|►France: Asbestos Alert|
|US: Toxic Talc|
|UK: Asbestos in Marble and Stone|
|Spain: Asbestos at Power Plants|
|Thailand: Asbestos Ban Resolution|
|Europe: Asbestos and Construction Workers|
Feb 28, 2020
On February 25, 2020 it was announced that the Naval Group had temporarily closed a workshop in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, north-western France which employed 200 people, due to concerns over asbestos, after trade unions had denounced the hazardous conditions at the worksite where nuclear submarines are manufactured for the French Navy. This action was taken days after a Court fined the French automotive group PSA €118,000 for occupational asbestos exposures experienced by a former worker at the Peugeot site in Sochaux. See: Naval Group ferme un atelier à Cherbourg-en-Cotentin à cause d'une suspection d'amiante [Naval Group closes workshop in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin due to asbestos suspicion].
Feb 28, 2020
A paper published in the current issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine described thirty-three cases of malignant mesothelioma among individuals with no known asbestos exposure other than cosmetic talcum. The authors of this study reported that: “Asbestos of the type found in talcum powder was found in all six cases.” In light of the finding that asbestos-contaminated talcum powders could cause mesothelioma, the researchers recommended that clinicians detail mesothelioma patients’ history of talcum powder use. See: Mesothelioma Associated with the Use of Cosmetic Talc.
Feb 28, 2020
New guidelines issued by the Health and Safety Executive highlight the hazard posed by the presence of asbestos fibers in marble and basalt products and provide advice for people supplying, working or using these types of material. The 10-page document cites various pieces of legislation relevant to this subject including: the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. See: Asbestos in some types of marble and other stone: assessing the risk.
Feb 27, 2020
Today (February 27), an information session is being held by the Center for Environmental Studies Ithaca of Andorra to raise awareness of the historical as well as current occupational and environmental health hazards, including exposures to asbestos, generated by the operations of the Andorra Thermal Power Plant. Amongst the speakers will be representatives of the Catalan Association of Victims Affected by Asbestos and specialist Jaume Cortés, from a legal cooperative specializing in industrial injuries. See: ¿Qué supone la exposición continuada al sílice y al amianto? [What does continuous exposure to silica and asbestos mean?]
Feb 27, 2020
A resolution submitted to the 12th National Health Assembly of Thailand in December 2019 called for a complete ban on the use of all types of asbestos. The proposal requested that government agencies and ministries take steps to: prohibit asbestos use by 2025 at the latest, support the use of safer alternatives, raise awareness of the health hazard, issue guidelines for the safe disposal of asbestos waste and develop systems for diagnosing asbestos-related diseases and compensating the injured. In order to implement the provisions of the proposal, approval from the National Health Commission and the Thai cabinet is required. See: Revision of National Health Assembly Resolution: Thailand ban asbestos measure.
Feb 27, 2020
Calls are being made for the European Union to update workplace regulations in line with new research which detailed the hazardous effects that legal exposures were having on construction workers. The research showed that instead of 100,000 asbestos fibers per cubic meter, the limit value should be 100 per cubic meter. Danish Member of the European Parliament Nikolaj Villumsen has been pressing for action by the European Employment Committee to address the hazard posed by asbestos still contained within the European infrastructure. See: Villumsen: Lønmodtagere skal ikke betale for grøn omstilling med kortere levetid [Villumsen: Employees should not pay for a green conversion with a shorter life span].
Feb 26, 2020
This week a court in the French city of Belfort, 16 miles from the French-Swiss border, ordered the PSA automotive group to pay compensation of €110,000 to a former worker from the Peugeot factory in Sochaux who has contracted asbestos-related cancer as a result of hazardous occupational exposures during his 40 years of employment. PSA was found guilty of “faute inexcusable” (inexcusable fault). Up to forty thousand people had worked at the Sochaux plant. The company has one month to appeal the verdict. See: Culpabilité du groupe PSA pour exposition à l'amiante [PSA group guilty for asbestos exposure].
