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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

News text:

Jul 1, 2022

An article on a Russian website on June 28, 2022, reported the findings of an EU report about the hazard posed by environmental exposures to a variety of toxins. The text concluded that 10% of all cancers contracted in Europe were due to such exposures. Whilst the author of the Russian article noted that: “Second-hand smoke and asbestos are well-known carcinogens and have been heavily regulated in recent years,” he failed to mention that Russia is the world’s largest supplier of asbestos and continues to maintain that asbestos can be used safely and is a boon to people in developing countries. See: Названа причина каждого десятого случая рака в Европе: что это и как все исправить [The cause of every tenth case of cancer in Europe named: what it is and how to fix it].

Jul 1, 2022

This week, a court in Florence issued a victim’s verdict when it awarded the bereaved family of 77-year old electrician Ronaldo Cerri €1 million+ (US$1,042,693+) in compensation for his death in 2016 from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. The court found that his employer Enel had been grossly negligent in having failed to protect workers at the Marzocco power plants in Livorno from exposures to asbestos. From 1966 to 1986, Mr. Cerri had maintained the plants’ asbestos-insulated turbines. See: Operaio vittima dell’amianto: lavorava nella centrale del Marzocco, Enel condannata per 1 milione di euro [Worker victim of asbestos: he worked in the Marzocco plant, Enel ordered to pay 1 million euros].

Jul 1, 2022

On June 28, 2022, the European Environment Agency uploaded a web report, Beating cancer – the role of Europe’s environment, which laid out a multi-pronged European Union (EU) strategy for reducing the cost of exposures to toxins such as asbestos. In the 27 EU Member States, ~2.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 1.3 million die from it every year. In 2018, the economic costs of the disease were estimated to be €178 billion (US$187 bn). Although asbestos has long been banned in the EU, products containing it remain in place. Multiple EU safeguards have been introduced to protect workers and consumers from asbestos exposures and preparatory work to lower the existing occupational exposure limit to asbestos is underway. See: Exposure to pollution causes 10% of all cancer cases in Europe.

Jul 1, 2022

The experiences of Indonesian ban asbestos campaigners who took part in the June 2022 meeting of the Rotterdam Convention (RC) in Geneva strengthened their resolve to continue efforts to protect vulnerable populations from the deadly dangers of asbestos exposures. In the article cited below, asbestosis sufferer Mr Sriyono and activist Ajat Sudrajat reported that asbestos stakeholders had, once again, blocked United Nations progress on regulating the global trade in asbestos, an acknowledged carcinogen. At a plenary session, Mr Sriyono urged RC delegates to take action to prevent more people, like himself and his co-workers at an asbestos textile factory, from contracting asbestos-related diseases. See: “We will not stop raising our voices” – Indonesian delegates defiant at Rotterdam asbestos conference.

Jul 1, 2022

A photographic essay by a travel reporter extolled a recent visit she made to the asbestos quarry and plant operated by Uralasbest, Russia’s 2nd biggest producer of chrysotile (white) asbestos. Amongst the 13 images included in the text was a selfie showing the author reflected in the mirror of one of the huge dump trucks operating in the open pit mine. A brief recap of the history of the town of Asbest in the Sverdlovsk region is provided to give some context to the photographs. At no point in the article are the carcinogenic properties of asbestos mentioned. See: Гигантский асбестовый карьер: как добывают горный лен [Giant asbestos quarry: how chrysotile asbestos is mined].

Jul 1, 2022

A Bilbao Court condemned Cuprum SA for failing to protect its workforce from asbestos exposures and ordered it to pay compensation of €154,771 (US$161,064) to the family of a 63-year old worker who died in 2017 from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. The Court accepted evidence presented that: no safety measures had been implemented by the company to minimize levels of airborne asbestos fibers; there was no training of workers or protective clothing provided; and no medical examinations of the workers had been carried out. See: Condenan a Cuprum SA a pagar 154.771 euros a la familia de un fallecido por amianto [Cuprum SA is ordered to pay 154,771 euros to the family of an asbestos deceased].

