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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Feb 26, 2017

In a letter to India’s Minister of Environment Anil Madhav, who in August 2016 publicly spoke of the need to protect citizens from the risk of contracting asbestos diseases, grassroots activist Jagdish Patel from the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India urged the Minister to work with government colleagues to end toxic exposures and support efforts by the United Nations Rotterdam Convention to include chrysotile (white) asbestos on a list of substances subject to regulatory controls. The next meeting of the Rotterdam Convention will take place from April 24 to May 5, 2017. See: In 2017 at COP 8, India has another opportunity to support the listing of chrysotile asbestos in PIC.

Feb 26, 2017

For the first time, a Basque city has been condemned for toxic asbestos exposures to a municipal worker. The claimant’s verdict was handed down by a court in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital city of the Basque Autonomous Community, against the City of Llodio. The family of municipal employee Kepa Galdos, who died in 2012 from mesothelioma, was awarded €133,806 (US$141,320) for the municipality’s failure to prevent toxic workplace exposures to asbestos. Welcoming the verdict, the Association of Asbestos Victims of Euskadi condemned the Mayor’s “total contempt and lack of sensitivity to the victims of asbestos.” See: Press Release by Association of Asbestos Victims of Euskadi.

Feb 25, 2017

A report published on February 23, 2017 by the UK government’s Education Funding Agency (EFA) revealed that 20% of schools attended by 1 million children were “not fully compliant” with asbestos procedures “in that they did not have fully documented plans, processes and procedures in place at the time of the data collection, or did not know if asbestos was present.” Chris Keates, general secretary of the teaching union NASUWT said that: “These results seriously call into question the DfE’s fundamental assumption that asbestos can be managed safely left in situ, as clearly this is not happening in too many cases.” See: Asbestos in schools is a ‘serious’ problem, Government report finds.

Feb 24, 2017

A press release issued yesterday (February 23) by Bob Bailey, a Member of Ontario’s Provincial Parliament (MPP) announced that the second reading of the Asbestos Use Prohibition Act was to take place in Ontario’s Legislative Assembly yesterday afternoon. The bill calls for a ban on the use, reuse, import, transport or sale of asbestos in Ontario and requires the province to set up a public registry of buildings which are owned or leased by the province that contain asbestos. An online petition in support of this bill has also been launched by MPP Bailey. See: press release announcing second reading of Bill 88.

Feb 24, 2017

Paraná’s Public Ministry of Labor (MPT) has filed a multimillion reals public civil action against Brazil’s Eternit asbestos company for occupational asbestos exposures at its factory in the city of Colombo. The evidence submitted by the MPT includes data collected since 2008 during inspections carried out at the Eternit facility that substantiated the avoidable risks to the workers in light of the availability of safer fibers and technologies for the production of products such as roofing tiles and water tanks. See: Ministério Público pede indenização de R$ 85 milhões contra a empresa Eternit [Attorney General seeks compensation of R$ 85 million against Eternit company].

Feb 23, 2017

People and politicians in the Russian town of Asbest – who defend the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos, a human carcinogen – are calling for a public consultation over whether the construction of a factory processing antimony should be permitted, citing public health concerns regarding the poisonous effects on human beings of antimony exposures. The National Antimony Company’s plans to build in Degtyarsk were abandoned after mass protests by activists and environmentalists. See: «Мы не хотим жертвовать здоровьем»: в Асбесте депутаты готовят протест против нового завода [“We do not want to sacrifice health”: Asbest MPs prepare protest against new plant].

Feb 23, 2017

Today, the launch of a working group to develop a National Asbestos Profile of Cambodia took place at a meeting convened in Phnom Penh. The event was sponsored by the Cambodian Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training in partnership with Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA and Australian Aid. The action plans resulting from these collaborations are intended to protect public and occupational health from the deadly asbestos hazard. The efforts of the working group – which will be conducted under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training – will be informed by medical experts, representatives of international agencies, civil servants and others. See: Picture.

Feb 22, 2017

A committee of the Parliament of the autonomous community of Andalusia has approved a ministerial proposal to undertake an audit of pipes used to deliver regional water supplies with a view to the elimination of the asbestos hazard from the network. The committee has called on stakeholders, including council and municipal authorities, to collaborate on the planning and removal of the cancer threat to citizens and has set a deadline for the prohibition of asbestos in water delivery systems. See: El Parliament andaluz aprueba una propuesta de IU para la eliminación de amianto en tuberías de agua [The Andalusian Parliament approves a UI proposal for the elimination of asbestos in water pipes].

