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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Nov 30, 2020

An analysis of 21 samples of cosmetics in powder, liquid and cream forms – including eye shadow, foundation, blush, face and body powders – which was commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed that ~15% were contaminated with asbestos. Commenting on these disturbing findings, EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Farber said: “While consumers should be alarmed and outraged, it’s hardly a surprise, considering the federal law regulating the cosmetics industry has not been updated since 1938.” More than 2,000 personal care products sold in the US contain talc, 1,000 are loose or pressed powders which pose an elevated risk of inhalation. See: Analysis: Talc-Based Cosmetics Test Positive for Asbestos.

Nov 30, 2020

The 24-page annual review of the UK Government’s Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) for 2019 to 2020 was published last week by the Department of Work & Pensions. Since the scheme launched in 2014, 1,500 mesothelioma sufferers have received compensation of £205.2 million. This past year, the average payment to applicants was £144,000, a decrease of £4,000 on the previous year. The DMPS provides compensation to mesothelioma sufferers who were negligently exposed to asbestos at work but were unable to obtain compensation from their former employer or their former employer’s insurer. See: Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme: annual review 2019 to 2020.

Nov 30, 2020

On November 27, 2020 Maurizio Ascione, the Public Prosecutor trying a case against executives alleged to have caused the deaths from asbestos-related diseases of La Scala Opera House staff, asked that the four defendants be given prison sentences ranging from 2½ to 7 years. The longest sentence, Ascione said, should be given to Giovanni Traina, who was the theater’s external health and safety consultant. During a preliminary hearing charges against four former Mayors of Milan had been dropped. See: Amianto alla Scala, condannate i manager [Asbestos at La Scala, condemn the managers].

Nov 30, 2020

On November 27, 2020, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced that gifts distributed by Kaizuka City, Osaka Prefecture to taxpayers was contaminated with asbestos. The bath mats and coasters were made from diatomaceous earth – a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. The products were marketed under the brand name “Caraco” and were made by the Horiki Kosakusho company in Kaizuka City; they were found to contain up to 0.61% asbestos. See: 返礼品にアスベスト含有、製造元が回収 大阪・貝塚市ふるさと納税 [Asbestos containing goods, distributed by Kaizuka City in return for local tax payment to be collected by the manufacturer].

Nov 26, 2020

An asbestos removal program sponsored by the government of Nakuru County – the fourth most populous county in Kenya – is progressing efforts to remove asbestos roofing materials from thousands of domestic properties to protect public health; scheduled works aim to complete the decontamination by the end of 2021.The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) classifies asbestos as a “poisonous” substance; NEMA ordered all the asbestos material on government facilities to be replaced. According to Nakura’s Governor Lee Kinyanjui: “Asbestos [roofs] have been proven to be dangerous and we are working round the clock to replace them by next year, from all the institutions and estates.” See: County replaces asbestos roofs with iron sheets.

Nov 26, 2020

According to Comboios de Portugal (CP), the company which purchased 51 asbestos-contaminated railway carriages from the Spanish company Renfe for 1.65 million euros, decontamination work on 36 of the carriages has now been completed a few days ahead of schedule. Remodelling work is now underway on 3 of the carriages at the CP workshop in Guifões, Matosinhos. The plan is for the rolling stock to be in circulation on the Viana do Castelo-Valença railway line at the end of 2022. See: CP conclui remoção de amianto de carruagens compradas a Espanha [CP concludes asbestos removal from carriages purchased from Spain].

Nov 26, 2020

This week the Mesothelioma UK Research Center-Sheffield – for investigating new protocols and treatments for people suffering from the signature asbestos cancer mesothelioma – opened at Sheffield University (see: Launch of mesothelioma research centre). According to the Center’s co-director Professor Angela Mary Tod, the ultimate goal of the Center is to find a cure for the aggressive and deadly cancer which kills 2,500+ people in Britain every year. The Center, the first of its kind in the UK dedicated to patient experience-based and supportive care mesothelioma research, is sponsored by national charity Mesothelioma UK. According to its Head of Services Liz Darlison MBE, the opening of the Center was the culmination of years of work. See: Mesothelioma lung cancer centre set for Sheffield.

