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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Jan 29, 2018

Anton Edema of the Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers Association of Sri Lanka has challenged the government to clarify the legality of asbestos use in light of proposals to ban asbestos as of January 1, 2018; according to reports, the prohibition has been “temporarily lifted” after commercial threats from Russia. Edema says the lack of clarity is preventing needed investment in the asbestos industrial sector which employs tens of thousands of people and provides 60% of the country’s roofing. Edema claims there have been no cases of asbestos disease amongst those employed by the industry. See: Give clear picture on Asbestos ban.

Jan 29, 2018

In what is being hailed as the “first of its kind,” 74-year old mesothelioma victim Pamela Stubberfield is receiving private medical treatment funded by her former employer as a result of a “unique” settlement in which an insurer agreed to pay directly for appropriate treatment with no time limits specified. Mrs. Stubberfield is receiving the immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab that is not available on the NHS for mesothelioma. Consultant Peter Szlosarek said that without the drug, Mrs. Stubberfield would have been died within six months of her September 2016 diagnosis. See: BOC pays woman’s asbestos-caused cancer treatment costs.

Jan 26, 2018

A paper has been published as part of the Special Issue “Global Panorama of National Experiences in Public Health Actions to Ban Asbestos” detailing the five stages and many actions that were required before Korea succeeded in banning asbestos. An analysis of the role played by multiple stakeholders is undertaken. As in the UK and elsewhere “after the asbestos ban, those who had imported raw asbestos turned to asbestos removal and protection services as they had hands-on experience about where asbestos was installed.” See: The Asbestos Ban in Korea from a Grassroots Perspective: Why Did It Occur?

Jan 26, 2018

A track laid down by Christchurch City Council for $8,420 is costing $285,000 to be removed; the council had used asbestos-contaminated soil in the construction of the path near Waimairi Beach which ran behind beach-side properties. The asbestos contamination of the 375 cubic meters of soil, which was donated by a local resident, was discovered by a Northshore resident who presented council staff with test results showing the presence of asbestos. Council head of parks Brent Smith said testing of the soil had “appeared unnecessary given the circumstances around the supply of the soil.” See: Christchurch City Council lays path with soil contaminated with asbestos.

Jan 26, 3028

Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions announced on Wednesday (January 24, 2018) that it will invest $3.5+ million in several projects in the former asbestos producing region of Thetford Mines and other Quebec communities in the Appalaches Regional County Municipality “to grow the economy and create wealth for Canadians.” Fourteen jobs will be created by the ten projects which will attract a total investment of $6,176,856 including $3,529,892 from the federal government. See: Support for 10 projects in the Appalaches RCM through the Canadian Initiative for the Economic Diversification of Communities Reliant on Chrysotile.

Jan 24, 2018

Lack of financial resources has prevented Rwandan property owners from decontaminating premises as ordered by the federal government in 2009. A spokesman for the Catholic Church has requested the government subsidize the removal and replacement of asbestos roofs on church buildings including hospital and health centers which are co-owned with the State. It has been estimated that the total cost of asbestos decontamination would be around Rwf16 billion ($23,277,956), comprising approximately Rwf11 billion ($15,848,089) for publicly owned buildings and Rwf5 billion ($7,429,867) for private buildings. See: Catholic Church Tells Gov’t To Replace Asbestos On Structures.

Jan 24, 2018

According to draft Canadian asbestos regulations released on January 5, 2018, the long-awaited national asbestos ban is likely to take effect in 2019. The federal government’s proposals which were published in the latest issue of the Canada Gazette will not only outlaw the use, sale, import and export of asbestos and products but will also prohibit the manufacture of asbestos-containing products. There are exemptions which are raising concern, including a 2025 extension for the use of asbestos in the chlor-alkali industry and the processing of asbestos debris in former mining areas. See: Canada’s asbestos ban to take effect in 2019.

Jan 24, 2018

The Spanish asbestos multinational Uralita has been ordered by a court in Donostia – a city in the Basque Autonomous Community – to pay compensation of more than €300,000 to a worker who, as a result of his employment by the company between June 1961 and June 1965 as a warehouse operator in Lasarte, has contracted asbestosis. A spokesman for the local asbestos victims’ group predicts that more asbestos claims will be forthcoming from other Uralita workers including those who worked for Uralita in Getafe, Madrid. See: Condenan a Uralita a indemnizar a un trabajador enfermo por Amianto [Uralita condemned to compensate a sick worker for asbestos exposure].

