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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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May 6, 2021

The debate about harm caused by the use of Johnson and Johnson’s iconic talc-based baby powder does not seem to lessen as yet more plaintiffs instigate lawsuits against the US pharmaceutical company for failing to protect them from toxic exposures despite knowledge about the harm caused by impurities in its products. According to corporate documents, J&J knew that the talc it was using could contain asbestos fibers and chose not to warn consumers. Despite the existence of a safer alternative based on cornstarch, J&J continued to sell the toxic powder until 2020 when it was withdrawn from markets in North America but remained on sale elsewhere. See: The Talc Powder Controversy: Why It Could Matter to Women.

May 6, 2021

On May 5, 2021, the Basque Association of Asbestos Victims (ASVIAMIE) presented proposals to the General Council of Gipuzkoa for the establishment of a program to implement mandatory asbestos audits as a first stage in a municipal plan to eradicate the asbestos hazard and bring the City into compliance with Resolution 2012/2065 of the European Parliament. According to ASVIAMIE in 2020 there were 33 deaths from asbestos-related diseases in Gipuzkoa; so far in 2021, there have been 8. See: Asviamie se concentrará en Juntas para urgir un inventario y planificar la erradicación del amianto en Gipuzkoa [Asviamie will focus on Boards to urge an inventory and plan for the eradication of asbestos in Gipuzkoa].

May 6, 2021

Aragonese artist Miguel Ángel Arrudi has led protests over plans in Andorra to demolish a redundant power plant containing asbestos and other toxic material. The artist and his supporters believe that the chimney and 3 cooling towers of the Andorran Thermal Power Plant are assets of cultural interest and, as such, should not be demolished. The proposal to preserve the 1974 structures has been rejected by local authorities who began preliminary work on February 25, 2021 with the dismantling of storage areas and boiler mills. In May, work will be carried out in boiler and turbine areas. See: La DGA rechaza declarar BIC las torres de Andorra por tener amianto y superar su vida útil [The DGA refuses to declare Andorran (cooling) towers BIC (assets of cultural interest) because they have exceeded their useful life and contain asbestos].

May 6, 2021

On the eve of the International Day for Asbestos Victims, Violetta Borelli – a researcher from the University of Trieste – provided a progress update to delegates attending a conference in Monfalcone, Italy. With sponsorship from the League Against Caner and the City of Monfalcone, scientists had made a step forward with the identification of a variant of hephestin, a protein responsible for the absorption of iron in the intestine, which was more expressed by people exposed to asbestos but who had not become ill. Borellia explained that the objective of the research was to identify a link between the occurrence of asbestos-related diseases and a genetic predisposition to contract these diseases. See: Amianto, procede la ricerca verso nuove cure [Asbestos, the search for new treatments continues].

May 6, 2021

More details have emerged about the basis for the lawsuit being brought by asbestos defendants against a medical clinic in Libby – a Montana town where hundreds of people have died from asbestos-related diseases due to vermiculite mining operations by the company W. R. Grace. The litigants allege that personnel at the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) defrauded Medicare and federal agencies by running unnecessary tests – including X-rays and CT scans – and over-diagnosing cases of asbestos-related diseases. The legal team for CARD view the lawsuit as an attempt to damage the clinic’s credibility and undermine the legitimacy of its diagnoses. See: Lawsuit against Libby clinic centers on lung scans.

May 6, 2021

Enquiries made by a local reporter have exposed failings in the disposal policy for asbestos-cement tiles in the Brazilian city of Guarulhos, São Paulo State. Municipal dumpsites and collection agencies will not accept asbestos-cement tiles or broken cement tiles suspected of containing asbestos, advising that arrangements must be made for the collection of these toxic products by a specialist commercial company. There is only one such specialist company: Cetes Ambiental. The result of the city’s policy is that people dispose of asbestos-cement material on public roads and vacant lots. See: Guarulhos não sabe o que fazer com telhas que contêm amianto [Guarulhos does not know what to do with tiles containing asbestos].

May 5, 2021

An update to the war over the right of the Government of Ukraine to ban asbestos reported that one of the main companies involved in the attack on the democratic process was the Russian-Kazakh Kusto Group. The author of the article cited below noted that in 2017 this group had “managed to abolish the decree of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine #339 ‘On the safety and protection of workers from the harmful effects of asbestos and materials and asbestos-containing products’ with the help of the Administrative Court of Cassation of Ukraine.” Support for Parliament’s attempt to ban asbestos had been received from international organizations and Parliamentarians. See: Russian-Kazakh holding blocks the ban of hazardous asbestos-containing production and that threatens Ukraine's integration into the EU.

