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Constitutional Court’s Landmark Verdict

May 30, 2016

After criminal convictions of Swiss billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny for the asbestos deaths of thousands of Italians were voided on a technicality by Italy’s Supreme Court in 2014, charges for 240 other asbestos deaths were brought by the Turin Public Prosecutor. Schmidheiny’s defense team alleged these charges were invalid following the concept of double jeopardy whereby a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. This argument has been considered by Italy’s constitutional court which will issue its ruling over whether the case can proceed on May 31. See: Eternit bis, Casale torna a mobilitarsi per tutti i morti di Amianto [Eternit encore, Casale returns to mobilize over asbestos deaths].

Japan Asbestos Victims Meeting

May 29, 2010

On Saturday, May 28, 2016, Ban Asbestos Japan (BANJAN) held its 28th annual meeting in Tokyo. The session was attended by 150+ victims, relatives and supporters. BANJAN’s discussions were preceded by an outreach initiative outside Sinjuku station during which BANJAN members distributed asbestos awareness material. Coming shortly after a recent mass demonstration in Tokyo by construction workers who demanded justice and support for the asbestos injured, there can be no doubt about the continuing resilience and commitment of Japan’s asbestos victims. See: Picture of BANJAN Mobilization in Tokyo.

Struggle to Ban Asbestos in Colombia

May 29, 2016

On May 24, 2016, debate continued on the 2015 bill to ban asbestos by Colombian politicians. One of the main arguments advanced by those supporting the continued use of asbestos is the “fact” that there have been no cases of asbestos disease in Colombia. This “fact” has been revealed as incorrect by footage including interviews with several patients with asbestos disease (see: Colombia’s Asbestos Victims). On June 2, a public forum is being held for students to learn about the reality of life with asbestos cancer in Colombia. See: Petition update: Si hay víctimas del asbesto en Colombia [Petition update: Colombia’s asbestos victims].

Asbestos on the Water

May 28, 2016

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority has given permission for Anbis Development Ltd., a Bangladesh-based company, to transport via waterways 1000 metric tons of asbestos sheets from West Bengal (India) to Agartala, the capital of the Indian state of Tripura. The consignment will leave from the West Bengal port of Haldia and proceed to the Ashuganj river port of Bangladesh and then go by road to Argartala. The transport has been costed at Rs192 per metric ton. This initiative is being undertaken in response to a shortage of construction materials in Tripura due to bad road conditions. See: Tripura to get asbestos via waterways of Bangladesh.

Italy’s Asbestos Debacle

May 28, 2016

Despite a well-publicized commitment by the central government to make the Italian town of Casale Monferrato asbestos-free by 2020, funds to carry out this work remain frozen as bureaucratic wrangles continue over remediation protocols. Calls for urgent action on the serious health risk to citizens are being made by politicians, community leaders, regional authorities and others. See: Amianto: da Casale Monferrato alle scuole contaminate, perchè la battaglia continua [Asbestos: from Casale Monferrato to contaminated schools, the battle continues].

Asbestos Exposures at EU Parliament

May 27, 2016

After hearing evidence regarding asbestos exposures at the European Parliament’s Strasbourg headquarters in 2013, today (May 27, 2016), a guilty verdict was handed down on the behaviour of two of the three defendants. The guilty parties received suspended prison sentences of three months and fines of €20,000. A criminal case pending in this matter is yet to be decided as are claims brought by some of the 330 asbestos-exposed individuals and the European Parliament which has begun proceedings to recover sums spent on the remediation of the building. See: Amiante au Parlement européen: prison et amende avec sursis requis [Asbestos in the European Parliament: suspended prison sentence and fine].

Consequences of Asbestos in Italian Schools

May 27, 2016

Asbestos contamination is present at more than 2,400 schools throughout Italy. Data from 2015, recorded 63 mesothelioma deaths amongst school staff; those worst affected included: primary school teachers (10), high school teachers (6), intermediate teachers (6), janitors, etc. (6), chemical engineers (5), researchers, technical graduates and similar (3) and middle school teachers (3). A trial starting on June 29, 2016 in Florence will be the first Italian case for the death of a school teacher from asbestos disease. See: Stop amianto nelle scuole, scoppia la polemica a sinistra [Eliminate asbestos in schools, controversy amongst left-wing parties].

Fallout from Bush Fires

May 27, 2016

As clean-up operations have been proceeding in the town of Yarloop after bush fires in January destroyed 72,000 hectares of land and 181 properties and businesses, discoveries have been made of asbestos and lead debris much of which was found up to half a metre below ground. It’s believed that these deposits were attempts to dispose of unwanted toxic products created by demolition work in the 1950s and 1960s. State recovery coordinator Bob Hay has reassured local people that everything will be done to ensure that affected areas are remediated so that people can “rebuild their homes without concerns that they're being constructed in an unsafe environment.” See: Yarloop fire: clean-up uncovers asbestos and lead underground.

European Parliament Asbestos Exposures

May 26, 2016

On May 25, 2016, court proceedings began in the trial over asbestos exposures at the Strasbourg headquarters of the European Parliament in 2013 which endangered the health of more than 300 people many of whom have brought legal actions. The European Parliament has also brought a lawsuit against multiple defendants including an architect, project manager and contractor who were engaged in work at the Winston Churchill building; constructed in the 1970s, it is the oldest part of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. See: Amiante au Parlement européen: première journée du procès à Strasbourg [Asbestos in the European Parliament: first day of trial in Strasbourg].

Environmental Asbestos Hazard

May 26, 2016

Twenty-eight bags containing construction debris marked asbestos were found dumped in a rural area near Mission City in British Columbia, Canada last weekend (May 21-22, 2016). Commenting on the implications of hazardous fly-tipping, policeman Sergeant. Shaun Wright said: “Those materials can also present a significant health risk to the thousands of people who utilize the area for recreation as well as the wildlife which live in the area.” The District of Mission Public Works Department has engaged a specialist disposal company to remove the asbestos. See: Bags of asbestos found dumped in Stave West.

Action on Chemical Hazard – Finally?

May 25, 2016

On May 24, 2016, the Toxic Substances Control Act, a contentious bipartisan bill to overhaul federal regulation of asbestos and other dangerous chemicals in the US, was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives. On May 23, the White House said it would support the much-needed legislation in order to allow the federal government to evaluate and act on the use of hazardous chemicals. While critics, including Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, said the bill was too weak, others like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi felt it would “protect families and communities from toxic substances.” See: White House backs bill to overhaul asbestos regulation.

Implications of Italian Court Ruling

May 24, 2016

A Brazilian blog underlines the significance for asbestos victims in Brazil of a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court expected on May 31, 2016 in Rome. Swiss entrepreneur Stephan Schmidheiny, whose Eternit asbestos group operated in Italy, Brazil and scores of other countries, faces charges related to the asbestos deaths of 258 people between 1989 and 2014; 66 were former Eternit workers, the rest were members of the public. See: Corte Constitucional Italiana Julga em 31/5 mais um processo crime contra o Billardário Suíça do Amianto, Stephen Schmidheiny [Italian Constitutional Court Judgment May 31 on another Criminal Case against Swiss Billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny].

Gold Mining and the Asbestos Hazard

May 24, 2016

Plans by a Canadian gold mining company to commence operations in the town of Ierissos in northern Greece have raised serious objections from local people who calculate that the mine could produce eight million tonnes of asbestos-laden dust every year. Earlier this month (May 2016), the Greek Environment Ministry approved a technical study that allowed development of the mine to resume after work had been suspended in January. According to Reuters: “An official with the Greek energy ministry said in an interview [on May 6] that it had approved an amended technical study for Skouries to ensure that workers are safe from asbestos.” See: Skouries mine an asbestos hazard.

Ruling by Social Security Directorate

May 24, 2016

The Directorate of the National Institute of Social Security in Gipuzkoa, Spain, has acknowledged that the cancer death of an electrician employed by the steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal was due to asbestos exposure. This ruling paves the way for future asbestos lawsuits. The deceased received no warnings about the asbestos hazard; no protective measures were taken by the company. This case was progressed by the Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, the Workers' Commission. See: La viuda de un trabajador de Arcelor Olaberria que falleció por enfermedad derivada de amianto verá incrementada su pension [Pension of asbestos widow to be increased].

California Court Reinstates Plaintiff’s Verdict

May 24, 2016

On May 23, 2016, the California Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling to reinstate a multimillion-dollar jury verdict for the family of a worker who died from mesothelioma after asbestos exposure experienced whilst employed as a warehouseman and truck driver from 1969 to 1979 for a company that sold cement piping containing crocidolite asbestos. Damages of $5 million were awarded against the Special Electric Co., which supplied the asbestos without a warning label, and the pipe manufacturer Johns-Manville Corp. See: State Supreme Court rules for worker who was exposed to asbestos.

Civil Servants Win New Rights

May 24, 2016

Public servants who contract asbestos-related diseases from workplace exposures will be entitled to early retirement, aged 60, when new legislation is adopted according to a statement made on May 23, 2016 by the Minister of Public Service during a plenary session of the Joint Council of Public Service. Through a revision of Article 146 of the Finance Act 2016, the same rights will be given to public sector workers with asbestos-related diseases as are already provided to private sector workers. See: Bientôt de nouveaux droits pour les fonctionnaires victimes de l'amiante [Soon new rights for civil servants with asbestos diseases].

Unions Call for Asbestos Eradication Program

May 23, 2016

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has just released a guidance document entitled: “Asbestos – time to get rid of it” which highlights the existence in Britain of an asbestos epidemic – 5,000 Britons die every year from asbestos-related diseases – and categorically states that “so long as this asbestos is in place, workers will continue to be exposed and thousands more will die as a result of exposure.” Casting aspersions on the advice that asbestos-containing products can be “managed,” safely the TUC guidance document calls for “an agreed plan to safely remove and dispose of all asbestos once and for all.” See: Asbestos – time to get rid of it.

Critique of Causation Criteria

May 23, 2016

The Collegium Ramazzini, an international scientific organization which monitors developments in occupational and environmental medicine, has this month (May 2016) published a critique of 2014 criteria for the pathological diagnosis of asbestos-related diseases agreed by a committee convened by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) in Helsinki. Reliance on recommendations made in the FIOH report will, the authors predict, lead to under-diagnosis of legitimate cases, failure to compensate asbestos claims and lost opportunities to identify at-risk groups. See: Collegium Ramazzini: Comments on the 2014 Helsinki Consensus Report on Asbestos.

Rally by Injured Construction Workers

May 25, 2016

Three thousand protesters attended a rally at Tokyo’s Hibiya amphitheater on May 20, 2016 demanding the Japanese government and manufacturers of asbestos-containing building materials compensate them for injuries contracted through workplace exposures. The demonstrators called for the establishment of an asbestos victims’ compensation fund financed by the government and negligent corporations. Union leaders, politicians and victims’ advocates addressed the rally. See: アスベスト被害 3000人決起元労働者や遺族「早期解決を」 [Asbestos protest: 3000 former workers and bereaved families demand “early resolution”].

Italy’s Silent Massacre

May 25, 2016

The presence of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of asbestos-containing material in schools, hospitals, army barracks, homes and industrial sites on Sicily constitutes an ongoing threat to health. There are asbestos hotspots on the island where high incidences of asbestos cancer have been identified in areas with large petrochemical complexes. "Sicily was,” this article explains the “colony of the most dangerous industries that the North did not want.” By 2011, a total of 1,084 cases of asbestos cases had been recorded in Sicily. See: Amianto, in Sicilia un centinaio di morti nel 2015 [Asbestos, in Sicily a hundred deaths in 2015].

Protest by Construction Workers

May 21, 2016

On May 20, 2016, 3,000 construction workers held a public rally in Tokyo in support of the rights of construction workers injured by asbestos exposures. The event was a physical manifestation of the frustration of those marginalized by workplace diseases which defendants refuse to acknowledge despite legal precedents recognizing the negligence of government agencies and commercial organizations which failed to protect workers from the asbestos hazard. After the rally, protesters demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Taiheiyo Cement Corporation, a manufacturer of construction materials. See: Photo of event.

Calls for Asbestos Compensation Fund

May 21, 2016

On Thursday, May 19, cross-party support was expressed by the Basque Parliament for the establishment of a National Asbestos Compensation Fund by the Congress of Deputies in Madrid in recognition of the thousands of asbestos victims poisoned by exposure to the 2.6 million tonnes of asbestos used in Spain during the 20th century. Draft legislation proposed by the Basque politicians deplored the fact that thousands of asbestos victims were forced to fight protracted lawsuits to “claim their rights”; a national no-fault scheme would resolve this situation. See: El Parlamento Vasco pide a Madrid un fondo para víctimas del Amianto [Basque Parliament calls on Madrid to set up asbestos victims’ fund].

Risk from Naturally Occurring Asbestos

May 21, 2016

Questions are being raised about the capacity and desire of government agencies to monitor the liberation of asbestos fibers generated by infrastructure work ongoing near Boulder City, Nevada. There are no state laws or protective standards for naturally occurring asbestos; the only Nevada asbestos laws relate to exposures in buildings or during demolition work. As the construction of the highway bypass is federally-funded, OSHA standards must be provided for workers; these safeguards do not apply to members of the public who live or work in areas where asbestos fibers have been liberated by the construction. See: I-Team: Who's monitoring asbestos levels?

Chrysotile and Lung Cancer Mortality

May 20, 2016

Research undertaken over a number of years regarding the incidence of lung cancer mortality amongst a cohort of workers from a factory in Chongqing, China which used only white (chrysotile) asbestos for 40 years found that “chrysotile workers had a threefold-increased risk of lung cancer death… the high exposure group had a sixfold-increased risk of lung cancer death.” A paper just published confirms that “chrysotile exposure is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer mortality and development of asbestosis …” See: Exposure-Response Estimate for Lung Cancer and Asbestosis in a Predominantly Chrysotile-Exposed Chinese Factory Cohort.

Justice Under Asbestos Roof?

May 19, 2016

A petition was admitted by the Calcutta high court on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 against the presence of asbestos on the roof of the Court. The complainant seeks the removal of this material as it is “carcinogenic to humans.” After this week’s hearing, Justice Datta acknowledged the serious nature of the problem and scheduled a further hearing for June 7. If the situation has not been remedied by then, the Judge promised to follow up as he is a “member of the building committee of the court.” See: Portions of high court roof made of carcinogenic asbestos.

Schedule for Turin Asbestos Litigation

May 17, 2016

During court hearings on May 16 in a case against eighteen Olivetti defendants, including high-profile businessmen and politicians, who are facing charges of manslaughter and negligence over twelve asbestos deaths amongst workers, 100+ documents were submitted to the Judge by the prosecutor regarding Olivetti’s corporate structure and purchasing policies. At the end of the day, the Judge announced the schedule of hearings for this case which will continue until July 18. See: Morti da amianto alla Olivetti: la difesa chiede di analizzare nuovi documenti [Olivetti asbestos deaths: the defense asked to analyze new documents].

Mesothelioma: Links to other Cancers

May 17, 2016

Using data from several Swedish registers, researchers studied the familial risk of mesothelioma in offspring. Based on their findings, the scientists concluded that the: “Risk of mesothelioma was significantly increased when parents or siblings were diagnosed with mesothelioma… Mesothelioma was associated with kidney … and bladder cancers… in siblings.” While shared genetic factors and environmental history may have contributed to familial clusterings of mesothelioma, the association with kidney and bladder cancers requires further investigation. See: Incidence and familial risk of pleural mesothelioma in Sweden: a national cohort study.

Asbestos Victims’ Group Elects Board

May 17, 2016

Voting has taken place for board positions for the German umbrella group: Asbestose Selbsthilfergruppe which represents seven regional asbestos victims’ groups. Speaking after the election, the new Chairperson Harald Niemann, from the Hamburg group, said “ we have a lot of work in front of us… the recognition of cases of occupational disease is far too low especially for [people with] asbestos-related lung cancer.” Other successful candidates included: Bernhard Heise, Heinz-Peter Sattler, Peter Sperber and Dr. Evelyn Glensk. See: Pressemitteilung. Bundesverband der Asbestose Selbsthilfegruppen e.V. [News release. Federation of asbestosis support groups e.V.].

Asbestos Legacy at Air Base

May 16, 2016

Thousands of documents covering over twenty years which have been released under the US Freedom of Information Act reveal extensive pollution at Okinawa Island’s Kadena Air Base, the largest US Air Force installation in Asia. Years of neglect and accidents have polluted the infrastructure, land and water with toxins including asbestos, arsenic, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxin. Twenty thousand US service personnel and 3,000 Japanese workers are employed on this 46 square kilometre site. One hundred and eighty-four thousand civilians living in neighboring communities are also at risk from the pollution. See: Contamination: Kadena Air Base’s dirty secret.

Introduction of Stricter Asbestos Regime

May 16, 2016

A new French labor law which came into force on May 12, 2016 mandated the obligation for asbestos audits to be conducted prior to the commencement of any building work to protect workers from hazardous exposures and prevent environmental contamination. The responsibility for the asbestos surveys resides with the owners of buildings or vessels, works’ managers and others overseeing projects which might release or disturb asbestos. See: Amiante: la loi travail crée une obligation de repérage avant travaux [Asbestos: new labor law creates obligation before starting work].

New Tools for Ban Asbestos Struggle

May 16, 2016

Having considered the current global asbestos landscape, the authors of a new paper suggest the implementation of an international collaboration to raise awareness of the public health hazard posed by asbestos consumption. Measures which would be taken include: “new epidemiological studies for assessing the health impact of asbestos in specific contexts; socio-cultural and economic analyses for… identifying stakeholders… [and protocols to increase] public awareness on the health and socio-economic impact of asbestos use and banning.” See: Prevention of Asbestos-Related Disease in Countries Currently Using Asbestos.

Union Alert over Asbestos Hazard

May 16, 2016

The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) has raised an alert over the failure to train workers about the hazard posed by Tasmania’s 1,700 kilometres of asbestos-cement water pipes. Commenting on the situation, CEPU’s Trevor Gauld reported: “We're seeing situations where asbestos is not handled properly, it's not baggaged properly, it's not disposed of properly … I'm still talking to guys in some of those remote or outlying depots where there are no comprehensive asbestos registers in their workplace. Workers have not been trained in the safe identification.” See: Union concerned TasWater workers handling asbestos without proper training.

Minister’s Asbestos Ignorance

May 16, 2016

In a response this week to a question posed by an MP from Rethymno (Crete), Interior Minister Nicholas Tosca admitted that while the condition of the police station in Rethymno was probably the worst in Greece, the deterioration of asbestos-cement building products did not pose a health risk to members of the police or the public. The construction of a new station would be possible only if local authorities could find donors to finance the work. The Minister also denied any risk from the asbestos on the grounds it was incorporated within a cement product. See: ΤΟΣΚΑΣ: Θέλετε Αστυνομικό Μέγαρο; Βρείτε χορηγούς [Tosca: Want Police Department want to find sponsors].

Claimant 1: Asbestos Defendants 0

May 14, 2016

This week, Brazilian Judge Monica Batista Vieira Puglia ruled on behalf of the family of an asbestos worker who died from asbestosis despite a report by the court’s expert witness who said that the disease was not caused by workplace exposures. The Judge accepted evidence provided by doctors from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation about causation and awarded a monthly pension plus moral damages of Reais100,000 (US$28,520). See: JT garante indenização por amianto mesmo após laudo não apontar relação entre doença e atividade [JT awards compensation for asbestos disease even after report rejected the relationship between the disease and occupational asbestos exposure].

The Future: Asbestos-free Roofing

May 13, 2016

After six years of research and development, the Sri Lanka Engineering Research and Development Centre in Jaela has introduced asbestos-free roofing material in a bid to replace the use of toxic products in the country due to the “grave threat to health” of asbestos exposures. The environment friendly sheeting is made of sand, cement and a type of polythene net and can be produced by members of the public as a do-it-yourself project. The sheet is both heat resistant and strong and costs less than the asbestos alternative. The Sri Lanka government has issued a commitment to ban the new use of asbestos roofing by 2018. See: NERD produces environmental-friendly roofing sheets.

Post-Fire Asbestos Pollution

May 13, 2016

A fire which started on the afternoon of May 12, 2016 destroyed three industrial units, three sheds, a nursery, a furniture store and car dealership in the Dutch town of Amersfoort. No one was injured. The authorities are investigating the possibility of environmental asbestos contamination following the blaze, the cause of which remains unknown. It was unclear when the operators of local businesses and residents will be allowed back into the fire zone. See: Asbest vrijgekomen bij grote brand Amersfoort [Asbestos released by major fire in Amersfoort].

Environmental Asbestos Hazard

May 12, 2016

The Environmental and Occupational Lung Diseases Working Group of the Turkish Thoracic Society has issued warnings about the fallout from the demolition of asbestos-containing buildings during the country’s urban transformation program. Although the use of asbestos is now banned, the presence of asbestos within the Turkish infrastructure continues to pose a hazard, especially to people in the shipbuilding or construction sectors such as refurbishment and demolition workers. Recommendations made include the need for asbestos audits prior to the commencement of building work or demolition. See: Yıkımlarda ortaya çıkan asbest kanser yapıyor> [Asbestos cancer hazard of uncontrolled demolition].

Asbestos Scandal in UK Schools

May 12, 2016

A study by the Royal Institute of British Architects referenced yesterday (May 11, 2016) in The Guardian newspaper described hazardous conditions in UK schools: “The prevalence of damp, leaky classrooms and asbestos-ridden buildings in British schools means too many pupils and teachers are struggling to learn and teach in conditions damaging to their health and education.” Since a Parliamentary body published the policy paper: Asbestos in Schools – the Need for Action in 2012 nothing has been done to address a situation deemed to be a “national disgrace.” See: Poorly designed schools affecting pupils' performance, says RIBA.

FBI Investigation of Occupational Physician

May 12, 2016

A dossier disclosed during asbestos litigation in the United States contained a file from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Dr. Alice Hamilton, an occupational physician who, amongst other achievements, reported numerous safety and health hazards at facilities belonging to the General Electric (GE) Company. Asbestos was used by GE in power plants and ships to insulate steam turbines. There have been and continue to be many personal injury lawsuits brought over GE’s failure to provide warnings and protection to workers regarding asbestos health hazards. See: Alice Hamilton and the FBI.

Fine for Brazilian Asbestos Manufacturer

May 11, 2016

An agreement has been signed by the Ministry of Labor in Santa Catarina and Imbralit, the company operating the only factory in the state that used chrysotile asbestos. The firm must: monitor the health of former employees for 30 years, abide by a 2015 asbestos ban, dispose of contaminated stock as per regulations and pay a punitive fine of R$1m (US$300,000) – this money will be used for research into the asbestos hazard at work and at home. See: IMBRALIT fecha acordo de R$ 1 milhão com MPT e se compromete no acompanhamento à saúde dos empregados expostos ao amianto por 30 anos [Imbralit agrees R$1 million deal and commits to monitor health of asbestos-exposed employees for 30 years].

PM Backing Asbestos Ban

May 11, 2016

On May 10, 2016, the Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau told a construction trade union meeting that his party has “made the commitment that we are moving forward on a ban [on asbestos] in Canada.” After the Ottawa conference, officials from the Prime Minister's Office confirmed that the country’s asbestos policy which allows the import of asbestos-containing goods to continue is under review. Ban asbestos campaigner Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, is optimistic about the announcement of the ban before Parliament adjourns for the summer. See: Canada ‘moving forward’ on asbestos ban, Justin Trudeau says.

Addressing Paraná’s Asbestos Challenges

May 11, 2016

The launch of a collaborative project by the Ministry of Labor in Paraná and the Paraná Association of the Asbestos Exposed is taking place today in the State capital of Curitiba. As part of this initiative, a center is being established to: undertake the collection and processing of data on workers at high risk of contracting asbestos diseases; monitor the health of selected cohorts; carry out environmental risk assessments; raise both occupational and public health awareness of the asbestos hazard; work towards achieving an asbestos ban. See: Acordo de cooperação técnica monitora uso e doenças causadas pelo Amianto [Technical cooperation monitors use and diseases caused by asbestos].

Multimillion Euro Asbestos Plan

May 9, 2016

On May 3 and 4, 2016, a national asbestos conference was held in Rome to announce the results of a consultation regarding an asbestos road map for Italy. A plan produced by the Ministry of Health to identify at-risk workers, develop more effective treatments and improve the regulatory framework has been approved and will receive funds of €4.2m over the next three years. A further €2m is to be ring-fenced for research into new treatments and data collection. See: Prevenzione rischio Amianto: oltre 6 milioni per la ricerca [Asbestos Risk Prevention: over 6 million for research].

Environmental Asbestos Legacy

May 9, 2016

Asbestos debris may be buried but it is not gone as local people are finding out in the town of Mytholmroyd. A landslide caused by floods late last year (2015) has uncovered asbestos waste dumped decades ago by the Cape Asbestos Co. Ltd., one of the area’s biggest employers. Cape’s Acre Mill factory employed thousands of local people over the years. Amongst the products it manufactured were asbestos-containing gas masks for use during World War II. Alice Jefferson, who worked at this plant, contracted the asbestos cancer: mesothelioma. The film about her life “Alice – A Fight for Life” caused an uproar in Parliament and led to stricter regulations. See: More asbestos discovered in Mytholmroyd.

Asbestos Victims’ Audience with the Pope

May 9, 2016

Pope Francis received a delegation composed of 100 asbestos victims and family members at a ceremony in the Vatican held in the run-up to International Workers Memorial Day (April 28). Prior to this meeting, documents had been sent to the Pope detailing the suffering of thousands of Italians with asbestos-related diseases and the effects of these illnesses on their families and communities. Between 1993 and 2012, 21,463 cases of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma were registered; 70% of the injured had experienced workplace exposures, 20% had been unable to trace the source of their exposures. See: Amianto, il Papa riceve i malati e le famiglie [Asbestos, the Pope receives patients and families].

The Asbestos Information Association/NA

Apr 30, 2016

The Asbestos Information Association/North America (AIA/NA) played a major role in the global propaganda campaign mounted by asbestos vested interests to expand asbestos markets. It was connected to a slew of other bodies which fronted multilingual and glossy propaganda campaigns such as the Asbestos Information Association and the Asbestos Institute (Canada) etc. (see: British Asbestos Newsletter, Issue 48). An article just published discusses how this industry trade group worked to neutralize adverse findings and forestall government action. See: “Unleashed on an Unsuspecting World”: The Asbestos Information Association and Its Role in Perpetuating a National Epidemic.

Support for Asbestos Sector

Apr 29, 2016

Even though asbestos usage is low in Azerbaijan (319 tonnes in 2014), support for the industrial asbestos sector of its neighbors Russia and Kazakhstan is strong, as evinced by an online article which bemoans the “asbestos phobia” which has led to criticism over the continued use of asbestos-cement roofing material which is, says the text, unwarranted. The “anti-asbestos hysteria” has been initiated, so the author claims, by the United States even though “almost all” asbestos substitutes can cause cancer [wrong] and asbestos-cement is very economical. See: От асбеста крыша едет [Asbestos roofing under attack].

IBAS Travel Bursary 2016

Apr 26, 2016

Colombian ban asbestos campaigner artist Guillermo Villamizar has been awarded a travel grant by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat to participate at the International Mesothelioma Interest Group conference in Birmingham (May 1-5, 2016). Mr. Villamizar will be making a poster presentation on May 3, 2016 entitled: Art & Science: Relationship with Human Anatomy from Aesthetic and Scientific Perspectives. A stunning piece produced by the artist in 2013 entitled “The Female Face of Britain’s Asbestos Catastrophe” featured victims of occupational and environmental asbestos exposures. See: Photo of Guillermo Villamizer and his 2013 artwork.

Toxic Debris Endangers Public Health

Apr 26, 2016

An essay published online on April 23, 2016 by Chemical Engineer Eva Jimenez examines the response, or lack thereof, by municipal and federal authorities to the dumping of asbestos waste in the Ramabujas River and surrounding areas. Since 2004, the paltry levels of fines and the lack of political will to engage with this pressing environmental problem have created a dangerous stalemate which leaves the public at risk of contracting deadly diseases through the inhalation of chrysotile (white) and amosite (brown) asbestos fibers liberated by mounds of toxic waste which are sited in close proximity to residential areas. See: El amianto en el Polígono: la historia interminable [Asbestos in the industrial area: The Neverending Story].

Asbestos at the Palace of the Republic

Apr 25, 2016

On the 40th anniversary of the opening of the East German Parliament, the 15,300 square metre Palace of the Republic, a news report speculated that the final cost of Erich Honecker’s imposing seat of government with its gold tinted-windows, two large auditoria, art galleries, a theatre, 13 restaurants, bowling alley, post office, and discothèque could have exceeded a billion Marks. In October 1990 the building was shut down due to asbestos contamination. Investigations revealed that in 1974, 5,000 tonnes of sprayed asbestos fireproofing had been applied to the steelwork. The building was demolished in 2008. See: Gone, but not forgotten. Berlin remembers the Palace of the Republic.

Third Wave of Asbestos Deaths

Apr 20, 2016

A report commissioned by Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency predicts there will be 19,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed between 2015 and the end of the century. It is estimated that 8,000 of these will result from non-occupational exposures; the members of this cohort are part of the third wave of disease. Due to the extensive use of asbestos in the construction of Australia’s housing, many of those affected will have been exposed to asbestos directly or indirectly during DIY renovations. The report recognizes the risk to human health of low dose exposures. See: The Third Wave – Australian Mesothelioma Analysis & Projection.

Industry Offensive in Asbestos Homeland

Apr 19, 2016

Russian online media reported on April 18 that two asbestos companies in the Sverdlovsk region could be facing bankruptcy because of actions by the European Union which, say the article, are based on faulty information. Chrysotile asbestos is perfectly safe as company representatives show in footage accompanying this article – local children are filmed building with asbestos products and wearing company tee shirts. The most notable detail about the pro-asbestos rally shown in the video is the small number of people in attendance. See: Камень преткновения: уральцы вышли на митинг в защиту хризотила [The stumbling block: the Urals rally in defense of chrysotile].

Asbestos Whistleblowers: A Documentary

Apr 19, 2016

On April 17, a film about the work of French whistleblowers who denounced asbestos and pesticide scandals was premièred in two cities in the department of Tarn, southern France. The film followed the work of an asbestos factory worker, a farmer and scientists: Henri Pézerat and Dr. Annie Thebaud-Mony. The director of the film Peter Pézerat quotes his father Henri’s belief that workers were “the sentinels of the toxicological risk, occupational or environmental.” See: “Les Sentinelles,” un film-hommage aux lanceurs d'alerte sur les grands scandales sanitaires [“The Sentinels,” a film tribute to whistleblowers on major health scandals].

Payout for Australian Exposure

Apr 17, 2016

Des Sayegh, an 81-year old New Zealand carpenter, was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year. His exposure to asbestos in New Zealand was acknowledged with a $100,000 government payout plus other support such as the provision of home help, specialist equipment and taxi chits. Another case he brought in Australia over toxic exposure received during an 11 month period in the late 1970s when he worked in Nyabing, Western Australia has also succeeded; he has received an out-of-court settlement from Australia’s asbestos giant: James Hardie, also known as the killer company. See: Dying Kiwis Win Payouts in Australia for Asbestos Exposure.

Gold Mining and Asbestos Pollution

Apr 17, 2016

The results of inspections carried out by government agencies in December 2015 at the proposed site of the Skouries gold mine were reported in a letter circulated earlier this month to various ministries; highly toxic varieties of amphibole asbestos were found in deposits on this site in Haldiki, Northern Greece. In multiple submissions and applications, developers had neglected to mention the presence of asbestos and the occupational and public health hazard which would be created by blasting and other extraction methods to access the ore. There has been serious opposition to this project from local people and environmentalists. See: Βρέθηκε αμίαντος στις Σκουριές [Asbestos Found in Slag].

New Tools for Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Apr 17, 2016

A study of three Turkish cohorts assessed the efficacy of biomarkers in predicting the presence of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). More than half of the 48 subjects in the asbestos-exposed group had pleural plaques; this group also had higher levels of the mesothelin antigen than the control group. The MPM group of 42 patients had “significantly higher mean EGFR, TRX, SMRP, and fibulin-3 levels... SMRP and TRX levels increased in a graded fashion among the control, asbestos exposure, and MPM groups, respectively.” See: Evaluation of New Biomarkers in the Prediction of Malignant Mesothelioma in Subjects with Environmental Asbestos Exposure.

Contaminated Schools Scandal

Apr 16, 2016

Protests on April 14, 2016 by parents whose children attend Woodland Primary School in Pietermaritzburg, the capital of the South African Province of KwaZulu-Natal, highlighted the threat posed by asbestos exposures to pupils and teachers who work in 43-year old “temporary” classrooms made entirely of asbestos. According to a local contractor, the school is “uninhabitable,” and should be condemned due to the serious danger to human health. After inspecting the school last month, he reported: “broken asbestos boards in the bathroom and … black mould growing in the asbestos in the ceilings.” See: Poisonous classrooms.

Ban Asbestos Mobilization in Brazil

Apr 15, 2016

State Deputy for São Paulo Marcos Martins, in collaboration with the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, will host a ceremony in the legislative assembly today (April 15, 2016) to mark the beginning of Ban Asbestos Week. Fernanda Giannasi, one of the country’s leading ban asbestos campaigners, will address the meeting. Activities in Osasco – an industrial area formerly the heart of Brazil’s asbestos cement industry – will take place from April 18 to 24 to raise public awareness of the asbestos hazard, with an ecumenical service on April 24. See: Ato solene marca abertura da Semana de Combate ao Amianto [Solemn Ceremony Marks Opening Ban Asbestos Week].

