International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Oct 6, 2015

Brazil’s School of Public Health and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, the most prominent science and technology health institution in Latin America, have jointly criticized Decree no. 1287 of the Ministry of Labor and Employment (September 30, 2015) which constitutes a commission to discuss “the safe use of asbestos.” These revered bodies call for “the immediate repeal” of the Decree because of the deadly hazard posed to Brazilians by the continued production and use of asbestos. See: Escola é contrária à portaria que institui Comissão Especial para Debater o Uso do Amianto no Brasil [School Criticizes Brazilian Decree Establishing Special Asbestos Committee].

Oct 5, 2015

Scientists have updated lung and pleural cancer survival patterns and time trends in 28 European countries. Relative survival for lung cancer was 39% and 13% at one and five years, respectively. Four per cent of the cases recorded were pleural cancers, of which most (83%) were mesotheliomas. The authors found that survival times decreased with advancing age at time of diagnosis. Recommendations made included banning asbestos, improving treatment access and implementing measures to allow early diagnosis. See: Survival patterns in lung and pleural cancer in Europe 1999-2007: Results from the EUROCARE-5 study.

Oct 6, 2015

A preliminary hearings judge has confirmed charges related to the asbestos deaths of 14 workers from Olivetti’s Turin factory against 17 former executives, including Italy’s former transport minister Corrado Passera, former Alitalia President Roberto Colaninno, businessmen Carlo De Benedetti. The deceased were employed at the Ivrea factory from the 1960s until the 1990s in assembly or maintenance jobs; they died between 2003 and 2013. The first hearing in the trial will take place on November 23 with the second scheduled for January 11, 2016. See: Passera among 17 indicted for Olivetti asbestos deaths.

Oct 5, 2015

A poster presented at the 25th International Congress of the European Respiratory Society in Amsterdam last week entitled: Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Current Status and Future Projections in Turkey, by Dr. Salih Emri at al, highlighted the epidemic of the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma in several Turkish villages which is largely due to environmental exposures to tremolite asbestos and erionite. The authors expressed concern about a future wave of asbestos-related diseases caused by exposures at workplaces and in urban areas where redevelopment work is being carried out. See: Poster – Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Current Status and Future Projections in Turkey.

Oct 5, 2015

A feature article published last week investigated allegations that asbestos waste removed by workers for WestConnex, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in New South Wales, was being illegally dumped at a landfill site in Western Sydney. Members of the WestConnex Action Group, concerned about the environmental hazards being created by the failure of WestConnex employees to comply with asbestos regulations, mounted another protest over the weekend. Previously they reported multiple breaches of the asbestos regulations to state and local authorities which are jointly responsible for the site. See: WestConnex's Asbestos Problem.

Oct 5, 2015

Charges of culpable disaster are to be brought by Turin prosecutors against former directors of the helicopter multinational AgustaWestland and the Italian company Piaggio Aerospace. This week questioning will begin of fifty witnesses subpoenaed to explain why no warnings were given to the authorities about the illegal presence of asbestos in helicopters supplied to the armed forces and police. Those to be questioned include senior executives. See: “Amianto sugli elicotteri delle forze armate”: inchiesta a Torino, emessi 55 avvisi garanzia [“Armed forces’ asbestos helicopters”: investigation in Turin, 55 alert warrants issued].

Oct 3, 2015

The Associação Nacional de Medicina do Trabalho (ANAMT) [National Association of Occupational Medicine], representing 10,000+ doctors, has condemned Decree no. 1287 issued on September 30, 2015 by the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MTE) which aims to prolong the continued use of asbestos in Brazil by setting up an asbestos commission to discuss “the safe use of asbestos.” Highlighting the ethical duty doctors have to protect human health, the ANAMT could not, stay silent in the face of this “political and bureaucratic aberration.” See: Portaria absurda do MTE é favorável ao uso seguro do Amianto [Absurd order of the MTE is favorable to the safe use of asbestos].

Oct 2, 2015

Italy’s Observatory on Asbestos (Ona) has released statistics which record 4,500 cases of the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma over the three year period 2009 to 2011; the number of cases rose from 1,480 in 2009 to 1,524 in 2011. A total of 20,600+ cases occurred between 1993 and 2011. Commenting on the new data, an Ona spokesman said: “The trend of mesothelioma is increasing and it is only the tip of the iceberg considering that cases of lung cancer are at least twice [as many] and that asbestos also causes other cancers (larynx, ovary, gastrointestinal tract, etc.) and asbestosis…” See: Amianto, Ona: 4.500 casi di mesotelioma in 3 anni [Asbestos, Ona: 4,500 cases of mesothelioma in 3 years].

