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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Jul 22, 2021

At a meeting for members of the youth movement “URA-2021,” in mid-July, in the Russian town of Asbestos, attendees were told of wonderful job opportunities at the local asbestos mine: “There are special programs that allow you to get new skills and knowledge on the job, which means both growth in seniority and the opportunity for increased wages. The plant supports its employees by offering them spa holidays, payments on the occasion of the birth of a child, professional development programs and much more.” No mention was made of the deadly effects of asbestos exposure on human health. See: Профсоюзный лидер «Ураласбеста» выступил на XI слете профсоюзной молодежи Урала «УРА-2021» [The trade union leader of "Uralasbest" spoke at the XI meeting of the Urals youth trade union "URA-2021"].

Jul 22, 2021

At the July 19, 2021 hearing in the asbestos trial of the Swiss billionaire owner of Eternit, the names of the 392 people who died from, allegedly, inhaling Eternit asbestos were read out. The defendant is charged by prosecutors with manslaughter over the deaths of 63 workers and 320 members of the public from the town of Casale Monferrato in the Piedmont region of Italy. Also read out was a list of proposed witnesses – from a 120-page document – included in which was PM Mario Draghi. During the day, discussions over limiting the number of witnesses to be called took place. See: Processo Eternit-Bis, la Corte d'Assise ammette il premier Draghi tra i testimoni [Eternit-Bis trial, the Court of Assizes admits Prime Minister Draghi among the witnesses].

Jul 22, 2021

According to a July 19, 2021 press release issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), three companies – Eastern Coast Management Inc., SRZ Mgmt Holdings LLC and SRZ OP Bentonview LLC – were cited for failing to test for the presence of asbestos, erect protective barriers and provide respiratory and personal protective equipment to staff during refurbishment work in January 2021 to replace flooring at a health facility. As a result, residents of the Bentonview Park Health & Rehabilitation Center in Monett, Missouri as well as specialist technicians were exposed to asbestos. See: U.S. Department of Labor Cites Three Employers at Missouri Residential Care Facility.

Jul 22, 2021

During the 2021 summer holidays, asbestos safety surveys and remediation work are being carried out in 19 elementary, middle, and high schools in Seoul, under the supervision of personnel from the Seoul Institute of Health and Environment and representatives of the Department of Education. Samples taken after the asbestos removal work has been completed will be examined with state-of-the-art laboratory equipment to ensure the work has been carried out correctly and that the premises are fit for purpose. Any adverse findings will be the cause for follow-up cleaning measures and further tests. See: 서울시, 유·초·중·고 석면 안전성 조사 실시[Seoul conducts asbestos safety survey for elementary, middle, and high schools].

July 22, 2021

Despite the fact that the Brazilian Supreme Court banned the commercial exploitation of asbestos in 2017, figures for June 2021 show that since June 2020 there has been a 246% increase in asbestos fiber exports from Brazil’s asbestos producing State of Goiás. Although, the mine’s owners maintain that they have an exemption to produce asbestos for export purposes only, asbestos victims’ groups and their lawyers believe that these actions are illegal under the Supreme Court ruling. Litigation over this matter is proceeding at the Supreme Court. See: Proibido no Brasil, amianto tem recorde de exportação em Goiás [Banned in Brazil, asbestos exports reach record levels in Goiás].

Jul 22, 2021

The death of a former municipal worker has resulted in a trial – which began last month (June 2021) – of the French City of Angoulême which had, allegedly, exposed the deceased to asbestos fibers at work. If the municipality is found guilty, it will be ordered to pay the sum of €180,000 (US$210,000+) to the French Compensation Fund for Asbestos Victims (FIVA) which has already paid compensation for this workplace-related death. See: La ville d’Angoulême face aux enjeux environnementaux et sanitaires relatifs à l’amiante [City of Angoulême facing environmental and health issues relating to asbestos].

