International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Apr 16, 2014

The Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos Related Disease Victims and their Families has reported the deaths of people who had worked at recycling sites where asbestos-contaminated hemp bags were processed; family members of these workers and local residents have also died from exposure to the asbestos generated at this site. Ten deaths have been recorded in the city of Sakai from asbestos-related cancers. The situation at similar recycling plants in Tokyo, Fukuoka Prefecture and Saitama Prefecture remains to be clarified. See: 10 people in hemp sack recycling centers reportedly dead from asbestos-related sickness.

Apr 15, 2014

In a landmark decision handed down on April 9 by Santiago’s 2nd District Labor Court, a plaintiff’s verdict was issued to mesothelioma victim Raul Olivares who had previously been employed by the Pizarreño company. Until then Pizarreño had never had damages awarded against it for failure to protect its workforce from the hazards of asbestos exposure. Compensation of US$100,126 was awarded; it is believed that thousands of additional asbestos cases could be brought by workers and/or members of the public. See: Pizarreño deberá indemnizar a trabajador que sufre cáncer por asbesto [Pizarreño must compensate workers suffering asbestos cancer].

Apr 15, 2014

Following the untimely death of Eternit S.A.’s long-term President Elio Martins, dissension in the boardroom continues for Brazil’s biggest asbestos-cement company. Luiz Barsi, one of Eternit’s biggest shareholders, was put in charge of the company by the administration board. Since he has been in charge he has been highly critical of the former President’s policies. Barsi heads a group of investors who want to change everything including all the top managers and executives. A board meeting scheduled for April 23 could be as explosive as it is decisive. See: Racha no clube do bilhão [Cracks in the billionaire’s club].

Apr 14, 2014

Despite the widespread incidence of asbestos-related diseases in their State, West Australians have fewer rights to compensation than fellow citizens. A private members’ bill – The Asbestos Diseases Compensation Bill 2013 – tabled by Kate Doust is intended to close loopholes which prevent victims from claiming compensation for injuries. The proposed legislation would allow West Australians diagnosed with additional asbestos-related diseases the right to claim further damages as is permitted in other states; despite the fact that there are no financial ramifications for the WA government, Attorney General Michael Mischin continues to block its passage. See: Push to close WA's asbestos compensation loophole.

Apr 14, 2014

A serious public health hazard has been highlighted in an article published on April 12, 2014 which focused on the ramifications of the urban renewal project launched by the Turkish Government in 2013. Under this program, which aims to demolish more than 6 million properties by 2020, no consideration is being given to the risk to workers or members of the public of exposure to asbestos-containing building and insulation products contained within the structures earmarked for demolition. See: Kentsel dönüsümde asbestli malzeme alarmi çaliyor [The Hazard of Asbestos-containing Material during Urban Renewal].

Apr 14, 2014

Claims for anxiety caused by occupational exposures to asbestos were validated by a ruling handed down by the Court of Cassation, France’s Supreme Court on April 2, 2014. Reversing a previous verdict which required proof of medical check-ups, the Court said that for people who had worked in high-risk establishments, as recognized by ministerial decree, psychological disorders caused by fear of asbestos illness were sufficient to warrant compensation even in the absence of any disease or symptoms. See: Amiante: reconnaissance du préjudice d’anxiété [Asbestos: Recognition of Anxiety].

Apr 11, 2014

Peter Tighe, the head of of Australia's Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is calling for radical action on asbestos contaminated homes in the nation’s capital. Despite a massive effort in the 1980s to decontaminate properties in Canberra, over the past two months tests conducted have shown that asbestos contamination persists. The lack of legislation to prevent domestic asbestos exposures, as opposed to safety laws controlling workplace hazards, is another cause for concern says Tighe. See: Homes with Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation should be demolished, says safety chief.

Apr 11, 2014

Highlighting the recent publication of Asbestos in Schools: The Need for Action by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, Lord Alton asked on April 9 when the government will “publish their response to the evidence submitted to their review of policy on asbestos management in schools.” Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, replied that the outcome of the Department for Education’s review is due out by the end of June. See: Lords written answer: Schools Asbestos, April 9, 2014.

