|►Global: Global Asbestos Mortality: Update|
|Australia: Wittenoom’s Asbestos Legacy|
|UK: Asbestos in Schools|
|USA: Asbestos at California Jail|
|Italy: Immunotherapy for Mesothelioma Patients|
|Vietnam: Protecting Workers from Toxic Exposures|
Nov 27, 2023
A peer-reviewed paper entitled “Global-, regional- and country-level estimates of the work-related burden of diseases and accidents in 2019”, by researchers from Finland and Italy, was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health on November 12, 2023. After four years of research, the authors concluded that previous global estimates of asbestos mortality were too low: “a more realistic estimate of asbestos-related deaths could be of 289,621 in the workplace, and 304,841 when including environmental and semi-occupational causalities.” See: Global-, regional- and country-level estimates of the work-related burden of diseases and accidents in 2019.
Nov 27, 2023
A 13+ minute video uploaded to YouTube last week used imaginative graphics as well as archival footage to make manifest the deadly human consequences caused by operations at the Wittenoom Crocidolite (blue) Asbestos Mine. The video documented the stark reality of damage done not only to the people who lived and worked at the mine but also to the traditional owners of the land, the Banjima people. With 3 million tonnes of asbestos-contaminated mining waste dumped in local gorges and high airborne levels of asbestos fibers, the 46,000 hectares which make up the Wittenoom Asbestos Management Area “is the largest contaminated stretch of land in the southern hemisphere.” See: Australia's Secret Chernobyl.
Nov 27, 2023
The only Scottish council to have eradicated the asbestos hazard from its schools is South Lanarkshire. According to information collected by a Labor Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Mark Griffin – via Freedom of Information requests – 1,360 out of 5,067 schools in Scotland still contain asbestos. Last year, asbestos material was removed from 274 Scottish school buildings. Asbestos is a red button topic in Scotland; generations of shipyard and factory workers died from asbestos-related diseases. MSP Griffin is campaigning for the establishment of a Scottish Employment Injuries Advisory Council. See: Quarter of Scottish schools contain 'terrifying' asbestos, warns Labour MSP.
Nov 27, 2023
A whistleblower’s complaint by a California member of the American Federation of Government Employees trade union (AFGE) was upheld by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel who ruled that the management at the Federal Correctional Institution Dublin, California violated OSHA standards by exposing staff and inmates to asbestos and mold found throughout the prison. The AFGE’s Assistant General Counsel Ward Morrow called on: “Congress and its oversight committees to further investigate the failure by the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons to provide full disclosure to the staff and inmates as to their exposure, as well as the need for proper medical surveillance.” See: Office of Special Counsel finds multiple OSHA violations at troubled federal prison.
Nov 27, 2023
The report cited below provided an update on progress being made by Italian researchers and doctors in treating patients with mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposures. Two thousand Italians are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. The use of immunotherapy protocols has facilitated treatments that are able to prolong post-diagnoses survival as detailed in a paper published in The Lancet November 2023 which concluded that: “the addition of pembrolizumab to standard platinum–pemetrexed chemotherapy … resulted in a significant improvement in overall survival. This regimen is a new treatment option for previously untreated advanced pleural mesothelioma.” See: Tumors caused by asbestos, progress is finally being made with immunotherapy.
Nov 27, 2023
On November 21, 2023, the Center for Disease Control of Ben Tre Province, in southern Vietnam organized a conference to improve the capacity to prevent occupational diseases. Asbestos was on the agenda as part of the discussion on the monitoring of workplaces using hazardous substances. Speakers explained mandatory requirements for occupational protections as well as the requirement to provide periodic health check-ups and medicals for at-risk workers. See: Hội Nghị Nâng Cao Năng Lực Phòng Chống Bệnh Nghề Nghiệp [Conference on capacity building for occupational disease prevention and control].
