International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Jul 30, 2014

In June 2014, the Belfast High Court awarded compensation for pleural plaques (pp) to a widow whose husband was exposed to asbestos as an employee at Harland and Wolff and Royal Mail Group. This was the first NI pp claim following the passage of the Damages (Asbestos Related Conditions) Act (NI) 2011. The deceased, who died in 2013 aged 74, did not die of an asbestos-related disease. As a result of NI legislation, the NI courts – unlike those in England or Wales – regard pp as a “statutory personal injury for which damages can and should be awarded if the plaintiff proves fault against the defendant.” See: June 27, 2014 McCauley Judgment.

Jul 28, 2014

Opposition to Vietnam’s continued use of asbestos, a known carcinogen, is increasing daily. An article appeared today in the online English language VietNamNet.Bridge news outlet which highlighted the fact that the asbestos policy of Vietnam, a member of the World Health Organization (WHO), contradicts WHO advice and international trends. The article cited the opinion of Dr Le Van Trinh, Deputy Chair of the Vietnam Labor Safety Association who believes that “it is necessary to stop using asbestos in production and daily life as soon as possible.” See: Vietnam ignores scientists’ warnings about asbestos use.

Jul 28, 2014

Misinformation quoted by chrysotile asbestos stakeholders from Zimbabwe alleging that the World Health Organization (WHO) supports the “controlled use of asbestos,” included in a position paper published two months ago have led the WHO to take action, according to a letter authorized last week by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “WHO’s policy on asbestos, all forms, is unequivocal,” it stated. See: World Health Organization asks Zimbabwe to correct its misrepresentation of the WHO position on asbestos.

Jul 25, 2014

High Court judge Mr Justice Bean has ordered the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to pay the family of Sally Knauer the sum of £650,000 for her death from mesothelioma contracted from exposure to asbestos at her workplace – Guy's Marsh Prison – between 1997 and 2007. The administrator died aged 46 in August 2009, just five months after being diagnosed with the asbestos cancer. The MoJ was sued for failing to protect Mrs. Knauer from hazardous exposure to asbestos; it admitted liability in 2013 but contested the compensation award. See: Husband of Gillingham woman killed by cancer after asbestos exposure at Guy's Marsh Prison receives £650,000.

Jul 25, 2014

The Milan Public Prosecutor has accused Paolo Cantarella and Giorgio Garuzzo, respectively, former CEO and former chairman of Fiat Auto, and four other former Alfa Romeo managers of manslaughter for the asbestos-related deaths of 15 workers caused by hazardous conditions at the Alfa Romeo factory in Arese, on the outskirts of Milan. Court proceedings will begin on November 5, 2014.See: Amianto, Cantarella e altri ex manager Alfa a processo per i 15 operai morti ad Arese [Asbestos, Cantarella and other former managers at the Alfa Romeo factory charged with the asbestos deaths of 15 workers in Arese].

Jul 25, 2014

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health is backing plans to add asbestos to the country’s list of prohibited toxic chemicals. Asbestos is mostly used to produce asbestos-cement (AC) construction materials in Vietnam. Thirty-six AC manufacturers produce 100Mm2 of roofing sheets per year. Vietnam is one of Asia’s biggest asbestos users and the country’s asbestos industrial sector backed by foreign stakeholders is aggressively lobbying the government to allow consumption to continue even though a national program to devise asbestos-free technologies has been successful. See: Vietnam considers ban on asbestos in fibre cement boards.

Jul 24, 2014

In a 48-page verdict, the European Court of Human Rights has today (July 24, 2014) unanimously ruled that the Government of Malta had, between 1968 and 2003, failed to protect ship repair yard workers from exposure to asbestos in the case of Brincat and Others v. Malta. The infringements for which the government was condemned were: violating Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and violating Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the Convention. The Maltese Government was ordered to pay compensation to the claimants. See: Brincat and Others v. Malta.

Jul 24, 2014

This has been a bad summer for asbestos magnate Stephan Schmidheiny. A court announced he had been charged with the “voluntary [asbestos] manslaughter” of 213 Italians. Swiss companies, successors to Schmidheiney’s Eternit Asbestos Group, have lost a multimillion dollar asbestos case in the U.S. Nowadays, much of the Schmidheiny fortune is tied up with AVINA, a “philanthropic” institution engaged in whitewashing his reputation in Spain and elsewhere. See: Stephan Schmidheiny, el magnate del amianto y financiador de AVINA, ha tenido un verano aciago [The fateful summer of asbestos magnate and AVINA backer Stephan Schmidheiny].

