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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Aug 9, 2018

A flurry of articles appeared this week highlighting the effects of the change in direction by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the use of asbestos, a carcinogenic substance which President Trump has defended on multiple occasions. In his book: The Art of the Comeback (1997), Trump wrote that asbestos was “100 percent safe, once applied.” A Rolling Stone feature entitled “More Asbestos! More Asbestos! More Asbestos!” highlighted an episode of The Simpsons in which those words were the rallying cry for a school election campaign. See: More Asbestos! More Asbestos! More Asbestos!.

Aug 9, 2018

On August 10, 2018, South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr. Edna Molewa will officially present five “asbestos-free” classrooms in Sealane Primary School to the local community in Mafefe village, Limpopo Province under a project run by the Department of Environmental Affairs to eliminate asbestos exposure of communities and raise public awareness about the health and environmental hazards posed by asbestos contamination. See: South Africa: Minister of Environmental Affairs to Officially Launch and Handover 5 “Asbestos - Free” Classrooms at Sealane Primary School and a Road at Mafefe.

Aug 9, 2018

The Summer 2018 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The lead article entitled “Britain’s Asbestos Landscape 2018” provides a timely update on mobilization for asbestos justice, the availability of new asbestos cancer data and the importance of specialized nursing for mesothelioma patients. The second article reviewed presentations made and discussions that ensued at the June 26, 2018 Parliamentary Asbestos Seminar of the House of Commons. The keynote presentation was made by one of the world’s leading ban asbestos campaigners, Brazilian engineer and asbestos activist Fernanda Giannasi. See: Issue 107, British Asbestos Newsletter.

Aug 9, 2018

The most recent issue (April-June, 2018) of the quarterly newsletter published by the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) included a feature about asbestosis diagnosis camps for shipbreaking workers – known to be at high risk of occupational asbestos exposures – which were held in Chattogram, Bangladesh on March 30, April 13 and 27, and May 4, 2018. The ten person medical team, which was headed by Dr. Faizul Ahsan Shubro, examined seventy-five patients; tests results are pending. See: OSHE Newsletter (April-June 2018).

Aug 8, 2018

On August 6, 2018, the day before Ukraine’s Ministry of Health returned to court to progress litigation seeking to reinstate the national ban on asbestos, an online article in Russian was uploaded to a Ukraine news platform which downplayed the human health hazard posed by asbestos exposures with misinformation and lies including the following: chrysotile asbestos does not deteriorate, numerous studies have shown that exposure to chrysotile is not harmful, chrysotile asbestos dissolves “easily even in a weakly acidic medium (such as is found in human lungs),” and exposure to asbestos poses “minimal risk.” See: Асбест и его влияние на человека. Стоит ли опасаться асбеста? [Asbestos and its effect on man. Should I be afraid of asbestos?].

Aug 8, 2018

Under a rule which came into force on June 1, 2018 enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Significant New Rule (SNUR) – the use of new asbestos-containing products has become a real possibility. SNUR, which gives the upper hand to chemical manufacturers, allows producers to apply on a case-by-case basis for permission to incorporate asbestos, a substance banned in most other industrialized nations, into products. As shocking as this is, it just another one of the outrageous actions being taken to roll back health and safety protections under the Trump Administration. See: EPA is now allowing asbestos back into manufacturing.

Aug 8, 2018

In June 2018, Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency published a report, entitled The economic burden of asbestos-related disease, which assessed the nation’s economic and social costs in 2015 due to asbestos-related diseases at A$192 million for hospital and primary care costs and A$321million for indirect costs due to lost production resulting from premature deaths. The figure estimated for the monetary value of lost quality of life in 2015 was A$10.8 billion. It is of interest to note that this report estimated that there were 5.2 cases of asbestos-related lung cancer for each case of mesothelioma. See: The economic burden of asbestos-related disease.

Aug 6, 2018

Pursuant to the order by the Prime Minister of Vietnam that the use of asbestos in manufactured construction materials be ended by 2023 at the latest, grassroots initiatives are being implemented by groups such as the “Center for Consulting, Transfer of Science and Technology, Environmental Protection for Ethnic Minorities in Mountainous Areas” of the Vietnam Academy of Ethnic Minorities to raise public awareness of the asbestos health hazard in more remote locales. Simultaneously, government support is being considered for the construction of asbestos-free homes for ethnic minorities. See: Cần sớm ngừng sử dụng amiăng [Asbestos use to stop soon].

