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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

News text:

Sep 20, 2022

On September 14, 2022, the 5th Chamber of the Labor Court of Amiens, France issued a victims’ verdict in a case over asbestos anxiety caused by the knowledge of toxic workplace exposures at railway workshops in north-central France operated by the SNCF, France's state-owned railway company. The case was launched in 2016; in 2017 seventy workers were each awarded compensation of €60,000 (US$60,100). In 2018, the Reims Court of Appeal overturned the verdict. Since 2016, two claimants died from asbestos cancer, a third is undergoing chemotherapy and six have been diagnosed with pleural thickening. See: Procès de l'amiante à la SNCF : les cheminots de Romilly-sur-Seine obtiennent un dédommagement financier [Asbestos trial at the SNCF: the railway workers of Romilly-sur-Seine obtain financial compensation].

Sep 20, 2022

Last week, the Food & Drugs Administration in the Indian State of Maharashtra cancelled Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) license for the manufacture of baby powder over safety concerns after samples from Pune and Nashik were declared not of standard quality by the government. In a clarification issued by J&J, the company reassured consumers that the baby powder was safe, did not contain asbestos and did not cause cancer. The firm plans to challenge the Maharashtra ruling in court. See: Johnson & Johnson Issues Clarification After Cancellation of Manufacturing License of Its Baby Powder, Says ‘It Is Safe and Does Not Contain Asbestos That Causes Cancer’.

Sep 20, 2022

Committed to protecting Cambodians from toxic asbestos exposures, on September 13, 2022 officials from the General Department of Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Prevention met with representatives of Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) in Phnom Pen to discuss measures to build the country’s technical capacity in the fight for asbestos safety. In October, Australian analytical experts will train Cambodian technicians on the use of analytical methods for detecting asbestos fibers. On September 15, the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training ran a workshop to devise a roadmap for the eradication of asbestos-related diseases in Cambodia. See: Oz team offers CCF asbestos class.

Sep 20, 2022

A lawsuit was launched by a bereaved Japanese family over the unauthorized disposal by the Labor Standards Inspection Office of vital documents required for a mesothelioma compensation case. Relatives of the construction worker, who died aged 54 in 2003 of an industrial accident, having been occupationally exposed to asbestos, needed the paperwork as evidence in a lawsuit against a building material manufacturer. Responding to a 2021 request by the family for documents about the case, officials admitted that records of interviews with colleagues had been mistakenly discarded. See: 労基署が『永久保存のはずの文書廃棄』[Labor Standards Office “disposes of documents that are supposed to be permanently preserved…”].

Sep 20, 2022

It was announced on September 16, 2022, that WorkSafeBC, the statutory agency in British Columbia tasked with preventing occupational injury and occupational diseases, had imposed a record fine of over $700,000 (US$525,500) on a Toronto-based demolition company that had been contracted to clear fire damage at a commercial site. The company had failed to comply with asbestos regulations as a result of which operatives were working in illegal and toxic conditions. See: WorkSafeBC imposes record-high single penalty of $710,488 for asbestos violations.

Sep 20, 2022

Following the disclosure of asbestos contamination at the Torrejón air base in Spain, more pollution has been revealed at military bases and airfields throughout the country including the Gando air base, the military airfield at León and the air base at Villanubla. Asbestos-containing material was widely used in the construction of barracks and ships. Claims from former service personnel for asbestos-related injuries have been reported. This Summer the Navy recognized the asbestos cancer death of Admiral Francisco Javier González-Huix, Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as having been caused by his military service. See: El amianto preocupa en la base aérea de Torrejón: detectado también en Gando, León y Villanubla [Asbestos is a concern at the Torrejón air base: also detected in Gando, León and Villanubla].

Sep 17, 2022

On September 6, 2022, the International Labour Organisation’s Project Advisory Committee on enhancing Occupational Safety and Health held a meeting in Phnom Penh about standards in the construction sector. According to Yan Thy – Secretary-General of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia who was at the meeting – subjects on the agenda included procedural matters such as regulations and policies adopted by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training pertaining to the health and safety of construction workers as well as challenges associated with asbestos in products used by construction workers. See: ILO holds third meeting on Occupational Safety, Health in construction.

Sep 17, 2022

India’s consumer market for infant products is dominated by Johnson & Johnson (J&J). According to one expert: “When you talk about the baby talcum product market in India, Johnson & Johnson still has the lion’s share in this portfolio. It has about 60 to 70% of market share in the country today.” In the face of a tidal wave of US litigation over the asbestos content of its iconic baby powder, J&J has maintained the product is safe. The recent announcement that this product would be withdrawn from sale in 2023 raises concerns amongst consumers, with people asking why the product was not withdrawn in India at the same time as it was withdrawn in the US and Canada. See: A look at Johnson & Johnson’s Presence In India And Discontinuation of Its Products Controversy.

