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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Jun 20, 2024

It was reported last week, that in May 2024 a request had been made by the Paris prosecutor's office for trial of a former railway official who is accused of having endangered the lives of railway workers at a maintenance center in Saintes (Charente-Maritime) between 1998 and 2000 by failing to prevent workplace exposures to asbestos. The 79-year-old accused is referred to as Gilles L. and is a former director of the Établissement Industriel de Maintenance du Matériel (Industrial Establishment for Equipment Maintenance). The decision on whether or not there will be a trial remains in the hands of the investigating judges in charge of the case. See: Amiante, 25 ans après: y aura-t-il un procès pour l'ancien responsable SNCF? [Asbestos, 25 years later: will there be a trial for the former SNCF official?].

Jun 20, 2024

According to the Basque Association of Asbestos Victims, the Supreme Court of the Basque Country rejected an appeal from Nervacero SA, a Spanish steel producer, against a Labor Court judgment awarding the sum of €163,931 (US$176,200) to the family of a worker who died in 2020 from mesothelioma. The deceased had inhaled asbestos at the steel mill due to no safety measures being in place to protect the workers from toxic exposures. See: Ratifican la indemnización de 163.931 euros a la familia de un trabajador vasco que murió tras trabajar décadas expuesto al amianto [Compensation of 163,931 euros to the family of a Basque worker who died after working for decades exposed to asbestos has been ratified].

Jun 20, 2024

A $1.1 million grant has been received by the Michigan State University (MSU) to undertake a study designed to improve psychosocial support for mesothelioma caregivers. The funding was donated by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. The research by MSU social work doctoral students Jen Hirsch and Linda Zhang will take four years and feature various research modes including: information gathering, in-person sessions, homework and in-depth participant interviews. See: MSU School of Social Work received $1.1M grant for mesothelioma research.

Jun 20, 2024

Sixty years after operations had ceased, the derelict asbestos mine and processing units in the Corsican town of Canari has become a toxic eyesore. Work at remediating this site, previously owned by the Eternit asbestos conglomerate, is due to begin in 2025 after an 8-month long “meticulous preparatory phase.” A budget of €6 million (US$6.5m) for the decontamination work is expected to overrun due to the widespread pollution present in this environmental blot on the landscape. See: Dans le Cap Corse, le seul site industriel d'amiante de la métropole va être démoli [In Cap Corse, the only asbestos industrial site in the metropolis will be demolished].

Jun 19, 2024

Russia’s Ministry of Health last week uploaded to its website a proposal to recognize as occupationally-caused diseases cancers caused by exposure to a number of substances, including asbestos. After a consultation period, which ended on June 17, 2024, the draft regulations will be finalized; they are scheduled to come into force on March 1, 2025. As Russia’s is the world’s largest producer of asbestos and the paymaster for the global asbestos lobby, this news will, almost certainly, be a huge shock to vested interests. See: Онкологию признают профессиональным заболеванием [Cancer to be recognized as an occupational disease].

Jun 19, 2024

Residents of the former asbestos mining town of Baryulgil in New South Wales (NSW), Australia are still paying with their lives for the mining of chrysotile asbestos, even though operations ceased decades ago. From 1953-1979, the James Hardie (JH) company’s asbestos mine was the biggest employer in Baryulgil. Generations of JH employees died from asbestos-related diseases as have local people exposed to the asbestos waste JH gave away free for use as landfill for roads, playgrounds and sports areas. See: Years after Baryulgil's asbestos mine closed down, a deadly legacy remains with the people of this land.

Jun 19, 2024

The paper cited below was published in the May 2024 issue of the Indonesian Journal of Medical Sciences. The aim of the study undertaken by the five Indonesian co-authors was to better understand the danger posed by asbestos exposures to construction workers, in order to find measures to minimize the hazards. “The construction sector has,” they concluded “the highest exposure to asbestos compared to other sectors or industries and has a high number of asbestosis cases.” Recommendations made included the provision of state-of-the-art personal protective equipment and the implementation of a health and safety regime with checks on workers’ health and worksite inspections by health and safety specialists. See: Occupational Asbestos-containing Materials Exposure and Risk of Asbestosis among Construction Workers.

