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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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May 17, 2024

The Italian municipality of Pometino warned the state-owned railway company – Società Rete Ferroviaria Italiana S.p.A. – that sanctions would be imposed should it fail to remove illegally dumped asbestos from a landfill site in the city within 30 days. Furthermore, the site in Via della Siderurgia, in Santa Palomba must be fully remediated. Both projects must be carried out by companies which have environmental authorizations and are certified by the National Register of Environmental Managers. See: Pomezia diffida le Ferrovie dello Stato: rimuovete la discarica (con amianto) di Santa Palomba [Pomezia warns the State Railways: remove the Santa Palomba landfill (containing asbestos)].

May 17, 2024

On May 13, 2024, the US Supreme Court declined to support a lawsuit by asbestos victims who argued that the defendant corporation Georgia-Pacific was not entitled to legal protection as a result of a bankruptcy action filed by its affiliate Bestwell, which was created in 2017 as a means of off-loading Georgia-Pacific’s asbestos liabilities. This process, which is commonly known as the Texas Two-Step, puts a hold on all litigation including personal injury asbestos lawsuits. See: Texas Two-Step Asbestos Bankruptcy Avoids Supreme Court Look.

May 17, 2024

At the April 27, 2024 Annual General Meeting of Uralasbest – Russia’s 2nd largest asbestos conglomerate – shareholders approved a motion to allocate 19% of net profit for 2023 to dividends. In 2023, the company’s net profit was 1.84 billion rubles, a 30+% increase on 2022. According to information shared by the company at the meeting, as of January 1, 2024, its reserves were estimated at 2.69 billion tonnes of ore and 59.17 million tonnes of chrysotile asbestos. See: "Ураласбест" направит 19% чистой прибыли за 2023г на дивиденды [Uralasbest will allocate 19% of net profit for 2023 to dividends].

May 17, 2024

Following the May 7, 2024 asbestos protest by parents of students at the Picasso school in Vesoul, France on May 13 the municipal authorities – which continued to deny that the asbestos at the school posed a threat to children and staff – announced plans to relocate the children from 11 of the school’s 14 classes until further notice. The three classes remaining at the Picasso school will use a building known to be free of asbestos. See: Amiante à l'école Picasso de Vesoul: 11 classes ont déménagé dans d'autres écoles de la ville [Asbestos at the Picasso school in Vesoul: 11 classes have moved to other schools in the city].

May 17, 2024

On May 11, 2024, Suffolk Coroners' Court dealt with three cases arising from asbestos-related diseases. The 2023 death of Ipswich man Percy Ambrose was found by presiding coroner Darren Stewart to be the result of a known industrial disease: asbestos-related lung cancer. On the same day, an inquest was opened into the mesothelioma death (January 8, 2024) of retired carpenter David Fiddaman, another Ipswich man, and the suspected asbestos-caused death (January 19, 2024) of Julie Wright, also from Ipswich. See: Inquest covers three asbestos related deaths in Ipswich.

May 17, 2024

The commentary cited below contained a concise and lucid explanation of why the US, despite a mountain of scientific and medical evidence, continued to use asbestos long after other nations had banned it. After a quick review of landmark developments in the last 120+ years, author Naomi Oreskes explained that efforts to ban asbestos in the US had been repeatedly frustrated by asbestos vested interests. Concluding the article, Ms Oreskes wrote: “America was once a leader in occupational health and safety. Now we are laggards. It took 126 years for us to heed Lucy Deane’s warning about the dangers of asbestos. We need a better way to translate science into policy.” See: Asbestos Is Finally Banned in the U.S. Here’s Why It Took So Long.

May 15, 2024

New Zealand’s Education Ministry last week announced consultations on protocols for renovating and remediating schools in light of the widespread pre-2000 use of asbestos. In the article cited below, examples of potentially hazardous incidents were described, including one which took place in a Maihiihi School in 2022, when an apprentice builder demolished a wall and dumped the debris in a skip. During the process, asbestos “in a very poor state of disrepair” was exposed. Although the school’s asbestos survey had identified asbestos on the premises, no contamination was reported in the area under renovation. See: Maihiihi School: Otorohanga building apprentice unaware of asbestos.

May 15, 2024

Two days after a tornado hit the West Australian (WA) city of Bunbury, on May 12, 2024, Roger Cook – the Premier of the WA State Government – announced payments of up to $4,000 for residents whose homes were destroyed; people whose homes suffered “severe damage” will be able to claim up to $2,000. A HazMat emergency was declared after the storm due to the widespread dispersion of asbestos from damaged homes and businesses with specialist contractors commissioned to undertake emergency clean-up work. Local people were asked to stay away from the hazard area and were warned to be cautious if asbestos was in their properties. See: WA government announces payments of up to $4,000 after homes destroyed in Bunbury tornado as asbestos alert issued.

