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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Dec 1, 2021

Uralasbest, one of Russia’s biggest asbestos mining and manufacturing conglomerates, announced this week that it was on course to fulfil its five year mission to produce 300,000 tonnes of chrysotile asbestos fiber and ten million tonnes of asbestos-containing building products every year. By 2023, a new plant to crush stone will be operational which will allow volumes of rock processing to increase from 2 million tonnes in 2020 to 4 million tonnes. See: Миссия выполнима. Градообразующее предприятие Асбеста реализует масштабный план развития [Mission Possible. The founding enterprise of the city of Asbestos is implementing a large-scale development plan].

Dec 1, 2021

On November 30, 2021, Madrid’s Superior Court of Justice overturned the verdict of Madrid’s Social Court 2 which had found that the cancer death of the famous Spanish entertainer and TV personality José María Íñigo had been caused by exposure to asbestos at the TV studios of the Spanish Radio and Television Corporation (Corporación de Radio y Televisión Espaola, S.A. RTVE). The Superior Court was not convinced that Íñigo had been exposed to asbestos by RTVE or that such exposure had caused him to contract mesothelioma, a fatal cancer caused by asbestos exposure. See: Un tribunal revoca la sentencia que atribuyó la muerte de José María Íñigo al amianto de TVE [The Madrid Superior Court of Justice overturns the previous sentence that linked the death of José María Íñigo to asbestos (exposure) at TVE].

Dec 1, 2021

Presentations regarding the current state of litigation on behalf of claimants suffering from asbestos anxiety were the focal point of a meeting of Adeva 29, a local asbestos victims’ group in Brest, France on November 26, 2021. Eighty attendees were told that whilst some claims were recognized, such as those from people who had worked at industrial sites where asbestos exposures had been identified, other claims were strongly contested such as those initiated by people who had worked in the merchant navy or aboard fishing vessels. The average value of asbestos anxiety claims was €8,000 (US$9,000). See: À Brest, la reconnaissance du préjudice d’anxiété lié à l’amiante patine pour certains [In Brest, the recognition of anxiety prejudice linked to asbestos remains elusive for some].

Dec 1, 2021

Research regarding the number of asbestos-related cases of lung cancer which occurred in various Italian occupational sectors found that the risk was higher for men then women, with the highest figures amongst construction workers who had 2.8 lung cancer deaths to every one mesothelioma death. The scientists estimated that there were 3,814 cases of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure between 2010 and 2015 in Italy. The co-authors of this paper stressed the importance of better information and prevention strategies, improved health surveillance of workers and a more responsive legal protocol for identifying claims. See: L'impatto dell'esposizione occupazionale ad amianto sul tumore del polmone in Italia [The impact of occupational exposure to asbestos on lung cancer in Italy].

Dec 1, 2021

On November 29, 2021, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced that after the defendants had pleaded guilty to contravening asbestos regulations in 2019, Peterlee Magistrates Court had fined the Park View Academy of Church Chare, Chester Le Street and its contractors T.W. Steam & Heating Services Limited of Durham £7785.37 and £6,710.37 respectively, including costs. Following the verdict HSE inspector Ashfaq Ali said: “Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.” See: School and contractor fined for unsafe removal of asbestos.

Nov 29, 2021

On November 25, 2021, 2,000 French asbestos victims staged a street demonstration and public rally in Paris to reenforce calls for a criminal trial of people responsible for the country’s asbestos epidemic; all of the accused had worked with the Permanent Committee on Asbestos, a trade association supported by asbestos vested interests. A direct summons to the Paris judicial court was lodged demanding that the silence over this scandal which had lasted for 25 years could no longer be tolerated. The victims appealed directly to the criminal court without going through a judicial enquiry. Three thousand people die every year in France from asbestos-related diseases. See: Amiante: les victimes relancent le procès penal [Asbestos: victims relaunch criminal trial].

