|►Brazil: Increasing Asbestos Restrictions: Update|
|Cambodia: Building Technical Capacity|
|Spain: Environmental Asbestos Hazard|
|Turkey: Asbestos Update|
|Brazil: Brazil’s Asbestos War|
|Spain: Asbestos Alert: Toxic Waste|
Sep 16, 2019
Law 10,849/2019 adopted by the Brazilian State of Espírito Santo prohibited the industrialization, trade and use of products, materials or artefacts containing any type of asbestos. A new proposal currently going through the state legislature will further restrict the use of asbestos products such as water tanks and tiles; Bill 699/2019 will prohibit the transportation, import, export, storage and delivery to third parties, even free of charge, of materials or items containing any type of asbestos. These prohibitions are being adopted in recognition of the global consensus regarding the human health risks posed by exposures to asbestos. See: AMIANTO: Projeto fecha cerco contra amianto no ES [ASBESTOS: Project closes siege against asbestos in ES].
Sep 16, 2019
Last week, asbestos training was provided by Australian technical experts to Cambodian laboratory staff for the first time at sessions which took place in Phnom Penh. State-of-the-art scientific equipment and microscopes for the testing of asbestos-containing material were provided by the Australian Safety and Eradication Agency in the presence of representatives of the Australian Embassy in Cambodia, Australia’s Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, the Building and Woodworkers’ Union, the Ministry of Commerce and the Cambodian Ban Asbestos Network (CAMBAN). See: Photo from training session (sourced from the Facebook page of Australia’s Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA).
Sep 16, 2019
Local people and activists concerned about the hazard posed by the presence of asbestos-containing building material in the Glòries area of Barcelona have filed a complaint with the Environmental Prosecutor requesting that it mandate remediation work by the owners of the toxic properties which are in close proximity to: the Gaia School, the Encants School and the Leonor Serrano municipal nursery. The Barcelona City Council has also been petitioned by the campaigners who are also calling on City Hall to make decontamination work a high priority. See: Ecologistas en Acción denunciará el amianto del entorno de las Glòries [Ecologists in Action will denounce the asbestos around the Glòries].
Sep 16, 2019
Although asbestos was banned in Turkey in 2010, the failure of local and regional authorities to deal effectively with asbestos in the built and natural environment meant that toxic exposures continued to pose a risk to human health according to Kenan Yildiz, a spokesperson for (Turkey’s) Asbestos and Hazardous Waste Association. In an online commentary, Yildiz also alleged that many provinces and district municipalities had failed to acknowledge the asbestos hazard and did not comply with official and mandatory asbestos guidelines. Illegal asbestos products can, he said, still be purchased in Turkey via the internet. See: “Takdir-i idari” bir risk: Asbest [An on-going hazard: Asbestos].
Sep 12, 2019
The almost daily vicissitudes regarding the fate of Brazil’s asbestos ban were detailed in an article published by BBC News Brasil on September 11, 2019. The text summed up the dynamics and processes which led to the 2017 Supreme Court ban on asbestos and highlighted efforts by vested interests to curtail the ban so that asbestos mining and export could continue. The roles played by important stakeholders including ABREA – the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed – Campaigner Fernanda Giannasi, Attorneys Marcia Kamei Lopez and Leonardo Amarante, researchers Drs. Hermano Casto and Arthur Pires Amaral and others were discussed. See: Saúde ou emprego? O dilema do amianto, que fez Goiás desafiar STF [Health or employment? The asbestos dilemma that made Goiás challenge STF].
Sep 12, 2019
Multiple complaints over a prolonged period have been raised regarding the environmental hazard posed by the dumping of asbestos-containing waste on the outskirts of the Las Vaguardas neighborhood in the town of Badajoz in the southwest of Spain and in and around the Sancha Brava Gorge. Amongst the waste which is present in areas used for hiking and sports are piles of broken asbestos-cement roofing tiles manufactured by Uralite. Speaking about the dumping of the asbestos Guillermo Villasan, President of the Las Vaguadas neighborhood association, said: “it is unsustainable that such an amount of toxic material is piled up on public roads, outdoors and within the reach of anyone." See: Los escombros y el amianto rodean Las Vaguadas [Rubble and asbestos surround Las Vaguadas].
Sep 12, 2019
On September 11, 2019, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) held a press conference at which it announced the union’s call for a $100 million program to remove asbestos from the city’s schools in the aftermath of the mesothelioma cancer death of a teacher exposed to asbestos at Meredith elementary and another local school. The money would pay for a city-wide program to address not only asbestos contamination but also the hazard posed by lead remaining in the buildings. According to the PFT, asbestos-containing material has been found in about 150 school buildings in the Philadelphia School District. See: Union Wants $100M for Asbestos Removal from Philly Schools after Teacher’s Cancer Diagnosis.