May 5, 2021

On April 28, 2021, a French court recognized the right of 32 former employees from the Normed shipyards in Dunkirk to claim compensation of €2,000 for asbestos anxiety from the French State; judgments in 150 similar cases are pending according to lawyer Frédéric Quinquis who pointed that that the successful claimants had all been employed prior to 1977 when asbestos regulations had been enacted. See: Amiante: l’État condamné à indemniser 32 ex-salariés de chantiers navals de Dunkerque [Asbestos: the State ordered to compensate 32 former employees of Dunkirk shipyards].

May 5, 2021

On April 30, 2021, the South Korea City of Busan announced that a program would be launched to provide health assessments for former pupils, staff and local people who had attended Yeonsin Elementary school or lived near the school from 1985 to 1998. The school, which was opened in 1984, was 10 meters away from an asbestos textile factory owned by the Jeil Chemical company. The program – which would provide free assessments and check-ups – would be conducted by staff from the Asbestos Environmental Health Center at the Busan National University Hospital in Yangsan. See: 석면공장 옆 부산 연신초 졸업생·가족 건강영향 조사 [Health impact survey for graduates and families in Yeonsin-cho, Busan, next to the asbestos plant].

May 5, 2021

Critics of the Education Department of the South African Province of Gauteng have issued a strongly worded condemnation that years after asbestos had been banned in South Africa, 25 schools in Gauteng still contained asbestos material. Accepting that there had been delays, Steve Mabona, a spokesperson for the Department, said that plans to remediate these schools were well-advanced and that a budget for the work had been allocated. According to Mabona: “Our commitment to eradicate asbestos remains unshakeable. However, we must also forever condemn the apartheid government for using the lethal asbestos to build schools in our communities.” See: Years after eradication deadline, 25 Gauteng schools still contain asbestos.

May 5, 2021

The mythology, history and legendary benefits of using chrysotile (white) asbestos were recounted in a Russian language article which contained multiple clues as to the pro-asbestos bias of the author, including phrases such as: “asbestos has become an indispensable companion of mass construction projects”; “Chrysotile asbestos is … [removed from our body] in a short time”; “Chrysotile asbestos is approved for industrial use under controlled use.” See: Удивительная промышленность: легенды о негорящем камне [Amazing Industry: Legends of the Non-Burning Stone].

May 5, 2021

Last week, acquittals were handed down by the Milan Court in a case brought against former directors of La Scala Opera House – Carlo Fontana, Giovanni Traina, Francesco Malgrande and Maria Rosaria Samoggia – who had been charged with the manslaughter of 10 workers who had died from diseases caused by occupational asbestos exposures. Having heard the verdict, victims’ campaigners called out: “Shame, they were killed for the second time.” See: Amianto, assolti i quattro ex dirigenti del Teatro alla Scala imputati per omicidio colposo di dieci operai esposti all’amianto [Asbestos, the four former directors of the Teatro alla Scala accused of the manslaughter of ten workers exposed to asbestos acquitted].

May 4, 2021

Judge Juliana Campos Ferro Lage of the 2nd Labor Court of Pedro Leopoldo in Belo Horizonte – the 6th largest Brazilian city – last week approved a verdict awarding R$ 571,472 (US$ 106,900) in moral and material damages to a worker who had contracted asbestosis and pleural plaques after having been employed for 25 years at an engineering company. The company, which had employed the plaintiff from 1973 to 1998, claimed that the disease contracted was unrelated to his employment as the provisions of health and safety laws had been implemented. See: Homem será indenizado por empresa, após adoecer por causa de amianto [Man will be compensated by company, after falling ill due to asbestos].

May 4, 2021

The repercussions of mining in Libby, Montana continue with diagnoses of asbestos-related diseases, caused by exposure to fibers liberated by W.R. Grace’s vermiculite operations, being made every year. The Center for Asbestos Related Disease Clinic provides a vital role in supporting and treating the injured. One of the defendants in Libby asbestos cases is the BNSF Railway, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway company. BNSF is suing the Clinic in federal court, alleging that it is defrauding Medicare and grant agencies by over-diagnosing asbestos-related diseases and running unnecessary tests. See: In Poisoned Montana Town, Warren Buffett-Owned Railroad Accuses Clinic of Medicare Fraud.

