News Item Archive
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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)
Apr 2, 2017
On March 30, 2017, Zimbabwe’s Deputy labour minister Tapiwa Matangaidze lied about the asbestos hazard at a Harare meeting claiming that use of asbestos produced at the Shabanie and Mashava mines was safe. IndustriALL Global Union’s Atle Hoie, also at the meeting, told journalists that the claims were “lies” saying: “the world called for the ban on asbestos after realizing it is the worst killer in the planet. If a country produces asbestos, it is responsible for the people dying.” The meeting was held in the run up to a pivotal meeting of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention where asbestos remains a hot issue topic. See: Minister lied about asbestos, says IndustriALL Global Union.
Apr 1, 2017
On the same day this week that a landmark asbestos victory was achieved by a victim’s family in Belgium, the government announced controversial changes to the operation of the national Asbestos Fund. Since it was established a decade ago, the Fund, co-financed by the state and employers, has built up a surplus. Instead of using this to compensate ineligible claimants – such as people suffering from asbestos-related lung cancer – or finance medical research, future contributions will be frozen until there is a zero surplus. See: Fonds amiante: un financement au rabais (OPINION) [Asbestos Fund: Discount Financing (OPINION)].
Asbestos Yes; Antimony No
Mar 27, 2017
Residents of the Russian town of Asbestos – home to a chrysotile (white) asbestos mine “nearly half the size of Manhattan” – are up in arms about plans by the National Antimony Company to build a factory processing antimony in the town. Politicians addressing a rally last week expressed concerns about the “very harmful” impact possible emissions from the plant could have on the health of local people. A petition circulated at the rally collected hundreds of signatures. Plans to build the plant in Degtyarsk were abandoned after protests. See: Тысячи граждан протестовали против нового завода Ротенберга — Асбест [Thousands of citizens protested against the new Rothenberg plant – Asbestos].
Mixed Fortunes of Asbestos Towns
Mar 27, 2017
At a conference last week in Quebec’s former asbestos heartland, Thetford Mines (TM) officials said they felt abandoned by the Quebec government in the aftermath of its withdrawal of support for the asbestos industry. As a result of its decision, the province’s asbestos industry became unsustainable. Despite promises of millions of dollars to help affected communities diversify their economies, according to Mayor Marc-Alexandre Brousseau: “Asbestos (town) has received 50 million to face the same impacts as us. We did not have anything.” See: Amiante: les élus de Thetford Mines se sentent abandonnés [Asbestos: The elected representatives of Thetford Mines feel abandoned].
Northern Territory: Update
Mar 27, 2017
Referencing outrage voiced at last week’s meeting of the Australian Labour Party, the Health Minister of the Northern Territories (NT) Natasha Fyles commented: “The Northern Territory Government takes the asbestos issues seriously and will consider all of the concerns raised at this weekend's Labor conference.” Months after media reports exposed the scandal relating to asbestos contamination of housing in Tennant Creek, the lives of residents and young children were still “being put at risk” according to trade unionist Andrew Ramsay, Vice President of an asbestos victims’ support group. See: Asbestos in NT to become responsibility of Territory Government after ALP pass motion.
The Great Asbestos Trial
Mar 24, 2017
A Spanish translation of an Italian book entitled: “Il grande processo” [The Great Trial] by Rosalba Altopiedi and Sara Panelli has been updated and published online this week. The authors report and analyse legal actions in Italy against Swiss asbestos magnate Stephan Schmidheiny which included criminal as well as civil proceedings for alleged crimes relating to asbestos deaths of thousands of workers and residents in Eternit towns. See: El Gran Proceso de Turín (2009-2014) contra el magnate Stephan Schmidheiny, propietario de Eternit Italia, el negocio del Amianto [The Great Trial of Turin (2009-2014) against the magnate Stephan Schmidheiny, owner of Eternit Italia, the asbestos giant].
Asbestos Victims Abandoned
Mar 24, 2017
Quebec’s Commission on Occupational Standards, Equity, Health and Safety is refusing compensation to many workers dying from asbestos-related diseases according to a documentary broadcast on March 23 entitled: Malades de l’amiante… et laissés pour compte [Workers with asbestos diseases .. abandoned], by Radio-Canada’s award-winning TV program, Enquête. The program detailed numerous examples of legitimate claims being obstructed by negligent employers, including public authorities, intent on minimizing future liabilities. See: Quebec: Asbestos injustice against workers continues.
Supporting DWP Service
Mar 24, 2017
On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, Bob Pointer, Chair of the Cumbria Asbestos Related Disease Support Group, urged Barrow Borough Council to show its support for services provided to asbestos victims in Barrow and throughout England by staff at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) base in Phoenix House (PH), Barrow – scheduled to be shut down as a result of government cutbacks – during a speech he made to a council meeting. Pointer asked that the council write to the Secretary of State to reinforce the importance of the work done by those at PH. The leader of the council and a number of councillors are supportive of calls to safeguard the expertise of PH staff. See: Asbestos campaigner makes plea for Barrow service.
