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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Dec 9, 2016

A spokesperson for federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan has confirmed the Canadian government’s commitment towards outlawing future use of asbestos, saying that an announcement regarding the ban will be made by December 20, 2016. The reversal in government policy is rooted in “science and evidence-based decision making.” In recent months, support by civil society groups – including unions, labor federations and politicians – for an asbestos ban has grown in leaps and bounds. Representatives of the asbestos lobby and MPs from Canada’s former asbestos region have criticized “ill-thought activism” behind the prohibitions. See: Canadian government will announce ban on asbestos before December 20, 2016.

Dec 8, 2016

The National Lung Cancer Audit: pleural mesothelioma report 2016 (for the audit period 2014) was published this week by the Royal College of Physicians, the National Lung Cancer Audit and Mesothelioma UK. The audit reported on data from 2,179 mesothelioma patients diagnosed in England in 2014. The 38-page report details a small increase in one year survival rates with a disparity in rates across different regions. The authors highlighted the “importance of equitable access for all patients to hospitals providing the full range of mesothelioma diagnostic and treatment services…” See: New mesothelioma lung cancer data shows increase in one year survival despite regional variation in treatment.

Dec 7, 2016

In light of new data released by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada confirming that asbestos remains Canada’s number 1 workplace killer, prominent Canadian organizations and individuals have ratcheted up the pressure on Prime Minister Trudeau’s government to implement a ban on asbestos use. In an open letter submitted today (December 7, 2016), 68 groups including the Canadian Teachers' Federation, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario and many unions, urged Ottawa to “take the necessary steps to achieve a comprehensive ban on asbestos.” See: Ottawa urged to ban asbestos immediately amid new data.

Dec 7, 2016

After more than a decade of consideration, Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) is still unable to decide on whether a federal policy allowing the continued use of asbestos is constitutional. According to industry leaders, however, pressure from environmentalists, the community, public agencies, state and municipal laws, has encouraged companies to adopt asbestos-free technologies: “The trend is that more and more companies will leave the mineral.” See: STF analisa proibir amianto há 12 anos, mas é indústria que vai eliminá-lo? [STF began ban asbestos enquiry 12 years ago, but will industry eliminate its use?].

Dec 6, 2016

On Sunday, December 4, 2016, members of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) presented a check for $120,000 to Joost Lesterhuis, a representative of the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases, at the Society’s annual Christmas picnic (see Photo). This money had been raised by the Society’s 2016 Steve Aiberti memorial walk. Steve had been a long-standing and active member of the ADSA and died this year after contracting mesothelioma from occupational exposure sustained during his service in the Australian navy. See: ADSA Update.

Dec 6, 2016

On November 28, 2016 a workshop entitled The National Campaign to Promote Dangers of the Use of Asbestos Products was held in Colombo by the National Trade Union Federation and the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI). This, the first grassroots ban asbestos initiative in Sri Lanka, was attended by representatives of trade unions, civil society organizations, government agencies and the asbestos industry. Amongst the speakers were: the General Secretaries of the National Building Workers Union and the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union, Dr. Alistair Graham Smith from the ILO, Sugio Furuya, from the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, and the BWI’s Anup Srivastva.

Dec 6, 2016

On November 29, 2016, the hopes of thousands of Italians were crushed when a Turin Court reduced charges against asbestos defendant Stephan Schmidheiny from murder to manslaughter in legal proceedings referred to as Eternit-bis. Commenting on this verdict, AFeVA, a group representing many victims and family members, expressed deep dissatisfaction saying thousands of claims will now be time barred and the handful of cases that go ahead will be relegated to courts around the country. See: Eternit Bis: è omicidio colposo e di nuovo prescrizione per Stephan Schmidheiny [Eternit Bis: Stephan Schmidheiny to face manslaughter not homicide charges].

Dec 6, 2016

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry issued health warnings about the dangers of exposure to asbestos liberated as a result of fires which destroyed several buildings in Haifa and Beit Meir, an agricultural community near Jerusalem, last month (November 2016). According to a Ministry spokesman: “During the fire… boards made of asbestos began to come apart, and asbestos fibers were released into the air. Asbestos fibers change their shape only when the temperature reaches above 700 degrees Celsius. It is therefore imperative to work as quickly as possible in order to remove the asbestos from all affected sites." See: Ministry warns: Don't go near asbestos in Beit Meir.

