|►Korea: Asbestos Crackdown|
|Belarus: Asbestos and Lung Cancer|
|Spain: Asbestos Waste: A Toxic Legacy|
|Austria: Mesothelioma: Translational Research|
|Vietnam: Asbestos Alert|
|Russia: Asbestos Protest!|
Aug 4, 2020
Authorities in the South Korean Province of Gyeonggi will be cracking down on infringements of demolition industry asbestos regulations and the illegal disposal of asbestos waste between August 10 and 28, 2020 according to an announcement on August 4 by the Gyeonggi-do Special Judicial Police Agency. Unlike previous investigations in cities such as Anseong and Siheung, this initiative will target illegal operations throughout the province. At least 4,000 structures in Gyeonggi contain asbestos according to government figures released in June 2020. See: 특사경, 폐석면 무단투기·매립 등 불법 처리행위 집중 수사 [Investigation of illegal handling activities such as special shipments, illegal dumping and recycling of asbestos waste].
Aug 4, 2020
In a press release issued by the Ministry of Health of Belarus to mark World Lung Cancer Day on August 1, the increase in the incidence of lung cancer in Russia was blamed on multiple factors including tobacco smoking, air pollution and exposure to asbestos. Russia had the 24th highest rate of lung cancer in men in 2018 with an age-standardised rate of 48.2 per 100,000. As the world’s biggest producer of chrysotile (white) asbestos, thousands of workers routinely experience occupational exposures to asbestos, an acknowledged cause of lung cancer. See: 1 августа - Всемирный день борьбы с раком легких [August 1 – World Lung Cancer Day].
Aug 4, 2020
Last week, the Spanish trade union Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) denounced the widespread dumping of asbestos waste and condemned local authorities for failing to address this public health problem. In the union’s press release, they highlighted illegal dumping of asbestos-cement debris in the southern part of Madrid, and especially in Pinto and Getafe. The CCOO called for the implementation of “strict protocols” to prevent the fly-tipping and urged that local government make this a priority issue. See: Comisiones Obreras alerta sobre el peligro de vertidos de amianto en Pinto [Workers' Commissions warns of the danger of asbestos spills in Pinto].
Aug 4, 2020
A paper in the July 2020 issue of the American Journal Clinical Cancer Research by researchers from the Medical University of Vienna (see: Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase Promoter Mutations Identify a Genomically Defined and Highly Aggressive Human Pleural Mesothelioma Subgroup) provided new prognostic information and suggested targeted treatment strategies for patients with an aggressive and genetically distinct form of malignant pleural mesothelioma. The researchers discovered a mechanism responsible for reactivating the TERT gene – excess production of which activates the telomerase enzyme which promotes growth of cancer cells. See: Researchers identify targeted treatment strategy for malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Jul 31, 2020
A feature article in a Vietnam news outlet last Sunday (July 26, 2020), highlighted the occupational and public health hazard posed by exposure to asbestos in Vietnam, stating that: “The cancer rate of workers exposed to asbestos was 1.8 times higher than that of non-exposed workers.” Citing copious medical evidence and scientific findings about the human health hazard posed by asbestos exposures, the author of this article pointed out the risk posed to people living near asbestos-processing factories. Unfortunately, misinformation is also included in the text which alleged that asbestos when incorporated into asbestos-cement was not “harmful.” See: Nguy cơ chết người từ bụi khí amiăng [Deadly risk from asbestos].
Jul 31, 2020
During a July 29, 2020 fact-finding trip of Mikhail Degtyarev – Acting Governor of Khabarovsk Krai (one of Russia’s largest territorial units) – residents of Komsomolsk City mounted a protest outside the town hall over the health hazard posed by their living in asbestos-riddled apartments in the “Berlin” neighborhood. The demonstrators asked for the Governor’s intervention in helping them secure alternative accommodation, free from asbestos, rats and fleas. The toxic properties were constructed as temporary housing for builders in the 1980s; much of the material used came from Germany. See: Жители Комсомольска-на-Амуре пожаловались Дегтяреву на крыс и асбест [Residents of Komsomolsk-on-Amur complained to Degtyarev about rats and asbestos].