Apr 11, 2014

A letter published in the current issue of the Italian journal Medicina del Lavoro confirms the asbestos risk at historical sites such as the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos monastery on Cyprus where white asbestos was incorporated into religious murals to provide an attractive shine to the surface. Considering that asbestos items have been found at Neolithic and Bronze Ages sites, researchers are recommending that “a precautionary approach should be taken in all archaeological investigations regarding prehistoric and historic sites.” See: Byzantine Monks Built Walls With Asbestos, Too.

Apr 11, 2014

Last month, the European Court of Human Rights issued a plaintiff’s verdict in the case of Swiss asbestos victim Howald Moor, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2004; he died the following year. Swiss courts had dismissed claims for damages brought by his family on the grounds they were time-barred. The Strasbourg Court found that given the long latency period of this disease, the Swiss ten-year limitation period deprived claimants of the “chance to assert their rights before the courts.” Switzerland was ordered to pay compensation for non-pecuniary damage, costs and expenses. See: Press Release European Court of Human Rights March 11, 2014.

Mar 6, 2014

During the protracted consultation process over the UK’s Mesothelioma Bill, the original concept was shrunk from one which would establishes a fund of last resort for all sufferers of asbestos-related diseases to one which would pay a proportion of compensation to mesothelioma claimants diagnosed after a 2012 deadline. The proportion had been set at 75% of average civil damages. Today, a letter released by Tracey Crouch MP from Minister Mike Penning MP confirms that this figure has been increased to 80%. This means that successful applicants will receive an average of £123,000 before benefit recovery. See: Letter from Minister of State Mike Penning.

Mar 6, 2014

The discovery this week that the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR) had purchased the same type of trains from a Chinese manufacturer that have been found to be contaminated with asbestos in New Zealand has led to calls for immediate action. On March 5, the “No More Asbestos in Hong Kong Alliance” held a silent protest in train stations and in train carriages to raise awareness of the potential health hazard for MTR staff as well as members of the public. A letter listing the protesters’ requests was submitted at the MTR headquarters. See: No More Asbestos in Hong Kong Alliance Press Release.

Mar 6, 2014

On February 11, 2014, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) dismissed charges related to the existence of an asbestos-cement cartel operated by the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association(ACPMA) (see: CCI ruling). The watchdog said that “there is no evidence on record to suggest cartelisation by ACS manufacturers.” The CCI had been tasked with this investigation in late 2012 by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office. According to the 15-page ruling, the “the role of ACPMA is to … to promote the use of ACS and fight against anti-asbestos lobbies...” See: CCI finds no cartelisation in asbestos cement products mkt.

Mar 5, 2014

A 199-page document published by the United States Geological Survey has revealed that although U.S. consumption of chrysotile asbestos dropped by 46% in 2013, it is likely that annual usage will continue at around 1,000 tonnes for the foreseeable future. The majority of the asbestos used (67%) was for the production of chloralkali; 30% was for the production of roofing materials with 3% going into unknown applications. In 2012 and 2013 worldwide mining of asbestos produced 1.97 and 1.94 million tonnes, respectively, with Russian annual output amounting to around 1 million tonnes. See: U.S. Mineral Commodity Summaries 2014.

Mar 5, 2014

From 2008 to 2012, the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR) bought 22 trains from the Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd, part of the China North Locomotive and Rolling Stock Industry Corporation. Although the MTR stipulated that no asbestos be used, the same series of China-made vehicles imported to New Zealand was recently found to be contaminated with asbestos. The Hong Kong Workers’ Health Centre is urging that a thorough examination of the suspected trains is undertaken in order to protect the health of staff and the public. See: Asbestos scare prompts checks on China-made trains.

Feb 28, 2014

KiwiRail has pulled 40 freight trains off-line after asbestos was discovered in resin from one of the locomotives. The resin was present in a soundproofing compound used on the DL locomotives manufactured in China. Half of them were imported to New Zealand four years ago and the other half in 2013. In the purchase contract, KiwiRail had stipulated that the trains be produced without asbestos or other toxic materials. Following the asbestos scandal over Chinese-manufactured locomotives in Australia last year, KiwiRail company sought and was given assurances that the locomotives were asbestos-free. See: Trains pulled in asbestos shock.