May 15, 2024

A short documentary film about the devastation caused by asbestos won the Sorriso Anmil (National Association of Mutilated and Disabled Workers) Award at a film festival in Rome, Italy. The film, which is called Cara Alice (Dear Alice), was directed by Gabriele Armenise and was based on a book about the deadly legacy left by the Fibronit asbestos factory in Bari. See: Il dramma dei morti di amianto della Fibronit nel corto di Armenise vince il premio Anmil: “Una tragedia invisibile” [The tragedy of Fibronit's asbestos deaths in Armenise's short film wins the Anmil award: “An invisible tragedy”].

May 15, 2024

A paper uploaded on May 8, 2024 to the website of the Industrial Law Journal compared the ways in which the French and Swedish legal systems compensated people with occupational diseases. The discussion initially focused on Supreme Court decisions in France which upheld the right of workers without any symptoms of disease to claim compensation for the psychological disorder called “asbestos anxiety,” a condition not recognized by Swedish courts. The authors of this paper suggested ways in which the French concept of asbestos anxiety could be adopted using current occupational safety and health regulations in Sweden. See: From the Recognition of ‘Psychiatric Disorder Caused by Asbestos Exposure’ to the Mobilisation of Dignity in Labour Law: A Comparison of France and Sweden.

May 15, 2024

The incidence of asbestos-related diseases contracted via non-occupational exposures is growing in Australia. A 3-minute clip broadcast on May 11, 2024 on Sky TV news detailed the stories of teenagers Jarni Greatorex (16) and Cody Bartell, both of whom have mesothelioma, the signature cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Calling for urgent government action, Melita Markey, CEO of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia, said that the country’s tragic asbestos legacy was now a public health emergency. See: Non-occupational asbestos exposure on the rise in Australia.

May 15, 2024

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), company director Paul Stephens was fined £60,000+ by a Judge at Truro Crown Court for failing to adopt mandatory protocols to prevent the liberation of asbestos during work at a site in Cornwall in 2020. Stephens’ company – Stephens and Stephens Developers Limited – had control over the assessment and removal of all asbestos containing materials (ACMs) on site. As a result of his failures, demolition workers were exposed to asbestos. See: Company fined after workers exposed to asbestos during hotel demolition.

May 14, 2024

On May 9, 2024, a joint statement on asbestos was issued by trade unions, asbestos victims’ groups, research institutions and campaigning bodies, that called on the Australian Government to prioritize the removal of 6.2m tonnes of asbestos from Australian workplaces, public buildings and homes, in order to save 28,000+ lives. Every year, 4,000 Australians die from asbestos-related diseases. A petition entitled “Eradicate Asbestos” was also uploaded which stated: “There is simply no safe level of asbestos… We need asbestos gone – now.” See: Joint Statement addressed to Work Health & Safety Ministers.

May 14, 2024

On May 7, 2024, Catalonia’s Government approved a bill to address the region’s deadly asbestos legacy. The Asbestos Eradication Bill, when it’s approved by Parliament, will facilitate the safe removal of asbestos from buildings and facilities. It’s estimated that there are ~4 million tons of asbestos-cement and between 6 and 30,000 of other asbestos-containing materials. These products, most of which were put in place between the 1960s and late 1980s, have reached or are approaching the end of their useful lives. Through the regulatory framework – National Plan for the Eradication of Asbestos – the Commission for the Eradication of Asbestos in Catalonia intends to eliminate the asbestos hazard. See: S’aprova el Projecte de llei per a l'erradicació de l'amiant [The Asbestos Eradication Bill is approved].

May 14, 2024

At a May 8, 2024 press conference, Minister Inga Bērziņa of Latvia’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (VARAM) announced, what many critics said, was an ill thought-out program for the eradication of toxic asbestos roofing. According to Bērziņa, under an EU-funded program the Latvian Government would pay the costs for the removal, disposal and replacement of toxic roofing for people categorized as “needy or low-income.” When questioned, the Minister later said that the funding would not cover the costs of removing the roof. See: Пособия за сдачу шифера: эксперты указывают на неточности [Subsidies for the removal of asbestos roofing tiles: experts point to inaccurate information].

May 14, 2024

The article cited below highlighted a myriad of problems adversely affecting UK hospitals as a result of chronic underfunding by the Conservative Government. Amongst the issues mentioned was the deterioration of decades-old asbestos products which has caused some wards to be shut. Other problems impacting on the effectiveness of the NHS were rat and cockroach infestations, leaky plumbing, missing, faulty and old equipment and outdated medical technology. See: Chronic underfunding, broken equipment and asbestos in the ceilings: this is the NHS in 2024.

