|►Vietnam: Addressing a Toxic Legacy|
|Brazil: Judge Rules on the Sinking of the São Paulo|
|Russia: Hypocrites and Liars!|
|Italy: Supreme Court Victory|
|Australia: Wittenoom Remembered|
|Spain: Asbestos Fly-tipping in Catalonia|
Feb 8, 2023
Accepting that it is not possible to completely control toxic exposures to asbestos at work and at home, the Government of Vietnam took steps to protect the population by banning the use of amphiboles (1998) and making plans to end the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos in building products. In 2020, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health identified 210 cases of mesothelioma; many cases went undetected and experts believe that that there could be 11,500 cases of mesothelioma by 2030, if action is not taken. See: Thông tin về Amiang và bệnh ung thư [Information about Asbestos and Cancer].
Feb 6, 2023
It was reported on February 2, 2023, that an attempt to obtain an injunction from the Federal Court of Pernambuco to prevent the Brazilian Navy from sinking the former aircraft carrier the São Paulo in the Atlantic Ocean had failed. Although Federal Judge Ubiratan de Couto Maurício of the 9th Pernambuco Court agreed that the sinking would cause environmental damage, he said that the extent of the damage was not known. He ordered that the vessel be sunk 350 km off the Brazilian coast, at a depth of approximately 5,000 meters and outside of Environmental Protection Areas where there were no documented submarine cables. See: Marinha confirma plano de afundar navio feito de amianto [Navy confirms plan to sink ship containing asbestos].
Feb 6, 2023
The author of the article referenced below which was uploaded to a Russian website could not resist the temptation to exploit news about the sinking by the Brazilian Navy of its asbestos-laden flagship to bolster the image of home-grown chrysotile asbestos, remarking that: “According to scientists, amphibole has a very harmful effect, unlike chrysotile asbestos.” Before Western sanctions were imposed in retaliation for Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Russia had been the world’s largest producer and supplier of chrysotile asbestos. See: Бразилия потопила свой последний авианосец: чем это грозит экологии [Brazil sank its last aircraft carrier: how does this threaten the environment].
Feb. 6, 2023
The Labor Section of Italy’s Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) issued a victims’ verdict allowing 11 asbestos claimants to submit applications for early retirement and/or government benefits even though they had missed government deadlines. The plaintiffs had worked for 10 to 20 years in a shipyard where they had been routinely exposed to asbestos. Two lower courts had rejected the arguments advanced by the victims’ legal team. The case will now be returned to Rome’s Court of Appeal for further consideration. See: La Cassazione apre nuovi scenari per la maggiorazione per amianto della pensione [The Cassation opens up new scenarios for increased pension for asbestos [exposure]].
Feb 6, 2023
The review cited below is of a play premiered in Melbourne, entitled Wittenoom, by Mary Anne Butler about a mother and daughter who lived in the notorious Australian mining town of Wittenoom in the 1940s. Highlighted were the excellent performances, strength of the writing and positive contribution of the sound design, with the author concluding that “the story of Wittenoom is a stark reminder of the deceptive and immoral practices large corporations maintain in the name of profit…The show draws themes of grief, memory and injustice together in an undeniably moving way. It is a powerful and compelling requiem for the people whose lives have been destroyed.” See: More than 2,000 people from Wittenoom died of asbestos-related diseases. A powerful and compelling requiem brings their story to the stage.
Feb 6, 2023
Following the discovery of two tonnes of asbestos-containing construction debris illegally dumped near a wind farm in Tarragona, a port city in Spain’s Catalonia region, members of the Civil Guard opened an investigation to identify the perpetrators. The Civil Guard notified the Waste Agency of Catalonia to arrange the removal of the toxic waste and informed the Tortosa Court of the facts pending the commencement of legal action. See: Descubierto un vertedero ilegal de dos toneladas de uralita con amianto en El Perelló [An illegal dump of two tons of asbestos-containing uralite discovered in El Perelló].
