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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Jan 28, 2015

Guidance on how to handle asbestos found on farms was issued today by the Health and Safety Executive, the UK agency tasked with protecting occupational health. Topics covered included: how to recognize white asbestos, where it can be found on farms, work that could create exposure, the safe management of asbestos-containing products, removing and disposing of asbestos waste. Farmers are advised that “asbestos waste must be treated as hazardous waste [and that]… if you dump asbestos illegally, you can be taken to court, prosecuted, and fined or jailed.” See: White asbestos: how farmers should handle and dispose of it.

Jan 28 2015

Owners of 230 properties contaminated by “Mr Fluffy” asbestos insulation have agreed for the Canberra government to buy their homes under the multimillion dollar Loose Fill Asbestos Eradication Scheme announced in 2014. This constitutes 25% of those eligible. As of today, 371 formal valuation offers have been made with replies awaited from a further 140 owners. According to Chris Reynolds of the Asbestos Response Taskforce “We are almost a quarter of the way there in terms of those that have had the valuations and have indicated to the taskforce, yes please proceed with a sale.” See: Mr Fluffy: Almost a quarter of asbestos affected households in Canberra agree to buyback figure.

Jan 28, 2015

An initiative by U.S. academic and media groups was launched last month with the upload of 20,000 pages of secret documents obtained during the course of benzene litigation. The aim of this project is to make public materials revealed during toxic tort litigation that have been “locked away” in filing cabinets and on hard drives. According to the organizers: “In coming months, we’ll be posting hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery material from lawsuits involving lead, asbestos, silica, hexavalent chromium and PCBs, among other dangerous substances.” See: Internal documents reveal industry 'pattern of behavior' on toxic chemicals.

Jan 27, 2015

The new school year started in South Africa on January 21, 2015, the date by which 5 mobile classrooms were due to be in place for 200 students from the Khiba Middle School in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District in Kuruman, Northern Cape Province. On October 8, 2014, the Department of Labour had closed the school due to asbestos contamination after the threat of a lawsuit. A temporary fix was to be sited in a less polluted nearby area pending decontamination and reconstruction of the school. The partial and broken-down units delivered to the site are unfit for purpose according to local people. See: Section 27: N Cape Department of Education fails to deliver on its plan for learners of asbestos-polluted school.

Jan 20, 2015

France’s Institute of Health Surveillance has today released details highlighting the national epidemic of asbestos cancer. With 1,700 asbestos fatalities and 2,200 cases of asbestos cancer diagnosed per annum, the banned substance remains a potent hazard to life. The Institute reported a significant rise in the incidence of mesothelioma in the late 1990s and the late 2000s among women, 28% of whom had no known exposure to asbestos. The figures suggest that the French asbestos epidemic has not peaked. See: Amiante: Plus de 2.200 nouveaux cancers et 1.700 décès chaque année [Asbestos: More than 2,200 new cancers and 1,700 deaths each year].

Jan 20, 2104

Asbestos remediation has cost the City of Toronto more than $5 million since 2010, as it has removed or encased asbestos in 185 of its buildings, according to information released under a freedom-of-information request. In 2014, the city spent $1million on asbestos decontamination of 23 buildings. The proactive municipal asbestos policy includes regular asbestos inspections, management protocols and measures to minimize hazardous occupational exposures during renovation, construction, demolition or maintenance work. See: City has dealt with nearly 200 asbestos concerns in public buildings since 2010.

Jan 19 2015

The UK’s Unite union has uploaded a range of resources on the asbestos hazard to raise awareness and prevent dangerous exposures to materials within the UK’s built environment. Union members who have been exposed to asbestos are asked to register with the union to protect their rights should they at some point develop an asbestos-related disease. In a union press release, Unite said: “Raising awareness about how to safely handle this killer substance is equally important. That is why our campaign is also about prevention… to help ensure that employers protect their employees from exposure to asbestos at work.” See: Unite Campaign on Asbestos Awareness.

Jan 19, 2015

Shortly after news was released of the first personal injury asbestos lawsuit, reports are circulating of multiple cases of asbestos-related diseases in people who worked in or lived near asbestos processing factories in Colombia. Asbestos waste was given away for free by the owners of asbestos factories to community members for use in domestic properties. Asbestos has been used in Colombia for over 70 years and is still being used to produce roofing material, brake pads and textiles by various companies including Eternit Colombiana. Asbestos stakeholders deny there is any human risk from exposure to their products. See: Me declaro víctima de Eternit [I declare I am an Eternit victim].

