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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Jan 19, 2018

At the January 16, 2018 meeting of the Ministry of Construction, the Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc announced – in a speech broadcast on national TV – that a 5 year phase-out for the use of asbestos construction materials had been set. He said: “The Construction Ministry needs a roadmap to stop using white asbestos. I remember that at National Assembly meetings, scientist Ms Bui Thi An raised this matter several times and the Ministry of Construction always obstructed it. I discussed this with Minister Mr. Hong Ha and he said that banning white asbestos needs a roadmap developed by the Ministry of Construction. The use of white asbestos must be stopped by 2023 at the latest in the construction industry.”

Jan 19, 2018

This month, it has been reported that the Quebec Asbestos Victims’ Association (AVAQ) has been re-launched with Giles Mercier, a former Quebec Government safety inspector, as President. Before he retired, Mr. Mercier had worked for the Provincial Occupational Health and Safety Commission. Speaking of his motivation for accepting this role, Mr. Mercier said: “if I had not been directly involved in occupational health and safety, my father would NEVER have been diagnosed as a victim of asbestos in April 2013.” AVAQ had lain dormant for some years after its personnel had received threats because of their work to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard. See: Quebec Asbestos Victims Association re-launched.

Jan 19, 2018

A paper has been published as part of the Special Issue Global Panorama of National Experiences in Public Health Actions to Ban Asbestos, detailing the effects of German asbestos use throughout the 20th century and highlighting the role played by asbestos vested interests in preventing action to restrict consumption and forestalling compensation being awarded to victims. The author warns asbestos consuming countries of the huge national cost of treatment and compensation to the injured and decontamination of the infrastructure. See: Asbestos-Related Disorders in Germany: Background, Politics, Incidence, Diagnostics and Compensation.

Jan 19, 2018

Finnish authorities have reported illegal online sales of old Russian gas masks containing asbestos filters; other European authorities have been notified. The Norwegian Environment Directorate found the masks were also on sale in Norway. One company was asked to remove the advertising for these items but it reappeared this month, the directorate said. An alert has been raised, with warnings given that these toxic masks should not be sold or used because of the health hazard. Advice given is that they should be disposed securely packaged at municipal waste centers. See: Finland finds Russian gas masks containing asbestos sold online.

Jan 18, 2018

Proceedings will start next week (January 22) in a US case brought by mesothelioma victim Stephen Lanzo III against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) which, he alleges, is responsible for exposing him to asbestos contained in its talcum powder. Lanzo’s lawyers will rely on internal company memos, reports and legal transcripts that detail the company’s long-standing knowledge regarding the presence of asbestos in their products. Over decades, J & J actively lobbied federal agencies to forestall measures that could impact on sales despite knowing that “occasionally sub-trace quantities” of minerals were found in its baby powder that “might be classified as asbestos fiber.” See: Baby powder battles: Johnson & Johnson documents reflect internal asbestos concerns.

Jan 18, 2018

A temporary structure built of asbestos and plywood in 1970 is still being used by students at the Schornville Primary School in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Use of this deteriorating and toxic building poses multiple hazards to children and staff despite years of lobbying local authorities and government officials. A commentary just published describes a Kafkaesque situation where the buck is passed back and forth between government departments and implementing agencies such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Despite many promises of action, including the construction of a new school, nothing has changed, except that the school has become even more dilapidated. See: Meet the Eastern Cape schools the province desperately tries to forget.

Jan 17, 2018

Today (January 17), a Welsh Cross Party Group on Asbestos meeting will take place to consider the issue of asbestos in Welsh schools and public buildings. A fortnight ago, members of the Welsh Petitions Committee agreed to progress a petition (see: Asbestos in Schools Petition) calling for investigations by the National Assembly regarding the hazard posed by asbestos in Welsh schools and the right of parents to “easily access information about the presence and management of asbestos in all school buildings.” See: Welsh Petitions Committee meeting, January 9, 2018 (paragraphs 21-27).

Jan 17, 2018

Following an audit by the Colombian authorities, a report has been published condemning the lack of controls on the use of asbestos and mercury. After a visit to the country’s sole legal asbestos mine, which produces 2,400 tons of asbestos per year, the Comptroller for the Environment reported criminal failures to comply with national mining and environmental standards: there was “evident inadequate profiling and maintenance of slopes in waste dumps and tails, non-existent ditches, no runoff water management, no sedimentation or sand traps…” See: Colombia no tiene control sobre uso de mercurio y asbesto, según Contraloría [Colombia has no control over the use of mercury and asbestos, according to the Comptroller].

