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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Sep 17, 2021

A high-profile feature in a popular newspaper on September 16 detailed the deadly consequences of Spain’s “invisible” asbestos legacy, calling it a “poisoned inheritance” for future generations. In recognition of this ongoing disaster, more than 40 civil society and medical organizations have called on the government to implement a comprehensive law to tackle all aspects of the country’s asbestos legacy and to provide funding to enable work to proceed on addressing the myriad challenges posed by the presence of asbestos in Spain today. See: El amianto, una pandemia "invisibilizada" que dejará una "herencia envenenada": dónde está y cómo afecta a la salud [Asbestos, an “invisible” pandemic that will leave a “poisoned inheritance”: where it is and how it affects health].

Sep 17, 2021

Teams of runners from Belgian (ABEVA) and French (ANDEVA) Asbestos Victims’ Groups went head to head in a 20 kilometer race in Brussels on September 12, 2021. Amongst the French runners were ANDEVA’s President Jacques Faugeron, staff members Hélène Boulot and Patrice Raveneau and two volunteers. Although the larger and better trained Belgian team was the first to reach the finishing line under the iconic arch in Bicentennial Park, ANDEVA runners vowed to return for a rematch in 2022. See: L'ANDEVA aux côtés de l'ABEVA pour les 20km de Bruxelles [ANDEVA alongside ABEVA for the Brussels 20km].

Sep 17, 2021

A commentary on a US mesothelioma charity website highlighted research findings by a pharmaceutical company due to be released at the 2021 European Society for Medical Oncology meeting today (September 17). According to Bristol Myers Squibb, the three-year overall survival data from its CheckMate-743 study of nivolumab/ipilimumab immunotherapy in mesothelioma showed that 23% of patients were alive at 35.5 months compared to 15% of those treated with chemotherapy. No new side effects had been identified. See: Released 3-year survival data for nivolumab/ipilimumab combination immunotherapy for mesothelioma.

Sep 17, 2021

Asbestos technical specialists have, once again, denounced continued failures by government officials in Turkey to address problems caused by asbestos exposures especially during urban renewal projects. Another challenge in Turkey is the ubiquity of naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) which endangers the lives of people living in many rural communities. Plans announced in the “Turkey Cancer Control Program 2013-2018,” to address this dangerous situation have not been implemented. New research has identified even more settlements affected by NOA. Whereas the earlier plan listed 19 affected villages in Elazig, asbestos was found in the soil of 103 Elazig villages. See: Asbest Türkiye'nin yeni Çernobil'i olabilir..! [Asbestos could be Turkey's new Chernobyl..!].

Sep 17, 2021

On September 16, 2021, the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases (NCARD) held an in-person and online one-hour webinar entitled: Australia and Asbestos – from community to clinic. The presentations by Professors Richard Lake and Anna Nowak highlighted the lasting and deadly impact asbestos exposures have had in Australia and the cutting-edge research being done by NCARD scientists in developing new treatments and a cure for mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposures. Their presentations were accessible and informative and gave grounds for being cautiously optimistic that, in the short-term, protocols will be found to prolong survival, and that in the long-term, the terminal disease may become a treatable condition. See: NCARD Webinar.

Sep 15, 2021

The French Government has cancelled plans to merge the Asbestos Compensation Scheme and the Medical Accident Compensation Scheme. As a result of a rebellion by asbestos victims’ groups, trade unionists, politicians and civil society stakeholders, the project was abandoned and will not be included in the next Social Security financing bill. Objections raised included the adverse impact that the merger could have on the speed with which claims brought by dying victims would be recognized and compensated. See (subscription site): Fonds d'indemnisation amiante: le projet de fusion avec l'Office d'indemnisation des accidents médicaux abandonné [Asbestos compensation fund: the proposed merger with the Medical Accident Compensation Office abandoned].

Sep 15, 2021

Almost one in five patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) at a Barcelona hospital contracted Covid-19 during the pandemic; the findings reported by a Spanish researcher are in line with results showing an elevated likelihood of patients with lung malignancies contracting coronavirus. According to Dr. Susana Cedres: “18% of patients with MPM were diagnosed with COVID-19 infection during the pandemic, and these patients suffered a very high mortality rate of 54%... I urge health care services to pay particular attention to patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma while managing COVID-19 infections.” See: Study: Nearly one in five patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma contracted COVID-19.