Jan. 19, 2015

A case report has just been published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health that documents the first case of malignant mesothelioma in Mongolia. The forty-seven-year old female patient had worked at a thermal power plant in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for twenty-eight years. Due to the industrial history of asbestos use in Mongolia, the authors “expect additional cases of mesothelioma, as well as other asbestos related diseases, will be identified in the future.” To identify affected patients, the authors are calling for the establishment of an asbestos-related disease registry. See: Mesothelioma in Mongolia: case report.

Jan 19, 2015

The elevated incidence of asbestos cancer which has been documented in a recent publication by the Centre for the Study of Environmental Cancer - Italian League Against Cancer has made headline news in Malta. The media has reported that the age-specific incidence rate of malignant mesothelioma in Maltese men was amongst the highest in the world. According to interviews with asbestos specialists in Malta, a low rate of public awareness about the asbestos hazard continues, as a result of which hazardous exposures continue even though Malta has banned new use of asbestos. See: Malta with one of the world’s highest rates of asbestos-related cancer.

Jan 16, 2015

Geotechnical works undertaken by the Government of Western Australia (WA) will begin in a few months in Wittenoom, formerly the center of asbestos mining in WA, to provide vital information “for effective management and securing of the [asbestos] tailings.” The Pilbara ghost town has been designated as “not suitable for any form of human occupation” due to deadly levels of asbestos contamination generated by the operations of the blue asbestos mine from 1943 to 1966. Mine tailings were used in the construction of the town’s sports fields, playgrounds, roads and car parks. See: Wittenoom test pits bring town's fate closer.

Jan 16, 2015

As a result of consultations with civil society stakeholders, Stephen Timms, the Shadow Minister of State for Employment, has announced a raft of proposals to address the UK asbestos legacy. In an interview published this week, Timms says a Labour Government will impose a standing levy on insurers to fund life-saving mesothelioma research and will devise a long-term strategy to remove asbestos from the national infrastructure. Highlighting the role played by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), he pledged that Labour would provide more funding to enable the HSE to effectively carry out its duties. See: Banging the health and safety drum.

Jan 16, 2015

Responding to a Parliamentary Question by MEP Glenis Willmott, representing the East Midlands, European Commissioner of Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elzbieta Bienkowska has confirmed that a report by the European Chemicals Agency regarding the asbestos derogation for the use of chrysotile in diaphragms is being considered by two committees which are expected to deliver their opinions in 2015. Their opinions will inform the Commission’s decision about the continuation of the exemption. Votes on future action will be taken by the REACH Committee, the European Parliament and the European Council. See: Answer by Commissioner Bienkowska.

Jan 15 2015

Eagle-eyed journalists have reported an “oversight” on the New Zealand website of James Hardie (JH), formerly Australia’s biggest producer of asbestos building materials. The website has been sanitized, with mention of JH’s asbestos history and liabilities prominent by their absence from the online company history. When questioned over this omission, a JH spokesperson said: “The updated version of the site is inadvertently missing a link to the above content on our Investor Relations websites, which will be shortly restored.” JM started importing asbestos-cement to New Zealand in 1906 and in 1936 set up a factory in Auckland. See: James Hardie asbestos omission ‘inadvertent.’

Jan 15 2015

Next month, Flor Cecilia Riaño will file a civil lawsuit in Bogotá against the former employer of her husband Luis Alfonso Mayorga, alleging that Eternit Colombiana S.A. was responsible for his death and that of his father from asbestos cancer. Rafael Mayorga worked at the Eternit asbestos factory in Soacha, a city south-west of the capital, between 1971 and 1980. He received no protection from the asbestos hazard and took dust home on his work clothes; he died in 2000. His son Luis Alfonso died in 2013. This is the first such lawsuit against Eternit in Colombia; many more are expected. See: Víctimas de asbesto exigen reparación [Asbestos Victims Demand Compensation].

Jan 14, 2015

A technical loophole has prevented a former asbestos miner who is dying of malignant mesothelioma from obtaining compensation of $425,000 from mining giant Rio Tinto, even though a judge was “satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was caused by the negligence of the defendant.” (see: Verdict of Justice Peter Barr in the Supreme Court of NT). Claimant Zorko Zabic removed asbestos pipes when he worked for Rio Tinto at the Nhulunbuy aluminia refinery from 1974 until 1977. Mr. Zabic’s life expectancy is six months. See: Miner dying from asbestos poisoning denied compo.