Oct 31, 2016

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that an investigation sparked off by concerns of UK asbestos action groups (see: Toxic Asbestos Imports from China?) has been completed. Under the enforcement of chemical legislation including the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), samples of imports for use on a project at 1 Blackfriars, London by Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd. were analyzed. The results “indicated that there was no asbestos present in any sample…. Given that no evidence has been found … it has been decided to close the investigation and take no further action.” See: HSE October 21, 2016 communication.

Oct 28, 2016

A one-hour debate on mesothelioma took place in the House of Lords on October 27, 2016 led by Labour peer Lord Wills. The debate was about mesothelioma and featured contributions from Lord Wills, Lord Alton, Lord Giddens, Lord McKenzie and Baroness Couttie, Baroness Finlay and Baroness Warwick, with a response from Lord Prior, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health. The debate covered subjects including research funding for mesothelioma research, the issue of asbestos contamination of schools, NHS drug rationing, clinical trials and improved surgical interventions. See: Mesothelioma debate in House of Lords October 27, 2016.

Oct 28, 2016

A new report calculates that the international asbestos trade in 2015 was worth $344 m with Russian exports valued at $191m, 56% of global exports. Between 2007 and 2015, Russia’s percentage of global asbestos markets rose from 41% to 56%. In 2015, the other asbestos producing countries were Brazil, Kazakhstan, China and India; in that year, the leading asbestos markets were in India, Indonesia, China, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Between 2007 and 2015, asbestos imports to Indonesia rose by 14.1% per year. See: Russia Strengthened Its Dominance in The Global Asbestos Exports.

Oct 28, 2016

Provincial authorities have asked the Malaysian Government to finance the replacement of hundreds of thousands of deteriorating asbestos-cement pipes around Kuching, capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The upgrading programme has been budgeted at over $165m and is motivated by the need to deal with water interruptions caused by underground leaks and burst pipes. The worn out asbestos-cement pipes are unable to deal with high pressure water flows and will be replaced under a phased eradication program with either metal or high density polyethylene pipes. See: Asbestos-based cement water pipes to be replaced.

Oct 28, 2016

At a press conference in Taipei on October 24, 2016, ban asbestos campaigners from the Taiwan Occupational Safety and Health Link and the Asian Ban Asbestos Network told journalists that the incidence of asbestos mortality is rising in Taiwan amongst people exposed to asbestos at work such as shipyard workers. Interviews undertaken of asbestos disease sufferers by the Taiwan Occupational Safety and Health Link established that most of those affected had been occupationally exposed to asbestos and that few of them had any awareness of the asbestos hazard or had received any warnings from their employers. See: Press Release: Towards an asbestos-free environment.

Oct 27, 2016

The epidemic of asbestos-related deaths in the Russian town of Asbestos has been revealed by an investigation for a Swedish daily newspaper. While asbestos industry profits remain strong, workers’ pay is low, one fifth of what it would be in Sweden, and cancer rates are high with four cases in one family interviewed by the journalist. Attempting to discredit the content of this expose, a Russian commentator reported that the “cancer incidence in Asbestos is not above average in the Sverdlovsk region” and that quotes from former municipal and regional officials were unreliable. See: Четыре раковых больных в семье — вот это шок! [Four patients with cancer in the family - that's a shock!]

Oct 27, 2016

A draft law has been tabled in Seville’s Congress of Deputies for the complete removal of all asbestos and asbestos-containing products from schools within ten years, to safeguard children from the harmful effects of asbestos exposures. Politicians who progressed the bill’s passage through the Committee on Health and Social Services have called for support from central government for the identification and removal of asbestos in public schools. See: Ciudadanos lleva una iniciativa al Congreso para retirar el amianto de todos los colegios [Citizens Congress takes an initiative to remove asbestos from all schools].

Oct 27, 2016

As reports are circulating of increasing mortality from asbestos cancer in Mexico, the Government announced that asbestos products will be used in the “Housing for All” program which provides low income families with bricks and asbestos sheets to construct dwellings. Last month, it was reported that ~1,730 people had died of pleural mesothelioma in Mexico; this number was, said the scientists, a gross underestimate. They believed more than twice that number of people were dying from this asbestos cancer every year (500 deaths/year) with 1,000 more deaths from asbestos lung cancer. See: Aumenta la mesotelioma por asbesto en México [Mesothelioma due to asbestos exposures increasing in Mexico].