Nov 29, 2021

Last week, Brazil’s sole remaining asbestos mining company: Sama Minerações Associadas, a subsidiary of the Eternit group, was ordered by a Goiás state court to pay for medical tests for a period of 30 years for former employees who had worked with asbestos at its mine in Minaçu, Goiás. The company is appealing this verdict. In contravention of a Supreme Court ruling issued in 2017, the company announced in November 2021 that it planned to recommence asbestos mining. See: Sama é condenada a pagar exames médicos por 30 anos para ex-funcionários que trabalharam com amianto [Sama is ordered to pay for medical tests for 30 years for former employees who worked with asbestos].

Nov 29, 2021

The Government of Catalonia has allocated €4.5 million (US$5m+) for the removal of asbestos from 200 buildings in Barcelona. According to the proposed work schedule, the asbestos eradication work will be completed by 2025. In July, 2021, Pere Aragonès President of the Government of Catalonia approved a National Plan for the Eradication of Asbestos in Catalonia. After years of campaigning by the city council and local people, this news was warmly received. See: El Govern destina 4,5 millones a retirar el amianto de 200 edificios de Badia (Barcelona) [The Government allocates 4.5 million to remove asbestos from 200 buildings in Badia (Barcelona)].

Nov 29, 2021

A persistent problem throughout Italy is the lack of sites for legally disposing of asbestos waste. This issue was raised last week by regional councillor Emanuele Zanon, the former mayor of Cavasso Nuovo. According to Zanon: “All the disposal plants are practically closed and companies are forced to turn to Norway, with skyrocketing costs…The problem is that in Italy there are hardly any sites available to accommodate these materials.” The lack of availability of affordable dump sites will, Zanon warned, lead to illegal and dangerous fly-tipping. See: Emergenza amianto, Zanon lancia l'allarme [Asbestos emergency, Zanon raises the alarm].

Nov 29, 2021

Having considered evidence, including studies by Italian researchers from the International Association of Doctors for the Environment, the European Parliament on October 20, 2021 approved a motion (Protection of Workers from Asbestos\) which recognized the risk of contracting oesophagus, stomach and colon cancer from the ingestion of asbestos fibers in drinking water. Although the evidence was not definitive, the motion recommended that the precautionary principle should be followed and called on Member States to carry out regular monitoring of drinking water. See: Amianto, il Parlamento Europeo cita uno studio ISDE e approva una mozione a difesa dei cittadini [Asbestos, the European Parliament cites an ISDE study and approves a motion in defense of citizens].

Nov 25, 2021

A fit 45-year father of two from Perth, Australia has died from mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Colin Clarke, who was an emergency doctor, had no knowledge of having been exposed to asbestos. He survived for three years after the diagnosis had been made. Now, his wife Liz Clarke is working to raise awareness of the dangers to other Australians posed by the ubiquity of asbestos-containing products within the national infrastructure. This week, being asbestos awareness week, her message has gone out to people working in various trades, to home renovators and to tourists: educate yourself about the hazard and take steps to avoid any exposure. See: Perth man, 45, succumbs to mesothelioma as wife spreads asbestos awareness.

Nov 25, 2021

Testimony heard previously during the criminal trial in Novara, Italy over 392 asbestos deaths that occurred in Casale Monferrato confirmed that: “All 392 persons named in the charges listed against the defendants in the Eternit Bis trial died of mesothelioma, caused by the asbestos fibres they breathed in.” On November 22, 2021, lawyers defending Swiss asbestos tycoon Stephan Schmidheiny – who is charged with voluntary manslaughter – cross-examined prosecution expert medical witnesses about measures used to ascertain the cause of death of the deceased. The next hearing is November 29. See: Difesa al contrattacco: «Mesoteliomi certi solo se confermati da analisi immunoistochimiche» [Defense against the counterattack: “Mesotheliomas are certain only if confirmed by immunohistochemical analyses”].

