News Item Archive
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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)
Calls to Ban Asbestos NOW!
Oct 16, 2019
An opinion piece in the N.Y. Times by former administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency – Gina Wheeler and William Reilly – called for an urgent and immediate ban on asbestos, a substance killing ~40,000 Americans every year. The authors call on Congress to pass current legislation which bans all asbestos importation and use, without loopholes or exemptions, on the grounds of public safety. The draft prohibitions are progressing in the House of Representatives and the Energy and Commerce Committee will shortly have an opportunity to send it to the House for passage with bipartisan support. See: Asbestos Kills Nearly 40,000 Americans a Year. Ban It.
Asbestos Banned at Schools!
Oct 16, 2019
The Government of Kerala has set a two year deadline for asbestos roofing to be removed from 1,000 state, private and independent schools on the grounds of the “harmful impact on students’ health.” The mandatory order follows a ruling by the Kerala High Court in a case brought by a school manager from Thrissur. The Director of Education (DGE) has been instructed to compile an audit of schools with the toxic roofing and ensure that removal work is accomplished in a timely fashion; the DGE must submit monthly update reports on progress to the authorities. See: Govt. bans asbestos roofs in schools.
Challenging Draft Legislation
Oct 16, 2019
Australian trade unions are warning about the threat posed by the Ensuring Integrity Bill to the legal and human rights of victims of toxic industrial exposures, citing the long-standing campaign by unions to secure justice for victims of asbestos-related diseases. Commenting on the proposed legislation ACTU President Michele O’Neil said: “History tells us that threats to workers and the public’s health like asbestos only get tackled when workers stand together in their unions and demand change. If this Bill had been law during the fight to ban asbestos and hold James Hardie to account we would have seen unions shut down for actions to ensure public and worker safety.” See: Link between union-bashing bill and public health campaigns.
Asbestos Identification and Analysis
Oct 16, 2019
The acquisition of new microscope technology will enable Cambodian customs officers to identify asbestos-containing materials for the first time. The new equipment and training were gifted by Australian donors: Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA and the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency. At the presentation event, Deputy Director General Ministry of Commerce H.E. Phan Oun, said: “This is something new for us … We know asbestos is a big problem. We need a long-term action plan to ban asbestos.” The new microscope and the training provided will enable Cambodian personnel to test products for asbestos for the first time. See: Spotting the Dangers of Asbestos in Cambodia.
Removal of Asbestos Roofs
Oct 16, 2019
A Fund is being set up by the Dutch Government to encourage homeowners to remove asbestos roofs by making loans available for remediation work until 2028. Announcing this initiative, State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven of Infrastructure said the Government hoped that the availability of these funds would prompt property owners to act expeditiously. Van Veldhoven said: “The older a roof is, the more asbestos fibers it releases. So they can get into the garden and that makes the roofs a bit more dangerous every year.” Although the country’s asbestos ban remains in place, a deadline for the removal of asbestos roofs has been overturned. See: New Fund to Help Dutch Homeowners Clear Away Asbestos Roofs.
Oct 14, 2019
This article on a Russian website highlighted everyday exposures to ordinary things which could prove fatal, including asbestos – stating categorically that: “Asbestos is dangerous to health.” This statement is unusual in that the image of asbestos is carefully preserved in Russia as it is the world’s largest asbestos producer and the leading force behind asbestos marketing efforts around the world. The text pointed out that exposure to asbestos, which is found in many building materials, could cause various cancers including mesothelioma and that for this reason the EU had banned its use. See: 5 повседневных вещей, которые на самом деле опасны [5 everyday things that are really dangerous].
New Scottish Asbestos Play
Oct 14, 2019
As the number of cases of asbestos-related disease continues to rise in Scotland, a play – “Fibres” – has been premiered that explores the repercussions for a shipyard worker and his wife of occupational asbestos exposures. The work by Glasgow-based playwright Frances Poet was staged by the Glasgow Citizens Theatre and Stellar Quines, a women’s theatre company, and directed by Jemima Levick. Although asbestos is banned in the UK, millions of tonnes of asbestos-containing products remain in hospitals, schools, social housing, private homes, public and commercial buildings. For details of upcoming performances of Fibres see: citz.co.uk.
