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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Jun 14, 2021

A guilty verdict was handed down on June 9, 2021 by a São Paulo (SP) Court which indicted the producers (SAMA), sellers (Eternit SA) and transporters (Transportes Scatuzzi Ltd.) of chrysotile asbestos fiber from the Goiás chrysotile mine for exporting asbestos via ports in SP state including Santos, Guaruja and Cubatão. The defendants were ordered to pay damages exceeding Reais 5 million US ($989,000+). In 2017, the commercial exploitation of asbestos was banned by the Brazilian Supreme Court. To supersede this verdict, a law was passed by Goiás State to allow asbestos mining for export purposes only. This law is unconstitutional and is the subject of pending legal proceedings. See: Uma vitória a comemorar na luta em defesa das vítimas do amianto [A victory to celebrate in the fight to defend asbestos victims].

Jun 14, 2021

A document circulated last week solidified the indication previously given that the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) would ban asbestos use in all its projects. On pages 77 & 78 of the AIIB’s Environmental and Social Framework under the heading: Environmental and Social Exclusion List, the text of point 9 excluded from eligibility projects involving: “Production of, trade in, or use of asbestos fibers, whether or not bonded.” In a footnote, it was explained that: “Projects involving disposal of asbestos are not prohibited, provided a suitable asbestos management plan is adopted for such disposal.” See: Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Environmental and Social Framework.

Jun 14, 2021

At a meeting held last week with members of the Catalan Association of Victims Affected by Asbestos, José Luis Escrivá – Spain’s Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations – promised to “immediately” promote measures which would facilitate access to early retirement for workers who had been occupationally exposed to asbestos, in line with regulations as laid out in Royal Decree 1698/2011 allowing early retirement for professional groups subjected to working conditions of an exceptionally painful, dangerous, toxic or unhealthy nature. See: Jubilación anticipada para trabajadores expuestos al amianto [Social Security undertakes to “immediately” promote early retirement for workers exposed to asbestos].

Jun 14, 2021

A meeting of the Aliağa Municipal Council that took place last week continued discussions over the purchase by a Turkish company of an asbestos-contaminated warship formerly belonging to the Brazilian Navy. The vessel is scheduled to be scrapped at a dismantling yard in the Aliağa district of İzmir. The councillors considered a June 2021 proposal submitted to the Presidency of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to investigate the damage ship-breaking had done to the sea, air, water, soil and ecosystem in the region where operations are carried out. See: CHP'den önerge: 600 ton asbest taşıyan ölüm gemisi ve Aliağa araştırılsın [Proposal from CHP: The death ship carrying 600 tons of asbestos and Aliağa (ship-breaking) should be investigated].

Jun 14, 2021

Two companies – Fundiciones Amboto SA, now defunct, and Foseco Española SA – were found guilty of causing the asbestos-related death of Vicente DAP by Bilbao’s Social Court number 8 last week. According to the Court, the defendants had failed “to comply with Health and Safety legislation for years in relation to the risks of asbestos.” After suffering from ill health for some while, in April 2018 the National Institute of Social Security (INSS) declared him as totally disabled due to asbestosis; he died a few months later. The family of the deceased was awarded €129,645 (US£ 157,000) in compensation. See: Condenan a dos empresas a indemnizar a la familia de un trabajador fallecido por asbestosis [Two companies are ordered to compensate the family of a worker who died of asbestosis].

Jun 14, 2021

The presence of asbestos products throughout structures used by the Greek military is being addressed by programs such as one conducted under the supervision of the Military Association of the Regional Unit of Chios, a Greek island in the northern Aegean. Following asbestos audits and a Parliamentary intervention by Chios MP Andreas Michailidis, the Minister of National Defense Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos allocated funds to address the contamination and eliminate the asbestos hazard to service personnel. See: Ικανοποίηση για τους στρατιωτικούς της Χίου η απόφαση του ΥΠΕΘΑ σχετικά με τον αμίαντο στις Μονάδες του νησιού [Chios military pleased by decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding asbestos (hazards) in unit (structures) on the island].