Jan 24, 2018

The newly relaunched Asbestos Victims Association of Quebec is calling on the Québec Minister of Labor to follow an Ontario precedent which acknowledges specific trades and occupations, such as plumbers and construction workers, which carried high risk of exposure to asbestos; claims brought by individuals with asbestos disease in those employment categories are automatically presumed to have been occupationally caused. Such a system avoids time-consuming and expensive medico-legal battles. See: Amiante: une association veut que Québec reconnaisse les professions les plus exposées [Asbestos: an association wants Quebec to recognize the most exposed occupations].

Jan 23, 2018

On January 19, 2018, France’s Supreme Court – the Court of Cassation – agreed to consider appeals in asbestos cases after recent adverse verdicts had been censured by asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners. The appeals have been brought by the Anti-asbestos Committee of Jussieu University and ARDEVA Nord-Pas-de-Calais, a regional body representing asbestos victims from the Dunkirk shipyards and surrounding area. Welcoming these developments, campaigners said: “We continue to think that there will be a criminal asbestos trial, we will do everything for it to take place.” See: Affaire de l'amiante: enfin un signe positif pour les victimes? [Asbestos affair: finally a positive sign for the victims?]

Jan 23, 2018

Warnings have been given by the Colombian Comptroller General – an  independent government institution that oversees fiscal matters – of the urgent need to ensure that the country’s 7th attempt to ban asbestos succeeds in order protect the population from deadly exposures. Draft legislation approved in October by the Senate requires follow-up by the legislature in order to become law. The government’s failure to address the asbestos health hazard has not only affected workers but also endangered the health of people living near asbestos processing or mining sites. See: La Contraloría pide prohibir todo tipo de asbesto en el país [The Comptroller's Office asks to prohibit all types of asbestos in the country].

Jan 23, 2018

Nicos Anastasiou, mayor of the Limassol suburb of Polemidia where asbestos-riddled former British army housing has been a long-standing public health hazard, has welcomed the commencement of work on January 22, 2018 to decontaminate the site and demolish the buildings. The work is expected to take up to a year due to the complexity of the task and the number of premises involved. Once removed, the asbestos waste will be wrapped, packed and sealed before being deposited at the former asbestos mine at Amiantos where it will be stored. See: Demolition of asbestos-riddled estate underway.

Jan 22, 2018

ToxicDocs, a free, searchable and updated online US database, is making publicly available “millions of pages of previously secret documents about toxic substances ... [including] secret internal memoranda, emails, slides, board minutes, unpublished scientific studies, and expert witness reports – among other kinds of documents – that emerged in recent toxic tort litigation.” Subjects covered include silica, PCBs and lead, as well as asbestos and other dangerous substances. See: Free online access to millions of documents on chemical toxicity made possible through ToxicDocs.

Jan 22, 2018

A new commentary explores whether the Brazilian Supreme Court’s reliance on international human rights law and international environmental law in its decision to outlaw asbestos use throughout the country has created a new pattern of integration between international and constitutional law for future cases focused on collective fundamental rights. One of the main arguments of the November 29, 2017 plenary decision handed down by the Court in litigation regarding the constitutionality of state asbestos bans was ILO Convention No. 162. See: The Judicial Ban on Asbestos in Brazil: A Turning Point in the Relationship between International Law and Collective Fundamental Rights?

Jan 22, 2018

After feedback from unions and other stakeholders during consultations on changes to the Control of Asbestos Regulations, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has abandoned plans to reduce the period between medical examinations for asbestos workers. Commenting on the HSE u-turn, Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of Prospect Union, said: “Asbestos is a silent killer of thousands of workers every year. Frequent medical checks for those engaged in the dangerous removal of asbestos from old buildings is vital to pick up any symptoms as early as possible. We welcome the HSE seeing sense on this issue.” See: Plans to water down medical checks on asbestos workers abandoned - Prospect Union.

Jan 22, 2018

On January 18, 2018, a commentary on the health hazards of asbestos exposure appeared on an online Ukraine news portal. Ukraine’s Ministry of Health banned asbestos in June 2017; this decision was reversed by the Ministry of Justice in October 2017 (see: Ukraine’s Asbestos Debacle). Having detailed the tradespeople most at-risk of exposures, the author reasserts the asbestos industry mantra: “it is quite safe to be surrounded by asbestos materials as long as they are isolated and do not spread their particles into the air.” See: Асбестоз: причины и симптомы, лечение и профилактика асбестоза [Asbestosis: Causes and Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention of Asbestosis].