Jun 27, 2022

On June 22, 2022, a verdict from the Court of Appeal in Venice confirmed the responsibility of four Admirals from the Italian Navy for having caused the asbestos-related deaths of six soldiers. Whilst the sentences were light, one or two years in jail, the defendants were also ordered to compensate the bereaved families, pay court costs and pay compensation to the civil parties in this trial, including the Association of Democratic Medicine and the Italian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed. The Venice ruling overturned a first instance decision by the Padua Court. See: Vittime amianto Marina Militare, sentenza storica: scatta la condanna [Military asbestos victims, historic sentence: the sentence is confirmed].

Jun 27, 2022

Technical experts and trade unionists last week announced that the dismantling by the Kiliçlar shipbreaking company of the ship named Gökhan Han in the Turkish city of Aliağa had been undertaken without precautions or measures to prevent toxic exposures to asbestos-containing material on board the vessel. Concerns over the inadequacy of the working conditions led to samples being taken which, when analysed in a laboratory, confirmed the presence of amosite (brown) asbestos in the suspect material. See: ASUD ve EİB açıkladı: Asbestli 'Gökhan Han' gemisi Aliağa'da sökülüyor [ASUD and EİB announced: Asbestos ship 'Gökhan Han' is being dismantled in Aliağa].

Jun 27, 2022

Despite the fact that asbestos use was banned in Australia nearly 20 years ago, asbestos-containing products remain in one third of the country’s domestic properties. The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is launching a campaign to “encourage sellers to disclose the presence of asbestos in their properties to minimise the health risks for buyers.” In addition, ASEA is calling on landlords to inform renters of the presence of asbestos in order to prevent toxic exposures. As of now, it is not required to identify asbestos as part of pre-purchase building inspections in Australia. See: The danger still being found in 33 per cent of Australian homes.

Jun 27, 2022

On June 23, 2022, a spokesperson for the Uralasbest company – Russia’s 2nd largest asbestos producing conglomerate – announced that plans were on course for the construction of Russia’s first plant to extract magnesium, mainly in the form of magnesium sulfate, for agricultural use, from mountains of asbestos mining waste in the city of Asbest, Sverdlovsk Region. According to Andrei Litvinov, construction will start next year with completion in 2025; the plant will produce 20,000 tonnes of magnesium sulfate per year for consumption at home and abroad. See: Первый в России завод по производству спортивной магнезии появится в Свердловской области [Russia's first plant for the production of magnesia from waste will appear in the Sverdlovsk region].

Jun 27, 2022

The Provincial Government of Quebec has allocated $500,000 to the company SIGMA Devtech to progress its ECO2 Magnesia project which will process magnesium-rich asbestos waste from the former Carey chrysotile asbestos mine situated in the cities of Tring-Jonction and Sacré-Coeur-de-Jésus. Production of magnesium oxide at this site will begin in 2024. During the first phase of this project, 160,000 tons of asbestos mining waste will be processed and 20,000 tons of magnesium oxide will be produced. See: Québec octroie 500 000 $ dans la revitalisation des résidus d'amiante [Quebec grants $500,000 for reprocessing asbestos residues].

Jun 27, 2022

According to Yakov Yalansky, director of the asbestos- cement products department of Ural Chrysotile JSC, the company is increasing the range of products and volume of output to take advantage of the growth in Russia’s asbestos-cement industry. Forty million rubles (US$750,000) is being invested in the modernization of the 114 year-old Bryansk asbestos-cement production facility, the oldest such factory in Russia. See: Группа компаний BF Tech направит до 40 млн рублей на восстановление одного из старейших заводов России [BF Tech group of companies will allocate up to 40 million rubles for the restoration of one of the oldest plants in Russia].

Jun 23, 2022

A commentary on the website of the Environmental Defense Fund, a US environmental advocacy group, highlighted, the disconnect between government policies to safeguard the health of the general public and workers. The text cited below focused on proposed rules by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which would permit “a risk level to workers 100 times less protective than for everyone else!” As far as the EPA is concerned, there is a “higher acceptable cancer risk for workers than the rest of the population.” See: Workers are people too; EPA should treat them that way.