Jul 24, 2014

Asbestos defendants employ standard legal arguments to defeat personal injury asbestos claims. The most favoured stratagems are discussed in a two-part paper by attorney Christopher Meisenkocthen published in the journal New Solutions. The author looks at: “the supposed harmlessness of chrysotile asbestos… so-called idiopathic mesothelioma… the pernicious notions of safe exposure thresholds for asbestos and the unreliability of Tyndall lighting.” See: The Four Most Pernicious Myths in Asbestos Litigation: Part I. Safe Chrysotile and Idiopathic Mesothelioma and Part II. Safe Thresholds for Exposure and Tyndall Lighting as Junk Science.

Jul 22, 2014

A letter faxed on July 21, 2014 to the Thai authorities by representatives of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat is today (July 22) featured in an online article on a Thai website. In the run-up to a crucial meeting in August 2014, the letter, which was translated into Thai (see: English version of letter), urges the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order General Prayut Chanocha to support the April 2011 decision by the Thai Government to ban the import of asbestos on the grounds of public health – to avoid a tsunami of avoidable and deadly disease. See: International Calls for Thai asbestos ban.

Jul 22, 2014

A scandal is unfolding in the Indian State of Maharashtra involving personnel from an asbestos company, private doctors, factory inspectors and state authorities. For 15 years, 34-year old Yogesh Sawant had worked with asbestos in the Ashadeep Frictions Ltd. factory. When he fell ill, he was examined by company doctors who assured him that he was fine. At the end of 2013, he was seen by experts from the Union Ministry of Labour. He and co-worker Manoj Saroj were confirmed to be suffering from asbestosis; they are the first individuals with this condition to be recognized in the State. See: They lied to me for 15 years of my life, says asbestosis-afflicted labourer.

Jul 22, 2014

Basque courts are issuing increasing numbers of victims’ judgments in asbestos cases; more than 208 cases of asbestos death have been recognized in the Basque region. The highest court fine awarded was €410,150 (US$550,000) for the family of a construction worker who died in 2012 from mesothelioma contracted from occupational asbestos exposure. Having highlighted the role higher awards have on improving occupational health and safety, asbestos victims’ groups are calling for the establishment of a compensation fund to speed-up payments to the injured. See: Las sanciones por amianto se disparan en el País Vasco [Penalties for asbestos soar in the Basque Country].

Jul 21, 2014

The core of this July 20th feature in a major Canadian newspaper is the tragic case of mesothelioma victim Dr. Patricia Martens, a senior research scientist at the Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, who was routinely exposed to asbestos as a student. According to Canadian experts, the hazards of accidental exposures to asbestos remain in a national infrastructure riddled with asbestos. While government agencies say that the dangers can be safely managed, trade unionists disagree: “All you have to do is knock a chair into the wall if it’s got asbestos, even though it’s intact [and] it’s never been disturbed … now it’s been disturbed. That’s all it takes.” See: The case against asbestos.

Jul 21, 2014

The discovery by university geologists of naturally occurring asbestos at a site earmarked for development has postponed work on a $490m highway bypass in Boulder City, Colorado. Construction scheduled to begin in Spring 2014 was delayed to allow for asbestos testing and analysis; results are expected in August 2014. In the absence of federal regulations for dealing with naturally occurring asbestos, states are expected to devise rules based on Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines. Nevada does not have any such regulations. See: Asbestos proves to be a microscopic road block near Boulder City.

Jul 21, 2014

A seminar entitled “How Asbestos Affects Health” took place in Hanoi on July 17, 2014; the event was organized by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the World Health Organization (WHO). Having detailed the health consequences of human asbestos exposures, the Vietnamese guidelines to protect occupational health were explained by Ministry of Health officials. Despite WHO advice that the best way to prevent asbestos-related diseases was a total ban on its use, since 2000 Vietnam has imported, on average, 6,000 tons of asbestos per year, most of which is incorporated into asbestos-cement products. See: Asbestos may cause harmful health: WHO.