Feb 26, 2020
As the manslaughter trial of five theatre managers was due to recommence in Milan, unions and workers’ groups presented a dossier of material to reporters detailing the presence of asbestos in La Scala and the actions they had taken to try and prevent toxic exposures. The defendants have been charged over the asbestos-related deaths of nine workers – including technicians, singers, musicians, choristers and conductors – which, allegedly, resulted from hazardous exposures experienced at the world famous Opera House. See: Milano, morti per amianto alla Scala: “Bonifica fatta grazie ai lavoratori” [Milan, asbestos deaths at La Scala: “Reclamation done thanks to workers”].
Feb 26, 2020
An abandoned asbestos mine, one of 37 derelict mining facilities on the island of Cyprus, has absorbed most of the funding allocated by the government for the reclamation of such contaminated sites over recent years. The first trees were planted at the site of the Amiantos mine in 1995 and the project is still ongoing with hopes it may be finished in 3 years. According to a recent report: “the site was given priority because it was considered the most urgent case of all the abandoned mines.” Once this project has been completed, work will begin on other sites. Lessons learned from the restoration work at Amiantos suggest that planting trees may be less effective than benign neglect in restoring the area’s flora and fauna. See: Disused mines both heritage and health hazard.
Feb 24, 2020
The findings of a disputed 2019 “study,” categorized by Indian campaigners as yet another “scam” by asbestos industry stakeholders has been reported in Russia as evidence supporting the “safe use of asbestos” propaganda disseminated by industry. The article asserted that: at the Russian Uralasbest asbestos mining plants “not a single case of an occupational disease was recorded” in 2018 and that “products created from chrysotile asbestos are not just a safe, but natural, environmentally friendly, durable and affordable solution to many problems.” See: Новое исследование подтвердило безопасность хризотила при контролируемом использовании [New study confirms chrysotile safety in controlled use].
Feb 24, 2020
New research, revealing the disastrous impact asbestos mining had on workers and resident populations in Quebec, has confirmed the high risk to Canadians posed by occupational and environmental exposures. The “shocking findings” have included: high levels of asbestos-related deaths, lack of compensation, inadequate levels of protection and lower penalties for hazardous practices in Quebec compared to other Canadian provinces. Between 2005 and 2015, 85% of all workplace-related diseases in Quebec were caused by asbestos exposure. See: Inquiry into Quebec’s asbestos mining legacy reveals shocking findings.
Feb 24, 2020
On February 20, 2020, police officers from the city of Vlora – in the south-west of Albania – working with border patrol guards seized a large amount of asbestos-contaminated waste being transported in a van in an operation called: “Asbestos”. Six Albanian citizens were arrested after the illegal shipment was discovered in a ferry anchored in Albania which had come from the Italian town of Brindisi. Clarification is being sought of the statement in this article which asserted that asbestos had been banned in Albania. See: Huge Amount of Asbestos Seized Inside Brindisi-Albania Ferry.
Feb 21, 2020
On February 13, 2020, the Florence Court of Appeal upheld a December 2019 ruling by a court in Grosseto, Italy which had recognized the occupational nature of the asbestos-related illness contracted by a soldier, and awarded him benefits including a life-time pension and a one-off lump sum compensation payment. The lower court’s verdict had been appealed by Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance. The claimant, who had served in the military for 33 years as a motor engineer and chief mechanic, contracted asbestosis as a result of workplace asbestos exposure. See: Amianto: militare GdF malato, giudici ‘Mef paghi vitalizio’ [Asbestos: sick GdF soldier, ‘Mef pay annuity’ judges rule].
Feb 21, 2020
A conference held in Lisbon on January 31, 2020 brought together national and European experts from the asbestos removal industry and relevant government agencies to assess measures which might be taken to raise the level of asbestos awareness in Portugal, in particular the hazard posed by asbestos contamination of the built environment. The event, which was organized by a campaigning NGO, took place at the Lisbon headquarters of the Order of Engineers on January 31. Measures to protect occupational and public health were examined and topics such as the following were addressed by speakers: asbestos audits, environmental monitoring, asbestos removal and waste disposal practices. See: Portugal sem Amianto [Asbestos-free Portugal].
