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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Jul 19, 2019

On July 18, 2019, investigating judges in Paris dismissed charges against former officials of the automotive supplier Valeo-Ferodo who had been indicted for “homicide and unintentional injuries” over asbestos exposures to 22 employees between 1952 and 2007 in Condé-sur-Noireau (Calvados), France. On July 10, the same Court had dismissed charges over asbestos exposures in a factory owned by Eternit which had employed up to 1,200 workers at sites in Vitry-en-Charolais and Saone-et-Loire. Both decisions are to be appealed by the National Association for the Defense of Asbestos Victims. See: Amiante: les juges ordonnent un non-lieu dans le dossier Valeo-Ferodo [Asbestos: judges order a dismissal in the Valeo-Ferodo case].

Jul 19, 2019

US researchers studied the occurrence of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer in various states using data sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Program for Cancer Registries and the National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. They found that the incidence of ovarian cancer tended to be higher in states with high mesothelioma incidence and concluded that: “ovarian cancer incidence was positively correlated with mesothelioma incidence, suggesting asbestos may be a common exposure.” The authors of the paper urged that steps be taken to protect people from asbestos exposures at work, at home, at school and in the community. See: Geographic Co-Occurrence of Mesothelioma and Ovarian Cancer Incidence.

Jul 19, 2019

Since the beginning of 2019, efforts to change roofing consumption preferences in rural and mountainous areas of Vietnam, such as Mai Chau, Hang Kia and Pa Co, from asbestos to alternative products have been ongoing, spear-headed by the Farmers’ Association, the Provincial Committee for Ethnic Minorities in Hang Kia and Pa Co areas and (Australia’s) Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA via seminars and outreach initiatives to raise awareness of the health risks posed by asbestos. The Vietnamese Government pledged to stop using chrysotile asbestos roofing sheets from 2023. See: Vào cuộc thay đổi hành vi ngừng sử dụng Amiăng trắng [Changing consumers’ preferences for chrysotile asbestos].

Jul 19, 2019

A commentary on a Swiss website detailed the costs in human as well as in financial terms of exposures to asbestos in Switzerland; between 2012 and 2016 an average of 120 people per year died from asbestos-related diseases at an annual cost to the Swiss accident insurance scheme of US$100m+. With the long latency periods of these diseases, the death toll will continue to mount. In light of these facts, the author considered why asbestos was still being used in industrializing countries such as India and highlighted the serious flaws in The United Nation’s Rotterdam Convention, a multilateral treaty designed to regulate the trade in pesticides and chemicals. See: L’amiante, un crime mondial [Asbestos, a global crime].

Jul 19, 2019

Soil samples from a short stretch of road on the embankments of the Bratislava ring road construction project tested positive for asbestos, a substance banned in Slovakia. The construction company, which was given five days to remove the toxic waste by the authorities, asked for an extension as the laboratory report was 180 pages. The contamination resulted from the use of asbestos-containing waste according to Juan José Bregel: “We (the construction company) bought recycled building material from the only supplier, believing it meets all the legal requirements.” The police twice raided the building site over the asbestos contamination. See: Carcinogenic asbestos found under the Bratislava ring road construction site.

Jul 19, 2019

A study of lung cancer data from Osasco, a Brazilian city where asbestos had been processed in building products factories, revealed elevated rates of lung cancer mortality in men and women. There was also evidence of increased mortality from tracheal and bronchial cancer in males. The authors found that the study pointed: “to the possibility of increased mortality due to lung cancer in cities exposed to asbestos, especially chrysotile. The surveillance of lung cancer cases and deaths in these areas is strongly recommended.” See: Lung Cancer Mortality Trends in a Brazilian City with a Long History of Asbestos Consumption.

Jul 18, 2019

Following the publication by the Department of Education of data on the “management” of asbestos in schools, teaching unions – the Association of School and College Leaders and the NASUWT – called for a phased asbestos removal program in schools. According to the asbestos survey, to which ~85% of schools responded (19,522), almost one in five schools are failing to comply with UK guidelines for managing asbestos. Speaking on behalf of the NASUWT Chris Keates expressed concern: “that in a significant number of schools, asbestos is still not being managed safely.”...“The Government is,” she said “simply not doing enough to protect staff and pupils.” See: ‘Stopgap’ attitude to asbestos in schools must end.

Jul 18, 2019

A press release by an Italian association representing asbestos victims (AFeVA) on July 15, 2019 welcomed the repeal of provisions in law 145/2018 which had penalized workers in receipt of compensation for accidents or industrial disease; the contentious rules had recouped monies previously paid by INAIL from sums received in an annuity, lump sum payment or reimbursement of expenses. See: Danno Differenziale: con la legge 58/2019 abrogate le norme penalizzanti per il lavoratore previste dalla legge 145/2018 [Differential Damage: with law 58/2019, the penalizing rules for workers laid down by law 145/2018 are repealed].