Jun 23, 2022

On June 22, 2022, asbestos technical expert Andrea D'Anna testified at the asbestos criminal trial of Stephan Schmidheiny in the Court of Assizes in Novara, Italy. According to his evidence, the majority of environmental asbestos exposures in the town of Casale Monferrato resulted “from the erosion of the roofs, the re-suspension of the dust in open attics. paved courtyards and streets due to the mechanical action of crumbling.” Asbestos emissions from the Eternit factory in the town were, he said, very low. The next hearing in this trial will be on July 11, 2022. See: Eternit Bis: «L’amianto in centro? Non solo per la fabbrica» [Eternit Bis: “Asbestos in the center? Not just the factory”].

Jun 23, 2022

A BBC investigation into asbestos issues in Northern Ireland (NI) documented 800+ asbestos-related deaths between 2009 and 2020 with an almost 60% increase in mortality in 2020 compared to 2019. Since 1972, the number of asbestos deaths has been increasing every year. Improvements in diagnosing these diseases could, said Northern Ireland's coroner, be leading to more asbestos-related diseases being listed on death certificates. The case of mesothelioma sufferer Tony Rogers was discussed at some length; the 65-year old social worker died in 2022. As a student, Mr Rogers had worked on a building site; however, there was not enough evidence to establish if that is where he was exposed to asbestos. See: Asbestos: Calls for awareness over exposure-related deaths in Northern Ireland.

Jun 23 2022

The reaction of a Quebec environmental campaigning group – The Irish Trout Lake Protection Association – to a press conference at Thetford Mines last week highlighted the ecological contamination posed by the erosion of asbestos mining waste in the region, with a focus on the pollution of the Bécancour River with asbestos fibers and heavy metals including chrome, nickel and copper. The implementation of a plan to remediate Quebec’s mountains of asbestos waste is awaited. See: Plan d’action de 38,5M $ pour le passif minier: un pas dans la bonne direction, mais… [$38.5M action plan for mining liabilities: a step in the right direction, but…].

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]

May 24, 2022

The headline above was the concluding sentence in a May 10, 2022 article on a Kazakhstani news portal. According to the text, Kostanay Minerals – Kazakhstan’s only chrysotile asbestos company – had declared a moratorium on mining from May 1-10, 2022 because its warehouses were full. As the vast majority of Kazakh asbestos production is exported, sanctions imposed on shipments from Russian ports as a result of the war on Ukraine have adversely impacted Kostanay’s operations. In Russia, which provides over two thirds of all global asbestos output, mining companies have also acknowledged “the unsettled economic situation.” On May 21, 2022, Russian Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev admitted that: “The sanctions imposed on Russia today have virtually broken all logistics in our country.” [Read full article]

May 18, 2022

In May 2022, hope is in short supply. With Russian troops still killing innocent Ukrainians, extreme temperatures baking populations in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, devastating wildfires decimating US western states and the Covid-19 pandemic far from conquered, a rational person could be forgiven for seeing gloom and disaster on every front. And yet, if you look closely, there are glimmers of hope to be found. This month (May 2022), events mounted by coalitions of civil society stakeholders in Asia, Latin America, Europe and Australia, addressed toxic national asbestos legacies and progressed efforts to outlaw asbestos use. With medical breakthroughs on the horizon and the rejection of pro-asbestos rhetoric, the future truly is asbestos-free! [Read full article]

May 16, 2022

Russia’s blood-thirsty attack on Ukraine, has left tens of thousands dead and injured, destroyed huge swathes of the built environment and displaced over seven million Ukrainians. A report circulated on a Ukraine news portal earlier this month expressed the concern of the UN Global Compact in Ukraine that cities destroyed by the Russian army could be rebuilt with toxic Russian asbestos. Russia is the world’s biggest asbestos producer and exporter. Although Ukrainian politicians and civil servants had been working to ban asbestos in recent years, in 2005 Ukraine used 183,271 tonnes (t) of asbestos, making it Europe’s second biggest consumer after Russia (314,828t), ahead of Kazakhstan (153,050t). There is every reason to believe that Ukrainian buildings destroyed by Russian attacks will contain asbestos fibers. [Read full article]