Jun 10, 2021

A historic criminal trial against a former asbestos billionaire began in Italy on June 9, 2021. The case is being heard by the Assize Court of the City of Novara in an auditorium at the University of Novara to accommodate the huge numbers of interested parties including relatives of the deceased. The defendant is facing charges of voluntary homicide with possible wilful misconduct over 392 deaths of workers and members of the public who died from their exposures to Eternit asbestos. See: Vittime dell’amianto, l’università di Novara diventa tribunale per il processo “Eternit bis” [Victims of asbestos, the University of Novara becomes a court for the "Eternit bis" trial].

Jun 10, 2021

The French Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) on June 9, 2021 reversed a 2018 verdict by the Pau Court of Appeal and upheld claims for asbestos anxiety brought by former power station workers. The 89 successful claimants had been exposed to asbestos at the Arjuzanx power plant. Since the plant was closed in 1990, more than 120 cases brought by former workers who had contracted asbestos-related diseases have been recognized, 35 of the claimants have died. See: Amiante: la Cour de cassation reconnaît le droit à l’indemnisation d’ex-salariés d’EDF [Asbestos: the Court of Cassation recognizes the right to compensation for former EDF employees].

Jun 10, 2021

The Japanese Government announced that a law had been passed at a plenary session of the upper house of the National Diet on June 9, 2021 under which a scheme to compensate asbestos-injured construction workers would be established without the need for victims or their families to take legal action. The government will pay between 5 and 13 million yen (~US$45,660-119,000) per victim and the scheme is due to become operational in 2022. Although self-employed workers are eligible for compensation under this scheme, construction workers who worked outdoors will not be able to bring a claim. See: 建設アスベスト給付金法が成立…1人あたり最大1300万円補償 [Construction asbestos benefit law passed ... Up to 13 million yen compensation per person].

Jun 10, 2021

Campaigners in Turkey have named government ministries and municipalities whose negligence has contributed to the country’s ongoing scandal over asbestos exposures due to demolition or refurbishment of asbestos-containing buildings, dismantling of asbestos-laden ships and continued sale and use of illegal asbestos-containing products. The guilty parties included: the Ministries of: Health; Environment and Urbanization; Industry and Technology; Commerce; Labor and Social Security: Workplaces; National Education; Interior; Transport and Infrastructure. See: Bakanlıklar katil toz asbestle mücadelede sorumluluktan kaçıyor [Ministries evade responsibility in tackling killer powder asbestos].

Jun 10, 2021

A press release issued on June 7, 2021 on behalf of the Attorney General of the State of Massachusetts Maura Healey broke the news of an agreement reached by a coalition of 11 states and civil society groups with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA agreed to implement procedures instructing chemical companies to report their use and import of asbestos, in order to better assess the country’s capacity to protect citizens from toxic exposures. The Trump administration had challenged a December 2020 court order in support of the coalition’s position; Biden’s EPA agreed to progress the required reporting. See: Coalition Co-led by AG Healey Secures Federal Court Order and Settlement Requiring Asbestos Reporting to Protect Public Health.

Jun 10, 2021

An upbeat article about the financial outlook of the sole producer of chrysotile asbestos fiber in Kazakhstan, Kostanay Minerals JSC, reported that the company had increased production and exports by, respectively, nearly 20% and 40% in the first quarter of 2021. Growth in usage from Asian countries and increases in the price of metal tiles and sheets were expected to create increased and sustained demand for chrysotile fiber and products. The company’s innovation in production techniques and the adoption of ecological and environmentally-friendly policies were extolled by Erbol Nurkhozhaev, Kostanay’s Chairman of the Board. See: Спрос на хризотил-асбест будет устойчивым в период коронакризиса [Chrysotile Asbestos Demand Will Be Sustainable During The Corona Crisis].

Jun 7, 2021

A commentary in the June 5, 2021 issue of the Japan Times reflected on the implications of the May 2021 Supreme Court (SC) judgment which confirmed the negligence of the Japanese Government and building materials manufacturers for, respectively, failing to address the asbestos hazard in a timely fashion and for failing to put warning labels on asbestos-containing products. Due to the tortuous legal process required to obtain this decision, 70% of the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit had died of their asbestos injuries before the SC had ruled. The author condemned the mindset of government officials which was one of continued denial and obfuscation. See: The damage done by a lengthy appeals process.