Jul 18, 2019

In an order issued on July 10, 2019, Parisian investigating judges issued a non-suit order for Eternit, formerly the biggest asbestos-cement manufacturer in France with up to 1,200 employees at sites in Vitry-en-Charolais and Saone-et-Loire, ruling that due to the difficulty in establishing the time when claimants were exposed to asbestos, it seemed “impossible to determine who was responsible in the company...and what regulations were required at this unknown date.” Spokespersons for French asbestos victims’ groups said this decision was tantamount to a “license to kill” and would be appealed. See: Scandale de l’amiante: les juges ordonnent un non-lieu dans le dossier Eternit [Asbestos scandal: judges order a dismissal in Eternit case].

Jul 18, 2019

An online commentary on an Indian news platform reported on two July 14, 2019 Sunday Times (Scotland) articles identifying UK-registered companies associated with the global asbestos trade and cited data regarding shipments of Russian asbestos to Indian ports, pointing out the hypocrisy that, despite the British asbestos ban, companies based there are still profiting from asbestos sales: “Import data reveals that in February, 2,128 tons of ‘chrysotile raw asbestos,’ worth $1.21m were shipped from Russia by or on behalf of CJ Petrow & Co (Pty) Ltd to the Indian ports of Nhava Sheva, near Mumbai, and Mundra.” See: British companies export ‘deadly’ asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices.

Jul 18, 2019

On July 16, 2019 the Department for Education uploaded information about asbestos in schools including: The Asbestos Management Assurance Process (AMAP) Report, a list of participating schools and responsible bodies (up to 19 June 2019) and 2017 asbestos data collection. The conclusion of the AMAP Report, predictably, downplayed the hazard posed by asbestos remaining in the majority of UK schools concluding: “The analysis has revealed good practice in the majority of schools, but some gaps in the management of asbestos in some schools. We will be verifying responses and addressing points of concern with schools and their responsible bodies, and where appropriate share information with the HSE.” See: Asbestos data collections.

Jul 16, 2019

A Brazilian Court has increased the amount of compensation awarded to the estate of an employee of Eternit S.A. to R$600,000 (~US$160,520). The deceased was diagnosed with asbestos cancer 35 years after he left the company. Whilst previous courts had acknowledged Eternit’s liability, the lump sum plus monthly pension awarded had been thought insufficient by the family. In the new verdict, the judge wrote: “The main purpose of compensation for moral damages is not only to compensate for the victim's suffering, but also to punish the offender in a pedagogical way, discouraging the repetition of practices considered abusive.” See: Empresa indenizará por morte de ex-funcionário exposto a Amianto [Company to pay for death of former employee exposed to asbestos].

Jul 16, 2019

A letter sent on July 12, 2019 by Attorney Generals from 18 US States to high-ranking members of the House of Representatives called on them to support moves for a national ban on asbestos. H.R. Bill 1603 would prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution of asbestos in the US, effectively reinstating the ban the Environmental Protection Agency adopted in 1989 and later vacated as a result of industry-backed litigation. The letter was addressed to members of the H.R. Committee on Energy and Commerce and Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. See: 18 States Call on Congress to Ban Asbestos!.

Jul 16, 2019

Campaigners highlighted the incidence of asbestos-related disease in Kent due to occupational exposures at the Chatham dockyards and the presence of asbestos in local schools at a conference this month (July 2019) in Chatham. Seventy percent of Medway’s schools still have asbestos-containing products in the walls, ceilings, floors and window frames. According to former physics teacher and campaigner John Reeves: “Just slamming a door or putting a drawing pin into a wall can send deadly particles spinning through the air in classrooms.” The HSE advice to leave these products undisturbed is, he said, “rubbish”. See: Thousands of Medway's children and teachers at risk from asbestos in schools.

Jul 16, 2019

On July 15, 2019, work began on an “asbestos health impact survey” in the Gangjeong-ri area in South Korea’s Gyeonggi-do Province. One hundred and fifty local residents over 50 years old who had lived within a 2 km radius of an a abandoned asbestos mine for 10 years or more were interviewed by staff from the Asan Medical Center, Cheonan Hospital, Soonchunhyang University. This initiative was part of a program to minimize the effects of historical asbestos exposures under the country’s Asbestos Damage Relief Act. See: 청양군, 석면 피해주민 보호 [Cheongyang, asbestos damage protection].

Jul 16, 2019

In a newly published paper, Italian scientists have reported on their study of data from peritoneal mesothelioma (PeM) patients in the Lombardy region of Italy in the British Medical Journal. PeM cases diagnosed between 2000 and 2015 were identified using data sourced from the regional mesothelioma registry. The authors concluded: “Using two different methods of exposure assessment we provided evidence of a clear association between asbestos exposure and PeM risk in the general population.” See: Peritoneal mesothelioma and asbestos exposure: a population-based case–control study in Lombardy, Italy.

