International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Jun 2, 2023

The article cited below which was uploaded on May 30, 2023 drew attention to an internal European Parliament document dated May 26, 2023, which revealed a disconnect between positions adopted by the EU Commission, European Council and European Parliament on protecting workers from occupational asbestos exposures and the general view of member states. Many regard plans to lower exposure limits for asbestos fibers – initially from 0.1 to 0.01 fibres per cm3 with a further reduction to 0.001 per cm3 after four years – as not “realistic” or “feasible.” See: EU clashes over protection of workers exposed to asbestos.

Jun 2, 2023

A new report issued by the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (EuroCham Cambodia) – a non-profit, non-political organization established to support European businesses operating in Cambodia – urged the Government of Cambodia to take urgent action on ending the use of asbestos, a carcinogen which is banned throughout Europe “in order to prevent future diseases and deaths in Cambodia, due to asbestos inhalation…” The survey undertaken by EuroCham was released on May 30, 2023; it highlighted the ongoing and widespread use of asbestos-containing building material by the construction sector. See: Call to ban asbestos import, use in Cambodia.

Jun 2, 2023

A front-page feature in the Sunday edition (May 28, 2023) of the Brussels Times – an English-language news website and magazine headquartered in Brussels – highlighted the epidemic caused by asbestos exposures in Belgium, formerly the heartland of Europe’s asbestos industrial sector. The text featured an interview with Marijke Van Buggenhout, a PhD researcher who grew up near Kapelle-op-den-Bos, the site of Eternit’s largest asbestos-cement manufacturing facility in Belgium: “Asbestos deaths within the family were announced left, right and centre: my father's Uncle Alex, his aunt Bertha, my father's aunt's daughter-in-law, the husband of my grandfather's youngest sister. They all died just months after their diagnosis.” See: Forgotten killer: Belgian asbestos victims seek real sense of justice.

Jun 2, 2023

According to an article published on May 26, 2022, Hess Corporation – the US parent company of HONX, a joint owner of the Hovensa Oil Refinery on the island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands – has agreed to pay $106 million into a trust for former refinery workers and their families who were injured by asbestos exposures in St. Croix. The deal, which was filed with a Texas bankruptcy court on May 24, set aside $90m for current claimants, $15m for future claimants and $1m to cover the trust’s administrative costs. “The settlement,” wrote journalist Mat Probasco “makes Hess immune from future asbestos-related legal action.” See: Hess Settles St. Croix Asbestos Claims For $106 Million.

Jun 2, 2023

A 2 minute 36 second video clip uploaded last week highlighted the hazardous conditions experienced by coal miners at sites in the Isère department in the southeast of France. Toxic exposures to asbestos and other carcinogens were routine at the mines and thermal power plants; there was no protective equipment supplied and no warnings of the hazards given. The asbestos anxiety of 58 of these workers was recognized by the Court which ordered the French State to pay compensation of one million euros. Amongst the 58 claimants, 24 have contracted cancer or other diseases and two have already died. See: VIDÉO. "On vivait dans l'amiante à 100 %": 58 anciens mineurs de l'Isère ont fait condamner l'Etat [VIDEO. “We lived in 100% asbestos”: 58 former miners from Isère had the State condemned].

Jun 2, 2023

Officers of the Environmental Police (NIPAAF) in the city of Francavilla al Mar, Chieti – a commune in central Italy – seized a shed of 5,000 square meters because of the hazard posed by its deteriorating asbestos-cement roof and the 1,300 tonnes of toxic waste dumped inside. The shed is located near the town and the environmental hazard it posed was both illegal and unacceptable, said the authorities. The owner of the company that owned the shed was reported for several crimes, including illegal transport of waste, storage of hazardous material; a fine of €6,000 (US$6,430) was handed down. See: Francavilla, sequestrato un edificio a causa della presenza di coperture in cemento amianto [Francavilla, seized a building due to the presence of asbestos cement roofs].