Kymore: Asbestos Hotspot
Mar 23, 2017
This online article highlights the deadly legacy of asbestos use and processing in the Madhya Pradesh industrial town of Kymore, in central India. Citing details from a new report by international experts, the authors state that: “Kymore seems to be built of asbestos. It is incorporated in school, playgrounds, the corrugated iron roofs of the houses of the factory workers. Many of these buildings are in bad shape and crumble. Moreover, the asbestos waste was dumped for years on meadows around the [asbestos] factory and unsafe landfill… during the period of the Belgian Etex, which was later turned into Eternit Everest.” See: Belgian report alleges MNC Etex responsible for asbestos pollution in Madhya Pradesh town Kymore.
Ovarian Cancer: Developments
Mar 23, 2017
On March 16, 2017, Germany’s Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs published recommendations under the accident insurance scheme to recognize asbestos-related ovarian cancer as an occupational disease under certain circumstances: the ovarian carcinoma must be associated with asbestosis or a disease of the pleura caused by asbestos and the claimant must be able to demonstrate an occupational asbestos fiber dose of at least 25 fiber years. See: Eierstockkrebs durch Asbest - Anerkennung “wie eine Berufskrankheit” möglich [Ovarian cancer from asbestos exposure recognized as an occupational disease].
Mar 23, 2017
On the agenda of a seminar in Hong Kong on March 20, 2017 were issues relating to environmental exposures of people living in asbestos-contaminated housing as well as occupational exposures to at-risk workers such as people in the construction sector. Of particular interest to many of the delegates was information presented by the Secretary General of the Pneumoconiosis Compensation Fund Board which administers the Pneumoconiosis and Mesothelioma (Compensation) Ordinance of Hong Kong. The Fund has, he said, compensated thousands of individuals including both employees and non-employees. The import, transhipment, supply and use of asbestos was banned in Hong Kong as of April 4, 2014.
Victory over Asbestos!
Mar 22, 2017
In a decisive verdict handed down yesterday by a court in Rio de Janeiro, the Eternit company – Brazil’s biggest asbestos manufacturer – was ordered to eliminate asbestos use within the next 18 months. The decision is a result of proceedings by the Public Ministry of Labor which had filed a civil action over hazardous workplace exposures to asbestos at Eternit’s Guadalupe, Rio de Janerio plant. Not only did the court order Eternit to transition to asbestos-free technology, but it also specified that exposure levels be kept to the legal limit and that current and former employees be provided with free medical examinations. See: Eternit do Rio de Janeiro condenada a substituir o Amianto em 18 meses [Eternit in Rio de Janeiro condemned to replace asbestos in 18 months].
Call for Action
Mar 22, 2017
A letter by Jagdish Patel, National Coordinator of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India, addressed to Anil Madhav Dave, India’s Minister of Environment and Forests, has been uploaded to the internet. In this document Mr. Patel reiterates requests that “the Government, as a party to the Rotterdam Convention, … support the amendment to the Rotterdam Convention that a group of twelve African countries have submitted to the Secretariat and that will be discussed at the COP 8.” This letter is signed by groups representing Indian workers, health activists and campaigners. See: Support amendment to Rotterdam Convention for listing of chrysotile asbestos at COP 8.
Increased Compensation Payments
Mar 22, 2017
On March 20, 2017 a new formula came into effect as a result of amendments to current legislation which lowered the discount rate from 2.5% to minus 0.75%. One of the results of the change made by the Ministry of Justice will be the increase of compensation payments to personal injury claimants including asbestos victims. There is no certainty that this change will be secure from attack by the insurance industry and negligent employers; the Government is consulting on this issue with vested interests such as insurers who are, no doubt, hoping the discount rate will be increased. See: New discount rate for personal injury claims announced.
Asbestos Progress Update
Mar 21, 2017
A Conduct Adjustment Agreement has been signed by the Public Labor Ministry in Rio de Janeiro with the construction materials company Casalite, based in the city of Duque de Caxias in the state of Rio de Janeiro, to cease using asbestos for the production of roofing tiles and gutters. This agreement is part of a Brazilian program – National Asbestos Banishment Program of the Public Labor Ministry – aimed at eliminating the use of asbestos in Brazil. See: MPT-RJ firma acordo com empresa para substituir o amianto de seus processos de produção [MPT-RJ signs agreement with company to replace asbestos from its production processes].
Asbestos Remediation: Update
Mar 20, 2017
According to Giorgio Demezzi, a former Mayor of Casale Monferrato, to date more than €80m has been allocated by the Italian government for asbestos remediation of the town over the last 20 years. Unfortunately, disputes are ongoing over the administrative processing and bureaucratic dispensation of remediation funds by city hall personnel. The municipality aims to make Casale Monferrato asbestos free by 2020. To that end, work is proceeding, says the current Mayor, at new construction sites. See: I conti dell’amianto in 20 anni: ecco le bonifiche. Finora trasferiti dallo Stato 80 milioni [20 years of asbestos land reclamation has, till now, cost the state 80 million].
