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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

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May 18, 2022

The investigative piece cited below explored in some depth the deadly consequences of employment in tire-industry jobs in the heartland of the USA. A cocktail of deadly exposures was part of the workplace experience of employees at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. factory in Akron, Ohio. Amongst the most toxic materials used in the workplace were asbestos and benzene. According to veteran asbestos litigator Thomas W. Bevan, in the beginning Goodyear denied using asbestos, saying: “We’re a tire company; we don’t use asbestos!” despite the fact they had an asbestos department at the plant. See: It was the Rubber Capital of the World. The health consequences linger.

May 18, 2022

On May 18, 2022, discussions began in the Work, Inclusion, Social Security and Migration Committee of the Spanish Parliament about amendments to draft legislation submitted by the Basque Parliament to establish a national asbestos compensation fund. Victims’ supporters are concerned that the socialist group and Minister José Luis Escrivá will seek to limit financing. According to campaigners, the Socialist Parliamentary Group intends to curtail the independence and financial resources allocated for the new fund. See: Las víctimas del amianto temen que el PSOE haga caer el fondo de compensación que les prometieron [Asbestos victims fear that the PSOE will drop the compensation fund they were promised].

May 18, 2022

Officials in the Department of Education in South Korea’s Gyeongbuk Province announced on May 17, 2022 that work to remove asbestos from schools in the district will be completed in 2025; the original deadline had been 2027, but due to the danger to students and staff posed by the presence of asbestos material in the schools, remediation work had been made a priority. In 2022, decontamination work is being carried out in 112 schools; to minimize toxic exposures to the children, the work will be undertaken during the summer and winter vacations. See: 경북교육청, 학교 석면 제거 2년 앞당겨 완료 예정 [Gyeongbuk Office of Education to complete school asbestos removal two years earlier].

May 18, 2022

An article about the causation, symptoms and treatment of pleural mesothelioma on a French news portal highlighted the high incidence of this signature asbestos cancer amongst men who’d been employed in the construction sector, 97% of whom could pinpoint workplace exposures to asbestos-containing building products. New protocols for patients with mesothelioma involve intravenous immunotherapy treatment which can prolong life by 18 months. To access compensation from a government scheme (FIVA), mesothelioma claimants must have been occupationally exposed to asbestos. The majority of mesothelioma patients do not apply to FIVA. See: Cancer: le mésothéliome mieux identifié [Cancer: better identified mesothelioma].

May 18, 2022

The eradication of asbestos contamination in Italy’s built environment is not going to plan, with only 25% of the toxic material removed despite the availability of government funds specifically earmarked for this work. Eight million euros (US$8.4m) remain unspent in a fund set up under article 56 of law 221 of 2015 to cover the cost of asbestos removal from public buildings. According to the article cited below, there are more than 50,744 public buildings in Italy which still have asbestos roofs. See: Il problema dell’amianto in Italia è ancora lontano dall’essere risolto [The asbestos problem in Italy is still far from being solved].

May 18, 2022

Changes were announced this week in the management of an asbestos outreach project in South Korea’s Chungnam Province. The formerly privately-run project – called the asbestos victims’ health care initiative – has been put into the hands of a public institution: the Hongseong Medical Center. Services available to participants and their families include: home visits, health check-ups, psychological counselling and symptom management training. Asbestos, a known carcinogen, was widely used in Korea in building products, soundproofing material, textiles, automotive parts and shipbuilding. See: 충남 석면피해자, 홍성의료원서 집중 관리 [Intensive management of asbestos victims in Chungcheongnam-do, Hongseong Medical Center].

May 16, 2022

A blog uploaded last week by Ukrainian Parliamentarian, ecologist and economist Elena Krivoruchkina highlighted the deadly legacy posed by the asbestos used to construct the country’s built environment in light of the widespread destruction caused by Russia’s attack on the country. The author noted that on the first reading in Parliament in February 2021. the bill to ban asbestos was approved; it has not yet been finalized. She categorized Russia’s destruction of Ukraine not only as a war crime but also an eco-crime in light of the hazard posed to human beings by the liberation of asbestos fibers from damaged structures. See: Азбестова бомба уповільненої дії: війна та радянський будівельний спадок [Slow-motion asbestos bomb: war and the Soviet construction legacy].

