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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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Aug 23, 2016

The issue of asbestos in schools is being confronted by municipalities on Tahiti. Although asbestos was banned in France in 1999, its use was only outlawed in French Polynesia in 2011. As a result, there are still many buildings which contain asbestos, including many schools. Some remediation has been undertaken; however, contamination in schools and in the soil on which they are built remain an issue. The school in Papara has been closed for 3 years; specialists have now been hired to remove the asbestos. During the closure, children have been studying at other premises. See: Amiante dans les écoles: des mairies prennent le problème à bras-le-corps [Asbestos in schools: town hall confronts the problem].

Aug 23, 2016

On September 10, 2016, the people of Casale Monferrato will inaugurate a green space on the former site of the notorious Eternit asbestos factory. The park, the name of which is Eternot, symbolizes the battle for justice, reclamation and research for a community which has been devastated by asbestos injuries and deaths for several decades. The ceremony will be attended by Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, and Italian Ministers Gian Luca Galletti and Andrea Orlando. Artwork donated by the local victims’ group which pays tribute to activist Romana Pavesi will also be unveiled. See: Amianto, Casale il 10/9 inaugura Eternot [Asbestos, Casale on 10/9 inaugurates Eternot Park].

Aug 22, 2016

Canada’s first analysis of the economic burden caused by asbestos exposures revealed that the financial impact of 427 mesothelioma cases and 1,904 lung cancer cases diagnosed in 2011 was C$1.9 billion. This figure was quoted in a recent study by the Institute for Work & Health which examined the costs of occupational asbestos diseases and illnesses caused by secondary exposures to family members: “80% of the costs are attributed to health-related quality-of-life losses. Health care and other direct costs account for 11%; loss of productivity and other indirect costs account for the remaining 9%.” See: New cases of mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer in one year cost $1.9B.

Aug 21, 2016

Veteran asbestos watcher Kathleen Ruff from RightonCanada reports that Canada’s Minister of Health Jane Philpott is working with cabinet colleagues to implement a new national asbestos policy. Following a conversation this summer with the Minister, Ruff said “an upcoming announcement regarding the asbestos policy of the new Trudeau government” is expected during the next session of Parliament which commences on September 19. Throughout the 20th century, Canada supplied the majority of asbestos consumed around the world and asbestos vested interests in Quebec and elsewhere had powerful support from national agencies and stakeholder groups. See: Encouraging news on Canada and asbestos.

Aug 21, 2016

The need for palliative care for mesothelioma sufferers was highlighted by an analysis of data from patients admitted to a home palliative care program in Italy. Three quarters of the mesothelioma patients had painful symptoms, with 20 reporting moderate and severe pain despite treatment with medium-high doses of opioids. The most frequent symptoms reported were pain, weakness, poor appetite, poor well-being and dyspnea; the principal site of pain was the chest. The study concludes that palliative care should be integrated at an early stage into the care of all these patients. See: Symptom Burden in mesothelioma patients admitted to home palliative care.

Aug 21, 2016

Research by US scientists has raised concerns about hazards from asbestos disposed at capped landfill sites. According to lead researcher Associate Professor Jane Willenbring: “Asbestos gets coated with a very common substance that makes it easier to move…If you have water with organic matter next to the asbestos waste piles, such as a stream, you then have a pathway from the waste pile and possibly to human inhalation.” It is the current practice in the US and other countries for asbestos waste piles to be capped with soil to avoid hazardous human exposures; this practice may need rethinking. See: New study challenges assumption of asbestos’ ability to move in soil.

Aug 21, 2016

Earlier this month (August 2016), campaigners in Indonesia held a two-day meeting in Denpasar, Bali to discuss efforts by local government to improve the conditions for people living in the island’s slums. On the agenda was the issue of asbestos which is used as roofing material in Indonesia; according to data cited, Indonesia is the world’s 5th largest importer of asbestos. This meeting was organized by BaliFokus, a non-governmental organization, which has been instrumental in a campaign to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard in Indonesia, a country whose constitution guarantees citizens the right to live in a healthy environment. See: Asbestos-free Neighborhoods.

Aug 19, 2016

When the authorities in NY were faced with the problem of disposing of thousands of asbestos-contaminated subways cars built between 1959 and 1963 they devised an ingenious plan to dump them in the Atlantic Ocean at spots off the coast of NY, NJ, Georgia and three other states. By burying 2,400 subway carriages at sea, NY’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) saved $12 million. The last batch of 51-foot long Redbird subway cars was dumped by the MTA in 2010. No asbestos removal had been carried out on any of the carriages. See: VIDEO: The MTA Tells All About Dumping Its Subway Cars in the Atlantic Ocean.