Sep 12, 2019
Local politician Brian Kisila is pressing the County Government of Machakos to implement plans to remove asbestos roofing at Mwala Level Four Hospital in Mwala, Kenya pursuant to the government’s plans to implement a national asbestos remediation program. Commenting on the situation Kisila said: “The hospital is being given a makeover and I would like to urge Governor Mutua to consider replacing the harmful asbestos roofing in the hospital, just like other government buildings.” See: MCA wants Mwala hospital's asbestos roof replaced.
Sep 12, 2019
A front-page newspaper feature in The Times of Malta is being credited with ending a 10-year impasse on the remediation of hazardous asbestos waste dumped on a privately owned 1,000 square meter site in Naxxar, a town in the Northern Region of Malta. The clean-up came 10 years after an enforcement notice had been issued and within days of The Times article. Naxxar Mayor Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami expressed the concern of local people over the health hazard posed by the toxic material on the open site, which included broken asbestos-cement building products. The owner, who had been given a deadline to clear the material, had previously failed to do so. See: Asbestos removed from Naxxar field after Times of Malta pressure.
Sep 10, 2019
On September 6, 2019, 450 employees at a facility in Brest, France which specializes in the maintenance of merchant marine vessels mounted a protest over ongoing exposures to asbestos products fitted on ships whilst at foreign ports despite the fact that France banned asbestos in 1996. Even ships which have “asbestos-free” certificates have been found to be contaminated; in China, anything containing less than 15% asbestos is considered to be asbestos-free. See: Brest. L’amiante provoque la colère des pros du port de commerce [Brest. Asbestos provokes anger of commercial port personnel].
Sep 10, 2019
A September 5, 2019 editorial on the website of The Asahi Shimbun, a highly respected daily newspaper in Japan, urged the Government to follow international precedents and tighten up laws to prevent exposures to asbestos-containing products incorporated within the national infrastructure. Recommendations proposed by a subcommittee of the Central Environment Council to the Ministry of the Environment will form the basis of an amendment to the Air Pollution Control Act and will mandate the introduction of asbestos audits prior to the commencement of building renovation or remediation work. All audits must be submitted to local authorities in order for permission to proceed to be granted. Japan banned asbestos in 2004. See: (社説）石綿規制強化 [(Editorial) Strengthening asbestos regulations].
Sep 10, 2019
Another scandal over asbestos contamination of cosmetics has been revealed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which last week advised consumers to stop using certain cosmetic products because of their toxic content. Beauty Plus Global, the company selling these products, issued a voluntary withdrawal of the of the following contaminated products: City Color Collection Matte Blush (Fuchsia), City Color Cosmetics Timeless Beauty Palette, City Color Bronzer (Sunset) and City Color Shimmer Bronzer (Caramel). In May 2019, the company recalled other asbestos-containing cosmetics after FDA tests. See: FDA Advises Consumers to Stop Using Certain Cosmetic Products.
Sep 9, 2019
In a press release issued by Eternit, S.A. – formerly Brazil’s biggest asbestos conglomerate – company President Luís Augusto Barbosa confirmed that Eternit had “abandoned 100%" asbestos and would now play a leading role in the green revolution by introducing a new asbestos-free photovoltaic tile, capable of transforming solar power into electricity. Product testing is ongoing and Eternit expected the tiles to be on the Brazilian market within 18 months. The USP of the new Eternit product is that the photovoltaic cells are applied onto the tile itself without the need for an additional panel. See: Eternit lança telha de energia solar e diz que superou Amianto [Eternit launches solar power tile and says it has overcome asbestos].
Sep 9, 2019
France’s Council of State on August 27, 2019 suspended provisions of an interministerial decree of July 16, 2019 stipulating that as of July 19 identification of asbestos prior to the commencement of work must be undertaken by certified operators. According to the ruling which accomplished this reversal: “While it is undeniable that the prevention of asbestos-related risks constitutes a public health imperative, it is not established, in the circumstances of the case, that the continued operation of these provisions is required.” See: Amiante: le Conseil d'Etat suspend l'obligation de certification avec mention pour le repérage avant travaux [Asbestos: Council of State suspends obligation of certification requiring identification before works].
Sep 9, 2019
An article detailing manmade disasters highlighted the toll paid by humanity for the profits of the asbestos industry. According to one Spanish expert, by 2018 there had been nearly 4 million deaths worldwide from exposures to asbestos with a further ~3.5m expected between 2018 and 2040. In Spain, a total of 100,000 asbestos-related deaths were expected by 2040. The recognition of asbestos-related diseases in many EU countries is either non-existent or exceedingly low. According to a recent publication by the European Economic and Social Committee: “Asbestos remains the main source of occupational cancer in the EU… [and] claims approximately 88,000 lives in Europe each year...” See: El amianto mata [Asbestos Kills].
