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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Jun 5, 2020

A text on a Ukraine news portal with the headline “Is it possible to use asbestos?” repeated asbestos industry’s arguments stating that chrysotile asbestos was “the safest among industrial [asbestos] fibers” and that exposure to chrysotile “should not cause concern about the harmful effects on the body with controlled use.” This infomercial concluded as follows: “Due to the Euro-oriented course of Ukraine, in 2017 in our country they also tried to ban all asbestos-containing materials, including those with safe chrysotile. But, fortunately, the decision of the Ministry of Health was suspended by the court, and today the use of chrysotile asbestos is legal.” See: Влияние асбеста на организм человека – можно ли использовать асбест [The effect of asbestos on the human body – is it possible to use asbestos].

Jun 5, 2020

On June 2, 2020, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and 12 other attorney generals submitted comments criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finding that some uses of asbestos present no unreasonable risk to human health. Reasserting that the “dangers of asbestos are indisputable,” the Attorney Generals urged “the EPA to stop this farce and actually consider science and evidence as it evaluates the risk of this known carcinogen.” See: California Attorney General Criticizes EPA for Failing to Protect Americans from Asbestos, a Long-Known Dangerous Carcinogen.

Jun 5, 2020

On June 4, 2020, the States of Guernsey – the parliament of one of the British Channel islands – approved an initiative to pay compensation to all sufferers of the signature asbestos cancer mesothelioma. The scheme, which will be rolled out in 20201, will cost Guernsey £100,000 a year. Attempts by the Policy and Resources Committee to delay the implementation of the scheme were overcome with one opponent claiming that such a delay was “unnecessary, destructive and cruel.” Jersey, another Channel Island, agreed to pay mesothelioma sufferers compensation in 2018. See: Asbestos-related cancer compensation scheme approved in Guernsey.

Jun 3, 2020

The results of an annual health report by Japan's Environment Ministry confirmed that more than 30% of respondents to the ministry’s survey had developed symptoms of asbestos-related conditions by inhaling asbestos liberated by the operations of local asbestos-using factories. The authors of the report documenting the newly released data warned that the figure of “over 30%” was an underestimate of the likely impact of asbestos exposures on local populations. Despite this and other government initiatives, many people remain unaware of the environmental hazard posed by their exposure to asbestos say health and safety campaigners in Japan. See: Link between local residents' illnesses and asbestos use at factories: Japan study.

Jun 3, 2020

A commentary by a car enthusiast on a US specialist website highlighted the health hazards posed to car restorers by the presence of asbestos in parts contained in classic and vintage cars such as: brake pads, brake linings, clutch discs, transmission parts, gaskets, valve rings and hood linings. Asbestos was also used in some fiberglass or plastic bodywork, insulation and under coatings. The author of this text reported that mechanics and body shop technicians were at a higher risk of exposure to asbestos whilst working on older vehicles; over time, friable asbestos fibers collected in brake drums and transmission housing and could easily be inhaled during operations such as changing a clutch disc or brake shoes. See: Restoring classic and vintage cars containing asbestos parts.

Jun 3, 2020

In the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan and with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging in the Indian state of West Bengal: “Bamboo that used to cost Rs150 is now Rs500. Each 8×3 asbestos sheet cost Rs530 earlier but is selling for Rs650.” Materials needed to repair damage caused by the storm are in short supply; with no help from local, regional or national authorities, families are trying to provide shelter using whatever supplies are available including old saris, plastic sheeting and hazardous asbestos-cement roofing. See: Covid, cyclone, lockdown: All lines blur in Sundarbans.

Jun 1, 2020

Data and conclusions in a study supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China reinforced opinions in a blog entitled China’s Rejection of Asbestos: Official regarding growing support of the Chinese government for a transition to asbestos-free technology. The authors of the paper stated: “Furthermore, the most pronounced increases in ASIR [age-standardised incidence rate] of asbestosis were detected in high-income North America and Australasia. These findings indicate that efforts to change the asbestos regulation policy are urgently needed.” See: Increasing incidence of asbestosis worldwide, 1990–2017: results from the Global Burden of Disease study 2017.

Jun 1, 2020

Portugal’s Ministry of Finance announced that a list of all government buildings, including schools, which contain asbestos would be released by the end of June 2020. Although the Assembly of Portugal had endorsed plans for a phased nationwide asbestos remediation effort, work had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Campaigners for the group SOS Amianto criticized the government’s plans – which are estimated to cost €422m – for their lack of mandatory “risk assessments” to identify the level of hazard posed by the presence of asbestos products at particular sites. See: Amianto: 9 anos depois, governo divulga lista das escolas [Asbestos: 9 years later, government releases list of schools].