Aug 19, 2016

An unwelcome discovery was made near the central Adriatic coastal town of Numana, in Ancona Province, by agents of the State Forestry Corps who found 20 tonnes of asbestos sheeting dumped in a drainage ditch in a rural part of the countryside. The officials were making a routine inspection when they found this toxic deposit tangled in amongst some vegetation. Ancona’s public prosecutor has opened an investigation against persons unknown; the penalty for illegally disposing of this toxic waste is up to two years in prison. See: Amianto, 20 tonnellate rifiuti a Numana [Asbestos, 20 tons of waste in Numana].

Aug 17, 2016

The death was announced of Giuseppe Manfredi, the President of the Asbestos Victims Family Association (AFEVA), in Casale Monferrato, Italy. He had become President in November, 2015 upon the retirement of Romana Blasotti Pavesi. Known to all as Beppe, he died aged 66 of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma on August 16, 2016. In the short time he was President, he initiated several projects to progress AFEVA’s fight for asbestos justice, medical research and remediation of the widespread contamination caused by decades of asbestos production, use and disposal in Italy. See: Addio a Giuseppe Manfredi, presidente di Afeva [Goodbye to Giuseppe Manfredi, AFEVA President].

Aug 17, 2016

A verdict for Quebec asbestos victim Maurice Lefrancois, who had worked for the American Biltrite company for 35 years as an inspector and plumber, has upheld the presumption that a worker with lung cancer and asbestosis exposed to asbestos at work has a compensable claim against his employer. Mr. Lefrancois died in December 2013, aged 78, two months after being diagnosed. The family was awarded compensation of $107,000. It is believed that this ruling will facilitate legal action by other workers. See: Jugement favorable pour les travailleurs exposés à l'amiante [Favorable judgment for workers exposed to asbestos].

Aug 16, 2016

A new clinical program for mesothelioma patients is due to commence in Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Medical oncologist Professor Anna Nowak and her team at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital will look at how radiotherapy can improve the quality of life and reduce painful symptoms. Patients will, Professor Nowak explained have “a special type of PET scan, which measures oxygen levels in tumours. What we also hope to get out of this is a better understanding of how oxygen levels in tumours will determine how they respond to treatment.” See: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital hosting mesothelioma trial.

Aug 15, 2016

In an interview with the Times of India, Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said: “Since the use of asbestos is affecting human health, its use should gradually be minimised and eventually end. As far as I know, its use is declining. But it must end.” The Minister was both right and wrong simultaneously. Yes, the use of asbestos should end but no, consumption in India is not declining. According to preliminary data for 2015, usage last year was estimated at 380,000 tonnes; asbestos exposures are routine occurrences for millions of workers in India. See: Will look for alternatives to carcinogenic asbestos: Environment Minister.

Aug 15, 2016

An investigation by La Stampa newspaper documents the struggle of Italy’s customs officials to prevent dangerous materials such as asbestos fiber from illegally entering the country. Stiff competition between European ports means that any delays will encourage shipping companies to use alternative ports with virtually no controls at all. With insufficient staff and resources, only 1.5% of the ten million containers that arrive in Italy every year are inspected. Despite this low figure, the monitoring rate at Italian ports is higher than in the rest of Europe. See: Armi, amianto e droga: la rete colabrodo dei porti italiani [Weapons, asbestos and drugs: the sieve network of Italian ports].

Aug 14, 2016

In an interview with Bihar resident and Indian ban asbestos activist Gopal Krisnha, details are provided of how local people confronted and bested powerful industrial interests to prevent the construction of seven asbestos plants in the State. Five years after this struggle began, the Bihar Pollution Control Board has cancelled the requisite permission for all the plants. According to Krishna: “Villagers outwitted the corporate media which has been reluctant to publish anti-asbestos stories by wall writing in the villages adjoining the plant demanding halting of the construction of the plant.” See: Activist Gopal Krishna exposes India’s double speak in environment protection.

Aug 13, 2016

Asbestos-related diseases of the lungs and pleura are the leading cause of occupational mortality in Germany despite the fact that asbestos consumption has been banned since 1993. Although no suitable screening methods for early detection of malignant mesothelioma are currently available, a German lung screening trial has shown that the use of low-dose computed tomography for patients who were heavy smokers can significantly reduce lung cancer mortality amongst the at-risk cohort of workers previously exposed to asbestos. See: Early recognition of lung cancer in workers occupationally exposed to asbestos.