Nov 26, 2020

Legal proceedings brought on behalf of 10 workers from La Scala Opera House are coming to an end in a Milan courtroom. In the dock are four defendants accused of negligence in allowing asbestos exposures of the workers to occur. On November 20, 2020, the final two witnesses for the defence argued that the exposures which caused the workers to contract asbestos-related diseases had taken place outside the Opera House at other workplaces or via an environmental vector such as living in the town of Casale Monferrato, home to Italy’s largest asbestos-cement factory. See: Milano: alle battute finali il processo per i lavoratori morti di amianto alla Scala [Milan: the trial for dead asbestos workers at La Scala is in the final stages].

Nov 26, 2020

Despite the existence of a national asbestos ban as per a 2017 verdict of the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF), it was announced on November 17, 2020 that production of chrysotile (white) asbestos would recommence at the SAMA asbestos mine in Minaçu City, Goiás State under state law No. 20,514 adopted by the Goiás Legislative Assembly. Objections to the law’s unconstitutionality have been lodged with the STF. The Attorney General for Goiás State said that all the asbestos mined would be exported. See: Amianto em Goiás: entenda a disputa jurídica [Asbestos in Goiás: understand the legal dispute].

Nov 26, 2020

A filmed version of an award-winning play by Francis Poet entitled Fibres, about the life of a former Scottish shipyard worker who is suffering from asbestosis, will be premiering online at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25. The play – a co-production of Stellar Quines Theatre Company and the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow – toured Scotland in 2019. The protagonist Jack had been occupationally exposed to asbestos at the Clyde shipyard; his wife Beanie had washed the contaminated clothing he brought home. Viewers are requested to book in advance for free tickets and, where possible, consider making a donation. See: Fibres.

Nov 24, 2020

Asbestos victims’ groups, charities, civil society organizations and government agencies mark Asbestos Awareness Month every November. The Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) – based in Perth, Western Australia – will be holding its annual Ecumenical Service on the morning of November 27 “in remembrance of those who have died from asbestos diseases.” This service provides an opportunity for members of the ADSA community and the medical, legal and healthcare professionals who support them to join together in reflection about the lives which have been lost due to Australia’s asbestos epidemic. If you cannot support them in person, a donation would be very welcome. See: Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia.

Nov 24, 2020

On November 18, 2020, a 20 minute upload to YouTube highlighted the ongoing hazard posed by asbestos-containing products in Colombia, a country which banned the use of asbestos in 2019. Footage illustrating the ubiquity of asbestos-cement (ac) products showed ac roofing, pipes and other building materials. Scenes of workmen breaking, manipulating and waterblasting this material highlighted the lack of any awareness of the toxicity of the products being handled. The resource was created by the Colombia Asbestos Free Foundation in collaboration with Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and other partnering organizations. See: Asbesto Audiovisual [Audiovisual Asbestos].

Nov 24, 2020

Efforts continue in Vietnam to address low levels of asbestos awareness via outreach projects and information sessions such as one held on November 20 in Bac Kan province, in the northeast of the country. The event was organized by the Institute of Natural Resources, Environment and Community Development in coordination with the Committee for Ethnic Minorities of Bac Kan province; it was entitled: Include Chrysotile [Asbestos] on the List of Hazardous Waste Materials and Require Warning Labels on Asbestos-containing Products. Having delineated the ubiquity and toxicity of asbestos-containing material, speakers proposed that delegates be proactive in preventing toxic exposures and not use or reuse any asbestos material. See: Đưa Amiăng trắng vào danh sách chất độc hại [Put chrysotile on the list of toxic substances].

Nov 24, 2020

On November 18, 2020, 17 asbestos-exposed workers constituted the first cohort in a new healthcare outreach program in the Brazilian city of Piracicaba. The workers underwent free clinical evaluations and imaging tests after being briefed by staff about the protocols to be followed. According to one of the organizers, the purpose of the initiative was “to ensure comprehensive health care, enable mutual knowledge between the parties and create bonds that facilitated the continuity of treatment and mutual cooperation between patients, families and the community.” See: Trabalhadores expostos ao amianto de 5 cidades da região de Piracicaba começam a receber atendimento de saúde [Workers exposed to asbestos in 5 cities in the Piracicaba region start receiving health care].

