International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Jul 1, 2015

Data released today by the Health and Safety Executive reported that there were 2,538 deaths from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Great Britain in 2013, a slight decrease on the mortality incidence in 2012 (2,548); the figure for 2011 was 2,312. The male:female proportion of deaths in 2013 was 2,123:415; in 2012 the ratio was 2,137:411. It is of interest to note that these figures come just days before asbestos victims groups, cancer charities and campaigning bodies hold events around the country to mark Action Mesothelioma Day. See: HSE releases annual workplace fatalities.

Jul 1, 2015

Broken asbestos-cement roofing products are one of a number of toxic substances illegally dumped on municipal land in the middle of a densely populated area in Mpumuza, in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. Experts have warned of the danger posed by the asbestos which is being blown into the environment as a result of fires at the dump and the action of wind currents. According to the local authorities: “The illegal dumping issue will be investigated by both our environmental health and security departments. The waste department has also been asked to attend to the cleaning.” See: Illegal dump a health hazard.

Jul 1, 2015

A press release issued by European Committees which hosted an asbestos conference last week, reported that more than 47,000 Europeans per year die from asbestos-related diseases. According to Enrico Gibellieri: “Member States and the European Institutions need to take action…We are talking about a lot more than traditionally exposed factory workers, now extending our concern to the children in our schools, the people working in our hospitals and public buildings and anyone living in a house, which affects just about everybody.” See: European Committees raise alarm on Europe's silent epidemic. Asbestos related deaths are predicted to double those of road deaths.

Jun 29, 2015

Delegates from Belgium and Italy joined Japanese asbestos activists on June 26, 2015 at a meeting with the Mayor of Amagasaki City, a town which has been devastated by asbestos pollution created by the industrial operations of the Kubota company. The international visitors included Bruno Pesce and Alessandro Pugno from AFEVA, one of Italy’s most high-profile and active asbestos victims’ groups, and Eric Jonckheere, President of the Belgian Asbestos Victims Group. The delegation also took part in events to mark the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the Amagasaki Association of Victims and Families of Asbestos Victims. See: Photo of Meeting.

Jun 28, 2015

An appeal by an asbestos cargo transporter over a one million Real (US$320,000) fine for the illegal shipment of asbestos through São Paulo, a state which banned asbestos, has been rejected by a unanimous court decision. The case was brought in 2009 by the Ministry of Labor which discovered that a truck belonging to the company was hauling 24 tonnes of asbestos in damaged packaging. Some while after that incident, a traffic accident took place which required clean-up crews to remove asbestos disbursed onto the Anhanguera highway by the company. See: Rápido 900: Finalmente Justiça Feita FEITA [Fast 900: Justice Delivered].

Jun 28, 2015

Failure by the Kubota company, one of Japan’s major asbestos manufacturers, to prevent hazardous environmental asbestos contamination near its former Kanzaki plant has produced an epidemic of asbestos-related cancer amongst people in the city of Amagasaki. In 1988, a doctor wrote on the notes of a mesothelioma patient “no history of working with asbestos… If a connection with asbestos were to be made, it would be the fact that this patient's home is located near the Kanzaki plant.” See: Silence over asbestos-related cancer deaths in 1980s draws renewed condemnation.

Jun 26, 2015

On June 24, 2015, the Collegium Ramazzini, a global consortium of 180 scientists, reiterated its call for a worldwide asbestos ban. Commenting on the new position paper, the Collegium’s President Philip Landrigan said: “Given that ARDs [asbestos-related diseases] are 100% preventable, zero new cases of ARDs should be the ultimate goal for both industrializing and industrialized countries. The pandemic of ARDs is an urgent international priority for action by public health workers.” See: The Collegium Ramazzini Releases Official Position on The Global Health Dimensions of Asbestos and Asbestos-related Diseases.

Jun 26, 2015

Papers published this week about the impact of asbestos exposures on workers from Belgium and Poland confirm the excess of cancer mortality on people occupationally exposed to asbestos. The first paper highlighted the increase in mesothelioma and oral cancer in a Belgian cohort while the second reported “strong evidence that the lung cancer risk is associated with asbestos exposure and it increases along with the increasing exposure.” See: Enduring health effects of asbestos use in Belgian industries: a record-linked cohort study of cause-specific mortality (2001–2009) and Predictors of Lung Cancer Among Former Asbestos-Exposed Workers.

