International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Jan 23, 2019

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is “seriously concerned” about an information vacuum regarding asbestos in schools after 23% of schools in England failed to comply with a 2018 request from the Department of Education (DfE) to report how much asbestos remained in their buildings and what measures were in place to manage it. The PAC told MPs that schools which had not reported back should be “named and shamed”. Commenting on this situation on behalf of the National Education Union, Kevin Courtney said: “Failure to provide the DfE with information about management of asbestos in schools is putting lives at risk.” See: Schools failing to report asbestos details.

Jan 23, 2019

On January 19, 2019, a documentary film entitled “The revenge of Casale Monferrato” was shown in the city of Lamezia Terme in southern Italy. Present at the screening was director Rosy Battaglia, who said: “With this documentary we want to trigger a discussion in order to mobilize public awareness and consider what needs to be done to change things.” “Asbestos”, she said “is a problem that concerns the whole of Italy, as well as Calabria.” See: Lamezia, Docu-inchiesta "La rivincita di Casale Monferrato": città liberata dall'amianto. Dati ancora allarmanti in Calabria [Lamezia, Docu-investigation "The revenge of Casale Monferrato": city liberated from asbestos. Still alarming data in Calabria].

Jan 23, 2019

A publication released in December 2018, by Eurogip – a French organization which investigates issues related to insurance, prevention of accidents at work and occupational diseases at the European and International level – highlighted the terrible price paid for asbestos use in Europe: “In every country except Germany, cancers due to asbestos dust accounted for the overwhelming majority of cancers recognized as an occupational disease in 2016. For example, mesotheliomas represented more than 30% of occupational cancers in Denmark, 50% in Austria and Italy, 65% in Belgium and around 90% in Sweden.” See: Incidence and detection of occupational cancers in nine European countries.

Jan 21, 2019

Turkish specialists in asbestos analysis concerned about the possible contamination of talcum powder sold in their country in the aftermath of the Johnson & Johnson scandal over asbestos found in baby powder sold in the US have tested four brands of talcum powder and found that each one of them was contaminated with asbestos. The Istanbul association which undertook this research said this was a preliminary investigation and a comprehensive report will be produced following further testing. See: Türkiye’de 4 pudra markasından asbest çıktı! [Asbestos in 4 powder brands in Turkey!].

Jan 21, 2019

At a high profile ceremony attended by many local and regional dignitaries, Giovanni Bellistri, the mayor of the town of Terruggia in the Italian Piedmont region, inaugurated Memory Park (“Parco della Memoria”) in Casale Monferrato, the iconic town at the center of Italy’s asbestos scandal. Unveiled during the ceremony was a stele commemorating the people whose lives had been lost to asbestos-related diseases. During his remarks, Mayor Bellistri pointed out that more people in the region had died from asbestos than had been killed [from the region] during the first and second world wars. See: Terruggia Monf. Inaugurato “Parco della Memoria” [Terruggia Monf. Inaugurated “Memory Park”].

Jan 21, 2019

According to the Netherlands’ State Secretary of Infrastructure and Public Works Stientje van Veldhoven anyone without the financial means to remove an asbestos roof will soon be able to claim state funds to do so. This, and other measures, were implemented so that the national target of removing all asbestos roofs by 2024 could be met; asbestos was banned in the Netherlands in 1993. To date, 12+ million square meters of asbestos roofs have been remediated; 80 million square meters of asbestos roofs remain. See: Opruimen van asbestdaken verdubbeld, nieuw fonds in 2019 [Clearing asbestos roofs doubled, new funds in 2019].

Jan 18, 2019

The Canadian Government has awarded $3.6 million for the development of tourist facilities related to the former asbestos mine in Thetford Mines, Quebec, including the upgrading of an existing asbestos museum, the addition of new outdoor spaces and the installation of new lighting systems. The funding, being provided as a grant by Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, was announced on January 17, 2019 by Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism and Member of Parliament for Honoré-Mercier. Critics have questioned the wisdom of encouraging tourists to visit a region with elevated levels of airborne asbestos. See: Historic Center of the King [asbestos] mine will be able to finalize the development of its facilities.