May 10, 2024

On May 7, 2024, the Government of Catalonia approved draft legislation to address the region’s deadly asbestos legacy. The Asbestos Eradication Bill, when it’s ratified by Parliament, will facilitate a timely and safe removal of asbestos from buildings and facilities. Commenting on the significance of this development, Catalonia’s President Pere Aragonès acknowledged “the commitment and involvement of civic and social entities, neighborhood associations, local governments and social agents, and various departments of the Government of Catalonia” which had led to the adoption of this landmark bill. One can but hope that the coalition of stakeholders praised by the President will continue to press for much-needed change; the sooner The Asbestos Eradication Bill becomes law, the better! [Read full article]

May 9, 2024

This article comprises the English translation of an open letter to the Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny, written by Italian journalist Silvana Mossano, whose husband Marco Giorcelli died from environmental asbestos exposures experienced in Casale Monferrato, his home town. Ms. Mossano has seen with her own eyes the dreadful repercussions of the asbestos manufacturing operations owned by Schmidheiny, who has been tried and convicted in multiple Italian courts for his role in this deadly epidemic. Ms Mossano’s letter is both heartfelt and well reasoned. It deserves to be read. [Read full article]

May 2, 2024

Italians were shocked to the core by the appearance of journalist Franco Di Mare on the Sunday night TV chatshow – Che tempo che fa (What's the weather like) – on April 28, 2024. Sixty-eight-year old Di Mare, who was speaking remotely, was shown using a respirator as he announced that he was seriously ill with the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. During a dramatic interview with Fabio Fazio, Di Mare laid bare the devastating impact of the disease and its poor prognosis: mesothelioma has, he said “a very long latency period and when it manifests itself it is too late.” Di Mare castigated the RAI TV channel, owned & operated by the Italian Government, for turning its back on him after his diagnosis. [Read full article]

May 1, 2024

As a result of a Supreme Court ruling, it will now become obligatory for all asbestos-containing products sold in Indonesia to feature warning labels in Bahasa, the country’s official language. This landmark decision was issued further to a petition submitted in December 2023 by the Independent Community Consumer Protection Institute, the Yasa Nata Budi Foundation – a consumer advocacy body – and the Local Initiative for OSH Network. Celebrating this victory, campaigner Muchamad Darisman said: “By granting our request, the Judges took a giant leap forward in safeguarding the lives not only of workers but also of members of the public and consumers. It is essential that the Government and all relevant authorities take prompt action to implement the Court’s ruling...” [Read full article]

Apr 29, 2024

Between 2009 – when the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) was founded – and 2023, global asbestos production fell from almost 2 million tonnes/t to 1,300,000t a year, a whopping 35% decline. There are many factors which adversely affected the asbestos industry’s bottom line during this time; the work of ABAN was one of them. On ABAN’s 15th year anniversary, its members take stock of what has been achieved by the journey which began in Hong Kong so many years ago and reaffirm their determination to continue the campaign to rid Asia of the scourge caused by the continuing use of asbestos. [Read full article]

Apr 24, 2024

Now in its 46th year of operations, the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) is more relevant than ever. Having had the privilege of catching up with ADSA colleagues during a recent trip to Western Australia (WA), it was clear that the Society’s staff were even busier than usual. During our stay in Perth, we were delighted on April 18, 2024, to learn that the much-hated “once and for all rule,” which had disadvantaged ADSA members by barring them from accepting provisional damages, had been overturned by the adoption of the Civil Liability Amendment (Provisional Damages for Dust Diseases) Bill 2024. Commenting on this momentous development, the ADSA’s CEO Melita Markey said: “asbestos and silicosis sufferers in WA will have the same legal rights as sufferers elsewhere in the country.” [Read full article]

Apr 19, 2024

Last month was the grand opening of a factory in the Sverdlovsk region of Russia. The Vestra plant which is owned by Uralasbest – Russia’s 2nd biggest asbestos mining conglomerate – is located conveniently near the group’s chrysotile (white) asbestos mine in the Urals’ monotown of Asbest. Although the nature of the “mineral dust” used in the facility remains unspecified, it is likely that it is material reclaimed from chrysotile asbestos mining waste. In due course, the toxic secret at the heart of this shiny new factory will be exposed. One can but hope that this day comes sooner rather than later. [Read full article]

Apr 16, 2024

On March 18, 2024 – more than 32 years after America’s first asbestos ban was vacated by a Louisiana Court of Appeals – the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed that the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos would be phased out with an immediate embargo on asbestos imports once the Final Rule on Asbestos Part 1; Chrysotile Asbestos; Regulation of Certain Conditions of Use Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (the Final Rule) was implemented. This long-awaited national ban will protect not only people in the US but those in other countries which decide that the time is right for them to also take unilateral action on the asbestos hazard. It is reassuring that, after all this time, the EPA is once again becoming a force for good. [Read full article]

