International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



(Updated September 15, 2023)

News text:

Oct 2, 2023

The insightful article cited below was uploaded on September 28, 2023 by Human Rights Watch. The text documented the deadly price paid by workers in Bangladesh’s shipbreaking yards who are routinely exposed to dangerous substances and unsafe conditions without even the most basic of protective equipment. One of the occupational hazards is asbestos. According to a report issued by the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health, and Environment Foundation (2017) more than one third of shipbreaking workers reported experiencing health complications from asbestos exposures. See: Trading Lives for Profit: How the Shipping Industry Circumvents Regulations to Scrap Toxic Ships on Bangladesh’s Beaches.

Oct 2, 2023

The third story in an ongoing series of articles about asbestos in The Tribune – a student newspaper at Canada’s McGill University – was uploaded on September 26, 2023. The article documented the fear and outrage of McGill students and staff members who spoke out at an Asbestos Town Hall meeting on September 22. “Some of us,” said PhD student Hiba Kamel “are traumatized. Some of us have actually interacted with the dust... It’s nothing short of criminal to not even tell people that ‘hey, this building has asbestos.’” Deep Saini, the Principal of McGill, admitted that there had been a “broad-scale process failure.” See: “Some of us are traumatized”: McGill student pleas over asbestos exposure.

Oct 2, 2023

The article cited below by Professor of Lung Cancer & Mesothelioma Daniel Murphy from Glasgow University included information about the occurrence and causation of mesothelioma and an update on progress by UK researchers into learning about the disease and how to treat mesothelioma patients. Murphy was hopeful that the development of “genetically engineered mouse models of Mesothelioma that combine controlled introduction of the same mutations that commonly arise in human Mesothelioma with a single injection of Asbestos to incorporate chronic inflammation in our models,” would help researchers “distinguish high risk from low risk of Mesothelioma development, enabling earlier treatment of high-risk patients than is currently possible…” See: The risk of malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Oct 2, 2023

To spread awareness of Japan’s mesothelioma epidemic, the Tokyo-based NGO Mesothelioma, Pneumoconiosis, and Asbestos Center has set up a competition which will begin receiving applications from October 1. Entrants can submit their work under one of four categories: photos, essays, literary arts and research promotion. The pieces will be judged by their effectiveness in raising public awareness of the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Monetary prizes will be given to the successful competitors. See: アスベスト問題を未来の世代にもわかりやすく 写真や文芸に賞を創設 [Establishment of awards for photography and literature to make asbestos issues easier to understand for future generations].

Oct 2, 2023

Last week, Palermo’s Court of Appeal overturned the decision of a court in Marsala, Italy which had denied compensation to a mesothelioma widow. The Appeal Court ordered INAIL – Italy’s Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work – to pay €45,000 (US$48,000) for the 2020 death of the shipyard worker from Trapani, Sicily. See: Trapani, Mori per L’Amianto: L’INAIL Condannara a Risarcire I Familiari di un Operaio [Trapani, Died from Asbestos: INAIL Condemned to Compensate the Family members of a Worker].

Oct 2, 2023

On September 15, 2023, it was announced that a one-day training program for council employees to increase their ability to identify and manage asbestos had won an award from the government of the Australian State of New South Wales. The instruction included information on a variety of matters such as legislative, regulatory requirements, site risk assessment, identification, types of asbestos, PPE requirements and notification requirements. One of the designers of the course said that it: “better equips local government officers across the state with the basics so that they can quickly determine the safest course of action when they’re called out to an inspection or identify asbestos in waste materials and landfill.” See: Asbestos course for council workers wins training award.

Sep 29, 2023

A 7+ minute video uploaded on September 25, 2023 to the website of a German public service broadcaster detailed the environmental disaster now being endured by survivors of the February earthquakes which devastated Turkish towns earlier this year. Investigations carried out in Hatay Province showed the presence of airborne asbestos near temporary camps providing shelter to the homeless. Building rubble dumped in waste sites near containers used for housing and near a high school was also found to contain asbestos as did samples collected from the car of the investigators. See: Turkey: Asbestos contamination could lead to many more deaths after the earthquake.

Sep 29, 2023

Scores of Russian articles like the one cited below were uploaded on September 22/23, 2023 reporting news published in the British tabloid, the Daily Express, that 2,000 pieces of military equipment sent to Ukraine by Britain could contain asbestos. Amongst the contaminated items were Challenger 2 tanks, Warrior infantry fighting vehicles and Bulldog armored personnel carriers. See: СМИ узнали, какой ядовитый "сюрприз" зашит в британской технике, отправленной для ВСУ [The media found out what a poisonous “surprise” was incorporated within British equipment sent to the Armed Forces of Ukraine].