Jan 18, 2019

Asbestos is a hot button topic in Brazil. In an extended interview (see: The fiber of the devil) published this week, ban asbestos campaigner Brazilian Engineer Fernanda Giannasi highlighted the public health emergency caused by decades of asbestos exploitation in Brazil and condemned the impasse caused by the Supreme Court’s failure to take action to shut down the asbestos trade despite its November 2017 ruling. Meanwhile, an article recently uploaded to the health surveillance website of Rio Grande do Sul state contains information about a system being set up to monitor the health of former workers from an asbestos cement plant. See: Vigilância fará estudo sobre exposição ao amianto em ex-trabalhadores de indústria [Surveillance to conduct study on asbestos exposure in former industrial workers].

Jan 18, 2019

Turin public prosecutor Gianfranco Colace is calling for Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny to be jailed for seven years for the aggravated culpable homicide of a former worker and a member of the public, both of whom were poisoned by asbestos dust from the Eternit factory in Cavagnolo (Turin), Italy. The maximum sentence is being sought, explained lawyer Laura D’Amico, because, it is alleged, Schmidheiny violated occupational health and safety rules and because he knew that by doing so there could be grave consequences for people exposed to the company’s asbestos. See: Stephan Schmidheiny merita la pena massima [Stephan Schmidheiny deserves the maximum penalty].

Jan 16, 2019

In a notification issued to shareholders on January 10, 2019, Eternit SA announced that it had stopped using asbestos in the production of tiles, thereby bringing an end to asbestos manufacturing in Brazil. Commenting on Eternit’s plans to continue mining asbestos for export, Veteran ban asbestos campaigner Fernanda Giannasi condemned the failure of the Supreme Court to implement its November 2017 ruling outlawing Brazil’s asbestos trade; through its inertia, the mining and export of asbestos was continuing. See: Eternit interrompe produção nacional de amianto, mas continuará exportando; vitória de Pirro graças ao STF, critica Fernanda Giannasi [Eternit halts domestic asbestos production, but will continue to export; a pyrrhic victory thanks to STF, criticizes Fernanda Giannasi].

Jan 16, 2019

To date, Rwanda’s asbestos remediation program begun in October 2009 to remove toxic roofing from both public and private buildings has succeeded in clearing 56% of the country, with only financial restraints impeding further progress. According to Eric Kananga, Acting Coordinator of Asbestos Removal Project at Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA), if the required budget – nearly Rwf4.9 billion – was allocated, the program could be completed up by the end of 2021. The steps taken to mobilize and train asbestos removal contractors, develop protocols for safe removal, establish dumpsites and reach out to stakeholders is discussed. See: Financial constraints slow asbestos removal.

Jan 16, 2019

In Italy, a tidal wave of outrage has greeted the acquittal, after more than ten years of legal proceedings, of eight retired admirals – former heads of the naval squad, maritime health care, naval arms management – charged with manslaughter over hundreds of asbestos deaths of sailors and civilian personnel. The ruling by Judge Chiara Bitoz of the Padua court found that as the causal link between exposure and pathology had not been scientifically proven, the criminal charges of manslaughter were vacated. See: Navi della Marina imbottite di amianto, centinaia di militari morti: “Siamo carne da macello” [Navy ships filled with asbestos, hundreds of dead soldiers: “We were meat for slaughter”].

Jan 16, 2019

An essay about the ongoing battle to ban asbestos in Colombia considers the current status of asbestos ban legislation, local plans to ban asbestos and national asbestos mortality data. A draft bill calling for the implementation of national prohibitions by 2023 was passed in the Senate in 2018 and is due to be debated by the House of Representatives in 2019. According to the President of Ascolfibras, the Colombian Association of Fibers: “Nowadays, none of the construction materials industries in Colombia use asbestos fibers to manufacture their products, and the friction products industries (brakes) are able to suspend their use at any time.” See: Prohibición del asbesto no afectaría a industria nacional [Prohibition of asbestos would not affect national industry].

