|►US: J&J Dumps Cancer Liabilities|
|Zimbabwe: Ban Asbestos Event in Zimbabwe|
|UK: Union Calls for Asbestos Eradication Program|
|Italy: Victims’ Verdict in Bari|
|US: EPA U-Turn on Asbestos|
|Turkey: Compulsory Asbestos Audits|
Oct 18, 2021
In a widely anticipated and high-profile move that was reported as far afield as Russia and Brazil within minutes of the announcement being made, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) declared it had off-loaded liabilities from tens of thousands of cancer cases using the Texas two-step to exploit corporate bankruptcy laws. J&J dumped the claims over asbestos-contaminated talc-based J&J baby powder into a new subsidiary which was promptly put into Chapter 11 protection. Commenting on the news, US Attorney Joe Satterley categorized J&J’s decision as “corporate fraud at its worst” saying: “There’s no way this litigation presents a material threat to this company. It’s laughable.” See: Johnson & Johnson Puts Talc Injury Claims Into Bankruptcy.
Oct 18, 2021
A workshop on September 30 & October 1, 2021 offered the opportunity for union leaders to raise awareness of the occupational asbestos hazard in Zimbabwe, one of the world’s few remaining asbestos-producing countries. The event was held by unions affiliated with the Building and Wood Workers International. Nicholas Mazarura, General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Construction and Allied Trades Workers’ Union and President Peter Mutasa of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions urged the government to take urgent action to ban asbestos to protect workers. Representatives of employers’ groups and the National Social Security Authority said it was premature to talk about banning asbestos and further research was needed. See: Zimbabwe: Unions pressure government to ban asbestos.
Oct 18, 2021
The CWU trade union, representing nearly 188,000 UK communication workers, on October 14, 2021 issued a press release documenting the union’s demands for the Government to undertake the complete eradication of asbestos material from the built environment. According to the CWU’s national health, safety & environment officer Dave Joyce “an estimated six million tons of this fibrous mineral [is] present in more than 1.5 million buildings, including schools and hospitals… UK nurses and teachers are three to five times more likely to develop mesothelioma because of the asbestos in the buildings in which they work.” See: House of Commons Asbestos Inquiry – CWU calls for complete eradication of ‘this toxic fibre’ from all UK buildings.
Oct 18, 2021
Earlier this month (October 2021), Italian Judge Agnese Angiuli of the Bari Court, Labor Section issued victims’ verdicts which recognized the right of two former Alitalia employees to retire early and receive an uplift in pension payments because of their occupational exposure to asbestos at the Naples and Bari-Palese airports for more than 25 years. See: Dipendenti ex Alitalia Esposti ad Amianto all’Aeroporto Capodichino di Napoli: Il Tribunale Condenna INPS al Prepensionamento [Former Alitalia Employees Exposed to Asbestos at Naples Capodichino Airport: The Court Instructs INPS to allow early retirement].
Oct 18, 2021
On October 12, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached a settlement with civil society groups which had issued lawsuits against the Agency to force it to adequately evaluate under 2016 revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act, all the human health risks posed by asbestos. The EPA has agreed to expand the scope of its investigations and to review risks to citizens posed by exposure to all types of asbestos fibers – including chrysotile (white) asbestos – as well as asbestos legacy uses by December 1, 2024. See: US EPA to strengthen asbestos risk evaluation.
Oct 18, 2021
On October 14, 2021 the publication of a long-awaited Regulation on Demolition of Buildings which mandates that asbestos audits be carried out prior to the commencement of any building or demolition work in Turkey was welcomed by asbestos removal experts. The new regulations will come into force on July 1, 2022, six months later than originally planned. See: Asbest Söküm Uzmanları Derneği Başkanı Ensari: Denetime Gelen Müfettişler Bile Asbestin Ne Olduğunu Bilmiyor [Asbestos Removal Specialists Association President Ensari: Even the inspectors who come to do the inspection don’t know what asbestos is].