Aug 6, 2018

On August 2, 2018, Gianna Girotto, the President of the Italian Senate’s Industry Commission confirmed the government’s plans to restore tax incentives for the replacement of asbestos-cement roofing by the installation of photovoltaic panels to produce renewable energy. This announcement was made as a delegation of campaigners presented Minister of the Environment Sergio Costa with the #BastaAmianto petition signed by 55,000 Italians. In Italy there are between 1 and 2.5 billion square meters of asbestos-cement roofing on sheds, public and private buildings and other structures. See: Decreto rinnovabili, ci sarà un bonus amianto per il fotovoltaico [Renewable Decree, there will be an asbestos bonus for photovoltaics].

Aug 6, 2018

A commentary based on a session held at the 12th Brazilian Congress of Collective Health which took place recently in Rio de Janeiro drew on testimony by leading campaigners for the rights of asbestos victims to secure healthcare, social justice, environmental remediation and compensation. Despite the legal victory achieved by the 2017 Supreme Court ruling which declared the use of asbestos unconstitutional, much work remains to be done in the face of intransigent companies such as Dow Chemical which is refusing to transition from outlawed asbestos technology. See: Banimento do amianto: as conquistas de uma luta que precisa perdurar [Asbestos ban: the achievements of a struggle that must endure].

Aug 3, 2018

The Ministry of Education for Gyeongbuk Province, Korea has embarked upon asbestos removal work at 50 small schools during the summer vacation; the premises chosen each have relatively small amounts of contamination which can be remediated over a short period of time. Once the work has been completed, a monitoring team – composed of school officials, parents, external experts and representatives of private organizations – will inspect the premises. If there are findings of contamination, the removal process will be repeated until confirmation is received that the remediation work has succeeded. See: 여름방학 기간 학교 석면제거 [Eliminating asbestos at schools during the summer].

Aug 3, 2018

The 10,000 residents of the former asbestos mining town of Bom Jesus da Serra, in Brazil’s Bahia State, are engaged in a battle for social and environmental justice as they fight for the damage done to their town to be recognized and remediated by the guilty parties including the company which profited from the operations of the now derelict chrysotile (white) asbestos mine. From being passive supplicants townspeople have become activists campaigning for justice for the lives lost and damage done to those employed in the mine, their relatives and local people who were exposed to environmental contamination. See: A cidade onde nevava Amianto [The city where Asbestos was snowing].

Aug 1, 2018

A 43-page decision handed down on July 31, 2018 by the Court of Appeal in the case brought by Graham Dring on behalf of the Asbestos Victims Support Group (the Forum) against Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd. (Cape) – as successor to Cape PLC, formerly one of the UK’s largest asbestos conglomerates – upheld the right of the Forum to access key documents which detail Cape’s “true knowledge of the dangers of asbestos products.” These documents may prove vital for people seeking to obtain recompense for injuries by throwing “light on the way early knowledge of the dangers of asbestos was hidden from the public.” See: Landmark Court of Appeal success for asbestos victim.

Aug 1, 2018

A commentary published on July 31, 2018 asserted that under the pro-asbestos Trump administration, the use of carcinogenic asbestos products might increase; the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Significant New Use Rule” enacted on June 1, 2018, allows companies to petition the federal government for permission to use new asbestos-containing products on a case-by-case basis, even though a 2016 amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act mandated that the EPA prioritize a risk evaluation of the use of asbestos and 9 other substances. See: Under Trump’s EPA, asbestos might be making a comeback.

Aug 1, 2018

Former Eternit worker Maria Imbesi has become the 150th person from the same factory to die from an asbestos disease; at the age of 82 years old, she succumbed to asbestosis as did her husband some years previously. She had worked on the production line at the Sacelit asbestos-cement plant in Sicily – known locally as the “factory of death” – for nearly three years; the factory manufactured asbestos pipes, flues, tank lids and other building products. She had been diagnosed with asbestosis in 2001. See: Amianto: 150esimo morto alla ex Sacelit [Asbestos: 150th death at the former Sacelit].

Aug 1, 2018

Council workers in Newcastle City in New South Wales, Australia combed Stockton beach in hazmat suits last month collecting pieces of asbestos-containing debris washed ashore even as local people continued to use the beach as normal. The toxic flotsam is believed to have been produced by the worsening erosion of Stockton landfill sites. A Newcastle Council spokeswoman said: “The potential asbestos containing pieces pose a very low public health risk and council is removing them on a daily basis to reduce the risk even further, allowing Stockton beach to remain open to the community.” See: Newcastle City Council workers in Hazmat suits patrol Stockton beach daily for asbestos as new tip site uncovered.