Jan 14, 2019

From January 12 to 14, 2019 there have been a series of activities in Yangon, Myanmar to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard to workers as well as members of the public. Amongst the organizations backing these events were: the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM), the Building and Woodworkers’ International, the Solidarity Center, the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) and the Italy-Burma Foundation (Italia-Birmania Insieme). Officials from the Myanmar Government and World Health Organization participated, as did academics, trade unionists, technical and other experts from Myanmar, Italy and Japan. More soon. See: Group photo.

Jan 14, 2019

Responding to consumer demand and market forces, Brazil’s one-time asbestos giant Eternit S.A. has announced that it will no longer manufacture asbestos-containing building products for sale in the domestic market. It will, however, continue to mine chrysotile asbestos fiber at Brazil’s sole remaining mine in the city of Minaçu, Goiás State for export to “dozens of countries” including “the United States, Germany, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian countries”. See: Eternit deixa de usar amianto em seus produtos e mina produzirá só para exportação [Eternit stops using asbestos in its products and mine will produce only for export].

Jan 14, 2019

Asbestos remediation work begun in February 2018 by Metro de Madrid – on the stations of Suanzes, Canillejas, Torre Arias, Príncipe de Vergara, Gran Vía, Pavones, Portazgo, Avenida de la Paz, Pyramids, Camp, Las Muses and Vinateros – has resulted in the decontamination of 12 of the company’s 55 stations. Expenditure on the asbestos removal has, to date, been €26 million; a further €114m has been allocated to complete the program which has a deadline of 2025. Trade unionists have condemned the progress as too “slow”; the Public Prosecutor of the Community of Madrid is investigating crimes against Metro workers. See: 12 de las 55 estaciones de Metro afectadas, ya están libres de Amianto [12 of the 55 affected Metro stations are already free of asbestos].

Jan 15, 2019

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

Jan 8, 2019

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

Dec 17, 2018

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

Dec 13, 2018

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

Nov 22, 2018

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

Nov 1, 2018

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

Oct 31, 2018

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

Oct 19, 2018

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

Oct 17, 2018

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

Oct 15, 2018

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

Oct 2, 2018

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

Sep 20, 2018

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

Sep 19, 2018

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

Sep 13, 2018

On August 18, 2018, West Australian (WA) asbestos campaigners gathered at Perth’s Solidarity Park, across the street from the WA Parliament, to remember the thousands of people whose lives had been lost due to occupational and environmental exposures received at the infamous Wittenoom asbestos mine. Nearly a month later, members of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia – co-organizers of the August event – will revisit the memorial plaque unveiled during this earlier gathering when they reach the end of the Society’s annual walk to raise asbestos research funds and heighten public awareness about the asbestos hazard. [Read full article]

Aug 6, 2018

A report entitled Chlorine and Building Materials - A Global Inventory of Production Technologies, Markets, and Pollution released at the end of July 2018 provided a wealth of information on the actions of chlorine producers in Africa, the Americas and Europe. Acting individually and/or in concert with other vested interests, companies such as Dow Chemical and Olin Corporation and trade associations including Euro Chlor and the American Chemistry Council lobbied state agencies, national governments and regional bodies on three continents over decades to maintain a status quo which procured them large financial rewards despite huge societal costs and deadly consequences for human health and the environment. [Read full article]

Jul 18, 2018

Once upon a time, photograph albums held the memories of generations of families; important days and events were marked by black and white and then colour photographs which were taken, processed and mounted for safe-keeping. Those days are long gone with most images now stored somewhere in the cloud or on phones or hard drives. Some may call us old school, but we could think of no better way of reflecting the optimism, support and engagement of groups all over the UK who joined as one on July 6, 2018 to observe the Annual Mesothelioma Action Day than uploading a selection of photographs in which fellowship and commonality of purpose shine through. [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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