Sep 29, 2023

At a meeting of asbestos victims and experts which took place in the Brazilian city of Recife, in the State of Pernambuca earlier this month, participants issued a document called the “Recife Charter” which demanded that workers who had been exposed to asbestos by their employer be provided with the free medical care mandated by Brazilian Law 9,055/1995. Asbestos-injured employees and their family members said that the Brasilit/Saint-Gobain company in Pernambuco was not fulfilling this legal obligation, as a result of which the injured were not able to access medical care. See: Associação Pernambucana dos Expostos ao amianto (APEA) Carta de Recife [Pernambuca Association of those Exposed to Asbestos (APEA) Recife Charter].

Sep 29, 2023

A September 22, 2023 briefing uploaded by the European Parliament explained recent developments intended to improve asbestos protections for European workers; historic exposures to asbestos are responsible for 70,000 deaths of Europeans every year. A proposal to lower the mandatory occupational exposure limit for asbestos was approved by the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs on September 7, 2023. In October, there will be a vote on the first reading of the revised Directive. See: Protection of workers from asbestos at work briefing.

Sep 29, 2023

On September 21, 2023, an asbestos victims’ group in Toulon received news from Frédéric Boccaletti, a member of the National Assembly representing the constituency of Var – home to seafarers who’d been exposed to asbestos at the shipyards of La Seyne-sur-Mer and the military arsenal. Boccaletti said the Minister of the Armed Forces had agreed to streamline the process for seafarers to obtain compensation for asbestos anxiety. As the current levels of compensation were insufficient, Boccaletti said, he planned to lobby the Minister for an increase. See: Marins exposés à l’amiante: une procédure assouplie monter un dossier d'indemnisation pour le préjudice moral d’anxiété [Seafarers exposed to asbestos: a relaxed procedure for preparing a compensation case for anxiety moral damage].

Sep 29, 2023

The commentary cited below examined the double whammy posed to school users by the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) and asbestos throughout the UK. Both substances were widely used from the 1950s through the 1990s so it is not uncommon to find that schools contain both. If a building collapses due to the deterioration of RAAC, the damage could very well liberate asbestos fibers into the air. “I believe,” wrote the author that “we should now be moving the debate firmly away from managing asbestos in school buildings to a proactive management approach of systematic removal – and this latest issue clearly demonstrates why.” See: Concrete closure fiasco is yet another reason asbestos has no place in our schools.

Sep 25, 2023

An article uploaded to a Kenyan news portal last week warned members of the public of the dangers posed by using potentially toxic building products in order to decrease the construction price of a new home. The author of the article cited below said that despite the fact that Kenya had banned the use of asbestos in 2006 – this fact remains unsubstantiated – the use of asbestos-cement roofing continued. When this material is disturbed it can release “fibers into the air. Exposure to air containing the fibers increases the risk of inhaling the fibers and developing the associated diseases…” See: Asbestos Roofing: Banned & Cancerous Material Kenyans Are Still Using.

Sep 25, 2023

New global trade data for the asbestos industry was uploaded in August 2023 to the website of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). This data is best viewed as an indication of trends; as the raw data are sourced from national governments, the figures are not always reliable. Various points of interests included: global production increased in 2022 from 1.28m tonnes (t) in 2021 to 1.33mt with Russia still the biggest producer; five countries accounted for 85% of all asbestos consumed: India, China, Russia, Uzbekistan and Indonesia; consumption in Russia jumped by nearly 60% from 2021 to 2022 – it is not known whether this asbestos was used or warehoused due to difficulties with export shipments as a result of Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. See: USGS Global Asbestos Trade Data.

Sep 25, 2023

A rather curious article was uploaded on September 19, 2023 to a news portal in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais; it told the tale of a truck driver who had ingested asbestos fibers after a traffic accident in 1987. When his truck overturned, eight tons of asbestos were scattered on the highway. To reassure reporters on the scene concerned about the hazard posed by the scattered asbestos, driver José Alberto Siqueira ate a handful of it. Now 77 years old, Siqueira told a journalist that he wouldn’t eat asbestos now. See: Estado de Minas descobre vivo o homem que comeu amianto [State of Minas discovers man who ate asbestos alive].

Sep 25, 2023

Asbestos roofing which is popular in Indonesia has been banned in many parts of the world because of the health hazard it poses to workers who handle it and people who live in buildings containing it. The article cited below reviewed the content of a short video about this subject uploaded to YouTube which explained that exposure to asbestos fibers liberated by toxic roofing could cause a number of cancers as well as respiratory diseases. See: Kenapa Atap Asbes Dilarang? Awas Bahaya Penyakit Paru-paru yang Tidak [Why is asbestos roofing banned? Beware of the Dangers of Incurable Lung Disease].