Nov 24, 2020

The need to safely dispose of asbestos waste produced during development work was highlighted last week in a press release by the workers' group Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) which urged the SM Development Corporation to take care in its handling of asbestos stripped from a multi-story iconic structure in Manila called the Philamlife building. The ALU-TUCP document was the basis of an article published on November 23, 2020. The toxic Philamlife asbestos waste – containing a large amount of ceiling boards and wall insulation – was produced during months of renovation work and is currently stored in the building. See: Dispose Philamlife cancerous asbestos now!

Nov 24, 2020

On November 18, 2020, New York State Supreme Court Judge Gerald Lebovits upheld a jury’s 2019 finding that Johnson & Johnson was liable for the asbestos cancer contracted by 67-year old mesothelioma sufferer Donna Olson who had routinely used the company’s talc-based baby powder as part of her daily hygiene routine. The Judge, however, lowered the damages awarded by the jury to the Brooklyn woman and her husband from $325 million to $120m which included $15m of compensatory and $105m of punitive damages. See: Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $120 million as damages in New York baby powder case.

Nov 16, 2020

On November 9, 2020, Bruce Dunn, Director of the Asian Development Bank’s Safeguards Division, confirmed their intention to prohibit use of all asbestos-containing products on ABD projects. The ADB had first announced its intention to close an existing loophole – allowing the use of bonded asbestos cement sheeting composed of less than 20% asbestos fiber – at the end of 2019 when an ADB representative confirmed that: “From 2020, ADB will refrain from financing any new projects containing any presence of asbestos; this update will be reflected in the next review of ADB’s Safeguard Policy Statement.” Welcoming the news, Sugio Furuya of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network said: “The Bank’s prohibition of asbestos sends out a signal loud and clear that there is no place in the 21st century for asbestos.” [Read full article]

Nov 13, 2020

Events scheduled to take place this month (November 2020) mark the continuation of a 50-year battle to obtain justice for Italy’s asbestos victims. On November 27th yet another trial against Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny will commence. In the last decade, public prosecutors have launched legal actions against the defendant charging him, in various jurisdictions and at different times, with murder, manslaughter, aggravated culpable homicide, voluntary homicide causing permanent environmental damage and failing to comply with safety rules. Although guilty verdicts against Schmidheiny were vacated by Italy’s Supreme Court in 2014, asbestos claimants remain optimistic that the defendant will finally be held to account for the damage done and heartache caused to so many Italian families. [Read full article]

Nov 2, 2020

Grassroots Literacy and the Written Record tells the story of the Asbestos Interest Group (AIG), a village-based network of asbestos activists in post-apartheid South Africa. The book is set in the Kuruman district, a former mining center on the Cape Asbestos Belt, now a landscape of retrenched mines and mills and derelict tailing dumps, where the presence of asbestos continues to cause deadly diseases long after the mines closed in the 1990s and the new democratic government banned asbestos in 2008. The book follows the AIG from its inception, documenting its efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos; its grassroots research project to map sites of secondary asbestos contamination; its participation in a historic legal case; and its work helping ex-mineworkers access compensation. [Read full article]

Oct 27, 2020

UK sufferers of asbestos-related diseases are at increased risk from Covid-19 as their lungs are already scarred by the toxic fibers previously ingested. As well as fearing for their lives during these turbulent times, they face a Herculean task to access compensation to which they are entitled. According to information provided by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK, 272 asbestos claims for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit have yet to be processed and 16 victims have died whilst waiting to receive these benefits. The Tories are responding to Covid-19 as they do to every crisis: with a ruthless venality that prioritizes their interests at all costs. Almost nine months into the UK epidemic, the needs of asbestos victims remain unaddressed. [Read full article]