Sep 30, 2015

On September 24, 2015, a diagnosis camp was set up by the Occupational Health and Safety Center at the Kolkata premises of the Kamal Tiwari trade union. This site was across the street from the Everest Industries asbestos factory. The manufacture of asbestos-cement construction products started there in 1938 under the ownership of the British company T&N Ltd. Fifteen workers and/or former workers were screened by Dr. V. Murlidhar and his medical team; four were diagnosed with asbestosis. Claims for these injuries will be made against the T&N Trust; claims for two other similarly affected workers from this factory have succeeded. See: Photo of workers being interviewed by medical team.

Sep 30, 2015

An injunction upheld on Sunday, September 27, 2015 by the 6th Labour Court of Campinas, a Brazilian municipality in São Paulo State, outlawed the practice whereby trade unions accepted financial support from asbestos industry employers on the grounds that by doing so the unions compromised their ability to represent members. The civil action by the Ministry of Labor argued that this funding and other practices could adversely affect the health of asbestos-exposed workers. See: MPT consegue liminar em ação contra entidades ligadas à cadeia do Amianto [Ministry of Labor injunction stopping asbestos industry funding of trade union upheld by Court].

Sep 29, 2015

On September 28, 2015, the Government of Gibraltar published a Bill to amend the Limitation Act as a result of which people with mesothelioma caused by occupational exposure to asbestos whilst employed by the Crown will be allowed to bring legal proceedings even if the prescribed deadline has elapsed. Although global asbestos trade data shows zero asbestos consumption in Gibraltar over recent years, it is not known whether the use of asbestos has been banned. Enquiries are in progress to ascertain whether asbestos is banned. See: Govt open to challenge on cases of child abuse and mesothelioma.

Sep 28, 2015

An analysis of the business interests of former asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny, uploaded to the Italian webzine Carmilla last week, framed a discussion of the fallout from current asbestos-consuming operations by the Eternit Group, at one time owned by the Schmidheiny family, within a global context. The feature contrasted the strict prohibitions on hazardous exposures in countries which have banned asbestos with the daily exposures experienced in non-ban countries such as Mexico and Brazil. See: Il filo rosso dell’amianto e di Stephen Schmidheiny tra Italia e America Latina [Stephen Schmidheiny’s red thread of asbestos between Italy and Latin America].

Sep 25, 2015

A report just published details the consensus reached by scientists who convened during a session on mesothelioma which took place at a conference in Italy in January 2015. Of the 3.64 cases of mesothelioma in Italy per 100,000 people (in 2011), 10% were due to non-occupational exposures. Recommendations included: increased cooperation on mesothelioma data collection by cancer registries, regional centers and pathologists; the provision of information on risks and smoking cessation to at-risk individuals. See: III Italian Consensus Conference on Malignant Mesothelioma of the Pleura. Epidemiology, Public Health and Occupational Medicine related issues.

Sep 25, 2015

An asbestos workshop was held in Hanoi on September 22, 2015 by the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, the Health Ministry’s Environment Health Management Department and the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network during which speakers discussed various facets of the national asbestos policy and highlighted hazards posed by the continuation of consumption. The Government is now developing a roadmap for the phasing out of asbestos in roofing products by 2020. There are currently more than 40 factories throughout the country manufacturing asbestos roofing material. See: Asbestos in roof sheets still a threat to workers.

Sep 24, 2015

An editorial by Jukka Takala entitled: Eliminating occupational cancer has just been published in the Journal of Industrial Health. Takala’s text is categorical about the damage done by asbestos exposure, dismissing previous estimates of the number of annual global deaths issued by the WHO, the ILO and others and stating that: “In the European Union the combined number of deaths will amount to 47,000 lung cancer and mesothelioma deaths caused by asbestos (every year). This still misses other work-related cancers, caused by asbestos, such as larynx and ovary, and possibly stomach, colorectal and pharynx cancers.” See: Eliminating occupational cancer.

Sep 24, 2015

New Zealand’s Employment Relations Authority has ruled that two tradesmen had been unjustifiably constructively dismissed by their employer, building company Goleman Limited, which knew that asbestos contamination had been found at the site where the men had been working – Christchurch Hospital – eight days before informing them. Neil Silcock and Liam Milner resigned from jobs repairing the hospital roof after learning of their hazardous exposures. The company is considering an appeal. According to the men’s lawyer, the failure to provide a safe workplace constituted “a serious breach” of the company’s obligations. See: Employer exposed tradies to asbestos.

