News Item Archive

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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)

Asbestos Hazard in Russia

Oct 23, 2019

For decades, a stranglehold has existed regarding the dangers posed by asbestos exposures in Russia, the world’s largest producer of white asbestos. A Russian article just published quoted a leading Russian health and safety expert as follows: “Three substances from the list of the World Health Organization (WHO), such as asbestos, lead and mercury, should be considered the most dangerous for Russians… According to the WHO, all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. However, asbestos can be found everywhere in Russia.” See: Эксперт назвала самые опасные химические загрязнители для россиян [The expert named the most dangerous chemical pollutants for the Russians].

Toxic Ship

Oct 23, 2019

It has been reported that the Portuguese cruise ship MV Funchal bought at auction in December 2018 by a UK company called Signature Living (see: Asbestos Vessel Cruising to london?) is now being towed to Liverpool. At the time of the sale, it was believed that the ship contained about 100 tons of asbestos, including products containing chrysotile, amosite and tremolite fibers, in friable condition. It is unknown whether the asbestos has been removed. According to a facebook upload, the company plans to refurbish the ship for use as a hotel in the UK. See: MV Funchal.

India’s Asbestos Curse

Oct 23, 2019

A paper published by Indian medical practitioners highlighted the ongoing epidemic of asbestos-related diseases in India and predicted that in decades to come – because of the current use of 350,000 tonnes of asbestos per year in India – there could be thousands of deaths per year from just one asbestos cancer – mesothelioma – with tens of thousands of additional fatalities from other asbestos-related illnesses. The authors stated: “In the near future, there will be at least 12.5 million ARD [asbestos-related disease] patients and 1.25 million asbestos-related cancer patients worldwide, and half of these will be in India.” See: Current Asbestos Exposure and Future Need for Palliative Care in India.

Toxic Talc Withdrawn

Oct 21, 2019

It was announced last week that Johnson & Johnson, a company facing thousands of US lawsuits over asbestos contamination of their iconic baby powder, had withdrawn 33,000 bottles of the product from sale in the US due to a finding by the Food and Drug Administration of sub-trace levels of chrysotile (white) asbestos in a bottle purchased from an online retailer. This is the first time that the company has recalled its baby powder. Reports of these developments were published in Russian, Chinese, French, Italian and other languages. See: Johnson & Johnson recalls baby powder after asbestos found.

The Scrapping of the São Paulo?

Oct 21, 2019

The fate of Brazil’s only aircraft carrier and the largest ship in the fleet is up for grabs, according to an article about the disposal of the São Paulo, purchased from the French Government in 2000. The ship, which contains up to 1,000 tonnes of asbestos material, is being auctioned with a December 9 bidding deadline. While it is widely believed the ship will be scrapped, the tender agreement states it must be done so safely and in accordance with procedures to protect the environment. During its years in the Brazilian Navy, the São Paulo was beset with difficulties and was only operational for 206 days. See: Museu ou sucata? O que será do porta-aviões brasileiro que custou R$ 22 milhões [Museum or scrap? What will be the [fate of the] Brazilian aircraft carrier that cost $22 million?].

Asbestos in Schools

Oct 21, 2019

A teachers’ union is threatening to take a provincial South African education department to court over the continued presence of asbestos in hundreds of schools. Following a ruling of the Eastern Cape High Court which ascertained the department’s responsibility for maintaining the educational infrastructure up to expected standards, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union has announced that legal action is being considered over the widespread hazard posed by asbestos in schools and the imminent threat to 25,000 children and 7,000 members of staff. A deadline of 2016 to eradicate the asbestos hazard which was set by the Education Department in 2013 has been extended until 2024. See: Teachers’ union levels threat over Gauteng’s killer asbestos schools.

Asbestos Industry Attack

Oct 18, 2019

Asbestos vested interests, suffering from a fall in demand for their products, have embarked on a media offensive condemning the Vietnam Government’s plans to ban the use of asbestos-cement roofing. It is alleged that the government’s position was based on lies told to various agencies including the National Assembly's Committee for Science, Technology and Environment. Quotes from people working in asbestos-cement factories and consumers are cited in support of the calls by the industry for a U-turn on the asbestos ban. See: Không để thông tin thái quá về tấm lợp fibro xi măng gây hoang mang dư luận [Do not let outrageous information about fibro cement roofing sheets confuse public opinion].

Toxic Talc

Oct 18, 2019

A study just published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine substantiated the link between the use of asbestos-containing talcum powder, such as Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby powder, and the occurrence of mesothelioma. The authors of the paper examined the cases of 33 people with mesothelioma whose only significant exposure to asbestos was through their use of talcum powder and concluded that the causation of their cancer had been that exposure. Commenting on their findings, co-author Jacqueline Moline said: “Everything points to cosmetic talc being the cause.” See: A New Study Suggests Tainted Talcum Powder Can Cause a Rare Cancer. Here's How That Could Play Out in the Courtroom.

Causation of Colorectal Cancer.

Oct 18, 2019

Research by Korean scientists confirmed the link between occupational asbestos exposure and colorectal cancer mortality. “There was,” they wrote “a significantly increased risk of colorectal cancer mortality among workers exposed to asbestos occupationally…This implies that the risk of colorectal cancer mortality increases as the level of asbestos exposure rises.” Concluding their article, the authors reaffirmed that their findings indicated that occupational exposure to asbestos was a risk factor for colorectal cancer. See: Exposure to asbestos and the risk of colorectal cancer mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Asbestos at the Opera

Oct 18, 2019

Legal proceedings are ongoing in Milan against five executives from La Scala Opera House on behalf of children whose parents were occupationally exposed to asbestos at the theater and subsequently died from asbestos-related diseases. The 12 deceased named in this lawsuit included Italian conductor and pianist maestro Edoardo Muller (1938-2016), toolmaker and machinist Demetrio Asta and singer Luciana Patelli, who died in 2013 of pleural mesothelioma. Asbestos-containing products were widespread throughout the structure with asbestos gloves being used until 1994, one witness testified. See: Milano, morti per amianto alla Scala: in aula i figli delle vittime [Milan, asbestos deaths at La Scala: children of victims in court].

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.

Asbestos Alert!

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:

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”].

Asbestos Anxiety

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.