Sep 17, 2022

On November 26, 2022, a conference will be held in Barcelona to consider how best to rid Catalonia of asbestos contamination. The event is being organized jointly by the Asbestos-Exposed Pensioners of Macosa-Alstom and the Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Barcelona. It is hoped that conversations at the meeting will mobilize civil society sectors and expedite the urgent measures needed to comply with EU asbestos removal guidelines. See: Convocan una convención en Barcelona para liberar Catalunya de amianto [Convention [to be held] in Barcelona on freeing Catalonia from asbestos].

Sep 17, 2022

Pursuant to Flanders commitment to be asbestos-free by 2040, the Flanders Government has allocated €3.5 million (US$3.5m) in a bill designed to eradicate the asbestos hazard from the care sector. Until mid-October 2022, healthcare institutions can apply for funding to the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM). A further €9m has been allocated to tackle the asbestos legacy in other sectors including: agriculture, education and social housing. See (subscription site): Flanders provides €3.5 million to remove asbestos from healthcare centres.

Sep 17, 2022

Winnipeg mayoral candidate Rana Bokhari has pledged to start an asbestos testing program for the city’s water this Autumn should she be elected. On September 12, she told journalists that: “We have not tested Winnipeg’s water for asbestos fibres since 1995… As research into the issue of asbestos in water pipes and the possibly detrimental effect on human health has continued for the past 30 years, it’s become increasingly obvious that we are ignoring a major potential health hazard in our water system.” Bokhari also plans to lobby the federal government to include Winnipeg’s water delivery system in their upcoming infrastructure review. See: WINNIPEG VOTES: Bokhari promises to start testing water for asbestos.

Sep 17, 2022

Appeals by former employers of a man who died from an asbestos-related disease were dismissed by the High Court of Justice of the Basque Country which confirmed a lower court’s verdict that the worker's pleural cancer had been caused by occupational exposures to asbestos and silica. One of the defendants’ arguments during the appeal was that the deceased’s smoking habit had caused the illness and not hazardous workplace conditions. As a result of this decision, upgrades will be made in the monthly pension received by his widow. See: El TSJPV confirma el origen laboral de un cáncer tras la exposición al amianto [The TSJPV confirms the occupational origin of cancer after exposure to asbestos].

Sep 14, 2022

The Russian language article cited below, which was uploaded on September 10, 2022, considered the September 6, 2022 vote by the Ukrainian Parliament which banned the use of asbestos and debunked myths being spread by pro-asbestos interests to spread alarm. The ban only pertains to the new use of asbestos and does not mandate removal of asbestos material already incorporated within the built environment. Ukraine industry has a year to make the transition to safer asbestos-free technologies. See: Запрет использования асбеста в производстве: почему он вреден [The ban on the use of asbestos in production: why it (asbestos) is harmful].

Sep 14, 2022

A detailed analysis of the history and strategies of the US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was published in the September 12, 2022 issue of the New Yorker magazine. The text by journalist Casey Cept was methodical as well as comprehensive in its description of how this national brand exploited consumers’ trust whilst promoting the company’s iconic baby powder despite the presence of asbestos fibers. J&J made full use of loopholes in government oversight to avoid regulation and exploited judicial stratagems to freeze claims by US cancer victims. It is a sorry tale but one exceedingly well told. See: Johnson & Johnson & New War on Consumer Protection.

Sep, 14, 2022

The pubic outcry in Turkey over plans to import an asbestos-laden Brazilian warship for scrapping at an Izmir ship-breaking facility has raised the profile of the asbestos hazard. Following on from the successful campaign to reject the toxic ship, questions are now being asked about the dangers posed by demolishing or renovating asbestos-containing buildings. The author of the text cited below called on municipal and federal authorities to act urgently to prevent asbestos pollution by implementing and enforcing regulations to control urban transformation projects. See: Kentsel dönüşümde kanser riski! [Cancer risk in urban transformation!].

Sep 14, 2022

The asbestos contamination of the educational infrastructure of the Spanish capital remains a contentious issue for teachers, staff, parents and children. One building causing alarm for parents is the Meseta de Orcasitas school in Usera, Madrid, the second largest school in the district, used daily by 500 children and 20 teachers. It was built in 1978 and has broken roofing made of corrugated iron and asbestos. In 2018, the Government of Madrid pledged to remove all asbestos material from public schools. See: Dar clase bajo un techo de 2.000 metros de amianto: “Nuestros niños lo respiran seis horas al día” [Teaching under a 2,000 meter roof of asbestos: “Our children breathe it six hours a day”].