Apr 15, 2014

The Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat Laurie Kazan-Allen has added her voice to that of so many others who are backing calls by an Italian asbestos victims’ group for Yale University to rescind an academic honor bestowed upon convicted asbestos criminal Stephan Schmidheiny. In a letter emailed to college officials Peter Salovey and Kimberly M. Goff-Crews, Ms. Kazan-Allen noted that Schmidheiny had “benefited from the financial operations of an international conglomerate which has injured thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent human beings the world over.” [Read full article]

Mar 6, 2014

The death has been announced of Hyung-Sik Choi who lost his battle against the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Korea earlier this week. It is believed that the hazardous environmental exposures to asbestos which led to Mr. Choi’s death took place during urban reconstruction projects carried out in the 1980s. Since his disease was diagnosed, Mr. Choi had played an active role in the campaign for asbestos justice and worked with other victims in Korea and Japan to lobby for improvements in government support and medical care. Commenting on the sad news, his colleague spoke of his strength, leadership and determination to end the global use of asbestos. [Read full article]

Mar 4, 2014

In late February, German asbestos victims were offered the unique opportunity to hold a symposium entitled The Situation of Asbestos Victims within the framework of the annual German Cancer Congress. The significance of this event was reinforced by other activities which took place including a press conference, an exhibition and a three-hour medical session. Commenting on these developments, one of the organizers highlighted the marginalization of German asbestos victims and soundly criticized the government’s continued failure to address victims’ needs, recognize their human rights and provide justice for the injured. [Read full article]

Feb 24, 2014

Klaas Jasperse, a worker suffering from asbestos-related cancer, has brought a claim against the Dutch State for damages as the company which had employed him has become insolvent. The lawsuit against the State alleges that it was due to its negligence to take timely action to protect workers from the asbestos hazard that the hazardous exposures which resulted in Mr. Jasperse’s fatal disease occurred. According to legal expert Bob Ruers, “the Dutch State had already been fully aware of the cancer-related risks posed by asbestos by 1977.” Had action been taken earlier, it is argued, Mr. Jasperse would not have become ill. [Read full article]

Feb. 19, 2014

A research project by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in conjunction with Russian asbestos-industry linked scientists has been soundly condemned by asbestos victims’ groups, scientists and doctors since it was first announced in 2012. A press conference held in London jointly by the World Health Organization and the IARC in February provided an opportunity for British Journalist Bernard Murphy to ask questions about the agencies’ asbestos policies. Dr Stewart, co-editor of IARC’s new 630-page, five-year update on the state of cancer science, reaffirmed the links between exposure to all types of asbestos and cancer and supported a global ban on its use. [Read full article]

Feb 18, 2014

The second anniversary of the verdict handed down by the Turin Court, in what has become known as the Great Asbestos Trial, was an appropriate time to review the Court’s decision as well as subsequent developments in the litigation. Despite a determined attempt by the defendants in this landmark case to overturn the verdicts, the judicial authorities have twice confirmed the criminal conviction of asbestos defendants who had caused wilful permanent environmental disaster and failed to comply with safety rules as a result of which thousands of Italians died from asbestos-related diseases. [Read full article]

Feb 10, 2014

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a clear-cut policy on asbestos: “the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop using all types of asbestos.” In an effort to protect asbestos sales, industry lobbyists have continued to misrepresent the WHO’s message as supporting a “controlled use of asbestos.” In an attempt to reinforce the WHO’s position on asbestos, Dr. Maria Neira, the Director of Public Health and Environment, has given a detailed interview in which she makes the international agency’s position crystal clear. Asbestos is, she says, “a threat to public health... [and] all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans.” [Read full article]

Feb 3, 2014

On Wednesday, January 29, 2014, the Thai Public Health Ministry passed a resolution calling for the immediate prohibition on the use of asbestos. This action was welcomed by members of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network (T-BAN) who had been waiting for nearly three years for the government to honor a pledge to prohibit asbestos use. Commenting on the news, T-BAN member Associate Professor Vithaya Kulsomboon told IBAS: “We are more optimistic now than we have been for three years that the use of asbestos will be ended in Thailand. Banning asbestos is the first step in ridding our country of a deadly hazard; there remains a lot of work to do.” [Read full article]

