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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Aug 11, 2022

On August 5, 2022 during a session at the National Assembly, the Government of Mauritius announced plans to demolish 1,800 asbestos-contaminated social housing units built in the 1960s. New housing will be constructed to replace those destroyed but there was no response to requests by campaigners for access to a work schedule. The use of asbestos was prohibited in Mauritius by the Dangerous Chemicals Control Act 2004. See [subscription site]: A Maurice, des logements sociaux promis à la destruction à cause de l’amiante [In Mauritius, pledge to demolish social housing due to [presence of] asbestos].

Aug 11, 2022

The escalating controversy over plans to send an asbestos-laden former Brazilian warship to a Turkish scrapping yard has generated a wider debate about the country’s ongoing failures to address the asbestos hazard despite the fact that Turkey officially banned asbestos in 2010. Asbestos-containing products – such as fireproofing tapes, gloves, wire, gaskets etc. – can still be purchased in Turkey from online shopping sites. According to the Istanbul Chemicals and Chemical Products Exporters' Association, 21 Turkish companies exported asbestos-containing products worth $27,200 dollars in January 2022. These illegal actions are possible due to a lack of government oversight and import/export controls. See: Türkiye’nin asbest tablosu [Turkey's asbestos table].

Aug 11, 2022

Solicitors in Scotland have set a new precedent with a verdict handed down in the case Kelman v Moray Council. This ruling will benefit future asbestos claimants as it supported a more lenient approach to the question of when plaintiffs knew or ought to have known that they suffered from an asbestos-related condition. In 1999, Mr Kelman was diagnosed with pleural plaques; when he developed mesothelioma in 2019, the defendants argued that legal action was time-barred. The Judge disagreed, finding that even though Kelman was aware of his asbestos related diagnosis in 1999, he had not known he could bring a claim and therefore the limitation period had not yet started. See: Recent ruling will have significant impact on asbestos related claims.

Aug 11, 2022

Accounts published on August 5, 2022 by Russia’s second biggest asbestos conglomerate: Uralasbest reported that net profits had fallen dramatically from 544 million rubles for the first half of 2021 to 204 million rubles for the same period in 2022. Uralasbest Director Yakov Remennik blamed the downturn on the depreciation of the US dollar, the stagnation of the construction market and a substantial increase in the rate of taxation levied on asbestos mining enterprises. There was, curiously, no mention made of the impact of Western sanctions imposed due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See: «Ураласбест» сократил чистую прибыль в 2,5 раза [Uralasbest reduced net profit by 2.5 times].

Aug 11, 2022

The Torrejón military air base in Madrid has “thousands of meters of heating pipes” covered with deteriorating friable asbestos material. According to asbestos removal specialist Diego González: “The pipes are rotten. It's the scariest place I've worked on… I'm still surprised. The workers and those who come to the air base are not aware of the risk. They are exposed. Asbestos is everywhere.” Questions put to the Ministry of Defense about the toxic state of the base were not answered. See: El amianto más peligroso infecta la base aérea militar de Torrejón: "No había visto nada igual en 10 años. Está disuelto como el polen" [The most dangerous asbestos contaminates the Torrejón military air base: “I had not seen anything like it in 10 years. It is distributed like pollen”].

Aug 11, 2022

Last week, a Court in Velletri – a commune in the Metropolitan City of Rome – issued a victim’s verdict when it awarded the widow of train driver Maurizio Di Meo a lump sum of €80,000 (US$ 82,000) plus a monthly pension of €1,600. Mr. Di Meo died in 2018 from the cancer mesothelioma due to workplace asbestos exposures. The deceased, who was from the town of Colleferro, had been employed by the State Railways; he was only 60 years old when he died. The compensation will be paid by the National Institute for Occupational Accident Insurance [Istituto nazionale per l'assicurazione contro gli infortuni sul lavoro (INAIL)]. See: Macchinista delle Ferrovie morto a causa dell'amianto. L'Inail pagherà [Railroad driver died due to asbestos [exposure]. Inail will pay].

Aug 10, 2022

The article cited below listed lies being spread about a draft piece of Ukrainian legislation (Bill No. 4142) on public health, intended to bring the country into compliance with the EU legal system. Amongst the most targeted provisions of the bill is, said Mykhailo Radutsky, the proposal to ban asbestos. The disruptors, who use multiple methods to spread false rumours including Russian bot farms, say that these provisions will force Ukrainians to remove asbestos roofing; this is untrue. as the prohibition only bans the use of new asbestos material. See: Михайло Радуцький спростував найвідоміші фейки про законопроект № 4142 про систему громадського здоров’я [Mykhailo Radutsky refutes the most notorious lies concerning draft law No. 4142 on the public health system].

Aug 10, 2022

Rapid industrialization, the retirement of experienced workers and a lack of training in occupational health and safety (OHS) for current staff have resulted in a perfect storm in Laos which ensured that hazardous workplace conditions, including exposures to asbestos, remained a fact of life. A 3-day course was held this summer in Vang Vieng, Vientiane Province by the Laos Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU) and Australia’s Union Aid Abroad – APEHDA to train junior union officials in asbestos eradication and workplace safety. The objectives of the sessions included building OHS capacity of LFTU members who, in turn, would be able to raise grassroots awareness of the asbestos hazard. See: Junior union officials trained on asbestos safety.

