International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Mar 15, 2018

On March 14, 2018, the Tokyo High Court ordered the Japanese Government to pay compensation of 2.28bn yen ($21m) for 327 cases of asbestos-related diseases contracted by construction workers from the Tokyo metropolitan area; they had been seeking 11.8bn yen in damages from the state and 42 manufacturers. Judge Toru Odan did not find the manufacturers of asbestos-containing construction materials liable for damages even though they had failed to give proper warning of the asbestos hazard. See: High court orders gov't to compensate asbestos victims - The Mainichi.

Mar 15, 2018

On March 20, 2018, subway workers in Buenos Aires are due to strike for a period of four hours over asbestos contamination of 36 second-hand vehicles purchased by Subterraneos de Buenos Aires from the Madrid Metro in 2011 at the cost of $6 million. Claudio Dellacarbonara, spokesman for the metro workers’ union, said “his union had managed to get CAF 5000-model cars taken out of service, but it had now emerged that asbestos had been found in at least one CAF 6000 car in Spain, similar to a model that is used on Line B of Buenos Aires’ metro.” See: Buenos Aires subway workers go on strike over asbestos claims.

Mar 15, 2018

Weeks after several makeup products had been withdrawn from sale by Claire’s, tests undertaken by a consumer watchdog group revealed that three products still being marketed to children contained “high levels of asbestos.” The US Public Interest Research Group (PRIG) commissioned tests of 15 makeup products containing talc including four from Claire’s. The company “categorically” denied the contamination and characterized the laboratory's methods as “obsolete and unreliable.” See: Study finds asbestos in Claire's makeup products marketed to teens. (For more detail on the toxic products read the PRIG report.)

Mar 15, 2018

Investors from the asbestos industries in Russia and Kazakhstan are backing the International Chrysotile Association and the PROChrysotile Movement, a Quebec front group, which are promoting initiatives in Quebec to extract magnesium from asbestos mining residues. “There is,” say critics “a complete absence of transparency and accountability. The issue of the health impact on the workers and the nearby population has been silenced. No-one has been designated as responsible for protecting health.” Permissible occupational asbestos exposure levels in Quebec are 100 times higher than in France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. See: Will the Canadian and Quebec governments continue to betray the people of Quebec on asbestos?

Mar 15, 2018

Mesothelioma patient James Casey has secured a legal settlement which includes compensation for future medical costs he incurs including for treatments which are currently not available on the NHS or have not yet been developed. Sixty-three year old Mr. Casey had been exposed to asbestos between 1969 and 1980 when he had worked as a gas engineer for the former North Eastern Gas Board. Commenting on the settlement he said: “While nothing will now change what the future holds... this settlement will ensure I will always be able to access the care and treatment that I need.” See: Landmark legal settlement after former engineer diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer.

Mar 13, 2018

With the support of the new Zimbabwe government, investment has been secured to begin work on extracting asbestos fiber from waste at the formerly defunct Shabanie chrysotile (white) asbestos mine. While $74 million of investment is needed to restore mining operations to full capacity – much of which will be absorbed by dewatering the two mining shafts – a capital injection of $1.2m has enable work to begin on exploiting “the already-on-surface dump which cuts the production cost by close to 87.5 percent compared to the costs incurred if the fibre was to be retrieved from underground.” See: Shabanie comes back to life.

Mar 13, 2018

After protests by labor groups including the CCOO, UGT, Solidaridad Obrera, Union of Drivers, USO, Free Suburban Subway Syndicate, Union of Stations and Technical Union and widespread media coverage, the operators of the Madrid Metro, having confirmed the presence of asbestos throughout the network, pledged on March 9, 2018 to make the decontamination of the system a top priority. The first step is, said the company’s CEO, to hire a specialist contractor to undertake the removal of asbestos from up to 96 vehicles currently being used. See: Los sindicatos del Metro de Madrid sabían desde 2006 que había amianto en el suburban [Madrid Metro Unions knew since 2006 that there was asbestos in the subway].

Mar 13, 2018

A 2018 update by Flemish Ministers of the number of schools affected by asbestos contamination has shown a deterioration, with 69 out of 300 schools having an urgent asbestos problem as opposed to a figure of 20 at-risk premises in 2017. Flemish MP Caroline Gennez has described this situation as “unacceptable” and called on “all mayors to request the data for the schools on their territory.” “Asbestos is,” she said “an insidious poison and therefore has no place in our schools. When school boards themselves do not intervene, it is up to the mayors to do so.” See: Asbestos problem in 23 percent of schools studied – Belgium.

Mar 13, 2018

Ministerial concern has been expressed over ramifications of a US:UK trade deal which could result in contaminated goods being exported from the US, a country which has not banned asbestos. In her desperation to achieve a deal with President Trump, critics believe that Theresa May could lower stringent UK standards, which ban all asbestos, to allow the import of products containing up to 1% asbestos such as roofing materials and brake linings. In a speech last month, Brexit Secretary David Davis admitted the UK may reduce “levels of occupational safety and health” after Brexit. See: Brexit: US trade deal could raise prospect of bringing asbestos products to UK, MP claims.