Jul 19, 2021

The American pharmaceutical Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which is facing tens of thousands of cancer claims from people who used its asbestos-contaminated talc-based baby powder, is considering options for off-loading its liabilities in order to minimize compensation payouts. According to Reuters, the use of the Texas two-step – a stratagem which allows a company to create a new entity for housing liabilities which would then file for bankruptcy – is under discussion. Refusing to comment on the rumors, a company spokesperson told Reuters: “Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. has not decided on any particular course of action in this litigation other than to continue to defend the safety of talc and litigate these cases in the tort system, as the pending trials demonstrate.” See: J&J exploring putting talc liabilities into bankruptcy.

July 19, 2021

A study undertaken by researchers in Taiwan investigated the gastric cancer risk of workers exposed to asbestos. Compared with the general population, the standardized incidence ratios of the asbestos occupational cohort for gastric cancer increased both in males and females. Individuals who had been employed at 123 worksites where cases of malignant mesothelioma had been identified were found to have an increased risk for gastric cancer. The authors of this paper concluded that: “This 35-year retrospective cohort study of asbestos-exposed workers in Taiwan may provide support for an association between occupational exposure to asbestos and gastric cancer.” See: Cancer in Asbestos-Exposed Workers: A Retrospective Cohort Study Based on Taiwan Cancer Registry 1980–2015.

Jul 19, 2021

Italian researchers will soon publish results of an investigation which confirmed findings in 2013 that linked exposure to asbestos to an increased risk of liver cancer. The original study was undertaken by a team in Bologna led by Professor Giovanni Brandi, who recently said that there was solid evidence: “of a correlation between exposure to asbestos and tumors of the gastrointestinal tract and in particular of the liver… We published a retrospective study that highlighted how the possibility of contracting cholangiocarcinoma is 5 times greater for people who have been exposed to asbestos. Furthermore, a prospective study is about to be published…where the risk has increased by even 7 times.” See: L'amianto colpisce anche il fegato [Asbestos also affects the liver].

Jul 19, 2021

The death of the Spanish environmentalist and asbestos activist Francisco Puche – known to one and all as Paco – has been reported. The 82-year-old bookshop owner, who was a key figure amongst campaigners and intellectuals in his home town of Malaga, died on July 16. His death came barely two months after his iconic bookshop had been destroyed in a fire. Speaking about Paco’s legacy, journalist Héctor Márquez said he had been: “a pioneer in this city in introducing topics such as social welfare, the circular economy, the value of water, the dangers of asbestos, the society of common good, sustainability, green spaces.” See: Muere el librero y activista Francisco Puche, fundador de Proteo [The bookseller and activist Francisco Puche, founder of Proteo, dies].

Jul 19, 2021

A prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) resulted in a fine of £22,000 at Leeds Magistrates’ Court for Power Link Machines (UK) Ltd. which had been found guilty of breaching asbestos safety regulations. In 2018, the company was found to be using asbestos-containing gaskets in its generator sets despite having been served with a prohibition order six months earlier which required the company stop importing all asbestos items. The banned goods had been imported from China. After the hearing, HSE inspector Rachel Brittain said: “Had the company put robust checks in place to ensure that they were not importing asbestos containing materials, this incident would not have occurred.” See: £22k fine for asbestos exposure.

Jul 19, 2021

On July 15, 2021, Miguel Iglésias – leader of the Legislative Assembly of the island of Madeira – told a plenary session of the Assembly that several tonnes of asbestos debris had been illegally dumped at a shipyard in the city of São Vicente. The toxic waste had been disposed of by a contractor employed by the Madeira Housing Association, a public authority, to remove asbestos from housing stock. The owners of the site and transport company are being investigated by the Republican National Guard; a prosecution is pending before the Judicial Court of Madeira. See: Amianto enterrado na Madeira inclui detritos provenientes de empreitadas públicas [Asbestos buried in Madeira includes debris from public works].