Feb 2, 2023
After the Brazilian Navy announced plans to sink the toxic hot potato which is the São Paulo – the retired aircraft carrier and Brazil’s former flagship – the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) filed a public civil action before the 2nd Federal Court of Pernambuco seeking an injunction to stop the ship being scuttled. The MPF told the court that the sinking of the São Paulo which was scheduled for February 1 could cause “irreparable damage to the marine environment, the public health of the population and irreversible health consequences.” See: MPF pede à Justiça que proíba Marinha de afundar porta-aviões aposentado impedido de atracar no Brasil [MPF asks Justices to prohibit Navy from sinking retired aircraft carrier prevented from docking in Brazil].
Feb 2, 2023
On January 30, 2023, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals 3rd Circuit rejected Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) latest attempt to off-load tens of thousands of asbestos cases by filing a contentious bankruptcy. In its 56-page verdict, the judges wrote: “LTL (the subsidiary into which the asbestos claims were dumped), at the time of its (bankruptcy) filing, was highly solvent with access to cash to meet comfortably its liabilities.” The personal injury claims were made by people who alleged that the cancers they contracted had been caused by use of J&J’s asbestos-contaminated talc-based baby powder. See: U.S. court rejects J&J bankruptcy strategy for thousands of talc lawsuits.
Feb 2, 2023
Data published on February 1, 2023 by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform detailed figures for the scrapping of ocean-going commercial ships and offshore units in 2022. Of the 443 vessels scrapped, 292 were dismantled on dirty and dangerous tidal beaches in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The worst dumper country of the year was China followed by Brazil, whose state-owned oil company Petrobras sent four of its old tankers and two of its floating platforms for dismantling on South Asian beaches in 2022, reaching a total of 34 vessels in the last decade. See: Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2022.
Jan 31, 2023
Despite protests by the Brazilian Minister of the Environment Marina Silva, the Navy announced plans to sink the hull of the São Paulo in the sea off the Brazilian coast. The vessel became something of an international toxic hot potato after the Turkish Government rescinded permission for it to be scrapped in a Turkish shipyard because of concerns over the presence of asbestos and other toxic materials. Since the ship was returned to Brazil, provincial and government authorities have refused permission for it to dock. In its day, the São Paulo was Brazil largest warship with capacity for 40 aircraft. See: Marinha quer afundar casco de porta-aviões barrado pela Turquia [Navy plans to sink hull of aircraft carrier barred by Turkey].
Jan 31, 2023
The “article” cited below reads like a press release from the Kostanay Minerals JSC, Kazakhstan’s sole asbestos producer. Amongst the facts reported were: total output from the company was 17.5 million tonnes (t) of white asbestos; annual production was 250,000t; 95% of all products were sent to Uzbekistan, India, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, China, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Thailand and Kyrgyzstan. The imposition by Western countries of sanctions on Russian trade, led Kostanay to replace Russian ports with ports in Georgia and Lithuania. The fact that asbestos causes cancer was not mentioned. See: Костанайские карьеры: как добывают асбест на одном из крупнейших месторождений в мире [Kostanay quarries: mining one of the largest deposits of asbestos in the world].
Jan 31, 2023
On January 28, 2023, the South Korean Province of Jeonbuk-do announced plans to address asbestos contamination in 90 daycare centers. The twenty-seven buildings worst affected – which have recorded high levels of airborne asbestos fibers – will be demolished this year. By the end of 2024, asbestos will be eradicated from the remaining properties. According to a provincial official: “We started the project to prevent exposure of sensitive infants and toddlers to harmful substances.” See: 전북도, 올해 어린이집 27개소 석면 자재 철거 지원 [Jeonbuk-do supports removal of asbestos materials from 27 daycare centers this year].
Jan 31, 2023
Delays were announced in the start of a massive asbestos eradication program scheduled for the Badia del Vallès housing project in Barcelona. According to a spokesperson for the local government, no specialist contractor had been found who was capable of undertaking all the tasks involved to remove and/or encapsulate toxic products in the 5,372 apartments and infrastructure. A sum of €4.5 million (US$4.9m) had been allocated to pay for the decontamination. See: La retirada de amianto en Badia del Vallès vuelve a retrasarse hasta 2024 [The removal of asbestos in Badia del Vallès is delayed again until 2024].