Sep 28, 2023

The release in August 2023 of updated asbestos trade data provided food for thought. While much seems to have changed since I first began studying the industry over 30 years ago – including the dwindling number of countries producing and consuming asbestos – the fact that 1,330,000 metric tons (t) are still being used every year, despite all that is known about the asbestos hazard, is appalling. Amongst the points of interest noted in the new data were: India remained the world’s biggest asbestos user, importing 424,000t in 2022; just five countries accounted for 85% of all asbestos consumed worldwide; apparent domestic consumption in Russia jumped by nearly 60% from 2021 to 2022. [Read full article]

Sep 26, 2023

There are a few of us, people who see the world through an asbestos filter. People like me who go to a tourist destination in Western Australia to gawp at the deteriorating asbestos-cement roofing on the outbuildings of a defunct whaling station; or someone like Fernanda Giannasi who zeroed in on a display case containing an asbestos hood for firefighters at the Museum of Japanese Immigration in São Paulo; or Mark Ogden who gave an asbestos masterclass to the unsuspecting museum chairman of a facility housing military memorabilia. For members of this select tribe, I would like to draw your attention to a few curious developments that have piqued my interest over recent months. [Read full article]

Sep 20, 2023

The world is experiencing an explosion of cancers in younger people. Whilst “dietary risk factors (diet high in red meat, low in fruits, high in sodium and low in milk, etc), alcohol consumption and tobacco use” were postulated as the main risk factors, human exposures to cancer-causing asbestos should not be overlooked. Many of the people in the age 50 and under cohort now presenting with cancer were born in the 1970s and 1980s, decades during which the global use of asbestos was at its highest. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to: “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).” [Read full article]

Sep 12, 2023

On September 8, French asbestos victims endorsed action by their British counterparts demonstrating outside the Stade de France, Paris to denounce “sportswashing” of asbestos crimes by a multinational corporation headquartered in Montpelier, France. Solidarity with the protest was expressed in a press release by asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners in Latin America, Asia, Europe and Oceania, with Sugio Furuya, Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, saying: “Asbestos victims around the world have paid a high price for the profits made by asbestos companies. It is only right that some of the accumulated wealth be used for the benefit of those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by the immoral activities of Cape and others who prioritized corporate profits over human life.” [Read full article]

Sep 8 2023

A global alliance of asbestos victims’ groups and civil society campaigners from Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Europe today issued a formal declaration of solidarity with British and French asbestos victims’ groups calling for restitution by the Cape Asbestos Company, a former asbestos multinational. Instead of acceding to a request for a £10 million donation for potentially life-saving medical research into asbestos-related diseases, Cape’s parent company is sponsoring two rugby teams competing in the Rugby World Cup 2023. Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network Sugio Furuya said: “It is only right that some of the accumulated wealth be used for the benefit of those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by the immoral activities of Cape and others who prioritized corporate profits over human life.” [Read full article]

Sep 5, 2023

During the summer school holiday, news began circulating of a troubling situation in UK schools and public buildings. By the time children were getting ready for the new school year, the “situation” had become a full blown crisis as news spread that more than a hundred schools would not reopen due to the hazard posed by deteriorating reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete material. Considering the fact that the majority of schools still contain asbestos, the surveying work and remediation of affected structures will be both a long and expensive process. The Conservatives had plenty of warnings about the deterioration of the educational infrastructure; they chose not to listen. Unfortunately, it will be the children and teachers who will pay the price for their political complacency and maladministration. [Read full article]

Aug 24, 2023

Ten years after a Brazilian court upheld a complaint over a defamatory campaign targeting Senior Labor Inspector Fernanda Giannasi, the latest appeal by one of the defendants was dismissed. Commenting on this ruling, Fernanda Giannasi said: “This legal action was about reclaiming my dignity, honor and reputation in the face of the outrageous denunciations made by the defendants who stated that I had behaved in a way that was ‘illegal,’ ‘irresponsible,’ ‘authoritarian’ and ‘reckless.’” In the court of public opinion, the probity of this Brazilian activist was never in any doubt; nevertheless, it is reassuring to see that São Paulo Courts agree, even if they took ten years to do so. [Read full article]

Aug 22, 2023

Neither King Charles III, Canadian Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper and their families, President Donald Trump and his family, Harvard undergrad Matthew Walker, British MP Alice Mahon, Spanish TV star José María Íñigo, European Commission official Arnaldo Lucaccioni nor Israeli politician Tania Mazarsky were protected. All of them lived or worked in buildings riddled with asbestos. Three of them, Alice Mahon, José María Íñigo and Arnaldo Lucaccioni, paid the ultimate price for their exposures; as for the others, only time will tell. [Read full article]

