Article Abstracts Archive

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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)

Global Asbestos Trade 2023: Spotlight on India

Sep 28, 2023

The release in August 2023 of updated asbestos trade data provided food for thought. While much seems to have changed since I first began studying the industry over 30 years ago – including the dwindling number of countries producing and consuming asbestos – the fact that 1,330,000 metric tons (t) are still being used every year, despite all that is known about the asbestos hazard, is appalling. Amongst the points of interest noted in the new data were: India remained the world’s biggest asbestos user, importing 424,000t in 2022; just five countries accounted for 85% of all asbestos consumed worldwide; apparent domestic consumption in Russia jumped by nearly 60% from 2021 to 2022. [Read full article]

Asbestos Anomalies 2023

Sep 26, 2023

There are a few of us, people who see the world through an asbestos filter. People like me who go to a tourist destination in Western Australia to gawp at the deteriorating asbestos-cement roofing on the outbuildings of a defunct whaling station; or someone like Fernanda Giannasi who zeroed in on a display case containing an asbestos hood for firefighters at the Museum of Japanese Immigration in São Paulo; or Mark Ogden who gave an asbestos masterclass to the unsuspecting museum chairman of a facility housing military memorabilia. For members of this select tribe, I would like to draw your attention to a few curious developments that have piqued my interest over recent months. [Read full article]

Global Cancer Increase and the Asbestos Hazard

Sep 20, 2023

The world is experiencing an explosion of cancers in younger people. Whilst “dietary risk factors (diet high in red meat, low in fruits, high in sodium and low in milk, etc), alcohol consumption and tobacco use” were postulated as the main risk factors, human exposures to cancer-causing asbestos should not be overlooked. Many of the people in the age 50 and under cohort now presenting with cancer were born in the 1970s and 1980s, decades during which the global use of asbestos was at its highest. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to: “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).” [Read full article]

Multinational Campaign Denounces “Sportswashing”

Sep 12, 2023

On September 8, French asbestos victims endorsed action by their British counterparts demonstrating outside the Stade de France, Paris to denounce “sportswashing” of asbestos crimes by a multinational corporation headquartered in Montpelier, France. Solidarity with the protest was expressed in a press release by asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners in Latin America, Asia, Europe and Oceania, with Sugio Furuya, Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, saying: “Asbestos victims around the world have paid a high price for the profits made by asbestos companies. It is only right that some of the accumulated wealth be used for the benefit of those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by the immoral activities of Cape and others who prioritized corporate profits over human life.” [Read full article]

Press Release: Victims Denounce “Sportswashing,” Demanding Corporate Accountability

Sep 8 2023

A global alliance of asbestos victims’ groups and civil society campaigners from Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Europe today issued a formal declaration of solidarity with British and French asbestos victims’ groups calling for restitution by the Cape Asbestos Company, a former asbestos multinational. Instead of acceding to a request for a £10 million donation for potentially life-saving medical research into asbestos-related diseases, Cape’s parent company is sponsoring two rugby teams competing in the Rugby World Cup 2023. Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network Sugio Furuya said: “It is only right that some of the accumulated wealth be used for the benefit of those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by the immoral activities of Cape and others who prioritized corporate profits over human life.” [Read full article]

Threat to New School Term after 13 Years of Tory Misrule

Sep 5, 2023

During the summer school holiday, news began circulating of a troubling situation in UK schools and public buildings. By the time children were getting ready for the new school year, the “situation” had become a full blown crisis as news spread that more than a hundred schools would not reopen due to the hazard posed by deteriorating reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete material. Considering the fact that the majority of schools still contain asbestos, the surveying work and remediation of affected structures will be both a long and expensive process. The Conservatives had plenty of warnings about the deterioration of the educational infrastructure; they chose not to listen. Unfortunately, it will be the children and teachers who will pay the price for their political complacency and maladministration. [Read full article]