Feb 22, 2017

On February 21, 2017, the Government of South Korea announced tighter regulations for asbestos management to safeguard individuals attending or working at private after-school academies from hazardous exposures; the new regulations will be introduced this week. To improve monitoring efforts, the introduction of a biannual air quality test has been mandated on smaller facilities which, until now, had been exempt from these requirements. Non-compliance with the asbestos regulations can be punished with a fine of up to ten million won (US$8750). See: Gov't tightens asbestos management rules.

Feb 20, 2017

Yesterday (February 19), at the annual general meeting of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia in Perth, Western Australia, Dr Helen Clayson was announced as the recipient of the Society’s Eric Saint Memorial Award 2017. This highly prestigious award is made in recognition of assistance provided to asbestos victims by a medical professional, technical expert, support worker or campaigner. In her introduction to the award ceremony, Rose Marie Vojakovic said that the worthy recipient was a former general practitioner and hospice medical director from the North of England; for a number of years, she had served as chair of the Barrow-in-Furness asbestos victims group and had written a UK Mesothelioma Handbook which had been adapted for use by Australian sufferers.

Feb 20, 2017

SINTICOMEX, a Brazilian union affiliated to the asbestos industry, has denounced the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos Exposed and a legal firm from São Paulo for supporting the family of a worker who died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, casting aspersions on the truth of allegations made that the deceased had been occupationally exposed to asbestos as a result of which he contracted cancer and died. The union says that since the 1990s, there have been no cases of asbestos-related disease in their region; the death of this and another worker are clear proof that they are incorrect. See: Movimento contra Amianto invade Pedro Leopoldo [Anti-asbestos movement invades Pedro Leopoldo].

Feb 20, 2017

A paper published online this month (February 2017), entitled Medical costs of asbestos-related diseases in Spain between 2004 and 2011, estimated that the costs to the National Health System (NHS) between 2004 and 2011 of treating 37,557 patients suffering from asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) was €464 million, with specialist care accounting for 51% of total costs, primary healthcare 10%, and drug prescription 39%. The ARD bill for the NHS was 27.8-fold higher for male patients than for female patients with a €281m bill for treating patients with bronchopulmonary cancers. See: Medical costs of asbestos-related diseases in Spain between 2004 and 2011.

Feb 17, 2017

The date for submitting comments on proposals by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the remediation of two Superfund sites – BoRit Asbestos Superfund Site and Ambler Asbestos Piles Superfund Site in Ambler, Pennsylvania – has been extended until March 3, 2017. For decades this town was the location of the Keasbey & Mattison asbestos factory. Widespread contamination is a fact of life for local people; the multimillion dollar EPA program is designed to tackle asbestos pollution in the soil, reservoir, waterways, dumpsites and environment. See: Environmental Concerns of Communities around Ambler, Pennsylvania.

Feb 16, 2017

A paper uploaded earlier this year exposed the ubiquity and hazardous nature of workplace exposures to chrysotile asbestos at small workshops in India. The awareness about the danger of asbestos in one small-scale clutch-plate manufacturing unit was abysmal with 14 workers acknowledging they had no “detailed information about asbestos and its ill effects.” Eleven members of this cohort had contracted small airway disease and one of their colleagues had previously died of asbestosis. The authors of this paper conclude: “The usage of chrysotile should be strictly regulated as morbidity and mortality is high.” See: Asbestos-induced lung disease in small-scale clutch manufacturing workers.

Feb 15, 2017

On February 14, 2017, Judge Toshio Uchino of the Sapporo District Court ordered the government to pay a total of ¥176 million (~US$1.54m) in damages to former construction workers from Hokkaido with asbestos-related diseases and family members of those who have already died from these diseases, saying: “The state should have informed the workers’ employers by 1980 of the need to use dust-proof masks.” This is the fifth district court ruling which has found the government fully or partially responsible for asbestos-related damages at construction sites in Japan. See: Court orders government to pay ¥176 million to asbestos victims.

Feb 15, 2017

Charges are being formalized by the Public Ministry over environmental contamination and asbestos-related deaths from the Bocamina power station in Coronel, Chile now belonging to Enel Generación Chile. Former executives of the predecessor company Empresa Nacional De Electricidad [Endesa] are accused of permitting polluting discharges into the bay of Coronel and negligently allowing hazardous workplace exposures to take place which led to two asbestos deaths and many cases of illness. See: Formalizarán ejecutivos Endesa por contaminación en Bocamina: trabajadores acusan muertes [Endesa executives to be charged over pollution deaths of Bocamina workers].