Jan 31, 2023
Four out of five schools in England and Wales contain asbestos; as a result, the number of teaching staff dying from workplace asbestos exposures continues to rise. Statistics revealed in the article cited below were obtained by Freedom of Information requests to the Department for Education. Even though the Government continued to prevaricate over the asbestos scandal, a Department for Education spokesperson asserted that: “We take the safety of children and those who work with them incredibly seriously – which is why we expect all local authorities, governing bodies and academy trusts to have robust plans in place to manage asbestos in school buildings effectively, in line with their legal duties.” See: The Silent Killer in Schools. Government Under Fire for Failing to Act on Lethal Asbestos.
Jan 31, 2023
Brazilian Senator Vanderlan Cardoso, whose constituency included Brazil’s sole remaining asbestos mining conglomerate, welcomed a new Supreme Court action which allowed mining to continue despite previous judicial verdicts that had banned the commercialization of asbestos nationwide. According to him: “the [asbestos] ban was a wrong decision that needed to be reversed to guarantee the jobs of the mining company's workers.” See: “Lutei por isso desde que cheguei ao Senado”, disse Vanderlan sobre a liberação da produção de amianto em Minaçu [“I have fought for this since I arrived in the Senate,” said Vanderlan about the sanctioning of asbestos production in Minaçu].
Jan 27, 2023
Recapping the São Paulo aircraft carrier fiasco, the editorial cited below quoted a manifesto by Brazilian groups & partners which said the situation was “a cursed legacy of the Bolsonaro government.” Fears that the ship, now in the Navy’s possession, would be sunk impelled the authors to warn this would be “an environmental disaster with political repercussions and immense environmental damage due to the existence of carcinogenic asbestos, possible radioactive sources, arsenic, PCBs, heavy metals, among other harmful agents …” See: Porta-aviões brasileiro com amianto à deriva no oceano Atlântico: Mais uma herança maldita do governo Bolsonaro [Brazilian aircraft carrier with asbestos adrift in the Atlantic Ocean: Another cursed legacy of the Bolsonaro government].
Jan 20, 2023
The last few months of 2022 saw a remarkable series of events which revealed the volte-face in Brazilians’ perception of asbestos. In decisions by the judiciary and provincial governments, TV broadcasts and victories by grassroots’ campaigners, lies told by the asbestos lobby were denounced, the return of an asbestos-laden ship was blocked and the lives sacrificed by asbestos stakeholders were honored. High-profile developments were: verdicts by courts in São Paulo and Pernambuco condemning attacks by the asbestos lobby on a ban asbestos campaigner and supporting a state’s right to bar a toxic ship – the São Paulo – from its waters; the quashing of an injunction by the Superior Civil Court; and mobilization by civil society groups and state agencies to prevent the docking of the São Paulo in their ports. [Read full article]
Oct 31, 2022
How many people are there who make you smile? I’m betting you can count them on the fingers of one hand. Conrad Atkinson was one of them. I first encountered Conrad some years ago at an international conference in Barrow-in-Furness. He spoke about his landmark piece: Asbestos: The Lungs of Capitalism showing, if memory serves me right, slides of the artwork. I didn’t get it. In 2019, I had the opportunity to see this work at the Tate when museum conservators readied it for installation. I was blown away by its scale, attention to detail, historical content, vivid coloration and vivacity. Here were the lives of people I had read about and worked with spread across a huge museum space. Conrad had studied the daily reality of ordinary people, distilled it through his unique artistic filter and preserved it forever. [Read full article]
Oct 11, 2022
Whose responsibility is the floating can of worms which is the São Paulo? At 32,800 tonnes fully loaded, Brazil’s 265 meter long former flagship has now become a symbol of government malfeasance and criminality. The Brazilian Navy, duplicating the actions of its French counterpart (2000), had hoped to off-load the vessel to a new owner. Clearly, the Latin phrase “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) was not part of the lexicon of Sök Denizcilik, the Turkish shipyard which bought the São Paulo in 2021 for BRL 10.5 million (~US$2m) despite the fact that it was likely to contain asbestos, PCBs, lead/cadmium paint as well as traces of radioactive material. The ship which set sail in August 2022 for a dismantling yard is now back in Brazilian waters having been refused entry into Turkey. It’s fate remains uncertain. [Read full article]
Oct 10, 2022