Sep 21, 2022

A quote made famous by Vladimir Lenin: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,” sprang to mind when I was reviewing progress made this month (September 2022). Recent news received of developments in Latin America, Europe and Asia made manifest the huge strides being achieved in the struggle for asbestos justice. The September breakthroughs were the result of long-term efforts by grassroots campaigners, politicians, civil servants, asbestos victims’ groups, non-governmental organizations, national associations and others working individually and collaboratively to address asbestos corruption and illegalities. [Read full article]

Sep 9, 2022

On September 6, 2022 Parliamentary bill No. 4142, which prohibited the use of all types of asbestos and products containing it in Ukraine, was enacted. As a result, said Ukrainian politician Olena Shulyak: “Finally, we will get rid of the health-threatening Soviet construction legacy and replace it with modern building materials that will preserve the health of both builders and residents of new buildings.” The road to achieving this ban was not straightforward due to aggressive lobbying by Ukrainian and foreign pro-asbestos stakeholders. Judicial as well as legislative actions were blocked on multiple occasions, testing both the stamina and conviction of campaigners in Parliament and civil society organizations. [Read full article]

Sep 6, 2022

With the imposition of trade sanctions on Russian businesses, traditional transport routes were blocked not just for the aggressor but for others who used their ports. A case in point was the situation faced by Kostanay Minerals JSC, Kazakhstan’s sole chrysotile (white) asbestos conglomerate, which had until the outbreak of the 2022 war sent its exports via the Russian ports of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea and St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea. After initial logistical difficulties which forced Kostanay to cease mining operations, new channels of transportation were developed to allow the export of asbestos fiber to resume. An assessment of Russian asbestos exports is not possible at this time due to the lack of reliable data. [Read full article]

Sep 1, 2022

Bowing to the inevitable, on Tuesday August 30, 2022 the Brazilian Agency which had authorized the export of the Navy’s former flagship – the São Paulo – to Turkey called for its immediate return to Brazil following the Turkish Government’s cancellation of its import permit. The international furore caused by the ship’s journey to an Izmir dismantling yard has been colossal with widespread unrest in Turkey over the continued desecration of the environment under the Erdoğan Government. As of August 31, 2022, the São Paulo was off the coast of Morocco. The Basel Action Network which is monitoring the transit of the Dutch tug pulling the aircraft carrier says that the speed has remained consistent and the vessel is on course towards Turkey. [Read full article]

Aug 24, 2022

Today (August 24, 2022), is Independence Day in Ukraine. Under current circumstances, Ukrainians could be forgiven for exuberant displays of nationalism as they celebrate their 31st year of freedom. And yet, even after more than three decades of independence, the country is still under attack. Fighting against the Russians and their collaborators is now a fact of life not only in the streets but also in the Parliament in Kyiv where work to ban asbestos is under a constant bombardment from asbestos industry propagandists determined to quash the sovereign right of Ukraine to act in the best interests of its citizens and outlaw the use of an acknowledged carcinogen as other civilized countries have done. [Read full article]

Aug 15, 2022

Within hours of Johnson and Johnson’s August 11, 2022 announcement that it planned to withdraw its iconic talc-based baby powder from sale in all global markets next year, the news had spread around the world. Coverage of this development was published in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Qatar, India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Israel, the Gulf States, Brazil and elsewhere. What was remarkable was not the massive interest in this story but the fact that not one of the articles asked why toxic baby powder which had been withdrawn in North America in 2020 was still being sold in their country in 2022. [Read full article]

Aug 12, 2022

Global campaigners have today condemned the decision of the Spanish Supreme Court which this week ruled against the grieving family of José María Iñigo, a famous TV presenter and personality. Mr. Iñigo died in 2018 from mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. He had worked for years in TV studios in Madrid which were full of asbestos-containing insulation products. Despite the evidence, the Court found that his lawyers had not proved that his death was caused by workplace exposures. In today’s press release, activists from Latin America, Europe and Asia expressed outrage at this decision and condolences with the family’s loss [Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español del artículo completo]. [Read full article]

Aug 9, 2022

According to a ruling by a regional court in Rio de Janeiro State, the São Paulo – the former flagship of the Brazilian Navy – should be on its way back to a Brazilian port having set sail on August 4 on its way to a dismantling yard in Turkey. The court issued an order that the ship return to Guanabara Bay as a “precautionary measure.” It has been reported that on August 5, the Supreme Court of Brazil also ordered the São Paulo to return to base and not leave Brazilian waters. As of now, the location of the vessel remains unknown, with one Brazilian military expert speculating that the ship may have turned off its GPS to mask its current position. With the temporary disappearance of the vessel, media attention is growing not only in Brazil but also in Europe. Where is the São Paulo? [Read full article]

Jul 18, 2022

Developments in July 2022 have corroborated the long-standing consensus regarding the global catastrophe caused by the widespread and unregulated use of asbestos. The month began with an announcement by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that, following a consultation of international experts, it had been confirmed that firefighters were at increased risk of contracting mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Events held by UK asbestos campaigners on July 1 raised awareness of the nationwide epidemic killing 5,000+ Britons every year. A few days later, data published by the Health and Safety Executive confirmed that asbestos mortality had increased by more than 6% in just one year. [Read full article]