Feb 19, 2017

An analysis has been uploaded of a proposed trade deal between India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) which highlights the injustice and deadly consequences of allowing untaxed imports to India of asbestos, an acknowledged human carcinogen, from Russia and Kazakhstan in return for duty-free Indian exports of gherkins, cucumbers and other non carcinogenic produce to the EAEU. The 259-page report on which the contentious treaty is based is also uploaded. It is of relevance to note that while the report has been circulated this month (February 2017) to selected stakeholders, ban asbestos activists in India did not receive copies of this document from government sources. [Read full article]

Feb 7, 2017

News released last week by organizations nearly 5,000 miles apart confirm the existence and scale of an unfolding disaster in shipbreaking on tidal beaches in South Asia which accounted last year (2016) for 87% of all tonnage dismantled. Research by the Brussels-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform and the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation revealed multiple failures by the shipping industry to safely manage the disposal of end-of-life vessels and the deadly impact of hazardous working practices on the lives of shipbreaking workers. Conditions in Bangladesh’s yards are “known to be the worst;” in 2016, 22 workers died with a further 29 suffering serious injuries. [Read full article]

Feb 1, 2017

A presentation made in Japan at the Tokyo Institute of Technology on January 29 delineated current asbestos consumption and production trends around the world, using graphics, charts and maps to underscore areas at most risk from increasing usage. Efforts and progress made in 2016 and 2017 by grassroots campaigners in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe were highlighted; the important work of asbestos victims’ groups was recognized. Some examples of the fightback by asbestos vested interests were discussed including a 2016 revelation of an asbestos espionage operation run by a UK intelligence agency based in London. [Read full article]

Jan 16, 2017

Calculations undertaken for this article suggest that the global trade in deadly asbestos is still worth billions of dollars. Industry stakeholders in producing and consuming nations remain determined to continue business as usual despite the medical and scientific consensus that the best way to end the global epidemic of asbestos diseases is to stop the use of asbestos. The asbestos industry playbook includes a number of well-honed tactics, some of which are illegal and most amoral and unjust. This text documents how corporate wealth has been weaponized and ban asbestos campaigners have been targeted in the pursuit of ever more profits for this industry of mass destruction. [Read full article]

Dec 15, 2016

Civil society groups from around the world have warmly welcomed the news that the Canadian government is to outlaw the use of asbestos by 2018. The fact that Canada, one-time leader in the production of chrysotile asbestos, has taken this step is the latest victory for the global campaign to ban asbestos. This decisive action by the Canadian government is a harbinger of things to come; in the 21st century, the time is past when a dangerous and discredited technology can be allowed to endanger the lives of innocent populations. In a press release issued today calls are made for justice for the injured and definitive action to eradicate the danger posed by asbestos products within national infrastructures. [Read full article]

Dec 9, 2016

For some years, Australian campaigners have designated November as Asbestos Awareness month. This year was no exception with a slew of formal events, outreach initiatives, public meetings and information sessions held throughout the country by asbestos victims’ support groups, campaigning bodies, academics, trade unionists and others. Activities organized by the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) during November are discussed in this article including the Society’s 21st ecumenical service of remembrance on November 25. The work and motivation of the ADSA is contrasted with that of asbestos industry stakeholders who held a large gathering of vested interests in Moscow on November 14. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2016

Earlier this month (October 2016), a series of events took place in the Brazilian city of Campinas during which medical, legal, social, judicial and environmental challenges posed by the country’s continuing use of chrysotile (white) asbestos were examined by Brazilian and international experts. The fact that these events were paid for by court-awarded penalties against two asbestos manufacturing companies made the medical workshop (October 5), two-day conference: Asbestos: A Socio-Legal Approach (October 6-7) and the First National Meeting of Asbestos Victims and their Families (October 8) truly historic. [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2016

A coalition of Indian and international groups representing asbestos victims, campaigners, environmentalists and health and safety activists from Asia and Europe have today uploaded a devastating report highlighting the toxic environmental legacy left by European asbestos multinationals in rural India. “The dumping of asbestos waste” by Turner & Newall and Etex was, said Barrister Krishnendu Mukherjee, “done in the full knowledge that it would cause serious health problems to the local population. Such behaviour towards mainly poor people, without real access to legal remedies, can only be described as a corporate crime.” [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2016