Jun 22, 2015

Asbestos victims are gearing up to play their part this week in crucial EU activities to raise the profile of asbestos issues throughout the continent. On June 23 a landmark event will take place when international activists join local people in the small town of Kapelle-op-den-Bos, formerly the headquarters of Belgium’s largest asbestos multinational. This will be the first international mobilization on asbestos to be held in this iconic town. After a vigil outside the site of the factory, the delegation will place a floral tribute at the cemetery and then visit Kapelle’s Mayor Mr. Edward DeWitt. See ABEVA Press Release.

Jun 19, 2015

Willem van Soest died of mesothelioma in 2013, a year after winning a $358,000 compensation claim against his former employer. The deceased was exposed to asbestos whilst employed as a painter and docker by BHP Billiton at its Whyalla shipyards in the 1960s. The company accepted that it had exposed him to asbestos but argued the exposure was below acceptable standards and it was not responsible for providing the workforce with protective equipment. The High Court today (June 19) rejected BHP’s petition to appeal; BHP announced that “it does not anticipate any further action on this matter.” See: Asbestos victim's family claims major win against BHP Billiton.

Jun 19, 2015

Two European Committees are holding a conference on “Freeing Europe safely from asbestos” in Brussels on June 24, 2015 to quantify Europe’s asbestos epidemic and provide stakeholders the opportunity to discuss actions for tackling the multiple challenges faced. The sessions have been welcomed by asbestos victims groups, trade unions and campaigners. Issues being considered include: the implementation of a safe strategy for asbestos removal, demands for recognition and compensation of victims and measures to protect the public health of EU citizens. See: Freeing Europe safely from Asbestos. More than 300,000 asbestos deaths expected in Europe by 2030.

Jun 19, 2015

The GMB trade union gave its support for plans by the Trades Union Congress to lobby for legislation mandating the removal of asbestos from public buildings at the annual conference of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health which took place in London this week. Speaking on behalf of the GMB, John McClean said that such a law would result in “better control of asbestos, better registry of it and eventually removal of it.” Many of the workers in Parliament are GMB members and are part of a cohort routinely exposed to asbestos contained in deteriorating Parliamentary buildings. See: TUC backs campaign for asbestos removal bill.

Jun 17, 2015

Today, newspaper articles and a TV program highlighted the terrible toll paid by former teachers and pupils for their exposure to asbestos in schools. An 18-minute segment on the Victoria Derbyshire morning show featured the story of Paul Cowley who was diagnosed with asbestos cancer when he was in his mid-30s. Calling for urgent action, the National Union of Teachers says this “scandal” has been caused by the Government’s failure “to address the legacy of asbestos in schools,” 86 % of which contain asbestos. See: Government must ‘tackle the scourge of asbestos in schools’ to prevent ‘unnecessary deaths’ of teachers and pupils, says teachers’ union.

Jun 17, 2015

The devastation caused by asbestos mining in Baryulgil, a remote community in New South Wales, was the subject of a short film premièred at the Sydney Film Festival this month. The film “Under Skin, In Blood” was made by Professor Larissa Behrendt, a prominent activist and Professor of Law who was determined to expose the effects not only on the people who worked at the mine but on an entire community in which people continue to die from asbestos-related diseases. See: Asbestos mine's impact on Baryulgil depicted in new short film.

Jun 16, 2015

The Commission of Employment, Social Policy and Housing of the Basque Parliament issued a paper on June 12, 2015 which considered the feasibility of creating a compensation fund for asbestos victims. Recognizing, the profound health effects of asbestos exposures and the difficulties victims face in obtaining compensation caused by the long time lag between exposure and the manifestation of disease, the Parliament recommended that a state-wide compensation fund be set up. Based on French asbestos mortality, it was estimated that there are 659 mesotheliomas and 357 cases of asbestosis per year in Spain. See: Parliamentary Report on Asbestos.

Jun 15, 2015

For the first time, a Spanish court has held General Motors (GM) Spain guilty of negligence in exposing a worker to asbestos. As a result of GM's failure to protect him, former GM employee Luis Tirado, died in December 2011, three months after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The Court in Zaragoza awarded his widow €99,911.38 (US$112,000), plus interest. GM is appealing this decision on the grounds that there had “been no breach of the legal regulations in relation to the use of asbestos.” See: Una sentencia condena a GM a pagar 99.911,38 € a la viuda del trabajador fallecido por Amianto [A judgment condemns GM to pay €99,911.38 to widow of worker killed by asbestos].

