Industry’s Influence on Federal Regulation and Scientific Standards for Asbestos in Talc.
Mar 3, 2021
The Constitutional Law Commission of the Brazilian Lawyers Institute (IAB) issued a report on February 24, 2021 upholding claims that a law passed in 2019 by Goiás State allowing the commercial exploitation of asbestos, which was in contravention of a 2017 Supreme Court ruling, was unconstitutional and therefore invalid. The IAB has requested that the Supreme Court allow the IAB to act as an amicus curiae in a legal action by the Association of Labor Attorneys disputing the constitutionality of Goiás Law 20,514 / 2019. See: Para o IAB, lei de Goiás que permite a extração de amianto é inconstitucional [For the IAB, the Goiás law that allows for the extraction of asbestos is unconstitutional].
Mar 3, 2021
Since February 20, 2021 local people have been ratcheting up efforts to defeat plans to construct a waste landfill dumpsite in Mont-Saint-Vincent, a commune in eastern France, that would accept asbestos debris at the Rougeot company’s Bourgueuil quarry. The objectors are pursuing multiples strategies including requests to the municipality to obtain a copy of the agreement between the town and the quarry company and research to examine the local urban plan for pertinent regulatory protocols that might be used to block this development. An afternoon rally is planned for March 13 at the Théâtre de Verdure. See: Mont-Saint-Vincent – L’amiante galvanise les opposants [Mont-Saint-Vincent – Asbestos galvanizes opponents].
Mar 3, 2021
Circular Number 37/2021 dated February 24, 2021 of the Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale (Italy’s National Institute of Social Security – INPS) concerning social security benefits for asbestos-exposed workers formerly employed in the industrial sector producing railway rolling stock, set out a specific timetable with mandatory deadlines for the processing of claims “to speed up the assessment times connected to the social security benefits.” See: Pensioni, Tempi certi per il riconoscimento dei benefici previdenziali per l'amianto [Pensions, Certain times for the recognition of social security benefits for asbestos].
Mar 3, 2021
An article by US Professor Arthur Frank and German medical expert Professor Xaver Baur detailed how asbestos vested interests – including parties which mined asbestos fiber, industries which processed it, insurance companies and defendant corporations – promoted misinformation to create doubt so that profits could continue and compensation claims could be rejected despite the undeniable fact that exposure to all types of asbestos can be lethal to workers as well as to members of the public. The authors warned that the lobbying by vested interests necessitated that scientific bodies, decision makers and others should ensure that accurate information on the asbestos hazard was disseminated in a timely fashion. See: Ongoing downplaying of the carcinogenicity of chrysotile asbestos by vested interests.
Mar 5, 2021
In recent days, asbestos victims and campaigners have launched legal, social and political initiatives to address glaring asbestos injustices and improve conditions for the injured in Latin America, Europe and North America. In Brazil, warnings by an asbestos victims’ group prevented an illegal shipment of asbestos from leaving the country; in France, asbestos victims appealed to the Attorney General at the Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice for assistance in expediting criminal trials of those responsible for the country’s asbestos scandal; in the UK, the work of victims’ groups was mentioned in Parliament during a debate which highlighted the effects the pandemic had had on the rights of asbestos victims, while in the US, advocacy groups sought to force the EPA to adequately evaluate asbestos health risks. [Read full article]
Mar 1, 2021
February 23, 2021 marked a watershed moment for the global asbestos victims’ community with the announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that an Australian research foundation had been recognized as the first WHO Collaborating Centre on Asbestos-Related Diseases. Despite all the evidence documenting the deadly consequences of asbestos use, over one million tonnes of asbestos are still being used every year. The identification of asbestos victims is a crucial first step in visualizing the human price being paid for the asbestos industry’s profits. The larger the number of victims diagnosed and the greater their visibility, the more pressure will be exerted on governments to take the only morally defensible action possible and ban asbestos. [Read full article]
Feb 23, 2021
Throughout the pandemic, there’s been a resurgence of support for sustainable development, “environment-friendly policymaking,” “better informed government direction,” and evidence-based decision making. Politicians the world over have pledged to “build back better,” “restore science to Government,” “mobilize science” to protect the health and well-being of citizens and develop policies “guided by the best available scientific data.” The accomplishment of these goals will be fundamental to addressing climate change and creating a greener economy for current and future generations. The continuing use of asbestos is incompatible with this shared vision and the decline in its use over recent years substantiates the widespread rejection of this toxic technology. [Read full article]