Jun 7, 2021

On June 9, 2021, another civil trial will begin over the behaviour of the Eternit asbestos company which has been convicted in multiple Italian jurisdictions of causing the deaths of workers and members of the public as well as environmental damage. The proceedings will take place at the Court of Assizes in Novara. The commune of Balzola in the Province of Alessandra is one of the civil parties in the trial referred to as Eternit bis. Commenting on the upcoming trial, Balzola’s Mayor Marco Torriano said: “It is a duty and important to stand alongside the victims also in this second trial for the environmental disaster caused by asbestos.” See: Balzola si costituisce parte civile al processo Eternit Bis [Balzola is a civil party in the Eternit Bis trial].

Jun 7, 2021

On June 5 – World Environment Day – a rally was held in Democracy Square in the Aliağa district of the Turkish City of İzmir by civil society groups and political parties objecting to the impending arrival of the asbestos-laden São Paulo, a Brazilian warship due to be scrapped at a local shipbreaking yard. Participants carried banners with slogans such as “Aliağa is not the world’s garbage dump” and “We do not want to breathe asbestos” and issued a statement condemning “ecological massacres” in Aliağa and the deadly consequences for human beings as well as the environment. See: Çevre örgütlerinden asbestli gemi sökümüne tepki: Aliağa dünyanın çöplüğü değildir [Reaction from environmental organizations to asbestos ship dismantling: Aliağa is not the world's garbage dump].

Jun 7, 2021

Throughout Israel there are, according to government figures, 85 million square meters of asbestos-cement products, mostly roofing which is on homes, agricultural, industrial, military and public buildings. The toxic material was installed up to 60 years ago and presents an ongoing hazard to health. To address the situation, the Ministry of Environment allocated NIS11 million (US$3.4m) to replace the roofing with solar panels for those without the means to do so themselves. According to the Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel this is a “Win-Win” program “in which we replace carcinogenic asbestos with renewable energy…” See: NIS11 million to remove asbestos roofs in Israel.

Jun 10, 2021

This month Brazilian ban asbestos campaigner Eliezer João de Souza marks a milestone birthday. For nearly 20 years, Eliezer has been the President of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed. In that capacity he was at the forefront of the down and dirty ban asbestos battle in Brazil. Plans to mark his birthday at a gathering in Osasco, Brazil have been shelved temporarily due to the global pandemic. Faced with this set-back, Eliezer’s friends in Asia, Europe and Latin America came up with a way to wish him happy birthday from afar. Indonesian colleague and artist Ajat Sudrajat has translated the universal esteem in which Eliezer is held into a work of art. Happy birthday, Eliezer! (versão em Português) [Read full article]

Jun 4, 2021

In light of a June 1, 2021 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, NGOs from Asia, Latin America and Europe have condemned the double standards of the American multinational Johnson & Johnson which continues to sell asbestos-contaminated talc-based baby powder to consumers around the world despite having withdrawn it from North American markets. This behaviour, said U.S. Attorney Mark Lanier, was “both racist and inhuman.” Agreeing with these sentiments, Indian campaigner Pooja Gupta said: “It seems that as far as the company is concerned, human health is of less import than a healthy balance sheet.” National governments, regional authorities and international agencies have been urged “to take steps to protect populations from exposure to lethal baby powder as a matter of priority.” [Read full article]

Jun 3, 2021

A decision announced on June 1, 2021 by the U.S. Supreme Court is reverberating around the world with media coverage so far in the UK, France, Korea, China and Russia. By rejecting an appeal from the American pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson (J&J), the Supreme Court let stand decisions of the Missouri Court of Appeals (2020) and a St. Louis jury (2018) which had found that J&J’s asbestos-containing talc-based baby powder was a killer. Due to the collapse in North American demand for the toxic baby powder, in 2020 the product was withdrawn from sale in domestic markets. Nevertheless, the J&J’s iconic powder continues to be sold elsewhere with little interest expressed by decision-makers or politicians in this deadly example of double standards. [Read full article]