Sep 15, 2021

According to the article cited below, the Regional Administrative Court of Rome recently issued a verdict agreeing with the family of a non-commissioned Army officer who died from cancer in 2013 that his illness had been caused by “prolonged exposure to asbestos.” The soldier had enlisted in the Italian army in 1988 and served in military campaigns in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Bosnia, where asbestos was used in armored vehicles, helicopters and elsewhere. He did not receive any warning about the hazard posed by asbestos exposure. Despite acknowledging the cause of his death, the Judges did not award the family compensation. See: <“Innumerevoli missioni in teatri bellici, maresciallo ucciso dall’amianto” [“Countless missions in war theaters, marshall killed by asbestos”].

Sep 15, 2021

Trains bought by a regional Spanish government years after the country had banned asbestos (2002) contained asbestos material. This information came to light after a July 31, 2021 crash between two subway cars on line 5 of the Madrid Metro. The Community of Madrid admitted it was aware of the asbestos contamination in these and other carriages. Enquiries are ongoing over whether laws were broken by the purchase of the train carriages. Representatives of the Madrid Metro are now consulting the train manufacturer about the presence of asbestos in the trains when they were purchased. See: Madrid tiene amianto en trenes de 2007 y estudia si se vulneró la ley en sus compras [Madrid (authorities) are investigating whether the law was violated in the purchase of trains in 2007 now found to contain asbestos].

Sep 15, 2021

For the first time since the Air Pollution Control Act was revised in April 2021, the results of spot checks – in June 2021 at 227 demolition and renovation sites – by the authorities in Osaka Prefecture were announced. Forty percent of the premises inspected were not complying with regulations that mandated obligations to prepare and display asbestos site audits prior to the commencement of work and prevent the liberation of asbestos fibers into the air. See: アスベスト規制違反 法改正後も約4割 大阪府内のパトロールで発覚 [Violation of asbestos regulations Approximately 40% noncompliance was discovered by patrol in Osaka Prefecture after revision of law].

Sep 15, 2021

On September 10, 2021, the trial over asbestos-related deaths of six workers from the company which operated the underground transport system in Milan began in the Milan Court of Appeal. The deceased, who had succumbed to their injuries between 2009 and 2015, had been occupationally exposed to asbestos in subway tunnels and in railway carriages. The former manager of the transport company Elio Gambini stands accused of manslaughter, having been acquitted in the first instance by Judge Maria Idra Gurgo di Castelmenandro. See: Amianto nella metropolitana milanese, processo verso l'epilogo [Asbestos in the Milanese underground, epilogue trial].

Sep 14, 2021

An article on a Polish news portal highlighted the health issues being faced by first responders to the 9/11 attack. According to the text, 18,000 of the 50,000 people who were part of the rescue operations – including manual workers involved in the cleanup – have been diagnosed with serious diseases including 9,795 cases of cancer. The number of casualties continues to grow with many Poles amongst the injured. The lethal cocktail of toxins, including asbestos, in the dust clouds covering the site could, American scientists predict, affect up to 60,000 people. See: Ratowali ludzi po zamachu 11 wrzesnia. Teraz umieraja na raka [They saved people after the 9/11 attack. Now they are dying of cancer].

Sep 14, 2021

The contents of an advisory note contained warnings to companies operating in France and other EU countries of the implications of French verdicts supporting the right of people with asbestos anxiety to receive compensation from negligent employers and a European Commission Committee asbestos opinion highlighting “the urgent need for an effective access to justice and redress for all health damage, including that relating to anxiety.” The author of the note, clearly intended for a corporate readership, warned that not only had French courts already extended the right to claim anxiety compensation for exposure to other toxins but also that the European Commission was being urged to do likewise. See: Anxiety Damage: on the Verge of becoming Companies’ new Stress.