Jul 31, 2020
Former employees of the Matra firm, based in Romorantin, Central France, have formed an association in collaboration with the CGT trade union to support asbestos victims and campaign for the recognition and compensation of their occupational illnesses. In November, 2019, the Primary Health Insurance Fund recognized the asbestos-related disease of a former Matra employee as occupationally caused. During its heyday, the company had been involved in the manufacture of cars, bicycles, aeronautics and weaponry. See: Romorantin: l’amiante, nouveau combat pour les ex-Matra [Romorantin: asbestos, a new fight for the ex-Matra (workers)].
Jul 31, 2020
Another member of the staff of the University of Montreal (UoM) has succumbed to an occupationally-caused asbestos-related disease. Computer scientist Yves Charland died, aged 73, on November 10, 2019 from the signature asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. For 20 years, he had worked in the physics department in a building insulated with asbestos and where asbestos removal work took place from 2011 to 2014. Three other employees of the UoM also contracted mesothelioma from workplace exposures: former secretary Sandra Ohayon, emeritus professor of sociology Jean Renaud and a deceased janitor employed at UoM from 1966 to 1968. See: L’amiante derrière la mort d’un ex-employé de l’UdeM, selon la CNESST [Asbestos behind the death of a former UoM employee, according to the CNESST].
Jul 29, 2020
In a scathing verdict handed down in the High Court on July 27, 2020, which lambasted the behaviour of legal advisors working for the Ministry of Defence, Judge Allan Gore QC found for the widow of shipyard worker Bhanu Sivaji who died in 2015 from mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure at the Sembawang naval dockyard in Singapore between 1953 and 1968. Mr. Sivaji’s place of work had been operated by the Ministry of Defence. The Judge, who was highly critical of the delays in bringing the case to court and the elevated legal costs which ensued, granted the Claimant’s applications to amend the Particulars of Claim and the Claim Form. See: Shiji SIVAJI vs. Ministry of Defence.
Jul 29, 2020
On Saturday night (July 25, 2020) scores of local people took part in a public rally in the “most neglected district” of Zadar, Croatia to protest the depositing of 78 tonnes of asbestos in their town. The asbestos had been stripped from a training ship, the Glaleb – formerly the official yacht of the late President of Yugoslavia Marshall Tito – and dumped in the town between May 6 and June 18, 2020 from the port of Rijeka. Another demonstration is being planned for Saturday, August 1, at 9 a.m. during which participants will walk through the town demanding their right to live a life free from toxic exposures. See: AZBEST U DVORIŠTU Hocemo igralište, a ne otrov! [ASBESTOS IN THE YARD We want a playground, not poison!].
Jul 29, 2020
A July 24, 2020 article reported that Portugal’s Education Minister Tiago Brandão Rodrigues reconfirmed a June 2020 promise that the government would pay 100% of all asbestos removal costs to decontaminate the country’s schools; a budget of €60 million had been allocated for this work. Municipal and regional authorities will not be expected, said the Minister, to contribute to the costs of the remediation effort. According to Rodrigues although 450,000 square meters of asbestos had been removed from school premises over the last four years "there is much more to be done.” See: Ministro da Educação diz que Governo pagará 100% da retirada do amianto das escolas [Education Minister says Government will pay 100% of cost for asbestos removal from schools].
Jul 29, 2020
On July 24, 2020, Quebec’s Office of Public Hearings on the Environment announced that its report on the investigation into “The inventory and management of asbestos and asbestos mining residues” had been submitted to the Minister of the Environment Benoit Charrette and would be uploaded to the internet within 15 days. The objective of the enquiry was to assess a multiplicity of asbestos-related issues in Quebec with a focus on their impact on public and occupational health. After so many years of denial and obfuscation, asbestos activists await the report with a good deal of trepidation. See: Amiante: le rapport du BAPE rendu public d’ici 15 jours [Asbestos: the BAPE report to be made public within 15 days].