May 16, 2022

On May 11, 2022, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced plans to reconsider contentious measures implemented by the American pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to put into bankruptcy a purpose-built subsidiary in order to freeze almost 40,000 cancer claims against the parent company. The litigation put on hold concerned the sale of talc-based baby powder containing asbestos fibers to American consumers. The appeal will revaluate a February 2022 ruling by Judge Michael Kaplan from a federal bankruptcy court in Trenton, New Jersey. See: Not so fast on Johnson & Johnson's Texas Two-Step strategy as appeals court says it'll take another look.

May 16, 2022

On May 13, 2022, the Council of State (France) rejected an appeal by the Ministry of Armed Forces to void a judgment awarding former Naval personnel compensation for occupational asbestos exposures. The State was ordered to pay each of the 17 claimants the sum of €3,000 (US$3,125) for “moral damages” under article L.761-1 of the code of administrative justice. The case had first been heard by the administrative court of Rennes in June 2019, with the administrative court of appeal of Rennes subsequently confirming the victims’ verdict in January 2021. See: Amiante: l’État devra indemniser d’anciens officiers mariniers [Asbestos: the State will have to compensate former petty officers].

May 16, 2022

A report just released by the Labour Research Department, on behalf of the Trades Union Congress and the all-party parliamentary group on occupational safety and health, revealed that of 31 local authorities contacted only one had completely removed asbestos from all its buildings. Commenting on these findings, MP Ian Lavery, Chair of the parliamentary group said: “The government must provide local councils with enough funding, with an aim to make all public buildings asbestos-free.” See: Thousands of local authority buildings in England still contain deadly asbestos — more than two decades after its use was banned in Britain.

May 16, 2022

On May 6, 2022. a labor judge in the town of Massa, central Italy ordered the employer of a deceased welder to pay compensation of €1,146,296 (US$1.2m) to his family. The worker, who died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, had been employed by the Nuovo Pignone company at its Massa plant from 1965 to 1986 during which time he was routinely exposed to asbestos “to an extent exceeding the regulatory limit.” The judge dismissed arguments advanced by the company’s lawyers claiming working conditions were within permissible exposure limits and that the deceased had been a smoker. See: Amianto: Morte di un Operaio Saldatore, Nuovo Pignone Condannato a Risarcire oltre un Milione alla Famiglia [Asbestos: Death of a Welder, Company Sentenced to Pay over a Million to the Family].

May 16, 2022

On May 10, 2022, the French department of Seine-Maritime was found guilty by a Rouen court of having exposed four employees to asbestos; damages of €3,000 (US$3125) were awarded to each of the claimants. From April 14 to 17, 2015, the claimants had “regularly picked up … dust containing asbestos without any protective equipment” whilst employed on a river vessel. When asked if the judgment would be appealed, a spokesperson for Seine-Maritime said it was “still too early … to give an answer on if it will appeal or not.” See: Amiante: le département de Seine-Maritime condamné [Asbestos: the department of Seine-Maritime condemned].

May 13, 2022

The Good Practice Guidance for the Management and Control of Asbestos: Protecting Workplaces and Communities from Asbestos Exposure Risks released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is widely regarded as confirmation of the Bank’s commitment to honoring its promise to outlaw the use of asbestos in all projects funded by the ABD. During the launch of the document last month (April 2022), the ADB Director of Safeguards Bruce Dunn indicated that the ban would be announced in March 2023. Until then, the ADB has warned staff to avoid the use of asbestos-containing materials in existing and new procurement. See: Asia Development Bank one step closer to asbestos ban.