Oct 21, 2020

An injection of funds this year is enabling a ground-breaking asbestos surveillance and treatment collaboration created in 2018 by medical experts at the Heart Institute of the University of São Paulo and the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed to expand its support network to patients in additional Brazilian cities. The pilot project provided care, free of charge, for local people with asbestos-related diseases at a medical outpatient clinic at the São Paulo Heart Institute. With the 2020 grants, first class medical training is being provided to doctors in the cities of Campinas, Piracicaba and Rio Claro to build capacity to diagnose and care for asbestos patients, most of whom are unskilled workers without resources to pay healthcare or treatment costs. [Read full article]

Oct 21, 2020

On October 19, 2020, the Mayor of the former Canadian mining town called “Asbestos” announced that the third round of a referendum to change the town’s name had resulted in a majority for the name Val-des-Sources (in English, Valley of Sources or Valley of Springs), a reference to the town’s location at the confluence of three lakes. During a livestreamed extraordinary meeting of the town council broadcast at 5:30 p.m. via Facebook on October 19, the new name was adopted by the council and was, said Mayor Hughes Grimard, now being submitted for approval to Quebec’s toponymy commission and then to Quebec’s Department of Municipal Affairs. The Mayor is optimistic that the change could be official by Christmas. [Read full article]

Oct 16, 2020

The 20th anniversary of the Global Asbestos Congress 2000: Past Present and Future (GAC 2000) last month was a time of mixed emotions. Plans to mark this eventful occasion at the original venue in Osasco, Brazil were derailed by unforeseen developments: Covid-19. The disappointment of the cancellation of the anniversary event in Brazil spurred us to revisit plans to host the GAC 2000 annals on the IBAS website, a task which proved more complex than we had anticipated. Nevertheless, this resource – which includes Congress presentations, extra-Congress submissions, documentation, photographic exhibitions and photos of the GAC 2000 activities – and an introductory article have now been uploaded. [Read full article]

Sep 18, 2020

It is with great sadness that we report the news that Nirmala Gurung passed away on September 9, 2020. Nirmala was a former teacher and headmistress of a secondary school in the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh. Her engagement in the struggle to ban asbestos initially in India and more latterly around the world was the result of a happenstance. Nirmala became a formidable campaigner, working with grassroots activists at home and film-makers from abroad to raise awareness of the price paid by workers and communities for the asbestos industry’s profits. Her passing will be mourned by those fortunate to have known her and those who just knew her from afar. [Read full article]

Aug 21, 2020

A new research paper by a team of scientists from Peru has aired the inconvenient truth about the country’s failure to stem the tide of deaths caused by occupational and environmental exposures to asbestos. The fact that the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos remains legal in Peru and that imports of crocidolite (blue) asbestos were only banned in 2014 are serious grounds for concern according to the authors of this text. Having correlated asbestos import data between 1965 and 2010 with the incidence of mesothelioma mortality between 2005 and 2014 (430 deaths), the scientists reported that the highest incidences of mesothelioma mortality were for the cities of Arequipa, Callao and Huancavelica and that multiple opportunities to eradicate the problem had been wasted. [Read full article]

July 10, 2020

On July 8, 2020, a press release by the US organization Black Women for Wellness (BWW) announced the worldwide mobilization of civil society groups over continuing sales of talc-based Johnson & Johnson (J&J) baby powder which has been found, on multiple occasions by government and independent analysts, to contain asbestos. This initiative came a week after Janette Robinson Flint – BWW’s Executive Director – had sent a letter to J&J’s CEO denouncing the company’s “systemic racism” and aggressive marketing of its toxic talc “to women of color, distributing free samples in Black churches and advertising on Spanish-language radio.” The public outcry over the company’s behaviour and adverse legal developments are discussed in this article. [Read full article]

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]

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Demonstration in Woluwe Park, Brussels, 2006

Under cloudy skies, members of Belgian and French Asbestos Victims' Associations from Dunkirk and Bourgogne marched side-by-side in the third annual demonstration organized by ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims. Erik Jonckheere, ABEVA's Co-chairman, condemned the government which still refuses to recognize the plight of the asbestos injured.

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USGS Asbestos Trade Data

Fiber Producers (2018)
(tonnes):
   Russia710,000
   Kazakhstan203,000
   China125,000
   Brazil110,000
    
 Top Five Users (2016)
(tonnes):
   India308,000
   China288,000
   Russia234,000
   Brazil120,000
   Indonesia114,000