Sep 9, 2019
An online article on a website from Ukraine analyzed alternative products available for usage in sewage systems including those made from: ceramics, cast iron, plastic and asbestos cement (AC), pointing out that the hazards posed by the use of AC pipes meant that they should only be used “if other materials are not suitable due to low throughput or the inability to work in difficult conditions.” “Asbestos is,” the author noted “quite fragile, and also dangerous for the environment and people. Cement is heavy, difficult to install.” See: Трубы для канализации: есть ли лучший материал? [Sewer pipes: is there any better material?].
Aug 22, 2019
In light of a Brazilian Supreme Court decision expected on September 4, 2019 regarding a request for the recommencement of asbestos mining operations to produce fiber for export purposes, representatives of Brazilian and international groups have issued an appeal to Ministers urging that they uphold the historic 2017 decision declaring the commercialization of asbestos unconstitutional throughout the country. The text of the letter – which is supported by groups that were part of the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil 2019 – implored the Supreme Court Justices to “uphold the right of all humanity to live a life free from deadly exposures to asbestos.” [Read full article]
Aug 19, 2019
A Brazilian PhD dissertation by Dr. A.P. Amaral published this year (2019) explored in depth what a Brazilian Commission had reported in 2010 about the dangerous conditions in which asbestos workers toiled with a focus on the situation in the town of Minaçu, home to the country’s sole remaining chrysotile asbestos mine. The brief article about this thesis highlighted the isolation and deprivation experienced by victims and their families who received neither support nor acknowledgement of the occupational nature of the illnesses contracted. In a town where the asbestos discourse was dictated by those with vested interests in the survival of the industry, the injured were marginalized and silenced by the overpowering forces against them. [Read full article]
Aug 16, 2019
On August 13, 2019, a media release was issued at the conclusion of an asbestos workshop in Vientiane, the capital of Laos; the event was hosted by the Lao National Assembly’s Committee of Social Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Health and is a manifestation of the growing concern for public and occupational health caused by high levels of asbestos use in the country (as exemplified in the: Lao National Strategy for Elimination of Asbestos-related Diseases). Presentations by international experts including representatives of the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization, the (Australian) Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and specialists from Vietnam, Korea and Japan were of great interest to delegates. [Read full article]
Aug 2, 2019
A judgment handed down by the Supreme Court on July 29, 2019 is being hailed as a landmark in the British fight for “transparency of the legal process”; while the civil case initiated by Graham Dring in 2017 on behalf of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (the Forum) sought disclosure of documentation to a non-party to asbestos litigation, the precedent it set could almost certainly be used by concerned citizens or journalists to access court documents in other cases. The unanimous verdict of the Court in Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Dring (for and on behalf of Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK) upheld the principle of public access based on the constitutional principle of open justice. [Read full article]
Jul 25, 2019
The list of participants to the meetings of the United Nations’ Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions 2019 uploaded on July 12, 2019 makes interesting reading. An examination of details provided about attendees at the sessions revealed the names of 12 asbestos lobbyists and others working for organizations known to be involved in protecting sales of chrysotile (white) asbestos. Organizations they represented included: the International Chrysotile Association (Canada), the Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers' Association (India), Confederation of Employers of Kazakhstan, International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile” (Russia) and Vietnam National Roof Sheet Association. [Read full article]
Jul 16, 2019
On Friday, July 5, 2019 events were held on Action Mesothelioma Day (AMD) in England, Scotland and Wales to remember those who had been lost to mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, and other asbestos-related diseases. Under bright blue skies, butterflies and doves were released, poems were read, presentations were made and music was enjoyed as people found solace in the fellowship and camaraderie provided by the events organized by asbestos support groups and asbestos charities in outdoor spaces, town halls, churches and meeting rooms. After more than a decade, the calendar fixture of AMD has become a beacon of hope not just for the asbestos bereaved but for their friends, colleagues and communities. [Read full article]
Jul 12, 2019
On July 11, 2019, the Colombian President signed into law asbestos prohibitions endorsed by Congress in a frantic rush to beat the June 20, 2019 summer adjournment after which all proposed legislation would have been vacated. The ban, which prohibited not only the mining, commercialization and distribution of all types of asbestos also banned the export of asbestos. This is the first time that asbestos prohibitions have been approved by a legislature in an asbestos mining country; in 2017, the Brazilian Supreme Court, in the face of continuing federal support for the asbestos industry, declared the commercial exploitation of asbestos unconstitutional. The new Colombian law will take effect on January 1, 2021 and permits a 5 year transition period for companies currently using asbestos. [Read full article]
Jul 3, 2019