Jun 19, 2024

The almost always fatal outcome of a mesothelioma diagnosis, the age of most of the injured, the severity of physical symptoms and the lack of treatment options impose an almost unsustainable psychological burden on patients, many of whom experience anxiety, depression or PTSD. The delays in NHS appointments and the lack of mental health counsellors exacerbate an already difficult situation. Counsellors employed by a charity supporting asbestos victims have a vital role to play in safeguarding the mental as well as the physical health of patients. See: Treating anxiety and depression in mesothelioma patients.

Jun 19, 2024

It was reported on June 18, 2024, that government biosecurity laboratories in Perth, Western Australia had been closed as a precautionary measure on June 14 after the discovery of aging asbestos material. Three hundred employees normally work at the plant and animal labs housed at the dilapidated South Perth facility belonging to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. An investigation and air monitoring tests are ongoing. A new biosecurity facility is under construction at Murdoch University; when it’s opened in 2027, 350 staff will work there. See: Asbestos scare closes government biosecurity labs in South Perth.

Jun 19, 2024

A sub-contractor – Franco Berti – who had been exposed to asbestos whilst working at a facility owned by Enel S.p.A. – an Italian multinational manufacturer and distributor of electricity and gas – has been awarded €118,000 (US$127,000) by the Florence Court of Appeal. Unsafe working conditions, which were the result of Enel’s negligence, resulted in the claimant contracting asbestosis in 2014. Enel is considering appealing this verdict to the Supreme Court (Court of Cassation). See: Esposizione all’amianto, la Corte d’appello di Firenze condanna Enel a pagare 118mila euro [Exposure to asbestos, the Florence Court of Appeal orders Enel to pay 118 thousand euros].

Jun 18, 2024

On June 12, 2024, Italy’s Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) annulled the acquittal by the Court of Appeal of Palermo of individuals who had been charged over the asbestos deaths of 39 shipyard workers from the Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo, Sicily. The Court of Appeal had ruled that workplace asbestos exposures at the shipyard had ceased in the 1980s although many witnesses testified otherwise. A new trial has been ordered. See: Palermo. Morti per amianto al cantiere navale: cassazione annulla assoluzioni [Palermo. Asbestos-related deaths at the shipyard: Court of Cassation annuls acquittals].

Jun 18, 2024

On June 13, 2024, the Gyeonggi Provincial Department of Education in South Korea announced that it was on track to eradicate the asbestos hazard from all its schools by 2026. In 2024, the Department Office of Education invested 136.5 billion won (US $99.3m) for the asbestos removal project in 199 schools. Responding to criticism that the expertise of asbestos monitors in schools was inadequate, additional professional training will be provided to strengthen the competency of asbestos staff at the Education Support Agency. See: 경기도교육청, 학교 석면 제거 2026년까지 완료 목표 [Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education aims to complete asbestos removal in schools by 2026].

Jun 18, 2024

More than 30 years after they were installed, asbestos-cement pipes in Nicosia, Cyprus are in “critical condition… with portions of the network collapsing.” Over four thousand meters of these aging and toxic pipes need replacing. A remediation program, funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme costing €1 million (US$1.1m), will take place between June 15 and September 15, 2024. to safeguard the health of all Nicosians. See: EU-funded works commence to replace old asbestos pipes in critical Nicosia Sewer.

Jun 18, 2024

Almost thirty years after the Great Hanshin Earthquake devastated the Hanshin region of Japan, doctors speaking at a June 12th press conference at the Hyogo Prefectural Health Insurance Medical Association expressed concerns about the increasing incidence of asbestos-related diseases amongst earthquake survivors in the decades to come. Forty percent of medical professionals consulted for a survey by the Hyogo Medical Association agreed that the number of victims will increase in the future due to the asbestos scattered during and after the disaster. See: 阪神大震災で石綿被害「今後増加」4割 発生30年で医師ら [40% of doctors believe asbestos damage from the Great Hanshin Earthquake "will increase in the future," 30 years after occurrence].