Jan 21, 2015

The manufacture, marketing and use of asbestos were banned in Europe as of January 1, 2005. There was an exemption to the EU prohibitions which allowed the import of asbestos-containing diaphragms for existing electrolysis cells. A decade later, under pressure from Dow Chemical, the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency, is considering the continuation of the exemption until and possibly after 2025. The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat is strongly opposed to the extension of this exemption and calls on the EU Commission and EU Member States to take action to end this sole use of asbestos in the EU. [Read full article]

Jan 14, 2015

Italian Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guaraniello, who was at the center of the historic criminal prosecutions of former asbestos businessmen for the deaths of thousands of Italian citizens, is now investigating reports of asbestos imports into Italy in 2012 despite the fact that the country banned asbestos a decade previously. The existence of this illicit trade was unearthed by Mohit Gupta from the New Delhi-based Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India. In 2012, India exported 1,296 tonnes (t) of asbestos, 1,040t (80%) to Italy. Other importers of Indian asbestos-cement products include five countries which have also banned asbestos. [Read full article]

Jan 11, 2015

Comments made by Thailand’s Minister of Industry Chakramon Phasukavanich which were quoted in the Bangkok Post yesterday (Jan 10) included the statement that: “If the use of asbestos is banned by law… the burden to replace all products that contain asbestos would fall on the government.” In none of the 55 countries which have banned asbestos has this been the case. The IBAS Coordinator has written an open letter to the Minister asking for confirmation that his statements were accurately reported. In the IBAS letter, the Minister was informed of legal actions against governments which had failed to take timely and appropriate action to protect citizens from the asbestos hazard. [Read full article]

Jan 5, 2015

In December 2014, Indonesia’s Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Korean Environment Corporation (KECO) conducted a workshop entitled: “Seoul Initiative Indonesia Workshop: Improving Health Officers’ Competencies on Measuring Workplace Environmental Ambient Level and Diagnosing Asbestos Related Diseases in Indonesia.” The objective of this initiative was to improve the knowledge of health officers and other stakeholders about diagnosing asbestos-related diseases and workplace environmental monitoring. Resulting from the workshop, an asbestos research project has been set up with the KECO; data collected will inform the national asbestos policy and regulatory regime. [Read full article]

Jan 1, 2015

On December 22, 2014, the Government of Nepal banned the import, sale, distribution and use of all asbestos and asbestos-containing materials on the grounds of public health. According to a government notice published in the Nepal Gazette by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, the prohibition will take effect on June 20, 2015, 181 days from the date of publication; the sole exemption is for automotive brake shoes and clutch plates. These prohibitions will drastically reduce national consumption as the vast majority of asbestos used in Nepal goes into construction materials such as roofing sheets. [Read full article]

Dec 16, 2014

In November 2014, grassroots groups made manifest the disgust of societies still being exploited by the asbestos industry. From Latin America to Asia, the call went out for an end to the slaughter caused by such exploitation. Support for a global ban escalated, with key events taking place in Colombia, Thailand and Vietnam, countries where the asbestos agenda had, until very recently, been dictated by vested interests. The passion and determination of civil society campaigners in Bogotá, Bangkok and Hanoi are testament to the universal resolve to bequeath future generations a world free of asbestos. The struggle continues! [Read full article]

Dec 12, 2014

Asbestos is a hot button subject in Australia. There are front-page newspaper articles, mini-series and folk songs about it and around the country there exist a multiplicity of agencies and dozens of self-help and campaigning groups dedicated to supporting victims and spreading awareness. For a number of years, November has been regarded as the de facto month for outreach and media work to raise awareness. Last month, I was invited to participate in a number of “asbestos” activities in Victoria and Western Australia and to engage with colleagues and journalists in the Australian Capital Territory. This report contains information about these events and the amazing groups of people working with the victims. [Read full article]

Dec 12, 2014

Despite aggressive lobbying by the pro-asbestos lobby, the campaign to outlaw asbestos use is growing in strength and scope. In this paper which was presented at a conference in Melbourne, Australia in November 2014, proactive initiatives, pioneering media campaigns and successful strategies were discussed which illustrated the means by which asbestos victims, non-governmental organizations and campaigning groups have wrested control of the asbestos debate away from vested interests, allowing new voices to be heard. Suggestions were made for strategies to further the goal of eradicating the asbestos hazard throughout the region. [Read full article]

