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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Nov 24, 2017

The scandal over the use of asbestos-containing shot-blasting material in EU countries has mushroomed as the true scale of the problem has begun to emerge. It had been thought that the number of Dutch companies using the product was 140; as of now, it’s believed that the true figure is 594 companies working at 842 locations in Holland. Two lawsuits have been initiated over the contamination, with the second one filed on November 23, 2017 by the Muehlhan Group, which is claiming €2.4 million for damages and asbestos testing and remediation work. See: Straalmiddel met asbest op veel meer bedrijfslocaties [Blasting agent with asbestos at many more business locations].

Nov 24, 2017

The Association of The Asbestos Injured (APENA) in Murcia, Spain is denouncing a new legal requirement imposed by the Regional Assembly which condemns surviving family members of an asbestos victim “to administrative limbo in the pursuit of their rights.” Unlike procedures in other parts of Spain and most of Europe, autopsies by a forensic doctor have been made mandatory for those who died from occupational exposures to asbestos. This complicated and time-consuming process is, APENA says, unnecessary and invasive. See: Las víctimas del amianto consideran una “humillación” el convenio aprobado en Murcia [Asbestos victims consider the agreement approved in Murcia a “humiliation”].

Nov 24, 2017

HIL Ltd, formerly Hyderabad Industries Ltd, has commissioned a new manufacturing facility in Timmapur, Karnataka, India. According to Managing Director Prashant Vatkar, given the potential for the growth in eco-friendly products, the company is looking to reduce the current 75:25 production ratio of asbestos-containing roofing material to asbestos-free roofing to 60:40 in the next three years. India is currently the world’s biggest market for asbestos imports with the majority of fiber being used in the production of building materials like asbestos roofing. See: HIL commissions Timmapur Plant.

Nov 24, 2017

A high national incidence of mesothelioma in Turkey has been confirmed by a new study reporting data collected by The Turkish Mesothelioma Working Group and the Turkish Public Health Institute for the Turkey National Mesothelioma Surveillance and Environmental Asbestos Exposure Control Program. Based on the statistics gathered, scientists predict that between 2013 and 2033 there could be 2,511 mesothelioma deaths in rural areas; ongoing asbestos exposure in 379 rural villages inhabited by 158,068 people in high-risk areas is a serious cause for concern. See: Turkey National Mesothelioma Surveillance and Environmental Asbestos Exposure Control Program.

Nov 24, 2017

An academic paper published in a special issue (Global Panorama of National Experiences in Public Health Actions to Ban Asbestos) of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, details the various measures taken and reversals experienced on the way to eliminating the industrial use of asbestos in Sweden and eradicating the hazards posed by human exposures. Crucial to the prohibitions was a tripartite collaboration of government agencies, employers and trade unions to delineate the challenges faced and to design and implement effective strategies. See: The Tale of Asbestos in Sweden 1972–1986—The Pathway to a Near-Total Ban.

Nov 23, 2017

A report issued by the Australian Senate into illegal asbestos imports has confirmed that, despite an asbestos ban implemented in 2003, flouting of the prohibitions are common. Of 4,600 consignments identified as high-risk between July 2016 and January 2017, 290 were tested; 9 were found to contain asbestos. The authors called for tougher penalties and the setting up of a border force unit to tackle the inflow of dangerous asbestos goods. Senators, “deeply concerned’’ about the lack of asbestos awareness amongst building workers, called for mandatory training. See: Senate inquiry recommends crackdown on illegal asbestos imports.

Nov 23, 2017

Today (November 23, 2017) at 13:30 a public lecture will be given by Brazilian engineer Fernanda Giannasi, former labor inspector and leader of the Latin American ban asbestos campaign, on the status of Brazil’s on-going struggle to ban asbestos. Masters students from the occupational health surveillance department and others are invited to attend. The session, which will take place at the National School of Public Health in the Manguinhos area of Rio de Janeiro, will be moderated by Researcher Luis Carlos Fadel. See: Aula aberta Banimento do amianto: uma luta coletiva e continua [Open class on the banning of asbestos: a collective and continuous struggle].

Nov 23, 2017

On November 27, 2017, schoolteacher Nirmala Gurung from Kymore, Madhya Pradesh, India will inform a UN meeting in Geneva, Switzerland about the deadly repercussions of European asbestos manufacturing operations in her town which even now remains contaminated with asbestos waste. She, like many others, has contracted asbestosis from environmental exposures. The companies which operated these factories were asbestos conglomerates from Britain (Turner and Newall) and Belgium (ETEX/Eternit). See: Madhya Pradesh village sees “slow death” of hundreds of asbestos victims caused by now closed British, Belgian subsidiary.