Mar 12, 2024

On March 3, 2024, members of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) convened for the 2024 ABAN South Asia Strategy meeting. With its unique asbestos history, Sri Lanka was an appropriate venue for the meeting. In retaliation for plans to impose an asbestos ban in Sri Lanka, Russia embargoed tea imports from Sir Lanka. As a result, the asbestos ban was put on hold. Despite these setbacks, groups in Sri Lanka are progressing a range of efforts to minimize hazardous asbestos exposures. Commenting on the deliberations in Colombo, ABAN Coordinator Sugio Furuya highlighted: the high level of engagement exhibited by the attendees and the participation of a new generation of ban asbestos campaigners. [Read full article]

Mar 8, 2024

March 24, 2024 will be the 100th anniversary of the death of Nellie Kershaw, the first named victim of asbestos-related disease. Her story is paradigmatic of the experience of so many victims, abandoned to their fate once occupationally-contracted diseases made them unfit for work. Has much changed since Nellie Kershaw’s death 100 years ago? Thousands of Britons are still dying from asbestosis, the disease which killed Mrs. Kershaw, and asbestos cancers every year. The government’s refusal to address the contamination of the national infrastructure will ensure that in decades to come there will be many more people like Nellie Kershaw who experience ill health and premature death due to toxic exposures. A 100 years on, the human face of this tragedy may have changed but the problem remains the same. [Read full article]

Mar 4, 2024

Nearly ten years after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), in Strasbourg condemned Switzerland for its treatment of one asbestos victim, a ruling last month (February 2024) found that the same legal system was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) in its handling of a lawsuit brought by another asbestos plaintiff. Although there were differences in the cases, the ECHR’s response to the time-barred defense advanced by Switzerland’s legal team was the same; the need for “legal certainty and legal peace,” did not justify depriving asbestos claimants “of the chance to assert their rights before the courts.” [Read full article]

Feb 21, 2024

In an Asbestos Factsheet uploaded on February 16, 2024, by the United Nations Environment Programme it was reported that: “There is ongoing evidence that mismanagement of asbestos is resulting in elevated healthcare expenses that surpass any benefits.” The validity of this finding was substantiated by the asbestos scandal – news of which has gone global – which has rocked Sydney, Australia over recent weeks. The discovery of asbestos in mulch used in parks, playgrounds, schools, sports centers, hospitals, electrical substations, supermarkets and domestic gardens has led to closure of premises, cancellation of events and extremely high levels of public anxiety. [Read full article]

Feb 16, 2024

It is now 125 years, since Factory Inspector Lucy Deane warned the British Government about the hazard posed by exposures to asbestos. One wonders what she would have made of the fact that so many decades later, asbestos cancers and diseases continue to wreak havoc amongst populations the world over. Recent developments reviewed in the article cited below, revealed both good and bad news. Despite the dramatic fall in asbestos use in the 21st century, asbestos contamination of national infrastructures and pollution of the natural environment remain a public health as well as an occupational health risk to global populations. [Read full article]

Feb 5, 2024

In the run-up to World Cancer Day 2024, an article in The Guardian newspaper reverberated a World Health Organization (WHO) warning of an impending cancer “tsunami” which will see the number of new cancer cases rising by 77% by 2050. Exposure to all types of asbestos can cause a variety of cancers; data released in 2024, confirmed that 1,300,000 tonnes of asbestos were consumed worldwide last year. It is neither prudent nor humane for national governments, international agencies and regional authorities to neglect their duty to protect populations in countries where asbestos use remains legal; every minute of every day millions of people are being exposed to a substance that could kill them. It has to stop. [Read full article]

Feb 2, 2024

Following on from a TV program – Britain’s crumbling schools – broadcast on the BBC last month, an article on the website of the World Socialist on January 29th asserted that: “Schools in the UK are not fit for purpose, and many pose a ‘critical risk to life.’” While asbestos protections are increasing in EU countries, it seems that in the UK the only change is for the worse. As our schools continue to age, asbestos-containing products within them deteriorate and the likelihood of carcinogenic fibers becoming airborne grows. The final price for the negligence of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be paid by the children, teachers and school staff who contract mesothelioma in the decades to come. [Read full article]

Jan 25, 2024

Johnson and Johnson (J&J) announced in May 2020 that it would stop selling its iconic talc-based baby powder in US and Canadian markets. It would be another two years before the company bowed to mounting pressure over claims of discriminatory marketing and double standards and agreed to stop sales outside North America. Grassroots’ groups around the world which have been monitoring the availability of J&J products during 2023 & 2024 reported that there appeared to be a decrease in supplies of the toxic baby powder available in many retail and online outlets. [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 (2022)
(tonnes):
   Russia750,000
   Kazakhstan250,000
   Brazil197,000
   China130,000
    
 Top Five Users (2022)
(tonnes):
   India424,000
   China261,000
   Russia230,000
   Uzbekistan108,000
   Indonesia104,000