Oct 15, 2021
The funeral took place on October 13, 2021 of one of Scotland’s pioneering asbestos victims’ advocates Tommy Nelson. Tommy, with his friends Harry McCluskey and Iain McKechnie, ran one of the UK’s first charities to support former workmates who had contracted asbestos-related diseases. In an online tribute uploaded on October 14, Phyllis Craig, Director of Action on Asbestos – formerly Clydeside Action on Asbestos – said: “Tommy… put his heart and soul into making sure that those who had been diagnosed with an asbestos condition were treated with dignity and respect.” See: Tommy Nelson, asbestos campaigner and founder member of Clydeside Action on Asbestos, has passed away, aged 83.
Oct 15, 2021
As a result of the widespread use of asbestos-containing products in Turkey, much of the country’s built environment remains contaminated. Regulations intended to prevent toxic exposures to building and demolition workers are routinely ignored. An asbestos inspection program set up in 2016 in Maltepe, a district in Istanbul, however, has identified asbestos in 1,925 properties prior to allowing demolition work to begin. The program operates under the auspices of the Directorate of Environmental Protection and Control and employs two asbestos removal experts to conduct asbestos audits. See: Maltepe asbest denetiminde örnek ilçe [Sample district in Maltepe asbestos inspection].
Oct 15, 2021
Although the Canadian Government banned the use of asbestos at the end of 2018, a loophole remains which allows the resale of products containing asbestos. As long as this situation persists, say medical experts and health and safety campaigners, Canadians will remain at risk from toxic exposures. Unfortunately, when the problems created by the loophole were reported to Environment and Climate Change Canada – the department of the Government of Canada responsible for coordinating environmental policies and programs – no action was taken. See: Produits contenant de l’amiante: des médecins préoccupés par une échappatoire [Asbestos-containing products: doctors concerned about a loophole].
Oct 15, 2021
The Banjima tribe, the traditional owners of the land on which the now derelict Wittenoom blue asbestos mine sits, are calling for the remediation of the 46,000 hectare site contaminated with 64,000 tonnes of highly toxic waste. On October 12, 2021, a petition was tabled at the Parliament of Western Australia calling on the Government to identify those responsible for the environmental catastrophe and to produce a budgeted remediation program which will restore the Pilbara site. "We want,” said Banjima Elder Matiland Parker “our Country cleaned up and made safe for all people, for now and for future generations.” See: Banjima take Wittenoom clean-up fight to WA Parliament.
Oct 15, 2021
On October 12, the Industrial Tribunal at Chateauroux examined asbestos anxiety claims from 242 former workers who had been employed at La Halle d’Issoudun (Indre) – a logistics and transport company. According to the claimants, the management of the company – which closed in 2020 – had known about the presence of asbestos in the warehouse since 2010 but had kept the workforce in the dark about the extensive contamination until 2019, shortly before the site was closed. The judgment will be handed down on January 7, 2022. See: Indre. Exposés à l’amiante, 242 ex-salariés aux prud’hommes pour faire reconnaître un préjudice d’anxiété [Indre. Exposed to asbestos, 242 former employees appear at the industria
Oct 15, 2021
An online rally, attended by eight members of the Diet, victims of asbestos-related diseases and relatives, was held on October 7, 2021 by a group representing asbestos cancer sufferers, to highlight the inadequacy of medical care and the paucity of treatment options for patients with mesothelioma, the signature cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Discrepancies existing under the Asbestos Health Damage Relief Act which financially penalized sufferers were also examined. See: アスベスト被害者の救済制度 「抜本改正」求めオンライン集会 [Online rally for asbestos victim relief system “dramatic revision”].