Nov 23, 2017

As a result of negligent corporations and collusion of the government, 2,000 people die every year from asbestos- diseases in Spain. The online feature article referenced below details the deadly industrial legacy of decades of asbestos manufacturing operations by the Uralita company at its facilities in Cerdanyola del Vallès, near Barcelona. Former workers detail their struggles with asbestos diseases and their efforts to obtain justice through legal and civil actions including the formation in 2009 of the Association of Victims Affected by Asbestos in Catalonia. See: La negra història de l’amiant, un genocidi laboral que no s’acaba [The black history of asbestos, an occupational genocide that is not over].

Nov 21, 2017

On November 27, 2017 Nirmala Gurung will address a United Nations forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland to highlight the ongoing hazard posed to communities living near asbestos factories. Mrs. Gurung, a former headmistress of a secondary school in Kymore, Madhya Pradesh, India is suffering from asbestosis due to environmental asbestos exposures caused by the operations of the British asbestos multinational Turner and Newall PLC and the Belgian ETEX company, both of which dumped asbestos waste on 600,000 square meters of land on which 3,000 people live. See: Environmental Exposure to Asbestos Kills Indian People. Kymore – A Slow-Motion Bhopal.

Nov 21, 2017

In what is seen as an indication that asbestos lobbyists have succeeded in forcing Sri Lanka to reconsider plans to ban asbestos by 2024, last week Science, Technology and Research Minister Susil Premajayantha announced that a team of Sri Lankan experts from various ministries and institutions is being sent to Russia, the world’s biggest asbestos producing nation (and the biggest asbestos supplier to Sri Lanka), to learn more about chrysotile asbestos and its effects on human health. According to the Russians, asbestos can be used safely; independent experts say otherwise. See: Govt. will send experts to Russia to study chrysotile fiber: minister.

Nov 21, 2017

The Autumn 2017 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The lead article entitled “Asbestos Life and Death in Brexit Britain” considers the country’s mounting death toll caused by asbestos-related diseases and statements by some government officials suggesting that occupational asbestos safeguards will be watered down post-Brexit. The feature headlined: “Another Asbestos Debacle?” compares measures instigated in Europe to protect workers from asbestos-contaminated shot-blasting material with the failure to take action in Britain. See: Issue 105, The British Asbestos Newsletter.

Nov 20, 2017

On Saturday, November 18, 2017, a capacity crowd gathered in the town of Bom Jesus da Serra in the Brazilian state of Bahia to consider the way ahead for asbestos victims in light of a court verdict which condemned the former asbestos mining company that owned the Sao Felix do Amianto mine and awarded a total of 500 million Reias (US$153.4m) to workers and families whose lives had been decimated by asbestos exposures. See: Audiência Pública hoje em Bom Jesus da Serra/Bahia com familiares e ex-empregados, vitimados pelo amianto [Public hearing today in Bom Jesus da Serra / Bahia with relatives and former employees, victims of asbestos].

Nov 20, 2017

A Chinese commentary timed to coincide with November’s global action on lung cancer discussed several myths about the disease and its treatment, and listed five causative factors including exposure to asbestos. “Occupational exposure to asbestos, such as [in] construction, asbestos mining, insulation processing, and vehicle brake repair can cause damage to lung tissue if inhaled. Numerous studies have shown that asbestos exposure significantly increases the risk of lung cancer.” See: 11月"全球肺癌关注月" 警惕肺癌的五大高危因素 [November “Global Lung Cancer Concern Month” alert five risk factors for lung cancer].

Nov 20, 2017

Another unwelcome discovery of asbestos in Chinese exports to Australia was reported last week by Worksafe, an Australian Government agency responsible for occupational safety and health, which warned that rail carriage friction wear plates manufactured in China purchased between 2007 and 2014 had tested positive for chrysotile asbestos, a banned substance. Responding to yet another asbestos scare Steve McCartney, WA state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, said mining companies choosing to “save a buck” by importing rail carriages and parts from overseas were putting workers at risk. See: Asbestos found in WA's rail carriages.

Nov 20, 2017

Although the Canadian Government has pledged to ban asbestos by the end of 2018, the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement which came into effect on August 1, 2017 includes on a list of products which will receive preferential treatment: asbestos brake linings, asbestos friction materials, asbestos-cement tiles and asbestos joints. Commenting on this incongruity, a spokesperson for Canada’s Ministry of Environment & Climate Change said “In all free trade agreements, the Canadian government retains the ability to regulate in the public interest, including the area of public health and the environment.” See: Ukraine, Canada, Free Trade and asbestos.

