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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Oct 23, 2019

For decades, a stranglehold has existed regarding the dangers posed by asbestos exposures in Russia, the world’s largest producer of white asbestos. A Russian article just published quoted a leading Russian health and safety expert as follows: “Three substances from the list of the World Health Organization (WHO), such as asbestos, lead and mercury, should be considered the most dangerous for Russians… According to the WHO, all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. However, asbestos can be found everywhere in Russia.” See: Эксперт назвала самые опасные химические загрязнители для россиян [The expert named the most dangerous chemical pollutants for the Russians].

Oct 23, 2019

It has been reported that the Portuguese cruise ship MV Funchal bought at auction in December 2018 by a UK company called Signature Living (see: Asbestos Vessel Cruising to london?) is now being towed to Liverpool. At the time of the sale, it was believed that the ship contained about 100 tons of asbestos, including products containing chrysotile, amosite and tremolite fibers, in friable condition. It is unknown whether the asbestos has been removed. According to a facebook upload, the company plans to refurbish the ship for use as a hotel in the UK. See: MV Funchal.

Oct 23, 2019

A paper published by Indian medical practitioners highlighted the ongoing epidemic of asbestos-related diseases in India and predicted that in decades to come – because of the current use of 350,000 tonnes of asbestos per year in India – there could be thousands of deaths per year from just one asbestos cancer – mesothelioma – with tens of thousands of additional fatalities from other asbestos-related illnesses. The authors stated: “In the near future, there will be at least 12.5 million ARD [asbestos-related disease] patients and 1.25 million asbestos-related cancer patients worldwide, and half of these will be in India.” See: Current Asbestos Exposure and Future Need for Palliative Care in India.

Oct 21, 2019

It was announced last week that Johnson & Johnson, a company facing thousands of US lawsuits over asbestos contamination of their iconic baby powder, had withdrawn 33,000 bottles of the product from sale in the US due to a finding by the Food and Drug Administration of sub-trace levels of chrysotile (white) asbestos in a bottle purchased from an online retailer. This is the first time that the company has recalled its baby powder. Reports of these developments were published in Russian, Chinese, French, Italian and other languages. See: Johnson & Johnson recalls baby powder after asbestos found.

Oct 21, 2019

The fate of Brazil’s only aircraft carrier and the largest ship in the fleet is up for grabs, according to an article about the disposal of the São Paulo, purchased from the French Government in 2000. The ship, which contains up to 1,000 tonnes of asbestos material, is being auctioned with a December 9 bidding deadline. While it is widely believed the ship will be scrapped, the tender agreement states it must be done so safely and in accordance with procedures to protect the environment. During its years in the Brazilian Navy, the São Paulo was beset with difficulties and was only operational for 206 days. See: Museu ou sucata? O que será do porta-aviões brasileiro que custou R$ 22 milhões [Museum or scrap? What will be the [fate of the] Brazilian aircraft carrier that cost $22 million?].

Oct 21, 2019

A teachers’ union is threatening to take a provincial South African education department to court over the continued presence of asbestos in hundreds of schools. Following a ruling of the Eastern Cape High Court which ascertained the department’s responsibility for maintaining the educational infrastructure up to expected standards, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union has announced that legal action is being considered over the widespread hazard posed by asbestos in schools and the imminent threat to 25,000 children and 7,000 members of staff. A deadline of 2016 to eradicate the asbestos hazard which was set by the Education Department in 2013 has been extended until 2024. See: Teachers’ union levels threat over Gauteng’s killer asbestos schools.

Oct 18, 2019

Asbestos vested interests, suffering from a fall in demand for their products, have embarked on a media offensive condemning the Vietnam Government’s plans to ban the use of asbestos-cement roofing. It is alleged that the government’s position was based on lies told to various agencies including the National Assembly's Committee for Science, Technology and Environment. Quotes from people working in asbestos-cement factories and consumers are cited in support of the calls by the industry for a U-turn on the asbestos ban. See: Không để thông tin thái quá về tấm lợp fibro xi măng gây hoang mang dư luận [Do not let outrageous information about fibro cement roofing sheets confuse public opinion].

Oct 18, 2019

A study just published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine substantiated the link between the use of asbestos-containing talcum powder, such as Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby powder, and the occurrence of mesothelioma. The authors of the paper examined the cases of 33 people with mesothelioma whose only significant exposure to asbestos was through their use of talcum powder and concluded that the causation of their cancer had been that exposure. Commenting on their findings, co-author Jacqueline Moline said: “Everything points to cosmetic talc being the cause.” See: A New Study Suggests Tainted Talcum Powder Can Cause a Rare Cancer. Here's How That Could Play Out in the Courtroom.