Illegal Imports Endanger Workers

Apr 15, 2016

Nine hundred and sixty-eight asbestos-contaminated gear switch panels made in Malaysia are present at 51 sites belonging to Ausgrid – a state owned electricity infrastructure company. The Australian electricity provider confirms that the items contain both white and brown asbestos and were imported illegally sometime between 2007 and 2014. TAMCO, the Malaysian manufacturer of the panels, also lists as clients Energy Australia, Integral Energy and Optus, other well-known and large Australian utilities. See: ‘This is a death sentence for those workers’: Hundreds of Ausgrid employees exposed to asbestos in substations across Sydney.

Asbestos Company Seeks Restitution

Apr 14, 2016

A press release issued on April 12, 2016 by ANDEVA, the French organization representing regional asbestos victims groups, is scathing about an attempt by the asbestos defendant corporation Eternit to pursue legal options to recover court-awarded compensation payouts from government coffers. This case is currently being adjudicated by the Versailles Appeal Court; a decision will be announced in a few weeks. A judgment favouring Eternit’s arguments had been handed down in 2014 by the Administrative Court. See: Amiante: Eternit au Coeur d’un triple scandale judiciare [Asbestos: Eternit at the heart of a triple judicial scandal].

Support for Canadian Asbestos Ban

Apr 14, 2016

The Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) – representing 400+ Canadian vehicle recyclers and dismantlers – today endorsed calls for the import and use of asbestos-containing products to be banned in Canada to stop hazardous exposures being experienced by people engaged in the recycling of end-of-life vehicles. Between 2005 and 2015, Canadian imports of asbestos-containing brake pads and linings were valued at $100 million. According to the ARC, “imports of asbestos containing brake pads into Canada continue to increase unabated.” See: Automotive recyclers call for federal action to eliminate import and use of asbestos brake pads in Canada.

Warnings over Toxic Chinese Flasks

Apr 14, 2016

Italy’s Ministry of Health has issued alerts over the sale of 0.75 and 0.35 liter thermos flasks with plastic exteriors imported from China by the Galileo company found to be contaminated with asbestos after government agencies undertook scientific analyses of sample goods. The Public Prosecutor in Venice is considering legal action over these illegal sales. This discovery that imported flasks from China contained asbestos is one of many; recently consumers in Pescara were warned of similar products being sold in local supermarkets. See: Allerta: amianto nei thermos cinesi. Il Ministero della Salute li ritira dal mercato [Alert: Asbestos in Chinese thermos. Ministry withdraws them from market].

Urban Ruin of Asbestos Capital

Apr 12, 2016

The Russian City of Asbestos (Asbest), a formerly prosperous one-industry town, is beset my multiple problems and has, so an online feature suggests descended into urban chaos. Having lived in the town for a few days, the investigating reporter documents a collapse in employment opportunities and multiple failures in the provision of basic amenities, housing and communal services. While the town relies on meagre government subsidies, the asbestos company which dominates municipal life pays its shareholders 900+ million roubles. See: Асбест. Город олимпийских чемпионов и коммунального ада [Asbestos. City of Olympic champions and utilities hell].

Asbestos: Police Raid in Naples

Apr 12, 2016

As a result of a police raid on a derelict site in “Colli Aminei” – a hilly area of Naples – illegal asbestos-containing debris was identified and seized; the confiscated material included asbestos-cement pipes and roofing sheets, some of which were partially buried in the ground. By law, the owners of the overgrown and contaminated site are required to undertake the work required to make the area safe. Other buildings and several homes are located in close proximity to the contamination. See: Manufatto ricoperto da amianto: blitz della polizia a Napoli [Artifact covered with asbestos: Police blitz in Naples].

Málaga Asbestos Zero Campaign

Apr 12, 2016

Activists in southern Spain are collaborating on a campaign to achieve the total eradication of asbestos from schools in the shortest possible time under the banner of Málaga Amianto Cero [Málaga Asbestos Zero]. Pointing out the acknowledged hazards posed by exposure to asbestos, campaigners highlight the failure to quantify the situation regarding the presence of asbestos-containing products within the country’s educational infrastructure. In the information vacuum which persists, the precautionary principle should be followed to protect school children and staff from deadly exposures. See: Manifiesto por la liberación del amianto en las aulas [Manifesto for asbestos removal from classrooms].

Raising Asbestos Awareness in Vietnam

Apr 11, 2016

Asbestos issues were part of a packed agenda for delegates attending activities in Hanoi last week (April 6-10, 2016), including a workshop on the subject of Ethics in Research, Policy Advocacy and Health-Related Policy Development organized by a consortium of Vietnamese civil society groups and non-governmental organizations. Canadian Professor emeritus Dr. Colin Soskolne presented epidemiological data documenting the asbestos hazard as well as information about the human health effects of exposures. Also featured on the agenda were presentations by Vietnamese medical and occupational health experts. See: Group Photo.

Asbestos Wasteland or Tropical Paradise?

Apr 10, 2016

A feature article in the National Geographic details widespread asbestos contamination on Banaba island, a coral island, in the island nation of Kiribati in the central Pacific Ocean. Asbestos is found in crumbling colonial houses, schools, old factories and in the fields where staple crops are being grown. Abandoned factory buildings formerly owned by British Phosphate Commission are now home to island residents who have been aware of the asbestos hazard for a few years. When the company left Banaba, they also left the crumbling asbestos housing behind. See: Living on a Tropical Island – and an Asbestos Wasteland.

Canadian Agency Bans Asbestos

Apr 10, 2016

Public Services and Procurement Canada, the department of the federal government responsible for internal servicing and administration, banned the use of asbestos in all new construction and renovation projects as of April 1, 2016. By the end of April 2016, a complete asbestos inventory of all Crown-owned buildings will also be on a government database. Recently, Canada’s Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour MaryAnn Mihychuk, announced that the Ottawa government was considering an asbestos ban in all construction projects. See: PSAC applauds asbestos ban at Public Services and Procurement Canada.

Criminal Investigation of Asbestos Deaths

Apr 9, 2016

Stefano Puppo, a public prosecutor from Genoa, is investigating complaints by trade unions regarding the asbestos deaths of hundreds of individuals employed by the Sanac company. The actions of five former corporate officials are under scrutiny. Until its demise at the end of the 1990s, Sanac had been the dominant player in Italy’s refractory industry for over 50 years. Potential charges that could be brought include manslaughter and negligent injury. See: Amianto killer: indagati cinque ex dirigenti della Sanac [Killer Asbestos: five former Sanac executives under investigation].

Mesothelioma: A Journalist’s Story

Apr 6, 2016

An April 5, 2016 opinion piece by Australian journalist Trevor Grant documents his fight with the asbestos cancer mesothelioma – from receiving his diagnosis in 2015 aged 63 to his current treatment with the new and expensive drug Keytruda. His reaction to hearing the name of his illness was shock; mesothelioma, he thought, was contracted by people exposed to asbestos at mines or construction sites not in newspaper rooms. Enquiries revealed, however, that there was plenty of asbestos all around him as he progressed his career in journalism. A legal case against James Hardie resulted in a “a significant pay-out… (but) not an admission of guilt.” See: I was blindsided by cancer, and the asbestos that caused it.

Pressure Builds for Asbestos Ban

Apr 6, 2016

Ban asbestos campaigners from the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) are urging members of the public and politicians to support the passing of Senate Bill No. 89 to ban asbestos. The TUCP has sponsored an online petition calling for national action on this known carcinogen to increase pressure on the government which has been deliberating on this issue for a number of years. In 2013 and 2014 the Philippines imported 2,651 and 2,805 tonnes of asbestos, respectively, for use in asbestos building products in homes, public buildings and workplaces. See: Urge the Philippine Senate to pass the bill banning asbestos.

Screening for At-Risk Workers

Apr 5, 2016

This week, 150 active and retired sheet metal workers are being screened for symptoms of asbestos-related and other occupational diseases by a branch of the Sheet Metal Workers International Union at a pop-up clinic in Pittsburgh. Due to toxic exposures experienced by workers fabricating and installing ducting in heating and air conditioning systems, the union has been holding such sessions every five years since the 1980s. According to Dr. David Hinkamp, overseeing the screening project, every single worker examined has recounted examples of historic and current asbestos exposures. See: Sheet Metal Workers Screened For Asbestos-Related Diseases.

Damning Testimony of Olivetti Exposures

Apr 5, 2016

In the absence of the accused, witnesses continue to testify about the failure by Olivetti to protect workers from hazardous asbestos exposures, citing their past use during wartime of an asbestos-free alternative: martinite. Expert Stefano Silvestri testified that the Ivrea Olivetti plant was awash with asbestos; it was in the roofing, insulation and talc products to prevent typewriter rollers from rubbing. No protective clothing or equipment was provided as a result of which many have died and others are dying from avoidable asbestos-related diseases. See: Olivetti, quelle morti inutili: “Amianto, c'era l'alternativa” [Olivetti, those unnecessary deaths, “Asbestos, there was a safer alternative”].

Pacific Region Awash with Asbestos

Apr 5, 2016

A report issued this week entitled “The State of Asbestos in the Pacific” was compiled by the regional environment programme SPREP and the World Health Organisation, with funding from the European Union. It confirms that the ongoing use of asbestos-containing products imported from Asia is “exacerbating an already serious problem.” The survey undertaken of 13 island countries located more than 180,000 square meters of asbestos [sic] in non-residential buildings; not one Pacific island nation has banned asbestos. Stewart Williams, the project’s manager, expressed serious concerns about the aftermath of natural disasters in areas with asbestos-riddled buildings. See: New asbestos exacerbating Pacific problems.

Legacy of Asbestos Cement Production

Apr 4, 2016

Since January 2008, members of the Neighborhood Association of El Tajo have been campaigning for action to address the hazard posed by tonnes of asbestos waste at a farm near a populated area by the Tagus River. Along with others, the Association submitted a complaint to the Attorney General in June 2014. Studies have been undertaken which speculated that the asbestos-cement company Ibertudo – shut in 2002 – was responsible for the contamination on the farm and at other redeveloped sites. New owners of the tainted land are being held responsible for costly asbestos removal work. See: Ibertubo acumulaba 50.000 m2 de fibrocemento [Ibertubo accumulated 50,000 m2 of fiber cement].

São Paulo State vs. Asbestos

Apr 4, 2016

Politicians in São Paulo State, which like the States of Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco has banned asbestos, will increase pressure on the federal government to ban asbestos use during a week of lobbying this month. A session in the São Paulo Legislative Assembly on April 15 will provide the opportunity for State Deputy Marcos Martins, asbestos victims’ campaigners and trade unionists to call for urgent action. Brazil is both an asbestos user and producer; the level of output from the chrysotile asbestos mine in Goiás State makes Brazil the world’s 3rd largest producing nation. See: Poster.

Outreach Project in Asbestos Hotspot

Apr 4, 2016

On Wednesday this week (April 6) a community campaigning body – the Asbestos Interest Group – will hold an information sharing session for local people in the former South African mining town of Kuruman. Amongst the expert speakers will be specialists in the fields of occupational health and oncology who will focus on issues of particular relevance to this at-risk community, including the effects of environmental asbestos exposure on health, the monitoring of and treatment for asbestos cancer and the importance of family and community support for the injured. The session will conclude with a candle-lighting ceremony to remember those whose lives have been affected by asbestos-related diseases.

Ban Asbestos Law Debate in Senate

Apr 3, 2016

This week on April 5, the Senate of Colombia will debate draft law 97/ 2015 submitted by Senator Nadia Blel Scaff which “prohibits the production, marketing, export, import and distribution of any variety of asbestos in Colombia.” As with other legislative attempts to outlaw asbestos use, there has been intensive lobbying by commercial vested interests such as Eternit Colombiana S.A., Eternit Pacifico S.A., and Eternit Atlántico S.A. In 2013 & 2014 Colombia imported 15,961 and 7,063 tonnes of asbestos, respectively. See: Ley 97 para prohibir el asbesto PRIMER DEBATE!! Danos tu empujón! [Law 97 to ban asbestos FIRST DEBATE!! Give us your support!].

Government Asbestos Propaganda

Apr 2, 2016

A Russian language article published in Azerbaijan concludes that asbestos critics are part of an economic conspiracy orchestrated by vested interests, including US lawyers, asbestos removal companies and manufacturers of asbestos-free alternatives. Denouncing the “anti-asbestos hysteria,” the article maintains that the use of chrysotile asbestos under “controlled conditions” is safe and is a concept approved under ILO Convention 162 and the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. Chrysotile fibers are, the author recounts, “rapidly cleared from the body and are not dangerous.” See: Азербайджан затягивают в асбестную войну [Azerbaijan to tighten asbestos war].

Payouts for Pleural Plaques in Scotland

Apr 1, 2016

On March 31, 2016, Scotland’s Court of Sessions awarded Roger Harris £15,000 compensation in full and final settlement of his claim for contracting pleural plaques. Experts predict that an uplift in the value of these claims is likely. Mr. Harris contracted this condition after he experienced high levels of asbestos exposure whilst employed by the Ministry of Defence between 1961 and 1977. Commenting on the verdict, a legal expert said the decision “shows the progress made in Scottish Courts in recognising the distress caused by the presence of pleural plaques.” See: Significant" judgement for asbestos-related cancer sufferers.

Asbestos at the Opera House

Mar 31, 2016

Complaints to the Labor Inspectorate have been submitted by the Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), Spain’s largest trade union, over the failure to carry out planned asbestos removal work at the Maestranza Opera House, Seville over the Easter break. On previous occasions, the use of faulty asbestos removal procedures at the theater exposed actors, musicians and other union members to asbestos liberated during removal work. See: CCOO denuncia ante la Inspección sus primeras investigaciones de las obras con amianto del Maestranza [CCOO complaint over asbestos works at the Maestranza Theater].

Asbestos Audits Mandated

Mar 31, 2016

Asbestos health and safety regulations which come into force from April 4, 2016 under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 mandate the introduction of measures to prevent asbestos contamination during renovations and demolitions. A two-tier licensing system for the removal of more than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos or any amount of friable asbestos is being introduced. Industry insiders report a “big jump” in building owners needing asbestos surveys and a shortage of qualified staff to ensure compliance with the new regulations. See: New asbestos regulations hit building owners.

Asbestos Exposures of Military Personnel

Mar 31, 2016

Data collated by Italy’s Parliamentary Commission of Asbestos Inquiry have revealed the devastation wrought by asbestos exposures on service personnel. Amongst the details documented was the occurrence of 621 cases of asbestos-related diseases amongst military personnel between 1993 and 2012. As of now, asbestos has been fully removed from only 20% and partially removed from 44% of Italian naval vessels, despite laws dating from 1992 which mandate measures to protect citizens from hazardous exposures. See: Arsenale, emergena Amianto: ecco I numeri dell’esposizione [Arsenal asbestos emergency: here are the exposure numbers].

Removal of Asbestos-cement Water Pipes

Mar 30, 2016

Around 40,000 kilometers of asbestos-cement pipelines deliver water to consumers throughout Australia. The pipes are nearing the end of their useful life and will need to be replaced. Officials have estimated that the cost for this work could be up to $8 billion. Many of these toxic materials were made by Australia’s “asbestos giant:” James Hardie. The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), an independent body set up in 2013, to tackle problems arising from widespread asbestos contamination is now under threat from cuts in government funding. See: Asbestos-laden water piping ‘needs upgrading at cost of $8 billion.’

Expanding National Asbestos Dialogue

Mar 29, 2016

On March 17, 2016, events took place at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Indonesia in Jakarta during which expert speakers shared their knowledge about the asbestos hazard with up to 100 delegates from civil society organizations, campaigning groups, academic disciplines, medical schools and government agencies during a workshop and focus group discussions on asbestos and mercury. Amongst the lecturers were Prof. Dr. dr. Med. Dennis Nowak, Director of Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, University Hospital, Munich, and Dr. Anna Suraya, an occupational medicine specialist. See: From environmental exposure to familial health. Lessons learned from asbestos.

Report Slams Asbestos in Schools Scandal

Mar 29, 2016

A report issued this weekend by the Joint Union Asbestos Committee at the National Union of Teachers conference in Brighton, documented government knowledge about the presence of asbestos in 75% of schools, calling the failure to act on this national scandal “disgraceful.” Successive governments had, said the report, shown a “scandalous disregard for life” by failing to mandate rigorous measures to prevent future cases of asbestos cancer. According to asbestos campaigner Hank Roberts, this report proved that “absolutely everything you can think of has been going wrong - negligence, deceit, lying.” See: Asbestos scandal ‘threatens school pupils’ health’ investigation warns.

Mobilization for Canadian Asbestos Ban

Mar 29, 2016

Canadian labor federations, victims’ groups, nurses’ associations, municipal councils, charities and individuals are pressing the new Prime Minister to honor a campaign pledge to ban asbestos in Canada. Federal funding for new capital projects underlines the necessity to ban asbestos to avoid incorporating more of this toxic substance into the country’s infrastructure in the form of pipes, cement or other building materials. According to trade data from Statistics Canada asbestos-related imports rose to a six-year high in 2015 with an inflow of goods valued $8.3 million; the figure for 2016 was $6m. See: Pressure mounts on Ottawa to join wide ban on asbestos.

Video Evidence of Asbestos Hazards

Mar 27, 2016

Three videos have been uploaded to youtube which reveal the dangers of widespread asbestos use in Indonesia. The subjects covered are:
1) environmental asbestos exposures;
2) occupational exposures;
3) the unregulated and unsafe dumping of toxic debris in the community.
In 2014, Indonesia used 54,000 tonnes of asbestos (see: consumption data for 2014), a decline on previous years but nevertheless a significant amount.

Environmental Exposures in Toledo

Mar 26, 2016

Dumping of asbestos-containing material poses a serious threat to people living in the environs of Toledo, Spain. Complaints by members of a local community group have been dismissed by government officials who state categorically that there “is no environmental problem” despite the presence of tonnes of toxic debris on waste land close to the Santa Maria Benquerencia neighborhood, home to 22,000 people. Much of the contamination was produced during manufacturing operations at a local asbestos factory. See: Los habitantes del barrio del Polígono están expuestos al asbestos [The people of the Polygon neighborhood exposed to asbestos].

Mesothelioma Breakthrough by UK Scientists?

Mar 25, 2016

Researchers from universities in Bradford and Surrey have published findings which show that a drug called HRX9 stops the growth of human mesothelioma tumors implanted in mice. After three weeks of treatment with this drug the mesothelioma tumors stopped growing due to a total loss of tumor blood vessels and the widespread death of cancer cells. According to the researchers, HRX9 knocks out a key defense mechanism for the mesothelioma cells; this is the first drug that has been found to trigger the apoptosis of unhealthy cells – cancer cell suicide – in mesothelioma. See: Mesothelioma gene-targeting drug looks hopeful.

Asbestos Hazard Recognized

Mar 23, 2016

On March 2, 2016, Gambia’s National Environment Agency reaffirmed its commitment before a Parliamentary body to work with stake-holding partners to address the hazards posed by asbestos-containing building materials. The Public Accounts and Public Enterprise Committees unanimously adopted the Agency’s report as a matter of public safety with lawmakers such as Lamin Jammeh, representing the Illiasa constituency, and Mam Cherno Jallow, from Upper Nuimi, highlighting the threat posed by the use of asbestos-containing water pipes. See: Lawmakers Want Change of Asbestos Water Pipes.

Routine Flouting of Prohibitions

Mar 21, 2016

Despite the introduction in 2015 of a ban on asbestos consumption, imports and sales in Nepal, research undertaken by local activists has revealed that demand for asbestos-containing products remains strong, prompted by a targeted and well resourced national marketing campaign by the asbestos lobby. The popularity of asbestos-containing roofing products in the Tarai Region constitutes a “growing cancer risk.” With a total lack of bureaucratic oversight, and a failure by the government to record data on toxic imports, the situation can only get worse. See: Overhead hazard: Asbestos used as roofing in houses and schools has become a growing cancer risk.

Campaigning to Ban Asbestos in Asia

Mar 21, 2016

An initiative by Australia’s Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA in collaboration with ban asbestos activists was launched in South East Asia during February 2016 under the banner: “ASBESTOS. Not here. Not anywhere.” The focus of this campaign is the human and environmental threats posed by increasing consumption of white asbestos throughout the region. A video highlighting the problems caused by asbestos usage in Indonesia documents the total lack of public and occupational awareness of the asbestos hazard and daily exposures to 7,000 workers at 26 factories. See: ASBESTOS. Not here. Not anywhere.

Shipbuilder Fined for Asbestos Death

Mar 21, 2016

The Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri – Cantieri Navali Italiani S.p.A. – was fined €1.1m (US$1.24m) by a Labor Court on February 26, 2016 for the death in 2006 of a 55-year-old electrical welder who had been hazardously exposed to asbestos on a daily basis whilst employed from the 1970s to 1990 by the company. The damages were awarded to the three children of the deceased worker. The company, which is based in the town of Trieste, was formed in 1959 and is owned by the Italian State. It is the largest shipbuilder in Europe. See: Fincantieri to pay 1.1 million.

Ford’s Multi-million Dollar Defense

Mar 21, 2016

A recent exposé by U.S. journalists documents payments of millions of dollars by the Ford Motor Company for research that “proves” that auto mechanics did not contract mesothelioma from asbestos in Ford brake products. Documents cited include: a 1968 report which said that brake linings contained up to 60% asbestos and a 1971 memo which estimated the cost of replacing asbestos front end brakes at $1.25/car; as this cost was deemed “severe,” no action was taken. At Ford’s bidding, consultants produced material supporting the company’s position that “employment as a motor vehicle mechanic does not increase the risk of developing mesothelioma.” See: Ford spent $40 million to reshape asbestos science.

Scandal over Toxic Imports from China

Feb 15, 2016

Peter Tighe, the CEO of Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, has expressed concern that asbestos-containing cement sheeting imported from China has been identified at 64 construction sites in Australia stating: “Our young tradespeople haven't been trained to deal with these products. They think they're asbestos free.” Other asbestos-containing imports from China have included children’s crayons, automobiles and railway vehicles. Citing Australia's declining manufacturing base and lack of oversight on imports, trade union leaders have warned that more deadly imports could be on their way. See: Dozens of Australian building sites contaminated by illegal Chinese asbestos imports, authorities say.

Court Condemns Asbestos “Unions”

Feb 15, 2016

On February 11, 2016, the Regional Labor Court of Campinas confirmed the verdict of a lower court in a civil case brought by the Ministry of Labor against the actions of industry-backed “trade unions.” These bodies – nicknamed “yellow unions” – have made agreements with asbestos companies and associations supporting the controlled use of asbestos. The courts found that these arrangements were highly damaging to the interests of workers. Although several states and municipalities in Brazil have banned asbestos, the federal government supports the industry mythology that asbestos can be used safely under controlled conditions.

Asbestos Hearing in Bogota Adjourned

Feb 11, 2016

On February 9, 2016, the judge overseeing a pivotal case in Bogota convened the latest proceedings in a class action initiated by Juan Jose Lalinde 10 years ago about the use of asbestos in Colombia. The defendants in this lawsuit are asbestos companies. In 2015, lawyer Ramiro Bejarano, who represents Eternit – the company which dominates the country’s asbestos sector – submitted a “Compliance Agreement” in an attempt to seek a judicially-sanctioned compromise that would allow asbestos use to continue. An observer reported that litigant Lalinde was not in court and that the proceedings were adjourned after one hour. If the Judge finds for the plaintiff, the verdict could end asbestos use in Colombia.

Environmental Asbestos Contamination

Feb 11, 2016

A report entitled “Transport and Deposition of Asbestos-Rich Sediment in the Sumas River, Whatcom County, Washington” just released by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents high levels of asbestos fiber in water and sediment from the Sumas River in the wake of a large active landslide on the western flank of Sumas Mountain. In 2012 and 2013, 24,000 and 54,000 tons of suspended sediment, respectively were transported by the river; up to 37% of the mass of river sediment samples tested was asbestos. See: New Study Examines Naturally Occurring Asbestos Carried in Sumas River Sediment.

Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer Figures

Feb 11, 2016

Even in countries where most mesothelioma cases are accurately diagnosed, the recognition of asbestos-related lung cancers remains problematic. Researchers in the Netherlands using three different modelling methods predicted that the number of Dutch cases that would occur between 2011 and 2030 would be between 6,800 and 17,500. Given the discrepancy in these figures, the authors of this paper concluded that the “accurate estimation of the impact of asbestos exposure on the lung cancer burden remains a challenge.” See: Expected number of asbestos-related lung cancers in the Netherlands in the next two decades: a comparison of methods.

Asbestos Pride in Kazakhstan

Feb 10, 2016

In a newspaper report issued on February 8, 2016, a city in the Kostanay area in northern Kazakhstan boasted that it was on course to become a global “asbestos” champion with exported chrysotile (white asbestos) fiber being shipped to India, Thailand and elsewhere. While extolling the virtues of asbestos and calling for enterprises to expand their consumption, the company spokesman also bemoaned a drop in output and the economic necessity of reducing production costs. Steps are, he said, being taken to streamline mining and processing operations. See: В Костанайской области асбестовое производство метит в мировые чемпионы [Kostanay region aims to be asbestos production world champions].

British Asbestos Newsletter

Feb 10, 2016

The Autumn-Winter 2015-2016 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The lead article in issue 99 details the implementation of changes in the government regime for compensating former service personnel who have contracted the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. The feature article entitled “Eradicating the Asbestos Hazard” is a detailed analysis of new data, political initiatives and literature that quantify the impact of asbestos-related disease on British citizens and call for measures to protect public and occupational health from hazardous exposures. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, issue 99.

Landmark Decision by Supreme Court

Feb 10, 2016

In a remarkable reversal of policy, Spain’s Supreme Court recognized the responsibility of Uralita, a successor company, to compensate workers exposed to asbestos by their previous employer, a company which Uralita had owned shares in. This decision was affected by a ruling handed down on March 5, 2015 by the European Court of Justice and acknowledged the “absolute connection” between the commercial enterprises. See: El Supremo cambia de opinión: la responsabilidad por la falta de medidas de seguridad se traspasa en la sucesión empresarial [Supreme Court U-turn: responsibility for lack of safety measures was transferred in business succession].

Toxic Legacy of Asbestos Cement Factory

Feb 9, 2016

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry is recommending that no new building permits be issued for northern Nahariya until asbestos remediation work has been completed. Asbestos pollution is a legacy of the Eitanit asbestos-cement factory which closed in 1997. Friable asbestos material sold cheaply to local people was used in gardens, orchards, greenhouses, chicken coops, schools, homes and on dirt path. Although a 5-year, $60 million clean-up program led by the Ministry is nearing completion, a recent tour of hotspots confirmed that pollution remains a public health risk. See: Ministry Says Nahariya Should Not Grow Until Asbestos Is Removed.

MoD Fudge on Mesothelioma Payouts

Feb 9, 2016

A letter dated February 8, 2016 from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) provides no solace to those left out of a new compensation regime for veterans with mesothelioma (see: Change in Mesothelioma Regime to Benefit Veterans). Service personnel diagnosed before December 16, 2015 remain ineligible for the one-off £140,000 payment. It is unlikely that the “policy of no retrospection” will change although the MoD “continues to review the options to support these claimants in a similar manner and we hope to be in a position to provide an update soon.” See: Letter from Ministry of Defence, February 8, 2016.

The Corruption of Science

Feb 8, 2016

A collection of email correspondence between US. lawyers and researchers they hired to develop, publish and advance tailor-made “science” confirms that when millions of dollars are at risk anything can be bought. Lawyer Evan Nelson, at that time with the law firm Tucker Ellis & West and now unemployed, paid “rented white coats” working for the Gradient Corporation to produce work that would provide validity to his “revolutionary scientific theory” that mesothelioma was caused by exposure to radiation from tobacco smoke. See: Meet the ‘Rented White Coats’ Who Defend Toxic Chemicals.

Decreasing Brazil’s Asbestos Production

Feb 8, 2016

For several years, Brazil has been the world’s third largest supplier of chrysotile (white) asbestos – from a single mine in Minaçu run by the Sama company. In a recent report, Sama has confirmed that a fall in national and global demand led to the cancellation of production on three days in 2015 and the sacking of 119 workers. According to Sama officials, as well as the general economic crisis, the increasing unpopularity and fear of asbestos has impacted negatively on sales. See: Sama fechou turnos e demitiu 119 trabalhadores em 2015. A crise deve se aguçar em 2016 [Sama cancelled shifts and dismissed 119 workers in 2015. The crisis could sharpen in 2016].

Editorial on Asbestos Compensation

Feb 5, 2016

As recent verdicts deemed the Japan Government negligent for failing to act on the asbestos hazard and as manufacturers of building materials have also now been held liable, this editorial urges that guilty parties act urgently to make restitution to all the injured many of whom are suffering from asbestos diseases which can cause death in a very short time. The editorial calls on the government and others to collaborate on establishing an asbestos fund which would compensate various categories of injured people including asbestos mill workers, construction workers and the self-employed. See: Widening asbestos compensation.

Hearing Considers Safe Use Policy

Feb 5, 2016

On Tuesday, February 9, 2016 a court hearing will take place in Bogotá, Colombia during which asbestos vested interests will seek to normalize the use of asbestos, an acknowledged carcinogen, contesting growing support in the country for asbestos to be banned on the grounds of protecting public and occupational health. Representing asbestos stakeholders, lawyer Ramiro Bejarano will, it is believed, argue that no one in Colombia has been injured by their exposure to asbestos and that asbestos can be used safely. See: El amor es más fuerte que el cancer [Love is stronger than cancer].

New Publications about Mesothelioma

Feb 5, 2016

Six papers (from 20) in the latest issue of an Italian medical journal look at issues relating to malignant mesothelioma, including: causation, treatment, links to asbestos use and national incidences of diseases. Of particular interest were the following: The global health dimensions of asbestos and asbestos-related diseases; Malignant mesotheliomas with unknown exposure to asbestos: a re-examination; Asbestos at the time of the First World War. The last paper reports that from 1912-17, the writer Franz Kafka was co-owner of a small asbestos factory in Prague. I bet you didn’t know that! See: La Medicina del Lavoro [Journal of Labor Medicine].

New Publications about Mesothelioma

Feb 5, 2016

Six papers in the latest issue of an Italian medical journal look at issues relating to malignant mesothelioma, including: causation, treatment, links to asbestos use and national incidences of diseases. Of particular interest were the following: Malignant mesotheliomas with unknown exposure to asbestos: a re-examination; Asbestos at the time of the First World War; The global health dimensions of asbestos and asbestos-related diseases. The 2nd paper reports that from 1912-17, the writer Franz Kafka was co-owner of a small asbestos factory in Prague. I bet you didn’t know that! See: La Medicina del Lavoro [Journal of Labor Medicine].

New Regime for Asbestos Removal

Feb 4, 2016

From April 4, 2016, the Health and Safety at Work Asbestos Regulations will incorporate new rules for New Zealand asbestos removal companies, Certificate of Competence holders, builders and other tradespeople who work with asbestos. Tighter regulations will mandate that licenses be obtained by all those who undertake asbestos removal work including builders, roofers and other non-specialist contractors. Only draft guidelines are currently available; a finalized guidance note will be released in due course. Further restrictions for this work are expected to be implemented in 2018. See: The Regulations around working with asbestos will change from 4 April 2016.

Under-recognition of Asbestos Victims

Feb 4, 2016

Of the 150,000 workers “officially” exposed to asbestos in Spain, only 40,000 are registered with the national occupational health surveillance program which is, say the Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras – Spain’s largest trade union – woefully inadequate. There were 2,474 companies that processed asbestos with up to 38,642 employees at any one time in the 15 regions which have so far submitted data. Many thousands more will have been at risk elsewhere before the use of asbestos was banned in 2002. See: Sólo el 2% de los afectados por amianto es reconocido por la Seguridad Social [Only 2% of those affected by asbestos are recognized by Social Security].

Victims Defeat Asbestos Company

Feb 3, 2016

At the end of January, 2016, a Regional Labor Court in Rio de Janeiro handed down an important decision in a civil action which recognized the right of ABREA, the national association of the asbestos-exposed, to represent victims in a civil lawsuit against Eternit S.A. for hazardous asbestos exposures to workers at its Rio de Janeiro Guadalupe plant; toxic exposures to family members will also be considered. The injured are seeking financial restitution as well as moral damages and comprehensive healthcare costs. See: Mauro Menezes faz defesa que restaura processo da Abrea-RJ contra a Eternit [Defense by Mauro Menezes restores ABREA-Rio de Janeiro lawsuit against Eternit].

Paper Survey of English Schools

Feb 3, 2016

On January 28, 2016, the Education Funding Agency sent a 7-page questionnaire for gathering data on asbestos in schools to headteachers throughout England. The deadline for submissions is February 29, 2016. The ten brief questions in the survey focus on the presence, condition and location of asbestos-containing products, the personnel, protocol and measures used for managing the asbestos, the level of asbestos awareness of staff and measures for informing at-risk personnel such as building contractors about the risk. The contentious HSE advice to leave asbestos in place is cited as standard guidance. See: Asbestos in schools data collection.