May 26, 2021

For most of the 20th century, asbestos stakeholders in the Canadian Province of Quebec were amongst the most vocal of all the vested interests in lobbying government administrations in Quebec City and Ottawa on behalf of the mineral they called “white gold.” The asbestos lobbyists did everything they could to promote the use of its chrysotile (white) asbestos at home and abroad. It is, therefore, no surprise to learn that there are 1,000 kilometers of asbestos-cement pipes in Quebec and that nearly 20% of all the pipes delivering water to Canadians are made of asbestos-cement. In a startling U-turn, Quebec’s Minister of the Environment Benoit Charette has pledged, as a preventive action, to take steps to evaluate “the presence of asbestos fibers in the water.” [Read full article]

May 20, 2021

After more than a decade, asbestos victims achieved their goal of holding the Japanese Government and building products’ manufacturers to account for injuries and deaths caused by occupational exposures to asbestos. On May 17, 2021 the Supreme Court of Japan issued a plaintiffs’ verdict in its first unified asbestos judgment. The Court accepted arguments advanced by the legal team representing 500 claimants in class action lawsuits brought by asbestos-injured construction workers or family members at courts in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Kyoto. In response, the Prime Minister of Japan met with victims to apologize on behalf of the Government and the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Tamura announced that a reconciliation agreement had been signed. [Read full article]

May 17, 2021

On May 17, 2021, the Japanese Supreme Court issued a unified ruling in four class action lawsuits brought on behalf of construction workers injured by occupational asbestos exposures. The Court upheld earlier verdicts that had recognized the Government’s negligence in failing to take timely action on the asbestos hazard; the liability of building products’ manufacturers was also confirmed. The factual findings as well as complexity and breadth of the ruling set a precedent not only in Japan but around the world; the Court’s condemnation of the Japanese State and manufacturers should be seen as a warning to all those who continue to profit from the deadly asbestos trade: in years to come, you too will be held to account for your crimes. [Read full article]

May 5, 2021

The battle to ban asbestos in Colombia has been protracted and dirty with intensive lobbying by business interests to forestall prohibitions of asbestos mining, processing, use, import and export. In 2019, after seven attempts, the Congress approved the “Ana Cecilia Niño Law” to ban asbestos. To enact the provisions of the law, Decree 402 of 2021 of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism was recently passed. Unfortunately, several challenges posed by the country’s historic asbestos usage remain unaddressed including the eradication of asbestos from the national infrastructure, identification of and financial support for the victims, criminal proceedings to hold defendants to account, etc. [Read full article]

May 3, 2021

On May 3, 2021, it was announced that to mark International Workers' Day 2021, the Construction Safety Campaign UK had recognized the efforts of 3 individuals by awarding them the Robert Tressell Award for Services to Working People. Amongst those recognized was our colleague Eric Jonckheere. On the plaque presented to him in Belgium the inscription read: “For services to working people, particularly in the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims and the international network of asbestos victims.” We congratulate Eric on this recognition of his decades of service and acknowledge the Construction Safety Campaign for its efforts to encourage all those who have fought corporate malfeasance, exposed government ineptitude and progressed safer technologies. [Read full article]

Apr 23, 2021

A proposal by Basque parliamentarians, which was approved almost unanimously on April 13, 2021 by the Spanish Parliament, will establish a national asbestos compensation fund. It is no coincidence that the impetus for this legislation came from Basque Parliamentarians. Amongst the 20 Spanish cities with the highest excesses of pleural cancer mortality, nine (45%) are situated in the Basque Country. Spain’s track record on engaging with the asbestos challenges posed by its use of 2.5 million tonnes of asbestos prior to banning it in 2002 has been poor. One can but hope that the new law is evidence of a political commitment to right the asbestos wrongs that have caused so much heartache in Spain. [Read full article]

Apr 15, 2021

The issue of banning asbestos in Ukraine has been caught up in a geopolitical conflict over the country’s quest to join the European Union and the determination of its former ally and now occupier, Russia to prevent it from doing so. Throughout the 21st century, Russia has been the world’s biggest producer of chrysotile asbestos and, as such, has orchestrated diverse stratagems to protect global asbestos markets and discredit evidence about the health hazards posed by asbestos usage. At every turn, Ukraine asbestos stakeholders – including but not limited to members of the Ukraine Chrysotile Association – working with foreign lobbyists have attacked attempts in Ukraine to end the use of a substance banned in scores of countries as per recommendations of agencies such as the WHO, ILO, and IARC. [Read full article]