A Very Long Wait for Brazilian Justice

Aug 24, 2023

Ten years after a Brazilian court upheld a complaint over a defamatory campaign targeting Senior Labor Inspector Fernanda Giannasi, the latest appeal by one of the defendants was dismissed. Commenting on this ruling, Fernanda Giannasi said: “This legal action was about reclaiming my dignity, honor and reputation in the face of the outrageous denunciations made by the defendants who stated that I had behaved in a way that was ‘illegal,’ ‘irresponsible,’ ‘authoritarian’ and ‘reckless.’” In the court of public opinion, the probity of this Brazilian activist was never in any doubt; nevertheless, it is reassuring to see that São Paulo Courts agree, even if they took ten years to do so. [Read full article]

Asbestos Roulette: Who’s Next?

Aug 22, 2023

Neither King Charles III, Canadian Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper and their families, President Donald Trump and his family, Harvard undergrad Matthew Walker, British MP Alice Mahon, Spanish TV star José María Íñigo, European Commission official Arnaldo Lucaccioni nor Israeli politician Tania Mazarsky were protected. All of them lived or worked in buildings riddled with asbestos. Three of them, Alice Mahon, José María Íñigo and Arnaldo Lucaccioni, paid the ultimate price for their exposures; as for the others, only time will tell. [Read full article]

Commentary – The Death of Journalism

Aug 15, 2023

On August 11, 2023, I learned of the death of the American investigative reporter Paul Brodeur. I had met him briefly many years ago when he had become something of a celebrity for his crusading work on asbestos and other workplace and environmental scandals. Asked about Paul’s legacy, Professor David Rosner from Columbia University said: “Paul’s work literally made the difference in tens of thousands of lives. Paul was the person that made a nation aware of the ways a corrupt industry was secretly killing us. While the battle to control asbestos-related diseases continues there is no doubt that his work led to the elimination of asbestos from thousands of products in our environment and the continuing efforts to hold a deadly industry to account for its misdeeds. We owe him our lives.” [Read full article]

The Demise of the Asbestos Industry: 2023 Update

Aug 10, 2023

According to the United States Geological Survey, between the 1980s – the global asbestos heyday – and 2021, annual production fell by 73% from 4,811,942 tonnes (t) to 1,300,000t/year. With dozens of countries banning all use of this Group 1 carcinogen and others choosing to use safer substances, asbestos markets continue to shrink. There is no question that even in the most tightly controlled regimes, knowledge about the links between human asbestos exposures and the occurrence of cancers and respiratory diseases has leaked out. Over recent weeks, multiple alerts have circulated via news outlets in Russia, Kazakhstan and China warning citizens about the asbestos hazard and advising them to minimize their exposures. [Read full article]

Saturday in São Caetano do Sul

Aug 8, 2023

São Caetano do Sul, a city in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, is a cancer hotspot as a result of a long industrial history of asbestos production. Brazil’s first asbestos-cement manufacturing facility was built in this city in 1937; under the ownership of the French multinational Saint Gobain, the plant simultaneously produced a range of asbestos-cement building material as well as generations of asbestos victims. Although it was closed in 1990, the number of victims continues to grow. On Saturday, July 29, 2023, a one-day workshop was held in the city’s council chamber for members of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) to provide updates on medical, legal, political and technical issues and the opportunity for ABREA members to voice concerns regarding a variety of subjects. [Read full article]

Inaugural Award for Outstanding Service to Asbestos Victims!

Jul 31, 2023

A coalition of activists represented by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA), the Asian Ban Asbestos Network and the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network today congratulate Dr. Ubiratan de Paula Santos, the recipient of the first IBAS Award for Outstanding Service to Asbestos Victims. Dr. Ubiratan is a man of great compassion and empathy as well as a highly experienced pneumologist who has, in collaboration with ABREA members, revolutionized the treatment of asbestos victims by developing publicly-funded clinics and medical protocols which deliver state-of-the-art healthcare to asbestos-exposed workers. [Read full article]

Australia Did It, So Did Japan, Belgium and Brazil, Can Britain Do It Too?