Dec 9, 2016

For some years, Australian campaigners have designated November as Asbestos Awareness month. This year was no exception with a slew of formal events, outreach initiatives, public meetings and information sessions held throughout the country by asbestos victims’ support groups, campaigning bodies, academics, trade unionists and others. Activities organized by the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) during November are discussed in this article including the Society’s 21st ecumenical service of remembrance on November 25. The work and motivation of the ADSA is contrasted with that of asbestos industry stakeholders who held a large gathering of vested interests in Moscow on November 14. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2016

Earlier this month (October 2016), a series of events took place in the Brazilian city of Campinas during which medical, legal, social, judicial and environmental challenges posed by the country’s continuing use of chrysotile (white) asbestos were examined by Brazilian and international experts. The fact that these events were paid for by court-awarded penalties against two asbestos manufacturing companies made the medical workshop (October 5), two-day conference: Asbestos: A Socio-Legal Approach (October 6-7) and the First National Meeting of Asbestos Victims and their Families (October 8) truly historic. [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2016

A coalition of Indian and international groups representing asbestos victims, campaigners, environmentalists and health and safety activists from Asia and Europe have today uploaded a devastating report highlighting the toxic environmental legacy left by European asbestos multinationals in rural India. “The dumping of asbestos waste” by Turner & Newall and Etex was, said Barrister Krishnendu Mukherjee, “done in the full knowledge that it would cause serious health problems to the local population. Such behaviour towards mainly poor people, without real access to legal remedies, can only be described as a corporate crime.” [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2016

The toxic legacy left in rural India by European asbestos companies including Britain’s Turner & Newall Ltd. and Belgium’s Etex continues to endanger the lives of thousands of citizens in towns such as Kymore in the state of Madhya Pradesh according to a report uploaded today by civil society groups in India and abroad. Evidence collected by a team of Canadian technical experts documented nearly 600,000 square metres of toxic waste, which would cost up to $88m to make safe. The waste, which is composed of up to 70% asbestos fibers, poses a known public health hazard about which nothing has been done by the polluting enterprises which created it. [Read full article]

Sep 19, 2016

On September 10, 2016, the world came to Casale Monferrato, a small Piemonte town which has become a symbol of the global struggle against asbestos tyranny. On a day of celebration and remembrance, the community marked a new future with the inauguration of the EterNOT park built on the former site of the notorious Eternit asbestos factory. Separated by distances great and small, campaigners for asbestos justice sent tributes to show their solidarity with their Italian allies. Opening the proceedings, Mayor Concetta Palazzetti referenced the global solidarity on display at the front of the chamber and named the associations from Latin America, Asia, Australia and Europe which had sent messages of support. [Read full article]

Sep 10, 2016

Today, the community of Casale Monferrato, for decades the symbol of the struggle for asbestos justice, will mark a landmark event with the dedication of a park built on the infamous site of the Eternit asbestos cement factory. The Eternot Park is not only a memorial to the asbestos dead but also a symbol of a future which can be free of the deadly dust. Campaigning groups from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia have sent a statement – the English version of which is text of this article – with floral tributes expressing solidarity and support for the victims, the activists and the community. (Click here for Italian version.) [Read full article]

Aug 23, 2016

This article by Canadian ban asbestos campaigner and human rights activist Kathleen Ruff puts into context the news that consultations are ongoing regarding a change in Canada’s asbestos policy which could soon make the use, import and sale of asbestos-containing products illegal. According to an adviser to Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott, members of the Trudeau Government are working on drafting a new asbestos policy for Canada, which, it is expected, will, after more than a 100 years, end the country’s love affair with asbestos. Ruff hopes that measures to ban asbestos and protect Canadians from hazardous exposures will be announced when Parliament reconvenes in September 2016. [Read full article]

Aug 22, 2016

Although asbestos has been banned from ships since July 2002, it is still found in over 90% of ships. It is disturbing to learn, from this article by John Chillingworth, that asbestos has been found in over 80% of new ships, even though the shipbuilders have declared the ships to be asbestos free. Chillingworth’s company has found as much as 15% asbestos in materials that have been declared asbestos free in China. Shipyard declarations, which are accepted by the authorities, are often inaccurate as a result of which hazardous exposures continue to occur aboard vessels. Recommendations are made by the author as to how shipowners might take action to remedy this dangerous situation. [Read full article]