Jun 18, 2024

Parents whose children attend a school in the commune of Amayé-sur-Orne in the northwest of France have broken the silence about the asbestos contamination of the unnamed school their children attend. The town hall is trying to keep this scandal under wraps but finally some of the parents have openly expressed concern over the hazard. Although the municipal authorities had prior knowledge of the contamination, no warnings were given to parents until May 14, 2024. See: L'école d'Amayé-sur-Orne contaminée par de l'amiante, les parents d'élèves s'inquiètent [The school in Amayé-sur-Orne contaminated by asbestos, parents of students are worried].

Jun 14, 2024

On June 11, 2024, the US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced that it had reached a $700 million settlement with 42 US states and Washington, D.C. The payout is intended to resolve charges that the company misled consumers into believing that the use of J&J’s talc-based products was safe. J&J did not admit wrongdoing. There are currently over 60,000 cancer claims from plaintiffs who allege their diseases were caused by asbestos fibers contained in the company’s talc-based baby powder. See: Johnson & Johnson reaches $700 million talc settlement with US states.

Jun 18, 2024

The news released last week that Russia’s Ministry of Health (MoH) was considering plans to recognize occupational cancers, including those caused by exposures to asbestos, as industrial diseases was as huge a surprise to ban asbestos campaigners as it was a shock to Russian vested interests. The consultation period was due to close yesterday (June 17, 2024). No doubt the MoH received angry complaints from Orenburg Minerals, Uralasbest and other asbestos stakeholders over the implicit threat to the substance at the heart of their enterprises. After all, if asbestos is hazardous enough to be on the authorized list of diseases caused by occupational exposures in Russia, then the industry propaganda which affirms that asbestos use is safe is patently untrue, as we all know it to be. [Read full article]

Jun 17, 2024

Late on June 11, 2024, Italy’s Supreme Court (the Court of Cassation) announced that it had overturned a decision by the Palermo Court of Appeal which had nullified a first-instance guilty verdict for the asbestos deaths of 39 shipyard workers and the serious injuries sustained by 11 other employees. The lower court had ruled that the negligence of executives Giuseppe Cortesi and Antonio Cipponeri had resulted in dangerous workplace asbestos exposures at the Fincantieri S.p.A. shipyard in Palermo in the 1980s. The Court of Appeal rejected this decision saying that exposure to asbestos at the company’s shipyard in Palermo had ceased in the early 1980s. The Supreme Court found the decision of the Appeal Court “erroneous” and ordered a new hearing. [Read full article]

Jun 5, 2024

I’d seen it with my own eyes but hadn’t believed it. However, in the aftermath of an explosive article on the news portal of Deutsche Welle, a German state-owned international broadcaster, I’m convinced. Last year, Brazil solidified its position as the number one supplier of asbestos to India, toppling Russia into second place. Russia’s reversal of fortunes was first observed in 2022 when Indian import data recorded 169,134 tonnes (t) from Brazil and 145,398t from Russia. The slide continued in 2023, with shipments of 160,720t of Brazilian asbestos to India. This news has repercussions that far transcend mere reals, rupees and rubles: let me explain. [Read full article]

Jun 3, 2024

“Sportswashing” is the latest weapon in the arsenal of tricks wielded by asbestos conglomerates to decontaminate corporate names sullied by decades of wanton behaviour, workforce deaths and environmental crimes. Around the world, former and current asbestos companies are attempting to restore their brands by a public relations sleight of hand, attaching their name to that of a popular team or sporting event. The contentious nature of this technique was confirmed last week by the reaction of sports fans in Parramatta, New South Wales who vociferously condemned a renewal of links between the local rugby team and James Hardie, formerly Australia’s largest asbestos conglomerate. [Read full article]