May 13, 2022

In what is being termed a “historic victory for public health,” the Municipal Department of the Environment in the Brazilian city of Avaré oversaw efforts to remove 400 tonnes of asbestos waste which had been lingering for years on a public highway. The toxic material had been dumped by the company Auco Automotive Components. The site was remediated and the waste was sent to an authorized Waste Management Center in Guatapará. See: Amianto abandonado há anos é retirado por ação da Prefeitura de Avaré [Asbestos abandoned for years is removed by action of the City Hall of Avaré].

May 13, 2022

A very popular tourist destination in Brussels, the Institute of Natural Sciences, is grappling with the discovery earlier this year of asbestos contamination, according to an announcement by museum officials who revealed that asbestos fibers had been found in the Institute’s ventilation ducts. On March 23, 2022, officials said that the contamination affected “the offices, laboratories and collections part of our Institute.” A working group is preparing a feasibility study exploring options such as remediation, renovation and demolition. See: L'amiante aura-t-il la peau d'une partie de l'Institut des sciences naturelles à Bruxelles? [Will asbestos take over part of the Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels?].

May 13, 2022

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been released which confirmed that over the last 20 years there has been a 25% increase in the number of women dying in the U.S. from the signature asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Between,1999 to 2020, 12,227 females aged 25 and up died from mesothelioma; the majority were older than 55. The states with the highest female mesothelioma death rates were: Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, according to a report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
See: CDC: Mesothelioma Deaths Up Among Women.

May 18, 2022

In May 2022, hope is in short supply. With Russian troops still killing innocent Ukrainians, extreme temperatures baking populations in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, devastating wildfires decimating US western states and the Covid-19 pandemic far from conquered, a rational person could be forgiven for seeing gloom and disaster on every front. And yet, if you look closely, there are glimmers of hope to be found. This month (May 2022), events mounted by coalitions of civil society stakeholders in Asia, Latin America, Europe and Australia, addressed toxic national asbestos legacies and progressed efforts to outlaw asbestos use. With medical breakthroughs on the horizon and the rejection of pro-asbestos rhetoric, the future truly is asbestos-free! [Read full article]

May 16, 2022

Russia’s blood-thirsty attack on Ukraine, has left tens of thousands dead and injured, destroyed huge swathes of the built environment and displaced over seven million Ukrainians. A report circulated on a Ukraine news portal earlier this month expressed the concern of the UN Global Compact in Ukraine that cities destroyed by the Russian army could be rebuilt with toxic Russian asbestos. Russia is the world’s biggest asbestos producer and exporter. Although Ukrainian politicians and civil servants had been working to ban asbestos in recent years, in 2005 Ukraine used 183,271 tonnes (t) of asbestos, making it Europe’s second biggest consumer after Russia (314,828t), ahead of Kazakhstan (153,050t). There is every reason to believe that Ukrainian buildings destroyed by Russian attacks will contain asbestos fibers. [Read full article]

May 9, 2022

Health and safety campaigners are outraged at the news that 85% of the shareholders of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) supported the continued sale of toxic talc-based baby powder containing asbestos fibers in countries outside North America. A vote on resolution 10 at the company’s virtual AGM on April 28, 2022 gave the pharmaceutical giant the green light to continue the racist and duplicitous marketing strategy which protected North Americans but allowed everyone else to be exposed to a known carcinogen. “This is no longer a political or legal or consumer problem, this is a shareholder problem,” said Antoine Argouges, founder of the activist-investor platform which submitted resolution 10. [Read full article]

May 4, 2022

Despite the fact that the Brazilian Supreme Court banned the commercial exploitation of asbestos in 2017, mining continues in the State of Goiás under a state law which countermanded the Court’s ruling and authorized production to resume for export purposes only. For decades, asbestos stakeholders in Brazil have argued that the safe use of asbestos is possible under “controlled conditions.” Epidemiological data and medical evidence have, time and again, exposed the vacuousness of this argument. A fatal road traffic accident on a public highway in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais on April 24, 2022 reinforced the inconvenient truth that there is, in fact, no such thing as the “controlled use” of asbestos. [Read full article]

