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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Jan 19, 2022

An article on a Vietnamese news portal highlighted the deadly danger posed by the popularity of asbestos-cement roofing material, exposure to which can cause a variety of cancers and diseases. The majority of the asbestos fiber used in the manufacture of 80 million m2 of asbestos-cement roofing products in Vietnam every year comes from Russia. Medical and scientific experts are working in Vietnam to raise awareness of the availability of safer products and encourage consumers, especially lower income customers, to abandon toxic roofing. See: Chất Amiăng trong tấm lợp Fibro xi măng là “kẻ thù” gây hàng loạt ung thư nguy hiểm [Asbestos in Fibro-cement roofing is an “enemy” that causes a series of dangerous cancers].

Jan 19, 2022

A medical program to screen high-risk workers for asbestos-related conditions, which was developed in conjunction with the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA), used a mobile Low Dose Computed Tomography unit to examine 223 workers from a former asbestos factory in Pedro Leopoldo City in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais. “Pleural plaques or nodules were identified in 19% of individuals, with a median exposure time of 13.5 years. Five individuals had moderate or marked signs of pulmonary fibrosis, and one was diagnosed with low-stage pulmonary adenocarcinoma.” See: Abstract PO-260: Screening of Brazilian underserved [overlooked] workers exposed to asbestos in loco with a mobile low dose computed tomography [unit].

Jan 19, 2022

What has been termed “a historic sentence for workers who have been in contact with the killer fiber (asbestos) in shipbuilding over the years,” was handed down recently by Labor Judge Dionigio Verasani of the Torre Annunziata Court in Naples, Italy who ruled that two of the former employers – Fincantieri S.p.A and Sait S.p.A. – of mesothelioma victim Angelo T. were jointly and severally liable for his death from mesothelioma in 2016. The companies were ordered to pay his family compensation of €1 million (US $1.14m). See: Morì a causa dell’amianto, risarcimento di un milione di euro alla famiglia [One million euros in compensation to the family of man whose death was caused by asbestos].

Jan 19, 2022

A government scheme to provide financial support to asbestos-injured construction workers in Japan which will avoid the necessity of them bringing legal action to obtain compensation becomes operational on January 19, 2022 as per stipulations in the Construction Asbestos Benefits Law which was adopted by the Diet on June 9, 2021. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has pledged to “make every possible effort to implement the benefit system based on this law,” including the distribution of information to potential applicants. See: 建設アスベスト給付金法が1月19日に施行されます [Construction Asbestos Benefits Act will come into effect on January 19].

Jan 19, 2022

A decree to be published in France this year (2022) will specify the measures needed for compliance with a standard published on November 20, 2021 (NF P94-001); the provisions of the decree will relate to the identification of environmental asbestos, the geological study of soils and rocks in situ, as well as recommended methodologies for finding and dealing with naturally occurring asbestos. A period of grace will allow all professionals and geologists to train and prepare for implementing the new protocols. See: L'amiante naturel désormais traqué jusque dans l'environnement [ Natural asbestos now tracked down to the environment].

Jan 19, 2022

Auckland-based lawyer Philip Schmidt, who has been representing people with occupational disease claims submitted to New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) for more than 20 years, has gone public with his concern over the rejection by the ACC of claims for medical treatment for asbestos cancer victims without the clinicians treating the patients having been consulted. Schmidt cited cases where ACC funding was denied because medicines were not on the Pharmac-approved list. Even though exceptions are permitted, the ACC did not consult the patients' oncologists or review their notes. The ACC is, it said, in discussions with Mr. Schmidt over his allegations. See: Lawyer urges ACC to review asbestos cancer policy.

Jan 17, 2022

The article cited below, which was uploaded on January 11, 2022, raised the alarm over the failure to control the asbestos hazard caused by the demolition of a toxic factory in Istanbul and the uncontrolled disposal of the hazardous waste from the site. Five thousand workers used to be employed at the site of the 26,000 m2 Aksu Yarn Factory; developers have plans to construct luxury housing once the area has been cleared. Asbestos specialists estimate that there is 350 tons of asbestos waste on the site. Government regulations and guidelines for asbestos removal are, they say, not being followed. See: Yıkılan iplik fabrikasından açığa çıkan asbest, kamyonlarla İstanbul’a yayılıyor [Asbestos released from the destroyed yarn factory spreads to Istanbul with trucks].

Jan 17, 2022

On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a white paper on the state-of-the-art of scientific testing for asbestos contamination of talc-containing cosmetics and talc intended for use in cosmetics; the text was a collaborative effort and was produced by the Interagency Working Group on Asbestos in Consumer Products. The paper’s authors made several recommendations including using both Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) to identify the presence of asbestos. The paper is currently being peer reviewed. See: FDA Releases Federal Interagency Working Group Scientific Opinions on Testing Methods for Asbestos in Talc-Containing Cosmetic Products.