Jan 21, 2018

Our friend Jock McCulloch died on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. The grief caused by his passing is shared by so many who have worked with him to reveal the human cost of the global asbestos trade. It is poignant and tragic that Jock, whose compassion and humanity was so great, shared the fate of so many of the people whose plight he documented. Like them, Jock’s death was caused by exposure to asbestos. At this sad time, our thoughts are with his partner Pavla, their family, his friends and colleagues at RMIT University and so many others whose lives were enriched by knowing Jock. While mourning his passing, we will remain forever grateful for the time we had with him and for the impact he had on our lives. [Read full article]

Jan 4, 2018

As 2018 dawns, the outlook for the ban asbestos campaign looks brighter than ever with progress being made in countries around the world. Pro-asbestos initiatives which might formerly have escaped detection are now being exposed and countered in record time. The ongoing saga of Russia’s strong-arm tactics to force Sri Lanka to rescind its asbestos phase-out has been condemned both at home and internationally. Throughout 2017 the global ban asbestos network, working with partnering organizations, enjoyed huge successes in multiple jurisdictions. Building on those victories and on increasing support for an asbestos-free future, the prospects for 2018 appear very promising! [Read full article]

Jan 3, 2018

International trade unions, health networks, asbestos victims’ groups and NGOs have today issued a media release soundly condemning Russian economic pressure on Sri Lanka which has forced a U-turn in the asbestos phase-out scheduled to begin this month. Sharan Burrow of the International Trade Union Confederation summed up the collective outrage over Russia’s bullying: “Imposing chrysotile asbestos on an unwilling nation is not fair trade, it is culpable homicide… Russia must not and will not be allowed to blow a hole in fair trade rules.” [Read full article]

Dec 22, 2017

On December 16, 2017, 16 civil society groups and trade unions established the Indian Ban Asbestos Network (I-BAN) at a meeting in New Delhi, organized by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India and the Building and Woodworkers International, to progress efforts to ban asbestos in India and eradicate the asbestos hazard from workplaces and infrastructure. The formation of I-BAN was the culmination of the conference: “India Beyond Asbestos – Issues and Strategies” which took place on December 15 and 16. India is one of the world’s largest asbestos markets; in 2015, over 370,000 tonnes of asbestos with a value of $239 million were imported. India is Asia’s 2nd biggest asbestos consumer. [Read full article]

Dec 6, 2017

On December 5, 2017, the High Court declared that historical documents detailing corporate knowledge regarding the asbestos hazard due to be destroyed as part of a confidential agreement must be preserved and shared with parties not involved in the original litigation. The ruling marked a positive outcome for a case brought by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum to obtain information that would facilitate claims by asbestos victims and better understand “the close relationship between the Factory Inspectorate, whose function was supposed to be protecting the health and safety of workers, and the asbestos industry that they were supposed to be regulating.” [Read full article]

Dec 1, 2017

A majority verdict of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) handed down on November 29, 2017, prohibited the mining, processing, marketing and distribution of chrysotile (white) asbestos in Brazil – currently the world’s third largest producer of chrysotile. The judgment was binding on all jurisdictions and on the national congress which is, said the STF, barred from enacting new legislation authorizing the use of asbestos. Commenting on this ruling Fernanda Giannasi, who was been at the forefront of the campaign to ban asbestos in Brazil for 30 years, said: “If an asbestos producer country like Brazil is able to make such a decision, why wouldn’t consumer countries do the same?” Why indeed! [Read full article]

Nov 21, 2017

Untold numbers of workers may have been exposed to asbestos-contaminated blast cleaning abrasives supplied by the Netherlands-based Eurogrit Company, a subsidiary of the Belgian company Sibelco, which were sold to companies in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and possibly elsewhere. The Eurogrit product (Eurogrit coal-slag abrasive (aluminium silicate) at the center of this unfolding health and commercial catastrophe is used primarily for removing rust and dirt from steel surfaces. Compared to well-honed protocols put into action by Dutch stakeholders, the UK’s response to this illegal use of a toxic product has been singularly unimpressive. [Read full article]