This timely commentary by occupational health, safety and environmental campaigner Mick Holder reflects on news about the economic, social and medical repercussions of decades of asbestos mining in Brazil in light of the trip he made to the town of Minaçu some years ago when an international delegation “met with the workers and union reps at the mine who were incredibly hospitable and very, very friendly, even though they knew I and others in the delegation wanted an end to this global killer industry…” Mick is scathing about government and commercial interests which “had made enough money out of the industry to ensure a just transition from working in a killer industry to being employed in a safer and healthier one with no loss of social benefit.” [Read full article]
Jun 26, 2019
For the sixth year running, the Asbestos Interest Group from Kuruman in the Northern Cape marked South Africa’s Youth Day with an event to raise asbestos awareness amongst primary and middle school students in John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipalities in one of the country’s former asbestos-producing regions. Children from 12 local schools were brought together at Maipeing Primary School to take part in a day of learning and socializing. The culmination of the day’s activities was a presentation by each team of art work demonstrating their understanding of the asbestos hazard at the end of which prizes were awarded. [Read full article]
Jun 7, 2019
As the end of the Colombian Congress’ deliberations on banning asbestos approaches (the current Congressional session ends on June 20, after which all proposed legislation not yet enacted will become void), an urgent appeal to Colombian citizens entreating their support for the country to ban asbestos exports as well as domestic usage has been sent by Indonesian asbestos victims and activists from the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network – INA-BAN. Indonesia is a prime market for Colombian asbestos exports, where it is mostly used in the production of asbestos roofing; with frequent natural disasters occurring in the country this poses a potent threat to emergency responders, relief workers and affected communities (Para la versión española ver: Llamado Urgente a la Población de Colombia). [Read full article]
Jun 6, 2019
The global asbestos operations of companies belonging to the Swiss and Belgian Eternit asbestos groups have ruined lives and contaminated communities throughout Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Academic papers released in May 2019 documented the toxic repercussions of asbestos processing in Colombia and Lebanon; another paper published contemporaneously examined the difficulties experienced in holding individual executives to account for the consequences of profit-driven decisions made by asbestos corporations which, ultimately, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Italian citizens. [Read full article]
May 24, 2019
Five years after the Italian Supreme Court had vacated murder verdicts against the Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny on technical grounds (2014), the defendant has once again been found guilty of the asbestos deaths of Italian citizens. On May 23, 2019, a Turin Court sentenced Schmidheiny in absentia to four years for the involuntary manslaughter of two individuals from Cavagnolo, both of whom died from asbestos-related diseases. Other trials are proceeding against Schmidheiny who is facing charges of voluntary homicide in hundreds of cases in Naples (8 deaths) and Vercelli (392 deaths including those of 243 individuals who worked at the Eternit factory in Casale Monferrato). [Read full article]
May 20, 2019
Key stakeholders from civil society and the Indonesian government made valuable contributions to the proceedings of a national asbestos seminar held in Jakarta on May 9, 2019. The event, which was organized jointly by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Labour Organization, Jakarta, provided the opportunity for reports by civil servants, occupational health and safety specialists, emergency responders, personnel from regional and international agencies and ban asbestos campaigners working on the asbestos frontline in a country which is one of the most disaster-prone in the world; in 2018, Indonesia experienced 2,372 disasters affecting 3.5 million people. [Read full article]
May 8, 2019
This media release circulated by a coalition of UK asbestos victims’ groups and occupational health and safety bodies detailed the occurrence of a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in London on May 8, 2019 calling on Russia to support United Nations measures to regulate the global trade in chrysotile (white) asbestos by implementing a regime which stipulates that importing nations be provided with sufficient information to ensure “prior informed consent” before purchasing substances deemed by the United Nations to be injurious to human health and/or harmful to the environment. [Read full article]
May 10, 2019
This week a delegation representing members and supporters of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) is in Geneva, Switzerland to monitor the proceedings at the United Nations’ 9th meeting (COP9) of The Rotterdam Convention (RC) and voice the demands of global labor and asbestos victims for chrysotile (white) asbestos to be included on Annex III of the Convention as the RC’s Chemical Review Committee had recommended more than a decade ago. This article comprises a short, contemporaneous report on the activities of the ABAN Mission to COP9 on May 7 to 9, 2019. [Read full article]
May 3, 2019
A media release circulated by the Asian Ban Asbestos Network urges United Nations representatives to the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Rotterdam Convention (RC) “to finally list chrysotile (white asbestos) on Annex III of the Convention and immediately reform the Convention so that a small number of states with economic interests can no longer block listings of chemicals.” Multiple recommendations by the RC’s Chemical Review Committee that the international trade in chrysotile be regulated in order to provide importing nations with “prior informed consent” have been blocked by the actions of asbestos stakeholders, led in recent years by Russia. [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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