Canada’s Asbestos Schizophrenia

Feb 3, 2016

For decades, the Canadian government denied that the use of asbestos could be harmful. The fact that the country was the world’s biggest supplier of chrysotile (white asbestos) fiber was a powerful incentive for the government to adopt this position. Even though the last asbestos mine is shut, Canada’s asbestos policy lags well behind that of other developed nations. News released today that the use of asbestos materials in the construction and renovation of federal buildings continues has been called “appalling” by union officials who are demanding a national ban be adopted immediately. See: Federal government still using asbestos in new construction.

Protests over Asbestos Injuries

Feb 2, 2016

On February 2, 2016, 1,000 protestors including asbestos-injured construction workers and family members demonstrated outside the Tokyo premises of Nichias Corporation, following a landmark ruling last week in the Kyoto District Court which found that product manufacturers could be held responsible for asbestos-related injuries amongst construction workers. Nichias executives, as well as those from other manufacturing companies where rallies also took place, refused to meet the protestors. Altogether, protests were held outside the premises of ten former asbestos manufacturing companies. See: Picture from February 2, 2016 demonstration outside premises of Nichias Corporation.

Asbestos Outreach in Nepal

Feb 2, 2016

An article detailing work on quantifying and engaging with the massive asbestos challenges in Nepal is included in the latest newsletter issued by the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims. The text details a legal challenge mounted by an asbestos manufacturer against the national asbestos ban which took effect on June 20, 2015. It also outlines plans for an ambitious program for 2016 which includes steps to: monitor sales, identify victims, conduct environmental and soil sampling and implement measures to raise public awareness of the asbestos hazard. See: January 2016 Newsletter. Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims.

Third Wave of Asbestos Disease

Feb 1, 2016

A paper just published in the Medical Journal of Australia by respiratory physician Bill Musk and other clinicians advises doctors to consult patients regarding their likely exposure to asbestos as many will have been exposed directly or as bystanders to fibers liberated during work to repair, renovate or demolish contaminated buildings. Asbestos-containing construction materials, such as Fibro (asbestos-cement), were used in many Australian homes built in the 20th century. Exposures such as these are responsible for many of the cases being diagnosed as part of the 3rd wave of asbestos-related diseases. See: Doctors alert over asbestos.

Asbestos Roofing Removal Subsidies

Feb 1, 2016

From January 1, 2016 subsidies have become available to private individuals and agricultural businesses for the removal of asbestos roofing in the Netherlands; subsidized removal work must be completed by December 31, 2019. Owners of buildings that have asbestos roofing must remove this roofing prior to 2024 which is when government prohibitions come into force. There are strict guidelines for the removal of asbestos, with set protocols for situations in which operatives might be exposed to asbestos during refurbishment, renovation or demolition work. See: Asbestos Roofing Prohibited as of 2024.

Court Victory for Construction Workers

Jan 30, 2016

During a month of legal victories by Japanese asbestos plaintiffs, yesterday (Jan. 29, 2016) the Kyoto District Court ordered the Government and building material manufacturers to pay compensation of 216 million yen (US$1.78m) to 27 construction workers and their families for illnesses contracted after occupational asbestos exposures. This was the first Japanese court ruling to recognize the responsibility of building material manufacturers for asbestos injuries; nine companies were told to pay a total of 110 million yen (US$908,000) to 23 plaintiffs. See: State, building supply makers ordered to pay asbestos compensation.

Reuse of Asbestos Waste

Jan 30, 2016

On January 27, 2016, people living on Bushrod island, near Liberia’s capital of Monrovia, reported that “huge quantities” of second-hand asbestos-containing material from a derelict factory belonging to Cemenco – Liberia’s only cement manufacturer – had been sold off cheaply for use as landfill and soil protection to community members. Pleased with her purchase, one local said: “the Asbestos has been very useful for us… We do not experience flood or mud in the front of our homes any longer when it rains.” Cemenco has been at the center of other environmental controversies over the release of high levels of dust into areas by its processing operations. See: Cemenco’s Asbestos Dumped in Communities.

US Asbestos Trade Data

Jan 29, 2016

Statistics just released by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in its Minerals Commodity Survey 2016 show US asbestos consumption in 2015 of 360 tons, a 12% decrease on the previous year. This decline continues the downward trend in usage observed since 2011. Imported asbestos fiber is nowadays almost exclusively used for the production of diaphragms for the chloralkali industry. Virtually all the chrysotile (white) asbestos imported by the US in 2015 came from Brazil. No asbestos has been sourced from Canada since 2011; for decades, Canada had supplied the vast majority of asbestos used in the US. See: Minerals Commodity Survey 2016.

Asbestos Risk to Government Workers

Jan 29, 2016

Civil servants working at the Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA) Ottawa Taxation Center are up in arms about multiple and persistent failures of their employer to provide accurate and timely information about the occupational asbestos hazard. Denying these accusations, a CRA spokesman said that over the last 18 years the workforce had been informed about the presence of asbestos materials “on multiple occasions.” Earlier this month, staff were notified that “minor remediation” of hazardous materials would be carried out between November 1, 2015 [and] January 31, 2016. See: Ottawa Taxation Centre workers astonished after asbestos found in ceiling.

Action on Asbestos Imports from China

Jan 29, 2016

Three types of illegal asbestos imports from China have been found on sale in Pescara, Italy by officials from the Ministry of Health. Tests undertaken by regional authorities identified the presence of compressed white asbestos fibers as insulation for the contraband thermos flasks. The Ministry of Health ordered they be withdrawn from sale and issued an alert to warn the public of the hazard posed by these products. Asbestos was banned in Italy in 1992. See: Thermos con amianto: nuovi ritiri a Pescara. L’allerta lanciata dal Ministero della salute per due prodotti cinesi [Thermos with asbestos: new withdrawals in Pescara. Warning by Ministry of Health over products from China].

Concerns over Bank Demolition

Jan 28, 2016

Manila’s Mayor Joseph Estrada has been warned about the likely presence of asbestos in the old Philippine National Bank building in Escolta, Manila which is scheduled for demolition. Highlighting the known health hazards posed by exposures to asbestos, Alan Tanjusay, of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), recalled that “contractors who built such iconic buildings in Manila during the 1960s generally used asbestos materials to bolster the structure.” See: Group urges Estrada to ensure PNB building’s safe demolition.

Confronting a Deadly Mining Legacy

Jan 28, 2016

South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources is coordinating work on a program to rehabilitate and close 600+ asbestos mines and shafts scattered throughout the countryside. Commenting about his company’s involvement with nine abandoned asbestos mine sites in the Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, Quantity Surveyor Gordon Bulmer reported that three of the sites are now closed and work is ongoing on six others. See: South African asbestos mines rehabilitation project makes good progress. For more on this situation, also see: South Africa's Asbestos Crisis.

Asbestos: The Imminent Hazard

Jan 28, 2016

Eighteen asbestos-lined aluminium containers in a squalid “asbestos-lined ghetto” just outside Naples are home to 300 people rehoused by the Italian government after the 1980 earthquake in Irpinia, southern Italy. The story of Mario, one of the residents, is told in a pictorial feature uploaded on January 27, 2016 which describes him and the others as “forgotten” and “invisible.” The asbestos in these metal boxes is old and weathered; as it deteriorates, fibers are released into the air which are inhaled by residents as well as others living and working in the area. Cancer is the most common cause of death in the ghetto but there are no official statistics. See: In Pictures: Inside Naples' Asbestos-Lined Ghetto.

Breakdown of Asbestos Management

Jan 27, 2016

Although asbestos management plans had been in place at 12 schools in New Brunswick, Canada since 2004, no annual inspections had been carried out. On January 25, 2016, parents and staff at the schools in the Anglophone North School District were informed of a “breach of the inspection protocol for asbestos.” District Superintendent Beth Stymiest explained that inspections ordered after the breach of regulations had been discovered were completed on January 20. Remediation work is to be undertaken at: Tide Head School, Lord Beaverbrook School, Jacquet River School, Bathurst High School, and Dalhousie Regional High School. See: Anglophone North reveals failure to test for asbestos in 12 schools.

Surprises in Asbestos Surveys

Jan 27, 2016

Commenting on unusual finds during asbestos surveys, a colleague this week sent the photo below of a Chubb Safe Cabinet incorporating asbestos insulation board (AIB), commonly used in the UK from the 1930s until the 1980s. As can be seen, the board has suffered damage in use. AIB contained up to 40% amosite (brown) asbestos; sometimes the asbestos used was a mixture of amosite and chrysotile (white) asbestos but crocidolite (blue) asbestos was also used on occasion. AIB was popular for its insulation and fireproofing properties. Some types of safes and filing cabinets contained asbestos. See: Photo of open safe.

Mesothelioma Trends in Australia

Jan 27, 2016

An analysis of data from more than 11,000 Australians with mesothelioma during the period 1982 to 2009 was used to predict trends up until 2030; according to the researchers: “Australia's malignant mesothelioma incidence rates appear to have reached maximum levels but with differences over time by age, gender and tumour location. Improvements over time in survival provide a glimpse of hope for this almost invariably fatal disease.” A 16% reduction in excess mortality rate up to five years after diagnosis was observed in 2009 compared with 1999. See: Incidence and survival trends for malignant pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, Australia, 1982–2009.

Progress in Olivetti Asbestos Proceedings

Jan 26, 2016

Yesterday (January 25, 2016) has been called the “Day of Survivors” by those attending court proceedings in Ivrea where Olivetti executives stand accused over asbestos workplace deaths. The only living Olivetti employees with mesothelioma – Pierangelo Ferassa Bovio, 74 and Luigia Perello, 69 – gave their testimonies during the second day of the trial as rumors began circulating of a settlement reached by Telecom Italy of lawsuits brought by the families of four dead Olivetti workers against the company. It was said that compensation of ~ €150 000 per person, for a total of nearly €2m, was agreed. See: Telecom risarcisce le vittime dell’amianto all’Olivetti [Telecom compensate Olivetti asbestos victims].

More Illegal Imports from China

Jan 25, 2016

Asbestos contamination has been found in the railway line that serves Australia’s south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Seaford. The contamination was in fiber cement sheeting imported from China by a contractor even though the purchase agreement had specified that the building material was to be asbestos-free. According to Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan an investigation was underway. “We're taking this incredibly seriously. We're having the facilities independently assessed and inspected. It's been determined so far, these facilities are safe for workers to access, so long as there's no disturbance to the materials in question.” See: Seaford railway line embroiled in asbestos controversy.

Asbestos Remediation at Oil Refinery

Jan 23, 2016

Last month, the Prime Minister of Curaçao, Dr. Ben Whiteman expressed concerns over work to remediate asbestos at the Curaçao Oil Refinery premises. He told the Supervisory Board of the public company that the shortage of qualified supervisory staff was compromising the effectiveness of the operations; there have been no financial controller or internal auditors for some while. Questions were also asked about the system of procurement. Immediate action was required to rectify these shortcomings, the Prime Minister said. See: There are many things not right at the public company Refineria di Kòrsou (Curaçao Oil Refinery).

Eternit Raid Led to Asbestos Disease

Jan 23, 2016

A 45-year old policeman has been awarded compensation for pleural thickening having been exposed to asbestos during a raid on business premises in Vernouillet in north-central France belonging to the global asbestos multinational: Eternit. According to another officer who also took part in the 2006 raid “We were sent to the Eternit headquarters… We searched the archives which were full of dust. Only after several hours did we realize that the shelves were actually built of asbestos.” This is the first such case in French history. See: Un gendarme qui enquêtait sur l’amiante obtient une indemnisation après être tombé malade [A policeman investigating asbestos gets compensation after falling ill].

Huge Victory for Construction Workers

Jan 22, 2016

On January 21, 2016, construction workers and their families won a huge victory in the Osaka District Court with a verdict that held the Japanese Government liable for its failure to take measures to protect workers from hazardous asbestos exposures. This is the third such victory with previous favorable rulings from district courts in Tokyo and Fukuoka. Among other findings, the Osaka Court said the government should have prohibited the use of all types of asbestos, including chrysotile (white) asbestos, by 1995 at the latest. See: 国に3度目の賠償命令 建設アスベスト大阪訴訟 [Third victory for asbestos-injured construction workers in Osaka legal verdict].

Industry Propaganda Feature

Jan 21, 2016

A pro-asbestos feature appeared today (January 21, 2016) on a Sri Lanka website; the text was based on a paper from the discredited and redundant Chrysotile Institute (Canada). The anonymous author reheats industry rhetoric which discounts the deadly hazard posed by human exposures to chrysotile (white) asbestos, asserting that there is “not an excess of risk to health when it [white asbestos] is responsibly used.” “Low exposures,” he writes “to pure Chrysotile do not present a detectable risk to health… [even after short duration high exposures] the risk of an adverse outcome may be low...” See: Asbestos saga: Why so much emotion?

Asbestos Remediation Health Hazard

Jan 21, 2016

Chairperson of Concerned People Against Asbestos Obed Matlho is disturbed by claims made over the failure of a decontamination company in the former asbestos mining town of Prieska, South Africa to provide essential protection for workers remediating environmental contamination since June 2015 at a local dump site. Although Tumelo Modipane, the Projects Manager for the company carrying out the work, denies the allegations Mr Matlho intends to bring the issue to the attention of officials at the Department of Environmental Affairs. See: Northern Cape company fails to provide asbestos protective gear.

Escalation of Mesothelioma Incidence

Jan 21, 2016

Statistics released by Statistics Canada, Canada’s national statistical agency, show an unabated rise in the incidence of mesothelioma, a deadly asbestos cancer. Mesothelioma mortality rose by 60% – from 292 to 467 – between 2000 and 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Canadian experts say that these figures underestimate the scale of the epidemic; according to a computer model produced at the Occupational Cancer Research Centre of Cancer Care Ontario “asbestos may be responsible for at least 2,000 new cancers each year in Canada, mostly fatal.” See: Cases of mesothelioma, deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure, on rise: StatsCan.

Municipal Remediation Program

Jan 21, 2016

The town of Katowice in southwestern Poland is now accepting funding applications from local government departments for work to locate, remediate and dispose of asbestos-containing material; the program is being financed by the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management. May 31, 2016 is the deadline for submission of applications; all the work for which funding has been approved must be completed by October 31, 2016. See: Usun azbest [Remove asbestos!]. Further information about the application process can be found at:

Toxic Thermoses Withdrawn from Sale

Jan 20, 2016

The Ministry of Health has ordered the immediate seizure of illegal thermos flasks from China which were on sale in a market in the town of Belluno, northern Italy. The contraband items were marked with the brand “DayDays” and barcode number: 8301182614705. Analyses of the contents of the 1.4L vessels revealed the presence of chrysotile (white) asbestos between layers of glass insulation around the flask. Other asbestos-contaminated thermos flasks imported to Italy from China were seized by officials in 2014 and 2015. See: Thermos con amianto ritirato dal mercato. Ennesimo caso segnalato dal Ministero della salute [Thermoses with asbestos removed from the market].

Clinic for High Risk Workers Reopens

Jan 20, 2016

A medical clinic which treats asbestos-exposed workers will reopen in February 2016 in Terni, a city in central Italy, to provide health monitoring for those at high risk of contracting occupationally-induced asbestos-related diseases, as part of a national project. The aim of the free healthcare is to provide early diagnoses of asbestos diseases in order to maximize the efficacy of medical interventions and to counsel workers on lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of disease – e.g. the cessation of smoking. See: Terni, riapre l’ambulatorio per lavoratori esposti ad amianto: ecco come funziona [Terni, reopens clinic for asbestos-exposed workers: this is how it works].

Guilty Pleas over Asbestos Infringements

Jan 20, 2016

On January 13, 2016, guilty pleas were entered regarding failures to comply with federal environmental regulations during asbestos removal work on board a Mississippi River steamship constructed in 1976. Director Elaine Chiu and her California-based company admitted failing to inform state regulators about the contamination prior to the commencement of demolition work. Sentencing will be in May 2016 with Ms. Chiu facing up to two years in jail and substantial fines, and her company up to five years’ probation as well as hefty financial penalties. See: Mississippi Queen steamboat asbestos case ends with two guilty pleas – owner, company failed to disclose the deadly material to regulators.

Commentary Calls for Global Asbestos Ban

Jan 20, 2016

A text just published online in the Environmental Health Journal calls on national governments to stop building with asbestos and on international agencies to apply the same strict procedures for interaction with representatives of the asbestos industry as they do for tobacco lobbyists. Author Dr. Barry Castleman provides an extensive list of how asbestos vested interests have forestalled government regulation of their industry which includes: the suppression of medical and experimental findings, the manipulation of the media, the use of spurious industry-backed trade associations, the withholding of factual evidence and the targeting of industry critics. See: The export of hazardous industries in 2015.

“No Asbestos” Action Group in Tuscany

Jan 19, 2016

The legacy of asbestos use continues to impact on life in Sovigliana, a neighbourhood of the town of Vinci, Tuscany. Dozens of residents have joined a “No Asbestos” protest group to highlight the imminent risk to human health of old asbestos-covered industrial buildings within close proximity to residential areas. Demands are being made for the municipality to intervene and assess the danger posed by the decrepit asbestos-cement roofing on the properties. The factory owners claim that tests show there is no dispersion of asbestos from this source. See: “Basta amianto tra le case,” comitato guida la rivolta a Sovigliana [Fed up with asbestos, Sovigliana action group is formed].

Asbestos in Road Surfaces

Jan 19, 2016

In France, between 1977 and 1995, some companies incorporated asbestos into asphalt surfaces for use on busy roads such as those near airports to make them more durable and impervious to temperature changes. As part of the tightening of government regulations regarding asbestos exposures, it has become mandatory for owners/managers to report the presence of asbestos in road networks. New measures to identify, quantify and deal with asbestos contamination of these surfaces is being explored by technical experts. See: La recherche d'amiante dans les enrobés routiers en pleine evolution [New methodologies for finding asbestos in road asphalt].

Trouble in Asbestos Paradise?

Jan 18, 2016

The JSC Scientific Research and Design Institute of the Asbestos Industry is the Russian asbestos industry’s technical institute; the company and its premises have been put up for sale with a deadline of March 15, 2016 for the submission of tenders. The institute also undertakes non-asbestos work including technological research and development for the chemical, construction, agricultural and mining sectors. It is not yet clear what the sale will mean for the 102 people who work at JSC. The possibility of the institute being closed down cannot be discounted. See: Город Асбест потихоньку продают с молотка [Quick Sale of Asbestos Industry Institute].

Asbestos Hazard after Bush Fire

Jan 18, 2016

In the aftermath of the Waroona-Harvey bushfire which killed two men and destroyed 162 homes in the small south west town of Yarloop, a spokesperson for the Government of Western Australia (WA), said that asbestos levels were “the highest ever seen by WA Health Department.” Residents were told the town was now a no-go area. On Friday, January 15th deputy chief health officer Andrew Robertson downgraded the asbestos risk saying that he expected testing would show low levels in public outdoor areas with higher levels in properties containing asbestos material. See: WA fires: government moves to calm fears of Yarloop asbestos danger.

Victim’s Verdict in Zaragoza

Jan 18, 2016

Last week, the Superior Court of Aragon (TSJA) dismissed an appeal by GM Spain of a judgment requiring it to pay compensation of €100,000 plus legal costs and interest to the widow of Luis Tirado, who was negligently exposed to asbestos when he worked for the company between 1983 and 1987. Upholding the lower court’s indictment of the company’s dangerous practices, the TSJA ruled that the deadly consequences of asbestos exposures for unprotected workers were “foreseeable.” See: Desestimado el recurso de GM contra el fallo que le obligaba a indemnizar a la viuda del empleado fallecido por Amianto [Rejection of GM appeal against asbestos compensation order for worker’s wife].

Raising Awareness of Asbestos Hazards

Jan 17, 2016

A blog on January 16, 2016 which expressed concerns about the health of Colombia’s Vice President Germán Vargas Lleras highlighted his connections to national asbestos stakeholders. When Lleras was Housing Minister he approved plans for asbestos to be used in the construction of 100,000 new homes; his brother Henry was on the board of Eternit, an asbestos building materials producer that occupies a dominant position in the asbestos sector. While the industry lobby denies that human exposures to asbestos are hazardous, more cases of asbestosis are being diagnosed. See: Germán “Asbestos” Lleras.

Prospective Asbestos Waste Site in Alsace

Jan 17, 2016

People living in Niederbronn-les-Bains, in north-eastern France turned out in their hundreds yesterday (January 16, 2016) to support a protest over plans by a private company to build an asbestos landfill in their town. A petition circulated on the day has now collected more than 1,300 signatures. Voicing their outrage, people from this spa town have decried the clandestine manner with which the planning application has been progressed, and expressed their fears over the health risks posed by bringing 150,000 tonnes of asbestos waste into the town. See: Dépôt d’amiante à Niederbronn : 350 personnes dans les rues [Asbestos waste site in Niederbronn: 350 people on the streets].

Outdated Asbestos Policy in Malta

Jan 16, 2016

At a press conference in Valletta, Mark Gauci of Malta’s Occupational Health and Safety Authority reported that the use of asbestos sheeting was still a mandatory fire precaution in his report into national safety legislation which, he said, “needs reviewing”. A classic example of the confused regime was the lack of a Fire Safety Act; in the vacuum which persists, it is unclear which government agency is responsible for fire safety at public events: “Many think it is the Civil Protection Department which is responsible for fire safety but they do not have the legal basis to take many executive action(s),” he said. See: Health, safety legislation in Malta ‘conflicting and outdated’.

Jail for Asbestos Crimes

Jan 16, 2016

Canadian contractor Daniel Lane of the “HomeSeal” company has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $45,000 for contravening asbestos health and safety regulations during removal work undertaken in the Greater Toronto Area. Lane was convicted on nine counts under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Passing sentence, the Justice of the Peace said the accused had lied to homeowners and shown a total disregard for their health and that of his workers. Lane also illegally dumped asbestos waste on private property. See: Contractor sentenced to 30 days for shoddy asbestos removal work.

Action on Asbestos in Schools

Jan 16, 2016

On January 15, 2016, Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa gave assurances that by the end of 2017 the most serious threats posed by asbestos in schools would be resolved. According to the PM’s statement, given in response to a question by Deputy Heloísa Apolónia, the Government is producing an action plan which will prioritize remediation of the most hazardous situations. More information on how this issue will be tackled in all public buildings has been requested. See: Governo promete resolver situações mais graves de amianto até final do ano letivo 2016/2017 [Government promises to deal with most serious asbestos problems in schools by the end of 2016/2017].

The One Billion Dollar Asbestos Mine

Jan 15, 2016

It is looking increasingly unlikely that the Zimbabwe Government will be able to find backers with sufficient capital and interest to facilitate the resuscitation of the country’s chrysotile (white) asbestos mining industry. Interest has been reported from potential investors from the asbestos-producing countries of Russia and China but the revival of the mines, once owned by the UK asbestos giant Turner & Newall Ltd., is a herculean task which could cost in excess of US$1billion. Controversy and litigation over the government’s seizure of the troubled Shabanie and Gaths asbestos mines from SMM Holdings continue to act as a disincentive for investors. See: US$1billion needed to rescue SMM’s mines.

Controversy over Asbestos Clean-up

Jan 14, 2016

The after-effects of a fire in the Dutch town of Wateringen in January, 2015 continue to plague local people. Concerns center principally on the issue of the asbestos contamination caused by the conflagration. Accusations made in a “confidential report” made public on January 13, 2016 suggest that the municipality was guilty of a serious and dangerous neglect of duty. These allegations are rejected by Mayor Mayor Sjaak van der Tak who says that the townsfolk are suffering from an “asbestos psychosis.” A meeting of local officials is taking place today (Jan. 14, 2016), to consider plans for further asbestos remediation. See: Residents unwittingly exposed to asbestos.

More Delays in Italian Proceedings

Jan 14, 2016

The manslaughter trial of 17 former executives from Italcantieri, an Italian shipbuilding company, was adjourned yesterday (Jan. 13) at the Court of Gorizia after just 10 minutes, due to a shortage of judges; participants were informed that proceedings have been rescheduled for May 2016. The criminal charges being investigated relate to 44 mesothelioma deaths amongst Italcantieri workers. With the expiration of the time bar for bringing these cases looming, there are serious concerns that the victims will ever have their day in court. See: Slitta a maggio l’amianto-3 e incombe la prescrizione [Postponed until May; proscription deadline looming].

Government Betrays Victims, Again!

Jan 13, 2016

On January 12, 2016 the Minister for Disabled People told Parliament of the latest multi-million pound windfall for British insurers when he announced that the insurance levy to fund the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme would be reduced this year (see: Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme Levy 2015/16:Written statement - HCWS460). Reacting to this news, the TUC General Secretary said: “The government should maintain the levy at last year’s level and use any surplus to extend the compensation scheme to all victims of asbestos or for research into treatment.” See: TUC Press Release. Government must maintain mesothelioma levy.

Grassroots Outrage over Asbestos Dump

Jan 13, 2016

A demonstration is being organized by local groups outraged over plans by a private company to build an asbestos landfill site in the Alsace village of Niederbronn-les-Bains. It is believed that the new dump will receive 150,000 tonnes of toxic waste. On January 16, 2016 protesters will assemble in front of the Niederbronn-les-Bains train station and march through the streets, finishing up in front of the town hall where a public rally will take place. Members of the public are being invited to take part in this day of action. See: Manifestation contre l’enfouissement d’Amiante au Sandholz [Demonstration against asbestos landfill in Sandholz].

Protocols for Toxic Waste in São Paulo

Jan 13, 2016

Documentation uploaded today to the website of the São Paulo State Legislature confirmed changes approved last month (December 2015) which mandated that as of December 1, 2016, asbestos-containing goods must be dumped according to approved practices at authorized waste sites only. Transgressions of the new regulations will attract substantial financial penalties. Should guilty parties reoffend, the authorities have the right to revoke business licenses either temporarily or permanently. See: Alteração na lei que proíbe o uso de amianto prevê descarte responsável do material [Change in law that prohibits the use of asbestos also mandates responsible disposal of toxic material].

PM’s House Now Asbestos-Free?

Jan 13, 2016

The Georgian revival-style 1927 mansion which is traditionally the Canberra home of Australia’s Prime Minister has been closed for major renovations for nearly two and a half years. Work required included the replacement of the roof, rewiring, replumbing and the removal of asbestos. The original $3 million budget has escalated to $9m and the sighting of removal vans at the property this week has led journalists to speculate that PM Turnbull may move into the property in time for the new parliamentary session beginning next month (February 2016). See: Malcolm Turnbull prepares to move to The Lodge as removalist vans are spotted outside the residence.

Mesothelioma Research: Call for Funding

Jan 12, 2016

On January 5, 2016, MP Andy McDonald tabled Early day motion 913: Mesothelioma Research which called on the Government to “facilitate the establishment of a long-term sustainable mesothelioma research scheme funded by the insurance [industry]. Commenting yesterday on his support for the motion, MP Mark Durkan said: “We desperately need more investment in research into the causes and potential cures for mesothelioma, better treatments to give sufferers more hope, and more awareness amongst tradespeople of the continuing dangers of contact with asbestos.” See: Asbestos research scheme needed: MP.

Discrimination in Cancer Treatment?

Jan 11, 2016

Mesothelioma sufferer Deanna Trevarthen is now receiving her third round of Government-funded chemotherapy. Under current guidelines, she is allowed three more rounds of chemo before she will have to pay upwards of $200,000 for further life-extending treatments. The charges would be incurred if, as expected, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) declines to cover all the costs of her medical care as her exposure to asbestos was a result of visiting her electrician father’s work sites and not due to her own employment. The current system under which the ACC functions is, her partner claims, unfair and discriminatory. See: Cancer victim urges ACC overhaul.

Asbestos Deaths of Railway Workers

Jan 11, 2016

The trial is proceeding of 10 managers from the Italian railway engineering company of Breda-Ansaldo who are facing manslaughter charges over the asbestos cancer deaths of 12 workers. Today (January. 11), 7 witnesses are due to give evidence regarding the failure to protect workers from the hazardous conditions at the workshops where asbestos was used for decades by pipe fitters, welders and grinders in insulation products such as blankets, pillows and mattresses. Further hearings are scheduled with three in February and three in March. See: Sesto, amianto killer alla Breda-Ansaldo: polveri nocive rilevate già nel 1979 [Sixth, the killer asbestos Ansaldo-Breda: harmful dust detected in 1979].

Normandy’s Deadly Asbestos Legacy

Jan 10, 2016

In derelict asbestos factories, on industrial sites, in public buildings and in people’s houses, the presence of asbestos continues to pose a high risk to people in Normandy say representatives of the Defence Association of Asbestos Victims of Seine-Maritime (Adeva 76), located in one of France’s asbestos hotspots. Workplace exposures at asbestos mills which operated for decades in this area continue to kill workers and family members. A multimillion euro decontamination project of a former asbestos manufacturing site near Le Havre is due to begin shortly. See: En Normandie, l’amiante continue de tuer [In Normandy, asbestos continues to kill].

Asbestos Trial over Olivetti Deaths Begins

Jan 9, 2016

On Monday, January 11 2016, 17 defendants will face criminal charges ranging from murder to culpable injury over 12 asbestos-related deaths amongst the Olivetti workforce and 2 cases of serious illness. The trial will be held in Ivrea, a town in Turin Province in north-west Italy. Because of the great public interest and the number of those involved, the proceedings will be held in a high school auditorium as available court rooms are too small to accommodate all interested parties. Former Ministers and high-profile executives are amongst the accused. See: Ivrea, l'11 gennaio comincerà il processo per le morti di amianto alla Olivetti [Ivrea, on January 11, the trial over the asbestos deaths at Olivetti begins].

Congress Attacks Victims’ Rights

Jan 9, 2016

Yesterday (January 9, 2016), the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation which would, say its critics, deny asbestos victims basic human rights. The White House stated it would veto this legislation should it be adopted by the Senate. Supporters of The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015 claim new requirements for asbestos victims seeking compensation through the courts would prevent them from “gaming the system.” Advocates for victims and veterans argue that the legislation would allow identity thieves to access confidential data to victimize the injured. See: H.R.1927 - Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015.

Increase in Asbestos Mortality in BC

Jan 8, 2016

In 2015, asbestos-related deaths contributed to a 40% increase in occupational deaths amongst construction workers in British Colombia (BC). Predictions that asbestos deaths amongst this cohort of workers would peak by 2020 have been dismissed by WorkSafeBC – the Workers' Compensation Board of British Colombia – which says that “there have been more [asbestos] exposures and more workers working with asbestos than originally had been anticipated...” In 2015, 26 of the 44 deaths of BC construction workers were due to asbestos exposure. See: Asbestos exposure leads rise in deaths of B.C. construction workers.

Measuring Environmental Asbestos Hazard

Jan 8, 2016

Research undertaken to provide measurement tools for government decision makers has been published; the study “quantified the amount of asbestos discharged naturally from [asbestos-cement] slates and visualized the amount of asbestos discharged naturally from slates in administrative districts in Korea.” Maps produced by plotting levels of contamination showed that the pollution in the Ulsan region was higher than elsewhere. Ulsan is in the south-east of the Republic of Korea and is regarded as the country’s industrial powerhouse. See: Visualizing distribution of naturally discharged asbestos fibers in Korea through analysis of thickness changes in asbestos cement slates.

Hot Topic: Asbestos in Schools

Jan 7, 2016

Concern is growing in Portugal over the presence of asbestos-containing materials in educational buildings. At a meeting on January 6, 2016, members of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) highlighted the hazard posed by asbestos cement roofs at the Oliveira Hospital Group of Schools and pressed the authorities for action as specified under law 2/2011 which sets limit values for levels of airborne asbestos. Failure to act on this “serious problem” could result in sit-ins and demonstrations in Coimbra City said PCP activists. See: PCP questiona Governo sobre amianto em escolas [PCP questions government about asbestos in schools].

Parliamentary Mesothelioma Bill

Jan 6, 2016

In the first reading of the Mesothelioma Bill in the House of Commons (January 5, 2016), MP Mike Kane called for the introduction of statutory funding for mesothelioma research. The unreliability of “ad hoc contributions from insurers, charitable donations and modest funding from the Government” jeopardized the quality of research and compromised our capacity to deliver “life-saving breakthroughs.” With so many lives at stake and such high costs for medical care of those affected, a reliable revenue stream is, he said, required to enable scientists to progress their efforts. See: Mesothelioma (Amendment) (No. 2) ( House of Commons: January 5, 2016).

Government Backing for Mining

Jan 6, 2015

In early January 2016, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Mike Bimha confirmed his government’s intention to recommence the country’s production of chrysotile (white) asbestos at the Shabanie and Mashava mines, stating that “the white chrysotile type [of asbestos] which is produced in Zimbabwe has not been scientifically condemned outright as a harmful substance if used in a controlled manner.” Zimbabwe has, he said, the capacity to produce 180,000 tonnes of asbestos fiber per year, the vast majority of which would be exported. For several years there has been no asbestos production in Zimbabwe as the mines have fallen into disrepair. See: Zim’s white chrysotile not condemned.

National Diagnostic Standards Reviewed

Jan 6, 2016

Korea lagged behind other countries in setting standards for the recognition of occupational asbestos cancers. Initially, outdated regulations from Japan were followed; standards adopted in 2013 were more inclusive, but some requirements were left “unspecific and vague.” An academic paper just published by Korean researchers suggests the implementation of specific measures and criteria including CT scans and high levels of medical expertise in making diagnoses of these cancers. See: Review of carcinogenicity of asbestos and proposal of approval standards of an occupational cancer caused by asbestos in Korea.