May 31, 2023

OxyChem (also known as Occidental Chemical Corporation) – one of the biggest manufacturers of chlorine in the US – announced last week that it planned to phase out asbestos technology at its chlor-alkali plant. A company press release noted that: “OxyChem has picked membrane electrolysis technology from Thyssenkrupp Nucera to replace the diaphragm technology at its largest chlor-alkali facility, in LaPorte, Texas. The project is expected to take 3 years.” The other two big US chlorine manufacturers – Olin and Westlake – had previously announced plans to phase out asbestos diaphragms. See: OxyChem will adopt membrane technology at chlor-alkali plant.

May 31, 2023

For the first time in the Tokyo metropolitan area, and the second time in all of Japan, a settlement was reached with a former asbestos products’ manufacturer in a class action lawsuit brought by former construction workers against the government and a building material manufacturer. The party which admitted its guilt and paid compensation was the Nozawa company, headquartered in Kobe. On May 31, 2023, the Tokyo High Court will issue its verdict on the case brought by the 32 members of the class action against six defendants. See: 建設アスベスト訴訟 建材メーカーと一部原告で和解成立 [Construction Asbestos Litigation Resolved with Construction Materials Manufacturer and Some Plaintiffs].

May 31, 2023

New research by Istanbul’s Chamber of Environmental Engineers reported that one in every two of the samples of rubble they collected from the February 2023 earthquakes contained asbestos. Despite multiple protests by local communities living near the dump sites where the toxic debris had been taken in Hatay, Yeşilköy, Narlıca and Çamlı Plateau, no solution has been found for safely disposing of the massive mountains of waste created by the earthquakes. Criminal cases regarding this issue have been filed. See (subscription site): 2 moloz örneğinden 1’inde asbest var [1 in 2 debris samples contains asbestos].

May 31, 2023

On May 24 & 25, the winners of the 2023 competition run by AFeVA (the Association of Asbestos Victims and Family Members) and its partners from Casale Monferrato – the town at the epicenter of Italy’s asbestos epidemic – were announced online. The 135 participants were tasked with comparing the town’s toxic Eternit asbestos-cement factory with the public park which now stands on the remediated site. The purpose of the competition, now in its 30th year, is not only to honor asbestos victims but also to stimulate “civil and social commitment among local students who have paid a heavy price for pollution.” See: Amianto: Afeva Casale premia vincitori del 'Concorso Cavalli' [Asbestos: Afeva Casale awards winners of the ‘Cavalli Competition’].

May 31, 2023

A train carrying 40 containers of 1,000 tons of asbestos fiber departed from the railway west cargo station in Dunhuang, a city in Northwestern Gansu Province, Western China on May 5, 2023 as part of a new rail–sea intermodal international freight train link between China and Thailand. The cargo was off-loaded at the Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan in Zhejiang province and sent by sea to Bangkok, Thailand. The journey took just 20 days. The possibility of express shipments of asbestos from China – one of the world’s biggest asbestos producers and users – to other Asian countries is a disturbing development. See: 酒泉(敦煌)铁海联运国际货运班列开行 [Jiuquan (Dunhuang) rail–sea combined transport international freight route opened].

May 31, 2023

A site formerly used by the Greek military which was bought by the city of Chania has created an environmental storm for Cretans concerned about infringements of safety legislation during work to remove asbestos from buildings at the Markopoulou camp. Technical expert Professor Emeritus Evangelos Gidarakos said that from photographic evidence he had seen “the presence of hazardous materials and more specifically asbestos has been established. This makes it necessary to take and observe very strict safety rules to protect the health of both the workers involved in the removal work, as well as the residents of the area.” See:Έντονη ανησυχία για τον αμίαντο στο στρατόπεδο “Μαρκοπούλου” [Strong concern about asbestos in the “Markopoulou” camp].