Nov 21, 2017

Untold numbers of workers may have been exposed to asbestos-contaminated blast cleaning abrasives supplied by the Netherlands-based Eurogrit Company, a subsidiary of the Belgian company Sibelco, which were sold to companies in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and possibly elsewhere. The Eurogrit product (Eurogrit coal-slag abrasive (aluminium silicate) at the center of this unfolding health and commercial catastrophe is used primarily for removing rust and dirt from steel surfaces. Compared to well-honed protocols put into action by Dutch stakeholders, the UK’s response to this illegal use of a toxic product has been singularly unimpressive. [Read full article]

Nov 9, 2017

Actions taken by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health in June 2017 to protect citizens from exposures to asbestos were officially quashed last month (October 2017) by the Ministry of Justice which excluded the implementing regulations from the State Register. The formalization of this move to undercut the capacity of Ukraine to act in the best interests of its citizens is further proof of the over-reaching influence of asbestos vested interests. Simultaneously, a 2017 free trade deal between Canada and Ukraine – The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement – could provide enhanced opportunities for the commercial exploitation of regional asbestos production. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2017

On the evening of October 27, 2017, the Worker’s Initiative – Kolkata organized a mass meeting in Kolkata, India where 19 workers with asbestosis were presented compensation payments received from the T&N Asbestos Trustee Company (UK) totaling INR 55,08,924.00 (US$ 85,000) by representatives of trade unions and labor organizations. Despite attempts by the asbestos manufacturing company Everest Industries to deter workers from attending the meeting, there were many asbestos workers in the audience as well as workers from other companies. Information leaflets on the asbestos hazard in Hindi and Bengali were distributed during the meeting. [Read full article]

Oct 13, 2017

A press release issued by UK asbestos campaigners declared support for French comrades demonstrating in the streets of Paris today (October 13, 2017) demanding justice for those injured by asbestos and punishment for corporate entities, entrepreneurs, government officials, scientists, public relations professionals and others who promoted sales of deadly asbestos products (voir la version française du communiqué de presse). Highlighting the importance of the French protest, Graham Dring of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum (UK) said: “The ties which bind French and UK asbestos victims are enduring and solid; their battles are our battles. Today, we send them a message of fellowship and solidarity and our wishes for a great day!” [Read full article]

Oct 12, 2017

In mid-September, 2017, an article entitled: Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 84 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2016 was featured in The Lancet. Using data sourced from the GBD Study regarding the 2016 incidences of asbestos-related mortality in 195 countries, IBAS has compiled three tables listing asbestos-related disease mortality and mortality rates, relating (mostly) to occupational asbestos exposures. [Read full article]

Sep 28, 2017

A letter by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India to Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, calls for action according to international guidelines and independent research to protect citizens from the deadly hazard posed by the massive use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in India. The text of the September 12 document cites statements by the Environment Ministry that the “use of asbestos may be phased out” and the Ministry of Labour: “The Government of India is considering the ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos.” [Read full article]

Sep 22, 2017

This paper was submitted by the Government of the Cook Islands to the 28th meeting of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) which took place in Samoa on September 19-21, 2017. This and other documentation submitted under agenda item 13.1 supported the Cook Is. delegation’s call for a Pacific wide ban on asbestos and urged the SPREP to take “action on existing asbestos materials and wastes and address the issue of new asbestos in the Pacific.” The members of the SPREP include: American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. [Read full article]

Sep 17, 2017

The asbestos house of cards built on “denial, distortion and distraction” is collapsing. With more and more evidence documenting the toxic effects of human exposures and action being taken the world over to protect populations, preliminary data for recent years have shown a dramatic fall in consumption and reports from the asbestos frontline have documented a waning of industry influence and power even in home markets. This article draws on recent developments, published material and new data which detail a collapse in political, social and commercial support for the asbestos industry and the growth in support for national and regional action on the asbestos hazard in Asia and Latin America. [Read full article]

Sep 1, 2017

This letter is in response to recent comments made by President Rustam Minnikhanov of Tartarstan, Russia about the toxic nature of chrysotile (white) asbestos during a confrontation with Mr Andrey Holm, the head of Orenburg Minerals JSC – a major Russian producer and exporter of chrysotile asbestos fiber. During a meeting to discuss the state of the roads in the Kazan area, the President queried whether asbestos, a substance extolled by Holm, was a poison. According to a Russian environmental campaigner: “This is the first time an administrator of this high level questioned the safety of asbestos.” [For a Russian version of this letter click here] [Read full article]