Reappraisal of Chrysotile Data

Jan 6, 2016

A review of U.S. data from a New Jersey factory which used short fiber chrysotile has found evidence that demonstrates “a risk at lower levels of exposure to chrysotile than those which have been previously reported.” The authors suggest that if this cohort of workers – amongst whom 10 cases of pleural mesothelioma and 4 of asbestosis have been identified – were included in meta-analyses on chrysotile potency “a downward revision of the ‘no-effect’ level for chrysotile carcinogenicity” might be required. See: Short Fiber Tremolite Free Chrysotile Mesothelioma Cohort Revealed. Am J Ind Med. 2016; Jan 4 [Epub ahead of print].

Trial over European Parliament Exposures

Jan 5, 2016

Court proceedings begin on Thursday, January 7, 2016 over asbestos exposures which took place during refurbishment work at the Winston Churchill building of the European Parliament, Strasbourg in February 2013. The trial was originally scheduled for October 2015 but the large number of those affected forced the authorities to relocate to larger premises. There are 300 civil parties to the lawsuit with up to 1,600 potential witnesses. The litigants include workmen as well as office workers who breathed in contaminated dust. See: Amiante au Parlement : des centaines de victimes attendues au procès jeudi [Asbestos in Parliament: hundreds of victims to attend trial on Thursday].

Basque Verdict for Victim’s Family

Jan 4, 2016

The Provincial Directorate of the National Institute of Social Security in the Basque Province of Biscay has ordered that the family of asbestos victim Eusebio Pabola receive an extra 50% in benefits from Kaefer Insulation, the company which employed the deceased maintenance worker from 1971 to 1998, due to its failure to prevent workplace exposures to asbestos. Eusebio Pabola was a prominent Basque militant and trade union activist. See: El INSS impone a Kaefer Aislamientos el pago de un recargo de prestaciones tras el fallecimiento de Eusebio Pabola por amianto [National Institute of Social Security imposes asbestos surcharge on Kaefer Insulation after death of Eusebio Pabola].

Court Victory for Victim’s Family

Jan 4, 2016

After years of judicial proceedings and legal reversals a criminal court in Vercelli, northern Italy, this week ruled that the sisters of deceased mesothelioma victim 54-year old Maria Casulli were entitled to compensation from her employer, a Piedmontese company that operated a factory maintaining and repairing railway carriages. As well as handing down suspended prison sentences for her manslaughter to company executives, the Court ordered compensation be paid for her asbestos-related death. Other claims against the company are now likely to proceed. See: Amianto nei vagoni ferroviari Condanna dopo sei assoluzioni [Asbestos in railway carriages, sentencing after six acquittals].

Mesothelioma Trends in NSW

Jan 4, 2016

A study undertaken by researchers at the University of Sydney and the Cancer Institute of New South Wales of mesothelioma data collected over more than three decades concluded that the NSW incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) has stabilized and the peak of the MPM epidemic has been reached in the state. Survival rates for one MPM subtype was higher than others and female patients with MPM lived longer than male patients. See: Patterns in the incidence, mortality and survival of malignant pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, New South Wales, 1972-2009.

Call to Ban Asbestos

Jan 3, 2015

A petition entitled “Concerns about Canada’s continued use and imports of asbestos” was sent last month to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada by groups representing legal and educational professionals. The petition posed a series of questions about the policy which allows the “controlled use” of asbestos. Citing global as well as national evidence, highlighting the high incidence of asbestos cancer and noting discrepancies between federal and state regulatory practises, the authors requested responses from Ministers about the continued failure to protect Canadians from the asbestos hazard. See: Petition to the Office of the Auditor General regarding Canada's continued use and imports of asbestos.

Asbestos Site: New Plans?

Jan 2, 2016

Local people who have been campaigning over the toxic legacy of the Turners’ asbestos factory in Rochdale, are backing a greener future for the derelict industrial site; suggesting that, in light of the recent flooding, it could “provide part of (a) flood reduction strategy as a ‘back wash’ to retain significant amounts of flood water from the (River) Spodden.” With the eradication of the contamination, the creation of a green amenity and a wetland catchment area to help alleviate future flooding of built up areas, this perennial eyesore could, finally, make a useful contribution to life in Rochdale. See: Spodden Valley ‘plan B’ to help save further flooding?

Local Protest over Factory Demolition

Dec 30, 2015

People living in communities near an industrial site operated by the Liberia Cement Company (LCC) are threatening a lawsuit to ensure that environmental safety is protected during the demolition of a redundant cement factory. It is claimed that the factory contains asbestos materials and toxic chemicals While the LCC denied that dismantling work had began, residents reported that work is ongoing. At a protest this week, the critics called on the LCC to hire a specialist licensed firm which will comply with all health and safety requirements. See: Liberia: Residents Want Cemenco to Observe Safety Procedures.

Awards for Domestic Asbestos Exposure

Dec 30, 2015

In a landmark decision by Spain’s Supreme Court, awards by the Provincial Court of Madrid of between €22,000 to €99,000 to women injured following exposure to asbestos brought home on their husbands’ work clothes were upheld. The men had worked at Uralita asbestos-cement factories in Getafe and Valdemoro. Acknowledging the widespread knowledge about the asbestos hazard as long ago as the 1940s, the Supreme Court ruled that companies were not only responsible for the safety of workers but also for that of third parties. See: Uralita resarcirá a tres mujeres afectadas de amianto por lavar la ropa [Uralita compensates women injured by exposure to asbestos on their husbands’ work clothes].

Workshop Highlights Asbestos Danger

Dec 22, 2015

An article reporting on information delivered at a workshop held on December 21 in Oran, Algeria highlighted the public health risk of asbestos in public buildings such as schools and stressed the danger to the country’s schoolchildren posed by asbestos-containing products present throughout the educational infrastructure. Between 1998 and 2001, more than 44 asbestos-related disease cases were recognized by the National Social Insurance Fund. See: Santé/ L’amiante menace l’intégrité physique de milliers d’Algériens [Asbestos threatens the physical integrity of thousands of Algerians].

New Asbestos Trade Data

Dec 22, 2015

Data on the global asbestos trade, which was uploaded this week to the website of the United States Geological Survey, shows that while US fiber imports decreased by 47% to 406 tonnes (t) in 2014, imports of asbestos-containing products rose in value by 14% to $5.63m. World production fell from 2.05 million tonnes (mt) in 2013 to 2.02 mt in 2014 with production levels remaining fairly consistent in the main producing countries: Russia (1.1 mt), China (400,000 t), Brazil (284,000 t) and Kazakhstan (240,000 t). Final 2013 figures showed biggest users as: China (570,000 t), Russia (432,000 t), India (303,000 t), and Brazil (181,000 t). See: New USGS Minerals Yearbook - Asbestos (2014).

Campaigners Lobbying for Ban

Dec 22, 2015

Labor advocacy groups are calling for a complete ban on the use of asbestos in Taiwan as well as the implementation of measures to audit the incidence of asbestos-related diseases in high-risk groups and treat the injured. Although the use of asbestos is banned in construction and piping materials, it can still be used in brake pads pending the introduction of stricter prohibitions in 2018. Unfortunately, even then the import of products containing asbestos would still be allowed under a Ministry of Economic Affairs’ certification scheme. See: Labor advocacy groups call for ban on asbestos.

Award for Japanese Asbestos Activists

Dec 21, 2015

Every year, to mark the anniversary of the death of ban asbestos activist and mesothelioma victim Rachel Lee Jung-Lim, campaigners in Korea bestow an award in her name to campaigners whose work has made an impact on the global struggle for asbestos justice. Today (December 21, 2015) the work of Furukawa Kazuko, Kataoka Akihiko and Iida Hiroshi has been recognized at a ceremony in Seoul. Their collective efforts have improved conditions for Japan’s asbestos victims and helped raise awareness of the asbestos epidemic throughout Asia. Mrs. Kazuko was present to accept the award at the ceremony on behalf of all the recipients. See: Photo of Plaque.

EU Supports Vietnam Asbestos Phase-Out

Dec 21, 2015

Since 2014, EU personnel have been working with officials and stakeholders to facilitate the transition in Vietnam to an asbestos-free technology. Outcomes of this collaboration were a report and a policy paper on the hazards of chrysotile asbestos; a national asbestos action plan has set a 2020 deadline for a total ban. Although research into developing asbestos-free alternatives has been ongoing since 2001 in Vietnam, strong resistance from an industry lobby has prevented a ban from being implemented. As part of the EU-Vietnam project, plans are progressing for three pilot operations for the production of asbestos substitutes. See: EU helps Vietnam phase out asbestos.

Asbestos Lost and Found

Dec 21, 2015

It was announced last week by a spokesperson for the High Court that 58 of the 168 rooms in the Tokyo building which houses the Tokyo district and high courts will be closed for an unspecified length of time due to the possible contamination by asbestos which resulted from asbestos removal work done on the premises. A few days later (December 18), Japan’s Ministry of Labor announced that prefectural labor bureaus and labor inspection offices had disposed of asbestos-related documents in contradiction to orders issued in 2005 by the Ministry to retain all asbestos-related documents for future use. See: One-third of Tokyo courtrooms to be closed.

Government U-Turn on Veterans’ Rights

Dec 18, 2015

The British Legion is claiming victory after the government announced a change in UK compensation for service personnel suffering from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Eligible claimants diagnosed after December 16, 2015 will be entitled to a lump sum payment of £140,000 instead of the regular smaller payments made under the War Pension, to bring the amount paid closer to that received by civilian sufferers. Payment of these lump sums will begin on April 11, 2016 but will be backdated to December 16, 2015. See: Legion Helps Secure Pay Outs for Thousands of Veterans with Asbestos-related Cancer.

US Asbestos Epidemic as 3rd Wave Hits

Dec 18, 2015

A devastating investigative feature and a heart-wrenching video have just been released by the Center for Public Integrity. Between them, they tell the tragic story of one Florida family whose lives have been irrevocably changed by asbestos. Thirty-nine year old Kris Penny is dying from a cancer only contracted after exposure to asbestos. He believes, as does his lawyer, that the fatal exposure he experienced took place while installing fiber-optic cable underground. He had no idea that asbestos was in the underground pipes that housed the cable. This article and this video are must read and must see items! See: Upended by America’s “third wave” of asbestos disease.

Opposition to Tungsten Mine Revival

Dec 18, 2015

Environmental campaigners, council officials and local people are objecting to plans by an Australian company to explore restarting tungsten mining in the Ariège region of the Central French Pyrenees. The critics cite multiple reasons for their opposition, including the prevalence of naturally-occurring asbestos in the area. According to a letter dated December 14, 2015 by Professor Annie Thebaud-Mony, studies undertaken in the 1980s substantiated the presence of actinolite asbestos in soil samples. Cases of asbestosis amongst miners from the former tungsten mine have been documented. See: Amiante: une mine pyrénéenne fait polémique [Asbestos: a controversial mine in the Pyrennes].

Court to Inspect Power Stations

Dec 17, 2015

On December 16, 2015, Acting Chief Justice Jayant Patel of the Gujarat High Court ordered that a committee of government officials be set up to inspect 11 power plants after allegations of occupational health problems; a preliminary report revealed that 15 workers from two power plants had contracted the work-related diseases of asbestosis and silicosis. Committee members will include the principal secretary of the health department, an occupational health doctor, a registrar of the district court, a member of the National Institute of Occupational Health and others. See: HC panel to inspect power plants for workers' health.

Ban Asbestos Breakthrough in São Paulo

Dec 16, 2015

Brazil’s asbestos lobby has suffered its biggest blow when companies in São Paulo pledged to end asbestos use by January 1, 2017, provide comprehensive health care and $R1.6m (US$400,000+) to fund activities to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard. Although asbestos use is already prohibited in São Paulo State, as it is in the states of Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco, asbestos production is currently permitted under court injunctions. See: Em acordo de R$ 1,6 milhão, empresas de SP se comprometem a banir o amianto até 2017 [In R$1.6m agreement SP companies undertake to ban asbestos by 2017].

Conviction for Demolition Company

Dec 16, 2015

A demolition company from Christchurch has today (December 16, 2015) been convicted of two charges under sections 6 and 50(1)(a) and sections 16 and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act for non-compliance with regulations. A District Court ordered Blakely Construction Limited to pay $45,000 for failing to properly identify and manage asbestos at a demolition site in March 2014. Commenting on the verdict, a WorkSafeNZ spokesperson said: “…once the company became aware of asbestos contamination it should have stopped work on site immediately and ensured that it was fully decontaminated before resuming work.” See: No excuse for not knowing rules around asbestos.

Police Issue Asbestos Alert after Storms

Dec 16, 2015

New South Wales Police issued an asbestos alert following recent storms to warn people returning to their homes about the hazard posed by damaged asbestos-cement (fibro) building materials which could liberate deadly fibers into the air. Miranda Local Area Commander, Superintendent Michael O’Toole, said: “Residents should be aware asbestos may be present in homes built prior to 1987…it is recommended that should you returning to your home and it has been damaged, do not disturb the debris. If you intend on entering, I would recommend wearing a P2 mask and protective clothing as a precaution.” See: Asbestos information following storms.

Asbestos: Legacy Issues, Current Hazards

Dec 16, 2015

An academic paper published online this week detailed the historic use of an artificial clay with the brand name DAS which was used in schools between 1963 and 1975 in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and Norway. Analytical tests confirmed that up to 30% of the weight of this clay was chrysotile asbestos. The authors recommend that “mesothelioma patients should be asked about their past use of DAS, in particular individuals not reporting a clear past asbestos exposure. Additionally, this discovery shows the incompleteness of records on asbestos uses and suggests to test items, including toys, imported from countries where asbestos is not forbidden.” See: Asbestos in toys: an exemplary case.

Senate’s Asbestos Dialogue

Dec 14, 2015

Tomorrow afternoon (December 15), a detailed study on the country’s asbestos epidemic will be presented to the Italian Senate which will report 6,000 annual deaths from asbestos-related cancers, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. The rapporteur will highlight categories of at-risk workers, including teachers, soldiers and farmers, and present innovative technology for tracking the occurrence of these diseases around the country. An update will be provided on the national asbestos project launched in May 2014 to map asbestos-contaminated sites. See: Amianto, Ona presenta Primo rapporto mesoteliomi [Asbestos, ONA presents first mesothelioma report].

Engineer’s Case for Pleural Lesions

Dec 14, 2015

A former sailor with pleural calcified lesions is suing his former employer Total for having negligently exposed him to asbestos on board ships over a period of 23 years. His case is being heard before the Social Security Appeal Tribunal of Saint-Brieuc; the Court’s decision will be announced on February 25, 2016. If the company is found guilty of gross negligence, the claimant’s pension would be doubled. A very similar case before the Quimper Tribunal ended last week with a decision in favour of another injured sailor who had worked for Total. See: Amiante: l'ancien marin attaque Total [Asbestos: retired sailor attacks Total (Oil Company)].

Mapping Asbestos Disease

Dec 14, 2015

Campaigners in Japan have succeeding in forcing the Ministry of Labor to disclose information on all businesses which recognized cases of asbestos-related diseases since 2005. By the end of 2013, there were a total of 9,035 cases, of which 4,668 came from exposures in the construction industry and 3,367 from all other sectors. The Ministry will be announcing updated figures soon after which asbestos victim support groups will operate a free telephone hotline to answer queries from those who think they might have been affected. See: Poster advertising free phone consultation service for victims and families.

Data: Lost Asbestos Decades

Dec 13, 2015

The explosive results of research undertaken by Belgian demographers from The Association for the Development of Applied Research in Social Sciences in the asbestos company towns of Harrmignies and Kappelle-op-den-Bos were released yesterday (December 12) and show that workers dying from asbestos-related diseases lost on average 20 years of life. The genesis of this study was the work of former asbestos worker/campaigner Michel Verniers who was the first to take cognizance of the premature loss of life amongst his fellow workers. See: Les travailleurs décédés de l’amiante ontperdu en moyenne vingt années de vie! [Workers who died from asbestos lost on average 20 years of life!]

Tighter Asbestos Protocols in São Paulo

Dec 13, 2015

On December 10, 2015, an amendment to the São Paulo Law 12.684/2007 which banned asbestos was adopted; new Law 16.048 mandates that as of December 1, 2016 asbestos-containing goods must be dumped by companies or owners according to environmentally sound practises at authorized waste sites according to measures stipulated by the state environmental agency. Infringements of the new regulations will attract substantial financial penalties. See: Estado dispõe sobre o uso de produtos, materiais ou artefatos que contenham Amianto [State regulates the use of products, materials or artifacts containing asbestos].

Another City Bans Asbestos

Dec 13, 2015

Three years after the City of Curitiba, the capital of the Brazilian state of Paraná, issued legislation (Law 14,172/ 12) banning the sale and use of products containing asbestos, the prohibition came into force on December 7, 2015. The city now joins 30 municipalities and six states that have banned asbestos in their territories in opposition to the federal government which allows asbestos use to continue. The Curitiba law also mandates strict protocols for the disposal of contaminated waste at landfill sites and the replacement of asbestos-containing goods with safer alternatives. See: Entra em vigor lei que proíbe o amianto em Curitiba [Curitiba law banning asbestos comes into force].

Wittenoom: The End?

Dec 12, 2015

Fifty years after asbestos mining operations ceased in the toxic town of Wittenoom, the Government of Western Australia (WA) is considering legislation to allow the compulsory purchase of land from the few people who live in the derelict town or own property there to “basically resolve this issue once and for all.” The name of Wittenoom is synonymous with Australia’s worst industrial disaster and the WA government believes that the purchase of the land would enable it to prevent visits to an area which is still heavily contaminated. See: West Australian Government to draft legislation to forcibly evict last Wittenoom residents.

Asbestos Find Stalls Redevelopment

Dec 11, 2015

The discovery two years ago of thousands of tonnes of asbestos-contaminated debris at the site of Christchurch’s Queen Elizabeth II Park has delayed plans to build a recreation and sports centre and two high schools. The local council is currently considering a $3.8m proposal to encapsulate or bury the material on the site in a contained and bounded area and cover it with mesh, geotextile, and clean layers of soil topped with grass. Transporting and disposing of up to 22,000 tonnes of toxic waste at a landfill site would cost $9m. See: QE2 Park's asbestos pile could become grass seating area.

Bleak Outlook for Asbestos Mine

Dec 11, 2015

Media reports in Zimbabwe this week highlighted the need for $20 million of investment to recapitalize asbestos operations at GATHS Mine, a subsidiary of a former British company mining company. It was estimated that the mine has deposits of chrysotile (white) asbestos worth more than US$1 billion. The uncertain financial and political situation in the country and disputes over corporate ownership and control continue to deter potential investors. At its peak, the mine employed 7,000 people most of whom were retrenched more than a decade ago. See: Zimbabwe: Gaths Mine Sits On Huge Asbestos Deposits.

Asbestos: A Clear and Present Danger

Dec 10, 2015

No progress has been made on a 2014 Parliamentary proposal to undertake an asbestos audit of Spain’s built environment according to an article published on December 9, 2015. Unlike other European countries, such as France, Germany and England, no effort had been made to quantify or map the presence of asbestos-containing products which were widely used in homes and businesses until 2002 when Spain banned asbestos. As a result of this failure to act, asbestos continues to pose a serious risk to public as well as occupational health. See: Amianto: un peligro real y sin cuantificar en casas, escuelas y oficinas [Asbestos: a real danger, unquantified in homes, schools and offices].

Lawsuits Proceeding for Asbestos Deaths

Dec 10, 2015

Amongst trade union claims that 8% of workers from Renfe, Malaga’s railway carriage workshop, could contract asbestos diseases, the first cases are now proceeding to trial. For decades, asbestos-containing insulation products were handled by workers at the Renfe workshop on a daily basis. Direct occupational exposures to asbestos were experienced by carpenters, electricians and maintenance workers. See: Llegan a los juzgados los primeros casos de muerte por amianto de trabajadores del taller de Renfe en Málaga [Cases for premature deaths after asbestos exposure at Renfe workshop, Malaga going to trial].

Contamination of Geneva Trams

Dec 10, 2015

On December 7, 2015 TPG (responsible for public tram and bus services in Geneva) admitted that even though trams on their network contain asbestos parts, tests undertaken showed no airborne fibers present in the carriages. The toxic products will be removed from the 46 Düwag-Vevey brand vehicles by the end of March 2016. These trams were made in the 1980s and were put into service before Switzerland banned asbestos (1991). The asbestos is contained in parts used in the trams’ heating systems. According to the tram operators, there is no danger to tram drivers or passengers. See: Des trams contiennent un joint en amiante [Trams contain asbestos gaskets].

University Holds Asbestos Study Day

Dec 10, 2015

On December 21, 2015, the social and health sciences unit of the University of Oran in western Algeria will hold an asbestos study day to consider the impact of Algeria’s toxic legacy, six years after the use of asbestos was banned by government decree. Eminent speakers on the day will include national experts on the public, occupational and environmental health risks of asbestos exposures; they will present data on the toxicological, sociological and medical impact of these exposures and consider measures for minimizing health repercussions in the future. See: La santé au travail, le cas de l’amiante en Algérie [Occupational health, the case of asbestos in Algeria].

Senate Report Condemns Asbestos Failings

Dec 8, 2015

This month (December 2015), U.S. Senators have issued a report detailing the widespread failure to manage or monitor the asbestos contamination of schools where 53 million children and 6 million adults study and work. As a result of these failings, hazardous exposures remain a common occurrence according to responses from 20 states to a questionnaire circulated by Senator Edward Markey and Senator Barbara Boxer who conclude that the scope of the hazard remains unquantified, procedures for dealing with the problem are lacking, actions by state authorities are inadequate and oversight of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act is insufficient. See: Failing the Grade: Asbestos in America’s Schools.

Honor for Asbestos Victims’ Advocate

Dec 7, 2015

Brazilian jurist and pioneering advocate for asbestos victims’ Roberto Caldas has been elected to the Presidency of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the period 2016-2017; his term will begin on January 1, 2016. Dr. Caldas is well-respected in Brazil for his work on behalf of the asbestos injured and has, along with members of his law firm, worked to progress the Brazilian campaign to ban asbestos. See: O juiz brasileiro Roberto Caldas foi eleito para presidência da Corte Interamericana de Direitos Humanos [Brazilian judge Roberto Caldas elected to the presidency of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights].

Great Review of Italian Asbestos Film

Dec 7, 2015

A review just uploaded of an Italian film premièred last week about Italy’s asbestos crisis has said this film is “pure oxygen for the new [wave of] Italian political cinema.” “A Safe Place,” is a love story set in the asbestos era which focuses on a plot involving a former asbestos worker, played by actor Giorgio Colangeli, and his son (actor Mark D'Amore),who live in an iconic Italian town which has been the epicentre of the country’s fight for asbestos justice. The filmmakers combined many real-life stories from local people to create this film. See: “Un posto sicuro”, una storia d’amore ai tempi dell’amianto [“A safe place,” a story of love in the time of asbestos].

Asbestos Conviction at Town Hall

Dec 7, 2015

The former chief clerk of Reims, Jean-Antoine Dressayre, was found guilty of “deception” and “endangering the lives of others” for renovations his construction company carried out on a property which created asbestos contamination. He received a 6 month suspended prison sentence, a hefty fine and has been “permanently prohibited from practising a profession, trade or managing, directing or controlling a company.” Because he had moved house, Dressayre was tried in absentia and only found out about the conviction from a newspaper article. See: L'ex-greffier en chef des prud'hommes de Reims condamné pour pollution à l'amiante [Former chief clerk of Reims convicted of asbestos contamination].

Threats by Billionaire Block Publication

Dec 5, 2015

After threats by lawyers representing former asbestos defendant Stephen Schmidheiny, “The Big Trial” – the English translation of an Italian book – co-written by Public Prosecutor Sara Panelli (involved for many years in legal proceedings in Italy against the Swiss asbestos entrepreneur) and academic Rosalba Altopiedi, has been taken off the Amazon website. The publication would, the lawyers alleged “harm the dignity and reputation of their client.” Two guilty verdicts against Schmidheiny were overturned by Italy’s Supreme Court in 2014. See: Il magnate dell’amianto blocca su Amazon il libro sul processo Eternit [Asbestos tycoon blocks Amazon sales of book on Eternit legal case].

New Workplace Regulations Ineffective

Dec 5, 2015

A new survey in France has revealed that despite the enacting of new guidelines setting stricter workplace protections for public employees earlier this year (July 2015), hazardous exposures remain the norm, with fewer than half of all those questioned receiving personal protective equipment as legally required. Public employers have duties as both the owners of asbestos-containing buildings and the employers of at-risk personnel which include full compliance with legislation and guidelines to safeguard the workforce from toxic exposures. See: Exposition à l'amiante: les agents de l'Etat sont également concernés [Asbestos exposure: State officials are also concerned].

Mapping Italy’s Asbestos Scandal

Dec 4, 2015

An updated graphic has been published by, a monthly magazine, which clearly indicates the ubiquity of asbestos contamination in Italy. The new map has been compiled not by government or regional authorities but by journalists who bemoan the state’s failure to monitor nationwide levels of pollution and make available updated statistics. According to the new data, the limitations of which are acknowledged, the existence of 11,000 asbestos contaminated sites has been confirmed. See: Amianto, ecco la nuova mappatura dei siti contaminate [Asbestos, here is the new map of contaminated sites].

Quantifying Asbestos Hazard in Ambler

Dec 4, 2015

Next Monday (December 7), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will use a drone-mounted camera to photograph parts of the toxic town of Ambler, Pennsylvania where decades of asbestos production has left a contaminated landscape and a substantial public health risk. The purpose of this exercise is to provide evidence to allow the EPA to assess the condition of 25 acres of isolated land within the Ambler Asbestos Piles Superfund Site. This will be the first time the EPA has used drone technology in Ambler. See: EPA uses drone to inspect Pennsylvania’s Ambler Asbestos Piles Superfund Site.

Asbestos: The Never-Ending Story

Dec 3, 2015

Six drywall collection sites in Vancouver, Canada used by homeowners and residential contractors have been closed by Metro Vancouver over fears of hazardous asbestos exposures to workers. The temporary closure of these sites has caused delays at alternative disposal facilities such as the New Westminster facility which has enacted a protocol to safeguard workers that stipulates that wallboard being dumped has been tested and found to be free of asbestos contamination. Paperwork documenting these findings must be submitted prior to goods being accepted for disposal. See: Metro Vancouver drywall collection sites closed due to safety concerns.

Industry Fiasco in Colombo?

Dec 3, 2015

Yesterday (December 2), a seminar entitled “Facts about the use of asbestos – Chrysotile Cement Roofing” took place in the capital of Sri Lanka. According to a delegate who attended this event, organized by asbestos vested interests, Dr. Vivek Chandra Rao (India) and toxicologist David Bernstein (Switzerland) voiced industry reassurances that chrysotile (white) asbestos could be used safely. Industry speakers alleged that no research existed which showed that chrysotile asbestos caused the fatal asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. From what can be ascertained, there seems to have been very little media coverage of this meeting.

Economic Woes in Asbestos Heartland

Dec 3, 2015

Russian asbestos production accounts for 56% of all the asbestos used worldwide every year. With billions of dollars at stake, the Russian asbestos lobby exploits every opportunity to promote sales and counter actions by those working to promote public safety by banning asbestos. Despite aggressive commercial and national pro-asbestos policies, there have been “massive redundancies” at Uralasbest, Russia’s largest asbestos mining company, which has further exacerbated the economic difficulties for people living in the town of Asbestos in recent months. See: Асбест — новая «горячая точка» Куйвашева [Asbestos - a new “hot spot” Kuyvasheva].

Asbestos Victims at EU building

Dec 3, 2015

It will be another five months before all 1,600 EU staff from the Jean Monnet building in Luxembourg will have been moved to asbestos-free offices according to news released yesterday (December 2). The cost of this relocation, which is being paid for by the Luxembourg government and European Commission, is estimated at €194 million. A report issued in January 2015 reported that asbestos fibers had been found during tests. Four people who worked at the Jean Monnet building have contracted asbestos-related diseases. See: Jean Monnet Bâtiment - Staff from asbestos office relocated by May 2016

Asbestos Assembly Calls for Action

Dec 3, 2015

Twenty-three years after Italy banned asbestos, thousands of people die every year, delegates to the National Assembly on Asbestos were told last week. Critics who called for urgent action blamed the slow progress being made on a lack of coordination amongst Ministries, government departments, regional authorities and municipalities and a legal framework which was disjointed and confusing. Predictions that it would take 85 years to remediate the country were met with derision. See: Amianto, Inail conferma la strage di mille morti l’anno [Inail confirmed asbestos massacre with thousands of deaths per year].

Legal Stalemate for French Claimants

Dec 2, 2015

Scores of claimants expecting to hear the decision of a labor court in the north-eastern French town of Belfort on December 1, 2015 were informed that the case had been transferred to the Belfort district court. The plaintiffs are claiming compensation of up to €30,000 each for asbestos exposure experienced whilst employed by Alstom between January 1, 1960 and December 31, 1985. It is alleged that as a result of the company’s negligence, they now experience mental anguish over the possibility of contracting deadly asbestos-related cancers or diseases. See: Amiante chez Alstom: les ex-salariés face à un marathon juridique [Asbestos at Alstom: former employees face a legal marathon].

Brazil’s Asbestos Schizophrenia

Dec 2, 2015

Last week (November 27), lawyer Luciano Leivas, representing the Ministry of Labor and the National Ban Asbestos Program, addressed a meeting of the Technical Working Group on Environment of the National Confederation of Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism in Rio de Janeiro, to consider how companies can comply with Brazil’s complicated asbestos regime – while some states have banned asbestos comprehensively, others allow use to continue. Leivas told the meeting that a ban is the only way to protect public health. See: Comércio deve estar atento à legislação sobre a venda do amianto pelo setor [Commercial enterprises must be aware of asbestos legislation].

Cities Ban Asbestos as Epidemic Grows

Dec 1, 2015

Asbestos prohibitions adopted by the Brazilian city of Curitiba in 2012 will come into force this week (on December 7, 2015). Next year, an asbestos ban in São José dos Pinhais, approved in 2013, will also become municipal law. These cities, which are home to large asbestos processing companies, are in the State of Paraná. According to incomplete data from Brazil’s Ministry of Health, of the 2,286 cases of pneumoconiosis recognized between 2007 and 2013, 1,119 were due to asbestos exposure. See: Mortes por câncer do amianto dobram em 13 anos [Asbestos cancer deaths double in 13 years].

Asbestos Industry Offensive

Dec 1, 2015

Today, an afternoon seminar entitled “Facts about the use of asbestos – Chrysotile Cement Roofing” is being hosted by Sri Lanka’s trade association representing construction industry stakeholders. Amongst the supporters of this event is the Chrysotile Information Centre, a pro-asbestos lobbying organization. The panel of speakers include industry-linked “experts”: Dr. Vivek Chandra Rao (India), toxicologist David Bernstein (Switzerland) and lobbyist Emiliano Alonso (Belgium). This session is part of the fightback by vested interests against government plans to ban asbestos in 2018. See: CCI to engage global, local asbestos experts to educate industry stakeholders.

Talcum Powder Caused Cancer Verdict

Dec 1, 2015

On November 30, 2015, after a trial which began on October 14, a New York State court ruled that the mesothelioma death of deceased claimant Joan Robusto was caused by her use of asbestos-tainted cosmetic talcum powder manufactured under the brand name of Desert Flower. The charges were lodged against the company Whitaker Clark and Daniels, a multinational talc, minerals and chemical distributor that sold the talcum powder used in this and similar consumer products. A jury handed down a $7 million verdict for the death of Mrs. Robusto. See: Press Release - $7million mesothelioma verdict in NY’s first ever Asbestos contaminated consumer talcum powder trial.

Prime Minister Calls for Asbestos Justice

Nov 30, 2015

A message sent by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to the chair of this week’s meeting of the National Assembly on Asbestos confirms his “personal support” and “shared commitment to implement policies and actions that allow for the closure, once and for all, of this open wound caused by asbestos.” In his message of solidarity, the PM writes of the progress achieved in dealing with Italy’s asbestos legacy but acknowledges that much remains to be done. See: Amianto: Renzi,ferita aperta va chiusa una volta per tutte [Asbestos: Renzi, open wound should be closed once and for all].

New Asbestos Awareness Resources

Nov 30, 2015

On Friday, November 27, 2015, near the end of Australia’s asbestos awareness month, one of the country’s leading asbestos awareness websites launched two new modules to help homeowners identify asbestos-containing materials in and around their homes. These resources consist of a video (Asbestos in Your Home) and a database listing common products (Online Asbestos Product Database) This material is a result of collaborative efforts led by the Asbestos Education Committee.

Prosecution over Toxic Helicopters

Nov 30, 2015

Investigations by the Turin Public Prosecutor into allegations made by military personnel exposed to asbestos in twenty helicopters are proceeding. According to lawyer Carla Delle Fave who is representing claimants, the situation is clear: as a result of criminal exposures which took place because of the negligence of managers, individuals inhaled carcinogenic fibers. The malignant diseases which have been contracted are a consequence of these exposures. See: Roma, amianto sugli elicotteri della Finanza: piloti ammalati [Rome, investigations proceeding over pilots’ asbestos illnesses due to the contamination of helicopters].

Unsafe Asbestos Removal Program

Nov 30, 2015

Refugees on the island of Nauru have told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that they had been hired to remove asbestos from the island’s houses without protective equipment or clothing and that the debris was being carelessly disposed of as part of a multimillion dollar housing renovation program being funded by the government. The authorities have told the ABC that: “This program is safe… (and) No refugees are involved in this project.” According to the ABC, photographs of unsafe working conditions and lack of basic protection substantiated the allegations. See: Safety concerns for refugees and workers as Nauru asbestos removal program kicks off.