Jul 16, 2021

MEPs are calling for the European Commission to prioritize measures to eradicate the EU asbestos hazard. According to French MEP Véronique Trillet-Lenoir, efforts to renovate 35 million inefficient buildings in the EU by 2030 provide the opportunity to remove asbestos and eradicate the hazard: “A European strategy is needed to avoid inequalities in protection: every worker must be adequately protected, regardless of his or her place of work… Removing asbestos now means avoiding passing on this burden to future generations and making a major investment in public health: the benefits are considerable, not only in terms of lives saved and pain avoided but also in terms of savings for social protection systems.” See: MEPs are calling for complete elimination of cancer-causing asbestos.

Jul 16, 2021

Good news has been published by researchers from the University of Texas who found a “40% objective response rate in patients with advanced malignant peritoneal mesothelioma” in a phase II study that used a combination of atezolizumab and bevacizumab to treat patients. In a July 14, 2021 article in Cancer Discovery, Associate Professor of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Dr. Kanwal Raghav, who led the study, said: “There is a grave unmet need for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma… This study establishes a much-needed treatment option and represents an effort to encourage research for this rare disease.” See: Drug combination shows meaningful responses for malignant peritoneal mesothelioma patient.

Jul 16, 2021

The President of the Government of Catalonia Pere Aragonès on July 16, 2021 recommitted his government to the goal of eliminating asbestos from Catalonia, announcing that “a regulatory framework will be drawn up” as part of the National Plan to Eradicate Asbestos “so no one else has to suffer the consequences of the degradation of this material again.” All the town councils and Catalan administration will have a role to play in ensuring that the region has “healthy cities free of this component of fiber cement.” See: Aragonès se compromete a retirar el amianto de Catalunya [Aragonès is committed to removing asbestos from Catalonia].

Jul 16, 2021

On July 13, 2021, the Korean Association for Asbestos Safety and Health announced that it would support “Intensive Asbestos Safety Management Training'” for municipal workers in 17 local governments across the country who deal with asbestos issues; educating officials in city halls, provincial, county and ward offices. While the main focus of the case-oriented education is practical measures for minimizing hazards in asbestos remediation operations, and asbestos safety management inspections, also covered are updates on asbestos management laws and safety protocols. See: 석면연대, 17개 지자체 대상 석면안전관리 심화 예방교육 지원 [Asbestos Coalition supports in-depth prevention education on asbestos safety management for 17 local governments].

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]

Jun 4, 2021

In light of a June 1, 2021 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, NGOs from Asia, Latin America and Europe have condemned the double standards of the American multinational Johnson & Johnson which continues to sell asbestos-contaminated talc-based baby powder to consumers around the world despite having withdrawn it from North American markets. This behaviour, said U.S. Attorney Mark Lanier, was “both racist and inhuman.” Agreeing with these sentiments, Indian campaigner Pooja Gupta said: “It seems that as far as the company is concerned, human health is of less import than a healthy balance sheet.” National governments, regional authorities and international agencies have been urged “to take steps to protect populations from exposure to lethal baby powder as a matter of priority.” [Read full article]

Jun 3, 2021

A decision announced on June 1, 2021 by the U.S. Supreme Court is reverberating around the world with media coverage so far in the UK, France, Korea, China and Russia. By rejecting an appeal from the American pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson (J&J), the Supreme Court let stand decisions of the Missouri Court of Appeals (2020) and a St. Louis jury (2018) which had found that J&J’s asbestos-containing talc-based baby powder was a killer. Due to the collapse in North American demand for the toxic baby powder, in 2020 the product was withdrawn from sale in domestic markets. Nevertheless, the J&J’s iconic powder continues to be sold elsewhere with little interest expressed by decision-makers or politicians in this deadly example of double standards. [Read full article]

May 26, 2021

For most of the 20th century, asbestos stakeholders in the Canadian Province of Quebec were amongst the most vocal of all the vested interests in lobbying government administrations in Quebec City and Ottawa on behalf of the mineral they called “white gold.” The asbestos lobbyists did everything they could to promote the use of its chrysotile (white) asbestos at home and abroad. It is, therefore, no surprise to learn that there are 1,000 kilometers of asbestos-cement pipes in Quebec and that nearly 20% of all the pipes delivering water to Canadians are made of asbestos-cement. In a startling U-turn, Quebec’s Minister of the Environment Benoit Charette has pledged, as a preventive action, to take steps to evaluate “the presence of asbestos fibers in the water.” [Read full article]