Sep 14, 2021

On September 7, 2021, it was reported that Social Court Number 2 of the Spanish city of Vitoria had condemned the ECN Cable Group of failing to protect its workers from asbestos exposures. The Basque company was ordered to pay compensation of €165,525 (US$200,000) to the family of a bricklayer who had undertaken maintenance work for the company between July 1966 and April 1997. As a result of exposure to asbestos in roofing material and kiln bricks, he contracted mesothelioma, the signature cancer related to asbestos exposure; he died in 2017. See: Condena en Vitoria por la muerte de un trabajador por amianto [Conviction in Vitoria for the death of an asbestos worker].

Sep 14, 2021

An update on an eradication program of asbestos-cement roofing in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea confirmed that by September 10, toxic roofing had been removed from 3,970 houses and 600+ other structures. Work will be carried out on 2,328 additional properties by the end of the year. The annual budget for this work was increased by 18% in 2021 compared to 2020. The majority of the work is subsidized by the Province as a matter of public and environmental health. Asbestos monitoring and fact-finding by officials continue to be a priority matter for the Province. See: “석면슬레이트 제거로 도민 건강하고 보다나은 환경 조성!” [“Creating a healthier and better environment for residents by removing asbestos slate!”].

Sep 14, 2021

Representatives of a Swiss Association of Asbestos Victims are launching an outreach program to contact former Italian workers who had been exposed to asbestos whilst employed in Switzerland. Lawyers David Husmann and Massimo Aliotta, current President of the Swiss association Verein für Asbestopfer und Angehörige (Association for Asbestos Victims and their Families) will be holding discussions and meetings in Puglia, Italy from September 16 to 19, 2021 to inform eligible claimants of government benefits available to them under Swiss schemes. See: Amianto, la tutela dei lavoratori italiani in Svizzera e il diritto di essere risarciti anche dopo 20 anni [Asbestos, the protection of Italian workers in Switzerland and the right to be compensated even after 20 years].

Sep 16, 2021

At the Novara Court of Assizes this week, prosecutors began to present the case against Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, charged with voluntary manslaughter for 383 deaths caused by exposures to Eternit asbestos in Casale Monferrato. Evidence from two witnesses was heard on September 13. The first to testify was Nicola Pondrano, Eternit employee, union official and founding member of an asbestos victims’ association: AFeVA. Pondrano provided first-hand testimony about horrendous conditions at the factory and the lack of warnings to the workers as well as the hazard posed to family members and local people. Albino Defilipp, from the Regional Agency for Environmental Protection Piedmont, informed the court about the ubiquity of asbestos contamination throughout the region. [Read full article]

Sep 9, 2021

September 1, the day Russian children return to school after the summer break, is celebrated as Annual Knowledge Day. Last Wednesday, Sverdlovsk Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev visited three high schools including one in the asbestos mining town of Asbest (Asbestos). According to a news report, he “offered the students options for their future professions.” Whether he highlighted career possibilities at the town’s chrysotile asbestos mine, we don’t know for sure but since its owner Uralasbest is one of the area’s biggest employers it seems likely. What the Governor would not have mentioned was the elevated risk to Uralasbest workers of premature death and/or debilitating disease posed by exposures to asbestos or the elevated incidence of asbestos-related cancer amongst townspeople. [Read full article]

Sep 7, 2021

If ever joy could be extracted from tragedy, the details of a jury verdict (Case No. RG20061303 – Christina Prudencio v. Johnson & Johnson), filed on August 23, 2021 at the Superior Court of California, Alameda County, could be the source. The six-page document – listing jury responses to a series of questions set by the Court and damages awarded – contains phrases and findings that bring solace to all of us who have been working to advance human health even as multinational corporations continue to exploit vulnerable populations the world over. Finding both Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary negligent on multiple counts, the jury awarded the plaintiff $26.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages for having been sold a product which contributed to her contracting asbestos cancer. [Read full article]