Jan 29, 2014

It is a rare privilege for IBAS to facilitate access for English-speaking readers to this stunning article by award-winning Brazilian Journalist Eliane Brum. Ms. Brum highlights the efforts of Brazilian asbestos victims to strip asbestos magnate Stephan Schmidheiny of a prestigious award given to him by the Brazilian Government: the Order of the Southern Cross. She explains that the victims’ actions are not motivated by anger but by a desire to ensure that history accurately records the facts despite multiple attempts to whitewash inconvenient details such as Schmidheiny’s conviction by an Italian criminal court for involvement in thousands of asbestos deaths. [Read full article]

Jan 20, 2014

As 2014 dawned, European and Latin American asbestos victims' groups ratcheted up efforts to prevent certain individuals linked to the asbestos industry or perceived to have supported it, from enjoying prestigious awards or gaining high-level positions. Italian victims progressed attempts to have asbestos criminal Stephan Schmidheiny stripped of a U.S. academic honor while their French counterparts contested the candidacy of a controversial scientist as head of a scientific body. In Brazil, the National Association of the Asbestos-Exposed launched a campaign to have the Government rescind the Order of the Southern Cross (an order of chivalry), bestowed upon Schmidheiny in 1996. [Read full article]

Jan 10, 2014

This paper explores controversies created by industry to defend corporations from asbestos lawsuits. The author focuses on the genesis of the debate over the toxicity of short asbestos fibres. The industry's "doubt science," published in scientific journals, has given a legitimacy to an issue long ago agreed upon by independent experts: "the main factor responsible for carcinogenicity of fibres is this physical-chemical mechanism, the so-called 'surface reactivity' of the fibre in a biological setting, the size of the fibres and their biological-persistence in the organism being only the complimentary 'parameters' able to influence the degree of toxicity of the fibres without being determinant of it." [Read full article]

Dec 21, 2013

Today - December 21, 2013 - is the second anniversary of the mesothelioma death of Korean ban asbestos activist Rachel LEE Jung-Lim. As Rachel learned about her disease, contracted from environmental contamination generated by an asbestos-cement factory, she grew incensed about the dangers to which she and others had been exposed. Determined to end the global asbestos epidemic, she took every opportunity she could to spread the ban asbestos message. To commemorate Rachel's campaign, activists have established the annual Rachel LEE Jung-Lim Memorial Award. The winner for 2013 was announced at a ceremony in Seoul held on December 21. [Read full article]

Dec 18 2013

On December 11 & 12, 2013, organizations in Japan engaged in the struggle for asbestos justice operated a phone consultation service for asbestos victims and their relatives. The service provided by the Ban Asbestos Network Japan, Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Center and the National Association of Asbestos-related Disease Victims and their Families received a total of 293 calls. Despite an improved national regime for asbestos compensation, activists are calling on the government to honor its pledge to provide "relief for all asbestos victims without omission." Lobbying for the adoption of specific measures to address outstanding issues is ongoing. [Read full article]

Dec 16, 2013

Last month, Korean and Indonesian activists met in Jakarta to hold a joint workshop on the hazards of asbestos use in Asia. The meeting, which was organized by asbestos victims' groups, ban asbestos activists, academics, safety and health campaigners and environmentalists, addressed the health consequences for workers and people living near asbestos producing or using facilities; the first reports of diagnoses of cases of asbestosis in Indonesian workers were released. In addition, discussions were progressed about measures for raising the public profile of asbestos hazards in Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia. [Read full article]

Dec 10, 2013

European partners have published a new report – Asbestos-related occupational diseases in Central and East European Countries – which focuses on the long-lasting effects of asbestos use in new Member States and candidate countries. Topics covered in the publication include the evolution of national regulations concerning the recognition and compensation of asbestos-related diseases, health measures for at-risk workers and background information on the uses, properties and hazards posed by asbestos. The research findings are a valuable addition to the ongoing discourse on Europe's asbestos catastrophe. [Read full article]

Dec 4, 2013

For more than a century, chrysotile asbestos has been mined in the Russian town of "Asbest." But times are hard for Uralasbest, the company which runs the mine: "in the past nine months, the profits of the town's main employer have been melting away because of shrinking global demand and local economic pressures such as steep tariffs on mining trains." While it is too early to predict whether these difficulties foreshadow the end to Asbest's asbestos dependency, the Russian Ministry of Labor is offering inhabitants between $9,000 and $25,000 to relocate "to more successful cities." [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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