Ban Asbestos Dialogue: Update
Oct 12, 2019
The introduction of a roadmap to phase-out asbestos use in Vietnam has led to an increase in lobbying to maintain the status quo, even though a drop in asbestos usage indicated a fall in consumer demand. The article referenced below rehashes complaints that alternative products were expensive and there was no data substantiating the existence of a national asbestos epidemic. Nevertheless, the author reported that the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) had directed the Ministry of Industry and Trade to accelerate research into asbestos-free materials. The MST also planned to collaborate closely with other Ministries to find affordable and safer solutions. See: Thiếu thị trường cho sản phẩm vật liệu không amiăng [Lack of (current) market for non-asbestos products].
Environmental Crimes in Turkey
Oct 14, 2019
A Turkish expose regarding environmental contamination in the town of Dilovasi in the Kocaeli region described the effects of living near or visiting an area dominated by a hill made up of industrial waste containing material discarded by a factory operated by the Turkish company Izocam Trade and Industry, Inc. According to the results of scientific tests, the waste included glass-type mineral wool and “significant amounts of three types of very dangerous asbestos…” An asbestos expert who visited the site expressed “pure shock” at the scale of the dump saying he had “never seen anything like this before.” Under Turkish regulations, the creation and existence of the dump could constitute an environmental crime. See: Asbestos Hill: a cover-up.
Legal Victory for Victims
Oct 14, 2019
At a press conference after a meeting of the Japanese Cabinet this week, Minister of Justice Kawai announced the Government would not appeal a September 2019 ruling by the Fukuoka High Court which upheld a claim, by a former worker who contracted lung cancer, that the compensation he should receive from the government for occupational asbestos exposures should be higher than the standard rate previously set. He was awarded 12.65 million yen (US$117,000). The positive verdict for the Kitakyushu City man followed similar outcomes for litigants in Kobe and Hiroshima. See: スベストの健康被害めぐる福岡高裁判決 政府 受け入れ方針 [Fukuoka High Court Decision on Asbestos Health Damage, Government Accepts Ruling].
Asbestos Brakes: A “Safe Option”
Oct 10, 2019
Propaganda masquerading as an article appeared on a Russian website extolling the virtues of chrysotile asbestos brakes. According to the author, the physical and chemical characteristics of asbestos makes it an ideal component for brake pads for cars, trains, trucks, all-terrain vehicles and many other types of specialized equipment. “Scientific papers,” commissioned by the asbestos industry, are cited to substantiate the assertion that the use of chrysotile asbestos is not harmful under “controlled conditions.” See: Полезные и спорные: тормозные колодки из асбеста [Useful and controversial: asbestos brake pads].
Asbestos School Strike
Oct 10, 2019
From October 9 to 18, 2019 a strike is being held by teachers, school staff, students and parents regarding asbestos in the Ruy Belo School in Queluz, Portugal. Slogans such as “no asbestos” or “school is for learning and not for getting sick” are being shouted out by demonstrators who are protesting that the all the roofs of the 35 year-old school are covered with asbestos material, much of which is degrading from the effects of weather and nearby trees. This is the second such strike; the first one was over asbestos in the Dom Domingos Jardo School in Lisbon – that school was closed as a result of the action. See: Greve contra o amianto: “A escola é para aprender e não adoecer” [Strike against asbestos: “School is for learning not for gettting sick”].
Oct 10, 2019
Twelve claimants are taking their cases for “asbestos anxiety,” as a result of toxic occupational exposures at the Alstom site in Belfort, to the European Court of Human Rights after having had their actions dismissed by the French Court of Cassation (Supreme Court), the Court of Appeal and the lower court. The litigants will have to wait at least a year before the Court’s ruling is issued. See: Amiante à Alstom: douze salariés saisissent la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme [Asbestos at Alstom: twelve employees apply to the European Court of Human Rights].