July 27, 2023

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, asbestos companies committed unpardonable crimes. Their actions have resulted in millions of deaths worldwide. While some of the guilty parties have been held to account by national governments, criminal justice systems and civil litigants, it is rare that any of the wrong-doers have made restitution by supporting potentially life-saving medical research into the cancers and diseases caused by asbestos exposures. In Australia, Japan, Belgium and Brazil, however, successes have been achieved; optimism is building that a current campaign by UK asbestos victims will also secure vital funding. Read on. [Read full article]

A Dozen Famous & Infamous Figures and their Surprising Links to Asbestos

Jul 24, 2023

During the 30+ years that I have been involved in researching and writing about asbestos issues, I have come across many curious asbestos connections of well-known people. The individuals listed in this article include a major literary figure of the 20th century, a Hollywood superstar, an Australian icon, the Brazilian “Oprah Winfrey,” two former Presidents, a punk rocker, two Parliamentarians, a Rear Admiral and a medical doctor-politician-asbestos entrepreneur. Can you guess their names? [Read full article]

Britain’s Summer of Asbestos Dissent

Jul 20, 2023

The public profile of the deadly UK asbestos epidemic was heightened during the early weeks of Summer 2023. At grassroots events around the country and in front-page articles in national newspapers, calls were made for accountability from corporate and government stakeholders responsible for the “slow-burn crisis.” Data released in July 2023 by the Health and Safety Executive confirmed that 5,000 people were still dying every year from asbestos-related disease or as the CEO of Mesothelioma UK Consultant Nurse Liz Darlison memorably summed it up: “The total loss of life is equal to the sinking of more than three Titanics every year…” [Read full article]

Asbestos Contamination at Jussieu University: “A Judicial Scandal”

Jul 10, 2023

On July 5, 2023, a decision by the Paris Court of Appeal was termed a “judicial scandal” by asbestos victims’ and civil society campaigners who condemned the verdict upholding a lower court’s 2022 dismissal of a case over asbestos poisoning from 1960 until 1990 at Jussieu University. On two secondary points, the file was sent back to the investigating judges. Campaigners have pledged to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. This long-running case began in 1996 after decades of grassroots mobilization by teaching staff, students and campaigners concerned about the presence of asbestos sprayed insulation throughout Jussieu’s built environment. [Read full article]

The 18th Anniversary of the Kubota Shock

Jul 7, 2023

June 29th is an important day in the history of the ban asbestos movement. On that day in 2005, the human consequences of Japan’s massive use of asbestos exploded onto the public consciousness in what has become known as the “Kubota Shock.” The announcement by representatives of the Kubota company that dozens of its employees had been killed by workplace asbestos exposures made headline news around the country. In the following days, one company after another made similar announcements. The Kubota Shock was highly significant for many reasons not least of which was the fact that it heightened public concerns about pollution following the Minamata mercury scandal (1950s), the Yokaichi asthma scandal (1960s), and the mass cadmium poisoning in Toyama Prefecture (1960s). [Read full article]

Europe Advancing Asbestos Protections

Jul 4, 2023

On June 27, 2023, it was announced that a political agreement had been reached by negotiators from the European Parliament and the European Council which would increase protections for EU workers. Revisions of the Asbestos at Work Directive will not only drastically reduce asbestos exposures, but will also: ensure the use of more accurate ways to measure exposure levels in line with the latest technology; implement protocols to better control work by asbestos removal and demolition companies; and mandate the establishment of national registers of all those diagnosed with asbestos-related occupational diseases. [Read full article]

Mesothelioma Landscape: Then and Now

Jul 3, 2023

Recently, there have been mesothelioma initiatives in Asia, Europe and Latin America. The timing of the events got me thinking about the evolution of the global mesothelioma landscape. Not so long ago, a diagnosis of mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure, would have been accompanied by advice for the patient to get their affairs in order. It is gratifying to see the progress which is being made in spreading awareness of this aggressive cancer and in developing new means to identify and support the injured. The activities in Indonesia, Brazil and France are highly significant. [Read full article]