Apr 14, 2021

The furore over news that an asbestos-laden aircraft carrier was destined for scrapping at a Turkish shipyard has brought to the fore the failure of the country to address the invisible but deadly legacy caused by its consumption of around 1 million tonnes of asbestos, the presence of naturally occurring asbestos in rural areas and the consequences of hazardous working conditions in ship recycling/scrapping yards. In recent days, opposition to the import of another toxic ship to Izmir has been growing by the hour with petitions being submitted to the port authorities, outspoken condemnation by scientists, environmentalists, and health and safety campaigners and even threats of legal action to prevent the dismantling from taking place. [Read full article]

Mar 24, 2021

Under the cover of the global pandemic which has already killed more than a quarter of a million Brazilians, asbestos industry stakeholders continue illegal efforts to maximize profits despite deadly human consequences. In contravention of a Supreme Court ruling (2017) and state laws, executives from the Sama Minerações Associadas (SAMA) company are collaborating with municipal and state politicians to pursue diverse options to achieve their goal: the export of SAMA asbestos. These crimes are being exposed by the Public Ministry of Labor which has obtained multiple injunctions to prevent the transport, handling and export of SAMA asbestos. [Read full article]

Mar 22, 2021

Last week, legal victories in Spain revealed a seismic shift in the landscape for asbestos victims. On March 15, 2021 the Supreme Court confirmed the right to compensation for asbestos injuries to people who had lived near an asbestos factory in Barcelona; the Court acknowledged that family members of factory workers as well as local people were eligible for financial restitution from Uralita, formerly Spain’s biggest asbestos manufacturer. On March 16, news was circulated of a plaintiff’s verdict in a case brought by the family of José María Íñigo, a famous Spanish broadcaster who died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in 2018. A Madrid Court ruled that his death had been caused by occupational exposures to asbestos at the studios of the Spanish broadcasting corporation: RTVE. [Read full article]

Mar 10, 2021

Representatives of Brazilian and Asian asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners active in the global struggle to protect human beings from deadly exposures to asbestos have issued an open letter to authorities investigating the illegal export of asbestos from the São Paulo Port of Santos. The correspondents congratulated personnel at the Sanitary Surveillance Department of Santos Port, the Labor Public Prosecutor's Office and São Paulo Health Department for steps taken to uphold the country’s asbestos ban and to protect populations in importing countries from toxic exposures. The letter’s authors highlighted the UN publication ultimatum: “that States refrain from permitting the export of hazardous substances for uses in other countries different from those they permit in their own. (Versão em Português) [Read full article]

Mar 5, 2021

In recent days, asbestos victims and campaigners have launched legal, social and political initiatives to address glaring asbestos injustices and improve conditions for the injured in Latin America, Europe and North America. In Brazil, warnings by an asbestos victims’ group prevented an illegal shipment of asbestos from leaving the country; in France, asbestos victims appealed to the Attorney General at the Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice for assistance in expediting criminal trials of those responsible for the country’s asbestos scandal; in the UK, the work of victims’ groups was mentioned in Parliament during a debate which highlighted the effects the pandemic had had on the rights of asbestos victims, while in the US, advocacy groups sought to force the EPA to adequately evaluate asbestos health risks. [Read full article]

Mar 1, 2021

February 23, 2021 marked a watershed moment for the global asbestos victims’ community with the announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that an Australian research foundation had been recognized as the first WHO Collaborating Centre on Asbestos-Related Diseases. Despite all the evidence documenting the deadly consequences of asbestos use, over one million tonnes of asbestos are still being used every year. The identification of asbestos victims is a crucial first step in visualizing the human price being paid for the asbestos industry’s profits. The larger the number of victims diagnosed and the greater their visibility, the more pressure will be exerted on governments to take the only morally defensible action possible and ban asbestos. [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