May 30, 2023

On May 23, 2023, a motion proposed by Labour asking the Government to release a report completed in 2021 on the state of school buildings was debated for over two hours. Labour MPs who highlighted the on-going national scandal over asbestos in schools on Tuesday afternoon included Bridget Phillipson, Simon Lightwood and Liz Twist. It was left, however, to Ian Lavery MP, to make the most damning indictment of 13 years of Tory misrule during his impassioned intervention: “The idea that schools could collapse is terrifying; that they could collapse releasing clouds of asbestos is shudderingly worrying… A staggering 87% of schools are reported to have asbestos in at least one of their buildings.” The motion was defeated. See: Safety of School Buildings.

May 30, 2023

On May 24, 2023, the Florence Court of Appeal of confirmed a lower court’s guilty verdict against the Italian Ministries of the Interior and Defense which had been found to be responsible for asbestos workplace exposures which caused the death from pleural mesothelioma of Antonio Ballini (aged 69). The deceased had served in the Navy from 1965 till 1967, during which time he routinely handled and used products containing asbestos. See: Amianto, ex militare ucciso da mesotelioma: confermata la condanna per i Ministeri [Asbestos, ex soldier killed by mesothelioma: sentence confirmed for Ministries].

May 30, 2023

In 2022, the South Korean Province of Gyeonggi allocated 450 billion won (US$340m) for the removal of asbestos in 216 elementary, middle, high and special school buildings as a matter of public health. The results of the 2022 asbestos eradication program were discussed on May 25th at a meeting of the Provincial Office of Education in the capital city of Gyeonggi-do. See: 경기도, 초중고∙특수학교 건축물 석면 제거 등에 4500억원투입 [Gyeonggi-do invests 450 billion won in asbestos removal in elementary, middle, high and special school buildings].

May 30, 2023

The latest newsletter from the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia is an interesting read. The Society is calling for the outdated narrative of “asbestos diseases as a diminishing industrial disease” to be recategorized as a “rapidly emerging Public Health Issue… [to ensure that] medical research funding and clinical resources provided by the WA Health Department, are available to meet the demand for patients with non-occupational exposure to asbestos. It is worth noting that two thirds of houses built in Australia between 1950-1980s will likely have some asbestos in them.” See: Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia. Newsletter #14. May 2023.

Jun 1, 2023

Ever since a Japanese Supreme Court decision of May 17, 2021 established the liability of the Japanese Government and building products’ manufacturers for diseases contracted as a result of asbestos exposures experienced by construction workers, manufacturers have been engaged in a full-scale battle to avoid paying compensation to the injured. On May 31, 2023, the Tokyo High Court brought this war of attrition to an end when it ordered four companies – A&A Material (Yokohama City), Nichias (Tokyo), MMK (Tokyo) and Taikeiyo Cement (Tokyo) – to pay a total of 103.67 million yen (US$741,500) compensation to 22 claimants. [Read full article]

May 24, 2023

The hopes of tens of thousands of French citizens were crushed last week when a Paris Court rejected a direct summons requesting a criminal trial over the national asbestos scandal. On May 19, 2023 the Paris Criminal Court dismissed an action lodged in November, 2021 by 1,800+ plaintiffs seeking to hold to account the decision makers, government officials, executives and doctors who they believed were responsible for the epidemic which had taken so many lives. Rejecting the plaintiffs’ arguments and declaring the procedure “null and void,” the Court said that lack of detail and substance in the filings meant that it was not possible to conclusively link the alleged crimes to the accused. According to leaders of French victims’ groups, the verdict will be appealed. [Read full article]

May 22, 2023

Around the world, asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners continue to raise the profile of the damage done by asbestos purveyors. Using a multiplicity of methods, which this month included billboards, outreach programs, workshops, negotiations with government officials, petitions and documentaries, they ensure that a formerly invisible epidemic remains at the forefront of national asbestos dialogues. Recent news about asbestos contamination in the British Parliament (London), the Pompidou Center (Paris) and the Canadian Prime Minister’s residence (Ottawa) confirm the potency of the asbestos hazard. The same fibers which make these buildings too dangerous to use are in the lungs of anyone who has ever worked or lived with asbestos and/or asbestos-containing products. [Read full article]