Nov 25, 2021

Turkish politician and Vice President of the Republican People’s Party Gürsel Tekin issued warnings this week of the danger posed by uncontrolled urban transformation projects which liberate toxic asbestos fibers from old buildings being renovated or demolished. “Public health is,” he said “under serious threat.” Questions he put to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization focused on renewal projects underway in the Istanbul district of Fikirtepe. Tekin wanted to know: what precautions were being taken by contractors, what environmental supervision was in place, what documentation existed about mandatory checks of asbestos levels. See: Gürsel Tekin: “Kentsel dönüşüm, kentsel felakete dönüşmesin” [Gürsel Tekin: “Urban transformation should not turn into an urban disaster”].

Nov 25, 2021

A paper by mesothelioma researchers from Australia which was uploaded on November 16, 2021 to the website of Science Direct examined how “the advent of cancer immunotherapy – and in particular the immune checkpoint inhibitor class of drugs – has resulted in recently approved new treatment options, with more currently under investigation.” The co-authors reviewed results from clinical trials and described new protocols for achieving early diagnoses of mesothelioma, before considering what new technologies might be progressed for treating mesothelioma patients. See: Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Nov 24, 2021

A commentary by Associate Professor Dr. Bui Thi An, Director of the Institute of Natural Resources, cited below, elucidated the efforts of civil society activists, trade unionists, medical and scientific experts and politicians to protect Vietnamese people from toxic exposures to asbestos. As per a request by the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Construction drafted a Roadmap to End the Use of Chrysotile Asbestos by 2023 and a National Action Plan to Eliminate Asbestos-Related Diseases. Unfortunately, it looks like asbestos vested interests were able to forestall implementation of these protocols and so prolong the use of asbestos-containing construction material in Vietnam for the foreseeable future. See: Quá trình vận động dừng sử dụng Amiăng trắng ở Việt Nam [Campaign to stop the use of chrysotile in Vietnam].

Nov 24, 2021

An announcement by the Brazilian conglomerate Eternit SA on November 10, 2021 confirmed a healthy economic position after the company had in 2018 filed for judicial recovery under Brazilian bankruptcy laws, a year after the Supreme Court banned asbestos. Although Eternit – Brazil’s former asbestos giant – no longer uses asbestos in products it manufacturers for domestic consumption, 121,000 tonnes of asbestos fiber produced at its asbestos mine in Goiás State is being exported this year. This is a 165% increase in output compared to 2020. See: Eternit (ETER3) dobra o lucro no balanço do 3T21 [Eternit (ETER3) doubles earnings in the 3Q21 balance sheet].

Nov 26, 2021

In this letter sent on November 25, 2021 to Mr. Ruslan Stefanchuk, the Head of the Ukraine Parliament, by Mick Antoniw, a Member of the Welsh Parliament as well as the Counsel General and Minister of the Constitution of the Welsh Government, the writer expressed support for ongoing efforts by Ukraine to outlaw the use of all types of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, to protect human health. Drawing on the tragic asbestos legacy of Wales, Minister Antoniw reassured Mr. Stefanchuk that: “We all support the international ban on all forms of asbestos including Chrysotile.” (See also: A Statement of Opinion tabled at the Welsh Parliament on November 24, 2021 reaffirming Welsh support for a “complete ban on the use of Chrysotile asbestos in Ukraine.”) [Read full article]

Nov 11, 2021

The eyes of the world have been on the outcome of this month’s discussions at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Did this event attract the attention of asbestos industry stakeholders – I’m guessing not. Why not? Because their prime directive has always been the generation of profits regardless of the impact of their operations on human beings or the environment. Asbestos producers, like purveyors of coal, petrol and natural gas, are peddlers of substances which are destroying our planet and the people living on it. In recent weeks global organizations including the UN, the International Labor Organization and the European Union have reconfirmed their intentions to upgrade protections from asbestos, a substance acknowledged to cause a variety of cancers as well as debilitating diseases. [Read full article]

Nov 5, 2021

The frequency of alerts in Australia over illegal asbestos imports continues unabated with reports of asbestos-containing building products, ferries, automotive parts and toys repeatedly making their way into the media. Despite Australia’s 2003 ban on asbestos and the efforts of the Australian Border Force to prevent toxic products from being imported, Australians have been victims of workplace asbestos exposures on multiple occasions. Added to the challenges posed by the flow of asbestos goods into the country are thorny legacy issues such as the failure of the State of Western Australia to decontaminate land on which the notorious Wittenoom asbestos mine had stood. The Banjima people, the traditional owners of the land, are outraged at the failure to take action to remediate the site. [Read full article]