Aug 23, 2021

In the days and weeks to come others, more learned than I, will write tributes to Dr Morris Greenberg, a kind-hearted and generous physician who died on August 19, 2021. My thoughts when hearing the sad news of Morris’ demise were a jumble of memories of his kindness to the maverick ban asbestos campaigners he came across and the lengths to which he would go to help us. We could never pay him nor could we ever repay him for his assistance but he was always willing to provide guidance and information out of his commitment to making the world a safer place not only for workers but also for members of the public whose lives were being jeopardized by exposures to asbestos. [Read full article]

Aug 20, 2021

The arrival of Covid-19 exacerbated Britain’s epidemic of asbestos-related diseases. Conditions imposed to curtail the spread of the virus upended the administration of a key government scheme. A prohibition on face-to-face assessments meant that “claimants suffering from asbestosis and pleural thickening were left waiting over a year to have their benefit assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB).” As the amount of the IIDB was based on the age of claimants when the IIDB was awarded and not when the claims were submitted, delays in processing claims could reduce Pneumoconiosis Workers’ Compensation Scheme payments. After a sustained grassroots campaign, finally on August 19, 2021 notification was received that full compensation was being paid to those affected. [Read full article]

Aug 18, 2021

Despite the fact that asbestos had been banned in Brazil by a 2017 Supreme Court order, in June 2021 the asbestos mining company Sama S.A. reported an annual increase in sales of 246.1%. Shipments from Sama’s Minaçu mine, destined for overseas markets as domestic sales were forbidden, were transported from Goiás State to São Paulo State ports, then on to Asia. The fact that an asbestos mining company was reporting multimillion dollar profits in a country where its existence had been deemed illegal by the highest court in the land might seem an impossibility – but not in Brazil where the war of the injunctions had ensured that production of the outlawed fiber would continue until the very last card had been played by the asbestos producers and their legal henchmen. [Read full article]

Aug 11, 2021

Future generations will look back at the unregulated and ubiquitous use of asbestos throughout the 20th & 21st centuries much as we view the now banned use of arsenic, mercury and lead. In this article the author highlighted methods used to prolong asbestos sales, despite mounting evidence of the damage done, through an examination of key archival documents. These texts delineated industry’s strategic approach to dominating the asbestos dialogue at home and abroad, manipulating decision-making by regulatory authorities at all levels and deceiving civil society stakeholders in order to create a climate in which sales of asbestos products could flourish. The discussion of recent developments indicates that the asbestos industry is finally on its way to oblivion. Amen to that! [Read full article]

Aug 9, 2021

A recent report by Ram Charitra Sah of Nepal’s Center for Public Health and Environmental Development provided an update about asbestos issues in a country which banned most asbestos usage but not the use of asbestos in automotive products. Although asbestos-free friction materials including brake linings and pads are increasingly available in Nepal, asbestos brakes are still being imported. The results of a survey conducted in 10 brake repair shops in Kathmandu Valley revealed that: none of the mechanics had received training about the hazards posed by exposures to asbestos and few knew about Nepal’s asbestos ban; few precautions to prevent toxic exposures were in operation in the workshops; 50% of those interviewed were smokers. [Read full article]

Jul 26, 2021

Yuri Kozlov knows it, Yerkin Tatishev knows it, and I know it too. It is only a matter of time until the use of all types of asbestos is banned the world over. But, time is what the asbestos industry is banking on; another month, another year, another decade means more sales and more profits can be extracted from the commercialization of a substance they have readily to hand: chrysotile (white) asbestos fiber. Whilst the word asbestos is reviled throughout most of the world, in the Russian monotown of Asbestos people base their lives around it. The measures with which the Uralasbest asbestos conglomerate secures their loyalty and the company’s expansionist plans are discussed in this feature length article. [Read full article]

Jul 21, 2021

Data released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in July 2021 revealed that the English regions with the highest male mortality rates from malignant mesothelioma over recent years were: the North East, the East, the South East, the North West, the South West, Yorkshire and the Humber. Even as a Parliamentary Committee launched an investigation into the failure by the HSE to take timely and effective action on the asbestos hazard, MEPs in Brussels called for the adoption of a “European strategy for the complete elimination of asbestos…” The fact that each one of the worst affected English regions voted to leave the EU will, inevitably, mean that Brexit supporters will be living with asbestos contamination long after their continental counterparts. [Read full article]