Jun 1, 2020

Environmentally friendly motorcycle brake pads using coffee grinds have been pioneered by an entrepreneur in Vietnam: Mr. Nguyen Thai Son – Director of Nam Khanh Brake Joint Stock Company. “Using this material not only recycles coffee grounds, but also helps create a unique aroma for each product,” he said. The Institute of Building Materials (Ministry of Construction) has certified this product asbestos-free. The company plans to promote sales in Vietnam and abroad targeting markets in Thailand and Cambodia. See: á phanh xe được làm từ ... bã cà phê [Brake pads made from ... coffee grounds].

Jun 1, 2020

Last week, regulations were tightened in Japan in the Revised Air Pollution Control Act to prevent the liberation of asbestos during demolition work on contaminated buildings. The new provisions mandated the commissioning and submission of asbestos audits to local authorities before work on asbestos-containing structures was begun; these regulations, which will be implemented by 2022, could increase the number of dismantling projects supervised by the Ministry of Environment from 16,000 to 320,000 per year. See: アスベスト飛散防止徹底へ 改正大気汚染防止法が成立 [Thorough prevention of asbestos scattering as Revised Air Pollution Control Law enacted].

Jun 1, 2020

On May 29, 2020 work on replacing a 40-year old network of asbestos-containing water pipes was recommenced in a neighborhood in Cuiabá, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, as part of a program to improve the quality of water distributed by the public utility company; the work had been suspended because of the State’s Covid-19 quarantine. The deteriorating asbestos pipes are being removed with safer pipes installed for the transport of water to the localities affected. See: Rede de amianto será substituída na Rua Feliciano Galdino a partir de amanhã [Asbestos network will be replaced on Rua Feliciano Galdino from tomorrow].

May 30, 2020

The Superior Court of Justice of Andalusia awarded compensation of €222,765 – including moral damages – to the family of a doctor who had worked for 24 years for the Spanish asbestos giant Uralita; as a result of asbestos exposure at the company’s factory in Seville, the doctor contracted the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma. The company argued that as a medical professional, the doctor should have taken preventative measures to protect himself from the hazards posed by working at the Uralita facility. See: Indemnizan con 222.765€ a los herederos del médico de empresa de Uralita fallecido de mesothelioma [Compensation for heirs of the Uralita company doctor who died of mesothelioma with €222,765].

May 30, 2020

On May 28, 2020, the fourth UK National Mesothelioma Audit was published by the Royal College of Physicians; the research and publication of this work was commissioned and funded by Mesothelioma UK. Based on data sourced from ~7,000 mesothelioma patients in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Guernsey, the authors noted: “improvements in survival, clinical nurse specialist assessment, pathologic subtyping and multidisciplinary team (MDT) discussion, with particular note of a doubling of referrals to the national peritoneal mesothelioma MDT since the last report published in 2018.” See: National Mesothelioma Audit report 2020.

May 30, 2020

On May 25, 2020, eight chimneys at the Hazelwood power station in Victoria, Australia were demolished; each one contained 50 kilograms of asbestos. The facility which was built in the 1960s was sited in the town of Morwell in the LaTrobe Valley; it was closed in March, 2017. According to a spokesman for Engie – the company which owned the power station: “There is absolutely no risk that asbestos will be anywhere other than on the ground, and ultimately remediated on site and stored in an approved cell.” See: Hazelwood power station's eight chimneys demolished in live stream viewed by thousands.

May 30, 2020

On March 27, 2020, Malta’s Constitutional Court delivered a judgement on a case brought by the family of a shipyard worker who had, as a result of occupational asbestos exposure over 28 years, died of cancer on April 20, 2018. Key segments of the ruling could have implications for future cases not least of which was the finding that cases in which moral damages were being sought for contractual breaches could be heard under ordinary civil law in ordinary courts and not exclusively in constitutional courts. See: The Constitutional Court and monetary compensation.

May 30, 2020

On May 27, 2020, a 25-ton dump truck was spotted by scores of residents in the forested outskirts of Jinju, a city in the South Gyeongsang Province of South Korea. Suspicions over the activities of the truck’s operators were reported to the police and as a result three men were arrested and charged under the Industrial Waste Management Act with the illegal disposal of 100 tonnes of asbestos-containing industrial waste. The truck had counterfeit markings on it identifying it as belonging to a government agency. The Jinju city cleaning department was commissioned to remove the toxic debris and remediate the area. See: 산업폐기물 1급 발암물질 '석면' 몰래 버리다 주민신고로 덜미 [Industrial waste, first-class carcinogen, ‘asbestos’].

