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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Apr 12, 2021

Months after blasts devastated the Port of Beirut, nothing has been done about the hazard posed by asbestos debris collected in the aftermath of the explosion. According to environment specialist Samar Khalil, asbestos-containing waste was dumped in the Achrafieh district of Beirut on a vacant lot “located a few meters from apartment buildings and a sports ground popular with the inhabitants of the district.” MP Imad Wakim deplored the informal asbestos dumpsites in the Karm Al-Zaitoun neighborhood of the city and castigated the municipal authorities, NGOs, UN agencies and the national government for failing to address the deadly situation. See (subscription site): Que faire des débris du port de Beyrouth contaminés par l’amiante? [What to do with the debris of the port of Beirut contaminated by asbestos?].

Apr 12, 2021

On March 31, 2021, asbestos anxiety claims were recognized by the Paris Court of Appeal for two hundred workers from the French electricity generating company EDF, each of whom was awarded €10,000 (US$12,000); the plaintiffs had worked at EDF power stations in Loire-sur-Rhône, Saint-Ouen, Vitry, Champagne-sur-Oise, Creil, Strasbourg, Blénod and Porcheville. The previous month, the court had recognized asbestos anxiety claims from 21 operatives from the EDF Porcheville site. All the claimants are suffering from distress caused by knowledge of the toxic workplace exposures they had experienced. See: Amiante: environ 200 ex-salariés d’EDF indemnisés pour un préjudice d’anxiété [Asbestos: around 200 former EDF employees compensated for anxiety damage].

Apr 12, 2021

The first reading of a bill (No. 4142) to ban asbestos was approved by the Ukraine Parliament. The draft legislation prohibited: “The production and use of asbestos, regardless of the type, as well as asbestos-containing products and materials, is prohibited in technological processes and in the implementation of construction and installation work at any facilities.” According to Mikhail Radutsky, Chair of Ukraine’s Parliamentary Committee for Health, Medical Care and Medical Insurance, the ban legislation is facing stiff opposition from the “asbestos lobby.” See: Законопроект о системе общественного здоровья ко второму чтению получил около 900 поправок – Радуцкий [Public health system bill receives about 900 amendments to the second reading – Radutsky].

Apr 12, 2021

The danger posed by the delivery of water through asbestos-cement water pipes in Sakarya – a Turkish Province on the Black Sea coast – was highlighted last week by Sakarya politician Ecevit Keleş who stated that the problem, which was a serious issue affecting public health, needed to be addressed urgently. He called for a collaborative effort by every level of government, from Mayor Ekrem Yüce to President Erdogan and including municipal, provincial and national health and administrative authorities, to prioritize the replacement of the toxic pipes with safer alternatives. See: Keleş, Sakarya'da asbestli borularının olduğunu ifade etti! [Keles stated that they have asbestos pipes in Sakarya!].

Apr 12, 2021

A new healthcare program which will start treating patients at high risk of contracting diseases from toxic exposures in asbestos hotspots – near asbestos factories, mines, development sites, or areas with a high density of asbestos roofing – was announced this month by the Asbestos Environmental Health Center at Cheonan Hospital. As of November 8, 2021, members of the public from the South Korean areas of Anyang, Gyeonggi-do, Ulsan Ulju-gun, Cheongju-si, Chungbuk, Pyeongtaek-si, Gyeonggi-do and Nowon-gu (Seoul) will be eligible for free medical check-ups and support. See: 순천향대천안병원, 석면피해우려 지역 실태 조사 [Sooncheonhyang University Cheonan Hospital surveys the actual condition of areas concerned with asbestos damage].

Apr 12, 2021

The efforts of contractors employed to replace asbestos-cement water pipes at a site in Veria, Macedonia, Northern Greece were interrupted by the discovery of human remains on April 7, 2021. The on-duty archaeologist reported the presence of the human skeleton at the excavation to the authorities. Upon a superficial examination, it was believed that the remains belonged to a young person who had died 1,000 years ago. Work at the site was temporarily suspended. See: Βρέθηκε ανθρώπινος σκελετός σε “αρχαίο” τάφο κατά τη διάρκεια εργασιών στο κέντρο της Βέροιας [Human skeleton found in "ancient" tomb during work in the center of Veria].

Apr 9, 2021

As Ukraine Parliamentarians work to protect citizens from potentially deadly exposures to asbestos by adopting legislation banning its use, industry stakeholders have gone on the media offensive to incite support for asbestos-containing building products by alleging that the new law would force the removal of toxic roofing and that asbestos-free products would be prohibitively expensive. A one-sided pro-asbestos article, which categorized the situation as a war between medicine vs economics, warned that “Panic is already rising in the villages.” See: В Украине хотят запретить использовать шифер и еще ряд стройматериалов. Заставят ли людей менять крыши? [In Ukraine, they want to ban the use of slate and a number of other building materials. Will people be forced to change roofs?].