Nov 24, 2023
Streamlining and improvements on rail–sea links from China have increased the efficiency of transport links, thereby reducing the time taken for Chinese shipments of asbestos to reach markets in Thailand and Laos. On November 21, a train with 1,000+ tons of chrysotile asbestos in 44 containers left Dunhuang, Gansu Province; arriving by railway at the Chinese port of Tianjin Port, it was sent by ship to Bangkok. The scheduled delivery time for this cargo will be up to ten days less than previous modes of transport. As a result of this modernized system, asbestos exports from China are increasing. See: “敦煌-天津-曼谷”铁海联运石棉专列开行 [“Dunhuang-Tianjin-Bangkok” rail-sea intermodal asbestos special train launched].
Nov 24, 2023
In a 32-page report entitled “The condition of school buildings,” which was submitted on November 9, 2023 by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, the 16 co-authors highlighted not only the problems posed by the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) throughout the UK’s educational infrastructure but also the dangers posed to school users by the presence of aging asbestos-containing products. In the section “Incomplete knowledge on asbestos” on pages 14 & 15, multiple failures of the Department for Education to deal with the asbestos legacy in the school estate were considered. See: The condition of school buildings.
Nov 24, 2023
It was reported on November 16, 2023, that the first two mesothelioma cases against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to go to trial after a federal court had rejected the company’s latest bankruptcy plans had been settled. The claimants – Rosalino Reyes (deceased in 2020) and Marlin Eagles – alleged that their cancers had been caused by exposure to asbestos in J&J’s talc-based baby powder. J&J agreed to settle these as well as other claims being represented by the California law firm which had represented Reyes and Eagles: Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood. See: J&J settles first talc cases to go to trial after failed bankruptcies.
Nov 24, 2023
On November 22 & 23, 2023, meetings organized by the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) took place in Osasco and Capivari, cites in the Brazilian State of São Paulo. Asbestos victims and family members who attended these events were presented with copies of a new ABREA publication updating them on the legal and economic rights of people who had contracted asbestos-related diseases. The sessions were held at the local Chamber of Councillors and were attended by State Deputies as well as local politicians. Next week, ABREA members will travel to Brasilia to demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court over its failure to hand down a decision over an unconstitutional State law allowing asbestos mining to continue despite a Supreme Court asbestos ban.
Nov 24, 2023
Despite multinational treaties, regional agreements and national guidelines, the scrapping of ships undertaken in countries such as Bangladesh, India and Turkey is still being conducted without precautions being taken to prevent toxic asbestos exposures to workers and members of communities living in proximity to the shipbreaking yards. According to the author of the article cited below: “Activists are pushing the EU to increase oversight and ensure safer shipyard working conditions.” See: Stranded: Impact of asbestos in maritime industry.
Nov 24, 2023
A paper published by Perry Gottesfeld on November 9, 2023 in the Annals of Work Exposures and Health reviewed reports on asbestos levels created during the processing and use of asbestos-cement (AC) building products. The author highlighted the hazardous conditions created by the use of power saws when cutting AC products, finding that the vast majority of tasks undertaken with AC sheets and AC pipes exceeded US allowable limits. The author concluded that: “Intermittent high exposures from the ongoing use of AC products in countries around the world are associated with an increased lifetime risk of asbestos-related disease.” See: Exposure hazards from continuing use and removal of asbestos cement products.
Nov 20, 2023
Asbestos contamination remains a fact of life throughout Greece; the article cited below described the ubiquity of asbestos-containing material in the built environment in villages in Northern and Central Halkidiki in Northern Greece. The toxic presence of asbestos-cement roofing on homes, factories and public buildings was recently highlighted by the region’s MP Apostolos Panas in a speech in Parliament; Panas castigated the government for its long-standing failures to address the problem. “The problem is,” he said “intense and extensive throughout Halkidiki.” See: Χαλκιδική: Ζητούν να φύγει ο καρκινογόνος αμίαντος από σπίτια κι αποθήκες. Διαβάστε περισσότερα εδώ [Halkidiki: demand for the removal of carcinogenic asbestos from homes and warehouses].