Jan 16, 2018

WorkSafe WA, a state agency responsible for occupational health and safety in Western Australia (WA), has launched a phased asbestos inspection program targeting factories and imports to identify toxic products, after asbestos was recently found in the friction plates of rail carriages imported from China. As a result of this discovery, the initial focus of the program will be on asbestos in the WA rail network. According to WorkSafe: “These proactive inspection programs aim to provide employers with information on how to comply with workplace safety laws and help them to identify risks to the safety and health of workers.” See: WorkSafe inspection program looks at asbestos in plant.

Jan 15, 2018

The headline of an article uploaded to the Sri Lanka Sunday Times website on January 14 says it all: “Asbestos isn’t always harmful to health,” it asserts; what follows is tiresomely predictable. Comments by the author – Prof. Ravindra Fernando (see: Chrysotile Asbestos Should Not be Banned) – have previously been used to substantiate industry’s attacks on the Sri Lankan Government’s plans to phase-out asbestos use. Citing outdated and discredited sources, Fernando asserts that: “chrysotile asbestos in its modern day high-density applications does not present risks of any significance to public or workers’ health.” See: Asbestos isn’t always harmful to health.

Jan 15, 2018

In a statement issued on January 14, 2018, the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), a major Spanish trade union, demanded that a Compensation Fund for Asbestos Victims be created as promised by Spain’s Congress of Deputies in October 2017. Between 2000 and 2016, 5,830 people died from asbestos-related diseases in Spain. According to the UGT, only 34 occupational diseases caused by asbestos have been recognized of the 21,188 registered during 2017. See: Ugt exige crear un fondo de compensación para las víctimas del Amianto [Ugt demands creation of a compensation fund for asbestos victims].

Jan 15, 2018

France’s Supreme Court – The Court of Cassation – has overturned a December 2016 decision by the Amiens Court of Appeal that denied compensation for asbestos anxiety experienced by 400 former workers from the Bosch brake pads plant in Beauvais. The Supreme Court’s December 20, 2017 judgment referred the case back to the Douai Court of Appeal which was instructed to award compensation to the claimants; it is expected each one will receive around €8,000. See: Amiante: la Cour de cassation donne raison aux ex-salariés de Bosch à Beauvais [Asbestos: the Court of Cassation supports former employees of Bosch in Beauvais].

Jan 12, 2018

Zimbabwe’s Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando told Parliament during a Question and Answer session on January 10, 2018 that contrary to reports circulating in the media, the government has not yet secured an investor willing to finance work to rejuvenate the derelict Shabanie chrysotile (white) asbestos mine. “The mine,” he explained “falls under the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) so government is working together with the administrator and ZMDC on plans to ensure that some of the operations get back to generating employment and revenue for the country.” See: 50 workers to re-process Shabanie-Mashava dumps.

Jan 12, 2018

On January 11, 2018, French students joined their teachers in taking action to prevent further hazardous exposures and called for independent tests to be conducted to assess the hazard posed by the presence of asbestos products in their school. On November 25, 2017 asbestos contamination was discovered in one of the school’s computer rooms “after an incident.” The regional authorities had previously denied the presence of asbestos in this 1970s building and later admitted it was there but said it posed no hazard to school users. See: Amiante: des lycéens du Val-de-Marne veulent exercer leur droit de retrait [Asbestos: high school students in Val-de-Marne want to exercise their right of withdrawal].

Jan 11, 2018

It is being reported that the post-Mugabe government in Zimbabwe has found an investor willing to revitalize the mothballed Shabanie chrysotile asbestos mine in the Midlands province. Member of Parliament John Holder confirmed this week that the new investor is seeking to revive asbestos operations saying that: “The mine has started renewing contracts for employees and electricity was switched on recently.” Former reports had intimated that the truly enormous sums needed to bring the mine back into operation after more than a decade of closure would almost certainly prevent its reopening. See: Shabanie Mine set to reopen.

Jan 11, 2018

A lump sum of €700,000 and a monthly pension of €1,600 has been awarded by a court in Taranto, Italy to the heirs of a non-commissioned naval officer who died in 2008 from lung cancer due to maritime exposure to asbestos on board military vessels. Recognizing the causal link between the lung cancer and the deceased’s occupational asbestos exposure, the court declared that the officer had been a “victim of duty.” See: Taranto: Sottufficiale di Marina morto per amianto, 700mila euro di risarcimento agli eredi [Taranto: non-commissioned officer from Marina died of asbestos, 700 thousand euros compensation to heirs].