Aug 15, 2016

Responding to concerns raised by a coalition of civil society groups disturbed about the possibility of UK imports of asbestos-containing building materials from China, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has taken preliminary action to ascertain whether or not the products used and practises followed by Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd. are in compliance with national legislation. Welcoming the steps taken by the HSE, which are detailed in an email dated August 11, 2016, asbestos victims, trade unionists and campaigners have reiterated the need for the HSE to act decisively to ensure that British workers and members of the public are not exposed to illegal asbestos imports. [Read full article]

Aug 4, 2016

Shankar Dattaray Jog, a former worker at a factory owned by the British asbestos conglomerate Turner & Newall Ltd. in Mumbai, India, died from asbestos cancer on July 19, 2016. Mr. Jog had been employed at the Hindustan Ferodo brake linings factory for 40 years. By the time he retired in 2001, he had risen to the position of health inspector. While it is believed that others from Hindustan Ferodo could have contracted mesothelioma, their names are not known. Mr. Jog was adamant that the case against his former employer proceed in order to provide support for his family after he was gone and hope for others who succumb to asbestos illnesses after decades of dedicated service. [Read full article]

Aug 2, 2016

On July 21, 2016, the news finally came. Italy’s Constitutional Court issued its ruling in the long-running battle to achieve justice for Italy’s asbestos victims. The verdict gave the green light for a second round of legal proceedings (Eternit BIS) against Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, former owner of the Swiss Eternit asbestos group. The case will now be returned to the Turin court where an investigating magistrate will consider the Public Prosecutors’ accusations regarding hundreds of asbestos deaths in Casale Monferrato and other Italian cities. After decades of broken promises and shattered expectations, asbestos victims and the groups representing them have been given hope that justice will be done. [Read full article]

Jul 27, 2016

A review of the 100th issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter (BAN), a quarterly periodical which has for over 25 years chronicled a wide range of UK asbestos developments, has been undertaken by Australian Professor Jock McCulloch, author of key asbestos books including: Defending the Indefensible and Asbestos – It’s Human Cost. Having discussed some of the subjects covered in the 100 issues of the BAN, McCulloch concludes: “The Newsletter has been an important forum for discussion and a reliable source of information… it has also helped to bring together the disparate groups which make up the ban asbestos front.” The commemorative edition should, he said, be celebrated. [Read full article]

Jul 27, 2016

A coalition of UK groups representing asbestos victims, trade unionists, medical professionals and health and safety campaigners have today issued a press release questioning whether Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd., a Chinese-owned company, is illegally importing asbestos-containing building materials into the UK. Yuanda UK is part of the same industrial conglomerate as Yuanda Australia; the latter company is being investigated over the import and use of asbestos-containing products at construction sites throughout Australia. UK construction workers already face a higher risk of contracting asbestos diseases than most other workers so any increase in exposure to asbestos products would be of particular danger to them. [Read full article]

July 6, 2016

From Glasgow to Portsmouth, from Swansea to Gateshead via the Isle of Man, Sheffield and Birmingham, events were held throughout the UK on July 1, 2016 to observe Action Mesothelioma Day 2016. The extent and diversity of the activities marking the 11th national mesothelioma day underscored the growth in support for those suffering from a supposedly “rare” disease which nevertheless caused 7,398 deaths between 2011 and 2013. With an increasing number of events and extensive media coverage, it is evident that support for this day of action is growing stronger every year as is the determination of advocates to achieve medical progress and substantive breakthroughs for all the injured. [Read full article]

Jun 21, 2016

Children and staff from six local schools took part in an asbestos awareness workshop organized by a local campaigning body, the Asbestos Interest Group (AIG), in collaboration with partnering organizations on South Africa’s Youth Day (June 16). Feedback from participants has been positive with children having enjoyed meeting up with pupils from other schools to learn about the impact of asbestos contamination on their towns. A report written by AIG’s Prudence Kotoloane is informative as well as inspiring containing details of measures undertaken to keep children “awake and energetic.” The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat was proud to be a co-sponsor of this and other events organized by the AIG. [Read full article]

Jun 20, 2016

A high incidence of asbestos-related disease has been recorded amongst military and civilian workforces at shipyards in England, Scotland, Italy, Japan, the U.S. and other countries. In August 1945, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Factories A. W. Garrett was so concerned about the consequences of asbestos use in the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries that he wrote a letter to industry stakeholders in which he stated: “while asbestos dust may not have any apparent effects at first, experience shows that, particularly if the workers are exposed to the dust in substantial concentrations, serious results are apt to develop later.” The contents of Garrett’s letter were shared with vested interests in the UK and abroad. [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