Oct 12, 2021
The article cited below appeared on October 9, 2021 on a Vietnamese website and warned of the dangers posed by the continued use of a class 1 carcinogen in Vietnam. With a latency period measured in decades and the widespread presence of asbestos-containing material throughout the country, workers and consumers remain at risk of toxic exposures on a daily basis. Diseases linked with exposure to asbestos include several types of cancer. See: Bị hơn 60 quốc gia cấm, loại “chất độc” gây ung thư mà WHO khuyến cáo hóa ra đang rình rập ngay trong những đồ vật quen thuộc nhà bạn [Banned by more than 60 countries, the “poison” that the WHO tells us causes cancer turns out to be lurking within familiar objects].
Oct 12, 2021
On October 7, 2021, a new factory for the production of asbestos-cement roofing material was opened by the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon in the city of Buston in the north of the country. The manufacturing equipment for the new plant was made in China, one of the world’s biggest producers and users of asbestos. The plant’s output will be sold domestically and will replace imported goods. President Rahmon urged factory owner Zarif Samadov to expand production levels and launch new product lines. See: Рахмон открыл новое промышленное предприятие в Бустоне [Rahmon opens new industrial plant in Buston].
Oct 12, 2021
Wild-cat action was taken at a multi-billion dollar development site in Brisbane when a small group of workers learned of the presence of asbestos-contaminated plasterboard products imported from China. Routine laboratory tests had found low levels of asbestos contamination in a sample of vermiculite used at the Camellia site in Sydney. “It seems,” said a company spokesperson “likely that this contamination occurred at the source of mining the vermiculite, but in any event occurred prior to delivery to our sites.” Work was later suspended at a number of other construction sites by trade unions. See: Asbestos scare: Workers walk off building sites, including Queen’s Wharf.
Oct 12, 2021
Despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Vietnam, there has been substantial progress made by ban asbestos campaigners with a 50% drop in asbestos fiber imports in the last two years. The fall in imports has been due to increasing awareness of the asbestos hazard which has resulted from actions undertaken by the Vietnam OSH Association, the Institute for Resources, Environment and Community Development and their Vietnamese partners working in collaboration with the Australian organization Union Aid Abroad, the German Catholic Bishops’ Organization for Development Cooperation, the Asian Ban Asbestos Network and others. See: Vietnam Eliminating Asbestos Disease Campaign Update.
Oct 15, 2021
Today’s press release by civil society groups representing asbestos victims, trade unions, human rights and environmental campaigners in Asia, Europe and Latin America highlights the significance of recent actions by international organizations for the global campaign to outlaw asbestos use. The United Nations Human Rights Council – the UN’s main human rights body – and the International Labor Organization – the organization tasked with protecting workers worldwide – have called for a drastic rethink on the way life is lived in the 21st century. The ethos and stipulations of the new UN resolution and ILO guidelines are, they assert, incompatible with the continued use of a substance known to cause cancer. [Read full article]
Oct 13, 2021
A landmark series of recent events reinvigorated the campaign to eradicate the asbestos hazard from Asia. The first virtual international conference of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN), comprising plenary and break-out sessions held on September 28, 29 & 30, was a rousing success bringing together hundreds of speakers and attendees from 20 countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America. The provision of translation services in Bahasa, Bengali, Chinese, English, Hindi, Khmer, Korean, Lao and Vietnamese was a key factor in the presentation of information and the interchange of ideas. A resolution issued by conference delegates on September 30 called “on the international community to come together to stop the asbestos trade.” [Read full article]
Oct 7, 2021
This English translation of a press release issued by the Association for the Defence of French Asbestos Victims (ANDEVA) details the struggle by civil society groups in France to forestall plans to undermine compensation payments to asbestos victims by merging the Compensation Fund for Asbestos Victims (FIVA) with another organization. The independence of FIVA was, said ANDEVA, essential to ensure the efficacious and timely delivery of government benefits to asbestos victims. Currently, only half of the people in France who contract the signature asbestos cancer mesothelioma receive compensation from FIVA; ANDEVA is calling for all cases to be recognized. [Read full article]
Oct 1, 2021