Jul 13, 2022

On July 7, 2022 Judge Craig Whitley from the US Bankruptcy court in Charlotte, North Carolina, issued the latest ruling in the long running saga of the potentially “fraudulent” bankruptcy of the French-owned American company CertainTeed LLC. The fact that he found favor with allegations that the parent company Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA (Saint Gobain) and its CertainTeed materials division had “hindered the rights of asbestos victims,” breathed new life into the fight to reinstate the rights of dying plaintiffs. The process by which Saint Gobain’s lawyers used the “Texas two-step” to off-load the asbestos liabilities of CertainTeed was forensically exposed by whistleblower Amiel Gross, whose 2021 testimony was viewed with favor by the Judge. [Read full article]

Jun 30, 2022

On June 28, 2022, the European Environment Agency uploaded a report, entitled Beating cancer – the role of Europe’s environment, which laid out a multi-pronged EU strategy for reducing the cost of deadly exposures to toxins. In the 27 EU Member States, ~2.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 1.3 million die from it every year. When looking at the high-profile program to tackle Europe’s asbestos legacy, even the most hardened Brexiteer must have pause for thought. No such programs exist in the UK. A 2021/22 Parliamentary enquiry into the Government’s asbestos policy was hampered from the start by its extremely limited scope. The Committee’s April 21, 2022 report identified significant failings by the Health and Safety Executive. The Government has failed to respond to the report. [Read full article]

Jun 20, 2022

In a media release on June 15, 2022, groups campaigning for occupational rights and social justice denounced a Russian-led cabal for blocking United Nations progress on protecting global populations from a class 1 carcinogen: chrysotile (white) asbestos. A veto by 5 countries of a resolution tabled on June 14 to include chrysotile on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention was a “gross violation of the spirit of the Rotterdam Convention and in total contradiction to the decision taken at the International Labour Conference last Friday by all ILO member countries… to elevate a safe and health working environment to a fundamental principle and right to work.” [Read full article]

Jun 13, 2022

The June 2022 issue of the magazine produced by the NGO Solidar Suisse, which is available online in French, German, and English was on the theme of asbestos, with chapters about the impact of ongoing asbestos consumption in Asia and Africa, the legacy of asbestos use in Switzerland and the work of asbestos lobbyists to undermine efforts to address the global asbestos pandemic. This article is the extended version of my contribution to the above issue. [Read full article]

Jun 6, 2022

The bloodthirsty attack by Russia on Ukraine has led to two resolutions by the UN General Assembly condemning the invasion and another resolution suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council. Whilst, at least some UN bodies have acknowledged that the murderous behaviour of Russia disqualifies it from participating as an equal member in UN deliberations, it seems, alas, that the Secretariat of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention (RC) is yet to get this message. Civil society groups representing millions of trade unionists, asbestos victims, medical professionals, technical experts and concerned citizens are questioning the RC Secretariat’s failure to prevent the infiltration of the Conference of the Parties beginning in Geneva on June 6. 2022 by asbestos lobbyists whose actions have been widely censured. [Read full article]

Jun 3, 2022

Our friend Dr Yoshiomi Temmyo died on May 30, 2022 after a long and full life. He was a lodestar for campaigners not only in Japan but throughout Asia and indeed the world. As Chair of the Global Asbestos Congress Organizing Committee 2000, he helped pioneer the world’s first international public event in Asia to highlight the growing crisis caused by asbestos use throughout the region: the Global Asbestos Congress 2004. Dr Temmyo was, said his friend and colleague Sugio Furuya: “a font of knowledge and wisdom for generations of activists...The network of civil society partners who were privileged to work with Dr Temmyo will continue this work; this is his legacy. Dr Temmyo was an inspiration to us all.” [Read full article]

May 31, 2022

At a press conference in Seoul on May 25, 2022, researchers from the Korean Citizens’ Center for Environmental Health, the National School Parents’ Network to Ban Asbestos in Schools and the Korean Ban Asbestos Network informed journalists that “4-5 out of 10 elementary, middle and high schools nationwide are still ‘asbestos schools’.” The campaigners called on the government to prioritize the removal of asbestos from schools as a matter of urgency, saying that the two-year delay caused by Covid-19 in addressing this life-and-death issue was unacceptable. The data released and information provided at the press conference were widely reported by the media. [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 (2020)
(tonnes):
   Russia720,000
   Kazakhstan227,000
   China120,000
   Brazil71,200
   Zimbabwe8,000
    
 Top Five Users (2020)
(tonnes):
   India310,000
   China243,000
   Russia126,000
   Uzbekistan117,000
   Indonesia86,200