Asbestos Scandal in France 2023

Jun 27, 2023

The broadcast of a documentary on a French public television channel in June set off a torrent of outrage over the presence of asbestos in nursery and primary schools. The revelation that more than one in three French schools, serving 700,000 students, were still contaminated with asbestos reverberated long after the show had ended. The day after the broadcast MP Louis Boyard stood up in Parliament demanding that the: “National Assembly, accept our request for a commission of enquiry to find solutions and protect these children from [exposures to] asbestos.” Boyard’s request was supported by several MPs. ANDEVA, the French umbrella group representing asbestos victims throughout the country, called on the Minister of Education to put an emergency plan in place to prioritize the safety of all school users. [Read full article]

Open Letter: Urgent Appeal to Brazilian Supreme Court Justices

Jun 26, 2023

As asbestos litigation remains pending in Brazil over the legitimacy of a State law contravening the 2017 Supreme Court asbestos ban, asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners from Latin America, Asia and Europe have appealed directly to the Supreme Court Judges to uphold the landmark verdict issued in 2017; the four signatories of the letter urged: “do what is right ...; not just for your citizens but for people all over the world who are dying from their exposures to asbestos originating in Brazil.” [Read full article]

Another Asbestos Ban in Asia!

Jun 20, 2023

According to the most recent asbestos trade data, between 2018 and 2020 Asian countries accounted for, on average, 87% of annual asbestos consumption worldwide. It is little wonder, therefore, that vested interests are aggressively targeting those markets to neutralize calls by governments, NGOs and civil society groups for an end to this toxic technology. While unilateral action on the asbestos hazard has been taken by a few Asian governments, in Southeast Asia, the only government to have banned asbestos is Brunei; on June 5, 2023, it was announced that the government of Cambodia would also end asbestos use in order to “to improve workers’ welfare.” [Read full article]

Landmark Jail Sentence for Swiss Asbestos Magnate

Jun 15, 2023

After hours of deliberation, the long-awaited verdict of the Court of Assizes in Novara, Italy was handed down on June 7, 2023 to a hushed courtroom. The regional court found that Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny was guilty of the aggravated manslaughter of 147 residents and factory workers from Casale Monferrato who had died as a result of exposure to Eternit’s asbestos fibers. He received a 12-year prison sentence and was banned from holding public office for five years. The Court recognized the right of civil parties to claim compensation in separate civil cases, but also awarded provisional damages to various civil society groups, government bodies, organizations and named plaintiffs. [Read full article]

Legal Victory in Tokyo for Construction Workers

Jun 1, 2023

Ever since a Japanese Supreme Court decision of May 17, 2021 established the liability of the Japanese Government and building products’ manufacturers for diseases contracted as a result of asbestos exposures experienced by construction workers, manufacturers have been engaged in a full-scale battle to avoid paying compensation to the injured. On May 31, 2023, the Tokyo High Court brought this war of attrition to an end when it ordered four companies – A&A Material (Yokohama City), Nichias (Tokyo), MMK (Tokyo) and Taikeiyo Cement (Tokyo) – to pay a total of 103.67 million yen (US$741,500) compensation to 22 claimants. [Read full article]

Paris Court Spurns Victims’ Petition

May 24, 2023

The hopes of tens of thousands of French citizens were crushed last week when a Paris Court rejected a direct summons requesting a criminal trial over the national asbestos scandal. On May 19, 2023 the Paris Criminal Court dismissed an action lodged in November, 2021 by 1,800+ plaintiffs seeking to hold to account the decision makers, government officials, executives and doctors who they believed were responsible for the epidemic which had taken so many lives. Rejecting the plaintiffs’ arguments and declaring the procedure “null and void,” the Court said that lack of detail and substance in the filings meant that it was not possible to conclusively link the alleged crimes to the accused. According to leaders of French victims’ groups, the verdict will be appealed. [Read full article]