Mar 12, 2018

On March 5, 2018, the Office of National Statistics released a file detailing the number of mesothelioma deaths for each separate local authority in England and Wales registered in 2015 and 2016. Annual deaths increased slightly from 2,308 in 2015 to 2,313 in 2016, with the most deaths recorded in 2016 in the South East (434), the East (306), the North West (288), the South West (277), Yorkshire and the Humber (217). The largest increases noted between 2015 and 2016 were recorded in Cornwall (21), Brighton and Hove (13) South Tyneside (12) and Swale (10). See: Mesothelioma deaths by local authority, England and Wales, registered between 2015 and 2016.

Mar 12, 2018

A 56-page review published on March 7, 2018 by (Quebec’s) National Institute of Public Health provides background information and proposals regarding draft legislation to prevent hazardous environmental asbestos exposures in Quebec, formerly Canada’s asbestos heartland; asbestos is specifically excluded from Quebec’s Hazardous Materials Regulations. Protocols in force in various US. states and Canadian jurisdictions are examined as are EU measures to forestall toxic exposures. See: Survol de la législation concernant l’exposition environnementale à l’amiante au Québec et ailleurs [Overview of legislation concerning environmental exposure to asbestos in Quebec and elsewhere].

Mar 12, 2018

Widespread publicity regarding the recent diagnosis of a Madrid Metro system worker with asbestosis has led to a articles about Spain’s asbestos legacy. It has been estimated that 2.6 millions of tonnes of asbestos-containing products remaining within the national infrastructure will continue to kill until 2040. Groups at the highest risk of exposures include workers employed in construction, shipbuilding, insulation and demolition sectors, and tradespeople such as electricians, plumbers and mechanics – and family members of people so employed. See: Amianto, un cancerígeno muy extendido que seguirá matando hasta 2040 [Asbestos, a widespread carcinogen that will continue to kill until 2040].

Mar 12, 2018

An Italian judge from the Court of Salerno recognized the occupational nature of asbestos exposure experienced by a member of the Italian navy who died from mesothelioma and ruled that he was a “victim of duty.” The judge awarded the late serviceman’s heirs an extra monthly payment from the Ministry of Defense of €500. One legal commentator said that the Court’s judgment was evidence of what a parliamentary commission of inquiry had dubbed “the asbestos massacre of naval personnel.” See: Amianto assassino, ex militare salernitano riconosciuto “vittima del dovere” [Asbestos killer, former Salerno military recognized as “victim of duty”].

Mar 12, 2018

European and Canadian researchers, supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, have published findings in the current issue of the Journal Oncogene regarding the process by which asbestos fibers cause cancer. “Chronic exposure to asbestos triggers an injurious process… which disrupts the immune system, which then no longer effectively fights tumors” said Emanuela Felley-Bosco, director of the study. It is hoped that these discoveries will enable the development of protocols to: detect inflammation signals at an early stage and eradicate mesothelial cancer. See: Pourquoi l’amiante est si dangereux [Why asbestos is so dangerous].

Mar 9, 2018

On March 6 & 7, 2018, union representatives from across the Asian region called on governments to ban all forms of asbestos and condemned propaganda being disseminated by the asbestos lobby to forestall action combating the use of asbestos in Asia, where it was still widely used. In a joint communique issued by the ITUC-AP Regional Conference on Asbestos which was held in Jakarta, Indonesia, participants “confirmed that the elimination of the future use of asbestos is the most effective means to protect workers from asbestos exposure and … prevent future asbestos-related diseases and deaths…” See: Joint Communique on Asbestos: Realising an Asbestos-free World.

Mar 9, 2018

Last week, Montana State District Judge Holly Brown ruled that the National Indemnity Company, a Nebraska-based insurer, is liable for $43 million in compensation paid by the State in settlement of 100 asbestos claims from Libby, Montana. The Judge concluded that the insurance company, a subsidiary of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway firm, had “improperly tried to deny coverage from an insurance policy held by the state 45 years ago.” National Indemnity can appeal the decision to the Montana Supreme Court. See: Judge says private insurer, not state, on hook for $43M in Libby asbestos claims.

Mar 8, 2018

On January 31, 2018 the latest salvos were fired in the battle by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health (MoH) against the quashing of its decision to ban asbestos to protect citizens from deadly exposures. On that day, Kiev’s District Administrative Court held the first hearing on a case brought by the MoH to reinstate the 2017 prohibition banning the use of all types of asbestos including chrysotile (white asbestos) which had been invalidated in October 2017. If the MoH succeeds, and one must hope it does, Ukraine will be yet another country – like Brazil – which resorted to judicial action in order to overcome vested interests determined to prioritize corporate profits over human health. [Read full article]

Jan 21, 2018

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

Jan 4, 2018

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

Jan 3, 2018

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

Dec 22, 2017

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

Dec 6, 2017

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

Dec 1, 2017

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

Nov 21, 2017

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

Nov 9, 2017

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

Oct 31, 2017

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

Oct 13, 2017

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

Oct 12, 2017

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

Sep 28, 2017

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

Sep 22, 2017

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

Sep 17, 2017

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

Sep 1, 2017

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

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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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