Jun 28, 2015

Activities this week in the Flemish town of Kapelle-op-den-Bos represented a paradigm shift not only in the capacity of local people to impact on the asbestos disaster which has befallen their town but also on the political attitude of the municipal authorities. Kapelle asbestos victims and family members working with ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims, organized a series of “first-ever” events on June 23 to highlight the ongoing effects of decades of asbestos-cement production at the Eternit factories in their town. The following day, ABEVA President Eric Jonckheere was one of eighteen speakers to address a joint EU asbestos hearing. [Read full article]

Jun 22, 2015

History will be made this week, when asbestos victims from a small Belgian town – Kapelle-op-den-Bos – spearhead the first public protest against Eternit in their home town. The local activists are welcoming a delegation of asbestos victims, trade unionists, campaigners and experts for a series of events on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Representatives from Europe and Australia will join Kapelle residents at a vigil in front of the former Eternit factory before laying a floral tribute at the local cemetery. A meeting with Kapelle’s Mayor Edward DeWitt will provide the opportunity for them to learn more about how the municipality is dealing with its dreadful asbestos legacy. [Read full article]

June 19, 2015

This critique of the 2014 HSE “Beware Asbestos” Web App by independent asbestos consultant and trainer Paul Beaumont reports on the workings of and reaction to a government scheme designed to identify asbestos-related tasks that can be carried out without an HSE Asbestos Licence and provide procedures for such work to be accomplished safely. Aimed at hard-to-reach groups such as sole tradespeople and small contractors, the app has been both welcomed and criticized by asbestos professionals, groups and individuals, some of whom felt it encouraged insufficiently skilled workers to undertake hazardous activities. [Read full article]

Jun 11, 2015

It was announced this week (June 8) that the late Mrs. Carol Klintfalt, a veteran and committed asbestos campaigner, had been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Having been diagnosed with the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma in 2006, Mrs. Klintfalt dedicated the remainder of her life to the campaign to raise awareness of the deadly hazard which is taking so many lives in Australia every year. See (photo) Victoria Keena (ADRI), Carol Klintfalt, Bertil Klintfalt and Professor Nico van Zandwijk (ADRI) at the launch of Betty the ADRI House in 2012. [Read full article]

Jun 9, 2015

The fact that the walls of the Palace of Westminster are “packed with asbestos” is no secret. Despite Parliament’s Asbestos Management Plan, dangerous incidents occur with an alarming frequency. It was reported in The Sunday Times this week that the latest occurred in mid-May 2015 when asbestos fibers contaminated the House of Commons chamber via an “air ventilation system.” Whilst “crisis talks” over the asbestos emergency took place amongst senior officials and parliamentary officials, most MPs, staff members and civil servants were left in the dark. In the country with the world’s highest incidence of asbestos cancer, there is every reason to be concerned about the impact of these exposures. [Read full article]

Jun 1, 2015

Two events which took place last month revealed different aspects of society's struggle with an unfolding tragedy. In the week before UN delegates gathered in Geneva to progress efforts to impose some regulation on the global asbestos trade, asbestos cancer sufferers got together at the monthly meeting of the Papworth Mesothelioma Support Group. As the UK victims know, there is no such thing as safe exposure to asbestos, despite the protestations of the asbestos industry. As a result of the shameful and shameless behaviour by commercial and government asbestos stakeholders in Geneva, the sale of asbestos continues unfettered and unregulated. [Read full article]

May 27, 2015

More than two years of discussions will come to fruition on June 24, 2015, when the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions will host a hearing on asbestos issues in the European Parliament under the title of “Freeing Europe Safely from Asbestos.” Civil society groups representing asbestos victims, trade unions and campaigning bodies have today issued a press release welcoming this initiative and highlighting the subjects to be covered. With 15,000 lives being lost in Europe every year to asbestos-related diseases, urgent coordinated action is required not only in EU member States but in neighboring countries to prevent further deaths and contamination. [Read full article]

May 15, 2015

In this press release, issued by civil society groups at the end of the 2015 meeting of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, “grave alarm” is expressed over the hijacking of the UN process by asbestos industry vested interests. The fact that just four countries were able to override the wish of 150+ delegations which wanted to secure environmental and health protections from the known risk of exposure to chrysotile asbestos was a damning indictment not only of the commercial forces at work but also the Convention’s procedural flaws. [Read full article]