Apr 9, 2021

According to expert Samar Khalil, the hazard posed by asbestos contamination after the 2020 explosions in Beirut remains unaddressed. “Asbestos was,” she said “present in a large part of the buildings in the Port of Beirut where it had been commonly used as roofing and wall covering materials in warehouses.” While most of the asbestos found in the debris was chrysotile, there were also some samples which contained crocidolite. Neither the national government nor local authorities have accepted responsibility for disposing of the toxic debris. See: Samar Khalil: « Aucune disposition n’a encore été prise pour régler le problème de l’amiante dans les débris de l’explosion du Port » [Samar Khalil: “No provision has yet been made to resolve the problem of asbestos in the debris of the Port explosion”].

Apr 9, 2021

Since 2016, the Environmental Health Citizen Center in South Korea has marked Arbor Day with an activity to honor environmental victims with a tree-planting ceremony. The Center’s efforts on April 5, 2021 were reported on the front-page of two newspapers along with photographs of participants digging holes and planting saplings in Noeul Park, Seoul. The victims being remembered included people who had died of exposures to asbestos and radon as well as those who had been fatally injured through their use of humidifier disinfectants. See: 식목일, 환경피해자 ‘추모의 숲’ 나무심기 [Arbor Day, planting trees in the ‘memorial forest’ for environmental victims].

Apr 9, 2021

Attorneys representing US asbestos claimants have expressed serious concerns over a bankruptcy deal proposed by Cyprus Mines Corporation (CMC) which is facing hundreds of US asbestos lawsuits; if the deal were approved, CMC would pay $130 million into a personal injury claims trust in return for protection from future claims. During the 1990s, CMC had been taken over by Imerys Talc America, a supplier to Johnson & Johnson. Approval of the Chapter 11 filing is being delayed by Delaware Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein who is demanding supplemental information on how the settlement would affect the payment of asbestos injury claims in the future. See: Cyprus Mines insolvency deal under scrutiny in US.

Apr 9, 2021

Surveys of mesothelioma patients and their carers, and of mesothelioma clinical nurse specialists, examined the impact of the pandemic on patients’ lives. The researchers found that mesothelioma patients and their carers were “disproportionately affected” in a variety of ways including: interruption of treatment and examinations, disruption of communication with healthcare teams, lack of clarity over shielding and additional emotional and psychological burdens. Recommendations for improvements included: prioritizing the reinstatement of all mesothelioma services, offering patients face-to-face appointments, providing support through regular “check-in” calls from healthcare providers, etc. See: Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with mesothelioma and their carers.

Apr 9, 2021

Despite International Maritime Organization regulations banning the use of asbestos-containing products on board ships’ as of January 1 2011 (see: IMO Circular 1374), more than 65% of vessels still contain asbestos. The toxic products are found not only on older ships but also on newbuilds which are delivered with asbestos-free declarations. The composition of spare parts is also problematic as “a gasket that is classified asbestos-free in Singapore or the US may not be considered asbestos-free in, say Australia, New Zealand or France…” See: More Than 65% Of All Ships Are Operating With Systems Containing Asbestos.

Apr 8, 2021

On April 2, 2021, respected occupational medicine specialist and civil society activist Dr Angelo Mancini died aged 68 at Novara hospital in the Italian town of Casale Monferrato. Dr Mancini had been at the forefront of efforts to reclaim asbestos-contaminated sites in the town and was a key advisor to the Turin public prosecutor who brought the largest asbestos class action against international defendants for the damage their decisions had done to factory workers, family members and local residents in Italian cities. See: Addio ad Angelo Mancini, il trinese pioniere della lotta all'amianto [Farewell to Angelo Mancini, the Trino pioneer in the fight against asbestos].

Apr 8, 2021

An April 3 expose detailed the tragedy caused by toxic exposures of up to 6,000 workers who had been employed at a Minnesota factory producing mineral board and ceiling tile products using asbestos. The plant belonged to the Conwed company – formerly known as the Wood Conversion Co. – and was located in the town of Cloquet; although it closed in 1985, members of its workforce continue to contract deadly diseases caused by workplace exposures to asbestos between 1958 and 1974, when the company ceased using asbestos. The article focuses on the case of Gene “Randy” Backe, who died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma last year. See: Minnesota factory workers feel aftermath of asbestos 36 years later.