Last month, the European Commission released long-awaited protocols to address the ongoing asbestos epidemic amongst the Member States of the EU. In 2019, there were 70,000 asbestos deaths in the EU; each one was avoidable. The contents of the Commission’s program seemed to generate as much negative as positive coverage with groups representing workers and labor federations condemning the Commission’s prioritization of commercial interests over the lives of workers. In October 2021, the European Parliament had voted for a new asbestos occupational exposure limit of 0.001 f/cm³; however, the Commission’s 2022 proposal will only impose a limit of 0.01 f/cm³. The new level would be “significantly” higher than the 0.002 f/cm³ limit currently in place in some EU member states. [Read full article]
Sep 21, 2022
A quote made famous by Vladimir Lenin: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,” sprang to mind when I was reviewing progress made this month (September 2022). Recent news received of developments in Latin America, Europe and Asia made manifest the huge strides being achieved in the struggle for asbestos justice. The September breakthroughs were the result of long-term efforts by grassroots campaigners, politicians, civil servants, asbestos victims’ groups, non-governmental organizations, national associations and others working individually and collaboratively to address asbestos corruption and illegalities. [Read full article]
Sep 9, 2022
On September 6, 2022 Parliamentary bill No. 4142, which prohibited the use of all types of asbestos and products containing it in Ukraine, was enacted. As a result, said Ukrainian politician Olena Shulyak: “Finally, we will get rid of the health-threatening Soviet construction legacy and replace it with modern building materials that will preserve the health of both builders and residents of new buildings.” The road to achieving this ban was not straightforward due to aggressive lobbying by Ukrainian and foreign pro-asbestos stakeholders. Judicial as well as legislative actions were blocked on multiple occasions, testing both the stamina and conviction of campaigners in Parliament and civil society organizations. [Read full article]
Sep 6, 2022
With the imposition of trade sanctions on Russian businesses, traditional transport routes were blocked not just for the aggressor but for others who used their ports. A case in point was the situation faced by Kostanay Minerals JSC, Kazakhstan’s sole chrysotile (white) asbestos conglomerate, which had until the outbreak of the 2022 war sent its exports via the Russian ports of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea and St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea. After initial logistical difficulties which forced Kostanay to cease mining operations, new channels of transportation were developed to allow the export of asbestos fiber to resume. An assessment of Russian asbestos exports is not possible at this time due to the lack of reliable data. [Read full article]
Sep 1, 2022
Bowing to the inevitable, on Tuesday August 30, 2022 the Brazilian Agency which had authorized the export of the Navy’s former flagship – the São Paulo – to Turkey called for its immediate return to Brazil following the Turkish Government’s cancellation of its import permit. The international furore caused by the ship’s journey to an Izmir dismantling yard has been colossal with widespread unrest in Turkey over the continued desecration of the environment under the Erdoğan Government. As of August 31, 2022, the São Paulo was off the coast of Morocco. The Basel Action Network which is monitoring the transit of the Dutch tug pulling the aircraft carrier says that the speed has remained consistent and the vessel is on course towards Turkey. [Read full article]
Aug 24, 2022
Today (August 24, 2022), is Independence Day in Ukraine. Under current circumstances, Ukrainians could be forgiven for exuberant displays of nationalism as they celebrate their 31st year of freedom. And yet, even after more than three decades of independence, the country is still under attack. Fighting against the Russians and their collaborators is now a fact of life not only in the streets but also in the Parliament in Kyiv where work to ban asbestos is under a constant bombardment from asbestos industry propagandists determined to quash the sovereign right of Ukraine to act in the best interests of its citizens and outlaw the use of an acknowledged carcinogen as other civilized countries have done. [Read full article]
Aug 15, 2022
Within hours of Johnson and Johnson’s August 11, 2022 announcement that it planned to withdraw its iconic talc-based baby powder from sale in all global markets next year, the news had spread around the world. Coverage of this development was published in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Qatar, India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Israel, the Gulf States, Brazil and elsewhere. What was remarkable was not the massive interest in this story but the fact that not one of the articles asked why toxic baby powder which had been withdrawn in North America in 2020 was still being sold in their country in 2022. [Read full article]