Through persuasion and punishment European institutions are seeking to improve environmental and occupational protections against asbestos. This month reasoned opinions were sent by the European Commission to Slovenia and Spain over their failures to transpose into national law European Parliament Directive 2014/52/EU. Although details are few, the Commission has pointed out the repercussions this oversight had had in Spain in relation to “installations for the extraction, processing and transformation of asbestos.” On September 27, 2021, a European Parliament Committee debated a key report on asbestos issues and approved a raft of improvements including the lowering of the Occupational Exposure Limit for asbestos to 1000 fibers/m3. [Read full article]
Sept 27, 2021
Tomorrow (September 28, 2021) marks the start of the 2021 Conference of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN). Once again, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) is proud to partner with civil society groups from Asia and abroad in a regional event which harnesses the power of solidarity and social activism to progress efforts to eradicate the asbestos hazard. The formation in 2009 of the ABAN was “a landmark in the Asian campaign to obtain justice for the asbestos-injured and to implement a regional asbestos ban.” On the eve of the first virtual ABAN conference, ABAN Coordinator Sugio Furuya describes the challenges posed by and core objectives of the latest event. [Read full article]
Sep 27, 2021
Asbestos victims’ campaigners and environmental campaigners will join trade union colleagues and technical experts this week for three days of virtual presentations and discussions under the auspices of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) and partnering organizations. “In parts of Asia, carrying 500 grams of one white powder can draw a death sentence, but importing 1,000 tons of another lethal white dust is both legal and profitable.” Speakers at ABAN sessions will consider current national situations and regional developments and examine the challenges posed to ABAN members working to support asbestos victims during the global Covid-19 pandemic. [Read full article]
Sep 24, 2021
The dire consequences of delays by the Japanese Government in addressing the asbestos hazard are continuing to emerge, with data revealed on September 10, 2021 by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare documenting a new record for the number of deaths last year from mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. This is not surprising. While other industrialized nations took action to ban or curtail asbestos usage many decades ago, as recently as 1995 annual asbestos consumption in Japan was 193,800 tonnes, way more than any other G7 country. Given the accumulation of medical and scientific knowledge about the human health hazards posed by asbestos exposures, Japanese politicians could have been in no doubt about the serious consequences of their failure to act. [Read full article]
Sep 19, 2021
With the end of the summer break, Ukrainian Deputies are returning to Parliament and to the thorny problem of what to do about asbestos, a substance which they pledged to ban as one of the conditions for European Union membership. A year ago (September 20, 2020) draft legislation entitled: “On the Public Health System (no. 4142)” was finalized; it was adopted by Parliament on its first reading on February 4, 2021. Article 27 of the bill called for a comprehensive and immediate ban on asbestos imports and use. Reacting to this proposal, asbestos vested interests from Kazakhstan and Russia launched a sustained attack on the Ukraine Government calling for further dialogue and a delay in implementation of the prohibitions. [Read full article]
Sep 16, 2021
At the Novara Court of Assizes this week, prosecutors began to present the case against Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, charged with voluntary manslaughter for 383 deaths caused by exposures to Eternit asbestos in Casale Monferrato. Evidence from two witnesses was heard on September 13. The first to testify was Nicola Pondrano, Eternit employee, union official and founding member of an asbestos victims’ association: AFeVA. Pondrano provided first-hand testimony about horrendous conditions at the factory and the lack of warnings to the workers as well as the hazard posed to family members and local people. Albino Defilipp, from the Regional Agency for Environmental Protection Piedmont, informed the court about the ubiquity of asbestos contamination throughout the region. [Read full article]
Sep 9, 2021
September 1, the day Russian children return to school after the summer break, is celebrated as Annual Knowledge Day. Last Wednesday, Sverdlovsk Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev visited three high schools including one in the asbestos mining town of Asbest (Asbestos). According to a news report, he “offered the students options for their future professions.” Whether he highlighted career possibilities at the town’s chrysotile asbestos mine, we don’t know for sure but since its owner Uralasbest is one of the area’s biggest employers it seems likely. What the Governor would not have mentioned was the elevated risk to Uralasbest workers of premature death and/or debilitating disease posed by exposures to asbestos or the elevated incidence of asbestos-related cancer amongst townspeople. [Read full article]