May 28, 2020

Under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) issued a statement saying it was withdrawing its iconic talc-based baby powder – which is at the center of thousands of US legal claims over asbestos-caused cancers – from sale in North America. The news about J&J’s desertion of its signature product – which had been in constant production since 1894 and was sold worldwide – was reported not only in the US and Canada but throughout the world. Health and safety campaigners from India, Brazil, Korea and elsewhere have denounced the implied double standards of this action saying lives outside North America are equally at risk from the use of J&J’s asbestos-contaminated talc-based baby powder. [Read full article]

May 25, 2020

Ban asbestos campaigners and representatives of asbestos victims’ groups from around the world have today issued a press release deploring the double standards of the U.S. pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson which has announced it was withdrawing sales of talcum-based baby powder – alleged to contain asbestos fibers – in the U.S. and Canada whilst continuing to sell it elsewhere. “This is,” said grassroots activist Mohit Gupta “one more example of corporations putting profit before the lives of people. Instead of replacing the toxic baby powder with one free of asbestos in India, as they are doing in North America, they are just pushing sales of this hazardous product in a market with weak regulatory mechanisms, few testing guidelines and low consumer awareness.” [Read full article]

Apr 24, 2020

Groups representing asbestos victims and campaigners from Brazil, Europe and Asia have today written to the Governor of Brazil’s former asbestos mining state expressing support for his pro-active stance on COVID-19 and urging him to adopt the same precautionary principle to the human health hazard posed by chrysotile (white) asbestos. The authors of the text represent organizations behind the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil 2019 which called on civil society associations, politicians, civil servants, concerned citizens and members of the judiciary to support the universality of the 2017 Supreme Court decision outlawing the production, sale and use of asbestos in face of plans to recommence asbestos mining in Goiás State (Portuguese version of full article). [Read full article]

Mar 30, 2020

In these unprecedented times, populations the world over have been confronted with a terrifying new reality that has unravelled daily routines, reordered national priorities and thrown into disarray virtually every aspect of human life. In the UK, the country with the world’s worst incidence of asbestos cancer, the treatment of patients with mesothelioma – the signature asbestos cancer – as well as other asbestos-related cancers and respiratory diseases was disrupted as hospitals geared up to prepare for the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. Showing a breath-taking ability to adapt to changing circumstances, UK asbestos victim support groups and charities began devising ways to continue serving their communities, some of which are discussed in this article. [Read full article]

Mar 4, 2020

Recent developments in the US suggest that talcs analyzed with transmission electron microscopy can commonly be found to contain asbestos fibers. If so, the use of these products as baby powders and cosmetic powders should be stopped immediately. The long-time failure of government regulators in the US and Europe to protect the public from asbestos in talc consumer products has led to deadly exposures which could and should have been avoided. The recent finding of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder by the US Food and Drug Administration suggests that analysis of products being sold to the public in all countries urgently needs to be done using the electron microscopy method of analysis. [Read full article]

Feb 14, 2020

Groups representing asbestos victims in Brazil and Asia have joined international campaigners to denounce moves by Eternit S.A., formerly Brazil’s largest asbestos conglomerate, to temporarily restart asbestos processing in Goiás State in order to export 24,000 tonnes of asbestos to Asian countries. Commenting on this matter, President Eliezer João de Souza of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed said: “It is an abomination that Eternit should try and avoid the Supreme Court ban to inflict more toxic fiber on unsuspecting workers and communities in Asia.” Campaigner Sugio Furuya, representing the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, hopes “common sense will prevail and that all exports will be suspended.” (Portuguese version of full article.) [Read full article]

Feb 10, 2020

As a result of a remarkable partnership of asbestos victims, health professionals and civil servants, an asbestos outreach initiative in São Paulo, Brazil celebrated its second anniversary in December 2019. Funds for this pioneering project were sourced from a court fine imposed on Brazil’s former asbestos giant Eternit, S.A. for non-compliance with a legal agreement made with the Federal Public Ministry of Labor (4th Region). Since 2017, the clinic has identified 143 patients with asbestos-related diseases of which 92% were males; 57% had worked for Eternit (in the Osasco plant), 25% for Brasilit, 7% for Precon and 11% for other companies. [Read full article]

Jan 30, 2020

A press release issued on January 30, 2020 by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform called on the French Government to ensure that a former French vessel, which was sold to the Brazilian Navy in 2000 and renamed the São Paulo, is disposed of according to the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements and Disposal of Hazardous Waste and not sold to the highest bidder who would, in all likelihood, scrap the vessel on a South Asian ship-breaking beach. The vessel contains a large amount of hazardous substances including 900 tonnes of asbestos and asbestos-containing material. See also press release issued in September 2019 in which these matters were also highlighted. [Read full article]

Jan 28, 2020

A small victory was achieved on January 24, 2020 in the long-standing battle to get justice for thousands of Italian asbestos victims when a Court in Vercelli in northern Italy ordered that Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, former owner of the Swiss Eternit asbestos group, face charges of voluntary murder (“omicidio volontario”) for the asbestos-related deaths of almost 400 people from the town of Casale Monferrato, the site of an Eternit asbestos-cement factory. The trial was scheduled to begin on November 27, 2020. Legal actions against the same defendant are also being pursued in other Italian jurisdictions over asbestos-related deaths of Eternit employees and local residents. [Read full article]

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]

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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 (2018)
(tonnes):
   Russia710,000
   Kazakhstan203,000
   China125,000
   Brazil110,000
    
 Top Five Users (2016)
(tonnes):
   India308,000
   China288,000
   Russia234,000
   Brazil120,000
   Indonesia114,000