Oct 18, 2019

Research by Korean scientists confirmed the link between occupational asbestos exposure and colorectal cancer mortality. “There was,” they wrote “a significantly increased risk of colorectal cancer mortality among workers exposed to asbestos occupationally…This implies that the risk of colorectal cancer mortality increases as the level of asbestos exposure rises.” Concluding their article, the authors reaffirmed that their findings indicated that occupational exposure to asbestos was a risk factor for colorectal cancer. See: Exposure to asbestos and the risk of colorectal cancer mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Oct 18, 2019

Legal proceedings are ongoing in Milan against five executives from La Scala Opera House on behalf of children whose parents were occupationally exposed to asbestos at the theater and subsequently died from asbestos-related diseases. The 12 deceased named in this lawsuit included Italian conductor and pianist maestro Edoardo Muller (1938-2016), toolmaker and machinist Demetrio Asta and singer Luciana Patelli, who died in 2013 of pleural mesothelioma. Asbestos-containing products were widespread throughout the structure with asbestos gloves being used until 1994, one witness testified. See: Milano, morti per amianto alla Scala: in aula i figli delle vittime [Milan, asbestos deaths at La Scala: children of victims in court].

Oct 16, 2019

An opinion piece in the N.Y. Times by former administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency – Gina Wheeler and William Reilly – called for an urgent and immediate ban on asbestos, a substance killing ~40,000 Americans every year. The authors call on Congress to pass current legislation which bans all asbestos importation and use, without loopholes or exemptions, on the grounds of public safety. The draft prohibitions are progressing in the House of Representatives and the Energy and Commerce Committee will shortly have an opportunity to send it to the House for passage with bipartisan support. See: Asbestos Kills Nearly 40,000 Americans a Year. Ban It.

Oct 16, 2019

The Government of Kerala has set a two year deadline for asbestos roofing to be removed from 1,000 state, private and independent schools on the grounds of the “harmful impact on students’ health.” The mandatory order follows a ruling by the Kerala High Court in a case brought by a school manager from Thrissur. The Director of Education (DGE) has been instructed to compile an audit of schools with the toxic roofing and ensure that removal work is accomplished in a timely fashion; the DGE must submit monthly update reports on progress to the authorities. See: Govt. bans asbestos roofs in schools.

Oct 16, 2019

Australian trade unions are warning about the threat posed by the Ensuring Integrity Bill to the legal and human rights of victims of toxic industrial exposures, citing the long-standing campaign by unions to secure justice for victims of asbestos-related diseases. Commenting on the proposed legislation ACTU President Michele O’Neil said: “History tells us that threats to workers and the public’s health like asbestos only get tackled when workers stand together in their unions and demand change. If this Bill had been law during the fight to ban asbestos and hold James Hardie to account we would have seen unions shut down for actions to ensure public and worker safety.” See: Link between union-bashing bill and public health campaigns.

Oct 16, 2019

The acquisition of new microscope technology will enable Cambodian customs officers to identify asbestos-containing materials for the first time. The new equipment and training were gifted by Australian donors: Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA and the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency. At the presentation event, Deputy Director General Ministry of Commerce H.E. Phan Oun, said: “This is something new for us … We know asbestos is a big problem. We need a long-term action plan to ban asbestos.” The new microscope and the training provided will enable Cambodian personnel to test products for asbestos for the first time. See: Spotting the Dangers of Asbestos in Cambodia.

Oct 16, 2019

A Fund is being set up by the Dutch Government to encourage homeowners to remove asbestos roofs by making loans available for remediation work until 2028. Announcing this initiative, State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven of Infrastructure said the Government hoped that the availability of these funds would prompt property owners to act expeditiously. Van Veldhoven said: “The older a roof is, the more asbestos fibers it releases. So they can get into the garden and that makes the roofs a bit more dangerous every year.” Although the country’s asbestos ban remains in place, a deadline for the removal of asbestos roofs has been overturned. See: New Fund to Help Dutch Homeowners Clear Away Asbestos Roofs.