May 3, 2022

One hundred and twenty-three years after the hazard was first acknowledged by a British Factory Inspector, a Parliamentary Committee called for government action to eradicate the danger posed by asbestos-containing material within public buildings. The deadline suggested by Members of Parliament for the completion of the decontamination was forty years or 163 years after the problem was first reported. Whilst the report was broadly welcomed, queries were raised about the consequences of setting a 40-year deadline to rid the national infrastructure of a deadly carcinogen. The Government has two months to respond to the report. [Read full article]

April 28, 2022

On April 28, 2022, the world was told what his friends had feared for a long time: Eric Jonckheere had contracted the same asbestos cancer that had killed his father Pierre, his mother Françoise and his brothers: Pierre-Paul and Stéphane. The release of this heart-breaking news coincided with the launch of a legal case against the company which had been responsible for the deaths of his family: Eternit, an asbestos multinational which had continued to profit from its toxic technology long after others had transitioned to asbestos-free production. Earlier today, Eric and his attorneys served a summons on Eternit, ordering the company to appear before the Brussels Court to answer charges of wilful misconduct. [Read full article]

Apr 13, 2022

“The failure to ban asbestos in the United States is” wrote Drs. Richard Lemen and Philip Landrigan “a national scandal and an affront to morality and human decency.” On April 5, 2022, the EPA issued a press release declaring that the US was finally prepared to take “an important step forward to protect public health and finally put an end to the use of dangerous asbestos in the United States.” If finalized, the US ban would be a clear signal to countries around the world that the mineral at the heart of a dangerous and outdated technology had been consigned to the history books along with mercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls and other substances injurious to human health and the environment. The future is asbestos-free. [Read full article]

Apr 8, 2022

So many corporations behind the global asbestos epidemic claiming ~300,000 lives every year, remain in rude financial health. These include Cape PLC, formerly the Cape Asbestos Company and the American chemical company Union Carbide. In March 2022, the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK released a treasure trove of 1,600+ documents from the Cape archives acquired after protracted litigation. In April 2022, a “smoking gun” report (1967) by a Union Carbide official which stated that it: “seems that on the basis of present evidence, we are not entitled under any circumstances to state that our material is not a health hazard” was also uploaded. Whilst preparing for future litigation, interested parties would be well-advised to look at all these documents. [Read full article]

Mar 30, 2022

The use of all types of asbestos was banned in the UK over 20 years ago, but millions of tonnes of toxic material remain hidden within the national infrastructure. While asbestos contamination in Parliament and Buckingham Palace garnishes front-page coverage, less attention is paid to the situation in schools, the majority of which contain asbestos. A March 16, 2022 report by the Public Accounts Committee raised serious concerns about the Department for Education’s mismanagement of asbestos in schools. Another Parliamentary enquiry is investigating whether the Health and Safety Executive’s asbestos policy is fit for purpose. We can but hope that the time for action has finally come and that a phased removal of asbestos from all our schools will become national policy. [Read full article]

Mar 22, 2022

In a livestream address to an anti-war rally in the Swiss capital on March 19, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Business in Russia works, even though our children die and our cities are destroyed.” It is unlikely that the suffering in Ukraine and outrage of the international community will have any affect on the population in the Sverdlovsk asbestos mining region, some of whom have already shown support for the war on Ukraine, or the owners of Russian conglomerates that produce 60% of the world’s annual asbestos output. Where sanctions have failed to prevent the transport of deadly Russian asbestos, civil society campaigners are urged to take action to stop toxic imports, thereby denying vital foreign currency to the Russian war machine as well as saving the lives of their compatriots. [Read full article]