Decisive Victory for Asbestos Victims

Nov 27, 2015

After a 2014 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which condemned the Swiss time bar that prevented most asbestos victims from bringing personal injury lawsuits, yesterday (November 26) a federal tribunal gave leave for the case brought by the daughters of a Swiss asbestos victim who died in 2005 to be referred to the Baden Labour Court for a rehearing. In 2009, the Labour Court dismissed this claim because of a ten year limitation period; two other courts upheld that decision. See: Pour le TF, la prescription dans les affaires d'amiante n'est plus absolue [A decision by the Federal Tribunal ruled that the time bar regarding asbestos claims is not absolute].

Bystander Verdict for Bartender’s Family

Nov 27, 2015

The family of a bartender who died aged 74 on December 25, 2014 from asbestos diseases was awarded compensation of €740,000 by a Labour Court on November 25, 2015. The bar where he worked for twenty years was across the street from Bologna’s railway yard where thousands of workers had been exposed to asbestos on a daily basis. It is possible that further claims for damages will be brought in this case. See: Bologna, barista morì per l’amianto: risarcita con 740mila euro [Bologna: barista dies from asbestos; compensation paid €740,000].

Mesothelioma Surgery: New Research

Nov 26, 2015

In a paper published online by Swiss medical researchers, the influence of second-line treatment after the recurrence of malignant pleural mesothelioma in patients who had previously undergone multimodality treatment between September 1999 and October 2014 is considered. The findings from the cohort studied suggest that although repeated surgical intervention can produce a “good long-term outcome in selected patients,” more research is needed to confirm these results. See: Relapse pattern and second-line treatment following multimodality treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Ban Asbestos Initiative in Asia

Nov 26, 2015

Leading Australian asbestos campaigners told reporters in Canberra yesterday that Australia had an obligation to help eradicate the asbestos hazard in Asia. Peter Tighe, the CEO of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, said: “We don't want that [asbestos] legacy to increase because manufactured goods in Asia still contain this deadly carcinogen,” after he, Senator Lisa Singh and Senator Nick Xenophon met a delegation of ban asbestos campaigners from Laos and Vietnam at Parliament House; the activists had spoken at a meeting of the Parliamentary Group on Asbestos earlier in the day. See: Australia should help Asia ban asbestos.

Mental Anxiety from Asbestos Exposure

Nov 26, 2015

On November 17, 2015, a Parliamentary response was promulgated which responded to a question put on February 3, 2015 by Josette Pons, MP for the district of Var to the Minister of Social Affairs regarding the status of compensation for asbestos anxiety for people exposed to asbestos at work. The Ministerial Statement reviewed the agencies and parties upon whom workers can make claims for this condition and acknowledged the “specific anxiety [of] harm” and the “psychological disorders engendered by the knowledge of this risk by employees.” See: Compensation for “Asbestos Anxiety” in France; Government Response to Written Question.

Top Prize for Asbestos Expose

Nov 25, 2015

At a ceremony in New Delhi on Monday, November 23, 2015, New Delhi-based correspondent Katy Daigle received the foreign correspondent Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for her 2014 series exposing the damage done to public health and the environment by India’s asbestos industry. The award, considered to be India’s most prestigious journalism prize, was presented by India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for Daigle’s features which highlighted how sales were flourishing in India of a substance widely regarded by the developed world as a deadly poison. See: AP Staffers Win Prestigious Indian Journalism Awards.

Environmental Asbestos Hazard

Nov 25, 2015

Italy’s Asbestos Observatory (ONA) is holding a conference on Saturday, November 28, 2015 in Modena to examine the hazards posed by asbestos contamination of drinking water, public buildings, domestic properties and workplaces. According to epidemiological data collected by ONA there is a “higher incidence of gastrointestinal and biliary tract (cancer) among workers exposed to asbestos and citizens who ingested asbestos dissolved in the water.” These findings substantiate conclusions reached by the International Agency for Research on Cancer regarding the asbestos cancer risk. See: Amianto, Ona: rischi anche nell'acqua potabile [Asbestos, ONA: risks in drinking water].

Council Off-loads Asbestos Waste

Nov 24, 2015

Contracts worth millions of dollars have been signed, whereby Dunedin City Council will allow contractors from Christchurch to dispose of thousands of tonnes of asbestos-contaminated soil at the Green Island landfill dumpsite. The transport of the waste, which began last month, should be finished by Christmas according to Nic McEwan, Managing Director of McEwan Haulage. McEwan admitted that the decision to move the waste, which resulted from excavations carried out by the New Zealand Transport Agency during road building, was made on financial grounds. See: Christchurch asbestos fill headed for Dunedin.

Olivetti Trial Proceeding in January 2016

Nov 24, 2015

Due to the scale of the legal proceedings against former Olivetti executives and the number of parties involved, the trial which will begin on January 11, 2016 has been moved from the assigned courtroom to a music school auditorium in the town of Ivrea. Amongst those who have been indicted for manslaughter and failing to protect former employees from asbestos exposures are Olivetti executives, directors and managers from the 1970s to 1990s. See: Processo Olivetti, respinte le richieste delle difese sulle parti civili [Defense requests rejected in Olivetti case].

Labor Federation Call for Asbestos Action

Nov 24, 2015

On November 20, 2015, the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) reaffirmed its call on the European Commission to take urgent action on the EU’s asbestos crisis by seeking innovative solutions to multi-faceted challenges such as remediating asbestos contamination in conjunction with renewing building stock and improving energy efficiency. “The EFBWW sees in this both an opportunity for growth and innovation in the construction sector, and the opportunity to join a range of related, but in our view insufficiently connected, policy areas in a holistic way.” See: Letter by the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers, November 20, 2015.

Mesothelioma Alert in Chile

Nov 23, 2015

Speaking on CNN Chile yesterday (November 22, 2015), oncologist Dr. Francisco Javier Orlandi issued a stark warning that the incidence of the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma is due to rise in Chile amongst at-risk cohorts, such as construction workers, in the decades to come. The medical expert called for preventative action to be taken by the government to eradicate the hazard and protect human health. See: Francisco Javier Orlandi profundizó en el mesotelioma o cáncer de asbesto [Francisco Javier Orlandi deepened in mesothelioma or asbestos cancer].

Donation to Medical Research

Nov 23, 2015

The volunteers of the Asbestos Disease Society of Australia (ADSA) who took part in a fund-raising walk from Albany to Perth, Western Australia in September 2015 were motivated by their desire to fund life-saving research being progressed in Perth. The walkers’ efforts raised $85,000 which was presented today – the first day of Australia’s Asbestos Awareness week (November 23) – at an informal ceremony to Professor Anna Nowak, a medical oncologist and researcher who specializes in mesothelioma. For 35 years, the ADSA has supported Australia’s asbestos victims and collaborated with researchers to find a cure for deadly asbestos diseases. See: ADSA Press Release.

Agency Claims Success for Libby Clean-Up

Nov 23, 2015

Last week (November 20, 2015), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final human health risk assessment for the Libby, Montana Asbestos Superfund site. The EPA concluded that as a result of the work carried out to remediate indoor and outdoor asbestos contamination, it was now “possible to live and work in Libby and Troy without excessive exposure to asbestos.” While 7,000+ properties had been investigated, access to 700 other properties had been denied by property owners. Concerns therefore remain over asbestos levels at those sites. See: EPA finalizes Human Health Risk Assessment for Libby Asbestos Superfund site.

Council Guilty of Asbestos Pollution?

Nov 23, 2015

A municipal authority in New South Wales (NSW), Australia has been accused by a whistleblower of flouting asbestos regulations and endangering the public by failing to tackle environmental pollution caused by using asbestos-contaminated soil from the council’s storage facility on multiple sites. The whistleblower alleged that the toxic material had knowingly been distributed by Council-employed contractors over several years. According to The United Services Union, 22 sites could be affected. The NSW Environment Protection Authority has mounted an investigation. See: Liverpool Council accused of ‘turning blind eye’ to asbestos contamination.

Spain’s Invisible Victims

Nov 23, 2015

A delegation of asbestos victims, public health advocates and politicians last week went to Brussels to call on the European Parliament to act over the asbestos scandal in Spain, where cases of asbestos cancer remain unacknowledged and unsupported by medical, governmental and compensatory bodies. Epidemiologists predict a thousand people will die from asbestos diseases in Spain between 2016 and 2020. See: Lola Sánchez lleva al Parlamento Europeo las denuncias de trabajadores afectados por el amianto en Cartagena [Lola Sánchez leads delegation of Cartagena asbestos victims to denounce Spanish inaction to European Parliament].

Mesothelioma Research Findings

Nov 23, 2015

Reporting the findings of a multi-institutional study of trimodality therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma which consisted of induction chemotherapy followed by extrapleural pneumonectomy and radiation therapy, Japanese researchers have concluded that while “this phase II study met the predefined primary endpoints… its risk/benefit ratio was not satisfactory.” See: Trimodality strategy for treating malignant pleural mesothelioma: results of a feasibility study of induction pemetrexed plus cisplatin followed by extrapleural pneumonectomy and postoperative hemithoracic radiation.

Asbestos Legacy Lives On

Nov 20, 2015

There is a reason why Ambler, Pa. has one of the highest rates of death from asbestos-related diseases in the US. The debris from decades of asbestos manufacturing continues to expose the town’s residents to hazardous levels of pollution long after production ceased. Many of those now dying were also exposed to asbestos brought home on contaminated work clothes from the factory. A new Huffington Post feature detailing the town’s deadly legacy has highlighted the ramifications of Congressional proposals which could adversely affect the rights of victims in Ambler and elsewhere in the country to access compensation. See: Pennsylvania's Asbestos Problem.

Slash in Victims’ Fund

Nov 19, 2015

Australia’s asbestos giant of yesteryear, James Hardie, has slashed its annual contribution to the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund (ACIF) for Australian victims from $119.9 million for 2013-14 to $81.1 million for 2014-15, a decrease of ~30% after a reported fall in “free cash flow.” Since 2007, the company has paid $799.2 million to the fund. According to figures released today, 296 asbestos claims were received during the first half of 2015-16; the average claim settlement was $223,000. Last year the ACIF received 665 claims, a record number. See: James Hardie cuts asbestos compensation payment by $39m.

Towards an Asbestos Ban

Nov 19, 2015

Progressing along the road to an asbestos ban in 2018, steps are being taken in Sri Lanka to improve the quality and performance of safer roofing material and lower unit costs through increased levels of production, according to news released by Mahendra Jayasekara, President of Lanka Ceramic Council, at a press briefing held in Colombo. Jayasekara said the aim is to lower the price of ceramic roofing to that of asbestos tiles and thereby eliminate the cost advantage which encourages use. In recent days, asbestos lobbyists have aggressively attacked the government’s ban asbestos policy as premature. See: Sri Lanka to set standards for red clay roofing tiles upon asbestos ban.

Guilty Verdict for Negligent Employer

Nov 19, 2015

In a ruling issued this week by Judge Zelaide de Souza Philippi of the 1st Labor Court of San José, the Junkes construction company from Biguaçu City, Santa Catarina State, Brazil was convicted of exposing workers to asbestos; the company must adopt precautionary measures to prevent future exposures as mandated by the State. The civil proceeding was brought in 2014 by the Labor Prosecutor in Santa Catarina. The decision can be appealed. See: Empresa é condenada por expor empregados ao Amianto [Company convicted of exposing employees to asbestos].

Asbestos Car Parts Recalled

Nov 19, 2015

In an unprecedented move last week (November 12), Australia’s top consumer watchdog – the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – recalled counterfeit brake pads produced in China and available from eBay Australia from June 1, 2013 to October 19, 2015. The bogus parts, which contained chrysotile asbestos, a banned substance in Australia, were suitable for use on Toyota Hilux and Toyota Hiace vehicles, of which there are more than 500,000 on Australian roads. The supplier, Westend Spares, has been ordered to contact customers and refund all purchases made of these illegal goods. See: ACCC recalls counterfeit Toyota brake pads, containing asbestos, imported from China.

Mesothelioma Treatment Update

Nov 18. 2015

Sessions at the annual conference of the National Lung Cancer Forum For Nurses on November 19 & 20, 2015 in Windsor, Berkshire will focus on issues related to mesothelioma in the UK including treatment protocols and clinical trials. Expert speakers include Liz Darlison of Mesothelioma UK, Dr. Melissa Phillips, Nurse Gerry Slade and mesothelioma warrior Mavis Nye and her husband and carer Ray Nye. Mhairi Donald will address the subject of improving nutrition in lung cancer and mesothelioma. See: Lung Cancer Conference Program.

Thank you, Romana!

Nov 18, 2015

On November 16, 2015 in Casale Monferrato the inestimable Romana Blasotti Pavesi (see: In Appreciation of Romana Blasotti Pavesi) chaired her last meeting as the President of AFEVA, a victims’ group which has led the fight for asbestos justice in Italy. The new President Beppe Manfredi and Vice President Giovanni Cappa, who are both suffering from mesothelioma, paid tribute to Romana and Dr. Federica Grosso, the doctor supervising their medical treatment. See: Familiari e vittime amianto, la Romana passa il testimone a due coraggiosi malati di mesothelioma [Relatives and victims of asbestos, Romana passes the baton to two brave mesothelioma sufferers].

Asbestos Workshop in Vietnam

Nov 17, 2015

On Wednesday, November 18, 2015, a workshop entitled “Using Chrysotile Safely and Under Control” will be held at the Central Institute for Economic Management in Hanoi. The program features John Hoskins who is listed as “an independent consultant, Royal Society of Chemistry,” as well as speakers from Vietnam’s Ministry of Construction, the Vietnam Academy of Social Science and the Institute for Economic Management. The subject of Hoskins’ presentation is “Research on affect [sic] of chrysotile on human health.” In 2014, Vietnam used just under 10,000 tonnes of asbestos. See: Workshop Agenda.

Campaigners Meet Supreme Court Minister

Nov 17, 2015

Leading campaigners from the legal and victims’ community met last week (November 12) with a Minister from Brazil’s Supreme Court to discuss a challenge by asbestos vested interests – the National Confederation of Workers in [the Asbestos] Industry – to the asbestos ban in the State of Pernambuco. During the discussions which ensued, the global scientific consensus on asbestos was explained; a consensus which supports phasing out asbestos use to protect human health, in line with the position espoused by the WHO, the ILO and other international agencies. See: Reunião com ministro do STF debate Amianto [Meeting with Minister of the Supreme Court: asbestos debate].

Gender Differences in Mesothelioma Survival

Nov 17, 2015

An article examining the ramifications of gender differences in malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) confirms that survival rates seem to favour female patients. The authors of the American study detailed in this new paper believe that: “Insight into the survival advantage of female patients may advance the molecular understanding of MPM and identify therapeutic interventions that will improve the prognosis for all MPM patients.” The researchers “identified molecular differences associated with gender and histology.” See: Gender-Specific Molecular and Clinical Features underlie Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.

Asbestos Mortality in Korea

Nov 17, 2015

On Monday, November 9, 2015 members of the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO), joined by a Japanese asbestos activist, mounted a public awareness outreach event in the country’s capital to highlight the Korean incidence of asbestos-related mortality; one person is dying every week from these diseases. More than one hundred and thirty victims from five regions took part in a mock funeral ceremony which attracted considerable media attention. On April 1, 2015, Korea achieved a total asbestos ban by removing the final derogations allowing its use for asbestos-containing gaskets and insulation for submarines and missiles. See: Photos of mock funeral ceremony.

Asbestos Propaganda Campaign

Nov 16, 2015

Sri Lanka’s English language Sunday Leader newspaper published a feature article this week (November 15) detailing new measures being taken by asbestos manufacturers and their trade association (the Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers Association), to force the government to retract plans to ban asbestos by 2018. In literature just released, the industry repeats discredited propaganda “proving” that the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos presents no human health risk, and is distributing leaflets around the country promoting “safe use” of asbestos-cement products and questioning the President’s motivation for banning asbestos. See: Manufacturers Defend Use Of Asbestos Sheets.

Human and Environmental Asbestos Legacy

Nov 15, 2015

The Parliament of Sardinia last week discussed the problems of asbestos victims and pollution in the Ottana region of Sardinia where occupational and environmental asbestos exposures were commonplace at sites operated by the state-owned petrochemical company L'EniChem Anic S.p.A. For years, victims have been denied compensation and unremediated industrial sites have continued to expose the public to the asbestos hazard. Politicians from Sardinia are pressing the central government to add the company’s Ottana factory site to the national asbestos register. See: Scandalo amianto a Ottana, il caso in Parlamento [Asbestos scandal in Ottana, the case in Parliament].

Swiss-Spanish Solidarity for Victims

Nov 15, 2015

On November 10, 2015 representatives of asbestos victims’ groups in Switzerland (CAOVA) and Spain came together at the University of Malaga to examine national asbestos legacies and consider future strategies for obtaining justice and support for the injured. Asbestos activists François and Pierrette Iselin read out CAOVA’s declaration of solidarity which pointed out that hundreds of Spanish immigrants, who had been employed at Eternit factories in Switzerland, had never been compensated. See: Solidaridad con las víctimas del amianto, con sus familiares y los que luchan en España contra la injusticia [Solidarity with asbestos victims, with their families and those struggling against injustice in Spain].

Asbestos Fly-tipping in Brazil

Nov 14, 2015

The Department of the Environment of Nova Odessa, a city in the state of São Paulo, has reported illegal dumping of asbestos debris. According to Deputy Under Secretary for the Environment José Carlos de Castro around 20 toxic tiles were found; the level of risk is heightened by the fact they were broken and deposited near an entrance to a dam. Investigations are proceeding to identify the polluter who is liable for fines of up to R$5000 (US$1300) for infringing municipal legislation which prohibits the inappropriate disposal of waste. See: Meio Ambiente localizou descarte irregular de telhas de amianto próximo a represa [Environmental contamination after illegal asbestos dumping].

Asbestos Debris in Migrant Camp

Nov 13, 2015

Asbestos-containing debris has been identified at the “Jungle 2” camp in Calais. Previously, the site was used for the disposal of landfill. According to occupational health and safety expert Dr Surindar Dhesi: “The asbestos that’s been found in the Calais camp has been broken into fragments. Now asbestos that’s been encapsulated in a material and if that material is in good condition, the risk is very low and it’s not something to worry about, but once that material is broken, there’s a potential for the fibres to escape and then they can be inhaled and that's where the risk is.” See: Calais Jungle Camp littered with asbestos.

Act Now, New Canadian PM Told

Nov 13, 2015

Congratulating Pierre Trudeau on becoming the Prime Minister of Canada , scores of global health and medical experts have urged him to seize the moment and ban the use and import of asbestos-containing materials (see Letter from health experts). For decades Canada, the world’s most prolific supplier of asbestos throughout most of the 20th century, had taken a leadership role in the global marketing of asbestos. It was, the experts said, now time for Canada to declare its intention to end the asbestos slaughter at home and abroad. See: Health experts call on Trudeau government to protect health & ban asbestos.

Municipal Decontamination Program

Nov 13, 2015

At a meeting this week of the Lisbon municipal assembly, the Councillor for Urban Affairs Manuel Salgado announced plans to remediate 42 municipal buildings containing asbestos, including schools, sports facilities, fire and police stations, by 2017. Portugal was amongst the last European Member States to ban asbestos and only did so when the EU deadline of 2005 had arrived. Until then, it had been a prolific asbestos consumer; it is likely many more buildings in and outside of the capital are contaminated. Between 1995 and 2005, annual asbestos consumption was ~5,200 tonnes. See: Scores of Lisbon buildings cleared of asbestos by 2017.

Pioneering Mesothelioma Research

Nov 13, 2015

An immunotherapy strategy designed to shrink cancerous tumors has just received $2.5m of additional funding from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council. According to Professor Bruce Robinson, Director of the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases, the new vaccine is intended to “wake up” the body’s immune system so it would attack and shrink tumors. The focus of the Australian scientists’ work is the asbestos cancer mesothelioma and lung cancer. Building on the findings from animal trials, the new grant will facilitate work on the optimum methods of vaccine design and delivery as a basis for human trials. See: Funding for promising vaccine to shrink tumours.

Asbestos Industry on Offensive

Nov 12, 2015

Sri Lanka’s Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers Association has hit back at government plans to ban chrysotile (white) asbestos, the only type of asbestos imported, saying that “it has been accepted that white asbestos has no adverse impact on human health.” Advancing discredited asbestos industry propaganda as evidence, the lobbyists claim the decision to ban asbestos by 2018 was “made without conducting a proper scientific study to prove health hazards linked to asbestos.” A national marketing campaign has been designed to counter the government’s “false” claims about the asbestos hazard. See: Asbestos industry cries foul over 2018 ban.

Asbestos Emergency: Public Health Hazard

Nov 11, 2015

A commentary published on November 9, 2015 by Professor Leslie Stayner in a peer-reviewed journal highlighted new scientific findings which showed the “exposure-response relationship between higher cumulative exposure to asbestos from all sources and increased risk of pleural mesothelioma.” Stayner discussed the relevance of this conclusion to countries where the mining and processing of asbestos remain legal concluding that “Ultimately, it is the communities that most likely will bear the costs in terms of health and for the cleanup of their homes and environments.” See Para-occupational exposures to asbestos: lessons learned from Casale Monferrato, Italy [free access to full commentary until May 27, 2016] or Commentary Extract.

Investment Sought for Revival of Mine

Nov 11, 2015

A total of $58 million is needed to restore asbestos production levels at Zimbabwe’s Mashava asbestos mine to pre-2004 levels, when the Government seized control of operations. According to an article released yesterday (November 10), Mashava’s King Mine “has been operating at below 50 percent capacity for the past 11 years.” Other sources report that no asbestos has been produced at this facility for many years due to lack of investment, structural deterioration and failure to pay mine workers. Chief Executive Chirandu Ndhlembeu claims that his firm’s mines are operating at 40% capacity with a skeletal staff. See: Mashava asbestos mine requires $38m, says CEO.

Government Liable for Asbestos Claims

Nov 10, 2015

French asbestos victims have been outraged (see: ANDEVA Press Release) by a decision announced on November 9, 2015 by the Council of State, the highest administrative court, which allowed a claim by the owners of a Normandy shipbuilding company for the State to be held liable for some of the costs of workplace asbestos claims due to its failure to act on the occupational hazard before 1977. The Council found that the French State’s failure to implement “measures to prevent or at least limit the dangers related” to asbestos constituted “misconduct.” See: Amiante: l'Etat condamné à verser 350 000 euros aux CMN [Asbestos: the State ordered to pay 350,000 euros to CMN].

Exploitation of Chinese Workers

Nov 10, 2015

New Zealand’s Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) has accused KiwiRail of bad faith for allowing 40 Chinese engineers to carry out work on locomotives bought from the Chinese state-owned CNR Corporation Limited that were contaminated with asbestos. CNR employees were sent to New Zealand to remove the asbestos and repair the vehicles; it was alleged the foreign workers were paid less than the minimum wage. The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has rejected a RMTU request (see ERA Ruling, October 30, 2015) to have their claim adjudicated by the Employment Court; the ERA will continue with its own investigation. See: Chinese workers exploited in NZ: claim.

Demolition Contractors Flout Best Practice

Nov 9, 2015

A building boom in Vancouver, Canada and the lack of asbestos aware demolition contractors are proving a deadly mix according to Al Johnson, of WorkSafeBC prevention services. Many older properties contain asbestos in linoleum and vinyl tiles, drywall and insulation products. State regulations stipulate that properties be tested for hazardous materials before work begins. In 2014, WorkSafe found that 43% of hazardous material surveys done by demolition or renovation contractors were inadequate. Proper remediation and disposal of asbestos can add $25,000+ to contracts. See: Vancouver workers face asbestos danger with quick demolition jobs.

Premiere of Asbestos Film

Nov 9, 2015

The premiere of a film entitled “A Safe Place,” set in the epicenter of Italy’s asbestos scandal, will take place on December 3, 2015. Many people from Casale Monferrato involved in the filming have had first-hand experience of the toxic exposures caused by the operations of the town’s Eternit asbestos-cement factory. At the heart of the film is a story about a young father suffering from asbestos cancer; through his eyes, we observe the mobilization and rebirth of the devastated community as it fights for justice. See: Un posto sicuro: amore e amianto, da Casale Monferrato al cinema [A safe place: love and asbestos, from Casale Monferrato to the movies].

Condemnation of Asbestos Use

Nov 9, 2015

On November 6, 2015, Brazil’s Cancer Institute (INCA) joined other medical and health institutions to condemn an ordinance issued on September 30, 2015 by the Ministry of Labour which aims to prolong the country’s commercial exploitation of asbestos. In its statement, INCA referenced the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s categorization of all types of asbestos as carcinogenic and its findings that exposure to asbestos causes mesothelioma as well as cancers of the lung, larynx, ovary and is associated with the development of cancers of the pharynx, stomach and colon. See: Uso do amianto é criticado [Asbestos use is criticized].

Compensation for Asbestos Anxiety

Nov 9, 2015

Last Friday (November 6, 2015), an appeal court in the City of Bourges, central France, confirmed a Labor Court judgement which ordered the Aubois Company to compensate 44 former employees a total of €396,000 for the anxiety of contracting asbestos-related cancers and diseases from hazardous workplace exposures. Each of the injured will receive €9,000 (~US$9,700). The Court of Appeal acknowledged that even though the former employees were not sick, knowledge of their exposures was cause for concern over their well-being. See: Amiante: une entreprise devra payer 396.000 euros de préjudice d'anxiété [Asbestos: company must pay €396,000 injury anxiety].

EPA Failing the Public

Nov 9, 2015

Last week, Brimbank Council in western Melbourne submitted evidence to an enquiry over the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which highlighted the agency’s failure to address major public grievances including the legacy of asbestos pollution in Sunshine North. The EPA’s failure to fulfil its responsibilities for environmental protection has had financial ramifications for local authorities such as Brimbank council which spent $1 million last year to clean up fly tipped waste, including asbestos debris. See: Council says EPA too slow to respond.

Making the Polluter Pay

Nov 8, 2015

On November 4, 2015 the Legislative Assembly of São Paulo passed a bill, proposed by Marcos Martin, which increases the penalties for the illegal storage and disposal of asbestos. Under the new provisions, strict compliance with deadlines for the proper environmental disposal of contaminated products to landfill will be required. Failure to safely dispose of the toxic material according to the schedule set will result in financial penalties; repeated offenses could result in the mandatory closure of business operations. See: Projeto de lei de deputado garante descarte ambientalmente correto do amianto [Deputy bill ensures environmentally correct disposal of asbestos].

Asbestos Whitewash by University

Nov 7, 2015

In its cultivation of corporate funding, Canada’s Concordia University stands accused of “irresponsibility and a lack of ethics” (see November 3, 2015 letter) after it refused to retract a contentious and deceitful university-published report by a former consultant to a Canadian asbestos stakeholder. After a low key, in-house investigation, the university has not withdrawn the publication and continues to employ its author. See: Publication d'une étude partiale sur l'amiante: la réaction de Concordia jugée “irresponsible” [Publication of a study biased on asbestos: the reaction of Concordia deemed “irresponsible”].

Call for New Treatment Options

Nov 7, 2015

An observational retrospective study of the files of 406 French patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) between January 2005 and December 2008 was undertaken by French researchers who reported that although “the management of MPM in France is in line with European recommendations… treatment outcomes remain disappointing, usually lower in routine practice than in clinical trials. New treatment options are urgently needed to improve the prognosis of MPM.” See: Management of malignant pleural mesothelioma: a French multicenter retrospective study (GFPC 0802 study).

Asbestos at the Opera House

Nov 7, 2015

Asbestos-related deaths of seven former workers from the famous La Scala Opera House are currently under investigation with the possibility of charges for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm being brought against four former Mayors who were in office between 1976 and 1997. Also under investigation is Carlo Fontana, the superintendent of La Scala from 1990 to 2015. In July 2015, eleven former managers of the Pirelli tyre company were convicted of manslaughter over the asbestos-related deaths of 24 former workers, occupationally exposed to asbestos during the 1970s and 1980s. See: Ex-mayors probed over La Scala asbestos deaths.

Spotlight on Asbestos Hazard

Nov 6, 2015

Written question number 18676,which was submitted to the French Senate on November 5, 2015, highlighted the failure of some authorities and/or property owners to provide copies of mandatory asbestos audits to tenants and/ or occupants as specified in Decree No. 2011-629 of June 3, 2011 on the protection of the population against health risks posed by exposure to asbestos in buildings. The Minister of Housing was asked whether a modification to the decree was required to ensure compliance. A response is pending. See: Information des locataires sur la présence d'amiante dans les logements sociaux [Information about the presence of asbestos in public housing].

Acquittal of Asbestos Executives

Nov 6, 2015

Karel Vinck, a Belgian businessman who is now a high-profile official of the European Commission, was one of four Eternit executives acquitted by a Turin Court of charges related to injuries sustained by workers from an Eternit asbestos factory in the town of Cavagnolo. The businessmen had been accused by prosecutor Dr La Rosa of causing injuries and manslaughter for the deaths of three former employees and the asbestos disease of another. See: Torino: morti per amianto, assolti quattro dirigenti della Eternit-Saca di Cavagnolo [Turin: four executives of Eternit-Saca, Cavagnolo acquitted over deaths from asbestos].

Review of Asbestos Claims of Veterans?

Nov 5, 2015

On November 4, 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons that a review would be launched into the Ministry of Defence’s compensation regime for veterans dying of asbestos cancer. Under the current system, cases for illnesses caused in the services prior to 1987 are barred; as a result, says the Royal British Legion, thousands of Royal Navy veterans dying of cancer are deprived of thousands of pounds of compensation. The £31,000 war pension they receive is a fraction of the amount paid out by government compensation schemes for civilians. See: David Cameron pledges to review how veterans exposed to asbestos are compensated.

Asbestos Demonstration in Rome

Nov 4, 2015

Representatives of the asbestos victims’ group AFeVA will be joined by trade unionists and other supporters at a demonstration on November 11, 2015 in front of the Via Veneto headquarters of the Ministry of Labor in the Italian capital over the Government’s failure to implement measures for the support of asbestos cancer victims. The organizers of the protest are requesting a meeting with the Minister as a matter of urgency. See: Vittime Amianto: mercoledì 11 sit-in di sindacati, ANMIL e AFeVA a Roma [Asbestos victims, trade unionists & others to hold sit-in next Wednesday, November 11, in Rome].

Thousands of Asbestos Deaths Unrecognized

Nov 4, 2015

A paper published last week in the Journal of Occupational Medicine estimated that approximately 5,000 UK deaths occur annually from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a condition which could be caused by exposure to asbestos. The scientists established the existence of a “significant linear relationship” between the incidence of mesothelioma and IPF mortality and historic UK asbestos imports. There was, they concluded, “a clear need to develop an asbestos exposure JEM [job-exposure matrix], using British industry data, to facilitate accurate diagnosis and future case-control studies.” See: UK asbestos imports and mortality due to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Asbestos Action in the Hague

Nov 2, 2015

Hearings began today (November 2, 2015) in the Hague in the case of Klaas Jasperse vs the Government of the Netherlands. At issue is the continued failure of the Dutch Government to protect workers from the asbestos hazard. Mr. Jasperse contracted the asbestos cancer mesothelioma as a result of occupational asbestos exposure over a sustained period; legal action against his negligent employer was not possible because of its insolvency. According to legal expert Bob Ruers, “the Dutch State had already been fully aware of the cancer-related risks posed by asbestos by 1977.” Had action been taken earlier, it is argued, Mr. Jasperse would not have become ill. Watch this space!

Court Orders Environmental Audits

Nov 2, 2015

Last week (October 29, 2015), India’s Green Tribunal ordered the states of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh to prepare lists of derelict asbestos mines, submit these lists to the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), and formulate and implement joint plans for environmental asbestos audits of each site with scientific experts. It further ordered that the joint inspection reports of each state with detailed recommendations for the remediation of contaminated sites be published on the IBM website prior to being submitted to the Green Tribunal on December 20, 2015. See: National Green Tribunal Decision October 29, 2015.

Call by Labor for Asbestos Eradication

Nov 2, 2015

The European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) has issued its submission to the public consultation on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive which highlighted the “complementarity between the European Commission’s policy on energy performance in buildings and the safe removal of remaining asbestos…” In its position paper, the EFBWW pointed out that the Commission had already indicated that “EU funding and Member State incentives targeting better energy performance in buildings could be linked to the safe removal of asbestos...” See: EFBWW Submission to Public Consultation on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

Asbestos Death Charges Mounting!

Nov 1, 2015

Additional charges for asbestos-related deaths of Eternit workers in Switzerland and Brazil are being added to ongoing criminal proceedings mounted by Turin Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello against Stephen and Thomas Schmidheiny, formerly the owners and directors of the Eternit asbestos group, who stand accused of the manslaughter of workers from their asbestos-cement factories. Investigations are continuing. despite the case being delayed while Italy’s Constitutional Court considers objections from the legal representatives of the accused. See: Eternit, ai proprietari contestati altri 116 decessi [Eternit owners face charges over a further 116 deaths].

New PM Spurns Asbestos Home

Nov 1, 2015

Newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to move his family into 24 Sussex, the 147-year-old building which has served as home to successive Canadian Prime Ministers. In addition to a myriad of problems posed by the property’s dilapidated state, the building is “riddled with asbestos.” This fact should be a wake-up call for the new PM – if the asbestos makes the building unsafe for his family, what about other Canadians whose towns and homes are also contaminated? It is well past time that Canada outlawed the use of asbestos and took steps to remove it from all properties. See: Justin Trudeau postpones move into ‘asbestos-riddled’ official residence for renovations.