Oct 14, 2019

This article on a Russian website highlighted everyday exposures to ordinary things which could prove fatal, including asbestos – stating categorically that: “Asbestos is dangerous to health.” This statement is unusual in that the image of asbestos is carefully preserved in Russia as it is the world’s largest asbestos producer and the leading force behind asbestos marketing efforts around the world. The text pointed out that exposure to asbestos, which is found in many building materials, could cause various cancers including mesothelioma and that for this reason the EU had banned its use. See: 5 повседневных вещей, которые на самом деле опасны [5 everyday things that are really dangerous].

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]

Sep 27, 2019

A letter to the Brazilian Minister of Defence sent by campaigning groups based in Brazil, Europe and North America called for action to prevent the sale of the aircraft carrier São Paulo to scrap dealers likely to send the ship for dismantling to the unregulated beaches of South Asia; the presence on-board of pollutants including asbestos, heavy metals and oil residues was cited. Under the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movements and Disposal of Hazardous Waste, which Brazil has signed, sending this vessel to another country without first removing the toxic substances is illegal. The São Paulo’s sister ship, the Clemenceau, was sent to India from France for scrapping; after worldwide protests, the ship was returned to France. In 2009, it was safely dismantled in Hartlepool, UK (Portuguese version of full article). [Read full article]

Sep 27, 2019

A shortened version of this paper was presented on September 25, 2019 at a meeting of the British Occupational Health Society’s London, South and South East Region Asbestos Seminar which was held in central London. From her perspective as the former editor of the British Asbestos Newsletter and Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, the author highlighted the changes she had witnessed during the 30 years that she had campaigned for asbestos justice at home and abroad and highlighted the work of four global changemakers: Dr. Irving Selikoff (US), Dr. Nancy Tait (UK), Fernanda Giannasi (Brazil) and Sugio Furuya (Japan). [Read full article]

Aug 22, 2019

In light of a Brazilian Supreme Court decision expected on September 4, 2019 regarding a request for the recommencement of asbestos mining operations to produce fiber for export purposes, representatives of Brazilian and international groups have issued an appeal to Ministers urging that they uphold the historic 2017 decision declaring the commercialization of asbestos unconstitutional throughout the country. The text of the letter – which is supported by groups that were part of the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil 2019 – implored the Supreme Court Justices to “uphold the right of all humanity to live a life free from deadly exposures to asbestos.” [Read full article]

Aug 19, 2019

A Brazilian PhD dissertation by Dr. A.P. Amaral published this year (2019) explored in depth what a Brazilian Commission had reported in 2010 about the dangerous conditions in which asbestos workers toiled with a focus on the situation in the town of Minaçu, home to the country’s sole remaining chrysotile asbestos mine. The brief article about this thesis highlighted the isolation and deprivation experienced by victims and their families who received neither support nor acknowledgement of the occupational nature of the illnesses contracted. In a town where the asbestos discourse was dictated by those with vested interests in the survival of the industry, the injured were marginalized and silenced by the overpowering forces against them. [Read full article]

Aug 16, 2019

On August 13, 2019, a media release was issued at the conclusion of an asbestos workshop in Vientiane, the capital of Laos; the event was hosted by the Lao National Assembly’s Committee of Social Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Health and is a manifestation of the growing concern for public and occupational health caused by high levels of asbestos use in the country (as exemplified in the: Lao National Strategy for Elimination of Asbestos-related Diseases). Presentations by international experts including representatives of the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization, the (Australian) Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and specialists from Vietnam, Korea and Japan were of great interest to delegates. [Read full article]

Aug 2, 2019

A judgment handed down by the Supreme Court on July 29, 2019 is being hailed as a landmark in the British fight for “transparency of the legal process”; while the civil case initiated by Graham Dring in 2017 on behalf of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (the Forum) sought disclosure of documentation to a non-party to asbestos litigation, the precedent it set could almost certainly be used by concerned citizens or journalists to access court documents in other cases. The unanimous verdict of the Court in Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Dring (for and on behalf of Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK) upheld the principle of public access based on the constitutional principle of open justice. [Read full article]

Jul 25, 2019

The list of participants to the meetings of the United Nations’ Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions 2019 uploaded on July 12, 2019 makes interesting reading. An examination of details provided about attendees at the sessions revealed the names of 12 asbestos lobbyists and others working for organizations known to be involved in protecting sales of chrysotile (white) asbestos. Organizations they represented included: the International Chrysotile Association (Canada), the Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers' Association (India), Confederation of Employers of Kazakhstan, International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile” (Russia) and Vietnam National Roof Sheet Association. [Read full article]

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]

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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