Nov 5, 2014

The latest figures for the global asbestos trade have been released by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Changes from 2012 incude the fact that, for the first time, major asbestos producers and/or consuming countries from the former Soviet Union – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan – have been shifted from the European to the Asian Region in the USGS classification. Global production was up by 2% to 2,019,000 tonnes; there was also an apparent consumption increase of 7% (to 2,104,000 tonnes), due to unusual results from Russia and Kazakhstan. In addition to examining current data we consider trends in asbestos use since 2000. [Read full article]

Oct 29, 2014

The 12th International Conference of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group 2014 (IMIG) took place in Cape Town on October 21-24, 2014. From rather small beginnings, IMIG has grown to be recognized as the premier biennial calendar fixture for mesothelioma experts. The success of the IMIG event was this year underscored by the presence at the meeting of asbestos industry delegates from the US, Switzerland and South Africa. As far as is known, the industry affiliations of these individuals were not known to IMIG delegates, although American toxicologist David Bernstein's poster presentation carried an acknowledgment that it had been funded by “Honeywell International Inc.” [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2014

A remarkable and innovative series of events highlighting the legal, societal and environmental impact of asbestos production and use begins in Bogota on October 28, 2014 and continues over the following week. These activities, featuring a series one-day conferences commencing on November 5, mark a defining moment in the country which is South America’s second biggest asbestos consumer having used an average of more than 20,000 tonnes/year over the last three years. This initiative has been organized by ban asbestos campaigners in collaboration with academic institutions, artists, scientific, medical and technical experts. [Read full article]

Oct 11, 2014

On October 9, 2014, Japan’s Supreme Court issued the final word in two class actions which had been languishing in the lower courts for eight years. In a unanimous verdict, the Supreme Court condemned the Government for failing by 1958 to have legislated that factories be equipped with mechanical measures to remove asbestos dust from the air; guidelines which had been issued were advisory and not mandatory. The Government’s failure to take timely and appropriate action was “extremely unreasonable” as well as “illegal.” As a consequence, the Government was liable for asbestos-related diseases contracted by plaintiffs occupationally exposed to asbestos prior to 1971. [Read full article]

Oct 8, 2014

This article reproduces the text of a paper which formed the basis of the presentation made by Laurie Kazan-Allen at a conference entitled “Occupational Asbestos Exposure, International Experiences” held today (October 8, 2014) in Warsaw, addressing the multiple challenges posed by Europe’s asbestos legacy. Having quantified the impact asbestos had had throughout the continent, the speaker highlighted innovative strategies introduced by asbestos victims’ groups, trade unions, NGOs, health professionals and governments to identify and support the injured and eradicate asbestos contamination in national infrastructures and the environment. [Read full article]

UK

A wait of nearly three months was ended today when Mr. Justice William Davis handed down his verdict in the judicial review sought by UK cancer victims into government plans to increase asbestos victims’ legal costs. The findings of Justice Davis were categorical: “the Lord Chancellor has failed to carry out a review as required by Section 48 [of LASPO].” As a consequence of this ruling, a Ministerial decision announced on December 4, 2013 will be vacated. As there are no plans to appeal the verdict, the government will now have to go back to square one and begin a thorough and timely review, exactly what the victims had been seeking. [Read full article]

Sep 30, 2014

The existence of an asbestos cancer epidemic in Western Australia was known to members of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) long before it was corroborated by epidemiologists. The ADSA is at the cutting edge of the campaign to increase awareness of the asbestos hazard and raise vital research funds in Australia. In September 2014, ADSA members and staff organized major events including The Rod Triplett Walk for Research and Awareness and a fund-raising golfing day. Although the final tally has not yet been made public, judging by previous years, it is hoped it will be in six figures. [Read full article]

Sep 19, 2014

Colombian ban asbestos campaigner, artist Guillermo Villamizar examines moves by global asbestos vested interests to develop asbestos markets in emerging economies with a particular focus on the situation in Colombia. The author discusses industry techniques including the use of “mercenary” scientists to produce junk research that “proves” that white (chrysotile) asbestos is safe. In 2012 and 2013 Colombia imported 25,164 and 15,961 tons of asbestos respectively. Available figures for 2014 show a decline in asbestos import levels; this is partially explained by the restarting of asbestos mining operations in Yarumal (Antioquia), Colombia. [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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Asbestos Trade Data (2013)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,050,000
   China420,000
   Brazil307,000
   Kazakhstan242,000
   India240
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   China570,000
   Russia432,000
   India303,000
   Brazil181,000
   Indonesia156,000