Council Sold Contaminated Soil?

Nov 1, 2015

At a meeting on October 28, 2015 of Liverpool City Council in south-west Sydney, New South Wales, allegations were made by Councillor Peter Ristevski concerning the sale by the Council of asbestos-contaminated soil and fill for use at 22 local sites including a school, parks, reserves and waterways. According to Ristevski the asbestos, which had been stored at a Council recycling facility, was mixed with soil and other materials for use as fill. “There could be a massive liability in terms of the health to the public,” Ristevski said after the meeting. See: Liverpool council investigated over asbestos-contaminated soil allegations.

Asbestos Waste Bound for Portugal

Nov 1, 2015

The removal of asbestos-cement debris from Hal Far, a derelict Royal Air Force base on Malta now owned by the Maltese Government, is being paid for with €1.5 million of European Union funds. The toxic waste consists of 1,500 tonnes of asbestos pipes which were dumped on this site thirty years ago. In August 2015, waste handling contractors began work to remove and package the pipes, previously used for shelter by migrants, prior to shipping the waste to Portugal to be buried at a landfill site. See: €1.5 million in EU funds used to remove asbestos pipes from Hal-Far.

Epidemiologists Quantify Epidemic

Nov 1, 2015

A research project has developed the first model for predicting mortality from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma and asbestosis in Korea. Having quantified the amount of asbestos used, the scientists calculated that between 2014 to 2036, up to 3,476 people could die; by 2031, it was predicted that a maximum of 555 deaths would occur from exposures to asbestos-containing slate buildings. These figures exclude deaths from other asbestos-related cancers and respiratory conditions. See: Predicting the mortality from asbestos-related diseases based on the amount of asbestos used and the effects of slate buildings in Korea.

Attempt to Silence Asbestos Victims

Oct 29, 2015

Official investigations are being pursued over attempts to intimidate Geraldo Mariano da Silva, the President of the Rio de Janeiro (RJ) branch of Brazil’s Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA), who was threatened by two alleged asbestos bullies earlier this month. ABREA-RJ and the Ministry of Labor have filed a billion-Reais lawsuit against Eternit, Brazil’s only producer of asbestos fiber and the dominant force in the country’s industrial asbestos sector. See: Presidente da Associação das vítimas do amianto no RJ é intimidado por defensores da fibra cancerígena [President of the RJ Association of Asbestos Victims intimidated by pro-asbestos supporters].

Asbestos Scandal in Dubai

Oct 28, 2015

Commenting on new revelations that asbestos-containing building products were still being used in Dubai despite a national ban, an editorial in The National – a major Abu Dhabi news outlet – said that this news was “alarming on several levels.” Charles Kavanagh, head of a health and safety consultancy group, detailed his personal knowledge of twenty projects, including the construction of a school, which had involved the use of asbestos-containing material. The editorial calls for raised public and professional awareness of the asbestos hazard. See: Saving future generations from asbestos.

Safety of Asbestos Waste Disposal

Oct 28, 2015

An October 28 editorial called for extreme caution over proposed changes by the Guam Environmental Protection Agency which would allow the disposal of asbestos-containing waste at a landfill without consulting at-risk communities and local authorities. On October 26, 2015, the Chief Judge of the Guam District Court said that the Guam EPA had “failed to answer” questions about the EPA’s ability to protect public health if the ban on disposing of asbestos material on the island were to be reversed. See: Guam EPA needs to justify asbestos disposal at Layon.

Asbestos Cancer in China

Oct 20, 2015

A paper just published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, which investigated the effects of exposures to chrysotile asbestos on people in Southeast China, confirmed the existence of a “cluster of peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma in women… (all of whom) had been exposed to asbestos through work in asbestos textile workshops or living in a house where asbestos hand-spinning was practiced.” The authors recommend that the mining and use of asbestos be terminated to prevent the occurrence of a mesothelioma epidemic in China. See: Asbestos Textile Production Linked to Malignant Peritoneal and Pleural Mesothelioma in Women: Analysis of 28 Cases in Southeast China.

Asbestos Campaigner Wins Nomination

Oct 20, 2015

Today (Oct. 20, 2015) asbestos campaigner Rose Marie Vojakovic was named as one of four finalists for the title of Western Australia’s Senior Australian of the Year (2016). Rose Marie has worked for more than 30 years to support Australian asbestos victims and their families during their darkest hours. Her efforts have been pivotal in helping the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia become one of these world’s leading advocacy groups for asbestos victims. The winning finalist, who will go through to the national competition, will be announced in November. Good luck, Rose Marie! See: State Finalist Senior Australian of the Year 2016.

Unions Call for Eradication Program

Oct 19, 2015

The Labor Council of New South Wales (Unions NSW), representing 800,000 Australian workers belonging to 67 unions and 8 labor councils, has proposed that a scheme be set up funded by the construction industry to remove asbestos from buildings to prevent illegal fly tipping of contaminated debris which has become a common problem throughout the state. The funds required could come from the imposition of a small levy on new construction materials; asbestos removal costs should, Unions NSW said, be tax deductible. See: Solve asbestos dumping problem and lift safety with construction levy, says Unions NSW.

Routine Flouting of São Paulo Ban!

Oct 18, 2015

Despite bans on the use, sale and transport of asbestos and asbestos-containing material by the City and State of São Paulo, toxic products are currently available for purchase via the internet. Journalists from Globo – a major Brazilian media network – have reported illegal sales of asbestos-cement water tanks and roofing products. Although several states have, like São Paulo, taken unilateral action and banned asbestos, the federal government has not. A Supreme Court decision is pending regarding the constitutionality of asbestos use. See: Mesmo com proibição, caixas d'água e telhas com amianto são vendidas [Despite ban, water tanks and tiles with asbestos are sold].

MPs Call for Asbestos Eradication

Oct 16, 2015

A new publication issued by MPs calls on the Government to set a timetable for the eradication of asbestos contamination from the national infrastructure. In the report published today by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, MP Ian Lavery, Chair of the Group, said: “We believe that the Government needs to start now on developing a programme to ensure that asbestos is safely removed from every workplace and public place so that we can end… this dreadful legacy which has killed so many people, and will continue to kill until asbestos is eradicated.” See: The asbestos crisis. Why Britain needs an eradication law.

Examining the Legacy of Dr. I Selikoff

Oct 16, 2015

An event in New York City will be held today (October 16, 2015), commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Irving J. Selikoff (January 15, 1915 – May 20, 1992). See IBAS Blog, October 16, 2015.

Condemnation of “Safe Use Policy”

Oct 16, 2015

Brazil’s Center of Occupational Hygiene and Medicine – Fundocentro – has issued a damning indictment of the ordinance on the safe use of asbestos issued on September 30, 2015 by the Ministry of Labor. Calling for the annulment of this measure, Fundocentro’s statement cited statistics which showed that asbestos exposures were responsible for 30% of the occupational cancers diagnosed by Fundocentro doctors and said that there is no such thing as the “safe use of asbestos.” See: Servidores da Fundacentro se posicionam contra portaria sobre uso seguro do amianto [Fundacentro is against ordinance based on the safe use of asbestos].

Russian Backing for Mine Revival?

Oct 16, 2015

A Zimbabwe newspaper article has reported the presence of potential Russian investors in the country who are investigating the possibilities of reviving the derelict Shabanie-Mashava chrysotile (white) asbestos mines which ceased operations more than a decade ago. The interest of these investors was confirmed by the Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development and MP Zvishavane-Ngezi, Member of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy. Russia produces nearly half of all the asbestos consumed worldwide every year. See: Russian Investors to Revive Shabanie Mine.

Pathway to Asbestos Ban

Oct 15, 2015

Following up on a public pledge made on August 12, 2015 to ban asbestos in 2018, the President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena hosted discussions this week involving senior civil servants and civil society stakeholders which were focused on the implementation of a program to create: public awareness of the asbestos hazard, awareness of the availability of asbestos-free products and demand for these materials. A key point of discussion was on the use of asbestos-free roofing products and construction materials for schools, hospitals and other public buildings. See: The President focuses special attention on regulating the use of alternatives for asbestos.

Asbestos Discovery in Cancer Clinic

Oct 14, 2015

Maintenance work on the ceilings at Helsinki’s Meilahti Hospital, the largest hospital in Finland, revealed the presence of asbestos in a cancer clinic on floors seven and eight of the hospital. The Department of Oncology, which was built in 1962, is used by 240 staff members to treat 500 patients every day. Due to this discovery, patients will be seen at an alternative location while remediation work is carried out. It is not yet known how long the closure will last but the authorities have issued reassurances that monitoring has shown no airborne asbestos fibers. See: Asbest på cancerkliniken i Mejlans [Asbestos cancer center in Meilahti].

Asbestos Contamination on Farms

Oct 14, 2015

Despite subsidies provided by the authorities to remove asbestos-cement building materials from Dutch farms, the high cost of remediation has meant that many farmers have not decontaminated their properties. It has been estimated that there are 120 million square meters of asbestos-cement material covering Dutch farms, much of which is weathered and able to release asbestos fibers into the environment. Failure to decontaminate these buildings can result in hefty fines under environmental legislation. See: Asbest ‘sluipend probleem’ voor noodlijdende boeren [Asbestos ‘insidious problem’ for distressed farmers].

British Asbestos Newsletter

Oct 13, 2015

The summer 2015 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The leading article in issue 98, Asbestos Heroes and Villains, considered political, environmental, legal and epidemiological news which informed the on-going debate about the UK’s asbestos crisis. This feature cited damning new evidence from the HSE and the Office of National Statistics confirming the high incidence of asbestos mortality and highlighted victories achieved by members of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK. Other pieces in this issue reviewed the pleural plaques controversy and provided updates on legal, social and scientific developments. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, Issue 98.

Calls for EU Asbestos Action

Oct 13, 2015

Written declaration 0037/2015 (September 7, 2015) calling on the European Parliament to take decisive steps to eradicate the asbestos hazard has another two months to attract the signatures of 376 Members of the European Parliament) required for it to be submitted to the European Commission for consideration. The text of this motion, which highlights Europe’s elevated incidence of asbestos-related mortality, calls on the Commission to implement a coordinated asbestos strategy and create a Europe-wide program for the eradication of asbestos from public and private buildings. See: Written Declaration submitted under Rule 136 of the Rules of Procedure on asbestos.

Government Calls for Asbestos Ban

Oct 12, 2015

At a Congressional hearing in Bogota last week, Ministers recognized the public health hazard posed by asbestos use and declared the Colombian Government’s willingness to implement a national ban within five years. Minister of Labor Luis Eduardo Garzon proposed creating a technical committee, led by the Ministry of Health, to allow stakeholders input to the formulation of a just transition policy which would provide employment for 6,000+ asbestos sector workers. See: Asbesto no es problema de salud ocupacional, sino de salud pública: Gobierno [Government: Asbestos is a public health problem not just an occupational health issue].

Rising Mortality from Mesothelioma

Oct 12, 2015

A graph produced by historian Dr. Geoffrey Tweedale provides visual evidence of the inexorable rise in the number of UK mesothelioma deaths between 1968 and 2013. According to data released this summer by the Health and Safety Executive and the Office of National Statistics, there were 2,538 deaths from mesothelioma in Great Britain in 2013; between 2010 and 2014, 11,011 people died from this disease with rates increasing by 13% over this period; the areas with the highest age-standardized mortality rates were: Barrow-in-Furness, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Fareham. See: UK mesothelioma mortality graph.

Firm Guilty over Take Home Exposure

Oct 11, 2015

A legal commentary published last week entitled “Judgment Day,” examined the landmark decision issued in June 2015 by the Superior Court of Catalonia which found Uralita, formerly one of Spain’s major asbestos-cement manufacturers, guilty of the asbestos-related death of a worker’s wife who was exposed to asbestos brought home on her husband’s work clothes. See: Condenada URALITA a indemnizar al marido por la muerte de su esposa, quien lavaba y planchaba durante años su ropa de trabajo impregnada de amianto [Uralita condemned to compensate husband for the death of his wife, who for years washed and ironed his asbestos-covered work clothes].

Huge Turnout at Paris Asbestos Protest

Oct 9, 2015

Up to 2,000 people took part in a demonstration through the streets of Paris today (October 9) calling for justice for asbestos victims. Not one asbestos director, civil servant or lobbyist has been convicted for their part in a criminal conspiracy which has led to an epidemic of asbestos-related deaths say ANDEVA, the French association of asbestos victims’ groups. The march was dedicated to the memory of Jean Dalla Torre, who died of mesothelioma last month. He was the first person to file a French complaint against Monsieur X twenty years ago. See: Amiante: “toujours ni responsable ni coupable” déplore l'Andeva [Asbestos: “to date no one has been found responsible or guilty” deplores Andeva].

Asbestos Exposure at European Parliament

Oct 9, 2015

It is estimated that 1,300 people could have been exposed to asbestos at the European Parliament’s Winston Churchill building in Strasbourg during development work carried out in 2013. Yesterday (October 8, 2015), one hundred of those at risk attended the opening day of criminal proceedings. The accused include an architect, a works manager, a sub-contracting company and others accused of negligence over the release of asbestos into the environment. See: Amiante au Parlement européen: des employés devant la justice [Asbestos in the European Parliament: employees before justice].

National Recognition of Asbestos Threat

Oct 9, 2015

A press release issued on October 7, 2015 by India’s Ministry of Labour and Employment announced that a permanent and unique asbestos and silica resource had been set up at the Regional Labour Institute (RLI) in the Northern state of Haryana to “generate awareness among the stakeholders of silica and asbestos handling units on different aspects of health & safety.” The new center in the city of Faridabad was inaugurated during the 54th Conference of Chief Inspectors of Factories held recently at RLI to promote the “safety and health of the workers at national level.” See: First Safety & Health Exhibition Center on Asbestos & Silica at RLI Faridabad.

Critique of US Asbestos Bill

Oct 9, 2015

In May, 2015, a bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives which would adversely affect the rights and status of U.S. asbestos claimants. The so-called FACT ACT, H.R. 526 will be considered by the House of Representatives during the current Congressional session. If passed, it would increase bureaucratic obstacles faced by asbestos litigants and claimants and could violate their right to privacy by releasing personal data that could be used by identify thieves and scammers. See: Congress Should Protect, Not Expose Asbestos Victims to Further Harm | Commentary.

Mesothelioma – More Awareness Needed!

Oct 9, 2015

Days after the 10th Mesothelioma Patients and Carer Day, news was released that despite the ongoing UK epidemic of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, only 17% of responders to a survey could name one symptom of this disease. Since the 2,000 people approached were over 45 years old – the majority of those who contract this cancer are older – this is a serious cause for concern. Commenting on these “disappointing findings,” Mesothelioma UK – the leading charity working in this field – highlighted the need for greater awareness “particularly amongst those who have had contact with asbestos.” See: Survey shows huge gaps in mesothelioma awareness among public.

Removal of Asbestos from Schools

Oct 8, 2015

OVAM, the Public Waste Agency of Flanders, has announced the launching of an investigation into the asbestos contamination of 300 schools. Sampling of suspect material, which will be undertaken out of school hours, will begin by the end of this year as part of an asbestos reduction plan which aims to eradicate asbestos from Flanders by 2040. It has been estimated that 3.7 million tonnes of asbestos was used in a variety of products throughout the region until it was banned in 1998. See: OVAM start onderzoek naar asbest in 300 Vlaamse scholen [OVAM start research on asbestos in 300 Flemish schools].

Asbestos Alert at London Hospital

Oct 8, 2015

The discovery of debris contaminated with crocidolite and amosite asbestos has led to urgent action by the management of St. Pancras Hospital. A network of underground tunnels has been welded shut with warning signs placed around manholes and a decontamination unit installed on the site; medical tests have been ordered for at-risk staff. Commenting on the situation an unidentified source said: “There are loads of people who have been sent to work down in those tunnels every day for years. Where were the checks? Now they are going down there dressed up in protective suits and with face masks on.” See: Staff sent for tests after asbestos find in tunnels beneath St Pancras Hospital.

Asbestosis Diagnosis in India

Oct 8, 2015

Dr. Jayshree Chander, a specialist in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, was awarded an IBAS travel bursary to facilitate her participation at an asbestosis diagnosis camp in Kolkata in September 2015. Commenting on this experience, Dr. Chander said: “most of the occupational health issues of Indian workers, including asbestos related diseases, are being addressed essentially on a volunteer basis by a handful of qualified and altruistic professionals. The problems are preventable, the causes multifactorial, the needs immense, and a meaningful, sustainable interdisciplinary strategy has yet to be developed.”

National Asbestos Victims’ Protest

Oc 7, 2015

Asbestos victims, family members, campaigners and concerned citizens will mark the 20th anniversary of a landmark asbestos case in the streets of Paris on Friday, October 9, 2015 when they assemble for a mass demonstration to denounce the failure of the judicial or legislative systems to hold anyone to account for the French asbestos catastrophe (see ANDEVA Press Release). In September 2015, the first person in France to file a criminal asbestos complaint against Mr. X died from mesothelioma; his legal action was begun in 1996. The slogan of the protesters is 100,000 dead, zero charged! See: Manifestation Nationale des Victimes de l’Amiante [National Protest by Asbestos Victims].

Experts Support Asbestos Ban

Oct 6, 2015

Brazil’s School of Public Health and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, the most prominent science and technology health institution in Latin America, have jointly criticized Decree no. 1287 of the Ministry of Labor and Employment (September 30, 2015) which constitutes a commission to discuss “the safe use of asbestos.” These revered bodies call for “the immediate repeal” of the Decree because of the deadly hazard posed to Brazilians by the continued production and use of asbestos. See: Escola é contrária à portaria que institui Comissão Especial para Debater o Uso do Amianto no Brasil [School Criticizes Brazilian Decree Establishing Special Asbestos Committee].

European Asbestos Cancer Data

Oct 5, 2015

Scientists have updated lung and pleural cancer survival patterns and time trends in 28 European countries. Relative survival for lung cancer was 39% and 13% at one and five years, respectively. Four per cent of the cases recorded were pleural cancers, of which most (83%) were mesotheliomas. The authors found that survival times decreased with advancing age at time of diagnosis. Recommendations made included banning asbestos, improving treatment access and implementing measures to allow early diagnosis. See: Survival patterns in lung and pleural cancer in Europe 1999-2007: Results from the EUROCARE-5 study.

Asbestos Charges Upheld

Oct 6, 2015

A preliminary hearings judge has confirmed charges related to the asbestos deaths of 14 workers from Olivetti’s Turin factory against 17 former executives, including Italy’s former transport minister Corrado Passera, former Alitalia President Roberto Colaninno, businessmen Carlo De Benedetti. The deceased were employed at the Ivrea factory from the 1960s until the 1990s in assembly or maintenance jobs; they died between 2003 and 2013. The first hearing in the trial will take place on November 23 with the second scheduled for January 11, 2016. See: Passera among 17 indicted for Olivetti asbestos deaths.

Turkey’s Asbestos Cancer Epidemic

Oct 5, 2015

A poster presented at the 25th International Congress of the European Respiratory Society in Amsterdam last week entitled: Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Current Status and Future Projections in Turkey, by Dr. Salih Emri at al, highlighted the epidemic of the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma in several Turkish villages which is largely due to environmental exposures to tremolite asbestos and erionite. The authors expressed concern about a future wave of asbestos-related diseases caused by exposures at workplaces and in urban areas where redevelopment work is being carried out. See: Poster – Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Current Status and Future Projections in Turkey.

Illegal Work and Dumping in Sydney

Oct 5, 2015

A feature article published last week investigated allegations that asbestos waste removed by workers for WestConnex, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in New South Wales, was being illegally dumped at a landfill site in Western Sydney. Members of the WestConnex Action Group, concerned about the environmental hazards being created by the failure of WestConnex employees to comply with asbestos regulations, mounted another protest over the weekend. Previously they reported multiple breaches of the asbestos regulations to state and local authorities which are jointly responsible for the site. See: WestConnex's Asbestos Problem.

Asbestos in Military Helicopters

Oct 5, 2015

Charges of culpable disaster are to be brought by Turin prosecutors against former directors of the helicopter multinational AgustaWestland and the Italian company Piaggio Aerospace. This week questioning will begin of fifty witnesses subpoenaed to explain why no warnings were given to the authorities about the illegal presence of asbestos in helicopters supplied to the armed forces and police. Those to be questioned include senior executives. See: “Amianto sugli elicotteri delle forze armate”: inchiesta a Torino, emessi 55 avvisi garanzia [“Armed forces’ asbestos helicopters”: investigation in Turin, 55 alert warrants issued].

Doctors Condemn Ministry Actions

Oct 3, 2015

The Associação Nacional de Medicina do Trabalho (ANAMT) [National Association of Occupational Medicine], representing 10,000+ doctors, has condemned Decree no. 1287 issued on September 30, 2015 by the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MTE) which aims to prolong the continued use of asbestos in Brazil by setting up an asbestos commission to discuss “the safe use of asbestos.” Highlighting the ethical duty doctors have to protect human health, the ANAMT could not, stay silent in the face of this “political and bureaucratic aberration.” See: Portaria absurda do MTE é favorável ao uso seguro do Amianto [Absurd order of the MTE is favorable to the safe use of asbestos].

Italy’s Asbestos Cancer Epidemic

Oct 2, 2015

Italy’s Observatory on Asbestos (Ona) has released statistics which record 4,500 cases of the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma over the three year period 2009 to 2011; the number of cases rose from 1,480 in 2009 to 1,524 in 2011. A total of 20,600+ cases occurred between 1993 and 2011. Commenting on the new data, an Ona spokesman said: “The trend of mesothelioma is increasing and it is only the tip of the iceberg considering that cases of lung cancer are at least twice [as many] and that asbestos also causes other cancers (larynx, ovary, gastrointestinal tract, etc.) and asbestosis…” See: Amianto, Ona: 4.500 casi di mesotelioma in 3 anni [Asbestos, Ona: 4,500 cases of mesothelioma in 3 years].

Asbestos Diagnosis Camp

Sep 30, 2015

On September 24, 2015, a diagnosis camp was set up by the Occupational Health and Safety Center at the Kolkata premises of the Kamal Tiwari trade union. This site was across the street from the Everest Industries asbestos factory. The manufacture of asbestos-cement construction products started there in 1938 under the ownership of the British company T&N Ltd. Fifteen workers and/or former workers were screened by Dr. V. Murlidhar and his medical team; four were diagnosed with asbestosis. Claims for these injuries will be made against the T&N Trust; claims for two other similarly affected workers from this factory have succeeded. See: Photo of workers being interviewed by medical team.

Court Supports At-Risk Workers

Sep 30, 2015

An injunction upheld on Sunday, September 27, 2015 by the 6th Labour Court of Campinas, a Brazilian municipality in São Paulo State, outlawed the practice whereby trade unions accepted financial support from asbestos industry employers on the grounds that by doing so the unions compromised their ability to represent members. The civil action by the Ministry of Labor argued that this funding and other practices could adversely affect the health of asbestos-exposed workers. See: MPT consegue liminar em ação contra entidades ligadas à cadeia do Amianto [Ministry of Labor injunction stopping asbestos industry funding of trade union upheld by Court].

Mesothelioma Legal Action Extension

Sep 29, 2015

On September 28, 2015, the Government of Gibraltar published a Bill to amend the Limitation Act as a result of which people with mesothelioma caused by occupational exposure to asbestos whilst employed by the Crown will be allowed to bring legal proceedings even if the prescribed deadline has elapsed. Although global asbestos trade data shows zero asbestos consumption in Gibraltar over recent years, it is not known whether the use of asbestos has been banned. Enquiries are in progress to ascertain whether asbestos is banned. See: Govt open to challenge on cases of child abuse and mesothelioma.

Eternit’s Global Asbestos Tentacles

Sep 28, 2015

An analysis of the business interests of former asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny, uploaded to the Italian webzine Carmilla last week, framed a discussion of the fallout from current asbestos-consuming operations by the Eternit Group, at one time owned by the Schmidheiny family, within a global context. The feature contrasted the strict prohibitions on hazardous exposures in countries which have banned asbestos with the daily exposures experienced in non-ban countries such as Mexico and Brazil. See: Il filo rosso dell’amianto e di Stephen Schmidheiny tra Italia e America Latina [Stephen Schmidheiny’s red thread of asbestos between Italy and Latin America].

Mesothelioma in Italy: A Consensus

Sep 25, 2015

A report just published details the consensus reached by scientists who convened during a session on mesothelioma which took place at a conference in Italy in January 2015. Of the 3.64 cases of mesothelioma in Italy per 100,000 people (in 2011), 10% were due to non-occupational exposures. Recommendations included: increased cooperation on mesothelioma data collection by cancer registries, regional centers and pathologists; the provision of information on risks and smoking cessation to at-risk individuals. See: III Italian Consensus Conference on Malignant Mesothelioma of the Pleura. Epidemiology, Public Health and Occupational Medicine related issues.

Roadmap to Phase-out Asbestos Use

Sep 25, 2015

An asbestos workshop was held in Hanoi on September 22, 2015 by the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, the Health Ministry’s Environment Health Management Department and the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network during which speakers discussed various facets of the national asbestos policy and highlighted hazards posed by the continuation of consumption. The Government is now developing a roadmap for the phasing out of asbestos in roofing products by 2020. There are currently more than 40 factories throughout the country manufacturing asbestos roofing material. See: Asbestos in roof sheets still a threat to workers.

Global Asbestos Pandemic

Sep 24, 2015

An editorial by Jukka Takala entitled: Eliminating occupational cancer has just been published in the Journal of Industrial Health. Takala’s text is categorical about the damage done by asbestos exposure, dismissing previous estimates of the number of annual global deaths issued by the WHO, the ILO and others and stating that: “In the European Union the combined number of deaths will amount to 47,000 lung cancer and mesothelioma deaths caused by asbestos (every year). This still misses other work-related cancers, caused by asbestos, such as larynx and ovary, and possibly stomach, colorectal and pharynx cancers.” See: Eliminating occupational cancer.

Workers Win Asbestos Case

Sep 24, 2015

New Zealand’s Employment Relations Authority has ruled that two tradesmen had been unjustifiably constructively dismissed by their employer, building company Goleman Limited, which knew that asbestos contamination had been found at the site where the men had been working – Christchurch Hospital – eight days before informing them. Neil Silcock and Liam Milner resigned from jobs repairing the hospital roof after learning of their hazardous exposures. The company is considering an appeal. According to the men’s lawyer, the failure to provide a safe workplace constituted “a serious breach” of the company’s obligations. See: Employer exposed tradies to asbestos.

Ban Asbestos Debate in Congress?

Sep 23, 2015

A Congressional debate on Colombia’s use of asbestos which was secured by Senator Nadia Blel was postponed yesterday after the failure to attend by the Ministers of Health, Labor, Environment and Industry and Trade. At the hearing were asbestos victims, ban asbestos campaigners, trade unionists and asbestos industry lobbyists. Senator Blel used the occasion to introduce draft legislation calling for a national asbestos ban. The Congressional debate has been rescheduled for October 6. See: Picture taken during asbestos non-debate on September 22, 2015.

Brazilian Firm Outlaws Asbestos

Sep 23, 2015

Cassol Materiais de Construção [Cassol Construction Materials], a major Brazilian building supplies chain has formalized plans for ending the sale of asbestos-containing tiles. In a submission on September 21, 2015 to the Ministry of Labor in Santa Catarina State, the company said protecting workers’ health from the asbestos hazard was its motivation in taking this step. See: Cassol Materiais de Construção, ciente da nocividade do amianto, formaliza a cessação da comercialização de produtos com a substância cancerígena, perante MPT [Cassol Building Materials, aware of the asbestos hazard, formalizes the termination of the marketing of asbestos products with the MPT].

Crimes against Environment and Health

Sep 20, 2015

Remedies to counter the inequality of national legal systems which allows asbestos entrepreneurs to profit from hazardous commercial operations were explored at the meeting of the Positive Economy Forum in Le Havre, France from September 16 to 19, 2015. Delegates heard calls for a change to the Treaty of Rome so that charges could be brought before an international court for crimes against the environment and health. The Italian criminal proceedings against asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny were discussed. See: Pour un tribunal international des crimes contre l’environnement et la santé [For an international tribunal for crimes against the environment and health].

Asbestos Causes Laryngeal Cancer

Sep 18, 2015

Spain’s Ministry of Employment and Social Security has agreed with social partners to update the list of occupational diseases to include laryngeal cancer caused by inhalation of asbestos dust. This change, which will result in a future Royal Decree, is the result of collaborative efforts by a working group set up to consider the appropriateness of adapting the list in light of new research findings. See: La Seguridad Social incorpora el cáncer de laringe por inhalación de amianto al listado de enfermedades profesionales [Social Security includes laryngeal cancer on list of occupational diseases caused by asbestos].

Action on Asbestos Prevention

Sep 18, 2015

The Secretary of Health of Mogi das Cruzes, a city in São Paulo State, has announced plans to implement a program of health inspections during the week of September 21-25, 2015 to ensure that workers are receiving the protections from hazardous asbestos exposures which are mandatory under São Paulo State Law No. 12.684/2007, which prohibits the use of products, materials or artifacts that contain any type of asbestos, raw asbestos or other minerals containing asbestos fibers in its composition. See: Vigilância Sanitária promove Semana de Combate ao Uso do Amianto [Health Surveillance Program on Asbestos].

Confirmation of Illegal Asbestos Imports

Sep 17, 2015

Despite its asbestos ban, Italy has been importing asbestos-containing products from Asia. Enquiries by customs officials to ascertain the names of Italian recipients of toxic Indian goods have been unproductive and no assistance has been received from officials in India despite requests made by Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello. The discovery of asbestos in 9,000 imported Chinese cars necessitated remedial work, swamping personnel at local health authorities. A National Labor Inspectorate has been tasked with responding to this crisis. See: Amianto, Guariniello: l'India ne ha esportato in Italia [Asbestos, Guariniello: India has exported [asbestos] to Italy].

Parliament to Debate Asbestos Ban Bill

Sep 17, 2015

Four Ministers of State have been summoned to Parliament to explain on September 22, 2015 why asbestos is still used in Colombia when scores of nations have prohibited its use. Medical practitioners, cancer specialists and asbestos victims have criticized the current regime which allows the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos under legislation adopted in 2011. Senator Nadia Blel has sponsored a bill to ban asbestos and urges “action immediately, because asbestos is highly carcinogenic… creating a deadly threat to anyone who comes in contact with the mineral.” See: Ministros, a control político por polémica del asbesto [Ministers to respond to political asbestos controversy].

Tests Confirm Asbestos in Crayons

Sep 17, 2015

After news of asbestos contamination in crayons imported from China to the U.S. and Australia, the Government of New Zealand has now announced that government testing found similar contamination. An audit, conducted by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Business, Ministry of Environment and the Environmental Protection Authority, of 21 random crayon products found asbestos in three products: Disney – Planes, Fire & Rescue (double ended crayons); Avengers Age of Ultron – 8 chunky crayons; Art Series – Jumbo Colours (12 non-toxic bright colours). As asbestos is not banned in New Zealand, the sale of these products is legal. See: Tests reveal asbestos in New Zealand crayons.

Asbestos Producer Bans Asbestos

Sep 16, 2015

In a remarkable development, the asbestos company Imbralit de Criciúma in the State of Santa Catarina has accepted the inevitability of Brazilian action to ban asbestos and announced today that it will cease using asbestos in its production of cement building materials as of November 1, 2015. Although there is no federal ban on asbestos, seven states have taken unilateral action to prohibit the use, manufacture, transport and sale of asbestos-containing products. They are: Mato Grosso, Sao Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and Amazonas. See: Uma Bomba para o Lobby do Amianto [A Bomb for Asbestos Lobby].

Asbestos Cancer Diagnoses in Rajasthan

Sep 16, 2015

The Mine Labour Protection Campaign Trust, a non-governmental organization based in the State of Rajasthan, has reported the diagnoses of 15 cases of the rare asbestos cancer, mesothelioma with a further 62 cases suspected. News of this disease cluster was widely reported in the State as well as via media outlets throughout India. India is the world’s largest importer of asbestos having in 2014 imported ~380,000 tonnes. The majority of asbestos used in India is for the production of building materials such as roofing slates and pipes; most at-risk workers are employed in the unorganized sector with no union protection. See: 15 cases of rare cancer detected a first in Rajasthan.

Call for Independent Tests at Rochdale Site

Sep 16, 2015

In a radio interview this morning, Rochdale Council officer Andy Glover and campaigner Jason Addy from Save Spodden Valley commented on plans for airborne testing of a 72 acre privately owned site in the center of Rochdale, formerly home to the world’s largest asbestos factory. The Council said it was working in partnership with the property owner to reassure local people that there was no airborne risk. Disparaging the Council’s scheme as a public relations exercise, Mr. Addy said the land was a “toxic blight” which required an “unbiased arbiter” to protect Rochdale citizens from hazardous exposures. Listen to: Interview with Andy Glover and Jason Addy.

Penalties for Asbestos Law Contraventions

Sep 15, 2015

The Superior Labor Court reinstated guilty verdicts and fines for moral damages amounting respectively to R$500,000 (US$129,300) and R$100,000 (US$26,000) against Eternit SA, Brazil’s largest asbestos manufacturer, and Distribuidora Meridional Ltda., a distributor in Pernambuco, for failing to comply with the state law banning the manufacture, trade and use of asbestos especially in civil public and private construction. See: Distribuidora e Eternit são condenadas por violar lei que proíbe amianto em Pernambuco [Distributor and Eternit are convicted of violating the law banning asbestos in Pernambuco].