May 20, 2021

After more than a decade, asbestos victims achieved their goal of holding the Japanese Government and building products’ manufacturers to account for injuries and deaths caused by occupational exposures to asbestos. On May 17, 2021 the Supreme Court of Japan issued a plaintiffs’ verdict in its first unified asbestos judgment. The Court accepted arguments advanced by the legal team representing 500 claimants in class action lawsuits brought by asbestos-injured construction workers or family members at courts in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Kyoto. In response, the Prime Minister of Japan met with victims to apologize on behalf of the Government and the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Tamura announced that a reconciliation agreement had been signed. [Read full article]

May 17, 2021

On May 17, 2021, the Japanese Supreme Court issued a unified ruling in four class action lawsuits brought on behalf of construction workers injured by occupational asbestos exposures. The Court upheld earlier verdicts that had recognized the Government’s negligence in failing to take timely action on the asbestos hazard; the liability of building products’ manufacturers was also confirmed. The factual findings as well as complexity and breadth of the ruling set a precedent not only in Japan but around the world; the Court’s condemnation of the Japanese State and manufacturers should be seen as a warning to all those who continue to profit from the deadly asbestos trade: in years to come, you too will be held to account for your crimes. [Read full article]

May 5, 2021

The battle to ban asbestos in Colombia has been protracted and dirty with intensive lobbying by business interests to forestall prohibitions of asbestos mining, processing, use, import and export. In 2019, after seven attempts, the Congress approved the “Ana Cecilia Niño Law” to ban asbestos. To enact the provisions of the law, Decree 402 of 2021 of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism was recently passed. Unfortunately, several challenges posed by the country’s historic asbestos usage remain unaddressed including the eradication of asbestos from the national infrastructure, identification of and financial support for the victims, criminal proceedings to hold defendants to account, etc. [Read full article]

May 3, 2021

On May 3, 2021, it was announced that to mark International Workers' Day 2021, the Construction Safety Campaign UK had recognized the efforts of 3 individuals by awarding them the Robert Tressell Award for Services to Working People. Amongst those recognized was our colleague Eric Jonckheere. On the plaque presented to him in Belgium the inscription read: “For services to working people, particularly in the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims and the international network of asbestos victims.” We congratulate Eric on this recognition of his decades of service and acknowledge the Construction Safety Campaign for its efforts to encourage all those who have fought corporate malfeasance, exposed government ineptitude and progressed safer technologies. [Read full article]

Apr 23, 2021

A proposal by Basque parliamentarians, which was approved almost unanimously on April 13, 2021 by the Spanish Parliament, will establish a national asbestos compensation fund. It is no coincidence that the impetus for this legislation came from Basque Parliamentarians. Amongst the 20 Spanish cities with the highest excesses of pleural cancer mortality, nine (45%) are situated in the Basque Country. Spain’s track record on engaging with the asbestos challenges posed by its use of 2.5 million tonnes of asbestos prior to banning it in 2002 has been poor. One can but hope that the new law is evidence of a political commitment to right the asbestos wrongs that have caused so much heartache in Spain. [Read full article]

Apr 15, 2021

The issue of banning asbestos in Ukraine has been caught up in a geopolitical conflict over the country’s quest to join the European Union and the determination of its former ally and now occupier, Russia to prevent it from doing so. Throughout the 21st century, Russia has been the world’s biggest producer of chrysotile asbestos and, as such, has orchestrated diverse stratagems to protect global asbestos markets and discredit evidence about the health hazards posed by asbestos usage. At every turn, Ukraine asbestos stakeholders – including but not limited to members of the Ukraine Chrysotile Association – working with foreign lobbyists have attacked attempts in Ukraine to end the use of a substance banned in scores of countries as per recommendations of agencies such as the WHO, ILO, and IARC. [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