Local Asbestos Initiative
Mar 17, 2017
In April 2017, a council in the western suburbs of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia is offering a number of free visual inspections to householders to alert them to the presence of asbestos in homes built in the Cumberland local government area before 1990. A scheme operated by the council for the free collection and disposal of up to 10 square meters of bonded asbestos sheeting from homes has proved popular with local people such as Grahame Duerden who had pieces of asbestos fiberboard to dispose of; this material is no longer accepted at the tip and the minimum charge for collection by a specialist company is A$140. See: Free asbestos pick ups.
Overseas Asbestos Crimes
Mar 16, 2017
A photo-essay depicting the industrial legacy of asbestos processing in India by a company that was part of the Belgian asbestos Eternit-Etex conglomerate has been published in Flemish. The text focuses on the situation in Kymore, a town in central India, which is littered with toxic asbestos waste and built with asbestos cement materials. Personal testimony and evidence has been amassed which document corporate responsibility for widespread environmental contamination. See: Van Kapelle tot Kymore: Etex ook verantwoordelijk voor asbestslachtoffers in India? [From Kapelle to Kymore: Is Etex also responsible for asbestos victims in India?].
Condemnation of South Africa
Mar 15, 2017
Despite the fact that South Africa banned asbestos in 2008, the government is refusing to back a move by Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia to unblock a logjam at the Rotterdam Convention which is preventing this UN agency from including white asbestos on a list of toxins subject to requirements ensuring prior informed consent of importing countries. The health experts who wrote this blog conclude that: “South Africa's foreign policy is apparently not governed by any substantive health or environmental considerations.” See: South Africa Refuses To Support Initiative To Restrict Deadly Asbestos Trade
Asbestos in Schools
Mar 15, 2017
The scandal over the UK government’s failure to protect schoolchildren and staff from dangerous asbestos exposures continues to reverberate. On March 13, 2017, the government gave a pathetic response to a question about this issue in the House of Lords, absolving itself of responsibility for the situation, the deadly reality of which was detailed in an article in the newspaper and website of Schools Week on March 11 in which MP Rachel Reeves was quoted calling the government’s failure to act on asbestos in schools “grossly negligent.” See: Dodgy asbestos surveys costing schools ‘millions’.
Systemic Failures: France
Mar 14, 2017
This article details the failure of the French authorities to address the asbestos contamination of the national infrastructure and warns of more asbestos-related deaths in the future because of the uneven protection of workers from building and other products containing asbestos which have not been removed. Several quotes from campaigners highlight the flaws in a regulatory system which fails to adequately police the asbestos removal industry, ensure accurate laboratory analyses of suspect material and diagnose patients with asbestos diseases. See: En France, il reste 20 millions de tonnes d’amiante disséminées dans les bâtiments [In France, there are 20 million tons of asbestos still in buildings].
Galicia: Asbestos Justice
Mar 14, 2017
An interview – published this month – with Ramón Tojeiro the head of AGAVIDA, a group representing asbestos victims in Galicia, north western Spain, highlighted the impact of occupational asbestos exposures amongst workers in the shipbuilding yards in Ferrol. The campaigner cited the important roles played by Galician unionist Rafael Pillado and Dr. Carlos Piñeiro in the fight to obtain recognition of the invisible epidemic and medical treatment for the injured; Tojeiro also warned of the hazard posed by asbestos within the infrastructure. See: La realidad del amianto se mantuvo oculta porque era un gran negocio [The reality of asbestos kept hidden because it was a big business].
Push to Ban Asbestos
Mar 10, 2017
Brazilian Senator Paulo Paim has submitted a draft bill (PLS 30/2017) to a committee of the Brazilian Congress delineating a road map to make the transition from a national asbestos policy based on the controlled use of asbestos to one banning mining, manufacture, import, storage and transport of asbestos fiber and products containing asbestos within a strict phased timescale. Citing the global consensus regarding the proven risks posed by asbestos exposures, the proposal will, if approved, prohibit all asbestos use, sales, marketing, storage, import and export within four years. See: Manejo do amianto pode se tornar proibido no país [Transition from asbestos management to asbestos ban].
Workplace Exposure in Australia
Mar 10, 2017
Trade union officials confirmed on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 that work at an Australian factory had been stopped for a week due to the discovery of asbestos contamination at the facility owned by the Orica company in the Kooragang Island area of New South Wales. It is alleged that prior to the shutdown, dozens of workers had been hazardously exposed to asbestos fibers. While not denying the incident took place, the company is disputing details released by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. The exposures allegedly occurred during a $67-million overhaul of the ammonia plant. See: Unions and ORCA in dispute over asbestos.
New Precedent in France
Mar 10, 2017
On March 3, 2017 France’s Council of State – the highest administrative court in the country – handed down a ground-breaking decision when it accepted that employees of the state, in this case a shipbuilding worker for the Ministry of Defence, had a right to compensation for asbestos “anxiety prejudice” after negligent workplace exposures. According to the verdict, “the decision to recognize the right to this compensation amounts to recognition of the link established between exposure to asbestos dust and reduction in life expectancy…” See: Amiante: le préjudice d’anxiété reconnu pour les ouvriers d’Etat par la redaction [Asbestos: anxiety prejudice recognized for state workers].