May 15, 2023

The final spadeful of dirt was dug for the grave of the Rotterdam Convention (RC) on May 12, 2023. After a tumultuous week of negotiations, tantrums and grandstanding, rapacious vested interests – led by Russian asbestos stakeholders – succeeded not only in blocking UN progress on chrysotile (white) asbestos but also in annihilating efforts to reform a treaty which is no longer fit for purpose. After almost 20 years of existence and more than ten years of discussions to enhance the effectiveness of the RC, it could be time to consider whether there is any purpose in continuing life support for a moribund Convention when there is so little hope for recovery. [Read full article]

May 10, 2023

In scores of countries around the world, April 28, 2023 was commemorated as International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD). Trade unions, labor federations as well as groups representing victims of workplace illnesses and accidents took action to highlight the price paid by ordinary people for the continued existence of unsafe working practices and use of hazardous substances such as asbestos. IWMD is a valuable conduit for exposing the human toll of corporate cost-cutting, government incompetence and failures of international agencies to protect vulnerable populations. The IWMD slogan – remember the dead, fight for the living – could not be more apt. [Read full article]

May 9, 2023

The Eleventh Conference of the Parties (COP11) to the Rotterdam Convention (RC) on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade is now taking place in Geneva (May 1-12, 2023). The RC is a UN treaty designed to progress environmental justice by imposing controls on trade in dangerous substances. On eight occasions, recommendations were made that action be taken on chrysotile asbestos; each time a small number of Parties blocked the RC from doing so. At COP11, the RC’s Chemical Review Committee will again recommend adding chrysotile to Annex III, the list of substances subject to prior-informed consent protocols. Russia, which had led opposition to listing chrysotile previously, has already indicated it will do so again. [Read full article]

May 2, 2023

As the European Union (EU) progresses efforts to protect citizens from toxic asbestos exposures as part of the “New Wave of EU Renovation,” the UK is going down for the third time with experts warning that as a result of Brexit, by the end of 2023 the country could be without asbestos safeguards for the first time since the 1930s. More than a century after alarm bells began ringing about the asbestos hazard, more than 5,000 Britons are dying every year from diseases which are totally avoidable. The blame for this rests squarely on callous politicians, impotent regulators and penny-pinching employers. God help us all when EU asbestos protections are gone. [Read full article]

Apr 26, 2023

Asbestos victims and trade unionists from Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America and Australia have today expressed concern over the possible presence of asbestos at the Geneva International Conference Centre where UN delegates will meet next month (May 2023) at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (COP11) to discuss the regulation of the global asbestos trade. Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network Sugio Furuya said: “Delegates to COP11 have a right to know whether the building they will be meeting in contains asbestos.” To date, questions asked to officials at the Conference Center and the Convention Secretariat about the presence of asbestos-containing material in the building remain unanswered. [Read full article]

Apr 20, 2023

The question of who is to pay for the damage caused by the decision of the Brazilian Navy to sink its former flagship remains unanswered. The filing last week of a public civil action by the Attorney General of the Brazilian State of Pernambuco opened a new stage in this sorry tale of subterfuge and incompetence. Compensation of R$322 million (US$65,582,795) is being sought “for environmental, operational and moral damages” from four companies and their directors who, it was alleged, had abandoned the São Paulo on the high seas. As result of their actions and omissions, the ship was deliberately sunk by the Navy 350 kilometers off the coast of Pernambuco in February 2023 after spending several months adrift, having been unable to find a port willing to offer a safe haven. [Read full article]