May 20, 2024

The leadership role of Australian campaigners in the struggle to eradicate the asbestos hazard in the Asia-Pacific region has not gone unnoticed. The latest newsletter (April 2024) issued by Uralasbest – Russia’s second biggest asbestos conglomerate – condemned Australia for its “sophisticated” efforts to “destroy the chrysotile (white) asbestos industry” via the UN’s Rotterdam Convention and its attempt “to add two negative paragraphs on chrysotile asbestos to the text of the Resolution on Chemicals” at the latest meeting of the UN Environment Assembly. This month’s Australian outreach project – a training initiative to build local medical capacity for the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related diseases in Laos and Vietnam – will almost certainly offend the Russians even more. [Read full article]

May 10, 2024

On May 7, 2024, the Government of Catalonia approved draft legislation to address the region’s deadly asbestos legacy. The Asbestos Eradication Bill, when it’s ratified by Parliament, will facilitate a timely and safe removal of asbestos from buildings and facilities. Commenting on the significance of this development, Catalonia’s President Pere Aragonès acknowledged “the commitment and involvement of civic and social entities, neighborhood associations, local governments and social agents, and various departments of the Government of Catalonia” which had led to the adoption of this landmark bill. One can but hope that the coalition of stakeholders praised by the President will continue to press for much-needed change; the sooner The Asbestos Eradication Bill becomes law, the better! [Read full article]

May 9, 2024

This article comprises the English translation of an open letter to the Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny, written by Italian journalist Silvana Mossano, whose husband Marco Giorcelli died from environmental asbestos exposures experienced in Casale Monferrato, his home town. Ms. Mossano has seen with her own eyes the dreadful repercussions of the asbestos manufacturing operations owned by Schmidheiny, who has been tried and convicted in multiple Italian courts for his role in this deadly epidemic. Ms Mossano’s letter is both heartfelt and well reasoned. It deserves to be read. [Read full article]

May 2, 2024

Italians were shocked to the core by the appearance of journalist Franco Di Mare on the Sunday night TV chatshow – Che tempo che fa (What's the weather like) – on April 28, 2024. Sixty-eight-year old Di Mare, who was speaking remotely, was shown using a respirator as he announced that he was seriously ill with the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. During a dramatic interview with Fabio Fazio, Di Mare laid bare the devastating impact of the disease and its poor prognosis: mesothelioma has, he said “a very long latency period and when it manifests itself it is too late.” Di Mare castigated the RAI TV channel, owned & operated by the Italian Government, for turning its back on him after his diagnosis. [Read full article]

May 1, 2024

As a result of a Supreme Court ruling, it will now become obligatory for all asbestos-containing products sold in Indonesia to feature warning labels in Bahasa, the country’s official language. This landmark decision was issued further to a petition submitted in December 2023 by the Independent Community Consumer Protection Institute, the Yasa Nata Budi Foundation – a consumer advocacy body – and the Local Initiative for OSH Network. Celebrating this victory, campaigner Muchamad Darisman said: “By granting our request, the Judges took a giant leap forward in safeguarding the lives not only of workers but also of members of the public and consumers. It is essential that the Government and all relevant authorities take prompt action to implement the Court’s ruling...” [Read full article]

Apr 29, 2024

Between 2009 – when the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) was founded – and 2023, global asbestos production fell from almost 2 million tonnes/t to 1,300,000t a year, a whopping 35% decline. There are many factors which adversely affected the asbestos industry’s bottom line during this time; the work of ABAN was one of them. On ABAN’s 15th year anniversary, its members take stock of what has been achieved by the journey which began in Hong Kong so many years ago and reaffirm their determination to continue the campaign to rid Asia of the scourge caused by the continuing use of asbestos. [Read full article]