Jul 27, 2020
In an online article about unusual but rewarding tourist destinations in Russia, a visit to the Uralasbest asbestos mining town in the Urals comes highly recommended. Guided tours of the eight kilometer wide quarry, the factory and the museum are organized by the company. Reading like a corporate press release, the article reported that: “The Ural enterprise is one of the largest and oldest producers of chrysotile asbestos in the world,” accounting for 21% of annual global output and 41% of Russian output every year. Eighty per cent of Russian chrysotile production is exported. See: Туристам расскажут, кем работал на уральском заводе президент Тайваня [Tourists will be told about when the Taiwan President worked at the Ural plant].
Jul 27, 2020
Last week, BASF SE – the world’s biggest chemical maker – and the New York-based law firm of Cahill, Gordon & Reindel LLP agreed to jointly pay a combined $72.5 million to settle claims that they had hidden evidence that certain talc products, sourced from the company’s talc mine in Vermont, had contained asbestos, in an effort to defeat thousands of lawsuits, according to papers filed in a federal court in New Jersey. The total value of the agreement is almost $100 million when legal fees and others costs are added. See: BASF, Cahill Law Firm to Pay $72.5 Million in Talc-Scam Deal.
Jul 27, 2020
The Commission for the Eradication of Asbestos in Catalonia, established in 2019 to address the region’s multiple asbestos challenges, met for the second time in July, 2020 to agree on a plan of action for 2020-21 as part of a coordinated program to make the territory asbestos-free by 2032. In the short-term, the Commission will develop an asbestos hazard training plan for public administration staff, work to raise public asbestos awareness via the development of online resources, and prioritize the removal of asbestos-containing products from schools. See: Aprovat el Pla nacional per a l’erradicació de l’amiant de Catalunya per al 2032 [Approval of the National Plan for the Eradication of Asbestos in Catalonia by 2032].
Jul 27, 3030
It was announced last week that Toni Fleming had been appointed to fill a new post for a specialist nurse in the asbestos cancer hotspot of East Kent. Nurse Fleming – who has a background in the treatment of lung cancer and mesothelioma patients – was named the Mesothelioma UK clinical nurse specialist for East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust. This post is being fully funded for a period of two years by the Mavis Nye Foundation, set up in 2017 by the UK’s longest surviving mesothelioma patient. See: New asbestos-related cancer nurse specialist for East Kent.
July 10, 2020
On July 8, 2020, a press release by the US organization Black Women for Wellness (BWW) announced the worldwide mobilization of civil society groups over continuing sales of talc-based Johnson & Johnson (J&J) baby powder which has been found, on multiple occasions by government and independent analysts, to contain asbestos. This initiative came a week after Janette Robinson Flint – BWW’s Executive Director – had sent a letter to J&J’s CEO denouncing the company’s “systemic racism” and aggressive marketing of its toxic talc “to women of color, distributing free samples in Black churches and advertising on Spanish-language radio.” The public outcry over the company’s behaviour and adverse legal developments are discussed in this article. [Read full article]
May 28, 2020
Under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) issued a statement saying it was withdrawing its iconic talc-based baby powder – which is at the center of thousands of US legal claims over asbestos-caused cancers – from sale in North America. The news about J&J’s desertion of its signature product – which had been in constant production since 1894 and was sold worldwide – was reported not only in the US and Canada but throughout the world. Health and safety campaigners from India, Brazil, Korea and elsewhere have denounced the implied double standards of this action saying lives outside North America are equally at risk from the use of J&J’s asbestos-contaminated talc-based baby powder. [Read full article]
May 25, 2020
Ban asbestos campaigners and representatives of asbestos victims’ groups from around the world have today issued a press release deploring the double standards of the U.S. pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson which has announced it was withdrawing sales of talcum-based baby powder – alleged to contain asbestos fibers – in the U.S. and Canada whilst continuing to sell it elsewhere. “This is,” said grassroots activist Mohit Gupta “one more example of corporations putting profit before the lives of people. Instead of replacing the toxic baby powder with one free of asbestos in India, as they are doing in North America, they are just pushing sales of this hazardous product in a market with weak regulatory mechanisms, few testing guidelines and low consumer awareness.” [Read full article]
