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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Jan 24, 2020

There are more cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) diagnosed in the US every year than in any other country. The authors of this paper examined the experience of seven patients and revealed areas where the medical treatment and support they had received had failed to address their physical and psychological needs. Concerns reported by multiple interviewees included: uncertainty about the future, the high symptom burden and the ability to adapt to their changing situation. The authors concluded that: “Timely, coordinated, and personalized care as well as skilled communication should be the cornerstone of care for persons with MPM.” See: The Lived Experience of Persons With Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma in the United States.

Jan 24, 2020

On January 18, there was a manifestation of community solidarity when students, teachers, parents and citizens joined representatives of asbestos victims’ groups, trade unions and other associations, to unveil a mural aimed at raising awareness of the legacy of asbestos exposures at the Bologna railway repair shops operated by the Officine Grandi Riparazioni Bologna (OGR). The artwork – which consisted of four colorful panels – was created by students from the De Andrè school and was sited in via Casarini, opposite the former OGR plant. To date, 300 deaths from asbestos-related diseases have been recorded amongst workers from the OGR plant. See: GLI Studenti e l’Amianto in OGR [Students and Asbestos in OGR].

Jan 24, 2020

A 42-minute segment of the 70-minute 2018 documentary entitled “Breathless,” which was made by Belgian film-makers, is now available to watch on a youtube site hosted by DW, the German state-owned public international broadcaster. The film shows the devastating consequences for individuals and communities who worked for or were the located near Eternit asbestos factories. The film, which premiered at the International Film Festival in Brussels on the June 24, has also been shown in London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Jaipur, Coimbatore, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kymore and other locations. See: Breathless.

Jan 24, 2020

Research by scientists investigating the risks posed by environmental asbestos contamination at sites in the Italian town of Bari substantiated the public health hazard posed by the deterioration of asbestos in situ and the uncontrolled removal of asbestos, both of which were found to raise the concentration of asbestos fibers in urban air. The authors concluded that asbestos roofing at a derelict asbestos-cement factory and on military barracks in Bari had contributed to an increased risk of malignant mesothelioma for the resident population. See: Health impact of exposure to asbestos in polluted area of Southern Italy.

Jan 24, 2020

A Court in Bilboa has ordered two Spanish companies to pay compensation of ~€325,000 (US$ 360,000) to a subcontractor who was exposed to asbestos whilst in their employ and subsequently contracted the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. The claimant had been a pipefitter who had worked with asbestos insulation products on the construction of the Lemoniz nuclear power plant (1979-81) and at sites owned by Petronor, a Spanish oil and gas company based in the Basque Country. He did not receive protective clothing nor was he warned about the health hazards posed by occupational exposures to asbestos. See: Nueva condena por enfermedad tras uso de amianto [New conviction for illness after use of asbestos].

Jan 24, 2020

On January 22, 2020, the President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Jerry Jordan announced that the union was suing the school district over mismanagement of the asbestos, lead and other problems at the city’s schools. The lawsuit asked a judge to allow the union to hire environmental experts to assess the situation alongside district officials and to ensure that periodic testing was undertaken to monitor environmental safety. So far this year, six schools have been closed in Philadelphia due to the discovery of asbestos. Commenting on the failure of the authorities to adequately address the situation, a union lawyer said that: “The school district of Philadelphia is violating the law.” See: ‘We are not crying wolf’: Philly teachers union to sue district over asbestos, other hazards.

Jan 24, 2020

The preliminary hearing for Eternit Bis [the name used to refer to litigation against Swiss billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny in the long-running legal battle to get justice for Italian asbestos victims] has begun in the Northern Italian city of Vercelli. Schmidheiny is charged with the voluntary murder of 392 people from the town of Casale Monferrato. During early sessions of the proceedings, Schmidheiny’s defense reasserted their argument that the trial was illegitimate on the “ne bis in idem principle” which restricts the possibility of a defendant being prosecuted repeatedly for the same crime. See: Eternit bis: la difesa chiede l’assoluzione [Eternit bis: the defense asks for absolution].

Jan 22, 2020

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency of Australia has uploaded a series of information sheets from various States, government agencies and departments aimed at informing people in communities affected by the bushfire crisis how to deal with asbestos in building debris and damaged premises. The problem is both serious and widespread given the deadly consequences to human health of asbestos exposures and the widespread use of asbestos building products throughout Australia. Although asbestos use was banned in 2003, huge numbers of homes, public buildings and business premises still contain asbestos materials. See: Asbestos safety after bushfires.

Jan 22, 2020

A newspaper report on testimony given on January 21, 2020 to the French Senate’s hearings about the 2019 fire at the Lubrizol chemical factory – owned by American billionaire Warren Buffett – featured evidence by scientist André Picot supporting public fears that the fire in Rouen had contaminated local neighborhoods, thereby putting at risk the health of local people as well as firefighters. Picot said: “A rain of asbestos dust fell.” Picot’s views contradicted those of the local authorities who had said that there were no asbestos fibers in the air. See: Incendie de Lubrizol: « Il est retombé une pluie de poussière d’amiante » [Lubrizol fire: “A rain of asbestos dust fell”].

Jan 22, 2020

On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, parents, students and teachers of the Mário de Sá Carneiro School in the Portuguese city of Loures held a public demonstration to highlight the failure of the educational and local authorities to remediate the dangerous and degrading asbestos-containing material which remained in the school. “It is necessary,” said André Julião, of the Schools Without Asbestos Movement, “once and for all, to create a strategic plan for the removal of asbestos from schools and [also necessary to] start investing seriously in updating the premises….” See: Protesto contra amianto em escola de Camarate [Asbestos protest at Camarate school].