Aug 6, 2018

A report entitled Chlorine and Building Materials - A Global Inventory of Production Technologies, Markets, and Pollution released at the end of July 2018 provided a wealth of information on the actions of chlorine producers in Africa, the Americas and Europe. Acting individually and/or in concert with other vested interests, companies such as Dow Chemical and Olin Corporation and trade associations including Euro Chlor and the American Chemistry Council lobbied state agencies, national governments and regional bodies on three continents over decades to maintain a status quo which procured them large financial rewards despite huge societal costs and deadly consequences for human health and the environment. [Read full article]

Jul 18, 2018

Once upon a time, photograph albums held the memories of generations of families; important days and events were marked by black and white and then colour photographs which were taken, processed and mounted for safe-keeping. Those days are long gone with most images now stored somewhere in the cloud or on phones or hard drives. Some may call us old school, but we could think of no better way of reflecting the optimism, support and engagement of groups all over the UK who joined as one on July 6, 2018 to observe the Annual Mesothelioma Action Day than uploading a selection of photographs in which fellowship and commonality of purpose shine through. [Read full article]

Jul 13, 2018

Children and staff from 11 local schools took part in an asbestos awareness workshop organised by the Asbestos Interest Group (A.I.G), a campaigning body in a former asbestos mining area on South Africa’s annual Youth Day (June 16). Feedback from participants has been positive with children having enjoyed meeting up with pupils from other schools to learn about the impact of asbestos contamination of their towns. A report written by A.I.G’s Prudence Kotoloane is informative as well as inspiring – workshop facilitators organized outdoor games to keep the children “awake and energetic.” The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat is proud to be a co-sponsor of this and other events organized by the A.I.G. [Read full article]

Jul 12, 2018

Participants from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Philippines, the US and Japan attended the two-day 2018 South Asia Asbestos Strategy Meeting which took place in Negombo, on the west coast of Sri Lanka, on July 10 and 11, 2018. On the agenda were updates about current national situations highlighting successful strategies and ongoing challenges. Of great interest to international delegates were presentations by Sri Lanka colleagues who provided a wealth of information on current developments and announced that plans for national prohibitions of asbestos had not been abandoned. [Read full article]

Jul 2, 2018

The annual Parliamentary Asbestos Seminar took place on June 26, 2018 in Committee Room 14 of the House of Commons. As always this event, held under the auspices of the Asbestos Sub-Committee of the All-party Group on Occupational Health and Safety, offered the opportunity for Members of Parliament to hear about a diverse range of global asbestos developments from people working on the asbestos frontline. During the two-hour session, first-hand testimony was provided regarding challenges faced by UK asbestos cancer sufferers, progress being made by British mesothelioma researchers, asbestos legacy issues at brownfield sites, the campaign by the Asbestos in Schools Group and the tragic consequences of asbestos consumption in India. [Read full article]

Jun 22, 2018

An authoritative audit of UK mesothelioma cancer care of 7,000+ individuals between 2014 and 2016 contains both good and bad news. During the period in question, more mesothelioma patients in England and Wales received active treatment – i.e. anti-cancer treatment with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or a combination of the three – than previously. Unfortunately, only 7% of patients survived for three years post-diagnosis. Recommendations made by the authors included suggestions to: improve the quality of data collection, conduct surgical survival audits, provide better information to guide patients’ treatment decisions and ensure patient referrals to clinical trials outside their areas. [Read full article]

Jun 18, 2018

On June 11, 2018, the District Administrative Court of Kiev published its decision in the case brought by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health (MoH) over the quashing by the Ministry of Justice and the State Regulatory Service (SRS) of 2017 MoH regulations ending the use of asbestos in Ukraine. The ruling of the three-judge panel upheld the human rights of Ukrainians to live a life free from asbestos exposure. A Ukrainian campaigner called this decision “an indisputable victory” by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and its supporters and pledged to continue the struggle “to achieve a total asbestos ban in Ukraine such as that which exists in other European countries.” [Read full article]

Jun 12, 2018

The text of this article appeared as Chapter 10 in the book: Beyond Testimony and Trauma: Oral History in the Aftermath of Mass Violence published by University of British Columbia Press in 2015; the author of this chapter Professor Arthur McIvor and the editor of the book Steven High have given their permission for this seminal text to be uploaded to this website. In his concluding thoughts the author says: “In common with other trauma victims and survivors of mass violence, those with disabling and terminal ARDs feel the need to have those responsible admit their blame and recognize their role in economic violence. This is crucial for reconciliation, social healing, and making sense of their working lives.” [Read full article]