Apr 24, 2020
Groups representing asbestos victims and campaigners from Brazil, Europe and Asia have today written to the Governor of Brazil’s former asbestos mining state expressing support for his pro-active stance on COVID-19 and urging him to adopt the same precautionary principle to the human health hazard posed by chrysotile (white) asbestos. The authors of the text represent organizations behind the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil 2019 which called on civil society associations, politicians, civil servants, concerned citizens and members of the judiciary to support the universality of the 2017 Supreme Court decision outlawing the production, sale and use of asbestos in face of plans to recommence asbestos mining in Goiás State (Portuguese version of full article). [Read full article]
Mar 30, 2020
In these unprecedented times, populations the world over have been confronted with a terrifying new reality that has unravelled daily routines, reordered national priorities and thrown into disarray virtually every aspect of human life. In the UK, the country with the world’s worst incidence of asbestos cancer, the treatment of patients with mesothelioma – the signature asbestos cancer – as well as other asbestos-related cancers and respiratory diseases was disrupted as hospitals geared up to prepare for the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. Showing a breath-taking ability to adapt to changing circumstances, UK asbestos victim support groups and charities began devising ways to continue serving their communities, some of which are discussed in this article. [Read full article]
Mar 4, 2020
Recent developments in the US suggest that talcs analyzed with transmission electron microscopy can commonly be found to contain asbestos fibers. If so, the use of these products as baby powders and cosmetic powders should be stopped immediately. The long-time failure of government regulators in the US and Europe to protect the public from asbestos in talc consumer products has led to deadly exposures which could and should have been avoided. The recent finding of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder by the US Food and Drug Administration suggests that analysis of products being sold to the public in all countries urgently needs to be done using the electron microscopy method of analysis. [Read full article]
Feb 14, 2020
Groups representing asbestos victims in Brazil and Asia have joined international campaigners to denounce moves by Eternit S.A., formerly Brazil’s largest asbestos conglomerate, to temporarily restart asbestos processing in Goiás State in order to export 24,000 tonnes of asbestos to Asian countries. Commenting on this matter, President Eliezer João de Souza of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed said: “It is an abomination that Eternit should try and avoid the Supreme Court ban to inflict more toxic fiber on unsuspecting workers and communities in Asia.” Campaigner Sugio Furuya, representing the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, hopes “common sense will prevail and that all exports will be suspended.” (Portuguese version of full article.) [Read full article]
Feb 10, 2020
As a result of a remarkable partnership of asbestos victims, health professionals and civil servants, an asbestos outreach initiative in São Paulo, Brazil celebrated its second anniversary in December 2019. Funds for this pioneering project were sourced from a court fine imposed on Brazil’s former asbestos giant Eternit, S.A. for non-compliance with a legal agreement made with the Federal Public Ministry of Labor (4th Region). Since 2017, the clinic has identified 143 patients with asbestos-related diseases of which 92% were males; 57% had worked for Eternit (in the Osasco plant), 25% for Brasilit, 7% for Precon and 11% for other companies. [Read full article]
Jan 30, 2020
A press release issued on January 30, 2020 by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform called on the French Government to ensure that a former French vessel, which was sold to the Brazilian Navy in 2000 and renamed the São Paulo, is disposed of according to the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements and Disposal of Hazardous Waste and not sold to the highest bidder who would, in all likelihood, scrap the vessel on a South Asian ship-breaking beach. The vessel contains a large amount of hazardous substances including 900 tonnes of asbestos and asbestos-containing material. See also press release issued in September 2019 in which these matters were also highlighted. [Read full article]
Jan 28, 2020
A small victory was achieved on January 24, 2020 in the long-standing battle to get justice for thousands of Italian asbestos victims when a Court in Vercelli in northern Italy ordered that Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, former owner of the Swiss Eternit asbestos group, face charges of voluntary murder (“omicidio volontario”) for the asbestos-related deaths of almost 400 people from the town of Casale Monferrato, the site of an Eternit asbestos-cement factory. The trial was scheduled to begin on November 27, 2020. Legal actions against the same defendant are also being pursued in other Italian jurisdictions over asbestos-related deaths of Eternit employees and local residents. [Read full article]