Jan 22, 2020

Eternit S.A., formerly Brazil’s largest asbestos conglomerate, is positioning itself as a frontrunner in the campaign for a clean and sustainable environment with its announcement of new photovoltaic roofing tile material – which is asbestos-free. According to the company, this product range is an example of a new corporate orientation to use cutting edge technology to find 21st century solutions to meet the needs of Brazilian citizens. See: Eternit Solar | Programa Cidades e Soluções da GloboNews [Eternit Solar | Globo News Cities and Solutions Program].

Jan 20, 2020

A Russian website has translated and uploaded a Danish article analysing the attraction of living in the Russian town of Asbest (Asbestos). Despite the fact that asbestos is a carcinogen responsible for thousands of deaths every year, local people still have strong ties to the city and a desire to follow family members into the asbestos industry. The reporter quoted spokesmen who said the city was a “victim of the hysterical anti-asbestos lobby… In Asbest, it is widely believed that the asbestos ban is part of an international conspiracy invented in Europe to give an advantage to the production of other materials competing with asbestos.” See: Jyllands-Posten (Дания): здесь люди живут благодаря асбесту [Jyllands-Posten (Denmark): people live here thanks to asbestos].

Jan 20, 2020

Advice from an expert panel convened by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have, according to one legal expert: “shot several of J&J’s (Johnson & Johnson’s) defenses out of the water.” The panel endorsed asbestos testing standards for cosmetics that recommended that small mineral particles found in talc should be counted as potentially harmful, even if they were not asbestos, on the grounds that both were suspected of causing similar pathological reactions. The new recommendations will be discussed in February at the first FDA hearing on analytical methods for testing asbestos in cosmetics and talc since 1971. See: Government experts urge new talc testing standards amid asbestos worries.

Jan 20, 2020

With 40,000 asbestos deaths in Spain to date, people living with these diseases have routinely been denied compensation via a hostile legal climate. Calls by a number of groups representing the victims have highlighted the vacuum which exists and demanded that a national compensation scheme be established to expedite compensation for the injured, many of whom were routinely exposed to asbestos at work by companies such as Uralita, formerly Spain’s largest asbestos-cement manufacturer. It has been estimated that 1,900 people die from asbestos-related diseases in Spain every year. See: Las víctimas del amianto luchan contra la burocracia que frena sus compensaciones [Asbestos victims fight the bureaucracy that stops their compensation].

Jan 17, 2020

An article uploaded to the website of the Moscow Post on January 14, 2020, highlighted the deplorable living and working conditions for the population of the Russian asbestos mining town “Asbestos,” saying: “there are no healthy children in the city… [and], there are a lot of cancer patients.” In 2012, the cancer incidence in the city at 493 cases per 100,000 people was the highest in the Sverdlovsk Region; in 2015, this figure had risen to 572 and there was a mortality rate of 292 cases per 100,000 – the average regional rate was 218. See: “Дорожная карта” Шмотьева в “обход” закона? [“Shmotiev's Roadmap” to “circumvent” the law?].

Global

In the decades spanning the occurrence of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and the Australian Bushfire Crisis of 2020, the release of asbestos fibers has been identified as a post-disaster hazard on multiple occasions. In an interview with IBAS this month (January, 2020), Emeritus Professor Ken Takahashi – formerly a Professor and Director at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan and currently the Director of the (Australian) Asbestos Diseases Research Institute – highlighted areas of concern for affected populations, emergency responders, clean-up crews, Ministers, civil servants and government agencies – calling for a coordinated, long-term approach to the potential health consequences of the fallout from the fires. [Read full article]

Jan 17, 2020

As Pakistan’s Supreme Court considers litigation regarding the legality of asbestos use, a 7 page letter (Jan. 13, 2020) by the Collegium Ramazzini – an international society dedicated to protecting human health – highlighted the significance of the Court’s deliberations and reminded the Judges that: “In January 2013, the Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Resource Development recommended that Pakistan ban the import and use of chrysotile asbestos.” That decision was attacked by the International Chrysotile Association, a body representing the interests of asbestos stakeholders. Evidence submitted in the current case detailed the asbestos policies of international agencies, all of which agree that asbestos should be prohibited to protect health. [Read full article]

Dec 19, 2019

A shortened version of this paper was presented at the annual International Asbestos Safety Conference held by Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency on November 12, 2019 at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Center. The presentation by IBAS Coordinator Laurie Kazan-Allen noted progress made throughout the year in the global struggle for asbestos justice, highlighted ongoing challenges faced by campaigners and detailed the dirty tricks, intimidatory tactics and fake news used by asbestos vested interests to forestall national governments from acting on the asbestos hazard. New maps, bar charts, and illustrations were shown emphasizing the threat to Asian populations of increasing asbestos consumption. [Read full article]

Dec 11, 2019

In the 35 years since an Asbestos Awareness Week was first recognized in Australia, it has become a calendar fixture with asbestos victims’ groups, charities, government agencies and institutions around the country holding information sessions, remembrances ceremonies and outreach events to raise the profile of asbestos during November. Due to the widespread usage of asbestos-containing material in Western Australia, the State has the country’s highest incidence of asbestos diseases. Last month (November), a series of events took place in WA to educate citizens, engage stakeholders and support the injured. This article describes some of those events. [Read full article]

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]

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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