Jan 21, 2018

Our friend Jock McCulloch died on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. The grief caused by his passing is shared by so many who have worked with him to reveal the human cost of the global asbestos trade. It is poignant and tragic that Jock, whose compassion and humanity was so great, shared the fate of so many of the people whose plight he documented. Like them, Jock’s death was caused by exposure to asbestos. At this sad time, our thoughts are with his partner Pavla, their family, his friends and colleagues at RMIT University and so many others whose lives were enriched by knowing Jock. While mourning his passing, we will remain forever grateful for the time we had with him and for the impact he had on our lives. [Read full article]

Jan 4, 2018

As 2018 dawns, the outlook for the ban asbestos campaign looks brighter than ever with progress being made in countries around the world. Pro-asbestos initiatives which might formerly have escaped detection are now being exposed and countered in record time. The ongoing saga of Russia’s strong-arm tactics to force Sri Lanka to rescind its asbestos phase-out has been condemned both at home and internationally. Throughout 2017 the global ban asbestos network, working with partnering organizations, enjoyed huge successes in multiple jurisdictions. Building on those victories and on increasing support for an asbestos-free future, the prospects for 2018 appear very promising! [Read full article]

Jan 3, 2018

International trade unions, health networks, asbestos victims’ groups and NGOs have today issued a media release soundly condemning Russian economic pressure on Sri Lanka which has forced a U-turn in the asbestos phase-out scheduled to begin this month. Sharan Burrow of the International Trade Union Confederation summed up the collective outrage over Russia’s bullying: “Imposing chrysotile asbestos on an unwilling nation is not fair trade, it is culpable homicide… Russia must not and will not be allowed to blow a hole in fair trade rules.” [Read full article]

Dec 22, 2017

On December 16, 2017, 16 civil society groups and trade unions established the Indian Ban Asbestos Network (I-BAN) at a meeting in New Delhi, organized by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India and the Building and Woodworkers International, to progress efforts to ban asbestos in India and eradicate the asbestos hazard from workplaces and infrastructure. The formation of I-BAN was the culmination of the conference: “India Beyond Asbestos – Issues and Strategies” which took place on December 15 and 16. India is one of the world’s largest asbestos markets; in 2015, over 370,000 tonnes of asbestos with a value of $239 million were imported. India is Asia’s 2nd biggest asbestos consumer. [Read full article]

Dec 6, 2017

On December 5, 2017, the High Court declared that historical documents detailing corporate knowledge regarding the asbestos hazard due to be destroyed as part of a confidential agreement must be preserved and shared with parties not involved in the original litigation. The ruling marked a positive outcome for a case brought by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum to obtain information that would facilitate claims by asbestos victims and better understand “the close relationship between the Factory Inspectorate, whose function was supposed to be protecting the health and safety of workers, and the asbestos industry that they were supposed to be regulating.” [Read full article]

Dec 1, 2017

A majority verdict of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) handed down on November 29, 2017, prohibited the mining, processing, marketing and distribution of chrysotile (white) asbestos in Brazil – currently the world’s third largest producer of chrysotile. The judgment was binding on all jurisdictions and on the national congress which is, said the STF, barred from enacting new legislation authorizing the use of asbestos. Commenting on this ruling Fernanda Giannasi, who was been at the forefront of the campaign to ban asbestos in Brazil for 30 years, said: “If an asbestos producer country like Brazil is able to make such a decision, why wouldn’t consumer countries do the same?” Why indeed! [Read full article]

Nov 21, 2017

Untold numbers of workers may have been exposed to asbestos-contaminated blast cleaning abrasives supplied by the Netherlands-based Eurogrit Company, a subsidiary of the Belgian company Sibelco, which were sold to companies in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and possibly elsewhere. The Eurogrit product (Eurogrit coal-slag abrasive (aluminium silicate) at the center of this unfolding health and commercial catastrophe is used primarily for removing rust and dirt from steel surfaces. Compared to well-honed protocols put into action by Dutch stakeholders, the UK’s response to this illegal use of a toxic product has been singularly unimpressive. [Read full article]