Aug 15, 2023

On August 11, 2023, I learned of the death of the American investigative reporter Paul Brodeur. I had met him briefly many years ago when he had become something of a celebrity for his crusading work on asbestos and other workplace and environmental scandals. Asked about Paul’s legacy, Professor David Rosner from Columbia University said: “Paul’s work literally made the difference in tens of thousands of lives. Paul was the person that made a nation aware of the ways a corrupt industry was secretly killing us. While the battle to control asbestos-related diseases continues there is no doubt that his work led to the elimination of asbestos from thousands of products in our environment and the continuing efforts to hold a deadly industry to account for its misdeeds. We owe him our lives.” [Read full article]

Aug 10, 2023

According to the United States Geological Survey, between the 1980s – the global asbestos heyday – and 2021, annual production fell by 73% from 4,811,942 tonnes (t) to 1,300,000t/year. With dozens of countries banning all use of this Group 1 carcinogen and others choosing to use safer substances, asbestos markets continue to shrink. There is no question that even in the most tightly controlled regimes, knowledge about the links between human asbestos exposures and the occurrence of cancers and respiratory diseases has leaked out. Over recent weeks, multiple alerts have circulated via news outlets in Russia, Kazakhstan and China warning citizens about the asbestos hazard and advising them to minimize their exposures. [Read full article]

Aug 8, 2023

São Caetano do Sul, a city in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, is a cancer hotspot as a result of a long industrial history of asbestos production. Brazil’s first asbestos-cement manufacturing facility was built in this city in 1937; under the ownership of the French multinational Saint Gobain, the plant simultaneously produced a range of asbestos-cement building material as well as generations of asbestos victims. Although it was closed in 1990, the number of victims continues to grow. On Saturday, July 29, 2023, a one-day workshop was held in the city’s council chamber for members of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) to provide updates on medical, legal, political and technical issues and the opportunity for ABREA members to voice concerns regarding a variety of subjects. [Read full article]

Jul 31, 2023

A coalition of activists represented by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA), the Asian Ban Asbestos Network and the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network today congratulate Dr. Ubiratan de Paula Santos, the recipient of the first IBAS Award for Outstanding Service to Asbestos Victims. Dr. Ubiratan is a man of great compassion and empathy as well as a highly experienced pneumologist who has, in collaboration with ABREA members, revolutionized the treatment of asbestos victims by developing publicly-funded clinics and medical protocols which deliver state-of-the-art healthcare to asbestos-exposed workers. [Read full article]

July 27, 2023

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, asbestos companies committed unpardonable crimes. Their actions have resulted in millions of deaths worldwide. While some of the guilty parties have been held to account by national governments, criminal justice systems and civil litigants, it is rare that any of the wrong-doers have made restitution by supporting potentially life-saving medical research into the cancers and diseases caused by asbestos exposures. In Australia, Japan, Belgium and Brazil, however, successes have been achieved; optimism is building that a current campaign by UK asbestos victims will also secure vital funding. Read on. [Read full article]

Jul 24, 2023

During the 30+ years that I have been involved in researching and writing about asbestos issues, I have come across many curious asbestos connections of well-known people. The individuals listed in this article include a major literary figure of the 20th century, a Hollywood superstar, an Australian icon, the Brazilian “Oprah Winfrey,” two former Presidents, a punk rocker, two Parliamentarians, a Rear Admiral and a medical doctor-politician-asbestos entrepreneur. Can you guess their names? [Read full article]

Jul 20, 2023

The public profile of the deadly UK asbestos epidemic was heightened during the early weeks of Summer 2023. At grassroots events around the country and in front-page articles in national newspapers, calls were made for accountability from corporate and government stakeholders responsible for the “slow-burn crisis.” Data released in July 2023 by the Health and Safety Executive confirmed that 5,000 people were still dying every year from asbestos-related disease or as the CEO of Mesothelioma UK Consultant Nurse Liz Darlison memorably summed it up: “The total loss of life is equal to the sinking of more than three Titanics every year…” [Read full article]

Jul 10, 2023

On July 5, 2023, a decision by the Paris Court of Appeal was termed a “judicial scandal” by asbestos victims’ and civil society campaigners who condemned the verdict upholding a lower court’s 2022 dismissal of a case over asbestos poisoning from 1960 until 1990 at Jussieu University. On two secondary points, the file was sent back to the investigating judges. Campaigners have pledged to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. This long-running case began in 1996 after decades of grassroots mobilization by teaching staff, students and campaigners concerned about the presence of asbestos sprayed insulation throughout Jussieu’s built environment. [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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USGS Asbestos Trade Data

Fiber Producers (2020)
 Top Five Users (2020)