News Item Archive

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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)

Asbestos Limbo?

Jan 29, 2018

Anton Edema of the Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers Association of Sri Lanka has challenged the government to clarify the legality of asbestos use in light of proposals to ban asbestos as of January 1, 2018; according to reports, the prohibition has been “temporarily lifted” after commercial threats from Russia. Edema says the lack of clarity is preventing needed investment in the asbestos industrial sector which employs tens of thousands of people and provides 60% of the country’s roofing. Edema claims there have been no cases of asbestos disease amongst those employed by the industry. See: Give clear picture on Asbestos ban.

Mesothelioma Legal Precedent?

Jan 29, 2018

In what is being hailed as the “first of its kind,” 74-year old mesothelioma victim Pamela Stubberfield is receiving private medical treatment funded by her former employer as a result of a “unique” settlement in which an insurer agreed to pay directly for appropriate treatment with no time limits specified. Mrs. Stubberfield is receiving the immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab that is not available on the NHS for mesothelioma. Consultant Peter Szlosarek said that without the drug, Mrs. Stubberfield would have been died within six months of her September 2016 diagnosis. See: BOC pays woman’s asbestos-caused cancer treatment costs.

Banning Asbestos in Korea

Jan 26, 2018

A paper has been published as part of the Special Issue “Global Panorama of National Experiences in Public Health Actions to Ban Asbestos” detailing the five stages and many actions that were required before Korea succeeded in banning asbestos. An analysis of the role played by multiple stakeholders is undertaken. As in the UK and elsewhere “after the asbestos ban, those who had imported raw asbestos turned to asbestos removal and protection services as they had hands-on experience about where asbestos was installed.” See: The Asbestos Ban in Korea from a Grassroots Perspective: Why Did It Occur?

Costly Construction Error

Jan 26, 2018

A track laid down by Christchurch City Council for $8,420 is costing $285,000 to be removed; the council had used asbestos-contaminated soil in the construction of the path near Waimairi Beach which ran behind beach-side properties. The asbestos contamination of the 375 cubic meters of soil, which was donated by a local resident, was discovered by a Northshore resident who presented council staff with test results showing the presence of asbestos. Council head of parks Brent Smith said testing of the soil had “appeared unnecessary given the circumstances around the supply of the soil.” See: Christchurch City Council lays path with soil contaminated with asbestos.

Post-asbestos Economy

Jan 26, 3028

Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions announced on Wednesday (January 24, 2018) that it will invest $3.5+ million in several projects in the former asbestos producing region of Thetford Mines and other Quebec communities in the Appalaches Regional County Municipality “to grow the economy and create wealth for Canadians.” Fourteen jobs will be created by the ten projects which will attract a total investment of $6,176,856 including $3,529,892 from the federal government. See: Support for 10 projects in the Appalaches RCM through the Canadian Initiative for the Economic Diversification of Communities Reliant on Chrysotile.

Calls for Asbestos Funds

Jan 24, 2018

Lack of financial resources has prevented Rwandan property owners from decontaminating premises as ordered by the federal government in 2009. A spokesman for the Catholic Church has requested the government subsidize the removal and replacement of asbestos roofs on church buildings including hospital and health centers which are co-owned with the State. It has been estimated that the total cost of asbestos decontamination would be around Rwf16 billion ($23,277,956), comprising approximately Rwf11 billion ($15,848,089) for publicly owned buildings and Rwf5 billion ($7,429,867) for private buildings. See: Catholic Church Tells Gov’t To Replace Asbestos On Structures.

Asbestos Ban: 2019!

Jan 24, 2018

According to draft Canadian asbestos regulations released on January 5, 2018, the long-awaited national asbestos ban is likely to take effect in 2019. The federal government’s proposals which were published in the latest issue of the Canada Gazette will not only outlaw the use, sale, import and export of asbestos and products but will also prohibit the manufacture of asbestos-containing products. There are exemptions which are raising concern, including a 2025 extension for the use of asbestos in the chlor-alkali industry and the processing of asbestos debris in former mining areas. See: Canada’s asbestos ban to take effect in 2019.

Uralita Condemned

Jan 24, 2018

The Spanish asbestos multinational Uralita has been ordered by a court in Donostia – a city in the Basque Autonomous Community – to pay compensation of more than €300,000 to a worker who, as a result of his employment by the company between June 1961 and June 1965 as a warehouse operator in Lasarte, has contracted asbestosis. A spokesman for the local asbestos victims’ group predicts that more asbestos claims will be forthcoming from other Uralita workers including those who worked for Uralita in Getafe, Madrid. See: Condenan a Uralita a indemnizar a un trabajador enfermo por Amianto [Uralita condemned to compensate a sick worker for asbestos exposure].

