|►Brazil: Pioneering Covid-19 Initiative|
|Korea: Pioneering Asbestos Program|
|Spain: Calls for Asbestos Action|
|Australia: Wittenoom: The Legacy|
|France: Ministry Officials Compensated|
|Australia: Mesothelioma: Update|
Jul 7, 2020
Thousands of asbestos-injured citizens in Rio de Janeiro will benefit from a new outreach program by Brazil’s National School of Public Health (ENSP/Fiocruz) which is being coordinated by ENSP director and pulmonologist Hermano Castro and financed by the Public Labor Ministry with funds obtained from judicial penalties against Petrobras, a Brazilian petroleum multinational. Members of the medical team will conduct telephone and on-site interviews to support and assist these patients who are at high-risk of contracting Covid-19. See: ENSP/Fiocruz prestará assistência aos trabalhadores expostos ao amianto no contexto da pandemia [ENSP / Fiocruz will provide assistance to workers exposed to asbestos in the context of the pandemic].
Jul 7, 2020
On July 1, 2020, the authorities in the South Korean Province of South Chungcheong announced plans to conduct an asbestos health survey, in collaboration with personnel from the Cheonan Hospital of Soonchunnhyang University, of residents in neighborhoods near a former asbestos mine. Residents over the age of 40 in Hongseong, Boryeong and Cheongyang who lived for more than 10 years within a 2 km radius of the mine will be interviewed, screened and medically examined as appropriate with follow-up testing conducted of those with symptoms. See: 충남, 석면 노출 우려지역 건강영향조사 재개 [Chungnam resumes health impact survey on asbestos-exposed areas].
Jul 7, 2020
Más Madrid – a community campaigning group in the Madrid neighborhood of Getafe – on July 3, 2020 protested the municipal authority’s failure to follow-up on a 2019 commitment to implement an asbestos eradication plan. Getafe is, according to the group, an asbestos hotspot due, not only to the former operations of the Uralita asbestos factory, but also to the widespread incorporation of asbestos in the built environment and “the state of neglect in which the industrial estates are, where illegal fiber cement discharges accumulate.” See: GETAFE/ Insisten en la necesidad de elaborar un plan para la retirada del amianto en el municipio [GETAFE / Insistence on the need to develop a plan for the removal of asbestos in the municipality].
Jul 7, 2020
A historical novel about the health catastrophe caused by the commercial exploitation of asbestos at Western Australia’s Wittenoom crocidolite (blue) asbestos mine has been published by New Zealander Kara Douglas, whose father died aged 53 from the signature asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. The focus of The Air that we Breathe is the story of an Italian couple who move to the town of Wittenoom in 1961 to work at the asbestos mine. In an interview, the author said the objective of her book was mainly to: “increase awareness of asbestos for people reading it and hopefully save lives. They might read my book and think otherwise if they come across asbestos.” See: Driven to tell doomed WA town’s stories.
Jul 3, 2020
On June 30, 2020, an Administrative Court of Appeal in Nantes, France ruled that nine former employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were entitled to receive up to €11,000 for asbestos exposures experienced whilst working at the landmark Tripod building in Nantes between 1972 and 1993. Verdicts in dozens of similar lawsuits initiated by work colleagues of the claimants in this case and other plaintiffs who were similarly exposed to asbestos at work are expected in the coming days. See: Amiante au Tripode de Nantes: neuf fonctionnaires indemnisés [Asbestos at the Nantes Tripode: nine officials compensated].
Jul 3, 2020
PhD student Synat Keam, who is researching immunotherapy and radiotherapy combination treatments for mesothelioma at Australia’s National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases, is this year’s recipient of the Douglas Peter Swift Scholarship. Keam plans to use the scholarship to investigate “immune checkpoint blockade treatments, which is a type of immunotherapy that works by enabling T cells to kill cancer cells.” Douglas Swift, who was exposed to asbestos whilst living in the asbestos mining town of Wittenoom, Western Australia, died of mesothelioma aged 53. His family and friends set up this scholarship in his memory. See: Researcher aims to find better way to treat deadly asbestos disease.
Jul 3, 2020
The announcement by the Prime Minister that £1 billion would be invested in renovating and rebuilding the UK’s educational infrastructure led to calls for action on the asbestos contamination of most UK schools. “It's shameful,” said MP David Morris “that teachers and pupils are still at risk from asbestos-riddled schools that should have been torn down long ago.” In an article on the website of Tes – a publication for education professionals – Morris pointed out: “Teachers in the UK are five times more likely than average to develop mesothelioma, the fatal lung disease most closely linked to the material. Meanwhile, exposure to asbestos in the earliest decades of a child’s life doubles their risk of the same outcome.” See: £1bn school building fund must expel asbestos forever.
Jul 2, 2020
Annual figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on July 1, 2020 reported that in 2018 there had been 2,446 deaths from the signature asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Great Britain; 90+% of mesothelioma claimants lodged claims for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefits. Also published on July 1, 2020 by the HSE was a 12-page report entitled Mesothelioma statistics for Great Britain, 2020 which noted that: “In Great Britain mesothelioma death rates for both males and females follow an upward trend over time with a levelling-off over recent years.” See: HSE releases annual workplace fatality figures for 2019/20.