Aug 12, 2022
Global campaigners have today condemned the decision of the Spanish Supreme Court which this week ruled against the grieving family of José María Iñigo, a famous TV presenter and personality. Mr. Iñigo died in 2018 from mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. He had worked for years in TV studios in Madrid which were full of asbestos-containing insulation products. Despite the evidence, the Court found that his lawyers had not proved that his death was caused by workplace exposures. In today’s press release, activists from Latin America, Europe and Asia expressed outrage at this decision and condolences with the family’s loss [Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español del artículo completo]. [Read full article]
Aug 9, 2022
According to a ruling by a regional court in Rio de Janeiro State, the São Paulo – the former flagship of the Brazilian Navy – should be on its way back to a Brazilian port having set sail on August 4 on its way to a dismantling yard in Turkey. The court issued an order that the ship return to Guanabara Bay as a “precautionary measure.” It has been reported that on August 5, the Supreme Court of Brazil also ordered the São Paulo to return to base and not leave Brazilian waters. As of now, the location of the vessel remains unknown, with one Brazilian military expert speculating that the ship may have turned off its GPS to mask its current position. With the temporary disappearance of the vessel, media attention is growing not only in Brazil but also in Europe. Where is the São Paulo? [Read full article]
Jul 18, 2022
Developments in July 2022 have corroborated the long-standing consensus regarding the global catastrophe caused by the widespread and unregulated use of asbestos. The month began with an announcement by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that, following a consultation of international experts, it had been confirmed that firefighters were at increased risk of contracting mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Events held by UK asbestos campaigners on July 1 raised awareness of the nationwide epidemic killing 5,000+ Britons every year. A few days later, data published by the Health and Safety Executive confirmed that asbestos mortality had increased by more than 6% in just one year. [Read full article]
Jul 13, 2022
On July 7, 2022 Judge Craig Whitley from the US Bankruptcy court in Charlotte, North Carolina, issued the latest ruling in the long running saga of the potentially “fraudulent” bankruptcy of the French-owned American company CertainTeed LLC. The fact that he found favor with allegations that the parent company Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA (Saint Gobain) and its CertainTeed materials division had “hindered the rights of asbestos victims,” breathed new life into the fight to reinstate the rights of dying plaintiffs. The process by which Saint Gobain’s lawyers used the “Texas two-step” to off-load the asbestos liabilities of CertainTeed was forensically exposed by whistleblower Amiel Gross, whose 2021 testimony was viewed with favor by the Judge. [Read full article]
Jun 30, 2022
On June 28, 2022, the European Environment Agency uploaded a report, entitled Beating cancer – the role of Europe’s environment, which laid out a multi-pronged EU strategy for reducing the cost of deadly exposures to toxins. In the 27 EU Member States, ~2.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 1.3 million die from it every year. When looking at the high-profile program to tackle Europe’s asbestos legacy, even the most hardened Brexiteer must have pause for thought. No such programs exist in the UK. A 2021/22 Parliamentary enquiry into the Government’s asbestos policy was hampered from the start by its extremely limited scope. The Committee’s April 21, 2022 report identified significant failings by the Health and Safety Executive. The Government has failed to respond to the report. [Read full article]
Jun 20, 2022
In a media release on June 15, 2022, groups campaigning for occupational rights and social justice denounced a Russian-led cabal for blocking United Nations progress on protecting global populations from a class 1 carcinogen: chrysotile (white) asbestos. A veto by 5 countries of a resolution tabled on June 14 to include chrysotile on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention was a “gross violation of the spirit of the Rotterdam Convention and in total contradiction to the decision taken at the International Labour Conference last Friday by all ILO member countries… to elevate a safe and health working environment to a fundamental principle and right to work.” [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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