Apr 17, 2023

The betrayal of UK citizens by yet another incompetent government continues as the numbers of deaths caused by asbestos exposures increases. Whilst countries like Korea and Poland have set deadlines for asbestos eradication from their built environments, the UK’s laissez-faire asbestos policy endures with discredited reassurances from the Health and Safety Executive – “a UK government agency responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare” – that “there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure but that’s not to say it can’t be managed safely.” [Read full article]

Apr 3, 3023

The Korean Government has set a deadline of 2027 for the removal of asbestos from the country’s educational infrastructure. Pursuant to this aim, asbestos eradication programs are ongoing throughout the country; in most cases, removal work is conducted during the school holidays to avoid disrupting the education process. Members of the grassroots group Ban Asbestos Korea (BANKO) have worked closely with regional education departments to organize watchdog teams composed of environmental campaigners, parents and technical experts to monitor and, when necessary, intervene in key processes such as project planning, construction of safety facilities and disposal of asbestos debris. [Read full article]

Mar 14, 2023

This 18-page Pragmatic Guidance for Emergency Repairs of Structures That May Contain Asbestos in Ukraine published this month (March 2023) by Miyamoto International was the result of collaboration between Ukrainian and international scientists and global experts in disaster management. These interim guidelines were developed to deal with a complex series of problems in a high risk environment. Amongst the specific challenges facing emergency workers in Ukraine are: the ubiquity of asbestos-containing material, a low level of public awareness about the asbestos hazard, the scarcity of personal protective equipment and laboratory testing capacity, and the lack of registered disposal sites, not to mention the threat posed by the war. [Read full article]

Mar 7, 2023

Around the world, Supreme Courts have been deciding issues arising from deadly asbestos legacies including who can be held to account for avoidable diseases contracted by citizens. In Europe, North America and Asia the highest courts in the land weighed in on the side of the victims in landmark verdicts in 2021-23; in Brazil, however, in a unique historical precedent, on February 23, 2023 the Federal Supreme Court upheld its 2017 judgment outlawing the production, processing, use, sale and export of asbestos. Brazilian citizens, French factory workers, US consumers and Japanese construction workers will all benefit from the decisions taken by Supreme Courts in their countries. These landmark rulings demonstrate an increasing disquiet with failures to address national asbestos legacies. [Read full article]

Feb 25, 2023

On February 23, 2023, Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) upheld a decision banning the commercial exploitation of asbestos. By a vote of 7 to 1, the Judges rejected appeals of the August 2017 STF plenary decision that had prohibited the mining, processing, use, sale and transport of chrysotile (white) asbestos, an acknowledged carcinogen. The majority opinion handed down in Brasilia this week reaffirmed the STF’s position that the Brazilian law under which the asbestos sector had flourished – article 2 of Federal Law 9.055/1995 – was unconstitutional. The two-page verdict marked the end of an industrial sector which had brought pain and death not only to Brazilians but to people in every country to which Brazilian asbestos was sent. [Read full article]

Feb 21, 2023

A proposal to end an impasse preventing UN action to protect populations and the environment from exposures to hazardous chemicals and pesticides is under consideration. An amendment to the text of the Rotterdam Convention (RC) on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade tabled by the Governments of Switzerland, Australia and Mali, and co-sponsored by Burkina Faso, Colombia, Georgia, Ghana and the Republic of the Maldives would change voting procedures so that a handful of vested interests would no longer be able to frustrate the will of the majority of the Parties to the Convention. [Read full article]

Feb 8, 2023

Whilst the European Union is progressing measures to better protect workers from asbestos exposures and encourage the eradication of the hazard from Europe’s built environment, little is being done in post-Brexit Britain to address what some campaigners have termed “a national scandal.” Recent investigations have confirmed widespread contamination of NHS buildings – including hospitals, health centres, blood donor clinics and GP surgeries – in London and Scotland and schools in England and Wales. Strike action being taken this week by employees of a social housing company underline the decline in protection being afforded to UK workers as well as members of the public. [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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