The toxic legacy left in rural India by European asbestos companies including Britain’s Turner & Newall Ltd. and Belgium’s Etex continues to endanger the lives of thousands of citizens in towns such as Kymore in the state of Madhya Pradesh according to a report uploaded today by civil society groups in India and abroad. Evidence collected by a team of Canadian technical experts documented nearly 600,000 square metres of toxic waste, which would cost up to $88m to make safe. The waste, which is composed of up to 70% asbestos fibers, poses a known public health hazard about which nothing has been done by the polluting enterprises which created it. [Read full article]

Sep 19, 2016

On September 10, 2016, the world came to Casale Monferrato, a small Piemonte town which has become a symbol of the global struggle against asbestos tyranny. On a day of celebration and remembrance, the community marked a new future with the inauguration of the EterNOT park built on the former site of the notorious Eternit asbestos factory. Separated by distances great and small, campaigners for asbestos justice sent tributes to show their solidarity with their Italian allies. Opening the proceedings, Mayor Concetta Palazzetti referenced the global solidarity on display at the front of the chamber and named the associations from Latin America, Asia, Australia and Europe which had sent messages of support. [Read full article]

Sep 10, 2016

Today, the community of Casale Monferrato, for decades the symbol of the struggle for asbestos justice, will mark a landmark event with the dedication of a park built on the infamous site of the Eternit asbestos cement factory. The Eternot Park is not only a memorial to the asbestos dead but also a symbol of a future which can be free of the deadly dust. Campaigning groups from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia have sent a statement – the English version of which is text of this article – with floral tributes expressing solidarity and support for the victims, the activists and the community. (Click here for Italian version.) [Read full article]

Aug 23, 2016

This article by Canadian ban asbestos campaigner and human rights activist Kathleen Ruff puts into context the news that consultations are ongoing regarding a change in Canada’s asbestos policy which could soon make the use, import and sale of asbestos-containing products illegal. According to an adviser to Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott, members of the Trudeau Government are working on drafting a new asbestos policy for Canada, which, it is expected, will, after more than a 100 years, end the country’s love affair with asbestos. Ruff hopes that measures to ban asbestos and protect Canadians from hazardous exposures will be announced when Parliament reconvenes in September 2016. [Read full article]

Aug 22, 2016

Although asbestos has been banned from ships since July 2002, it is still found in over 90% of ships. It is disturbing to learn, from this article by John Chillingworth, that asbestos has been found in over 80% of new ships, even though the shipbuilders have declared the ships to be asbestos free. Chillingworth’s company has found as much as 15% asbestos in materials that have been declared asbestos free in China. Shipyard declarations, which are accepted by the authorities, are often inaccurate as a result of which hazardous exposures continue to occur aboard vessels. Recommendations are made by the author as to how shipowners might take action to remedy this dangerous situation. [Read full article]

Aug 15, 2016

Responding to concerns raised by a coalition of civil society groups disturbed about the possibility of UK imports of asbestos-containing building materials from China, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has taken preliminary action to ascertain whether or not the products used and practises followed by Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd. are in compliance with national legislation. Welcoming the steps taken by the HSE, which are detailed in an email dated August 11, 2016, asbestos victims, trade unionists and campaigners have reiterated the need for the HSE to act decisively to ensure that British workers and members of the public are not exposed to illegal asbestos imports. [Read full article]

Aug 4, 2016

Shankar Dattaray Jog, a former worker at a factory owned by the British asbestos conglomerate Turner & Newall Ltd. in Mumbai, India, died from asbestos cancer on July 19, 2016. Mr. Jog had been employed at the Hindustan Ferodo brake linings factory for 40 years. By the time he retired in 2001, he had risen to the position of health inspector. While it is believed that others from Hindustan Ferodo could have contracted mesothelioma, their names are not known. Mr. Jog was adamant that the case against his former employer proceed in order to provide support for his family after he was gone and hope for others who succumb to asbestos illnesses after decades of dedicated service. [Read full article]

Aug 2, 2016

On July 21, 2016, the news finally came. Italy’s Constitutional Court issued its ruling in the long-running battle to achieve justice for Italy’s asbestos victims. The verdict gave the green light for a second round of legal proceedings (Eternit BIS) against Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, former owner of the Swiss Eternit asbestos group. The case will now be returned to the Turin court where an investigating magistrate will consider the Public Prosecutors’ accusations regarding hundreds of asbestos deaths in Casale Monferrato and other Italian cities. After decades of broken promises and shattered expectations, asbestos victims and the groups representing them have been given hope that justice will be done. [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