Implementation of Asbestos Ban
Oct 9, 2019
National asbestos prohibitions announced by the Canadian government in 2018 will come into effect on December 30, 2019 according to statements made by Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in Ottawa last week. Unfortunately, she confirmed, that contentious exemptions will continue which include: the commercial exploitation of asbestos mining waste to extract magnesium – about 800 million tonnes of tailings made up of ~40% asbestos remain in former mining regions – the use of asbestos in the military, in nuclear power plants facilities and in chlor-alkali production. See: L'amiante presque complètement banni au Canada dès le 30 décembre [Asbestos almost completely banned in Canada as of December 30].
Beyond the Asbestos Ban
Oct 9, 2019
In the aftermath of the long-awaited 2018 ban on asbestos in Canada, campaigners are calling for action to install measures to eradicate the asbestos hazard in order to protect Canadians from toxic exposures. Asbestos-related cancers remain the leading cause of workplace deaths in Canada. Speaking at an event organized by WorkSafe Saskatchewan in Regina on October 7, 2019, Dr. Paul Demers, epidemiologist and director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Ontario, called for asbestos audits for all buildings, both commercial and private, so that occupants could take precautions to prevent exposures. See: Beyond the ban: experts say more needed to tackle ongoing asbestos problem.
Ban Asbestos, Now!
Oct 9, 2019
A chapter in a book just released entitled Status of Corporate Responsibility in India, 2019 - Is Human Rights in Business Limited to Rhetoric? sheds light on the current asbestos scenario in the world’s largest asbestos importing country. Concluding the eight page text which constitutes Chapter 11 – written by National Coordinator of the India Ban Asbestos Network Pooja Gupta and human rights lawyer Lara Jesani – the authors called for “a total and unconditional ban of asbestos in the country, and systematic work towards eliminating asbestos from the environment and human ecosystem.” See: Deplorable Cost of Corporate Greed: A Study of the Asbestos Industry.
Oct 8, 2019
Scientists in the US and Russia reported the effects of toxic environmental exposures in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region. Breathing in air contaminated with asbestos, arsenic, cadmium, manganese, copper, lead, fluorine, hexavalent chromium, zinc, benzene, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, chloroform and other toxins has reduced life expectancy by six months and led to increased rates of disability as well as fatal and debilitating diseases. See: Дышите глубже: ученые рассказали, почему на Урале женщины не могут рожать, мужчины – болеют раком и преждевременно умирают, а дети отстают в психическом развитии [Breathe deeper: scientists told why in the Urals women cannot give birth, men get cancer and die prematurely, and children lag behind in mental development].
Asbestos Mine Revival?
Oct 8, 2019
Zimbabwe’s Shabanie chrysotile asbestos mine, which ceased operations in 2009, is slowly coming back to life claim government officials. According to Polite Kambamura, Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister: “De-watering has been completed at Shabanie Mashaba Mine and very soon, the mine will be working at full throttle.” While some may remain sceptical, having heard similar assertions before, the authorities predict that once fully back on stream the mine could produce 18,000 tonnes of asbestos fiber per year. During it’s heyday, the mine employed 2,000 workers. See: Shabanie Mine awakens from slumber.
Asbestos Murder Prosecution
Oct 8, 2019
Legal proceedings are due to start in the long-running attempt by Italian Prosecutors to hold former asbestos magnate Swiss billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny to account for the thousands of deaths caused by the operations of his asbestos-cement factories in Italy. The latest case is being heard in Vercelli, a city in Piedmont, northern Italy. The legal action – regarding the asbestos deaths of 392 citizens of the town of Casale Monferrato – involves 400 civil parties. Schmidheiny stands accused of “voluntary homicide.” The request for a trial was lodged by public prosecutors Francesco Alvino and Roberta Brera and the Turin prosecutor Gianfranco Colace. See: Amianto Killer/ Processo Eternit Bis a Vercelli [Killer asbestos/ Eternit Bis Trial in Vercelli].