May 13, 2015

Too often at meetings of international organizations, the bureaucratic process takes over and the human impact of decisions taken or not taken is ignored. The presence in Geneva this week of an asbestosis sufferer from Bombay has introduced a much-needed element into the proceedings of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention. The activities of Sharad Vittnal Sawant including his participation in a trade union ban asbestos rally, intervention during a plenary session and presentation to an asbestos side event are considered within a discussion of developments on May 12-13, 2015. [Read full article]

May 12, 2015

The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat calls on delegates to the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention (RC) to ignore spurious objections from vested interests and take action on chrysotile asbestos. National representatives are considering recommendations to list chrysotile asbestos on Annex III; inclusion of chrysotile would ensure that countries are given information about the asbestos hazard prior to importing fiber or products containing it. Failure to list chrysotile will not only endanger millions of people, but will do irreparable harm to the Rotterdam Convention. If the Convention is to fulfil its obligations, all Parties must support the listing of chrysotile. [Read full article]

May 10, 2015

Decades after the Wittenoom asbestos mine in Western Australian (WA) was shut, asbestos cancer continues to pose a threat not only to WA workers but also to members of the public. Efforts are being made to confront the State’s deadly legacy by representatives of Perth-based groups including the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) and the National Centre of Asbestos Related Diseases (NCARD). An update has been compiled highlighting current and future initiatives after attending the ADSA’s annual general meeting and participating in discussions with ADSA and NCARD staff last month (April 2015). [Read full article]

May 6, 2015

As asbestos lobbyists arrive in Switzerland this week, they will be met by posters circulating around the city center on buses and trams with stark public health warnings about the deadly asbestos hazard! Considering that the purpose of their visit is to prevent delegates to next week’s meeting of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention from designating chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance, this powerful advertising campaign will almost certainly be an unpleasant surprise. Another omen which will no doubt provide consternation to industry spin doctors is a highly derogatory statement made today by UN Rapportuer Baskut Tuncak, that singled out the asbestos industry for criticism. Welcome to Geneva! [Read full article]

Apr 30, 2015

On April 24, 2015, the text of this paper was the basis for a presentation made by Laurie Kazan-Allen at a lunchtime seminar at The National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases in Perth, Australia. Commenting on the widespread lack of knowledge regarding the incidence of mesothelioma, the speaker considered the likely ramifications of the increasing use of asbestos in India. During her talk, she premiered a film entitled: Victims of Chrysotile Asbestos – Voices from South East Asia and highlighted the work of grassroots activists to counter pro-asbestos propaganda promoted by vested commercial and government stakeholders. [Read full article]

Mar 26 2015

On March 30 and 31, 2015, asbestos lobbyists will be hosted in Geneva at the expense of European taxpayers. The European Union is underwriting the costs of bringing nineteen asbestos industry and government stakeholders to Europe to take part in yet another talking shop on chrysotile (white) asbestos under the umbrella of the Rotterdam Convention. Given the unproductive outcome of so many previous encounters, it belies belief that yet more money is being thrown at people who represent an industry which peddles death and pollution around the globe. The Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention should be ashamed of its collusion with these asbestos deniers. [Read full article]

Mar 12, 2015

Throughout the 20th century, British multinationals invested in, operated and developed asbestos-producing and processing facilities in Southern Africa. When they walked away from their African asbestos liabilities, they abandoned asbestos-exposed workers and asbestos-contaminated communities to their fate; as a consequence of their actions, tens of thousands of individuals are even now being exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos on a daily basis. A communiqué sent last month (February 2015) by the British Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health to South Africa’s Minister of Labour expressed solidarity for those working to alleviate suffering caused by British asbestos corporations. [Read full article]

Mar 9, 2015

As the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are on the brink of burying a long-awaited report on asbestos in UK schools, UKIP promises to “get rid of unnecessary (asbestos) regulations.” Unlike the politicians who wish to either hide or deny the asbestos hazard, the Labour Party has a specific program to address the challenges it poses. At the beginning of 2015, Shadow Minister of State for Employment Stephen Timms announced plans for a joined-up long-term national asbestos strategy which would support the injured and pursue the ultimate goal of decontaminating the national infrastructure and environment. [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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