Jul 18, 2014

Two Swiss companies, which have inherited the asbestos liabilities of Stephan Schmidheiny’s Eternit Asbestos Group, are disputing a $90.5m judgment handed down by a U.S. Court. Anova Holding AG and Becon AG have told journalists that the Swiss legal system will not uphold this judgment as neither company has traded in the U.S. and as such did not mount a defense against the charges brought in the New Jersey Court on behalf of 11 bereaved families. See: Schmidheiny, 90 milioni alle vittime [Schmidheiny, $90 million to victims].

Jul 30, 2014

Asbestos victims in Latin America have joined with colleagues in Asia to call for the immediate banning of asbestos use following a landmark decision by the European Court of Human Rights which on July 24, 2014 affirmed the right of workers to live a life free of deadly exposures to asbestos. In an open letter published today on the website of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, asbestos consuming companies and governments are asked: “Can You Afford Cheap Asbestos?” “There are,” the letter states “no excuses or defences for guilty parties… inaction on the asbestos threat is no longer an option.” [Read full article]

Jul 24, 2014

On July 22, 2014, a new initiative was mounted in the center of the Korean capital to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard amongst people in the construction sector. The event, which was attended by 30,000 workers, was organized by the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea in collaboration with the School of Public Health of Seoul National University and the national construction union. Construction workers constitute the majority of people diagnosed with asbestos diseases in Korea. Due to an inbuilt unfairness in government protocols, the majority of the injured are grossly undercompensated. Participants heard calls for improved conditions and salary uplifts for those in the construction sector. [Read full article]

Jul 23, 2014

Cyril Smith, the MP who represented Rochdale from 1972 to 1992, stands condemned as “a predatory paedophile and a prolific offender who would target the most vulnerable boys.” Allegations of sexual abuse and political cover-ups seem to be surfacing on an almost daily basis and prompt questions of how such a high-profile figure was able to escape justice for so long. A less well-known unsavory fact about the MP was his close, some might say intimate, association with the UK asbestos giant: Turner and Newall Ltd. Not only did Smith own 1,300 T&N shares, but he addressed company directors by their first names, had dinners with them and willingly connived to progress the corporate agenda. [Read full article]

Jul 17 2014

The annual seminar of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group took place in London on July 16 hours before a memorial service for MP Paul Goggins, a renowned campaigner for the rights of asbestos victims. The afternoon session featured presentations covering legal, medical and political issues. Coming less than a fortnight after Action Mesothelioma Day had highlighted the devastation caused by the national asbestos catastrophe, the human dimension of the epidemic of avoidable cancers and respiratory diseases was at the forefront of delegates’ minds. As a leading UK medical researcher told delegates, the UK mesothelioma epidemic was a “health emergency.” [Read full article]

Jul 14, 2014

A risk assessment produced by Industrial Hygienist Robin Howie examines the health hazards to residents of the Anderson Tower in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, a large town south east of Glasgow. The block of flats was evacuated on July 3, 2014 by North Lanarkshire Council, after asbestos fibres were liberated during repair work by Scottish Power. The Council believes that “any risk is extremely low. Asbestos generally poses a health risk through exposure over a long period in high concentrations. What we have found is small areas of settled dust.” Mr. Howie, however, has other thoughts on the matter. [Read full article]

Jul 9 2014

Twenty-five years ago this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States signalled its intention to protect American citizens from the deadly workplace hazard posed by asbestos. On July 12, 1989, the EPA issued the final ruling which banned the use of most asbestos-containing products. A fortnight later the U.S. Asbestos Ban and Phase-out Rule (ABPR) was promulgated. Unfortunately, an aggressive assault by Canadian and U.S vested interests put paid to the phase-out; as a result of legal action the ABPR was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on October 18, 1991. [Read full article]

Jul 4, 2014

Throughout the UK, activities took place on July 4, 2014 – Action Mesothelioma Day – to raise public awareness of a disease which is killing more people every year. A report by Hilda Palmer, from the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group, highlighted the participation of asbestos victims, family members, campaigners, and politicians, all of whom demanded that funding be made available for research into the treatment of and possible cures for the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. A dove release, a public rally in the city center and a packed meeting in Manchester Town Hall attracted widespread attention and support and a great deal of press interest. [Read full article]

Jul 4, 2014

On Brazil’s national day of justice (August 11, 2014), retired Labor Inspector and leader of the Brazilian movement to ban asbestos Fernanda Giannasi will be honoured when she is awarded the country’s highest distinction: the Order of Judicial Merit for Labor in Brasilia. The decision to bestow this honor upon her was taken by the Ministers of the Higher Labour Court in recognition of her “tireless work to ban asbestos in Brazil.” It is no exaggeration to say that Fernanda and her colleagues at the asbestos victims’ group ABREA have revolutionized the asbestos debate in Brazil. [Read full article]