Aug 22, 2016

Although asbestos has been banned from ships since July 2002, it is still found in over 90% of ships. It is disturbing to learn, from this article by John Chillingworth, that asbestos has been found in over 80% of new ships, even though the shipbuilders have declared the ships to be asbestos free. Chillingworth’s company has found as much as 15% asbestos in materials that have been declared asbestos free in China. Shipyard declarations, which are accepted by the authorities, are often inaccurate as a result of which hazardous exposures continue to occur aboard vessels. Recommendations are made by the author as to how shipowners might take action to remedy this dangerous situation. [Read full article]

Aug 15, 2016

Responding to concerns raised by a coalition of civil society groups disturbed about the possibility of UK imports of asbestos-containing building materials from China, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has taken preliminary action to ascertain whether or not the products used and practises followed by Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd. are in compliance with national legislation. Welcoming the steps taken by the HSE, which are detailed in an email dated August 11, 2016, asbestos victims, trade unionists and campaigners have reiterated the need for the HSE to act decisively to ensure that British workers and members of the public are not exposed to illegal asbestos imports. [Read full article]

Aug 4, 2016

Shankar Dattaray Jog, a former worker at a factory owned by the British asbestos conglomerate Turner & Newall Ltd. in Mumbai, India, died from asbestos cancer on July 19, 2016. Mr. Jog had been employed at the Hindustan Ferodo brake linings factory for 40 years. By the time he retired in 2001, he had risen to the position of health inspector. While it is believed that others from Hindustan Ferodo could have contracted mesothelioma, their names are not known. Mr. Jog was adamant that the case against his former employer proceed in order to provide support for his family after he was gone and hope for others who succumb to asbestos illnesses after decades of dedicated service. [Read full article]

Aug 2, 2016

On July 21, 2016, the news finally came. Italy’s Constitutional Court issued its ruling in the long-running battle to achieve justice for Italy’s asbestos victims. The verdict gave the green light for a second round of legal proceedings (Eternit BIS) against Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, former owner of the Swiss Eternit asbestos group. The case will now be returned to the Turin court where an investigating magistrate will consider the Public Prosecutors’ accusations regarding hundreds of asbestos deaths in Casale Monferrato and other Italian cities. After decades of broken promises and shattered expectations, asbestos victims and the groups representing them have been given hope that justice will be done. [Read full article]

Jul 27, 2016

A review of the 100th issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter (BAN), a quarterly periodical which has for over 25 years chronicled a wide range of UK asbestos developments, has been undertaken by Australian Professor Jock McCulloch, author of key asbestos books including: Defending the Indefensible and Asbestos – It’s Human Cost. Having discussed some of the subjects covered in the 100 issues of the BAN, McCulloch concludes: “The Newsletter has been an important forum for discussion and a reliable source of information… it has also helped to bring together the disparate groups which make up the ban asbestos front.” The commemorative edition should, he said, be celebrated. [Read full article]

Jul 27, 2016

A coalition of UK groups representing asbestos victims, trade unionists, medical professionals and health and safety campaigners have today issued a press release questioning whether Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd., a Chinese-owned company, is illegally importing asbestos-containing building materials into the UK. Yuanda UK is part of the same industrial conglomerate as Yuanda Australia; the latter company is being investigated over the import and use of asbestos-containing products at construction sites throughout Australia. UK construction workers already face a higher risk of contracting asbestos diseases than most other workers so any increase in exposure to asbestos products would be of particular danger to them. [Read full article]

July 6, 2016

From Glasgow to Portsmouth, from Swansea to Gateshead via the Isle of Man, Sheffield and Birmingham, events were held throughout the UK on July 1, 2016 to observe Action Mesothelioma Day 2016. The extent and diversity of the activities marking the 11th national mesothelioma day underscored the growth in support for those suffering from a supposedly “rare” disease which nevertheless caused 7,398 deaths between 2011 and 2013. With an increasing number of events and extensive media coverage, it is evident that support for this day of action is growing stronger every year as is the determination of advocates to achieve medical progress and substantive breakthroughs for all the injured. [Read full article]

Jun 21, 2016

Children and staff from six local schools took part in an asbestos awareness workshop organized by a local campaigning body, the Asbestos Interest Group (AIG), in collaboration with partnering organizations on South Africa’s Youth Day (June 16). Feedback from participants has been positive with children having enjoyed meeting up with pupils from other schools to learn about the impact of asbestos contamination on their towns. A report written by AIG’s Prudence Kotoloane is informative as well as inspiring containing details of measures undertaken to keep children “awake and energetic.” The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat was proud to be a co-sponsor of this and other events organized by the AIG. [Read full article]