Nov 9, 2017

Actions taken by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health in June 2017 to protect citizens from exposures to asbestos were officially quashed last month (October 2017) by the Ministry of Justice which excluded the implementing regulations from the State Register. The formalization of this move to undercut the capacity of Ukraine to act in the best interests of its citizens is further proof of the over-reaching influence of asbestos vested interests. Simultaneously, a 2017 free trade deal between Canada and Ukraine – The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement – could provide enhanced opportunities for the commercial exploitation of regional asbestos production. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2017

On the evening of October 27, 2017, the Worker’s Initiative – Kolkata organized a mass meeting in Kolkata, India where 19 workers with asbestosis were presented compensation payments received from the T&N Asbestos Trustee Company (UK) totaling INR 55,08,924.00 (US$ 85,000) by representatives of trade unions and labor organizations. Despite attempts by the asbestos manufacturing company Everest Industries to deter workers from attending the meeting, there were many asbestos workers in the audience as well as workers from other companies. Information leaflets on the asbestos hazard in Hindi and Bengali were distributed during the meeting. [Read full article]

Oct 13, 2017

A press release issued by UK asbestos campaigners declared support for French comrades demonstrating in the streets of Paris today (October 13, 2017) demanding justice for those injured by asbestos and punishment for corporate entities, entrepreneurs, government officials, scientists, public relations professionals and others who promoted sales of deadly asbestos products (voir la version française du communiqué de presse). Highlighting the importance of the French protest, Graham Dring of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum (UK) said: “The ties which bind French and UK asbestos victims are enduring and solid; their battles are our battles. Today, we send them a message of fellowship and solidarity and our wishes for a great day!” [Read full article]

Oct 12, 2017

In mid-September, 2017, an article entitled: Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 84 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2016 was featured in The Lancet. Using data sourced from the GBD Study regarding the 2016 incidences of asbestos-related mortality in 195 countries, IBAS has compiled three tables listing asbestos-related disease mortality and mortality rates, relating (mostly) to occupational asbestos exposures. [Read full article]

Sep 28, 2017

A letter by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India to Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, calls for action according to international guidelines and independent research to protect citizens from the deadly hazard posed by the massive use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in India. The text of the September 12 document cites statements by the Environment Ministry that the “use of asbestos may be phased out” and the Ministry of Labour: “The Government of India is considering the ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos.” [Read full article]

Sep 22, 2017

This paper was submitted by the Government of the Cook Islands to the 28th meeting of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) which took place in Samoa on September 19-21, 2017. This and other documentation submitted under agenda item 13.1 supported the Cook Is. delegation’s call for a Pacific wide ban on asbestos and urged the SPREP to take “action on existing asbestos materials and wastes and address the issue of new asbestos in the Pacific.” The members of the SPREP include: American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. [Read full article]

Sep 17, 2017

The asbestos house of cards built on “denial, distortion and distraction” is collapsing. With more and more evidence documenting the toxic effects of human exposures and action being taken the world over to protect populations, preliminary data for recent years have shown a dramatic fall in consumption and reports from the asbestos frontline have documented a waning of industry influence and power even in home markets. This article draws on recent developments, published material and new data which detail a collapse in political, social and commercial support for the asbestos industry and the growth in support for national and regional action on the asbestos hazard in Asia and Latin America. [Read full article]

Sep 1, 2017

This letter is in response to recent comments made by President Rustam Minnikhanov of Tartarstan, Russia about the toxic nature of chrysotile (white) asbestos during a confrontation with Mr Andrey Holm, the head of Orenburg Minerals JSC – a major Russian producer and exporter of chrysotile asbestos fiber. During a meeting to discuss the state of the roads in the Kazan area, the President queried whether asbestos, a substance extolled by Holm, was a poison. According to a Russian environmental campaigner: “This is the first time an administrator of this high level questioned the safety of asbestos.” [For a Russian version of this letter click here] [Read full article]

Aug 26, 2017

Legislation regarding the use of asbestos in Brazil – the world’s third largest producer of white asbestos – was the subject of a split decision on August 24, 2017 by the Supreme Court which upheld the right of São Paulo State to ban asbestos but failed to declare the federal law allowing asbestos use unconstitutional by one vote, despite majority support for a national ban from the nine Justices eligible to vote. This is a great victory for the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, for its legal advisors and for the associations which invested their expertise, time and resources to challenge a dangerous law and a status quo that prioritized corporate profits over public health. There is no place in the 21st century for 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.

From Article:

 
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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