Aug 10, 2022

An elevated incidence of cancer has been reported in villages near Bangladesh coast, with experts explaining that the rise in cases was the result of drinking rainwater collected on asbestos-cement roofs. Saiful Islam from the locality of Shyamnagar in the North Indian State of West Bengal told a journalist that most of the local homes were covered with asbestos roofing: “People know its adverse impact on the human body but they ignore the consequences,” he said. Muhammad Nazmul Hasan, from the village of Chandmukhi, said his family stopped using rainwater collected on the asbestos roof after his father Abdul Sattar died from cancer in February 2022. See: Growing asbestos use causing deadly diseases in coastal Bangladesh.

Aug 10, 2022

The British Occupational Hygiene Society, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection and the Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM) last week urged Tory leadership hopefuls to end the “national shame” of asbestos-related deaths, calling for a “proper national plan” to stop toxic exposures currently killing 5,000 Britons/year, and condemning the “wishy-washy” response to a Parliamentary report calling for a 30-year deadline for asbestos eradication. “The government,” said FAAM’s Jonathan Grant, “needs to have a proper joined-up strategy using research, tax incentives, communication, building control, the conveyancing system, technology and the opportunities arising from the greening of buildings.” See: Tory leadership hopefuls urged to end ‘national shame’ of asbestos deaths.

Aug 10, 2022

According to a new report issued by the Russian asbestos-cement Belgorodasbest company, a subsidiary of Russia’s 2nd biggest asbestos producer: Uralasbest, business is good. Belgorodasbest recorded a net profit increase for the first half of the year of 1.7 times what was earned in the same period last year. According to the company’s report, the net profit for January-June 2022 was 58.3 million rubles vs 34.7 million rubles for the first half of 2021. See: Перешедший “Ураласбесту” “Белгородасбестоцемент” в I полугодии увеличил чистую прибыль в 1,7 раза [Belgorodasbestocement, taken over by Uralasbest, increased its net profit by 1.7 times in the first half of the year].

Aug 10, 2022

According to an August 4, 2022 news report, large amounts of asbestos material used in the construction of Units 1 to 6 of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant remain in place even though the plant is being decommissioned as a consequence of the 2011 nuclear accident. Because of the radioactive contamination of the reactor building, the removal of the asbestos is even more complicated than usual: “There are about 1,700 cubic meters of asbestos insulation wrapped around pipes, but only 90 cubic meters (about 5%) have been removed.” See: 福島第1原発に残り続けるもう一つの「危険物」とは [What is another “dangerous material” that continues to remain at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant?].

Aug 8, 2022

The final report by the Prosecutor’s Office on conditions at the Madrid Metro was issued on August 4, 2022; it condemned the company’s management for multiple failings as a result of which workers were exposed to asbestos and contracted asbestos-related diseases, including fatal cancers. The company had not, the report concluded, evaluated the risk of occupational asbestos exposure from 1986 to 2017; as a result, no safety measures had been put in place to address the asbestos hazard. See: Sin equipos de protección, sin información y sin controles de salud: las irregularidades en el caso del amianto del Metro de Madrid [Without protective equipment, without information and without health controls: the irregularities in the Madrid Metro asbestos case].

Aug 8, 2022

Earlier this month, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade announced plans to implement measures to reduce taxation on the asbestos industry by reclassifying it within the framework of the Tax Code in the group of “non-metallic raw materials used mainly by the construction industry,” and not in the category of mining and chemical raw materials. This measure will, said a Ministry spokesperson, improve the stability of the largest producers of chrysotile asbestos – Orenburg Minerals and Uralasbest – as well as benefit other Russian companies processing and selling chrysotile asbestos. See: Минпромторг предложил вывести асбест из-под повышенной ренты [The Ministry of Industry and Trade propose to remove asbestos from higher tax category].

Aug 8, 2022

A retrospective study by Brazilian doctors to evaluate the efficacy of measures in place between 2009 and 2020 to diagnose patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) concluded that: “the unfamiliarity of health professionals with MPM and the patient's lack of knowledge of prior asbestos exposure were the major factors to cause a long time interval between the onset of symptoms and beginning of treatment.” As a result of these delays, few patients survived for more than one year. The co-authors called for “progressive improvements in the abilities to recognize MPM…” See: Mesothelioma in a developing country: a retrospective analysis of the diagnostic process.

Aug 8, 2022

The authorities on Prince Edward Island, one of Canada’s eastern maritime provinces, have announced plans to conduct asbestos audits at 39 government-owned sites. Testing will be done simultaneously to establish whether other toxic materials such as lead paint or mercury are also present. Tourist attractions, historic sites and public buildings will be surveyed. It has not yet been announced what the budget for this work is to be; no results are expected before March 2023. According to provincial spokesperson April Gallant: “Intact and undisturbed asbestos presents no direct health hazard but does present a potential exposure hazard should fibres be released and inhaled.” See: Province to assess 39 sites for asbestos.

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]

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]

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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