Jul 2, 2020
In an interview published in a French language Canadian newspaper, Joël Fournier, founder of Alliance Magnesium, described progress achieved by the company in its objective of reclaiming magnesium, iron, silica and nickel from the asbestos waste created by decades of chrysotile (white) asbestos mining in Quebec. Fournier revealed the company had raised $145 million to build a factory in Danville, near Asbestos, in the Eastern Townships; amongst the six Alliance investors were: the Quebec and Canadian governments and a Japanese conglomerate. Health experts have warned of the health hazard posed by processing the hazardous mining debris. See: Premier gros chantier industriel depuis le début de la pandémie [Future plant to produce magnesium for automakers and aluminum smelters].
Jul 2, 2020
A commentary on the negligence of car manufacturer VW Navarra cited the March 2020 court ruling which condemned the company for exposing a former employee to asbestos at a factory in Northern Spain as a result of which he died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Government documents cited in this text reported that the company had consistently failed to warn workers of the asbestos hazard and failed to take measures to protect employees from toxic exposures. The author concluded that: “all the workers who have passed through the factory at some time in history, at least until 2016, have been or may have been exposed to asbestos, with the possibility of developing a fatal disease.” See: Amianto en Volkswagen [Asbestos at Volkswagen].
Jul 2, 2020
A peer reviewed article uploaded on June 28, 2020 by British researchers reviewed evidence on the psychological effects of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma on patients and their carers and made recommendations regarding further research. The co-authors identified key findings including: the importance of carefully timed interventions, the need to address difficult feelings such as those arising from knowledge about the exposures which caused the disease and effective measures to improve information sharing and communication. There was, the paper concluded an “urgent need for more nuanced research.” See: What are the psychological effects of mesothelioma on patients and their carers? A scoping review.
Jul 2, 2020
Madrid Metro – the company which runs the rapid transit system serving the Spanish capital – has for the first time paid out compensation to the family of a worker who died as a result of occupational exposure to asbestos. Julián Martín's family received €193,054 (~US$217,000) in an out of court settlement; Mr. Martin was the first of the company’s workers to have died from a recognized asbestos-related disease; six of his former colleagues have also died from asbestos diseases and 11 other workers have reported similar illnesses. See: Metro de Madrid indemniza por primera vez a los familiares de un fallecido por Amianto [Metro de Madrid compensates for the first time the relatives of a deceased by asbestos].
Jun 29, 2020
On June 29, 2020, Korea’s defense ministry said it would eliminate asbestos from all military facilities to safeguard the health and safety of service personnel. A national asbestos audit in 2019 found that ~11,600 military structures were contaminated with asbestos, of which 5,450 buildings – such as barracks and restaurants inside bases – were in use every day. The target for removing asbestos from these structures is 2022, with the remediation of the others to be accomplished by 2025. Funding allocated for removal work in 2020 was US$58+ million with at least the same set aside per year for 2021-2025. See: Defense ministry to remove asbestos from all military structures by 2025.
Jun 29, 2020
June 29, 2020 is the 15th anniversary of the “Kubota Shock (KS)”; the KS initiated a public awakening in Japan of the existence of a nation-wide epidemic of asbestos-related diseases. Since the KS, 600 people have died in Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture – the location of a former Kubota company factory – from both occupational and environmental exposures to asbestos fibers liberated by the manufacturing at the Kanzaki site. According to asbestos victims’ campaigner Hiroshi Iida: “The damage is not over…It is a catastrophe that should not be forgotten.” See:「病魔今ごろ暴れだした」クボタ石綿被害、１５年で６００人に [“Disease now rampages” Kubota Asbestos damage, 600 people in 15 years].
Jun 29, 2020
Officials in Sardinia are calling on Gianni Lampis, the Regional Environmental Minister for Sardinia, to press the Italian government for the release of funds allocated for the removal and disposal of asbestos from public buildings such as schools and hospitals. The total amount earmarked for this work was €385 million, of which €35m was for asbestos remediation in Sardinia. As all the work funded under this program must be completed by December 31, 2025, Lampis has been asked to press the government to release these funds. See: Rimozione dell’amianto da scuole e ospedali: fondi ancora bloccati [Asbestos removal from schools and hospitals: funds still blocked].
Jun 29, 2020
The inhabitants of Kato Polemidia, Cyprus have been in limbo after demolition of an urban site. The price for the tender agreed with the town had been based on the reuse of rubble in municipal building works. When the debris was found to contain asbestos, this became impossible and the work to remove the waste was suspended. In the 18 months since then, discussions amongst city agencies and operatives regarding this problem proved fruitless. according to local politician Adamos Adamou, a solution to this problem is imminent. See: Επείγουσα επιστολή Επιτροπής Περιβάλλοντος για επίσπευση των διαδικασιών που αφορούν την κατεδάφιση του Βερεγγάρια [Letter from Environment Committee to expedite procedures for demolition of Berengaria].
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]
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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