Apr 8, 2021

Members of the group “Preserve Mont Saint Vincent,” who are protesting plans to dump asbestos in their area, took their campaign to the Cluny outdoor market on April 3, 2021, having lobbied shoppers at the Montceau market the week before. This week their efforts yielded a further 315 signatures to a petition, which has, to date, attracted 1,152 signatures. The petitioners are urging the municipality of Mont-Saint-Vincent to reject the application of the Rougeot company to bury asbestos waste in the Bourgueuil quarry and to adopt a policy based on “a sustainable management of resources and the environment.” See: Non à l’amiante – Après le marché de Montceau, celui de Cluny [No to asbestos – After the Montceau market, the Cluny market].

Apr 8, 2021

Although asbestos use was banned in Turkey in 2010 given the widespread use of asbestos products before then, the speed of urban regeneration and the failure of municipalities to enforce regulations, toxic exposures to asbestos continue to occur on a routine basis during renovation and demolition work. The article cited below provides data highlighting the failure of Kartal Municipality to protect workers and local people from asbestos liberated by unsafe working practices; of the 567 buildings earmarked for development between 2018 and 2020, mandatory asbestos regulations were obeyed at only 73 sites. See: Kentsel dönüşümün yoğunca yaşandığı ülkemizde asbest sorunu büyüyor [Growing problem of asbestos in urban transformation in Turkey].

Mar 24, 2021

Under the cover of the global pandemic which has already killed more than a quarter of a million Brazilians, asbestos industry stakeholders continue illegal efforts to maximize profits despite deadly human consequences. In contravention of a Supreme Court ruling (2017) and state laws, executives from the Sama Minerações Associadas (SAMA) company are collaborating with municipal and state politicians to pursue diverse options to achieve their goal: the export of SAMA asbestos. These crimes are being exposed by the Public Ministry of Labor which has obtained multiple injunctions to prevent the transport, handling and export of SAMA asbestos. [Read full article]

Mar 22, 2021

Last week, legal victories in Spain revealed a seismic shift in the landscape for asbestos victims. On March 15, 2021 the Supreme Court confirmed the right to compensation for asbestos injuries to people who had lived near an asbestos factory in Barcelona; the Court acknowledged that family members of factory workers as well as local people were eligible for financial restitution from Uralita, formerly Spain’s biggest asbestos manufacturer. On March 16, news was circulated of a plaintiff’s verdict in a case brought by the family of José María Íñigo, a famous Spanish broadcaster who died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in 2018. A Madrid Court ruled that his death had been caused by occupational exposures to asbestos at the studios of the Spanish broadcasting corporation: RTVE. [Read full article]

Mar 10, 2021

Representatives of Brazilian and Asian asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners active in the global struggle to protect human beings from deadly exposures to asbestos have issued an open letter to authorities investigating the illegal export of asbestos from the São Paulo Port of Santos. The correspondents congratulated personnel at the Sanitary Surveillance Department of Santos Port, the Labor Public Prosecutor's Office and São Paulo Health Department for steps taken to uphold the country’s asbestos ban and to protect populations in importing countries from toxic exposures. The letter’s authors highlighted the UN publication ultimatum: “that States refrain from permitting the export of hazardous substances for uses in other countries different from those they permit in their own. (Versão em Português) [Read full article]

Mar 5, 2021

In recent days, asbestos victims and campaigners have launched legal, social and political initiatives to address glaring asbestos injustices and improve conditions for the injured in Latin America, Europe and North America. In Brazil, warnings by an asbestos victims’ group prevented an illegal shipment of asbestos from leaving the country; in France, asbestos victims appealed to the Attorney General at the Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice for assistance in expediting criminal trials of those responsible for the country’s asbestos scandal; in the UK, the work of victims’ groups was mentioned in Parliament during a debate which highlighted the effects the pandemic had had on the rights of asbestos victims, while in the US, advocacy groups sought to force the EPA to adequately evaluate asbestos health risks. [Read full article]

Mar 1, 2021

February 23, 2021 marked a watershed moment for the global asbestos victims’ community with the announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that an Australian research foundation had been recognized as the first WHO Collaborating Centre on Asbestos-Related Diseases. Despite all the evidence documenting the deadly consequences of asbestos use, over one million tonnes of asbestos are still being used every year. The identification of asbestos victims is a crucial first step in visualizing the human price being paid for the asbestos industry’s profits. The larger the number of victims diagnosed and the greater their visibility, the more pressure will be exerted on governments to take the only morally defensible action possible and ban asbestos. [Read full article]