May 4, 2021

Grassroots groups in Indonesia, which remain committed to banning asbestos despite the COVID-19 pandemic, include Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA (Australia), the Local Initiative for Occupational Safety and Health Network (LION), and Indonesia’s Ban Asbestos Network. Work continues on consolidating the ban introduced in Bandung City in 2020 as well as on campaigning for additional regional and national regulations to protect workers, consumers and post-disaster communities from toxic exposures. LION will continue outreach work to support asbestos victims and raise awareness of the need for a ban to protect the population from avoidable deaths caused by asbestos exposure. See: The fight to ban asbestos continues as Indonesia responds to COVID-19.

May 4, 2021

In the run-up to the Scottish elections this week, asbestos victims’ and trade union campaigners urged all political parties to commit themselves to a plan to eradicate asbestos contamination throughout the Scottish infrastructure. Phyllis Craig, from the Glasgow-based group Action on Asbestos, was insistent, saying: “The question of asbestos in our schools, hospitals and public buildings must be addressed by the politicians before the May elections.” Gary Smith, GMB Scotland secretary, added: “Asbestos has cost so many lives and damaged so many more, it’s outrageous that there is not a planned programme of removal.” See: Scotland’s political parties must pledge to remove potentially deadly asbestos from all of the country’s public buildings, campaigners and trade unions have said.

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]

Feb 23, 2021

Throughout the pandemic, there’s been a resurgence of support for sustainable development, “environment-friendly policymaking,” “better informed government direction,” and evidence-based decision making. Politicians the world over have pledged to “build back better,” “restore science to Government,” “mobilize science” to protect the health and well-being of citizens and develop policies “guided by the best available scientific data.” The accomplishment of these goals will be fundamental to addressing climate change and creating a greener economy for current and future generations. The continuing use of asbestos is incompatible with this shared vision and the decline in its use over recent years substantiates the widespread rejection of this toxic technology. [Read full article]

Feb 11, 2021

Writing to Brazil’s Ministries of Defence and Environment, campaigners from Latin America and Europe highlight troubling issues over the upcoming auction of the aircraft carrier São Paulo. In their letter, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) and partnering organizations express concern that the vessel might wind up on a ship-breaking beach in South Asia. The carrier, they point out, “contains large amounts of asbestos that needs to be handled and disposed of without exposing workers and surrounding communities to the risk of cancer.” [Portuguese version] [French version]. [Read full article]

Feb 2, 2021

No sooner were French asbestos victims hailing a judicial breakthrough in their 25-year-old campaign to hold employers, executives and managers to account for deadly workplace exposures, than another legal stratagem was launched which will, at the very least, delay criminal proceedings for another two years. Even before the print had dried on the January 20 judgment, news was circulating that an appeal had been lodged by Ms. Champrenault, the Attorney General at the Paris Court of Appeal, to the Court of Cassation (France’s Supreme Court). Adding insult to injury, Champrenault announced that whilst the appeal to the Court of Cassation was pending, she intended to request an order suspending, for the time being, hearings on all other major asbestos cases before the Court of Appeal. [Read full article]

Jan 28, 2021

European groups representing asbestos victims and campaigning associations have expressed concerns over the January 29, 2021 auction of the former Portuguese vessel MV Funchal which is being sold two years after it was purchased by the UK company Signature Living, now in administration. Rumors are circulating that the vessel – which has remained berthed in Lisbon since it was bought – will be scrapped. According to a campaigner who has been closely monitoring the situation, there are “about 100 tons of asbestos in a friable state, namely composed of the fiber types chrysotile, amosite and tremolite” on-board, which were identified by a hazardous substance audit (see also: Versão Portuguesa) . [Read full article]

Jan 27, 2021

“Sham” documentation¸ clandestine ownership by offshore companies, and breaches of international conventions and national regulations continue to endanger Bangladeshi shipbreaking workers and communities. The commercial exploitation of regulatory loopholes combined with large financial incentives are a toxic combination attracting international customers to scrap surplus tonnage at beaching yards in Bangladesh, the top ship-recycling country in the world. With ill-informed government officials, a lack of testing capacity and the non-existence of health and safety regulation of the informal sector shipowners as well as shipbreaking companies remain immune from prosecution for injuries or contamination caused by their business practices. [Read full article]

Jan 20, 2021

The 2018 mesothelioma death of Spanish household name José María Íñigo remains unresolved. Court proceedings begin in Madrid this week (January 21) in an attempt by his family to find his employer – the Spanish Radio and Television Company (RTVE) – liable for occupational asbestos exposures experienced whilst the broadcaster was working in the company’s iconic Studio 1. The first step in the litigation is to obtain a finding that the cause of death was due to occupational exposure. Once that has been achieved, the family will progress the personal injury lawsuit for compensation begun by José María Íñigo. A victory in this case with strengthen the rights of all Spanish asbestos victims. [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