Asbestos: Causation and Compensation

Jan 24, 2018

The newly relaunched Asbestos Victims Association of Quebec is calling on the Québec Minister of Labor to follow an Ontario precedent which acknowledges specific trades and occupations, such as plumbers and construction workers, which carried high risk of exposure to asbestos; claims brought by individuals with asbestos disease in those employment categories are automatically presumed to have been occupationally caused. Such a system avoids time-consuming and expensive medico-legal battles. See: Amiante: une association veut que Québec reconnaisse les professions les plus exposées [Asbestos: an association wants Quebec to recognize the most exposed occupations].

Judicial U-Turn?

Jan 23, 2018

On January 19, 2018, France’s Supreme Court – the Court of Cassation – agreed to consider appeals in asbestos cases after recent adverse verdicts had been censured by asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners. The appeals have been brought by the Anti-asbestos Committee of Jussieu University and ARDEVA Nord-Pas-de-Calais, a regional body representing asbestos victims from the Dunkirk shipyards and surrounding area. Welcoming these developments, campaigners said: “We continue to think that there will be a criminal asbestos trial, we will do everything for it to take place.” See: Affaire de l'amiante: enfin un signe positif pour les victimes? [Asbestos affair: finally a positive sign for the victims?]

Asbestos Warning

Jan 23, 2018

Warnings have been given by the Colombian Comptroller General – an  independent government institution that oversees fiscal matters – of the urgent need to ensure that the country’s 7th attempt to ban asbestos succeeds in order protect the population from deadly exposures. Draft legislation approved in October by the Senate requires follow-up by the legislature in order to become law. The government’s failure to address the asbestos health hazard has not only affected workers but also endangered the health of people living near asbestos processing or mining sites. See: La Contraloría pide prohibir todo tipo de asbesto en el país [The Comptroller's Office asks to prohibit all types of asbestos in the country].

Decontamination of Army Base

Jan 23, 2018

Nicos Anastasiou, mayor of the Limassol suburb of Polemidia where asbestos-riddled former British army housing has been a long-standing public health hazard, has welcomed the commencement of work on January 22, 2018 to decontaminate the site and demolish the buildings. The work is expected to take up to a year due to the complexity of the task and the number of premises involved. Once removed, the asbestos waste will be wrapped, packed and sealed before being deposited at the former asbestos mine at Amiantos where it will be stored. See: Demolition of asbestos-riddled estate underway.

Online Asbestos Archive

Jan 22, 2018

ToxicDocs, a free, searchable and updated online US database, is making publicly available “millions of pages of previously secret documents about toxic substances ... [including] secret internal memoranda, emails, slides, board minutes, unpublished scientific studies, and expert witness reports – among other kinds of documents – that emerged in recent toxic tort litigation.” Subjects covered include silica, PCBs and lead, as well as asbestos and other dangerous substances. See: Free online access to millions of documents on chemical toxicity made possible through ToxicDocs.

Analysis: Supreme Court Verdict

Jan 22, 2018

A new commentary explores whether the Brazilian Supreme Court’s reliance on international human rights law and international environmental law in its decision to outlaw asbestos use throughout the country has created a new pattern of integration between international and constitutional law for future cases focused on collective fundamental rights. One of the main arguments of the November 29, 2017 plenary decision handed down by the Court in litigation regarding the constitutionality of state asbestos bans was ILO Convention No. 162. See: The Judicial Ban on Asbestos in Brazil: A Turning Point in the Relationship between International Law and Collective Fundamental Rights?

HSE U-Turn

Jan 22, 2018

After feedback from unions and other stakeholders during consultations on changes to the Control of Asbestos Regulations, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has abandoned plans to reduce the period between medical examinations for asbestos workers. Commenting on the HSE u-turn, Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of Prospect Union, said: “Asbestos is a silent killer of thousands of workers every year. Frequent medical checks for those engaged in the dangerous removal of asbestos from old buildings is vital to pick up any symptoms as early as possible. We welcome the HSE seeing sense on this issue.” See: Plans to water down medical checks on asbestos workers abandoned - Prospect Union.

Asbestos: Mixed Messages

Jan 22, 2018

On January 18, 2018, a commentary on the health hazards of asbestos exposure appeared on an online Ukraine news portal. Ukraine’s Ministry of Health banned asbestos in June 2017; this decision was reversed by the Ministry of Justice in October 2017 (see: Ukraine’s Asbestos Debacle). Having detailed the tradespeople most at-risk of exposures, the author reasserts the asbestos industry mantra: “it is quite safe to be surrounded by asbestos materials as long as they are isolated and do not spread their particles into the air.” See: Асбестоз: причины и симптомы, лечение и профилактика асбестоза [Asbestosis: Causes and Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention of Asbestosis].

Asbestos Ban 2023

Jan 19, 2018

At the January 16, 2018 meeting of the Ministry of Construction, the Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc announced – in a speech broadcast on national TV – that the use of asbestos construction materials would be banned by 2023 at the latest. He said: “The Construction Ministry needs a roadmap to stop using white asbestos. I remember that at National Assembly meetings, scientist Ms Bui Thi An raised this matter several times and the Ministry of Construction always obstructed it. I discussed this with Minister Mr. Hong Ha and he said that banning white asbestos needs a roadmap developed by the Ministry of Construction. The use of white asbestos must be stopped by 2023 at the latest in the construction industry.”

