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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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July 24, 2016

An Economic Times of India commentary contrasts the global consensus over the human health risk posed by asbestos with India’s use of asbestos in friction materials. When asked about India’s asbestos policy, Bishwanath Sinha, joint secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said: “The ministry… has no information on use of asbestos in auto components such as brakes, clutches and heat seals… There are no peer reviewed study reports on the subject … in the government of India, based on which a tangible course of action may be taken on merit.” See: World rings asbestos alarm, India ignorant about cancer-causing agent.

Jul 24, 2016

A commentary by a Greek mineralogist has highlighted the public health and environmental threats posed by Canadian plans for gold mining operations in the Skouries mine, in the Haldiki Peninsula of northern Greece. Deposits of tremolite-actinolite aggregates and high levels of tremolite are known to be in the rocks along with the gold. Explosions to access the gold will release toxic plumes of asbestos which could endanger not only the workers but also people in large areas near the mines, including the inhabitants of Haldiki, Thessaloniki and other local municipalities. See: Αμίαντος στις Σκουριές, κίνδυνος για τη δημόσια υγεία [Asbestos in Skouries, a risk to public health].

Jul 24, 2016

In light of the extensive presence of asbestos in Australia’s built environment, concerns have been raised in Western Australia over a push by the State to increase the reuse of construction and demolition (C&D) waste in civil projects such as roads, car parks and drains. Commenting on this contamination, identified as “a “critical issue” in managing C&D waste in an official 2011 report, expert Peter Tighe said: “If there is a question over the demolition material from a site and we know it’s a site where there was asbestos, my view is that you wouldn’t even consider beneficial reuse.” See: Asbestos scandal: WA Government scheme to recycle construction waste raised as asbestos risk.

Jul 23, 2016

Yesterday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a US environmental organization specializing in research and advocacy regarding toxic chemicals, published a list of chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should take action on following the enactment last month of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) that mandated revisions to the country’s 40-year old chemical safety regime. Under TSCA, which as a compromise bill has significant drawbacks, the EPA was given greater authority to regulate hazardous chemicals in consumer products. Top of the EWG’s hit list is a US ban on asbestos. See: EWG Lists the Top 10 Toxic Chemicals EPA Should Review Now.

July 23, 2016

A very public debate has been started by a feature in Phileleftheros, the largest newspaper in Cyprus, which questions the disposal of asbestos waste produced by British bases on Cyprus. According to the July 21 article, permission had been given for the disposal of up to 50 containers of asbestos debris at the Amiantos asbestos mine at a cost of €16 per cubic metre. A spokesman for the British forces said that notwithstanding these enquiries, it had been decided to continue shipping all the asbestos waste to the UK. On May 5, 2016, however, the bases informed the Geological Survey Department that there were 40 containers of toxic waste for disposal. See: Bases deny disposing of asbestos in Cyprus.

Jul 23, 2016

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) has produced a handy 5-page advice sheet pinpointing the asbestos hazards in UK schools and providing guidance for union health and safety representatives. The issues covered in this document include: what asbestos is, where asbestos products are likely to be in schools, legal requirements regarding the management of asbestos-containing products, the hazards posed by refurbishment and repair work, risk communication strategies for keeping parents informed and specific risks such as asbestos in gas marks, helmets and cabinet heaters. Action points are suggested. See: JUAC Health & Safety Rep Advice Sheet.

Jul 22, 2016

On July 21, 2016, a long-awaited decision by Italy’s Constitutional Court was handed down which gave the green light for criminal proceedings against Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny to continue despite his legal teams’ assertions that he was protected by the legal principal of double jeopardy from being tried twice for the same crime. In 2014 the Supreme Court had overturned on technical grounds a 2012 conviction which had sentenced him to serve 18 years in jail. Prosecutors will relaunch the legal proceedings against Schmidheiny over the asbestos deaths of 258 individuals; the charges related to some of these deaths were not included in the initial prosecution. See: Constitutional Court OKs fresh trial (2).