Jan 17, 2022

In a press release issued on January 13, 2022 by First Nation campaigners, in collaboration with NGOs, provincial and federal authorities were condemned for allowing toxic shipbreaking to take place in Union Bay, British Columbia (BC). Hazardous practices which were commonplace for employees of Deep Water Recovery Ltd. at the improvised shipbreaking yard exposed workers and local residents to a cocktail of toxins including asbestos and PCBs. The Canadian authorities were urged to “to halt immediately the breaking of ships at Union Bay…” See: NGOs join local residents and First Nations in fight against toxic shipbreaking in British Columbia.

Jan 17, 2022

Last week, a labor judge in the Termini Imerese Court in Palermo, Italy issued a verdict supporting asbestos appeals by 21 claimants who had worked for various periods between the 1960s and 1995 at a factory operated by the Matesi di Campofelice SpA company, which later became Filatura di Campofelice SpA. The Judge ruled that the INPS (Istituto Nazionale Previdenza Sociale (National Social Security Institute) must pay pension entitlements in recognition of the fact that the claimants had been occupationally exposed to asbestos. See: Amianto nelle fabbriche siciliane: il Tribunale di Termini Imerese condanna l’INPS [Asbestos in Sicilian factories: the Court of Termini Imerese condemns the INPS].

Jan 17, 2022

On January 11, 2022, Chief US District Judge Freda Wolfson – a New Jersey federal judge – denied a request from claimants suing Johnson and Johnson (J&J) who had asked the Court for permission to bypass bankruptcy protections put in place to shield the pharmaceutical giant from personal injury claims, including some from dying cancer plaintiffs. Wolfson. who did not say why she declined to decide the matter, said she would explain her reasons within twenty days. There are estimated to be 38,000 claims against J&J arising from asbestos contamination of its baby powder. These claims were put into a new entity in 2021 which was then put into bankruptcy. See: J&J talc judge says legal shield dispute is for bankruptcy court.

Jan 17, 2022

A January 13, 2022 interview with Spanish asbestos victim Luis Yuste, Vice President of the Association in Defense of Asbestos Victims, highlighted the daily reality of people living with asbestos anxiety caused by the knowledge that they had been exposed to asbestos throughout their working lives. Yuste told the journalist: “Every time I go to have a check-up, I have a very bad time. I live with the permanent fear that the disease has advanced and that my end is near.” Having watched many co-workers succumb to asbestos cancer, he felt as if there was a time bomb ticking away inside his body. See: El eterno olvido de los afectados por el amianto [The eternal forgetfulness of those affected by asbestos].

Jan 13, 2022

Residents from a settlement of asbestos-containing prefabricated houses made in East Germany and erected in the 1980s in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in the far-east of Russia, are being resettled due to concerns over the danger posed by the presence of asbestos which “increases the likelihood of malignant tumors.” In 2020, the properties were listed for demolition. In all likelihood the asbestos used by the German factory which produced the prefabs originated in Russia, the world’s largest supplier. Russian asbestos stakeholders continue to deny that exposure to (white) asbestos can harm human health. See: Мэрия Комсомольска для переселения жителей «Берлина» купила еще 30 квартир [Komsomolsk Mayor's Office has purchased 30 apartments to relocate residents of the "Berlin" [settlement]].

Jan 13, 2022

Asbestos-related diseases remain the leading cause of occupational deaths in British Columbia (BC). To reduce the death toll, the Provincial Government is proposing the imposition of asbestos licensing rules under its Workers Compensation Act. Under the new mandatory regulations, asbestos removal contractors must obtain a license from WorkSafeBC – the Workers' Compensation Board of British Columbia – to operate in BC. In addition, all employers, workers and contractors who remove asbestos must undertake a recognized asbestos safety training program. See: BC proposes asbestos licensing rules in workplace safety bid.

Jan 13, 2022

During a 2022 interview with Luís Augusto Barbosa, the CEO of Brazil’s former Asbestos Giant: Eternit S.A., attempted to explain the inexplicable: the Company’s abandonment of asbestos for the manufacture of products destined for Brazil’s consumers with its continuation of asbestos mining for exports to Asia. The operations of the SAMA asbestos mine made a 30% contribution to the conglomerate’s profits for 2020. Eternit’s healthy balance sheet might, said one observer, indicate that the company would soon emerge from judicial recovery. See: Com a palavra... Eternit: Fabricante de telhas tenta desapegar do amianto [By words [alone]... Eternit roofing manufacturer tries to dispose of asbestos [problem]].