Oct 5, 2015

A paper presented at Mesothelioma UK’s 10th Patients and Carer Day, which was held in Stratford-upon-Avon on October 2, 2015, was entitled: Asbestos – What Would Shakespeare Say? The presentation examined the history of the global asbestos industry and highlighted explosive new mortality data; the author considered how Britain’s most renowned dramatist might have reacted to the deadly epidemic taking hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Examples of recent grassroots activities undertaken in Colombia, India, Vietnam and South Africa were discussed with the speaker reaffirming the commitment of the global ban asbestos movement to an asbestos-free future. [Read full article]

Sep 29, 2015

European asbestos victims and campaigning groups have issued this press release to highlight statistics presented today at the 2015 conference of the European Trade Union Confederation which document the huge death toll caused by exposure to asbestos in the European Union (EU). According to the new estimates, there are 47,000 EU deaths from just two types of asbestos-related cancer every year. Commenting on the findings of the paper: Eliminating Occupational Cancer in Europe, Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, called on the authorities to “make good on their promise to constitute a European Asbestos Taskforce as a matter of utmost urgency.” [Read full article]

Sep 25, 2015

In a press release issued on September 14, 2015 headlined “The government buries individual access,” the French National Association for the Defense of Asbestos Victims (ANDEVA) denounced a report used by the government to reject calls for wider access to social security benefits, including early retirement, for asbestos-exposed workers. The decision was, ANDEVA said, based on a financial analysis of costs that was “utterly wrong, both morally and technically.” In an attempt to clarify the issues involved, questions were put to Marc Hindry, an ANDEVA spokesman; the dialogue which ensued confirms the Government’s determination to minimize liabilities at the expense of the injured. [Read full article]

Sep 22, 2015

This month we mark the 15th anniversary of the ground-breaking Global Asbestos Congress 2000: Past, Present and Future [Congresso Mundial do Amianto: Passado, Presente e Futuro] (GAC 2000) which took place over four days (September 17-20, 2000) in Osasco, Brazil, a municipality that was for decades the site of Latin America’s largest asbestos-cement complex. In a tribute to the vision of GAC 2000 pioneers, delegates from Asia, Africa, Europe and North America have described the impact the Congress had, not only on campaigns for asbestos victims’ rights in their home countries but also on the global struggle for social and environmental justice. [Read full article]

Sep 21, 2015

Recalling the participation of several South Africans in the world’s first asbestos victims’ event, Dr. Sophia Kisting – the Executive Director of South Africa’s National Institute for Occupational Health – described the impact of this experience on the delegation: “For South Africans, just about six years into our change from the cruel divisions of apartheid, it was a glimpse of the possibilities of a constitutional democracy to help redress the crippling inequalities and divisions of the past.” Expressing “deep appreciation” on behalf of her colleagues, Dr. Kisting highlighted the importance of international solidarity in the global struggle against asbestos injustice. [Read full article]

Sep 17, 2015

Rochdale Borough Council approved plans on September 16, 2015 for airborne testing for asbestos contamination around the former site of Turner Brothers Asbestos, in its heyday the world’s largest facility for asbestos manufacturing. The cost of the environmental monitoring at the 72 acre privately-owned property will be borne by the Council. Members of the Save Spodden Valley campaign, who have derided the scheme as a public relations exercise which fails to address the complex challenges posed by the legacy of decades of asbestos production, are calling for a robust, open and scientific approach. [Read full article]

Sep 8, 2015

This paper – from the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group at Stirling University – will be discussed today (September 8, 2015) at the Scottish Parliament by politicians, trade unionists, asbestos victims’ advocates and campaigners. In their briefing, the Stirling University researchers call on the Scottish Parliament to “resolve negative impacts on claimants and their families” resulting from the compensation regime under which pleural plaques victims must relinquish potentially larger compensation awards for asbestos-related diseases contracted in the future to receive smaller one-off payouts for pleural plaques now. [Read full article]

Sep 7, 2015

In August 2015, campaigners in Colombia took the ban asbestos fight into new forums and destinations; raising the profile of the country’s asbestos scandal at academic conferences and art exhibitions, and in public spaces. On August 20, artist Guillermo Villamizar discussed the case of asbestos entrepreneur, billionaire, art collector and “philanthropist” Stephen Schmidheiny, formerly head of one of the world’s largest global asbestos conglomerates, during a presentation at an event in Cali. The next week an art show opened in Bogotá called “The law of diminishing returns” featuring an installation by Guillermo Villamizar entitled ASBESTOS: Lungs of capitalism. [Read full article]