Jul 22, 2016

Michaela Keyserlingk, whose husband died from asbestos cancer, has issued a formal challenge to Prime Minister Trudeau expressing her “disappointment” with his “lack of action regarding the ban of asbestos in Canada.” (the newly elected PM had committed his party to a national ban). Demanding a prompt response, in her letter to the PM she says: “You and your family rightfully refused to live in asbestos ridden 24 Sussex St, but saving your own skin and ignoring the dangers to others is not the Canadian way.” Trudeau’s failure to act on the deadly hazard makes him “personally responsible for future [asbestos] deaths of Canadians…” See: Letter from M. Keyserlingk to the Prime Minister.

Jul 21, 2016

Western Australia (WA) has been at the epicentre of a storm over the import of illegal asbestos building materials from China. The scandal over use of these toxic materials at a new WA children’s hospital has led to enquiries which documented similar situations in 170 construction projects around Australia. On July 19, 2016, personnel from the Australian Border Force raided the headquarters of Yuanda, the company which imported this material; new measures have been put in place to hold all Yuanda imports in quarantine until they have been cleared. Up to 10 people a week are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases in WA. See: Asbestos diseases hit home.

Jul 21, 2016

A July 2016 commentary for casualty underwriters reflects on the wide-ranging implications of a decision handed down on January 29, 2016 by the District Court of Kyoto which ordered nine manufacturers of asbestos-containing construction materials to pay a total of JPY 112 million (~US$1 million) to 23 workers and their families who died from or are suffering from asbestosis and/or lung cancer. A significant difference of opinion exists amongst courts in Japan over whether manufacturers can be held liable with district courts in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka and Yokohama issuing verdicts which favoured manufacturers. See: Asbestos Court Decision and Implications in Japan.

Jul 20, 2016

A verdict handed down on July 15, 2016 marked the end of a battle over asbestos contamination caused during the reconstruction of primary schools in Budejovice, the provincial capital of southern Bohemia, Czech Republic. A District Court’s ruling held that the company OHL ZS, which was renovating the schools during the summer of 2011, was responsible for the problems caused and remediation required after damaging asbestos-containing panels in the schools’ boiler rooms despite having been alerted to the presence of asbestos. See: Budejovice vítezí v boji o azbest ve školách na Máji. Chtejí miliony [Budejovice wins million euro battle over asbestos in schools].

Jul 19, 2016

A plaintiffs’ verdict in a high-profile manslaughter trial over the asbestos deaths of 14 workers was handed down on July 18, 2016 by Judge Elena Stoppini at a court in Ivrea, Italy. Fifteen ex-managers of the Olivetti electronics firm were found guilty of failing to protect employees from hazardous exposures to asbestos with ex-Olivetti President Franco De Benedetti and his brother Carlo receiving prison sentences of more than five years for corporate manslaughter. Judge Stoppini ruled that the De Benedetti brothers were responsible for 10 of the 14 deaths. Olivetti continued to use asbestos until the middle of the 1990s. See: Ex-Olivetti bosses sentenced over asbestos deaths.

Jul 19, 2016

Federal funding of $2.1 million has been secured by the Environmental Protection Agency to enable firefighters to safely deal with conflagrations in the asbestos-contaminated area of Libby, Montana where mining operations by W.R. Grace & Co created an environmental catastrophe. Tests undertaken on asbestos-infested trees confirm the health hazard posed by this and other toxic deposits in the 47,000-acre area designated Operable Unit 3, or OU3 near the old mine. Should a fire start inside the area, state, local and federal officials would deploy air-monitoring stations to ensure that the air is safe to breathe. See: EPA, USFS Allocate $2.1 Million to Support Firefighting Efforts at Asbestos Mine.

Jul 18, 2016

A worker from the Russian town of Asbest has succeeded in a court claim for occupational injury due to hazardous exposures to asbestos at a factory owned by Uralasbest, the world’s largest producer of chrysotile asbestos. Sverdlovsk prosecutors collected evidence from other employees which substantiated allegations of unsafe working conditions. The company was ordered to pay compensation of 30,000 roubles (US$473) for negligence as a result of which the worker became 30% disabled. See: В Асбесте сотрудник завода на треть утратил трудоспособность из-за [Asbestos factory worker one third incapacitated due to hazardous conditions].