Nov 20, 2023
Following an October 2023 court verdict awarding €1,276,000 (US$1.4m) to the family of a firefighter from Calabria who died of mesothelioma contracted as a result of workplace exposures to asbestos, Italian trade union leaders called on the Government to undertake asbestos mapping of buildings as a matter of urgency to protect firefighters from future toxic exposures. In addition, the trade unionists asked that occupational disease claims by firefighters be fast-tracked in recognition of the high-risk nature of their work. See: Vigile del fuoco morto per l’amianto in tuta, i sindacati sollecitano interventi urgenti [Firefighter died from asbestos in overalls, unions urge urgent action].
Nov 20, 2023
A lawsuit brought by bereaved relatives over an occupationally-caused death was settled last week at the Fukuoka District Court, Japan. From 1969, the deceased had worked for the Kyushu Electric Power Co. at four of its thermal power plants in the Fukuoka and Saga prefectures. He had been routinely exposed to asbestos at these workplaces and died aged 69 from mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposures. Although the amount of the compensation payout was confidential, the family members had sought damages of ¥44.63 million (US$295,000). See: アスベスト訴訟、遺族と九州電力が和解 火力発電所で勤務 [Asbestos lawsuit, bereaved family of worker at thermal power plant settle with Kyushu Electric Power].
Nov 20, 2023
Naval engineer Mario Necci died aged 75 in 2020 from mesothelioma, having been exposed to asbestos from 1981 to 2013 whilst employed by the Transroll Navegação Company, based in the Brazilian City of Fortaleza. His widow Biana is yet to receive compensation. According to asbestos victims’ campaigner Fernanda Giannasi, although many cases have been settled for workers exposed to asbestos in the metallurgical or construction sectors, there have been few cases brought by workers from the maritime sector. “It is,” she said “difficult in Brazil to convince engineers or specialized workers to take legal action to obtain justice.” See: Vítima do cancerígeno amianto, o engenheiro naval Mario Necci ainda espera por justiça [Victim of the carcinogen asbestos, naval engineer Mario Necci still waits for justice].
Nov 26, 2023
Asbestos victims’ groups, trade unions, research institutes and community activists from Latin America, Asia, Australia & Europe have today issued a declaration supporting colleagues who are protesting in Brasilia this week over the failure of Brazil’s Supreme Court to hand down as scheduled its judgment regarding the timetable for the cessation of operations at Brazil’s only remaining asbestos mine. According to Brazilian asbestos victims’ lawyer Leonardo Amarante: “The Ministers – as STF Judges are called – were asked to determine whether mining should cease immediately or whether a one-year phase-out period should be allowed. The information vacuum which currently exists regarding this litigation is something I have never seen before” (Clique aqui para ler a versão em português). [Read full article]
Nov 24, 2023
Mavis Nye was a fighter. She fought to save her own life and that of people in the UK and abroad, many of whom she never met. From the moment she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, she refused to accept the inevitability of short post-diagnosis survival typically predicted for mesothelioma patients. When the news of her death was reported, social media was awash with comments and condolences from asbestos victims, campaigners, occupational safety and health activists, barristers, solicitors, medical practitioners, scientists, technical experts, asbestos removal specialists and others. The outpouring of emotion from such a range of people not only reflected the impact of her work but also showed the depth of loss experienced by those of us lucky enough to have known Mavis. [Read full article]
Nov 22, 2023
Despite the fact that asbestos use was prohibited in Australia in 2003, the asbestos hazard poses a grave risk to human life. As Australians mark the 20th anniversary of the ban at country-wide events between November 21and 26, 2023 – Asbestos Awareness Week – thousands continue to die every year from asbestos-related diseases and toxic exposures remain all too common. As Melita Markey of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) told us: “Currently, there is no priority in any Australian public health or industrial diseases strategy to develop lifesaving treatments for asbestos and dust diseases sufferers.” The ADSA and its trade union partners are calling on the Government to fund research into occupational diseases “as an immediate public health priority.” [Read full article]
Nov 13, 2023