Mar 17, 2022

Still reeling from the explosion of bad press over its abandonment of cancer sufferers exposed to asbestos in its baby powder, the American pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson (J&J) was revealed this month to have used male participants incarcerated in the US prison system as guinea pigs in the 1960s & 1970s. The subjects, most of whom were African-American inmates at Holmesburg Prison, were injected with asbestos fibers “to compare the [effects of the] cancer-causing compound to talc.” Other recent adverse corporate news included J&J’s refusal to cease operations in Russia and the approval by the Securities Exchange Commission of a resolution calling on J&J shareholders to condemn the continued sale of toxic baby powder outside North America. [Read full article]

Mar 13, 2022

Campaigners from asbestos victims’ associations, trade unions and civil society groups are calling on the Japanese Government to rescind a March 27, 2022 deadline after which applications for compensation from some asbestos victims will be disallowed. Amongst those who would lose out are people with asbestos-related diseases whose exposure to asbestos was non-occupational – such as people who had lived near asbestos-processing factories – and relatives of workers who had died from occupationally-caused asbestos-related diseases whose claims had been time barred. [Read full article]

Mar 10, 2022

The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (Forum) today announced that a treasure trove of confidential documents belonging to Cape Asbestos – formerly one of the UK’s biggest asbestos conglomerates – which had been saved from destruction by the Forum and its advisors had been uploaded to the internet. In 1600+ pages, the efforts taken by corporate executives to hide the truth about the hazards posed by asbestos to workers and customers were detailed. According to the documents, misleading data was supplied by Cape to the British Occupational Hygiene Society and the Government to prevent stricter workplace regulations from being adopted. To read the Forum press release click the following link. [Read full article]

Mar 8, 2022

Today on International Women’s Day, global activists pay tribute to six outstanding individuals whose work has proved pivotal to so many. Original artwork depicting these leaders of asbestos victims’ groups, medical doctors, legal and academic campaigners is today being unveiled as a mark of the esteem in which these women are held. According to IBAS Coordinator Laurie Kazan-Allen: “There are many characteristics shared by the women we are celebrating today, not least of which is their quiet determination to get the job done. They are an inspiration to us all as well as role models for younger activists. The world is a better place thanks to them.” [Read full article]

Mar 8, 2022

To celebrate International Women's Day this year, a global coalition of groups and individuals campaigning for asbestos justice have chosen to single out leading female activists in Asia, Europe and Latin America. The support and comfort that they provide cannot be quantified. In their honor, an original image by artist Ajat Sudrajat was commissioned in which they are pictured together, a feat never before achieved as they live in far-flung countries. By celebrating their work, tribute is paid to all those individuals, male as well as female, whose lives are devoted to supporting the asbestos-injured and shutting down an industry which has caused so much death and destruction all over the world. [Read full article]

Mar 4, 2022

A landmark ruling was handed down by Turkey’s Supreme Court which continues to reverberate around the country. The verdict of the 10th Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals at the end of 2021 recognized the right of a surviving family to be compensated for the death of a loved one caused by occupational exposure to asbestos. This decision took a decade to achieve and necessitated legal proceedings in multiple courts due to a fierce battle by state bodies and former employers to avoid liability. Although the full opinion of the Court has not yet been made public, the family of the deceased is now progressing a claim for 250,000 liras (~US$18,000) against the Social Security Institution [Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (SGK)] and Turkish Maritime Enterprises for material and moral damages. [Read full article]

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Demonstration in Woluwe Park, Brussels, 2006

Under cloudy skies, members of Belgian and French Asbestos Victims' Associations from Dunkirk and Bourgogne marched side-by-side in the third annual demonstration organized by ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims. Erik Jonckheere, ABEVA's Co-chairman, condemned the government which still refuses to recognize the plight of the asbestos injured.

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USGS Asbestos Trade Data

Fiber Producers (2018)
(tonnes):
   Russia710,000
   Kazakhstan203,000
   China125,000
   Brazil110,000
    
 Top Five Users (2016)
(tonnes):
   India308,000
   China288,000
   Russia234,000
   Brazil120,000
   Indonesia114,000