Nov 9, 2017

Actions taken by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health in June 2017 to protect citizens from exposures to asbestos were officially quashed last month (October 2017) by the Ministry of Justice which excluded the implementing regulations from the State Register. The formalization of this move to undercut the capacity of Ukraine to act in the best interests of its citizens is further proof of the over-reaching influence of asbestos vested interests. Simultaneously, a 2017 free trade deal between Canada and Ukraine – The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement – could provide enhanced opportunities for the commercial exploitation of regional asbestos production. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2017

On the evening of October 27, 2017, the Worker’s Initiative – Kolkata organized a mass meeting in Kolkata, India where 19 workers with asbestosis were presented compensation payments received from the T&N Asbestos Trustee Company (UK) totaling INR 55,08,924.00 (US$ 85,000) by representatives of trade unions and labor organizations. Despite attempts by the asbestos manufacturing company Everest Industries to deter workers from attending the meeting, there were many asbestos workers in the audience as well as workers from other companies. Information leaflets on the asbestos hazard in Hindi and Bengali were distributed during the meeting. [Read full article]

Oct 13, 2017

A press release issued by UK asbestos campaigners declared support for French comrades demonstrating in the streets of Paris today (October 13, 2017) demanding justice for those injured by asbestos and punishment for corporate entities, entrepreneurs, government officials, scientists, public relations professionals and others who promoted sales of deadly asbestos products (voir la version française du communiqué de presse). Highlighting the importance of the French protest, Graham Dring of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum (UK) said: “The ties which bind French and UK asbestos victims are enduring and solid; their battles are our battles. Today, we send them a message of fellowship and solidarity and our wishes for a great day!” [Read full article]

Oct 12, 2017

In mid-September, 2017, an article entitled: Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 84 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2016 was featured in The Lancet. Using data sourced from the GBD Study regarding the 2016 incidences of asbestos-related mortality in 195 countries, IBAS has compiled three tables listing asbestos-related disease mortality and mortality rates, relating (mostly) to occupational asbestos exposures. [Read full article]

Sep 28, 2017

A letter by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India to Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, calls for action according to international guidelines and independent research to protect citizens from the deadly hazard posed by the massive use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in India. The text of the September 12 document cites statements by the Environment Ministry that the “use of asbestos may be phased out” and the Ministry of Labour: “The Government of India is considering the ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos.” [Read full article]

Sep 22, 2017

This paper was submitted by the Government of the Cook Islands to the 28th meeting of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) which took place in Samoa on September 19-21, 2017. This and other documentation submitted under agenda item 13.1 supported the Cook Is. delegation’s call for a Pacific wide ban on asbestos and urged the SPREP to take “action on existing asbestos materials and wastes and address the issue of new asbestos in the Pacific.” The members of the SPREP include: American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. [Read full article]

Sep 17, 2017

The asbestos house of cards built on “denial, distortion and distraction” is collapsing. With more and more evidence documenting the toxic effects of human exposures and action being taken the world over to protect populations, preliminary data for recent years have shown a dramatic fall in consumption and reports from the asbestos frontline have documented a waning of industry influence and power even in home markets. This article draws on recent developments, published material and new data which detail a collapse in political, social and commercial support for the asbestos industry and the growth in support for national and regional action on the asbestos hazard in Asia and Latin America. [Read full article]

Sep 1, 2017

This letter is in response to recent comments made by President Rustam Minnikhanov of Tartarstan, Russia about the toxic nature of chrysotile (white) asbestos during a confrontation with Mr Andrey Holm, the head of Orenburg Minerals JSC – a major Russian producer and exporter of chrysotile asbestos fiber. During a meeting to discuss the state of the roads in the Kazan area, the President queried whether asbestos, a substance extolled by Holm, was a poison. According to a Russian environmental campaigner: “This is the first time an administrator of this high level questioned the safety of asbestos.” [For a Russian version of this letter click here] [Read full article]

Aug 26, 2017

Legislation regarding the use of asbestos in Brazil – the world’s third largest producer of white asbestos – was the subject of a split decision on August 24, 2017 by the Supreme Court which upheld the right of São Paulo State to ban asbestos but failed to declare the federal law allowing asbestos use unconstitutional by one vote, despite majority support for a national ban from the nine Justices eligible to vote. This is a great victory for the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, for its legal advisors and for the associations which invested their expertise, time and resources to challenge a dangerous law and a status quo that prioritized corporate profits over public health. There is no place in the 21st century for asbestos. [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 (2014)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,100,000
   China400,000
   Brazil284,000
   Kazakhstan240,000
   India270
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   Russia608,000
   China507,000
   India379,000
   Brazil154,000
   Kazakhstan68,000