Brazilian asbestos victims are used to waiting for their day in court, with many claimants dying before their cases are adjudicated. In tandem with the long struggle for personal justice is the national quest for eliminating the causes of these injuries: the mining, processing and use of asbestos. It was, therefore, a cause of grave concern to campaigners when a scheduled decision of the Supreme Court, due at the beginning of November, was inexplicably and indefinitely postponed. With the Court having previously ruled that the commercial exploitation of asbestos was banned throughout the country (2017), the only issue left to resolve was when mining would cease. In the legal vacuum created by this postponement, asbestos production will continue. [Read full article]
Nov 7, 2023
Last week in Phnom Penh, officials from the Cambodian Government confirmed plans to end asbestos use by 2025 at a high-profile workshop organized by the Cambodian Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and Australia’s Union Aid Abroad. Participating in the meeting were representatives of 11 Ministries, employer organisations, trade unions and civil society groups. International as well as Cambodian speakers explored the need for mandatory protocols to protect workers and members of the public from potentially deadly exposures to toxic products such as asbestos-cement roofing material which has been widely used throughout the country. [Read full article]
Oct 31, 2023
It seems that asbestos corporations from around the world are rising from the ashes of their crimes to, once again, become the lauded creators of employment opportunities and generators of national income streams. Their manipulation of financial strategies and off-loading of asbestos liabilities have enabled companies like Eternit S.A. (Brazil), Cape (UK) and Saint-Gobain (France) to shrug off as minor inconveniences the damage done as a result of historic corporate policies. Whilst shareholders and executives bask in the glow of robust corporate balance sheets, asbestos victims and their families face years of ill-health and premature death. Asbestos victims’ groups, workers’ collectives, trade unions and legal experts remain united in their determination to hold these guilty companies to account. [Read full article]
Oct 25, 2023
On October 1, 2023, legislation banning asbestos use and providing safeguards to protect Ukrainians from deadly workplace exposures came into effect. The asbestos prohibitions were stipulated in Article 28, provision 3 of the law outlining the revised constitution of Ukraine’s Public Health System. The implementation of laws which brought Ukraine into harmony with EU Member States was accomplished despite fierce opposition from the country’s asbestos-producing neighbors: Russia & Kazakhstan. Commenting on this news Welsh Parliamentarian Mick Antoniw, himself of Ukrainian descent, said: “The fact that this has been achieved during a time when the country has been at war with Russia makes this accomplishment all the more extraordinary.” [Read full article]
Oct 11, 2023
Work-related deaths now account for one million fatalities every year; this figure is expected to double by 2030. Last year the International Labor Organization recognized that a safe and healthy working environment was a fundamental human right; a high-level declaration adopted in September 2023 at an international conference in Germany acknowledged that pollution was the world’s largest risk factor for disease and premature death. Pursuant to these developments, optimism is building that efforts to adopt a Biological Hazards Convention by 2027 will succeed. Toughening up chemical safety protocols will no doubt hasten calls to outlaw the use of the world’s worst occupational killer: asbestos. [Read full article]
Sep 28, 2023
The release in August 2023 of updated asbestos trade data provided food for thought. While much seems to have changed since I first began studying the industry over 30 years ago – including the dwindling number of countries producing and consuming asbestos – the fact that 1,330,000 metric tons (t) are still being used every year, despite all that is known about the asbestos hazard, is appalling. Amongst the points of interest noted in the new data were: India remained the world’s biggest asbestos user, importing 424,000t in 2022; just five countries accounted for 85% of all asbestos consumed worldwide; apparent domestic consumption in Russia jumped by nearly 60% from 2021 to 2022. [Read full article]
Sep 26, 2023
There are a few of us, people who see the world through an asbestos filter. People like me who go to a tourist destination in Western Australia to gawp at the deteriorating asbestos-cement roofing on the outbuildings of a defunct whaling station; or someone like Fernanda Giannasi who zeroed in on a display case containing an asbestos hood for firefighters at the Museum of Japanese Immigration in São Paulo; or Mark Ogden who gave an asbestos masterclass to the unsuspecting museum chairman of a facility housing military memorabilia. For members of this select tribe, I would like to draw your attention to a few curious developments that have piqued my interest over recent months. [Read full article]