Oct 29, 2021

Thirty years ago, there was just a handful of asbestos victims’ groups working in a few industrialized countries. Nowadays, there are scores of such associations and charities the world over. The vital support they provide has helped to make manifest the hidden catastrophe caused by the widespread and unregulated use of asbestos, a class 1 carcinogen. In countries, where asbestos use remains legal, these groups lobby for a transition to a safer technology; where asbestos has been banned, they continue to address the toxic legacies which remain in the lungs of their fellow citizens, national infrastructures and contaminated environments. The asbestos industry, which employs a toxic and discredited technology, must be held to account for the lives it has taken and the injuries it has caused. [Read full article]

Oct 15, 2021

Today’s press release by civil society groups representing asbestos victims, trade unions, human rights and environmental campaigners in Asia, Europe and Latin America highlights the significance of recent actions by international organizations for the global campaign to outlaw asbestos use. The United Nations Human Rights Council – the UN’s main human rights body – and the International Labor Organization – the organization tasked with protecting workers worldwide – have called for a drastic rethink on the way life is lived in the 21st century. The ethos and stipulations of the new UN resolution and ILO guidelines are, they assert, incompatible with the continued use of a substance known to cause cancer. [Read full article]

Oct 13, 2021

A landmark series of recent events reinvigorated the campaign to eradicate the asbestos hazard from Asia. The first virtual international conference of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN), comprising plenary and break-out sessions held on September 28, 29 & 30, was a rousing success bringing together hundreds of speakers and attendees from 20 countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America. The provision of translation services in Bahasa, Bengali, Chinese, English, Hindi, Khmer, Korean, Lao and Vietnamese was a key factor in the presentation of information and the interchange of ideas. A resolution issued by conference delegates on September 30 called “on the international community to come together to stop the asbestos trade.” [Read full article]

Oct 7, 2021

This English translation of a press release issued by the Association for the Defence of French Asbestos Victims (ANDEVA) details the struggle by civil society groups in France to forestall plans to undermine compensation payments to asbestos victims by merging the Compensation Fund for Asbestos Victims (FIVA) with another organization. The independence of FIVA was, said ANDEVA, essential to ensure the efficacious and timely delivery of government benefits to asbestos victims. Currently, only half of the people in France who contract the signature asbestos cancer mesothelioma receive compensation from FIVA; ANDEVA is calling for all cases to be recognized. [Read full article]

Oct 1, 2021

Through persuasion and punishment European institutions are seeking to improve environmental and occupational protections against asbestos. This month reasoned opinions were sent by the European Commission to Slovenia and Spain over their failures to transpose into national law European Parliament Directive 2014/52/EU. Although details are few, the Commission has pointed out the repercussions this oversight had had in Spain in relation to “installations for the extraction, processing and transformation of asbestos.” On September 27, 2021, a European Parliament Committee debated a key report on asbestos issues and approved a raft of improvements including the lowering of the Occupational Exposure Limit for asbestos to 1000 fibers/m3. [Read full article]

Sept 27, 2021

Tomorrow (September 28, 2021) marks the start of the 2021 Conference of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN). Once again, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) is proud to partner with civil society groups from Asia and abroad in a regional event which harnesses the power of solidarity and social activism to progress efforts to eradicate the asbestos hazard. The formation in 2009 of the ABAN was “a landmark in the Asian campaign to obtain justice for the asbestos-injured and to implement a regional asbestos ban.” On the eve of the first virtual ABAN conference, ABAN Coordinator Sugio Furuya describes the challenges posed by and core objectives of the latest event. [Read full article]