Feb 23, 2021

Throughout the pandemic, there’s been a resurgence of support for sustainable development, “environment-friendly policymaking,” “better informed government direction,” and evidence-based decision making. Politicians the world over have pledged to “build back better,” “restore science to Government,” “mobilize science” to protect the health and well-being of citizens and develop policies “guided by the best available scientific data.” The accomplishment of these goals will be fundamental to addressing climate change and creating a greener economy for current and future generations. The continuing use of asbestos is incompatible with this shared vision and the decline in its use over recent years substantiates the widespread rejection of this toxic technology. [Read full article]

Feb 11, 2021

Writing to Brazil’s Ministries of Defence and Environment, campaigners from Latin America and Europe highlight troubling issues over the upcoming auction of the aircraft carrier São Paulo. In their letter, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) and partnering organizations express concern that the vessel might wind up on a ship-breaking beach in South Asia. The carrier, they point out, “contains large amounts of asbestos that needs to be handled and disposed of without exposing workers and surrounding communities to the risk of cancer.” [Portuguese version] [French version]. [Read full article]

Feb 2, 2021

No sooner were French asbestos victims hailing a judicial breakthrough in their 25-year-old campaign to hold employers, executives and managers to account for deadly workplace exposures, than another legal stratagem was launched which will, at the very least, delay criminal proceedings for another two years. Even before the print had dried on the January 20 judgment, news was circulating that an appeal had been lodged by Ms. Champrenault, the Attorney General at the Paris Court of Appeal, to the Court of Cassation (France’s Supreme Court). Adding insult to injury, Champrenault announced that whilst the appeal to the Court of Cassation was pending, she intended to request an order suspending, for the time being, hearings on all other major asbestos cases before the Court of Appeal. [Read full article]

Jan 28, 2021

European groups representing asbestos victims and campaigning associations have expressed concerns over the January 29, 2021 auction of the former Portuguese vessel MV Funchal which is being sold two years after it was purchased by the UK company Signature Living, now in administration. Rumors are circulating that the vessel – which has remained berthed in Lisbon since it was bought – will be scrapped. According to a campaigner who has been closely monitoring the situation, there are “about 100 tons of asbestos in a friable state, namely composed of the fiber types chrysotile, amosite and tremolite” on-board, which were identified by a hazardous substance audit (see also: Versão Portuguesa) . [Read full article]

Jan 27, 2021

“Sham” documentation¸ clandestine ownership by offshore companies, and breaches of international conventions and national regulations continue to endanger Bangladeshi shipbreaking workers and communities. The commercial exploitation of regulatory loopholes combined with large financial incentives are a toxic combination attracting international customers to scrap surplus tonnage at beaching yards in Bangladesh, the top ship-recycling country in the world. With ill-informed government officials, a lack of testing capacity and the non-existence of health and safety regulation of the informal sector shipowners as well as shipbreaking companies remain immune from prosecution for injuries or contamination caused by their business practices. [Read full article]

Jan 20, 2021

The 2018 mesothelioma death of Spanish household name José María Íñigo remains unresolved. Court proceedings begin in Madrid this week (January 21) in an attempt by his family to find his employer – the Spanish Radio and Television Company (RTVE) – liable for occupational asbestos exposures experienced whilst the broadcaster was working in the company’s iconic Studio 1. The first step in the litigation is to obtain a finding that the cause of death was due to occupational exposure. Once that has been achieved, the family will progress the personal injury lawsuit for compensation begun by José María Íñigo. A victory in this case with strengthen the rights of all Spanish asbestos victims. [Read full article]

Dec 22, 2020

Developments this year have been unprecedented in living memory: lives lost, families decimated, health systems attacked and economies wrecked. There have been few communities which have been spared the devastation wrought by the coronavirus. Despite this bleak scenario, campaigners and groups working to support victims of asbestos-related diseases continued their efforts, recognizing that amongst those most vulnerable to Covid-19 were people whose lungs had been damaged by asbestos. This snapshot of some of the outstanding initiatives rolled out in 2020 is indicative of the long-term sustained efforts being made to address another global pandemic, one caused by exposures to asbestos, which is claiming up to 250,000 lives a year. [Read full article]

Dec 2, 2020

In a letter dated November 27, 2020, asbestos victims groups from Belgium, Italy, France and the UK called on the President of the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) – a lobbying group representing the interests of international asbestos industry stakeholders – to resign, due to the inherent hypocrisy of an EU citizen promoting sales of a carcinogenic substance abroad whilst it is banned at home. The ICA’s President is Emiliano Alonso, a Spanish lawyer and professional lobbyist, with offices in Madrid and Brussels. The letter called on him “to stop aiding and abetting this discrimination and racism… [and] stop helping the asbestos industry create more asbestos victims in developing countries.” (French version of letter.) (Article is English version.) [Read full article]

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]

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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