Jul 19, 2021

No system is perfect and the French Asbestos Victims Compensation Scheme (FIVA) is no exception. Despite its shortcomings, however, for over twenty years it has given a visibility to the problem created by decades of widespread and unregulated asbestos use in France as well as provided a fairly straightforward process by which claimants could access compensation without resort to litigation. If the Government has its way, FIVA will soon lose both its identity and independence via a merger with the National Compensation Scheme for Medical Accidents. The contentious proposal has been soundly rejected by stakeholders representing asbestos victims, trade unions, labor federations and their social partners who have pledged to campaign for the retention of FIVA. [Read full article]

Jul 14, 2021

The title of this article comes from a paper written nearly 25 years ago by American academics. While the demise of the asbestos industry they predicted may have proved to have been overly optimistic in 1997, it is certainly a realistic appraisal of the situation in 2021. Decades of mobilization by ban asbestos campaigners and civil society groups have led to triumphs in recent months that have humbled governments, held guilty industrialists to account and exposed asbestos lobbyists in jurisdictions around the world. The decisions of Supreme Court Judges, the actions of international agencies and the successes of ban asbestos activists have reinforced the global consensus that there is no place in the 21st century for asbestos. [Read full article]

Jun 28, 2021

On June 21, 2021, civil society campaigning groups from Europe, Asia and Latin America released the contents of a letter that had been sent to government authorities in Turkey, Brazil, France and the European Union detailing concerns about the sale of the former Brazilian warship the São Paulo to a Turkish owner for scrapping in an Izmir shipbreaking facility. Amongst the areas of concern raised were: the presence of asbestos, PCBs and other toxins on board the vessel; the existence of a comprehensive inventory of hazardous material; the existence of accurate data regarding the disposal of toxic debris from the Turkish dismantling operations (Bakınız: Türk versiyonu). [Read full article]

Jun 24, 2021

This dossier about developments in the campaign for recognition and compensation for asbestos-injured construction workers in multiple jurisdictions in Japan was prepared by the Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network Sugio Furuya. Taken collectively, the data presented, the reports cited and the photographs included provide an up-to-date synopsis of the outcome of years of protests and litigation. Following a Supreme Court decision on May 17, 2021 vindicating the claimants, the Prime Minister and the Diet acted swiftly to facilitate restitution to many of the injured including the self-employed. Unfortunately, construction workers who worked out of doors remain ineligible for compensation from a new government scheme. [Read full article]

Jun 15, 2021

On the morning of June 9, 2021, asbestos victims, their relatives and supporters again made their way to an Italian courthouse to bear witness: another day, another trial against Stephan Schmidheiny. The former CEO of the Swiss Eternit Group is facing charges of intentional homicide at the Assizes Court of Novara over hundreds of asbestos-related deaths in the town of Casale Monferrato including those of 62 former workers and 330 members of the public killed by exposure to Eternit’s asbestos. In the last decade, the Swiss billionaire has been charged by public prosecutors in various Italian jurisdictions with murder, manslaughter, aggravated culpable homicide, causing permanent environmental damage and failing to comply with safety rules. [Read full article]

Jun 10, 2021

This month Brazilian ban asbestos campaigner Eliezer João de Souza marks a milestone birthday. For nearly 20 years, Eliezer has been the President of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed. In that capacity he was at the forefront of the down and dirty ban asbestos battle in Brazil. Plans to mark his birthday at a gathering in Osasco, Brazil have been shelved temporarily due to the global pandemic. Faced with this set-back, Eliezer’s friends in Asia, Europe and Latin America came up with a way to wish him happy birthday from afar. Indonesian colleague and artist Ajat Sudrajat has translated the universal esteem in which Eliezer is held into a work of art. Happy birthday, Eliezer! (versão em Português) [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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USGS Asbestos Trade Data

Fiber Producers (2018)
(tonnes):
   Russia710,000
   Kazakhstan203,000
   China125,000
   Brazil110,000
    
 Top Five Users (2016)
(tonnes):
   India308,000
   China288,000
   Russia234,000
   Brazil120,000
   Indonesia114,000