Jul 18, 2016

The Chrysotile Asbestos Fact Sheet uploaded to the IBAS website earlier this year has now been translated into Bahasa for use by ban asbestos campaigners in Indonesia. This work has been undertaken by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network – Ina-Ban. Commenting on the initiative Ina-Ban’s Coordinator M. Darisman said: “Indonesia is on the frontline of the propaganda campaign by global asbestos lobbyists who spread disinformation and lies regarding the deadly hazards of asbestos use. This new resource will be invaluable in our efforts to achieve an asbestos ban in Indonesia.” See: Chrysotile Asbestos Fact Sheet 2016 – Bahasa Translation.

Jul 16, 2016

On July 7, 2016, a labor court in the Spanish city of Valladolid ruled that the company Iveco Spain must pay €60,000 to a former worker who has been diagnosed with asbestosis. The claimant had been employed as an electrician from 1973 to 2006; during this time, he worked on the assembly of BMR armored vehicles at the Iveco factory and off-site on repairs. He was neither warned about possible asbestos exposure nor was he provided with protective clothing or equipment. This is the first asbestos ruling against the company. See: Condenan a Iveco a pagar 60.000 euros a un trabajador que enfermó por el Amianto [Convicted Iveco to pay 60,000 euros to asbestos injured worker].

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]

Apr 8, 2016

On Tuesday, April 5, 2016 the Colombian Senate had its first debate on Bill 97 which seeks to introduce a comprehensive ban on the production, marketing, export, import and distribution of all forms of asbestos and products containing it. Evidence from civil society stakeholders including asbestos victims, campaigners and industry spokesmen was given prior to interventions by Senators Nadia Blel, Alvaro Uribe Velez, Dr. Jorge Ivan Ospina, Jesus Castilla and Carlos Enrique Soto. No final decisions were taken but the asbestos ban bill remains under consideration; a Senate subcommittee has been tasked to further explore this legislation. Supporters are optimistic that asbestos prohibitions will be adopted. [Read full article]

Mar 23, 2016

An extraordinary meeting of MPs and invited guests took place on March 22, 2016 in the House of Commons under the auspices of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group. The original objective of the event was to showcase cutting edge work by UK mesothelioma researchers and call for a coordinated and long-term strategy to find treatments and a cure for a cancer killing thousands every year. The agenda which had been planned earlier in the year was changed this week to reflect the March 16 announcement that the government would provide £5 million to establish a National Mesothelioma Centre of Excellence. While this news was greeted enthusiastically, curiosity over details of the allocation was widespread. [Read full article]

Mar 22, 2016

Global revelations over recent weeks have highlighted the deadly measures employed by vested interests to control national asbestos debates and forestall government regulations in order to maximize profits, despite knowledge about the health hazards of exposure to asbestos, “probably the most hazardous industrial material ever unleashed on an unsuspecting world.” Information sourced from lobbying groups and defendant corporations document the key role played by consultant “scientists” in propaganda offensives and legal defence strategies such as the one developed by the Ford Motor Company to defeat legal claims by former auto mechanics. [Read full article]

Feb 15, 2016

On May 31, 2016 the Italian constitutional court will hand down a verdict in a criminal case of immense importance. At issue is whether Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny can be held to account for the asbestos deaths of Italian citizens. Central to the defense is the concept of double jeopardy whereby a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Schmidheiny has been tried three times for Italian asbestos crimes and convicted twice. The guilty verdicts were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2014 due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Schmidheiny is now facing manslaughter charges for hundreds of asbestos deaths; there is no statute of limitation for this crime. [Read full article]

Feb 10, 2016

Global asbestos interests, including groups like the International Chrysotile Association, commission and advance research which purports that chrysotile (white) asbestos can be used safely. A new resource has been developed for use by grassroots campaigners and others which clearly delineates the known scientific facts about the human health hazard posed by exposure to chrysotile. Based on the twenty facts listed, the authors declare their support for the “immediate prohibition of the use of any form of asbestos-containing products including those containing chrysotile, and call for their complete elimination.” [Read full article]

Feb 3, 2016

Reports from the Albanian capital of Tirana have raised concerns about work ongoing in the city center on the demolition of asbestos-cement roofing material during the refurbishment of the central market. According to Professor Romeo Hanxhari the work is “being carried out in an unsafe and unacceptable manner resulting in airborne fibres being inhaled and environmental pollution being dispersed in adjacent areas.” Today, European groups representing asbestos victims, trade unionists and health and safety campaigners have issued a public health warning and communicated their concerns to municipal and national officials. [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