Jan 13, 2022

Campaigners from the Korean groups Environmental Health Civic Center and Incheon Environmental Movement Association revealed on January 12, 2022 the findings of tests which showed that landscaping boulders used at two landmark sites contained tremolite asbestos fibers. The toxic products were located at Incheon Grand Park and the Bucheon Shopping Mall in the cities of Seoul and Bucheon respectively. The use of asbestos has been banned in Korea since 2003. See: 환경단체 "인천대공원·부천 복합쇼핑몰서 석면 검출" [Environmental group “Detection of asbestos in Incheon Grand Park and Bucheon Shopping Mall”].

Jan 18, 2022

At the beginning of a new year, it is traditional to assess the current state of affairs and single out those parties deserving of praise or censure. Many of the actors and/or entities that advanced the objectives of the ban asbestos network in 2021 have already been mentioned in features on the IBAS website. An initiative launched this month – the IBAS Devil’s Dust Awards 2022 (nicknamed the Lucifers) – is intended to focus public attention on individuals, corporations and governments that impeded progress of the campaign to eradicate the asbestos hazard. The ignominious winners of the inaugural Lucifer awards come from Russia, the USA, Brazil and Kazakhstan. Shame on all of them! [Read full article]

Dec 14, 2021

Victims’ associations and grassroots groups continued to address the multitude of challenges posed by the introduction of restrictions to curtail the spread of Covid-19. The need to treat coronavirus patients delayed potentially life-saving treatments and upended the administration of government schemes which had provided lifelines for victims of asbestos-related diseases (ARDs). Early diagnoses of ARDs, essential to optimize treatment outcomes, were forestalled as healthcare resources were marshalled to treat those with coronavirus; patients with ARD symptoms, wary of the dangers of exposure to the virus in healthcare centers, took shelter at home. Interviews with campaigners on four continents, revealed changes made to ensure that ARD sufferers were supported during these dark days. [Read full article]

Nov 26, 2021

In this letter sent on November 25, 2021 to Mr. Ruslan Stefanchuk, the Head of the Ukraine Parliament, by Mick Antoniw, a Member of the Welsh Parliament as well as the Counsel General and Minister of the Constitution of the Welsh Government, the writer expressed support for ongoing efforts by Ukraine to outlaw the use of all types of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, to protect human health. Drawing on the tragic asbestos legacy of Wales, Minister Antoniw reassured Mr. Stefanchuk that: “We all support the international ban on all forms of asbestos including Chrysotile.” (See also: A Statement of Opinion tabled at the Welsh Parliament on November 24, 2021 reaffirming Welsh support for a “complete ban on the use of Chrysotile asbestos in Ukraine.”) [Read full article]

Nov 11, 2021

The eyes of the world have been on the outcome of this month’s discussions at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Did this event attract the attention of asbestos industry stakeholders – I’m guessing not. Why not? Because their prime directive has always been the generation of profits regardless of the impact of their operations on human beings or the environment. Asbestos producers, like purveyors of coal, petrol and natural gas, are peddlers of substances which are destroying our planet and the people living on it. In recent weeks global organizations including the UN, the International Labor Organization and the European Union have reconfirmed their intentions to upgrade protections from asbestos, a substance acknowledged to cause a variety of cancers as well as debilitating diseases. [Read full article]

Nov 5, 2021

The frequency of alerts in Australia over illegal asbestos imports continues unabated with reports of asbestos-containing building products, ferries, automotive parts and toys repeatedly making their way into the media. Despite Australia’s 2003 ban on asbestos and the efforts of the Australian Border Force to prevent toxic products from being imported, Australians have been victims of workplace asbestos exposures on multiple occasions. Added to the challenges posed by the flow of asbestos goods into the country are thorny legacy issues such as the failure of the State of Western Australia to decontaminate land on which the notorious Wittenoom asbestos mine had stood. The Banjima people, the traditional owners of the land, are outraged at the failure to take action to remediate the site. [Read full article]

Oct 29, 2021

Thirty years ago, there was just a handful of asbestos victims’ groups working in a few industrialized countries. Nowadays, there are scores of such associations and charities the world over. The vital support they provide has helped to make manifest the hidden catastrophe caused by the widespread and unregulated use of asbestos, a class 1 carcinogen. In countries, where asbestos use remains legal, these groups lobby for a transition to a safer technology; where asbestos has been banned, they continue to address the toxic legacies which remain in the lungs of their fellow citizens, national infrastructures and contaminated environments. The asbestos industry, which employs a toxic and discredited technology, must be held to account for the lives it has taken and the injuries it has caused. [Read full article]

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]

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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