May 21, 2018

This press release has been issued today by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum (UK) and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat; it expresses serious concerns over the discovery of tremolite asbestos in products being sold in the UK. The analysis of items purchased in April 2018 in a London suburb was undertaken by Sean Fitzgerald, a US expert who had previously found asbestos contamination in 24 talc-based make-up items sold by the US chain of Claire’s Accessories. Fitzgerald reported the presence of tremolite, an amphibole type of asbestos fiber, in various eyeshadow and blusher products purchased at this shop. [Read full article]

May 16, 2018

Asbestos victims’ groups, campaigning bodies and NGOs issue an open letter to the asbestos industry declaring: “the end for the deadly asbestos industry is fast approaching.” Supported by signatories from Asia, Latin America, Europe, Australia and Africa, the text highlights recent measures called for by regional bodies and international agencies to address the global asbestos crisis: securing a covenant for implementing a global ban on asbestos, providing financial, technical and educational support for countries seeking to achieve bans – programs to minimize hazardous exposures and eliminate asbestos diseases, making public investment and development aid conditional on banning asbestos [Русской версии] [Versão em português]. [Read full article]

May 15, 2018

A grassroots effort to identify workers with asbestos-related disease from an asbestos factory in Kolkata, India has resulted in the suspension of two workers who had been involved in organizing the initiative. Angered by the management’s attempts to intimidate the workforce and punish full-time factory workers Arun Chakraborty and Goutam Sardar, former workmates have formed a “Struggle Committee” to increase the pressure on the management of Everest Industries Ltd. to withdraw the suspension orders and to progress efforts to improve the occupational health and safety regime at their workplace. [Read full article]

May 15, 2018

As the UK asbestos death toll mounts, concerns have been expressed by civil society representatives regarding the impact of a potential UK-US trade agreement and the diminution of measures to safeguard human health from toxic exposures after our exit from the European Union. There is evidence of the importation of asbestos contaminated products even under present conditions; certainly no room for any relaxation of controls. The author concluded: “With the world’s highest asbestos-related disease mortality rate and regulatory authorities facing brutal financial cutbacks, the last thing anyone wants is the import of more toxic material or a watering down of health and safety protections.” [Read full article]

May 5, 2018

On April 6, 2018, an asbestos awareness event was held for community members in the Loopeng Village Community Hall by the Asbestos Interest Group (AIG), a grassroots group from Kuruman in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Addressing the audience were palliative care and cancer specialists – who provided information on a multitude of aspects affecting people with asbestos-related diseases – as well as representatives of the municipality. The exchange of information was facilitated by questions and answers sessions as well as the provision of handouts, leaflets and pamphlets. Photographs of the day’s activities illustrate the text of this report. [Read full article]

May 3, 2018

Figures published recently by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reveal a sharp drop in asbestos production during the period 2012-2015 – down by around 31% over the four years. The fall depends primarily on a revision of Russian production levels for that period, which earlier USGS reports had recorded as being virtually static at around 1 million tonnes per annum (since 2007). Based on our analysis of the new data, comparative tables and graphics have been produced to depict the impact of the revisions on levels of national asbestos consumption. There is good news and bad: the good news is that global asbestos consumption had reportedly fallen to ~1.4 million tonnes by 2016; the bad news is that there is little change in the proportion used in Asia. [Read full article]

May 2, 2018

Judicial proceedings continued in April 2018 over the illegitimacy of action taken by Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice and the State Regulatory Service to quash the national ban on all types of asbestos including chrysotile adopted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in March 2017 and invalidated the following October. On April 18, 2018, the litigants attended the second hearing of the proceedings instigated by the MoH to effect the reinstatement of the prohibitions. Applications made by the plaintiffs were approved which will allow the submission of evidence documenting the health hazards posed by chrysotile asbestos and a short delay in proceedings to obtain a crucial report from Ukraine’s Academy of Sciences. [Read full article]

Apr 16, 2018

A historic breakthrough occurred in a US courtroom this month when a New Jersey jury handed down the first mesothelioma claimant’s verdict against Johnson & Johnson to Stephen Lanzo, a 46-year-old investment banker, who contracted the fatal asbestos cancer after decades of exposure to the company’s talc-based baby powder. On Thursday, April 5, 2018, $30 million was awarded to Mr. Lanzo with a further $7 million to his wife Kendra. On April 11, 2018, the jurors decided that the defendants’ “outrageous and egregious” behaviour warranted further censure and ordered that a further $80 million in punitive damages be paid. Pivotal to the outcome of this case was evidence and corporate strategies revealed in confidential corporate documents. [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 (2015)

Fiber Producers
(tonnes):
   Russia650,000
   Brazil270,000
   China210,000
   Kazakhstan180,000
    
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   India370,000
   China287,000
   Brazil163,000
   Russia124,000
   Indonesia120,000