In the decades spanning the occurrence of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and the Australian Bushfire Crisis of 2020, the release of asbestos fibers has been identified as a post-disaster hazard on multiple occasions. In an interview with IBAS this month (January, 2020), Emeritus Professor Ken Takahashi – formerly a Professor and Director at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan and currently the Director of the (Australian) Asbestos Diseases Research Institute – highlighted areas of concern for affected populations, emergency responders, clean-up crews, Ministers, civil servants and government agencies – calling for a coordinated, long-term approach to the potential health consequences of the fallout from the fires. [Read full article]
Jan 17, 2020
As Pakistan’s Supreme Court considers litigation regarding the legality of asbestos use, a 7 page letter (Jan. 13, 2020) by the Collegium Ramazzini – an international society dedicated to protecting human health – highlighted the significance of the Court’s deliberations and reminded the Judges that: “In January 2013, the Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Resource Development recommended that Pakistan ban the import and use of chrysotile asbestos.” That decision was attacked by the International Chrysotile Association, a body representing the interests of asbestos stakeholders. Evidence submitted in the current case detailed the asbestos policies of international agencies, all of which agree that asbestos should be prohibited to protect health. [Read full article]
Dec 19, 2019
A shortened version of this paper was presented at the annual International Asbestos Safety Conference held by Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency on November 12, 2019 at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Center. The presentation by IBAS Coordinator Laurie Kazan-Allen noted progress made throughout the year in the global struggle for asbestos justice, highlighted ongoing challenges faced by campaigners and detailed the dirty tricks, intimidatory tactics and fake news used by asbestos vested interests to forestall national governments from acting on the asbestos hazard. New maps, bar charts, and illustrations were shown emphasizing the threat to Asian populations of increasing asbestos consumption. [Read full article]
Dec 11, 2019
In the 35 years since an Asbestos Awareness Week was first recognized in Australia, it has become a calendar fixture with asbestos victims’ groups, charities, government agencies and institutions around the country holding information sessions, remembrances ceremonies and outreach events to raise the profile of asbestos during November. Due to the widespread usage of asbestos-containing material in Western Australia, the State has the country’s highest incidence of asbestos diseases. Last month (November), a series of events took place in WA to educate citizens, engage stakeholders and support the injured. This article describes some of those events. [Read full article]
Oct 21, 2019
Decades after it was created, the work entitled Asbestos: The Lungs of Capitalism (1978) was being readied for installation by staff at the Tate. On October 16, 2019, British-born artist Conrad Atkinson was in London to supervise the installation of this piece acquired by the museum in 2007. The fact that the constituent parts included asbestos necessitated both remediation and conservation work; as per health and safety regulations, some of the elements were sealed in Perspex boxes to make the asbestos items safe to handle. This article discussed the impact this work made on the author and urged the Tate – in light of an ongoing asbestos epidemic killing 5,000 Britons every year – to ensure that it be exhibited at the earliest possible opportunity. [Read full article]
Oct 2, 2019
In Minas Gerais, the Brazilian state with the country’s highest incidence of the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma, a remarkable grassroots initiative took place last week. A mobile CT scanner and medical personnel from the Barretos Cancer Hospital, Belo Horizonte State arrived in the city of São José da Lapa on September 22, 2019 to examine former and current employees of the Precon company – formerly a manufacturer of asbestos-cement building products – and other asbestos-using companies. Precon had consistently denied the potential hazard posed to workers by exposures to asbestos and the municipal authorities have turned a blind eye to the town’s high incidence of asbestos cancer. [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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