Victims’ Mobilize in Quebec

Jan 19, 2018

This month, it has been reported that the Quebec Asbestos Victims’ Association (AVAQ) has been re-launched with Giles Mercier, a former Quebec Government safety inspector, as President. Before he retired, Mr. Mercier had worked for the Provincial Occupational Health and Safety Commission. Speaking of his motivation for accepting this role, Mr. Mercier said: “if I had not been directly involved in occupational health and safety, my father would NEVER have been diagnosed as a victim of asbestos in April 2013.” AVAQ had lain dormant for some years after its personnel had received threats because of their work to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard. See: Quebec Asbestos Victims Association re-launched.

Asbestos Issues in Germany

Jan 19, 2018

A paper has been published as part of the Special Issue Global Panorama of National Experiences in Public Health Actions to Ban Asbestos, detailing the effects of German asbestos use throughout the 20th century and highlighting the role played by asbestos vested interests in preventing action to restrict consumption and forestalling compensation being awarded to victims. The author warns asbestos consuming countries of the huge national cost of treatment and compensation to the injured and decontamination of the infrastructure. See: Asbestos-Related Disorders in Germany: Background, Politics, Incidence, Diagnostics and Compensation.

Illegal Gas Mask Hazard

Jan 19, 2018

Finnish authorities have reported illegal online sales of old Russian gas masks containing asbestos filters; other European authorities have been notified. The Norwegian Environment Directorate found the masks were also on sale in Norway. One company was asked to remove the advertising for these items but it reappeared this month, the directorate said. An alert has been raised, with warnings given that these toxic masks should not be sold or used because of the health hazard. Advice given is that they should be disposed securely packaged at municipal waste centers. See: Finland finds Russian gas masks containing asbestos sold online.

Asbestos Baby Powder

Jan 18, 2018

Proceedings will start next week (January 22) in a US case brought by mesothelioma victim Stephen Lanzo III against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) which, he alleges, is responsible for exposing him to asbestos contained in its talcum powder. Lanzo’s lawyers will rely on internal company memos, reports and legal transcripts that detail the company’s long-standing knowledge regarding the presence of asbestos in their products. Over decades, J & J actively lobbied federal agencies to forestall measures that could impact on sales despite knowing that “occasionally sub-trace quantities” of minerals were found in its baby powder that “might be classified as asbestos fiber.” See: Baby powder battles: Johnson & Johnson documents reflect internal asbestos concerns.

Asbestos in School

Jan 18, 2018

A temporary structure built of asbestos and plywood in 1970 is still being used by students at the Schornville Primary School in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Use of this deteriorating and toxic building poses multiple hazards to children and staff despite years of lobbying local authorities and government officials. A commentary just published describes a Kafkaesque situation where the buck is passed back and forth between government departments and implementing agencies such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Despite many promises of action, including the construction of a new school, nothing has changed, except that the school has become even more dilapidated. See: Meet the Eastern Cape schools the province desperately tries to forget.

Asbestos in Schools

Jan 17, 2018

Today (January 17), a Welsh Cross Party Group on Asbestos meeting will take place to consider the issue of asbestos in Welsh schools and public buildings. A fortnight ago, members of the Welsh Petitions Committee agreed to progress a petition (see: Asbestos in Schools Petition) calling for investigations by the National Assembly regarding the hazard posed by asbestos in Welsh schools and the right of parents to “easily access information about the presence and management of asbestos in all school buildings.” See: Welsh Petitions Committee meeting, January 9, 2018 (paragraphs 21-27).

National Asbestos Failings

Jan 17, 2018

Following an audit by the Colombian authorities, a report has been published condemning the lack of controls on the use of asbestos and mercury. After a visit to the country’s sole legal asbestos mine, which produces 2,400 tons of asbestos per year, the Comptroller for the Environment reported criminal failures to comply with national mining and environmental standards: there was “evident inadequate profiling and maintenance of slopes in waste dumps and tails, non-existent ditches, no runoff water management, no sedimentation or sand traps…” See: Colombia no tiene control sobre uso de mercurio y asbesto, según Contraloría [Colombia has no control over the use of mercury and asbestos, according to the Comptroller].

Asbestos in Western Australia

Jan 16, 2018

WorkSafe WA, a state agency responsible for occupational health and safety in Western Australia (WA), has launched a phased asbestos inspection program targeting factories and imports to identify toxic products, after asbestos was recently found in the friction plates of rail carriages imported from China. As a result of this discovery, the initial focus of the program will be on asbestos in the WA rail network. According to WorkSafe: “These proactive inspection programs aim to provide employers with information on how to comply with workplace safety laws and help them to identify risks to the safety and health of workers.” See: WorkSafe inspection program looks at asbestos in plant.