Jul 16, 2019

On Friday, July 5, 2019 events were held on Action Mesothelioma Day (AMD) in England, Scotland and Wales to remember those who had been lost to mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, and other asbestos-related diseases. Under bright blue skies, butterflies and doves were released, poems were read, presentations were made and music was enjoyed as people found solace in the fellowship and camaraderie provided by the events organized by asbestos support groups and asbestos charities in outdoor spaces, town halls, churches and meeting rooms. After more than a decade, the calendar fixture of AMD has become a beacon of hope not just for the asbestos bereaved but for their friends, colleagues and communities. [Read full article]

Jul 12, 2019

On July 11, 2019, the Colombian President signed into law asbestos prohibitions endorsed by Congress in a frantic rush to beat the June 20, 2019 summer adjournment after which all proposed legislation would have been vacated. The ban, which prohibited not only the mining, commercialization and distribution of all types of asbestos also banned the export of asbestos. This is the first time that asbestos prohibitions have been approved by a legislature in an asbestos mining country; in 2017, the Brazilian Supreme Court, in the face of continuing federal support for the asbestos industry, declared the commercial exploitation of asbestos unconstitutional. The new Colombian law will take effect on January 1, 2021 and permits a 5 year transition period for companies currently using asbestos. [Read full article]

Jul 3, 2019

This timely commentary by occupational health, safety and environmental campaigner Mick Holder reflects on news about the economic, social and medical repercussions of decades of asbestos mining in Brazil in light of the trip he made to the town of Minaçu some years ago when an international delegation “met with the workers and union reps at the mine who were incredibly hospitable and very, very friendly, even though they knew I and others in the delegation wanted an end to this global killer industry…” Mick is scathing about government and commercial interests which “had made enough money out of the industry to ensure a just transition from working in a killer industry to being employed in a safer and healthier one with no loss of social benefit.” [Read full article]

Jun 26, 2019

For the sixth year running, the Asbestos Interest Group from Kuruman in the Northern Cape marked South Africa’s Youth Day with an event to raise asbestos awareness amongst primary and middle school students in John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipalities in one of the country’s former asbestos-producing regions. Children from 12 local schools were brought together at Maipeing Primary School to take part in a day of learning and socializing. The culmination of the day’s activities was a presentation by each team of art work demonstrating their understanding of the asbestos hazard at the end of which prizes were awarded. [Read full article]

Jun 7, 2019

As the end of the Colombian Congress’ deliberations on banning asbestos approaches (the current Congressional session ends on June 20, after which all proposed legislation not yet enacted will become void), an urgent appeal to Colombian citizens entreating their support for the country to ban asbestos exports as well as domestic usage has been sent by Indonesian asbestos victims and activists from the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network – INA-BAN. Indonesia is a prime market for Colombian asbestos exports, where it is mostly used in the production of asbestos roofing; with frequent natural disasters occurring in the country this poses a potent threat to emergency responders, relief workers and affected communities (Para la versión española ver: Llamado Urgente a la Población de Colombia). [Read full article]

Jun 6, 2019

The global asbestos operations of companies belonging to the Swiss and Belgian Eternit asbestos groups have ruined lives and contaminated communities throughout Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Academic papers released in May 2019 documented the toxic repercussions of asbestos processing in Colombia and Lebanon; another paper published contemporaneously examined the difficulties experienced in holding individual executives to account for the consequences of profit-driven decisions made by asbestos corporations which, ultimately, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Italian citizens. [Read full article]

May 24, 2019

Five years after the Italian Supreme Court had vacated murder verdicts against the Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny on technical grounds (2014), the defendant has once again been found guilty of the asbestos deaths of Italian citizens. On May 23, 2019, a Turin Court sentenced Schmidheiny in absentia to four years for the involuntary manslaughter of two individuals from Cavagnolo, both of whom died from asbestos-related diseases. Other trials are proceeding against Schmidheiny who is facing charges of voluntary homicide in hundreds of cases in Naples (8 deaths) and Vercelli (392 deaths including those of 243 individuals who worked at the Eternit factory in Casale Monferrato). [Read full article]

May 20, 2019

Key stakeholders from civil society and the Indonesian government made valuable contributions to the proceedings of a national asbestos seminar held in Jakarta on May 9, 2019. The event, which was organized jointly by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Labour Organization, Jakarta, provided the opportunity for reports by civil servants, occupational health and safety specialists, emergency responders, personnel from regional and international agencies and ban asbestos campaigners working on the asbestos frontline in a country which is one of the most disaster-prone in the world; in 2018, Indonesia experienced 2,372 disasters affecting 3.5 million people. [Read full article]