Sep 27, 2021

Asbestos victims’ campaigners and environmental campaigners will join trade union colleagues and technical experts this week for three days of virtual presentations and discussions under the auspices of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) and partnering organizations. “In parts of Asia, carrying 500 grams of one white powder can draw a death sentence, but importing 1,000 tons of another lethal white dust is both legal and profitable.” Speakers at ABAN sessions will consider current national situations and regional developments and examine the challenges posed to ABAN members working to support asbestos victims during the global Covid-19 pandemic. [Read full article]

Sep 24, 2021

The dire consequences of delays by the Japanese Government in addressing the asbestos hazard are continuing to emerge, with data revealed on September 10, 2021 by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare documenting a new record for the number of deaths last year from mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. This is not surprising. While other industrialized nations took action to ban or curtail asbestos usage many decades ago, as recently as 1995 annual asbestos consumption in Japan was 193,800 tonnes, way more than any other G7 country. Given the accumulation of medical and scientific knowledge about the human health hazards posed by asbestos exposures, Japanese politicians could have been in no doubt about the serious consequences of their failure to act. [Read full article]

Sep 19, 2021

With the end of the summer break, Ukrainian Deputies are returning to Parliament and to the thorny problem of what to do about asbestos, a substance which they pledged to ban as one of the conditions for European Union membership. A year ago (September 20, 2020) draft legislation entitled: “On the Public Health System (no. 4142)” was finalized; it was adopted by Parliament on its first reading on February 4, 2021. Article 27 of the bill called for a comprehensive and immediate ban on asbestos imports and use. Reacting to this proposal, asbestos vested interests from Kazakhstan and Russia launched a sustained attack on the Ukraine Government calling for further dialogue and a delay in implementation of the prohibitions. [Read full article]

Sep 16, 2021

At the Novara Court of Assizes this week, prosecutors began to present the case against Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, charged with voluntary manslaughter for 383 deaths caused by exposures to Eternit asbestos in Casale Monferrato. Evidence from two witnesses was heard on September 13. The first to testify was Nicola Pondrano, Eternit employee, union official and founding member of an asbestos victims’ association: AFeVA. Pondrano provided first-hand testimony about horrendous conditions at the factory and the lack of warnings to the workers as well as the hazard posed to family members and local people. Albino Defilipp, from the Regional Agency for Environmental Protection Piedmont, informed the court about the ubiquity of asbestos contamination throughout the region. [Read full article]

Sep 9, 2021

September 1, the day Russian children return to school after the summer break, is celebrated as Annual Knowledge Day. Last Wednesday, Sverdlovsk Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev visited three high schools including one in the asbestos mining town of Asbest (Asbestos). According to a news report, he “offered the students options for their future professions.” Whether he highlighted career possibilities at the town’s chrysotile asbestos mine, we don’t know for sure but since its owner Uralasbest is one of the area’s biggest employers it seems likely. What the Governor would not have mentioned was the elevated risk to Uralasbest workers of premature death and/or debilitating disease posed by exposures to asbestos or the elevated incidence of asbestos-related cancer amongst townspeople. [Read full article]

Sep 7, 2021

If ever joy could be extracted from tragedy, the details of a jury verdict (Case No. RG20061303 – Christina Prudencio v. Johnson & Johnson), filed on August 23, 2021 at the Superior Court of California, Alameda County, could be the source. The six-page document – listing jury responses to a series of questions set by the Court and damages awarded – contains phrases and findings that bring solace to all of us who have been working to advance human health even as multinational corporations continue to exploit vulnerable populations the world over. Finding both Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary negligent on multiple counts, the jury awarded the plaintiff $26.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages for having been sold a product which contributed to her contracting asbestos cancer. [Read full article]

Aug 23, 2021

In the days and weeks to come others, more learned than I, will write tributes to Dr Morris Greenberg, a kind-hearted and generous physician who died on August 19, 2021. My thoughts when hearing the sad news of Morris’ demise were a jumble of memories of his kindness to the maverick ban asbestos campaigners he came across and the lengths to which he would go to help us. We could never pay him nor could we ever repay him for his assistance but he was always willing to provide guidance and information out of his commitment to making the world a safer place not only for workers but also for members of the public whose lives were being jeopardized by exposures to asbestos. [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