Feb 21, 2020
The decontamination of trains by the company operating the Madrid Metro system has been suspended following a complaint received by the Prosecutor’s Office which had been made by a trade union representing Machinists alleging that the company planned to destroy evidence of asbestos contamination in order to undermine personal injury claims by injured workers. On February 17, 2020 the company circulated to the workforce news of yet more asbestos contamination in new train parts, specifically in joints in units 2000A and 2000B. See: Denuncian a Metro por “destrucción de pruebas” en el caso del amianto [Metro denounced for “destruction of evidence” regarding asbestos].
Feb 21, 2020
A BBC 3 documentary entitled: Beauty Laid Bare revealed that an eye shadow product marketed by the cosmetics company MUA had tested positive for asbestos. US analyst Sean Fitzgerald tested samples from a MUA product called “Silent Disco” three times to confirm the findings. The company asserted that “all their products rigorously comply with all EU safety standards on contaminants and that they keep a full record of test results. They said they have carried out more recent tests on this exact batch of products which show no trace of any contamination.” Nevertheless, the sale of “Silent Disco palette” was discontinued over a year ago. See: Investigation finds asbestos in makeup palette made by popular brand MUA.
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]
Sep 27, 2019
A shortened version of this paper was presented on September 25, 2019 at a meeting of the British Occupational Health Society’s London, South and South East Region Asbestos Seminar which was held in central London. From her perspective as the former editor of the British Asbestos Newsletter and Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, the author highlighted the changes she had witnessed during the 30 years that she had campaigned for asbestos justice at home and abroad and highlighted the work of four global changemakers: Dr. Irving Selikoff (US), Dr. Nancy Tait (UK), Fernanda Giannasi (Brazil) and Sugio Furuya (Japan). [Read full article]
Aug 22, 2019
In light of a Brazilian Supreme Court decision expected on September 4, 2019 regarding a request for the recommencement of asbestos mining operations to produce fiber for export purposes, representatives of Brazilian and international groups have issued an appeal to Ministers urging that they uphold the historic 2017 decision declaring the commercialization of asbestos unconstitutional throughout the country. The text of the letter – which is supported by groups that were part of the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil 2019 – implored the Supreme Court Justices to “uphold the right of all humanity to live a life free from deadly exposures to asbestos.” [Read full article]
Aug 19, 2019
A Brazilian PhD dissertation by Dr. A.P. Amaral published this year (2019) explored in depth what a Brazilian Commission had reported in 2010 about the dangerous conditions in which asbestos workers toiled with a focus on the situation in the town of Minaçu, home to the country’s sole remaining chrysotile asbestos mine. The brief article about this thesis highlighted the isolation and deprivation experienced by victims and their families who received neither support nor acknowledgement of the occupational nature of the illnesses contracted. In a town where the asbestos discourse was dictated by those with vested interests in the survival of the industry, the injured were marginalized and silenced by the overpowering forces against them. [Read full article]
Aug 16, 2019
On August 13, 2019, a media release was issued at the conclusion of an asbestos workshop in Vientiane, the capital of Laos; the event was hosted by the Lao National Assembly’s Committee of Social Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Health and is a manifestation of the growing concern for public and occupational health caused by high levels of asbestos use in the country (as exemplified in the: Lao National Strategy for Elimination of Asbestos-related Diseases). Presentations by international experts including representatives of the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization, the (Australian) Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and specialists from Vietnam, Korea and Japan were of great interest to delegates. [Read full article]
Aug 2, 2019
A judgment handed down by the Supreme Court on July 29, 2019 is being hailed as a landmark in the British fight for “transparency of the legal process”; while the civil case initiated by Graham Dring in 2017 on behalf of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (the Forum) sought disclosure of documentation to a non-party to asbestos litigation, the precedent it set could almost certainly be used by concerned citizens or journalists to access court documents in other cases. The unanimous verdict of the Court in Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Dring (for and on behalf of Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK) upheld the principle of public access based on the constitutional principle of open justice. [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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