Jun 20, 2016

A high incidence of asbestos-related disease has been recorded amongst military and civilian workforces at shipyards in England, Scotland, Italy, Japan, the U.S. and other countries. In August 1945, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Factories A. W. Garrett was so concerned about the consequences of asbestos use in the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries that he wrote a letter to industry stakeholders in which he stated: “while asbestos dust may not have any apparent effects at first, experience shows that, particularly if the workers are exposed to the dust in substantial concentrations, serious results are apt to develop later.” The contents of Garrett’s letter were shared with vested interests in the UK and abroad. [Read full article]

Jun 13, 2016

A significant landmark has been reached with the distribution this month of the 100th issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter, a publication which has over the last 25 years become a national resource for asbestos victims, campaigners, legal experts, professionals and concerned citizens. The 24 chapters in the commemorative edition, which have been authored by leading stakeholders amongst the UK community of asbestos activists, highlight the efforts that have been made to secure the human and legal rights of asbestos victims and signpost measures for achieving future victories. The image on the cover has been designed by world renowned artist Conrad Atkinson. [Read full article]

May 25, 2016

Nepal is the first country in South Asia to ban the import, sale, distribution and use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing products with the exception of asbestos-containing brake shoes and clutch plates. Although the prohibitions came into force on June 20, 2015, government data shows that the import of banned asbestos and asbestos-containing products continues. Attempts by a civil society organization in Nepal – the Center for Public Health and Environmental Development – to monitor the situation and implement measures to enforce these regulations are discussed in this article. [Read full article]

Apr 30, 2016

On April 28, 2016, the Hartlepool Trades Union Council joined with other labor federations, trade unions and campaigning groups around the world to commemorate International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD). Despite a cold wind blowing in off the North Sea, the activities were informative, productive and reinvigorating. With wreath laying ceremonies for students and the public, a health and safety seminar, a dedication service at Christchurch, the premiere of a film for IWMD 2016 and a buffet lunch, participants had a multitude of opportunities to learn and interact with the experts and each other. During speeches, discussions and tributes, we remembered the dead and pledged to fight for the living. [Read full article]

Apr 26, 2016

A press release issued by groups campaigning to end the use of asbestos in Asia details discussions which took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 23, 2016. The Strategy Meeting on Asbestos 2016 was hosted by the following groups: Bangladesh Ban Asbestos Network (B-BAN), Asian Ban Asbestos Network (A-BAN) and the Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC). The purpose of the gathering was to “have focused discussions on building strategies nationally with the sub-region and work on coordinated activities in South Asia.” B-BAN’s Repon Chowdhury called on the government to ban asbestos straightaway and develop a national roadmap to confront the country’s asbestos legacy. [Read full article]

Apr 26, 2016

On April 20, 2016, the inaugural meeting of the Asbestos Sub-Committee of Japan’s Environment Ministry’s Central Environment Council took place in Tokyo. On the agenda was a review of government relief schemes which, since 2006, have paid compensation to asbestos victims not covered by workers’ compensation schemes. Speakers representing asbestos victims, who described the situation facing people with non-occupational asbestos exposure as inequitable and unjust, called for equal treatment for all those who had been affected. After the session, a press conference took place during which calls were made for political action to remedy the injustices which persisted. [Read full article]

Apr 26, 2016

On April 6, 2016 a community campaigning body – the Asbestos Interest Group – held an information sharing session for local people in the former South African mining town of Kuruman. Amongst the expert speakers were specialists in the fields of occupational health and oncology who focused on issues of particular relevance to this at-risk community, including the effects of environmental asbestos exposure on health, the monitoring of and treatment for asbestos cancer and the importance of family and community support for the injured. The sessions concluded with a candle lighting ceremony to remember those whose lives had been lost to asbestos-related diseases. [Read full article]

Apr 19, 2016

It is disappointing but not surprising that an April 13, 2016 response to parliamentary questions regarding the establishment of a National Mesothelioma Centre was suggestive of yet more secret deals and collusion at the heart of government. The contentious text tabled by Chief Secretary to the Treasury MP Greg Hands contradicted a statement made a few weeks earlier by George Freeman, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences, who had said that the disbursement of a £5 million government grant would be open for discussion. As of April 13 it seems that a London-based consortium, with little mesothelioma research experience, has bagged the lot. Why? [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 (2014)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,100,000
   China400,000
   Brazil284,000
   Kazakhstan240,000
   India270
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   Russia608,000
   China507,000
   India379,000
   Brazil154,000
   Kazakhstan68,000