May 8, 2019

This media release circulated by a coalition of UK asbestos victims’ groups and occupational health and safety bodies detailed the occurrence of a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in London on May 8, 2019 calling on Russia to support United Nations measures to regulate the global trade in chrysotile (white) asbestos by implementing a regime which stipulates that importing nations be provided with sufficient information to ensure “prior informed consent” before purchasing substances deemed by the United Nations to be injurious to human health and/or harmful to the environment. [Read full article]

May 10, 2019

This week a delegation representing members and supporters of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) is in Geneva, Switzerland to monitor the proceedings at the United Nations’ 9th meeting (COP9) of The Rotterdam Convention (RC) and voice the demands of global labor and asbestos victims for chrysotile (white) asbestos to be included on Annex III of the Convention as the RC’s Chemical Review Committee had recommended more than a decade ago. This article comprises a short, contemporaneous report on the activities of the ABAN Mission to COP9 on May 7 to 9, 2019. [Read full article]

May 3, 2019

A media release circulated by the Asian Ban Asbestos Network urges United Nations representatives to the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Rotterdam Convention (RC) “to finally list chrysotile (white asbestos) on Annex III of the Convention and immediately reform the Convention so that a small number of states with economic interests can no longer block listings of chemicals.” Multiple recommendations by the RC’s Chemical Review Committee that the international trade in chrysotile be regulated in order to provide importing nations with “prior informed consent” have been blocked by the actions of asbestos stakeholders, led in recent years by Russia. [Read full article]

Apr 29, 2019

Brazil is now at a critical moment in the campaign to ban asbestos. Despite the November 2017 Supreme Court decision declaring the commercial exploitation of asbestos unconstitutional, in January 2019 Eternit, the country’s only asbestos producer, announced its intention to increase asbestos exports to Asia. To challenge the hypocrisy of shipping a substance deemed too hazardous to use at home to other countries, a delegation of five ban asbestos activists from three Asian countries embarked on a mission to mobilize support for an end to Brazilian asbestos exports from politicians, civil servants, prosecutors, asbestos victims, trade unionists and others. This article comprises a short, contemporaneous report on the activities of the “Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil April, 2019.” [Read full article]

Apr 21, 2019

This week, ban asbestos activists from India, Indonesia and Japan will be embarking on a historic mission to Brazil to entreat citizens, politicians, civil servants, decision-makers and corporations to stop sending asbestos to Asia. According to recent data, India and Indonesia absorb the majority of Brazil’s asbestos exports. Despite a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2017 declaring the commercialization of asbestos unconstitutional, mine workers and industry stakeholders are appealing to the Court for an exemption to allow mining and exporting to continue (see also: Versão Portuguesa). [Read full article]

Apr 20, 2019

This Open Letter calls upon delegates to the upcoming meeting of the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention (RC) to progress restrictions on the global trade in chrysotile asbestos by voting to include it on Annex III of the Convention. This is the 7th time that such action has been recommended by the RC’s Chemical Review Committee; previous attempts to list chrysotile were blocked by a handful of stakeholder countries, initially led by Canada and now by Russia. The signatories of this letter include 10 international organizations and associations and individuals from 30 countries on six continents. [Read full article]

Apr 10, 2019

The former asbestos mining town in Wittenoom, Western Australia (WA) has been called “probably the southern hemisphere’s most contaminated site” due to the presence of millions of tonnes of asbestos-containing mining waste. Plans are progressing through the WA Parliament for the compulsory purchase of the few properties remaining in private hands in order for the town to be shut down. Because of the extensive pollution, a WA Minister has acknowledged that the area can never be made fit for human habitation but is urging that attempts be made to remediate areas of cultural significance to the traditional owners of the land: the Banjima people. Consideration is given in this article of whether the Wittenoom “solution” could be the answer for other asbestos mining towns. [Read full article]

Mar 28, 2019

A letter by civil society groups sent recently to leading politicians addressed false statements and misinformation propagated at a 2018 pro-asbestos workshop in Vietnam’s National Assembly. The text accused organizations including the International Chrysotile Association, the Vietnam Roofing Association and others of: spreading “false and incorrect information and data about the harmful effects of white asbestos” and “creating confusion and misunderstanding about the situation and the scientific basis for… [banning] white asbestos”. Asbestos vested interests are desperate to forestall the implementation of a Prime Ministerial Order banning chrysotile asbestos roofing material by 2023 and are marshalling political and economic allies to force a government U-turn. [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 (2015)

Fiber Producers
(tonnes):
   Russia650,000
   Brazil270,000
   China210,000
   Kazakhstan180,000
    
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   India370,000
   China287,000
   Brazil163,000
   Russia124,000
   Indonesia120,000