Sep 20, 2023
The world is experiencing an explosion of cancers in younger people. Whilst “dietary risk factors (diet high in red meat, low in fruits, high in sodium and low in milk, etc), alcohol consumption and tobacco use” were postulated as the main risk factors, human exposures to cancer-causing asbestos should not be overlooked. Many of the people in the age 50 and under cohort now presenting with cancer were born in the 1970s and 1980s, decades during which the global use of asbestos was at its highest. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to: “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).” [Read full article]
Sep 12, 2023
On September 8, French asbestos victims endorsed action by their British counterparts demonstrating outside the Stade de France, Paris to denounce “sportswashing” of asbestos crimes by a multinational corporation headquartered in Montpelier, France. Solidarity with the protest was expressed in a press release by asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners in Latin America, Asia, Europe and Oceania, with Sugio Furuya, Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, saying: “Asbestos victims around the world have paid a high price for the profits made by asbestos companies. It is only right that some of the accumulated wealth be used for the benefit of those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by the immoral activities of Cape and others who prioritized corporate profits over human life.” [Read full article]
Sep 8 2023
A global alliance of asbestos victims’ groups and civil society campaigners from Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Europe today issued a formal declaration of solidarity with British and French asbestos victims’ groups calling for restitution by the Cape Asbestos Company, a former asbestos multinational. Instead of acceding to a request for a £10 million donation for potentially life-saving medical research into asbestos-related diseases, Cape’s parent company is sponsoring two rugby teams competing in the Rugby World Cup 2023. Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network Sugio Furuya said: “It is only right that some of the accumulated wealth be used for the benefit of those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by the immoral activities of Cape and others who prioritized corporate profits over human life.” [Read full article]
Sep 5, 2023
During the summer school holiday, news began circulating of a troubling situation in UK schools and public buildings. By the time children were getting ready for the new school year, the “situation” had become a full blown crisis as news spread that more than a hundred schools would not reopen due to the hazard posed by deteriorating reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete material. Considering the fact that the majority of schools still contain asbestos, the surveying work and remediation of affected structures will be both a long and expensive process. The Conservatives had plenty of warnings about the deterioration of the educational infrastructure; they chose not to listen. Unfortunately, it will be the children and teachers who will pay the price for their political complacency and maladministration. [Read full article]
Aug 24, 2023
Ten years after a Brazilian court upheld a complaint over a defamatory campaign targeting Senior Labor Inspector Fernanda Giannasi, the latest appeal by one of the defendants was dismissed. Commenting on this ruling, Fernanda Giannasi said: “This legal action was about reclaiming my dignity, honor and reputation in the face of the outrageous denunciations made by the defendants who stated that I had behaved in a way that was ‘illegal,’ ‘irresponsible,’ ‘authoritarian’ and ‘reckless.’” In the court of public opinion, the probity of this Brazilian activist was never in any doubt; nevertheless, it is reassuring to see that São Paulo Courts agree, even if they took ten years to do so. [Read full article]
Aug 22, 2023
Neither King Charles III, Canadian Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper and their families, President Donald Trump and his family, Harvard undergrad Matthew Walker, British MP Alice Mahon, Spanish TV star José María Íñigo, European Commission official Arnaldo Lucaccioni nor Israeli politician Tania Mazarsky were protected. All of them lived or worked in buildings riddled with asbestos. Three of them, Alice Mahon, José María Íñigo and Arnaldo Lucaccioni, paid the ultimate price for their exposures; as for the others, only time will tell. [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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