“Persecution” of Asbestos Industry
Oct 7, 2019
On October 2, 2019, a Russian language article alleged that both red meat and chrysotile asbestos had been falsely damned by the use of unsafe science. Discounting conclusions reached by scientists regarding the adverse health effects of red meat consumption as incorrect, exaggerated and hasty, the unnamed author of the Russian text headlined Proof of Guilt: How to Fan Hysteria from a Piece of Beef alleged that scientific skullduggery and corrupt journalism were the principal weapons used to “persecute” both the meat industry and the chrysotile asbestos industry. See: Доказательство вины: как раздуть истерию из куска говядины [Proof of Guilt: How to Fan Hysteria from a Piece of Beef].
Vietnam’s “Cancer Village”
Oct 7 2019
An investigation by government authorities failed to establish the reason for the elevated incidence of cancer in Tho Vi village, Thanh Hoa province. The small hamlet of 1,700 people has now joined the list of top ten villages in the country with the most cancer patients. In some households, multiple family members have died. Having monitored the situation for a number of years local man Mr Tran Minh Han was firmly convinced that the cause of the cancer spike was asbestos-contaminated water; asbestos fibers from a nearby derelict quarry were believed to have gotten into the water and debris from the mine was often used in building projects by villagers. See: Nỗi ám ảnh amiăng của người dân “làng ung thư” (Kỳ 1) [Asbestos obsession of "cancer village" people (Part 1)].
Appeal to French President
Oct 7, 2019
On October 1, 2019, the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) appealed to the French President to intervene in the upcoming auction in Rio de Janeiro of the former French ship, renamed the São Paulo by the Brazilian Ministry of Defence, which contained large amounts of asbestos. According to the tender notice, it seemed clear that the São Paulo would be sold for demolition and most likely end up on a South Asian beach for dismantling. As per paragraph 8.3 of the tender notice, the French government must authorize the sale of the São Paulo; as the transport of this toxic vessel contravened the Basel Convention and other international protocols, ABREA urged the French President to take urgent action. See: Letters to French President Emmanuel Macron [Portuguese] [French].
Toxic Fallout from Factory Fire
Oct 7, 2019
One week after a conflagration decimated a factory in the French town of Lubrizol, residents of Rouen described finding asbestos-cement debris on their properties up to 3 kilometers from the site. A French TV company reported on October 2, 2019 that the analysis it commissioned of a sample found 2 kilometers away identified the presence of chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite asbestos fibers. The director of the laboratory which produced the report confirmed high levels of fiber had been found in the sample. As is often the case after such an incident, on October 1 the authorities said “that there was "no risk related to asbestos.” See: Rouen: cinq questions sur les débris d'amiante retrouvés à proximité de l'usine [Rouen: five questions about asbestos debris found near the Lubrizol plant].
Asbestos in Transit Depot
Oct 7, 2019
A report published in early 2019 revealed that workers at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) East New York bus depot in Brooklyn had been exposed to asbestos over decades; in addition, 20+ high school students may have been exposed. Originally, the findings were shared with MTA officials only; workers became aware of the presence of asbestos in the depot’s air vents recently. In 2017, asbestos had been identified in the building’s boiler room; it was removed in August 2018. Although the MTA said that the asbestos in the depot is not dangerous, it has posted signs saying: “DO NOT DISTURB…THE VIBRATION CLOTH MATERIALS ON THIS UNIT CONTAINS ASBESTOS.” See: New York City transit workers exposed to toxic asbestos for decades.
Oct 4, 2019
Four very similar articles appeared on October 1 and 2, 2019 on Russian websites about attacks on Russia’s asbestos industry. The article noted below purported to examine the arguments for and against using asbestos. Citing industry-commissioned research and outdated reports, it concluded that the safe use of chrysotile asbestos was possible under controlled conditions. Another article (see: http://izvestia64.ru/news/215064-prodolzhaetsya-protivostoyanie-rossii-i-zapadnyh-stran-v-borbe-za-asbest.html] was more explicit – referring to a “hidden trade war” and saying: “Russia continues to wage a long struggle with Western countries for the industrial use of asbestos.” See: Безвреден для здоровья? Кто и почему пытается запретить асбест [Harmless to health? Who is trying to ban asbestos and why?].