Sep 7, 2021
If ever joy could be extracted from tragedy, the details of a jury verdict (Case No. RG20061303 – Christina Prudencio v. Johnson & Johnson), filed on August 23, 2021 at the Superior Court of California, Alameda County, could be the source. The six-page document – listing jury responses to a series of questions set by the Court and damages awarded – contains phrases and findings that bring solace to all of us who have been working to advance human health even as multinational corporations continue to exploit vulnerable populations the world over. Finding both Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary negligent on multiple counts, the jury awarded the plaintiff $26.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages for having been sold a product which contributed to her contracting asbestos cancer. [Read full article]
Aug 23, 2021
In the days and weeks to come others, more learned than I, will write tributes to Dr Morris Greenberg, a kind-hearted and generous physician who died on August 19, 2021. My thoughts when hearing the sad news of Morris’ demise were a jumble of memories of his kindness to the maverick ban asbestos campaigners he came across and the lengths to which he would go to help us. We could never pay him nor could we ever repay him for his assistance but he was always willing to provide guidance and information out of his commitment to making the world a safer place not only for workers but also for members of the public whose lives were being jeopardized by exposures to asbestos. [Read full article]
Aug 20, 2021
The arrival of Covid-19 exacerbated Britain’s epidemic of asbestos-related diseases. Conditions imposed to curtail the spread of the virus upended the administration of a key government scheme. A prohibition on face-to-face assessments meant that “claimants suffering from asbestosis and pleural thickening were left waiting over a year to have their benefit assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB).” As the amount of the IIDB was based on the age of claimants when the IIDB was awarded and not when the claims were submitted, delays in processing claims could reduce Pneumoconiosis Workers’ Compensation Scheme payments. After a sustained grassroots campaign, finally on August 19, 2021 notification was received that full compensation was being paid to those affected. [Read full article]
Aug 18, 2021
Despite the fact that asbestos had been banned in Brazil by a 2017 Supreme Court order, in June 2021 the asbestos mining company Sama S.A. reported an annual increase in sales of 246.1%. Shipments from Sama’s Minaçu mine, destined for overseas markets as domestic sales were forbidden, were transported from Goiás State to São Paulo State ports, then on to Asia. The fact that an asbestos mining company was reporting multimillion dollar profits in a country where its existence had been deemed illegal by the highest court in the land might seem an impossibility – but not in Brazil where the war of the injunctions had ensured that production of the outlawed fiber would continue until the very last card had been played by the asbestos producers and their legal henchmen. [Read full article]
Aug 11, 2021
Future generations will look back at the unregulated and ubiquitous use of asbestos throughout the 20th & 21st centuries much as we view the now banned use of arsenic, mercury and lead. In this article the author highlighted methods used to prolong asbestos sales, despite mounting evidence of the damage done, through an examination of key archival documents. These texts delineated industry’s strategic approach to dominating the asbestos dialogue at home and abroad, manipulating decision-making by regulatory authorities at all levels and deceiving civil society stakeholders in order to create a climate in which sales of asbestos products could flourish. The discussion of recent developments indicates that the asbestos industry is finally on its way to oblivion. Amen to that! [Read full article]
Aug 9, 2021
A recent report by Ram Charitra Sah of Nepal’s Center for Public Health and Environmental Development provided an update about asbestos issues in a country which banned most asbestos usage but not the use of asbestos in automotive products. Although asbestos-free friction materials including brake linings and pads are increasingly available in Nepal, asbestos brakes are still being imported. The results of a survey conducted in 10 brake repair shops in Kathmandu Valley revealed that: none of the mechanics had received training about the hazards posed by exposures to asbestos and few knew about Nepal’s asbestos ban; few precautions to prevent toxic exposures were in operation in the workshops; 50% of those interviewed were smokers. [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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