Apr 24, 2024

Now in its 46th year of operations, the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) is more relevant than ever. Having had the privilege of catching up with ADSA colleagues during a recent trip to Western Australia (WA), it was clear that the Society’s staff were even busier than usual. During our stay in Perth, we were delighted on April 18, 2024, to learn that the much-hated “once and for all rule,” which had disadvantaged ADSA members by barring them from accepting provisional damages, had been overturned by the adoption of the Civil Liability Amendment (Provisional Damages for Dust Diseases) Bill 2024. Commenting on this momentous development, the ADSA’s CEO Melita Markey said: “asbestos and silicosis sufferers in WA will have the same legal rights as sufferers elsewhere in the country.” [Read full article]

Apr 19, 2024

Last month was the grand opening of a factory in the Sverdlovsk region of Russia. The Vestra plant which is owned by Uralasbest – Russia’s 2nd biggest asbestos mining conglomerate – is located conveniently near the group’s chrysotile (white) asbestos mine in the Urals’ monotown of Asbest. Although the nature of the “mineral dust” used in the facility remains unspecified, it is likely that it is material reclaimed from chrysotile asbestos mining waste. In due course, the toxic secret at the heart of this shiny new factory will be exposed. One can but hope that this day comes sooner rather than later. [Read full article]

Apr 16, 2024

On March 18, 2024 – more than 32 years after America’s first asbestos ban was vacated by a Louisiana Court of Appeals – the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed that the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos would be phased out with an immediate embargo on asbestos imports once the Final Rule on Asbestos Part 1; Chrysotile Asbestos; Regulation of Certain Conditions of Use Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (the Final Rule) was implemented. This long-awaited national ban will protect not only people in the US but those in other countries which decide that the time is right for them to also take unilateral action on the asbestos hazard. It is reassuring that, after all this time, the EPA is once again becoming a force for good. [Read full article]

Mar 12, 2024

On March 3, 2024, members of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) convened for the 2024 ABAN South Asia Strategy meeting. With its unique asbestos history, Sri Lanka was an appropriate venue for the meeting. In retaliation for plans to impose an asbestos ban in Sri Lanka, Russia embargoed tea imports from Sir Lanka. As a result, the asbestos ban was put on hold. Despite these setbacks, groups in Sri Lanka are progressing a range of efforts to minimize hazardous asbestos exposures. Commenting on the deliberations in Colombo, ABAN Coordinator Sugio Furuya highlighted: the high level of engagement exhibited by the attendees and the participation of a new generation of ban asbestos campaigners. [Read full article]

Mar 8, 2024

March 24, 2024 will be the 100th anniversary of the death of Nellie Kershaw, the first named victim of asbestos-related disease. Her story is paradigmatic of the experience of so many victims, abandoned to their fate once occupationally-contracted diseases made them unfit for work. Has much changed since Nellie Kershaw’s death 100 years ago? Thousands of Britons are still dying from asbestosis, the disease which killed Mrs. Kershaw, and asbestos cancers every year. The government’s refusal to address the contamination of the national infrastructure will ensure that in decades to come there will be many more people like Nellie Kershaw who experience ill health and premature death due to toxic exposures. A 100 years on, the human face of this tragedy may have changed but the problem remains the same. [Read full article]

Mar 4, 2024

Nearly ten years after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), in Strasbourg condemned Switzerland for its treatment of one asbestos victim, a ruling last month (February 2024) found that the same legal system was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) in its handling of a lawsuit brought by another asbestos plaintiff. Although there were differences in the cases, the ECHR’s response to the time-barred defense advanced by Switzerland’s legal team was the same; the need for “legal certainty and legal peace,” did not justify depriving asbestos claimants “of the chance to assert their rights before the courts.” [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 (2022)
(tonnes):
   Russia750,000
   Kazakhstan250,000
   Brazil197,000
   China130,000
    
 Top Five Users (2022)
(tonnes):
   India424,000
   China261,000
   Russia230,000
   Uzbekistan108,000
   Indonesia104,000