Ban Asbestos Progress in Asia

Sep 14, 2015

Delegates at the 2015 meeting of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network in Hanoi last week considered regional developments with a particular focus on recent asbestos bans introduced in Hong Kong and Nepal and the announcement by the President of Sri Lanka that the country would prohibit asbestos by 2018. There was a great deal of interest in the roadmap presented by a representative of the Vietnam Ministry of Health which aimed to end asbestos use in Vietnam by 2020. Work has been ongoing in Vietnam for over a decade into the development of asbestos-free technology. See: Vietnam: A-BAN takes stock of the asbestos campaign in the region.

Call for Asbestos Ban

Sep 14, 2015

A press release issued on September 12, 2015 by the (Thai) National Health Commission (NHC) called for the “global blacklisting” of chrysotile (white) asbestos and urged stakeholders including the NHC, the Ministry of Public Health, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and consumer protection organizations to share information to protect at-risk construction and other Thai workers. The NHC statement detailed several initiatives it had taken to progress the categorization of chrysotile as a type 4 hazardous substance for which production, import, export and possession are banned. See: NHCO demands asbestos to be blacklisted and Thailand insists on its dangers in global forums.

Asbestos Pandemic

Sep 14, 2015

In 2013, asbestos exposure was responsible for 194,000 deaths worldwide, according to data just released detailing the global burden of disease. “Asbestos exposure accounted for nearly two-thirds of the burden of all occupational carcinogens. In total, occupational risks accounted for 55.4 million DALYs [disability-adjusted life-years].” See: Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks in 188 countries, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.

Another Asbestos Ban

Sep 13, 2015

Against considerable lobbying by asbestos specialist interests, the Council of Poços de Caldas, a city in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais, has succeeded in approving a bill to ban the use of asbestos in public buildings. This legislation, which has been under discussion since 2009, was sponsored by Mayor Dr . Regina Cioffi, a highly respected doctor who informed fellow Councilors of scores of national asbestos bans and policies of international agencies supporting asbestos prohibitions to protect public and occupational health. See: Câmara de Poços aprova projeto que proibe amianto em obras públicas [Poços City Council Bans Asbestos].

Italy’s Deadly Asbestos Legacy

Sep 13, 2015

European research into the occurrence of peritoneal mesothelioma amongst a cohort from Italy, formerly Europe’s largest asbestos producer, has found higher mortality rates in several northern regions which were heavy consumers of asbestos. These findings were reported in a study just published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Using multiple data sources, the eight authors discovered that amongst people who lived or worked in areas where asbestos was produced, there was an elevated incidence of peritoneal mesothelioma. See: Peritoneal mesothelioma in Italy: Trends and geography of mortality and incidence.

Asbestos: The Medical Threat

Sep 12, 2015

A conference held in Bogota on September 10 for medical students and members of the public heard presentations by experts from Colombia, Italy and Australia that described and quantified the public and occupational health risk posed by the continuing use of asbestos around the world, with a focus on repercussions in Colombia. The backdrop to the event – an art installation which highlighted the country’s asbestos legacy – reinforced the need for a proactive stance to assist the injured and raise awareness of the ongoing threat. During the meeting, calls were made for asbestos use and production to be banned in Colombia. See: Picture of September 10 Conference.

Making Vietnam Asbestos-Free

Sep 11, 2015

Scores of international delegates, local activists and interested parties took part in a meeting in Hanoi this week which considered Vietnam’s progress towards an asbestos ban. In attendance were representatives from more than 20 countries including: China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Australia, USA and the UK. The sponsorship and organization for this event came from the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, the Asia Monitor Resource Center, the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network and other civil society partners. See: Group picture of ABAN 2015 delegates.

Life Saving Walk in Western Australia

Sep 10, 2015

On September 13, 2015, the first steps will be taken by members of the Perth-based Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) in their annual walk to raise research funds and promote awareness of asbestos risks in the community. This year, the walkers will cover the 260+ miles from Albany to the state capital of Perth in five days, visiting towns and villages along the way to generate local support and spread information. For those of us unable to join them, donations can be made online by clicking here.
For more information see: Media Release Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia.

Federal Prosecution of Asbestos Bodies

Sep 9, 2015

Brazil’s Ministry of Labor has filed a civil suit against 17 entities funded by the asbestos lobby, including trade associations and “yellow unions,” industry-funded bodies purportedly representing asbestos and/or construction workers, whose work, allegedly, is against the national interest as they lobby for measures which are inimical to health and safety and against the rights of Brazilian workers. The case is being heard in the 6th Labour Court of Campinas; judicial damages of Reais$50 million (US$13m) are being sought. See: MPT processa entidades ligadas à cadeia do amianto em R$50 milhões [MPT prosecutes entities linked to asbestos industry for R$50 million].

Province to Sue U.S. Asbestos Companies

Sep 9, 2015

WorkSafeNewBrunswick, an employer-funded Crown corporation of the Canadian Province of New Brunswick, has retained South Carolina asbestos law firm Motely Rice to pursue personal injury claims against U.S. defendants which exported asbestos products to Canada, thereby causing occupational diseases. The law firm will attempt to recover the costs of a number of claims paid to workers who contracted asbestos-related diseases. The injured have already received compensation for their injuries from WorkSafeNB. See: Le N.B. poursuit des fabricants d'amiante [N.B. Pursues Asbestos Manufacturers].

Robert Nolan and the Asbestos Lobby

Sep 8, 2015

Lawyers for U.S. asbestos defendants this week tried to exclude evidence documenting ties to the asbestos industry of their expert witness Robert Nolan; stating that reviewing the information substantiating Nolan’s links to the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) would: “(1) necessitate undue consumption of time, (2) cause undue prejudice, (3) confuse the issues and (4) mislead the jury.” The ICA paid Nolan for work during trips to Malaysia in 2015 to convince the government that a national asbestos ban was unwarranted. See: Lawyers launch court action to hide scientist’s work for asbestos lobby organisation.

Hazards of Asbestos Contamination of Talc

Sep 8, 2015

Asbestos-containing talcum powder continues to pose a threat to U.S. workers and members of the public, according to a new article by Myron Levin. Citing lawsuits brought over exposures to tainted industrial-grade talc and consumer products, the author said that results of surveys conducted in 2009 and 2010 of 34 talc products by federal authorities were compromised by the failure of suppliers to submit samples for testing. As a result the Food and Drug Administration concluded that: “the results do not prove that most or all talc or talc-containing cosmetic products currently marketed in the United States are likely to be free of asbestos contamination.’’ See: The Hard Truth About the Softest Mineral.

Protection for At-risk Brazilian Workers

Sep 4, 2015

Earlier this week, a Brazilian federal agency rejected calls to water down vital asbestos safeguards for at-risk workers as mandated in technical note 141/2014. This decision marks a huge defeat for the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute, a trade association representing asbestos mining and commercial organizations, which had claimed that these safeguards represented an unnecessary and burdensome business tax. Asbestos victims groups and labor organizations lobbied hard to retain the guidelines during tense hearings in Brasilia. See: Sem ser discutida, norma técnica do amianto segue inalterada [Without being discussed asbestos technical standard remains unchanged].

Asbestos at the Venice Film Festival

Sep 4, 2015

A short film based on interviews with asbestos removal workers in Italy is being screened twice (September 3 and 12) at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. E.T.E.R.N.I.T. by director Giovanni Aloi mixes reality and drama to tell the story of a Tunisian immigrant facing a life and death decision. Ali Salhi, the lead actor, is one of those interviewed during research for the screenplay; the set used for the film was an industrial asbestos removal site in an area where Eternit asbestos-cement roofs were ubiquitous. See: L'amianto al Festival Internazionale di Venezia [Asbestos at the Venice International Festival].

Corsica’s Deadly Mining Legacy

Sep 4, 2015

Operations at Corsica’s Canari Mine by the Eternit asbestos group were ongoing from 1920 until 1965. The mine’s output made France the world’s 7th biggest asbestos producer. However, mineworkers were not told of changes in their lung x-rays showing development of asbestos diseases. The commune of Canari bought the site from Eternit in 1973 for one franc with no knowledge of the environmental catastrophe and financial nightmare they were taking on; just keeping the toxic risks at bay costs millions of euros of public money. See: 50 ans après sa fermeture, l’usine d’amiante de Corse reste un problème insoluble [50 years after closure, the asbestos plant of Corsica remains an insoluble problem].

Italian Asbestos Epidemic

Sep 3, 2015

Italian mortality figures show that of the 749 asbestos deaths occurring in Bologna between 1989 and 2014, 54% of the deceased had worked for the state railways. In Bologna’s carriage works and vehicle repair shops, at least 100 tonnes of asbestos were used every year; thousands of workers experienced high levels of asbestos exposures on a routine basis despite laws and decrees dating as far back as 1906 which mandated occupational safeguards from dust. While some compensation has been paid to the injured, until last year only one executive had been found guilty for deadly exposures in the 1970s. See: Amianto, ecco l’altra strage di Bologna [Asbestos, here is another massacre in Bologna].

Provincial Remediation Program

Sep 2, 2015

On August 31, 2015, the provincial government of North Gyeongsang in eastern South Korea announced that it would undertake a multimillion dollar program (90 billion Korean won) to remove asbestos-cement roofing from 30,000 houses by 2021. According to the government’s timetable, the asbestos-cement roofing on 3,000-4,000 houses will be replaced each year. This will leave a shortfall of around 6,000 properties by 2021. Korea has a strict ban on asbestos and financial subsidies have been offered to remove contaminated material. See: North Gyeongsang Province to Remove Slate Roofs Full of Asbestos.

Latin America Launders Asbestos Profits

Sep 2, 2015

A feature on the Spanish Rebelión news site, begins with a discussion of the human tragedies caused by asbestos and proceeds to consider the fortunes of those who reaped the asbestos profits. In many parts of Europe, the name of Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny is synonymous with the worst type of capitalism, but in Latin America his asbestos profits bought influence and friends at universities and institutions which benefited from his largesse, including the Avina Foundation and INCAE, Latin America’s top international business school. See: Asbesto, un asesino en casa [Asbestos: a killer at home].

Epidemic of Asbestos Deaths

Sep 2, 2015

Data on the incidence of asbestos cancer in Brazil, as in other industrializing countries, is patchy. A paper just published by experts from São Paulo and Minas Gerais analyzed information on mortality for the asbestos cancer mesothelioma from 2000 and 2010. The researchers conclude that despite underreporting, “there is evidence of an increase in mesothelioma mortality, particularly in the State of São Paulo, where almost half of the asbestos industries settled… Our results strongly suggest that a special attention should be given to localized areas of asbestos handling and/or disease clustering.” See: The next mesothelioma wave: Mortality trends and forecast to 2030 in Brazil.

Pleural Plaques: A Medical Condition

Sep 2, 2015

Adding to the ongoing debate over symptoms experienced by sufferers of pleural plaques, a response by the authors of the (2014) paper entitled “A systematic review of the association between pleural plaques and changes in lung function,” has appeared online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine which reaffirms their conclusions that “The presence of pleural plaques is associated with [a] small, but statistically significant … decline in lung function.” See: Authors’ response – A systematic review of the association between pleural plaques and changes in lung function.

National Epidemic of Asbestos Mortality

Sep 1, 2015

Data published on August 31, 2015, by the Australian Mesothelioma Registry reports the rates of new cases and deaths from mesothelioma and analyses regional incidences and exposure patterns. Between January 1 and December 31, 2014, there were: 641 new mesothelioma diagnoses (518 males, 123 females); 85% were 65+ years old at diagnosis. Interviews with patients revealed that while ~60% could have been occupationally exposed to asbestos, 84% had experienced non-occupational exposures. The rate of deaths in 2014 showed an 11% increase on the figures reported for the previous year. See: Mesothelioma in Australia 2014.

Scientists Dismiss Paper as “Nonsense”

Sep 1, 2015

A paper entitled Critical reappraisal of Balangero chrysotile and mesothelioma risk by authors, three of whose links to asbestos vested interests were grudgingly acknowledged in an errata issued in August 2015 by the Italian Journal of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Public Health (JEBPH), has been trashed in a letter to the editor from eminent Italian scientists. In their critique, the eight co-authors detail a litany of factual and theoretical errors in the work of Ilgren et al: “the paper is full of statements that have no substance and lack support of evidence.” They conclude that a scientific journal should never have published this “poor quality paper, with no scientific content…” See: Letter to the Editor of JEBPH.

Coordinated Action on Asbestos

Aug 31, 2015

On August 28, 2015, Australia’s Minister for Employment Senator Eric Abetz launched the National Plan on Asbestos Safety and Eradication following a meeting of State and Territory Ministers. “This plan,” he said, “will result in coordinated effort across the country to reduce the deadly effects of asbestos on Australians, as well as help put Australia at the forefront of global efforts to deal with the deadly substance.” The main strategy for eliminating asbestos diseases will be preventing hazardous exposures by raising awareness, developing best practice for removal and management and stopping toxic imports. See: National plan to reduce the risk of asbestos.

Uncertainty in Asbestos Mining Region

Aug 30, 2015

An exposé aired today by Radio Canada details attempts to downgrade occupational asbestos safeguards in the name of greater productivity in Thetford Mines, a former asbestos mining region in Quebec, despite recommendations made in a $140,000 study that concludes guidelines should remain in place to protect at-risk workers from exposure to hazardous fibers in the soil, air and infrastructure. Citing the precautionary principle, experts continue to urge caution in an area where high levels of contamination have been found. See: Les règles de sécurité sur l'amiante critiquées, malgré une étude [Safety regulations on asbestos criticized, despite study].

Asbestos Ban in 2018

Aug 30, 2015

Following up on a public pledge made on August 12, 2015 to ban asbestos in 2018, the President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena, yesterday reiterated his commitment to the ban during a ceremony held at President’s House. He recalled that previous plans to enact asbestos prohibitions had been scuppered but “today everybody is supporting that programme. Those decisions will be put into action without bowing down to any private company or institution… for the betterment of the country and the people.” See: Sri Lanka president to ban production of asbestos in 2018.

Growth in Asbestos-Free Manufacture

Aug 30, 2015

To satisfy growing consumer demand in Brazil for asbestos-free goods, Brasilit – part of the French Saint Gobain Group – has announced the opening of a new R$ 55 million (US$15+ million) manufacturing facility in Seropédica, in greater Rio de Janeiro, to produce asbestos-free fiber cement products. Brasilit’s five factories producing asbestos-free goods are located in Esteio, Rio Grande do Sul; Belém, Pará; Recife, Pernambuco; and Capivari and Jacarei, in the State of São Paulo. The new 100,000 m² facility will provide 250 jobs. See: Brasilit inaugura unidade em Seropédica [Brasilit opens unit in Seropédica].

Asia’s Asbestos Danger

Aug 29, 2015

An essay about the dangers of asbestos has won first prize in a competition of the Asian Scientist Magazine. It details problems faced by one householder in Malaysia who discovered her dream home contained asbestos roofing materials. Despite reassurances from one Malaysian expert, another warned of the deadly health effects of asbestos inhalation. Although few countries in Asia publish data on asbestos exposure or deaths, using patterns observed in industrialized countries, one epidemiologist estimated that between 1994-2008 there were almost 8,000 unreported mesothelioma deaths in China, India and Thailand. See: Once An Industry Wonder, Now A Silent Killer.

Mesothelioma Deaths Still Increasing!

Aug 29, 2015

Data released this month (August 2015) by the Office of National Statistics show a steady increase in the number of deaths from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in England and Wales over recent years. Between 2010 and 2014, 11,011 people died from this disease with rates increasing by 13% over this period. The areas with the highest number of mesothelioma deaths in 2014 were: Birmingham (40), Sheffield (30), Leeds (32), Chester East (25) and Cornwall (24) with the highest age-standardised mortality rates recorded in: Barrow-in-Furness (14.3), South Tyneside (11.1), North Tyneside (10.9) and Fareham (10). See: ONS Mesothelioma Data.

Asbestos, Canada: A Lost Town?

Aug 28, 2015

A piece of photojournalism by Matthias Walendy about the former Quebec asbestos mining town called “Asbestos” includes images of the former mine, local businesses, streetscapes and townspeople. Walendy reports that while many of the residents still yearn for the old days, there is a sense of realism that pervades the population. It is incredible that the failure of the town to accept the reality of the asbestos hazard continues – the mine area remains open for quad bike riders to explore despite the fact that the contents of the tailings could be up to 12% raw asbestos fiber. See: A Town Called Asbestos.

Labor Supporting Asbestos Ban

Aug 28, 2015

The Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT / the Unified Workers' Central), Brazil’s national trade union center, is fighting attempts by commercial interests to repeal government guidance – Technical Note 141/2014 – protecting workers and their families from hazardous asbestos exposures. In a resolution issued on August 27, 2015 in São Paulo, CUT reiterated its support for a national asbestos ban and reasserted the need for the maximum protection to be provided for at-risk workers. See: CUT repudia a revogação da Nota sobre uso do Amianto [CUT repudiates repeal of technical guidance note on asbestos].

Protection from Asbestos Hazards

Aug 28, 2015

A commentary published on August 27, 2015 recaps new provisions in a government asbestos circular which mandated heightened workplace protection from asbestos hazards for public workers. The measures included: establishing and updating publicly accessible asbestos audits of public buildings, labelling hazardous products, maintaining tight dust controls, keeping asbestos exposure records for individual workers and providing medical surveillance. See: Amiante: une nouvelle circulaire traite de la prévention du risque d’exposition à l’amiante dans la fonction publique [Asbestos: a new circular deals with preventing the risk of exposure to asbestos in the public service].

Tense Ban Asbestos Hearing in Bahia!

Aug 27, 2015

Like the showdown at the OK Corral, pro- and anti- asbestos forces were out in force during hearings held in the Bahia State Legislative Assembly on August 20, 2015. Bill 20,985/2014 authored by State Representative Rosemberg Pinto aims to protect occupational health by prohibiting the use of this acknowledged carcinogen. Supporting the bill were campaigner Fernanda Giannasi and asbestos victims; opposing the prohibitions were Brazilian asbestos lobbyists and trade unionists aligned with the industry who alleged that chrysotile asbestos posed no risk to human beings. See: Audiência pública debate a proibição do Amianto [Public hearing debates asbestos ban].

Asbestos Exposure and Cancer

Aug 27, 2015

French scientists have published an analysis of data from a cohort of 2,000+ asbestos workers over three decades. An elevated incidence of peritoneal mesothelioma was found in women; in men, there were higher levels of peritoneal mesothelioma, oesophageal and liver cancer. The researchers noted: “Concerning colorectal cancer, a significant excess of risk was observed for men with exposure duration above 25 years…” An association was suggested between occupational asbestos exposure and cancers of the small intestine and liver. See: Digestive cancers and occupational asbestos exposure: incidence study in a cohort of asbestos plant workers.

Government to Ban Asbestos Imports

Aug 26, 2015

Opening the 2015 Conference of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australasia in Nelson, New Zealand yesterday, Environment Minister Nick Smith said “targeted consultation” on a ban on the imports of asbestos-containing products was due to begin. The Minister projected a positive message about protecting occupational health and alleged that asbestos-containing products were only used in the marine, aviation and electricity generation and supply industries. “An inventory released by the ministry last year indicated that in most of these cases, alternative products were available.” See: Government to halt asbestos and HCFC imports, says Environment Minister.

Award for Pleural Plaques Sufferer

Aug 24, 2015

On August 14, 2015, a Labor Court in Brazil ordered Saint Gobain Industrial Products and Construction Ltd., owner of Brasilit one of the country’s asbestos giants, to pay the sum of $Reais100,000 (US$28,500) in moral damages plus costs for medical examinations to Antonio Martins Santos who has contracted pleural plaques from negligent occupational asbestos exposure. The court dismissed the company’s argument that an extrajudicial agreement reached with the claimant upon the termination of his employment relieved it of any and all liabilities. See: Brasilit Condenada em Processo de Placas Pleurais por Amianto [Brasilit condemned for Asbestos Exposure in Pleural Plaques Case].

Municipality Addresses Asbestos Hazard

Aug 24, 2015

The northern Italian town of Vigevano regards the removal of asbestos-cement roofs from private residences as a public health priority. On August 11, 2015, Mayor Andrea Sala ordered the removal of toxic roofing from a property near Santa Maria Street whose owners had not abided by a 2014 municipal edict to report and/or remediate contamination; failure to do so can result in large financial penalties. A dozen similar cases are being been dealt with by the town’s Department of Environmental Protection. Steps are also being taken by the town to deal with illegally dumped asbestos debris. See: I privati tolgano l’amianto dai tetti [Individuals remediate asbestos roofs].

Working Towards an Asbestos Ban?

Aug 24, 2015

At a seminar held last week in Phnom Penh, hundreds of delegates joined government officials and Cambodian and international experts to consider the occupational and public health hazards posed by the continuing use of asbestos. The event, which was organized by the Cambodian Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and Union Aid Abroad (APEHDA), an overseas humanitarian aid agency of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, provided the opportunity to progress discussions on the formation of a national asbestos profile as recommended by the World Health Organization. See: Picture of Symposium Delegates.

Asbestos on Agenda

Aug 24, 2015

An academic conference entitled: “Cultural philanthro-capitalism and political art: the paradoxes of contemporary symbolic thinking” took place at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Cali, Colombia on Thursday, August 20, 2015. The event was streamed live on the university’s website and featured a presentation by artist Guillermo Villamizar which discussed issues related to philanthropic capitalism and considered the case of asbestos entrepreneur, billionaire, art collector and “philanthropist” Stephen Schmidheiny, formerly head of the Swiss Eternit Group, one of the largest global asbestos conglomerates. See: Picture of Guillermo Villamizar speaking at the conference.

Loch Ness Monster: Asbestos in Schools

Aug 21, 2015

With two weeks until children return to school, results of a survey conducted in Belgium confirm widespread asbestos contamination of the educational infrastructure, with 70% of schools in Namur, a Walloon city in southern Belgium, containing a variety of asbestos materials. Although officials at the Albert Jacquard High School have confirmed the presence of asbestos and warned “there is no immediate danger,” a former teacher admitted that he would not send children to the asbestos contaminated schools. See: Notre enquête exclusive: de l'amiante dans 7 écoles sur 10 [Exclusive survey: asbestos in 7 our of 10 schools].

Cancer Legacy of Asbestos Processing

Aug 21, 2015

Research undertaken in the Italian town of Casale Monferrato substantiates the continuing hazard of living in a town decades after hazardous industrial operations ceased. The authors found that “having a garden or courtyard paved with AC tailings, an AC roof or AC buildings near home were associated with a significant increase in the OR (odds ratio for mesothelioma)” and confirmed the quantitative relationship between mesothelioma incidence and cumulative asbestos exposure, even at low levels of exposure. See: Pleural mesothelioma and occupational and non-occupational asbestos exposure: a case-control study with quantitative risk assessment.

Minister Commits to Asbestos Ban

Aug 20, 2015

At an asbestos symposium in Phnom Penh on August 19, Cambodia’s Minister of Labour Sam Heng confirmed the country’s continuing use of asbestos. Since 2009, the value of asbestos imports has grown from $1.3 to $4 million/year. Government speakers joined experts from Australia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Laos and the World Health Organization to consider the implications for public and occupational health of asbestos consumption, with Minister Heng telling delegates: “We are in the process of conducting a study, after which we will ask the government to stop the import and use of asbestos in order to ensure health security in the work place.” See: Gov’t eyes ban on asbestos.

Community Action Stops Toxic Waste Site

Aug 20, 2015

Community action has scuppered plans to open an asbestos waste disposal site near two schools in a residential area of Sulgrave, Washington. After scores of complaints, the Hebburn-based company behind the proposal withdrew its planning application to Sunderland council and recommenced efforts to find land on which to build a facility. Welcoming this result, one local activist said: “Washington people have been left with a grim legacy from a history of working and living with asbestos, costing many people their lives or health.” See: ‘Ridiculous’ asbestos site plans by school scrapped after outcry.

Confronting Salerno’s Asbestos Legacy

Aug 20, 2015

The city of Salerno, capital of the Italian Province of Salerno, has the dubious distinction of being one of Italy’s most asbestos-polluted regions, with large areas contaminated by Eternit asbestos-cement roofing material. Due to the legacy of local asbestos manufacturing and the residual environmental pollution, ten cases of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma are diagnosed every year. Municipal representatives and local activists are calling on officials from the Campania Region to provide funding to decontaminate derelict industrial sites. See: Tumori da amianto: in un anno dieci casi finiscono al Ruggi [Ten cases of asbestos cancer a year in Ruggi].

Asbestos Exposures Continue in the US

Aug 19, 2015

An article in the Huffington Post reviews recent reports of asbestos exposures in the states of Illinois and Colorado. Untrained and unequipped workers employed by Illinois companies were told to remove asbestos at a school and threatened with dismissal if they spoke to government inspectors. Classes at another Illinois school were transferred to a local church after mold was found on asbestos-containing insulation. In Colorado, asbestos was found in a stairwell and overhead spaces at the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Federal action to tackle the national asbestos legacy was called for. See: New Asbestos Threats Affect Vets, Workers, Children and Drinking Water.

Community Protest Asbestos Risk

Aug 19, 2015

WestConnex, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in New South Wales, Australia is facing fierce opposition from people in an inner Sydney suburb concerned about the removal of the equivalent of 70 Olympic-size pools of asbestos waste from the Alexandra landfill site adjacent to Sydney Park. On Friday, August 14 demonstrators blocked the road for three hours when they learned that asbestos would be removed from the designated site of a WestConnex interchange, despite the fact that no Environmental Impact Statement had been released or approval granted for the work. See: New battle front against WestCONnex.

Bahia to Ban Asbestos?

Aug 18, 2015

On August 20, the legislative assembly of the Brazilian State of Bahia will discuss a bill to ban the mining, sale and use of asbestos. Of Brazil’s 26 states, seven have already adopted asbestos prohibitions: Mato Grosso, Sao Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and Amazonas. During the hearing, a presentation supporting this legislation will be made by a representative of the Bahia Association of the Asbestos-Exposed. See: AL-BA discutirá projeto que proíbe extração de amianto na Bahia [AL-BA project will discuss banning asbestos mining in Bahia].

Illegal Dumping of Asbestos Waste

Aug 17, 2015

Last week, asbestos-cement debris from Nairobi was transported and illegally dumped near residential areas in Kiambu County, according to media reports issued today (August 17). Kiambu County official Esther Njuguna condemned the illegal disposal near the Makongeni, Kiganjo and Kisii estates as “criminal and unscrupulous.” “Dumping in the open exposes thousands of residents to grave health risks,” she said. Coincidentally, Kenya’s sole registered site for the disposal of asbestos waste is in Gatuanyaga, a short distance from the Kang’oki dumpsite. See: Thika residents exposed to health risks as asbestos waste is dumped in the open.

Call for African Asbestos Bans

Aug 17, 2015

A document released on August 15 by the World Health Organization highlighted the data gaps regarding the incidence of asbestos-related diseases caused by occupational exposures in Africa, and the lack of progress on eliminating hazardous exposures which this information vacuum has caused. Reconfirming the WHO’s call for national action on asbestos, Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said: “The most efficient way to prevent direct and secondary exposures to asbestos is to stop the production and use of all forms, including chrysotile.” See: Asbestos use continues in Africa despite severe health warnings.

Ban Asbestos Mobilization

Aug 17, 2015

A memorandum issued last week by APHEDA, an Australian Agency tasked with overseas humanitarian work, documents the mobilization of support for the ban asbestos campaign in Vietnam amongst government ministers, trade unions and civil society groups over the last five years, and highlights the importance of the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network (VN Ban). Currently, a proposal by the Deputy Prime Minister for a 2020 national asbestos ban is being considered. During a time when the environmental rights movement is growing in Vietnam, the campaign to ban asbestos is gaining vital grassroots support. See: Stopping the Asbestos Death Trade in Vietnam.

Canada’s Asbestos “Genocide”

Aug 14, 2015

A veteran political analyst in Canada is calling for a new approach by all political parties in the run-up to federal elections in October 2015. In a commentary published in The Hill Times on August 10, Ken Rubin appealed for an end to the “economic genocide” caused by Canada’s “promotion of the deadly use of asbestos here in Canada and abroad.” Not only must a national ban be implemented as a matter of urgency but steps must be taken to identify and manage hazardous material, educate the public, support victims and apologize to those who have been injured by exposure to Canadian asbestos. See: Wanted: a transformative election, a new Canada.

Partial Asbestos Ban in 3 Years?

Aug 14, 2015

On August 12, 2015, during his keynote address to a Colombo symposium on the subject of “Powering Growth through Collaboration,” Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena told delegates that his government intends to address the public health hazard posed by asbestos. Consultations at cabinet level are underway to implement a ban on the import of asbestos roofing material by 2018. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Sri Lanka consumed 54,704, 22,953 and 52,214 tonnes of raw asbestos fiber, respectively. See: Sri Lanka President assures to take steps to ban import of asbestos roofing sheets by 2018.

Legal Victory against Eternit S.A

Aug 14, 2015

At a meeting on August 10, 2015 of a special body of the Superior Labor Court, an appeal by Brazil’s asbestos giant Eternit S.A. of a Supreme Court judgment was dismissed. As a result of this decision, the sum of US$285,000 will be awarded to the widow of an Eternit engineer who died in 2005 aged 72 from mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, contracted during his employment during the 1960s at the company’s asbestos-cement factory in Osasco. See: TST nega último recurso da Eternit contra indenização de R$ 1 milhão a viúva de vítima do amianto [TST deny last resort to Eternit against compensation of R$ 1 million to asbestos victim's widow].

Ministry Warns of Asbestos Hazard

Aug 14, 2015

An internal seven-page document uploaded by the Ministry of Culture on August 8, 2015 warns people working in French archives of the asbestos hazard. Referencing a recent case of an archivist who contracted an occupational disease from workplace asbestos exposure, the circular mandates extra protections for people at risk of similar exposures. See: Circulaire du 05 Aout 2015 relative aux préconisations pour la prise en compte du risque d'exposition à l'amiante dans les services d'archives [Circular of 5 August 2015 on recommendations for the consideration of the risk of exposure to asbestos in the archives].

Asbestos Issues at Construction Site

Aug 13, 2015

Work at a construction site in Genoa has led to complaints by local politicians and members of the public, police investigations, and official sanctions over failures to follow safety regulations when dealing with asbestos debris. After the presence of asbestos was verified on July 22, work was shut down until the end of August for further investigation. Nevertheless, on August 6 citizens took photographs showing the handling of asbestos by workers with no protective equipment and other hazardous practices. See: Terzo Valico, per l’amianto nel cantiere di Cravasco due esposti contro Cociv [Third asbestos incident, second complaint against company].

Victims Call for Asbestos Ban

Aug 13, 2015

Asbestos cancer sufferer Ana Cecila Nilño Robles and asbestos widow Flor Riano are calling on the government to ban the production, import, use and sale of asbestos-containing products in Colombia. They have appealed to the Ministries of Environment and Health and launched an online petititon calling for action on asbestos. Ms. Robles was exposed to asbestos having lived near an asbestos-cement factory; Mrs. Riano’s husband inhaled asbestos fibers brought home on his father’s work clothes. See: Un grupo de víctimas del asbesto busca que Colombia sea el país número 57 en prohibirlo [Asbestos victims’ group pressing for Colombia to become 57th country to ban asbestos].

Asbestos-free Technology for Brazil

Aug 13, 2015

A leading Brazilian specialist in the sale of industrial goods and tools has sent personnel to Italy for training in the use of asbestos-free technology. The small team from the Armo Company received training on the use of safer alternative products for industrial sealing of fluid and vapour leaks from experts at the Carrara S.p.A company, a leading producer of asbestos-free seal systems for valves and flanges. See: Indústria: Armo vai à Itália para treinamento exclusivo sobre vedação livre de amianto [Industry: Armo going to Italy for exclusive training on asbestos-free sealing].

Industry Whitewash Withdrawn!

Aug 12, 2015

In an extremely embarrassing U-turn, a controversial report “Lessons from the Quebec Asbestos Industry: Can there be meaningful dialogue and consensus when facts come up against feelings,” published and promoted by Concordia University’s Luc Beauregard Centre of Excellence in Communications Research, has been removed from Concordia’s website after accusations of bias, inaccuracies and irresponsibility. According to Concordia’s President Alan Shepard, an investigation into the author’s alleged conflict of interests is being undertaken. See: L’Université Concordia dans l’embarras [Concordia University embarrassed].

Victory for Dying Mesothelioma Victim

Aug 12, 2015

An important precedent has been set which will allow workers in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) to launch common law claims for pre-1987 injuries following a decision by Australia’s High Court in a mesothelioma case brought by a former employee of Alcan Gove, the owners of an alumina refinery now belonging to the global mining giant Rio Tinto. The verdict just issued upheld a March 2015 ruling by the NT Court of Appeal which awarded compensation of $425,000 to claimant Zorko Zabic. See: Rio Tinto loses court appeal against asbestosis compensation ruling to dying worker Zorko Zabic!