Feb 11, 2021
Writing to Brazil’s Ministries of Defence and Environment, campaigners from Latin America and Europe highlight troubling issues over the upcoming auction of the aircraft carrier São Paulo. In their letter, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) and partnering organizations express concern that the vessel might wind up on a ship-breaking beach in South Asia. The carrier, they point out, “contains large amounts of asbestos that needs to be handled and disposed of without exposing workers and surrounding communities to the risk of cancer.” [Portuguese version] [French version]. [Read full article]
Feb 2, 2021
No sooner were French asbestos victims hailing a judicial breakthrough in their 25-year-old campaign to hold employers, executives and managers to account for deadly workplace exposures, than another legal stratagem was launched which will, at the very least, delay criminal proceedings for another two years. Even before the print had dried on the January 20 judgment, news was circulating that an appeal had been lodged by Ms. Champrenault, the Attorney General at the Paris Court of Appeal, to the Court of Cassation (France’s Supreme Court). Adding insult to injury, Champrenault announced that whilst the appeal to the Court of Cassation was pending, she intended to request an order suspending, for the time being, hearings on all other major asbestos cases before the Court of Appeal. [Read full article]
Jan 28, 2021
European groups representing asbestos victims and campaigning associations have expressed concerns over the January 29, 2021 auction of the former Portuguese vessel MV Funchal which is being sold two years after it was purchased by the UK company Signature Living, now in administration. Rumors are circulating that the vessel – which has remained berthed in Lisbon since it was bought – will be scrapped. According to a campaigner who has been closely monitoring the situation, there are “about 100 tons of asbestos in a friable state, namely composed of the fiber types chrysotile, amosite and tremolite” on-board, which were identified by a hazardous substance audit (see also: Versão Portuguesa) . [Read full article]
Jan 27, 2021
“Sham” documentation¸ clandestine ownership by offshore companies, and breaches of international conventions and national regulations continue to endanger Bangladeshi shipbreaking workers and communities. The commercial exploitation of regulatory loopholes combined with large financial incentives are a toxic combination attracting international customers to scrap surplus tonnage at beaching yards in Bangladesh, the top ship-recycling country in the world. With ill-informed government officials, a lack of testing capacity and the non-existence of health and safety regulation of the informal sector shipowners as well as shipbreaking companies remain immune from prosecution for injuries or contamination caused by their business practices. [Read full article]
Jan 20, 2021
The 2018 mesothelioma death of Spanish household name José María Íñigo remains unresolved. Court proceedings begin in Madrid this week (January 21) in an attempt by his family to find his employer – the Spanish Radio and Television Company (RTVE) – liable for occupational asbestos exposures experienced whilst the broadcaster was working in the company’s iconic Studio 1. The first step in the litigation is to obtain a finding that the cause of death was due to occupational exposure. Once that has been achieved, the family will progress the personal injury lawsuit for compensation begun by José María Íñigo. A victory in this case with strengthen the rights of all Spanish asbestos victims. [Read full article]
Dec 22, 2020
Developments this year have been unprecedented in living memory: lives lost, families decimated, health systems attacked and economies wrecked. There have been few communities which have been spared the devastation wrought by the coronavirus. Despite this bleak scenario, campaigners and groups working to support victims of asbestos-related diseases continued their efforts, recognizing that amongst those most vulnerable to Covid-19 were people whose lungs had been damaged by asbestos. This snapshot of some of the outstanding initiatives rolled out in 2020 is indicative of the long-term sustained efforts being made to address another global pandemic, one caused by exposures to asbestos, which is claiming up to 250,000 lives a year. [Read full article]
Dec 2, 2020
In a letter dated November 27, 2020, asbestos victims groups from Belgium, Italy, France and the UK called on the President of the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) – a lobbying group representing the interests of international asbestos industry stakeholders – to resign, due to the inherent hypocrisy of an EU citizen promoting sales of a carcinogenic substance abroad whilst it is banned at home. The ICA’s President is Emiliano Alonso, a Spanish lawyer and professional lobbyist, with offices in Madrid and Brussels. The letter called on him “to stop aiding and abetting this discrimination and racism… [and] stop helping the asbestos industry create more asbestos victims in developing countries.” (French version of letter.) (Article is English version.) [Read full article]