May 9, 2022

Health and safety campaigners are outraged at the news that 85% of the shareholders of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) supported the continued sale of toxic talc-based baby powder containing asbestos fibers in countries outside North America. A vote on resolution 10 at the company’s virtual AGM on April 28, 2022 gave the pharmaceutical giant the green light to continue the racist and duplicitous marketing strategy which protected North Americans but allowed everyone else to be exposed to a known carcinogen. “This is no longer a political or legal or consumer problem, this is a shareholder problem,” said Antoine Argouges, founder of the activist-investor platform which submitted resolution 10. [Read full article]

May 4, 2022

Despite the fact that the Brazilian Supreme Court banned the commercial exploitation of asbestos in 2017, mining continues in the State of Goiás under a state law which countermanded the Court’s ruling and authorized production to resume for export purposes only. For decades, asbestos stakeholders in Brazil have argued that the safe use of asbestos is possible under “controlled conditions.” Epidemiological data and medical evidence have, time and again, exposed the vacuousness of this argument. A fatal road traffic accident on a public highway in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais on April 24, 2022 reinforced the inconvenient truth that there is, in fact, no such thing as the “controlled use” of asbestos. [Read full article]

May 3, 2022

One hundred and twenty-three years after the hazard was first acknowledged by a British Factory Inspector, a Parliamentary Committee called for government action to eradicate the danger posed by asbestos-containing material within public buildings. The deadline suggested by Members of Parliament for the completion of the decontamination was forty years or 163 years after the problem was first reported. Whilst the report was broadly welcomed, queries were raised about the consequences of setting a 40-year deadline to rid the national infrastructure of a deadly carcinogen. The Government has two months to respond to the report. [Read full article]

April 28, 2022

On April 28, 2022, the world was told what his friends had feared for a long time: Eric Jonckheere had contracted the same asbestos cancer that had killed his father Pierre, his mother Françoise and his brothers: Pierre-Paul and Stéphane. The release of this heart-breaking news coincided with the launch of a legal case against the company which had been responsible for the deaths of his family: Eternit, an asbestos multinational which had continued to profit from its toxic technology long after others had transitioned to asbestos-free production. Earlier today, Eric and his attorneys served a summons on Eternit, ordering the company to appear before the Brussels Court to answer charges of wilful misconduct. [Read full article]

Apr 13, 2022

“The failure to ban asbestos in the United States is” wrote Drs. Richard Lemen and Philip Landrigan “a national scandal and an affront to morality and human decency.” On April 5, 2022, the EPA issued a press release declaring that the US was finally prepared to take “an important step forward to protect public health and finally put an end to the use of dangerous asbestos in the United States.” If finalized, the US ban would be a clear signal to countries around the world that the mineral at the heart of a dangerous and outdated technology had been consigned to the history books along with mercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls and other substances injurious to human health and the environment. The future is asbestos-free. [Read full article]

Apr 8, 2022

So many corporations behind the global asbestos epidemic claiming ~300,000 lives every year, remain in rude financial health. These include Cape PLC, formerly the Cape Asbestos Company and the American chemical company Union Carbide. In March 2022, the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK released a treasure trove of 1,600+ documents from the Cape archives acquired after protracted litigation. In April 2022, a “smoking gun” report (1967) by a Union Carbide official which stated that it: “seems that on the basis of present evidence, we are not entitled under any circumstances to state that our material is not a health hazard” was also uploaded. Whilst preparing for future litigation, interested parties would be well-advised to look at all these documents. [Read full article]

Mar 30, 2022

The use of all types of asbestos was banned in the UK over 20 years ago, but millions of tonnes of toxic material remain hidden within the national infrastructure. While asbestos contamination in Parliament and Buckingham Palace garnishes front-page coverage, less attention is paid to the situation in schools, the majority of which contain asbestos. A March 16, 2022 report by the Public Accounts Committee raised serious concerns about the Department for Education’s mismanagement of asbestos in schools. Another Parliamentary enquiry is investigating whether the Health and Safety Executive’s asbestos policy is fit for purpose. We can but hope that the time for action has finally come and that a phased removal of asbestos from all our schools will become national policy. [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