Sep 1, 2015

The conference “Freeing Europe Safely from Asbestos” took place in Brussels on June 24, 2015; speakers included EU officials, politicians and representatives of labor organizations, victims’ groups and campaigning bodies. In several presentations, frustrations were expressed about a chaotic and ineffective asbestos policy which was adding to the hazards posed by millions of tonnes of toxic material within EU infrastructures and environments. Ms. Rënstrom, the Chair of the Committee of the Regions Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment and Culture, spoke many delegates when she said that excuses by European Commission officials would no longer be tolerated. [Read full article]

Aug 22, 2015

In the run-up to Canada’s upcoming federal elections, asbestos victims, trade unions, campaigning bodies and newspaper editors have called for a comprehensive and unilateral ban on the mining of asbestos and the use, import and sale of asbestos-containing products. The resurgence of ban asbestos support has attracted media interest with two pro-ban editorials appearing last month (July 2015) in influential daily newspapers. For decades, Canada was at the heart of the global asbestos industry. The time for a reckoning has come. Canada must admit its part in the worldwide asbestos conspiracy and make amends. A national ban is the logical first step. [Read full article]

Aug 13,2015

Over the years, especially since the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, there has been periodic media coverage of the failings of the New Zealand authorities to take action to prevent hazardous asbestos exposures. This insightful article provides details of a situation which is totally out of control – where inexperienced and untrained individuals are allowed to conduct “asbestos surveys” despite a lack of appropriate qualifications and expertise. The author Craig Newsome, who holds a qualification from the British Occupational Hygiene Society in Buildings Surveys and Bulk Sampling for Asbestos, explains what customers should look for when they hire an asbestos surveyor. [Read full article]

Jul 27, 2015

In light of recent revelations by US campaigners of the discovery of asbestos contamination in crayons and fingerprinting kits, UK groups are urging government bodies to prioritize the threat posed by asbestos in imported goods. A spokesman for the Forum of Asbestos Victims’ Support Groups highlights the need for the monitoring of imports while campaigner Laurie Kazan-Allen calls for prison sentences for importers and distributors of toxic products in a media release issued today. Members of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee recommend a national campaign to raise public awareness about the asbestos hazards in schools and homes. [Read full article]

Jul 20, 2015

On July 24, 2015, Judge Federica Bompieri will hand down an eagerly awaited decision to a court in Turin, Italy. She will decide whether or not to comply with a request from Public Prosecutors for a new criminal trial against asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny. Although Schmidheiny had been found guilty by lower courts of causing a permanent environmental disaster as a result of which thousands of Italians died, these verdicts were overturned by the Italian Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) in November 2014 due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. In the new case, the defendant is facing charges of manslaughter, a crime for which there is no statute of limitations. [Read full article]

Jul 9, 2015

As bright sunshine blanketed the UK on July 3, 2015, asbestos victims’ support groups around the country highlighted the consequences of a silent epidemic which is taking up to 5,000 lives every year. During the 21st century, tens of thousands of people have died from mesothelioma, one type of asbestos cancer; unfortunately, the UK has the highest age-adjusted mesothelioma mortality in the world. People representing the asbestos dead took part in public rallies, conferences, information sessions and memorial services on July 3 – Action Mesothelioma Day – to make manifest the nationwide scale of the country’s asbestos catastrophe. [Read full article]

Jul 7, 2015

A consortium of asbestos experts and researchers have published the 30-page Turkey Asbestos Control Strategic Plan Final Report which contains details of the objectives, targets, scope and implementation of measures to assess environmental and occupational asbestos hazards in rural communities where naturally occurring contamination endangers many residents; between 2008 and 2012, 5617 cases of mesothelioma were reported. Asbestos is considered by the researchers as “one of the most important public health problems of Turkey.” The Plan outlines a rehabilitation program which identifies areas of risk and proposes measures to remediate affected locales and eliminate the asbestos risk. [Read full article]

Jul 1, 2015

On South Africa’s Youth Day (June 16, 2015), a community asbestos outreach program in the former asbestos mining town of Kuruman brought together dozens of primary and secondary school children as well as school staff members to take part in an Asbestos Awareness Workshop. The day’s events were organized by the Asbestos Interest Group to: raise asbestos awareness amongst students; alert school managers to the hazards posed by asbestos-containing products and contamination in and around schools; educate participants on the region’s asbestos history, the types of asbestos-related diseases and measures for preventing hazardous exposures. [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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