Nov 16, 2020
On November 9, 2020, Bruce Dunn, Director of the Asian Development Bank’s Safeguards Division, confirmed their intention to prohibit use of all asbestos-containing products on ABD projects. The ADB had first announced its intention to close an existing loophole – allowing the use of bonded asbestos cement sheeting composed of less than 20% asbestos fiber – at the end of 2019 when an ADB representative confirmed that: “From 2020, ADB will refrain from financing any new projects containing any presence of asbestos; this update will be reflected in the next review of ADB’s Safeguard Policy Statement.” Welcoming the news, Sugio Furuya of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network said: “The Bank’s prohibition of asbestos sends out a signal loud and clear that there is no place in the 21st century for asbestos.” [Read full article]
Nov 13, 2020
Events scheduled to take place this month (November 2020) mark the continuation of a 50-year battle to obtain justice for Italy’s asbestos victims. On November 27th yet another trial against Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny will commence. In the last decade, public prosecutors have launched legal actions against the defendant charging him, in various jurisdictions and at different times, with murder, manslaughter, aggravated culpable homicide, voluntary homicide causing permanent environmental damage and failing to comply with safety rules. Although guilty verdicts against Schmidheiny were vacated by Italy’s Supreme Court in 2014, asbestos claimants remain optimistic that the defendant will finally be held to account for the damage done and heartache caused to so many Italian families. [Read full article]
Nov 2, 2020
Grassroots Literacy and the Written Record tells the story of the Asbestos Interest Group (AIG), a village-based network of asbestos activists in post-apartheid South Africa. The book is set in the Kuruman district, a former mining center on the Cape Asbestos Belt, now a landscape of retrenched mines and mills and derelict tailing dumps, where the presence of asbestos continues to cause deadly diseases long after the mines closed in the 1990s and the new democratic government banned asbestos in 2008. The book follows the AIG from its inception, documenting its efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos; its grassroots research project to map sites of secondary asbestos contamination; its participation in a historic legal case; and its work helping ex-mineworkers access compensation. [Read full article]
Oct 27, 2020
UK sufferers of asbestos-related diseases are at increased risk from Covid-19 as their lungs are already scarred by the toxic fibers previously ingested. As well as fearing for their lives during these turbulent times, they face a Herculean task to access compensation to which they are entitled. According to information provided by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK, 272 asbestos claims for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit have yet to be processed and 16 victims have died whilst waiting to receive these benefits. The Tories are responding to Covid-19 as they do to every crisis: with a ruthless venality that prioritizes their interests at all costs. Almost nine months into the UK epidemic, the needs of asbestos victims remain unaddressed. [Read full article]
Oct 21, 2020
An injection of funds this year is enabling a ground-breaking asbestos surveillance and treatment collaboration created in 2018 by medical experts at the Heart Institute of the University of São Paulo and the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed to expand its support network to patients in additional Brazilian cities. The pilot project provided care, free of charge, for local people with asbestos-related diseases at a medical outpatient clinic at the São Paulo Heart Institute. With the 2020 grants, first class medical training is being provided to doctors in the cities of Campinas, Piracicaba and Rio Claro to build capacity to diagnose and care for asbestos patients, most of whom are unskilled workers without resources to pay healthcare or treatment costs. [Read full article]
Oct 21, 2020
On October 19, 2020, the Mayor of the former Canadian mining town called “Asbestos” announced that the third round of a referendum to change the town’s name had resulted in a majority for the name Val-des-Sources (in English, Valley of Sources or Valley of Springs), a reference to the town’s location at the confluence of three lakes. During a livestreamed extraordinary meeting of the town council broadcast at 5:30 p.m. via Facebook on October 19, the new name was adopted by the council and was, said Mayor Hughes Grimard, now being submitted for approval to Quebec’s toponymy commission and then to Quebec’s Department of Municipal Affairs. The Mayor is optimistic that the change could be official by Christmas. [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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