Aug 26, 2017

Legislation regarding the use of asbestos in Brazil – the world’s third largest producer of white asbestos – was the subject of a split decision on August 24, 2017 by the Supreme Court which upheld the right of São Paulo State to ban asbestos but failed to declare the federal law allowing asbestos use unconstitutional by one vote, despite majority support for a national ban from the nine Justices eligible to vote. This is a great victory for the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, for its legal advisors and for the associations which invested their expertise, time and resources to challenge a dangerous law and a status quo that prioritized corporate profits over public health. There is no place in the 21st century for asbestos. [Read full article]

Jul 30, 2017

A press release issued in the aftermath of an international ban asbestos mission to Indonesia held between July 25 and 28, 2017, highlighted the “Urgent need for banning asbestos in Indonesia to avoid large increases in lung cancer rates and other asbestos related diseases in coming decades.” In meetings and workshops with trade unionists, asbestos sufferers, medical professionals, academics, and government officials, Canadian Prof. Yv Bonnier Viger detailed the tragic asbestos legacy in consuming countries and issued dire warnings of the price to be paid for Indonesia’s asbestos use. “Only 7 countries use more than 50,000 tonnes [of asbestos] per year – including Indonesia.” [Read full article]

Jul 25, 2017

In a press release dated July 21, 2017, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour declared support for prohibitions on the use of asbestos by 2020. This position was adopted in the wake of a Hanoi meeting which provided the opportunity for Australian, Canadian, Japanese and Vietnamese experts to discuss the multi-faceted hazards posed by the continuing use of asbestos in Vietnam with national stakeholders, including representatives of the asbestos-cement roofing industry. Unfortunately, the participation of industry delegates was obstructive as they claimed there was “no proof chrysotile asbestos causes cancer…,” a claim which has been rejected by global experts and independent scientists. [Read full article]

Jul 20, 2017

The number of cross-border ban asbestos initiatives is escalating on an almost weekly basis with victims, family members as well as academic and technical experts travelling far afield to collaborate with like-minded colleagues. This month alone, we have seen groups of Japanese delegates visit the UK on an asbestos solidarity mission, while UK, Australian, Indian and Indonesian campaigners have taken part in activities to mark the 30th anniversary of the Ban Asbestos Network of Japan. Throughout the Mekong region, a ban asbestos roadshow has visited Cambodia, Laos and other countries to generate support for asbestos bans through the provision of up-to-date data and independent research. [Read full article]

Jul 17, 2017

A press release dated July 14, 2017 details efforts made by representatives of 13 Cambodian Ministries and trade unions to build capacity regarding the asbestos hazard, during a 5-day training initiative which took place in Siem Reap from July 10 to July14, 2017. Amongst the featured speakers were Canadian expert Professor Yv Bonnier-Viger, Dr. Rokho Kim (WHO), Mr. Jungho Choi (ILO), and Peter Tighe, Nick Miller and Phillip Hazelton (Australia). The initiative was organised by Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA) in collaboration with multiple partners including the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. As a result of these meetings, work will begin on a Cambodian Asbestos Profile as the first step towards a national ban. [Read full article]

Jul 9, 2017

On June 16, 2017, South Africa’s Youth Day, scores of schoolchildren, teaching staff and school governors were brought together by the non-governmental organization Asbestos Interest Group to take part in an asbestos outreach activity in Kuruman, a former asbestos mining area in the Northern Cape Province. Participants from nine local schools received information about the area’s environmental asbestos hazard, took part in a candle lighting ceremony and created artwork depicting the region’s asbestos legacy. Trophies were presented to primary and intermediate level pupils whose entries won prizes in the art competition. [Read full article]

Jul 7, 2017

At the conclusion of an international asbestos seminar held in Manchester on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 asbestos victims’ groups from Europe, Asia and Australia issued a solidarity statement in the run-up to Action Mesothelioma Day (July 7) condemning the behaviour of asbestos companies in their home countries and the continuing activities of those seeking to profit from “this industry of mass destruction.” “The existence of the global asbestos trade,” is they wrote “an anathema and an abomination.” Paying tribute to the asbestos dead, they expressed their determination to continue the campaign to shut down the global asbestos trade and progress justice for all those who have been injured. [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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Asbestos Trade Data (2014)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,100,000
   China400,000
   Brazil284,000
   Kazakhstan240,000
   India270
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   Russia608,000
   China507,000
   India379,000
   Brazil154,000
   Kazakhstan68,000