Jul 3, 3014

The Rajasthan Majdoor Panchayat Sangh and the Occupational Health and Safety Association, Ahmedabad in collaboration with the Occupational Health and Safety Centre, Mumbai and the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India held a two-day Diagnosis Camp in Rajasthan State in western India on June 19-20, 2014. The medical camp, which was supported by the Global Greengrant Fund, was organized to screen mine and quarry workers for cases of silicosis. Many of the people examined had worked in the stone quarries in and around the village. These quarries produce a soap stone which is contaminated with asbestos. [Read full article]

Jun 24, 2014

The publication of a new resource on the history of the asbestos industry is of import to campaigners engaged in the struggle to ban asbestos. The translation into English of a German book about Switzerland’s industrial legacy “fills an important gap in our knowledge of asbestos.” This review by British historian Geoffrey Tweedale of the English version of The Asbestos Lie commends the new text as well-written, easy to read and excellently translated. It is, he writes, “a significant contribution to our knowledge of the European asbestos industry.” [Read full article]

Jun 17, 2014

When the 2014 Football World Cup was awarded to Brazil, the world’s fourth biggest asbestos producer, ban asbestos campaigners had serious concerns about whether asbestos would be used in the construction of the venues and ancillary buildings. According to a well-informed source, asbestos was not used to build the stadiums. Unfortunately, however, the widespread destruction of asbestos-contaminated buildings on development sites has created an environmental hazard that continues to endanger workers and members of the public. Due to the top secret nature of all World Cup issues, neither the federal nor the football authorities have been willing to discuss these issues. [Read full article]

Jun 4, 2014

Concern has been raised about the possible exposure of schoolchildren in the UK and elsewhere to asbestos contained in World War I and World War II artefacts in the run-up to key anniversaries. After a sustained campaign by activists, the UK government finally issued categorical warnings to British education departments about the danger of handling vintage gas masks and helmets which could contain blue (crocidolite) or white (chrysotile) asbestos. Historical documents about these issues from Porton Down and the Imperial War Museum are cited and uploaded in conjunction with this article. [Read full article]

May 19, 2014

On May 15, 2014 more than 5,000 people took part in a public rally in support of Japanese asbestos-injured construction workers. The date chosen was significant as it was the day when cases were filed with the Tokyo and Yokohama District Courts in the second wave of what has become known as the “metropolitan asbestos litigation.” The 160+ asbestos claimants, who included injured workers and the families of deceased workers, alleged that the Japanese government as well as asbestos product manufacturers were responsible for their injuries. The litigants are seeking recognition, compensation and the establishment of a nationwide asbestos program to prevent hazardous exposures. [Read full article]

May 15, 2014

On May 7, 2014 at a prestigious ceremony in an iconic Brazilian museum in São Paulo, the work of veteran ban asbestos activist and former labor inspector Fernanda Giannasi was publicly commemorated when she was presented with an award for excellence by the editors of CIPA Magazine, a widely read publication focusing on issues related to occupational health and safety. The choice of venue for this celebration was ironic given that when the museum was due to reopen after extensive refurbishment some years ago, an art installation was interdicted by Ms. Giannasi as it contained corrugated asbestos sheeting. [Read full article]

May 12, 2014

Last week, 100 delegates from 41 countries took part in an International Asbestos Conference organized by the Building and Woodworkers International in collaboration with the Industriall Global Union, the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. The agenda of the two-day conference reflected the international dichotomy whereby asbestos use is banned throughout the developed world but remains legal in industrializing economies. A range of topics was covered by frontline activists and world-class experts; delegates participated in productive discussion and strategy sessions. A detailed report on this event will follow in due course. [Read full article]

May 7, 2014

The text of this paper formed the basis for a presentation made on May 6, 2014 at the International Trade Union Conference on Asbestos in Vienna, Austria organized by the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI), the Industriall Global Union, the Austrian trade Union GBH and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). In her comments, IBAS Coordinator Laurie Kazan-Allen considered progress made since the BWI announced its support for a global asbestos ban in 1989. Having described successful strategies and initiatives pioneered in ban and non-ban countries, she proposed specific measures which could achieve an end to the needless asbestos slaughter. [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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