Federal Sanctions for Asbestos Removal

Aug 12, 2015

On Monday, August 10, the federal agency tasked with ensuring occupational safety (OSHA), issued fines of nearly $1.8m for “outrageous behaviour” by an Illinois businessman who hired eight Mexican workers to remove asbestos at a former primary school in conditions which violated federal health regulations. The workers removed asbestos-containing floor tiles, insulation and other materials unaware they were being exposed to asbestos. They were threatened with loss of employment if they spoke to investigators, OSHA reported. See: Feds: Albers firm deserves $1.8M fine for hiring Mexicans to remove asbestos.

Darwin’s Asbestos Legacy

Aug 10, 2015

Millions of tonnes of asbestos-containing debris created in 1974 by Cyclone Tracy remain hidden in and around the Australian city of Darwin. Contractors working at a site at Palmerston Regional Hospital have removed quantities of illegally dumped asbestos-contaminated soil. No one knows how long the toxic waste has been there. Tracy survivors say that in the aftermath of the storm, waste was dumped outside the city limits. As Darwin expanded, these dump sites are now prime building land. See: Asbestos illegally dumped at Palmerston Regional Hospital site as expert says millions of tonnes could be buried.

Are Children Safe in Italian Schools?

Aug 8, 2015

More than half of Italy’s school buildings are more than 40 years old, built during a time when asbestos use was in its heyday. From Monday, August 10, parents can go online to ascertain the condition of Italian schools via a Ministry of Education website which has details (though reportedly not of asbestos hazards) relating to 33,825 school buildings. According to Education Minister Stefania Giannini, the census which has been “awaited for nearly two decades…[is] a huge step forward in terms of knowledge of school buildings, awareness and planning of a series of interventions.” See: In che stato è la scuola di tuo figlio? Da lunedì lo puoi sapere online [What state is your child's school in? Monday, you can find out online].

Major Victory for Victims

Aug 8, 2015

On August 7, Électricité de France S.A (EDF) was convicted by the Labour Court in Mont-de-Marsan in the cases of 95 former employees which it negligently exposed to asbestos at its Arjuzanx power station. Damages between €1000 and €14,000 were awarded for anxiety over the hazardous exposures sustained. The charges were not proven in four cases; appeals will be launched for these plaintiffs by the CGT trade union. Given the size, scale and significance of this defeat, it is likely EDF will also appeal. See: Landes EDF condamné 95 fois pour "exposition fautive" à l’amiante [Landes EDF convicted 95 times for “negligent exposure” to asbestos].

Mesothelioma Victim Calls for Ban

Aug 7, 2015

A victim of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma has called on the Government of Colombia to end the use of asbestos. When she was growing up, she was exposed to asbestos liberated by the operations of an Eternit asbestos-cement factory near Sibaté, Cundinamarca. In an interview published on August 6, she points out the widespread ignorance about the asbestos hazard in Colombia, a country which mined, imports and uses asbestos, a substance now banned in 55 countries. She has uploaded a ban asbestos petition. See: Me enfermé de cáncer por culpa de Eternit [I have cancer because of Eternit].

Lung Cancer in Asbestos Cohort

Aug 7, 2015

Researchers studied data from a cohort of 7,000+ former asbestos workers from 2000 to 2013 which was collected under Poland’s “Amiantus” program. The scientists found “strong evidence that the lung cancer risk is associated with asbestos exposure and it increases along with the increasing exposure.” Efforts to encourage formerly exposed individuals to cease smoking were recommended as was the need to provide follow-up medical schemes for the early detection of lung cancer amongst this high risk group. See: Predictors of lung cancer among former asbestos-exposed workers.

Ban Reduces Asbestos-Related Diseases

Aug 7, 2015

A paper just published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health by European authors provides evidence that steps taken in Sweden to address the asbestos hazard succeeded. Men and women born between 1955–79, who started their working lives after the 1982 ban, had a decreased risk of malignant pleural mesothelioma compared to men and women born between 1940–49. The authors concluded that: “the ban and other initiatives to decrease the occupational exposure to asbestos have had a measureable effect on health.” See: Emerging evidence that the ban on asbestos use is reducing the occurrence of pleural mesothelioma in Sweden.

Asbestos Hazard in US Schools

Aug 7, 2015

Two US senators have undertaken research to ascertain how many states are complying with federal legislation regarding the asbestos hazard in schools. All 50 governors responded; their replies indicated that US regulations were not being followed uniformly as a result of which school children and teaching staff were receiving hazardous exposures at school. Critics have blamed the lack of compliance on the federal government’s failure to ensure compliance by state authorities with federal law. For over thirty years asbestos was widely used in the construction of schools throughout the country. See: Authorities worry that many U.S. schools could have dangerous asbestos.

Post-Tornado Asbestos Damage

Aug 5, 2015

Public warnings have been given to the citizens of Florence in the aftermath of a storm on August 1 which wreaked widespread damage including the destruction of asbestos roofs. Wild weather, including a thunderstorm, hail and fierce winds, felled trees and ripped roofs off buildings as streets flooded and power pylons were brought down. Citizens have been told to report the location of toxic asbestos debris to the City Council and the municipal police. See: Gli Effetti del Tornado. Firenze, nubifragio: è allarme amianto sui tetti scoperchiati [The effects of the tornado. Warning about storm-damaged asbestos roofs].

Victims Rights’ under Attack in NSW

Aug 4, 2015

In a shocking move, state officials have today terminated the employment of officials at the New South Wales (NSW) Dust Diseases Tribunal (DDT) – a body which has administered NSW asbestos claims for decades – due to a government reorganization which will replace the DDT with a “user friendly” advisory body that will, so the authorities say, maintain victims’ entitlements. Campaigners and trade unionists are suspicious of the shutdown with one spokesman accusing the government of turning its “back on the dying victims of asbestos exposure.” See: Dust Diseases Board to be abolished by NSW government.

Asbestos Debris at Historic Site

Aug 2, 2015

Details have just emerged that Stonehenge, one of Europe’s best known prehistoric monuments, was contaminated with asbestos when toxic topsoil was used in landscaping work. When the accidental contamination was discovered last summer, contractors wearing protective clothing and using specialist equipment were brought in to remediate the site at a cost of £100,000. One source speculated that the week-long operations were done under cover of darkness to avoid publicity; English Heritage, the site owners, deny this. See: Stonehenge contaminated with deadly asbestos after contractors accidentally dump soil.

Toxic Swiss Trams

Aug 1, 2015

On Friday (July 30) it was announced by a spokesman for Zurich Public Transport (ZPT) that during a general inspection to enhance security, asbestos had been found in the “tram 2000 series” used in the city’s transport network. The 160 contaminated vehicles, which were manufactured between 1976 and 1990, constitute 23% of ZPT’s 700 cars. Having given assurances that workers and passengers were safe, ZPT said that decontamination of the vehicles will begin by the end of the Summer; until then, the affected units will remain in service. See: Zurich: de l'amiante dans des vieux trams [Zurich: asbestos in old trams].

Industrial Asbestos Exposure 2015

Aug 1, 2015

During a routine maintenance inspection on an industrial blast furnace in the town of Florange in north-eastern France, Laurent Longuez discovered asbestos contamination. Upon identifying the presence of the hazardous material on July 20, he asked for protective equipment; his request was denied and work continued for a further two days. Finally at noon on July 22, the company – Arcelor Mittal, “the world’s leading integrated steel and mining company,” – evacuated the site and began decontamination work. See: Découverte d’amiante sur le site des hauts-fourneaux de Florange [Discovery of asbestos in the blast furnace site Florange].

National Asbestos Eradication Plan

Jul 31, 2015

As a press conference on July 30, the (Mauritius) Minister of Housing Showkutally Soodhun committed his government to a program for the removal of asbestos from the country’s housing infrastructure. Information the Minister presented quantified the hazard: of 3,113 houses in 59 locations built with asbestos, only 665 (21%) had been remediated. The Government has allocated the sum of $12.5 million for this program. Welcoming the news, opposition politicians called for a schedule for the completion of the works. See: Soodhun: Rs 443 millions pour la réhabilitation des maisons de la NHDC [Soodhun: Rs 443 million for rehabilitation of houses NHDC].

Consumers Shun China’s Exports

Jul 31, 2015

After the 2012 asbestos scandal involving Chinese cars, Australian consumers are opting for vehicles from other countries according to an article released today. Before asbestos engine components were discovered in Chinese cars exported to Australia by Great Wall Motors, more than 12,000 Chinese cars had been purchased that year. Of the 1.1 million new vehicles bought by Australians in 2014, only 4,200 were made in China. Asbestos and asbestos containing-products have been banned in Australia since 2003. See: Haval stalls as Chinese car sales evaporate in Australia.

Federal Bill Calls for Mesothelioma Register

Jul 30, 2015

On July 29, a bipartisan bill was introduced to the U.S. Congress called the “Mary Jo Lawyer-Spano Mesothelioma Patient Registry Act of 2015” which would establish the country’s first mesothelioma registry; the data collected would be of use to mesothelioma researchers and clinicians. This draft legislation is the result of lobbying efforts spearheaded by members of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation who met with their Congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. in March 2015. See: ACTION ALERT: Mesothelioma Bill in Congress for Patient Registry.

Asbestos Scandal in Welsh Schools

Jul 30, 2015

As governments in Cardiff and London argue over who is responsible for the deadly asbestos contamination of Welsh schools, children and their teachers continue to experience daily exposures to a known carcinogen. The BBC has today published an article reporting on the repercussions of these exposures and the efforts by campaigners to lobby the Welsh authorities to “take responsibility” for a hazardous situation which appears lost in a devolutionary morass. According to research by the BBC, 1,514 Welsh schools (85%) contain asbestos products. See: Take lead on asbestos in schools, Welsh government told.

Asbestos Find in Metro Cars

Jul 29, 2015

The U.S. capital’s transport agency (Metro) is tackling the fallout from the discovery of asbestos-contamination of 280 passenger cars. The hazard is cited in a Metro tender document dated July 23, 2015 which calls for quotes for the removal of “asbestos from 1000 series railcars.” The asbestos is at the front of each of the cars in “the heater box behind the evaporator.” Railway personnel, union officials and passengers in Washington D.C. are anxious about potential exposures to the asbestos in these 40-year old vehicles. See: Hundreds of Metro Cars Contain Asbestos, Documents Show.

Victims’ Verdict on Asbestos Anxiety!

Jul 29, 2015

On July 28, a French industrial tribunal ordered the Alstom company to pay 54 former factory workers the sum of €5,000 each plus €500 in litigation costs for negligently exposing them to asbestos as a result of which they are suffering from a fear of developing serious diseases. In 2000, a former manager of the plant was also fined by a criminal court for exposing employees to asbestos. It is believed that from the 1970s until it closed in 2006, thousands of people had been employed at the factory. See: Amiante: Alstom condamné à verser 5 000 euros à 54 ex-salariés [Asbestos: Alstom ordered to pay 5,000 euros to 54 former employees].

Scottish Court Upholds Victim’s Rights

Jul 29, 2015

On July 24, Lord Uist of the Court of Sessions issued judgment in a case brought by David Boyd against three defendants over personal injuries sustained as a result of occupational asbestos exposure. After reaching an extra judicial settlement which allowed Mr. Boyd to return to court should he contract diffuse pleural thickening, lung cancer or mesothelioma, one of the defendants sought the right to demand proof of liability should that occur. The judge ruled that an offer by a defendant to settle a case by way of a payment of provisional damages carried with it an admission of liability. See: Judgment in David Boyd v Gates Ltd., Scottish Agricultural Industries Ltd, National Grid Gas PLC.

Contamination at EC Headquarters

Jul 28, 2015

Since July 27, entry to another part of the European Commission’s (EC) Jean Monet Building in Luxembourg has been barred due to an alert issued after a July 16 report confirmed the presence of asbestos in the data center. High levels of fibre were found in two of the 25 samples taken from the center. Plans were already underway to relocate the 1,600 workers from this building to alternative premises due to the asbestos hazard. The Jean Monet Building 2, the new EC headquarters in Luxembourg, is scheduled for completion in 2020. See: Le datacenter du JMO est aussi infesté d’amiante [The JMO data center is also infested with asbestos].

Monument to Osasco’s Asbestos Victims!

Jul 27, 2015

Eliezer John de Souza and Amauri Lima representing the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) met with Osasco Councilman Aluisio Pinheiro to lobby the municipal authorities for support in constructing a memorial to the town’s asbestos victims, many of whom were employed in Osasco by the Lonaflex company to produce brake pads and by Eternit S.A. to manufacture asbestos-cement building products at the largest such plant in Latin Ameria. Speaking to the press, Councilman Pinheiro welcomed the proposal, saying he felt that Mayor Jorge Lapas would embrace this idea. See: Vitímas do Amianto pedem ajuda a vereador [Asbestos Victims Asking for Political Support].

University Accused of Whitewash

Jul 25, 2015

The publication in Montreal of a contentious report entitled “Lessons from the Quebec Asbestos Industry: Can there be meaningful dialogue and consensus when facts come up against feelings?” by Concordia University has led to calls from eleven doctors and scientists (see: letter to Concordia President Alan Shephard) for the document’s retraction because of “gross inaccuracies and bias and because it promotes the global asbestos trade, which the medical and scientific community have condemned as morally indefensible.” See: Concordia défend l’amiante [Concordia defends asbestos].

Victims Slam Court Decision!

Jul 25, 2015

Asbestos victims reacted angrily after a Turin Court deferred judgment in a case against billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny (see: Italian Asbestos Verdict Due on Friday!) A bereaved husband from Casale Monferrato criticized this “farce” as a delaying tactic while Bruno Pesce, from an asbestos victims’ group, said “If the Constitutional Court were to agree with the defense, it would be incomprehensible that one can cancel a murder trial because there has already been a trial for [environmental] disaster.” See: Le dossier de Schmidheiny renvoyé à la Cour constitutionnelle [Schmidheiny Case Sent Back to Constitutional Court].

Asbestos Imports Still Banned

Jul 25, 2015

At a press conference on July 24, the Minister of Health of Mauritius Anil Gayan gave assurances that there were no plans to allow the import of asbestos products into the country despite a recent decision by the Ministry of Commerce to allow the import of asbestos goods to recommence. That decision had led to a protest in front of the Ministry of Commerce headquarters in Port Louis, the capital of the country, last month by members of a labor confederation. According to news reports, the import of asbestos-containing products had been banned since 1999. See: Anil Gayan – “Aucune possibilité d’importer de l’amiante” [Anil Gayan: “No option to import asbestos”].

Supreme Court Win for Victims!

Jul 24, 2015

UK asbestos victims have welcomed the majority decision of July 22, 2015 of the Supreme Court in the case of Coventry and Others v Lawrence and Another regarding the recovery of litigation costs such as success fees and after-the-event insurance premiums. The Court agreed that provisions of the Access of Justice Act 1999 did not constitute a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and highlighted the flaws in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) which curtailed access to justice.” See: Supreme Court finds conditional fee agreements in line with human rights treaty.

Cancer Elevated in Shipbreaking Workers

Jul 21, 2015

Research amongst a cohort of 4,427 asbestos-exposed former shipbreaking workers from Taiwan has documented an elevated incidence of overall cancer, oesophagus cancer, liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer, trachea, bronchus, and lung cancer. The researchers stated that “overall cancer, esophagus cancer, and trachea, bronchus, and lung cancer were seen in a dose-dependent relationship with asbestos exposure” and urged that a surveillance program be set up to monitor the health of asbestos-exposed workers to enable early detection and treatment to take place. See: Cancer Attributable to Asbestos Exposure in Shipbreaking Workers: A Matched-Cohort Study.

Municipal Asbestos Program

Jul 21, 2015

An update provided by the Mayor of the Italian town of Casale Monferrato, who is also the chair of the town’s Asbestos Strategy Committee, confirmed that progress was made at discussions on July 17 with local and regional stakeholders. Hearings regarding the draft asbestos remediation program, approved in June 2015 by the regional council, will take place in September. There are three main focus areas of the program: asbestos monitoring and mapping; disposal of contaminated material; and health surveillance and treatment. See: Comitato Strategico Amianto: ecco come è andata [Update from Asbestos Strategy Committee].

British Asbestos Newsletter

Jul 20, 2015

The spring 2015 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The leading article in issue 97, “Parliament’s Asbestos Strategy: Small Carrots, Big Sticks,” considers recent government actions on asbestos which supported and attacked the rights of people suffering from asbestos diseases. The second article “Zurich Insurance Plc UK Branch v International Energy Group Limited” is an analysis by specialist barrister David Allan of a May 2015 Supreme Court decision with implications for mesothelioma claimants. Included in the news round-up is information about legal, legislative, bureaucratic and epidemiological developments. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, Issue 97.

Unions Call for Justice

Jul 20, 2015

At a meeting in the Northern French commune of Isbergues, the CFDT union (Confédération française démocratique du travail [French Democratic Confederation of Work]) highlighted the desperate struggle by local asbestos victims to obtain recognition and compensation for occupational illnesses in a region which has a high asbestos mortality rate due to its industrial legacy. The union spokesman described the “grotesque” iniquity whereby two different courts can come to opposing decisions on similar asbestos cases. See: Amiante à Isbergues: Vivre de son travail, pas en mourir! [Absestos in Isbergues: Work to Live, Not to Die].

Jail for Asbestos Crimes!

Jul 16, 2015

On July 15, 2015, eleven former Pirelli executives were given prison sentence of up to seven years and eight months for asbestos cancer deaths of twenty workers who had been employed at the company’s plants in the 1970s and 1980s. The defendants were convicted of manslaughter for failing to protect the workers from the asbestos hazard. The court ordered that a provisional settlement of €520,000 be paid prior to a separate civil trial taking place to decide on the amount of damages due to the bereaved. See: Eleven ex-Pirelli managers convicted over asbestos deaths.

Review of “Asbestos Pilgrims”

Jul 15, 2015

Amongst the legacies left by the shipbuilding history of Ferrol, a town in the Spanish Province of Galicia, is a high incidence of asbestos mortality. A new book entitled “Peregrinos del amianto” contrasts the impact of asbestos on the community via interviews with the injured with the callous behaviour of employers and government agencies. The pioneering work by the Asociación Galega de Víctimas do Amianto [the Galega Association of Asbestos Victims), trade unions and the media in uncovering what is described as Spain’s biggest occupational health scandal is highlighted. See: Sobre "Peregrinos del amianto" de Rober Amado [Book Review: Asbestos Pilgrims by Rober Amado].

Federal Support for Decontamination

Jul 15, 2015

Casale Monferrato, formerly at the center of the Italy’s asbestos-cement industry, has welcomed the transfer to provincial authorities of €25 million for an asbestos decontamination program. On July 20, a new stage in the reclamation processs begins when applications will be accepted for assistance with asbestos removal costs. In addition to these grants, low interest loans have been been negotioated with credit institutions and banks to enable citizens to remediate properties and businesses. See: Bonifica amianto: i primi 25 milioni di euro sono stati trasferiti alla Regione Piemonte [Asbestos decontamination: first 25 million euros transferred to the Region of Piemonte].

New Mesothelioma Treatment?

Jul 14, 2015

A July 12 news broadcast on Australian TV reported on a new protocol for mesothelioma patients which has had remarkable results. In an interview on the breakfast program, medical oncologist Dr. Steven Kao from New South Wales described the system for delivering genetic material to mesothelioma patients used during phase 1 clinical trials. Footage was shown of Bradley Selmon, a patient who had taken part in this trial, whose condition has improved dramatically as a result of this treatment. After eight treatments in eight weeks X-rays revealed that Mr Selmon's tumours were now almost invisible. See: July 12, 2015, Today Show, Channel 9, Australia.

Calls to Compensate Canadian Victims

Jul 13, 2015

In the aftermath of a momentous revision of Canada’s asbestos policy, calls are being made for the governments in Ottawa and Quebec to set up a fund to compensate those who have been injured in the production and processing of Canadian chrysotile (white) asbestos. At the moment, injured workers can face a gruelling battle to obtain recognition and compensation for their diseases and others affected by environmental exposures receive neither. Should such a fund not materialize, activists and lawyers may follow through on plans to launch an asbestos class action. See: Volte-face [About turn].

Support for Brazilian Asbestos Ban!

Jul 13, 2015

According to an item dated July 10 on Santa Catarina’s Public Ministry of Work website, federal as well as state officials and agencies maintain support for the adoption of a Brazilian asbestos ban in order to protect citizens from harmful exposures. Recently, Attorney-General of Labor Luis Camargo, Santa Catarina’s Public Prosecutor Marcia Kamei López Aliaga and others took part in discussions with Manoel Dias, Minister of Labour and Employment, to progress measures to protect workers from the asbestos hazard. The Ministry of Labor favors an asbestos ban. See: PGT reforça importância do combate ao Amianto [PGT reinforces the importance of the fight against asbestos].

States Ordered to Conduct Surveys

Jul 12, 2015

India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT), a specialist body set up in 2010 to “handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues,” has ordered the governments of Odisha, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Jharkhand to produce scientific reports on the state of asbestos mining, the environmental impact of the mining legacy and the incidence of asbestos-related diseases in their States. Despite assurances of the Indian Bureau of Mines that all asbestos mining has ceased in India, doubts remain said NGT judicial member U D Salvi. See: NGT asks 5 mineral-rich states to survey all asbestos mines.

Genetic Susceptibility and Asbestos Cancer?

Jul 11, 2015

Scientists looking to understand why less than 10% of people exposed to asbestos contract malignant pleural mesothelioma have published findings in the current issue of the journal Carcinogenesis from research conducted in Italy which “suggested that gene-asbestos interaction may play an additional role in malignant pleural mesothelioma susceptibility.” The researchers found a possible synergistic effect between asbestos exposure and three Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs): rs1508805, rs2501618, and rs5756444. See: Gene-asbestos interaction in malignant pleural mesothelioma susceptibility.

Asbestos Waste Management Failings

Jul 11, 2015

A 2015 briefing issued by the Environment Agency regarding the management of asbestos waste facilities has investigated allegations of poor practices in the handling of waste at transfer sites. In 2014, the movement of 280,000 tonnes of asbestos waste was documented. A national audit campaign was undertaken in 2014/15 by the Health and Safety Executive and Natural Resources Wales during which 99 authorized asbestos transfer sites were inspected along with unpermitted sites: “50% of the sites audited had gaps in their procedures and some had no procedures at all.” Multiple examples of hazardous practices were identified. See: Asbestos audit final briefing – May 2015.

Bremen’s Industrial Asbestos Legacy

July 10, 2015

The shipbuilding industry in Bremen, Germany has produced a high incidence of deadly asbestos cancer amongst workers say local authority officials who cite new data from Lower Saxony’s upgraded Cancer Registry. In Bremen, 31 new cases of mesothelioma were reported for the period 2010 to 2012. Bremen politician Silvia Schön has criticized Germany’s unfair compensation regime which places the burden of proof on the victims; it should, she said, be the responsibility of companies to show they provided safe working conditions. See: Spätfolgen von Asbest in Bremen und umzu [Long-term consequences of asbestos in and around Bremen].

Asbestos Banned, but Threat Remains!

Jul 10, 2015

The failure of the authorities in Chile to implement plans for the safe eradication of the asbestos hazard is highlighted in an article which focuses on the fallout from asbestos contamination of two power plants in the City of Coronel which are operated by Endesa, a Chilean subsidiary of an Italian multinational. A decontamination program at these sites was truncated to save money as a result of which shortcuts were taken which endangered not only the removal workers but the community at large. See: Toneladas de asbesto de Bocamina I amenazan la vida en Coronel [Tons of asbestos in Bocamina I [power plant], threatens life in Coronel City].

EPA Recommends Asbestos Update

Jul 9, 2015

An outdated and dangerous standard which allowed the demolition of buildings containing asbestos to take place without prior removal of the asbestos will be replaced after recommendations made by the Office of Inspector General in a report issued in June 2015 (see: EPA Should Update Guidance to Address the Release of Potentially Harmful Quantities of Asbestos That Can Occur Under EPA’s Asbestos Demolition Standard). Experiments showed that under the previous protocol, the amount of asbestos released as a result of the demolition often exceeded maximum permissible levels. See: US EPA to update its asbestos standard.

Pioneering Decontamination Program

Jul 9, 2015

Today (July 9, 2015), specialist technicians working under a government program and in collaboration with civil society stakeholders will began work on the remediation of asbestos waste used as landfill on properties in Anadalusia. Under a budget allocation of €155,000, this month they will remove the contaminated soil, transport it to a waste treatment center, retest decontaminated sites and restore them to their original state. See: Se inicia este jueves la retirada de los terrenos contaminados por amianto en el Cortijo del Cuarto [Starting this Thursday the withdrawal of the land contaminated with asbestos in the Cortijo del Cuarto].

Asbestos in Toy Imports from China

Jul 8, 2015

Tests conducted on 49 samples of Chinese imports by two US laboratories revealed that four brands of crayons and two crime scene fingerprint kits are contaminated with asbestos. The toxic crayons are marketed under the brands of: Amscan, Disney Mickey Mouse Club, Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce and contain tremolite, anthophyllite and chrysotile. The hazardous kits were found to be tainted with tremolite, chrysotile, anthophyllite and actinolite. The packaging of the kits has safety warnings over choking but no mention is made of the asbestos. See: Tests Find Asbestos in Kids’ Crayons, Crime Scene Kits.

Country’s Richest Woman Snubs Victims

Jul 8, 2015

The fortune of Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest woman, was founded on asbestos mining. The first program in a two-part series on the Hancock dynasty was aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation this week. A piece in yesterday’s Financial Review reminds viewers that the first commercial success of Ms. Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock was his discovery, commercial exploitation, sale and management of the Wittenoom crocidolite asbestos mine. Thousands of people who worked or lived in the mining town have died from asbestos-related diseases. Ms. Rinehart has refused all requests for donations to assist the injured or fund life-saving research. See: The family legacy Gina Rinehart would like to forget.

Asbestos in Football Championships!

Jul 7, 2015

Eternit, Brazil’s biggest asbestos company, is an official sponsor of Brazil’s Football Cup (Copa do Brasil) which involves 86 teams representing all Brazil’s 26 states; this annual event is organized by the Brazilian Football Confederation and is a very high profile event in a country where football is more like a religion than a sport. The final matches in this competition will be played later this month. Eternit is also sponsoring four football state championships. According to the company, this sponsorship is designed to create a positive association between the Eternit brand and Brazil’s favorite pasttime. See: Eternit marca presença em campeonatos de futebol [Eternit brand presence in football championships].

Delays Prolong Asbestos Hazard

Jul 7, 2015

The deadline came but the improvements promised by July 1, 2015 did not. A three year moratorium had been set in 2012 at the end of which the occupational exposure limit value (OEL) for thousands of French asbestos removal workers was to be reduced from 100 to 10 asbestos fibers/liter of air. A decree issued on June 29, 2015, applicable from July 2, 2015, maintained the status quo. This action was blamed on a delay in work being undertaken to quantify risks from various work-related activities involving asbestos-containing materials. See: Pas de protection supplémentaire pour les travailleurs de l’amiante [No additional protection for asbestos workers].

Mesothelioma in Asbestos Textile Workers

Jul 7, 2015

As a result of re-evaluations of forty-three patients diagnosed with peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma between 2003 and 2010 at a hospital in Southeast China, scientists have reported this month that all the members of this cohort were females, and all of them had had occupational and/or occupational exposure to chrysotile (white) asbestos. The majority of the patients were from two towns which had many small asbestos textile workshops. See: Asbestos textile production linked to malignant peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma in women: Analysis of 28 cases in Southeast China.

Municipal Asbestos Removal Program

Jul 7, 2015

The commune of Limbiate, about 15 kilometers north of Milan, has embarked upon a public-private project to rid the area of asbestos contamination. At a civic reception on July 6, 2015, an “asbestos-free” protocol was signed to highlight the work underway to encourage private owners of properties containing asbestos-cement to take action by offering them reduced prices for asbestos removal and disposal in collaboration with specialist firms. There are 480 contaminated sites with 170 thousand square meters of asbestos roofing in Limbiate. See: Limbiate prova a diventare “amianto free” col team che propone tariffe agevolate [Limbiate tries to become "asbestos free" with the team that offers discounted rates].

Legal Victory for Mesothelioma Victims!

Jul 6, 2015

On Action Mesothelioma Day (July 3, 2015), an administrative court published an order reclassifying government compensation payments to mesothelioma claimants; these awards will not be considered as “disposable capital,” when decisions are taken on whether a claimant must pay £10,000 in court costs to pursue a legal claim for their injuries. This marks another defeat for Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove and a landmark victory for victims. This action was brought by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK and mesothelioma victims Ian Doughty and Carole Sloper. See: Court levy U-turn for asbestos victims.

Eradication of “Mr. Fluffy”

Jul 6, 2015

Days after the Canberra government made public a list of a 1,000+ homes contaminated with “Mr. Fluffy” asbestos insulation (see: Canberra Government Publishes List of 1,022 Asbestos-Risk Houses for Takeover, Demolition), on the morning of July 6 demolition began on the first “Mr. Fluffy” home in Canberra under the capital’s buyback program to purchase, decontaminate and demolish contaminated properties. According to officials, there was far more asbestos removed on this site than had been expected as the property had been remediated in the 1980s. See: Mr Fluffy house demolished in first stage of Asbestos Taskforce pilot program.

Ottawa Admits Asbestos Kills!

Jul 6, 2015

For over a hundred years, the Canadian Government promoted global sales of chrysotile (white) asbestos under the banner of safe use. Long after Canadians refused to use asbestos and domestic consumption was virtually nil, the Prime Minister and civil servants espoused the industry line that the use of white asbestos carried “zero risk.” Last week, changes to the website of Health Canada suggested a “historic shift” had taken place in Ottawa’s attitude toward asbestos with the acknowledgment that exposure to asbestos can and does damage human health. See: Ottawa reverses stand on health risks of asbestos in “landmark shift.”

Action on Asbestos Stalemate?

Jul 6, 2015

The Thai Government agreed to ban asbestos in 2010, yet no ban has been adopted. This failure to act was highlighted in a recent statement by the National Health Commission (NHC); steps are now being taken by the NHC to coordinate action on this and other policy decisions. Confirming the continuation of pressure by asbestos stakeholders at a July 3 NHC meeting, Thailand’s Vice Prime Minister said that according to the Canadian Ambassador chrysotile asbestos from Canada was still being sold to Thailand. See: NHC has the health minister to push for the implementation of resolutions from the National Health Assembly.

Asbestos, Still a Killer!

Jul 1, 2015

Data released today by the Health and Safety Executive reported that there were 2,538 deaths from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Great Britain in 2013, a slight decrease on the mortality incidence in 2012 (2,548); the figure for 2011 was 2,312. The male:female proportion of deaths in 2013 was 2,123:415; in 2012 the ratio was 2,137:411. It is of interest to note that these figures come just days before asbestos victims groups, cancer charities and campaigning bodies hold events around the country to mark Action Mesothelioma Day. See: HSE releases annual workplace fatalities.

Environmental Asbestos Hazard

Jul 1, 2015

Broken asbestos-cement roofing products are one of a number of toxic substances illegally dumped on municipal land in the middle of a densely populated area in Mpumuza, in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. Experts have warned of the danger posed by the asbestos which is being blown into the environment as a result of fires at the dump and the action of wind currents. According to the local authorities: “The illegal dumping issue will be investigated by both our environmental health and security departments. The waste department has also been asked to attend to the cleaning.” See: Illegal dump a health hazard.

Europe’s Asbestos Crisis

Jul 1, 2015

A press release issued by European Committees which hosted an asbestos conference last week, reported that more than 47,000 Europeans per year die from asbestos-related diseases. According to Enrico Gibellieri: “Member States and the European Institutions need to take action…We are talking about a lot more than traditionally exposed factory workers, now extending our concern to the children in our schools, the people working in our hospitals and public buildings and anyone living in a house, which affects just about everybody.” See: European Committees raise alarm on Europe's silent epidemic. Asbestos related deaths are predicted to double those of road deaths.

Delegation Visits Amagaski City

Jun 29, 2015

Delegates from Belgium and Italy joined Japanese asbestos activists on June 26, 2015 at a meeting with the Mayor of Amagasaki City, a town which has been devastated by asbestos pollution created by the industrial operations of the Kubota company. The international visitors included Bruno Pesce and Alessandro Pugno from AFEVA, one of Italy’s most high-profile and active asbestos victims’ groups, and Eric Jonckheere, President of the Belgian Asbestos Victims Group. The delegation also took part in events to mark the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the Amagasaki Association of Victims and Families of Asbestos Victims. See: Photo of Meeting.

Guilty Verdict for Asbestos Transporter

Jun 28, 2015

An appeal by an asbestos cargo transporter over a one million Real (US$320,000) fine for the illegal shipment of asbestos through São Paulo, a state which banned asbestos, has been rejected by a unanimous court decision. The case was brought in 2009 by the Ministry of Labor which discovered that a truck belonging to the company was hauling 24 tonnes of asbestos in damaged packaging. Some while after that incident, a traffic accident took place which required clean-up crews to remove asbestos disbursed onto the Anhanguera highway by the company. See: Rápido 900: Finalmente Justiça Feita FEITA [Fast 900: Justice Delivered].

Delays Created Environmental Epidemic

Jun 28, 2015

Failure by the Kubota company, one of Japan’s major asbestos manufacturers, to prevent hazardous environmental asbestos contamination near its former Kanzaki plant has produced an epidemic of asbestos-related cancer amongst people in the city of Amagasaki. In 1988, a doctor wrote on the notes of a mesothelioma patient “no history of working with asbestos… If a connection with asbestos were to be made, it would be the fact that this patient's home is located near the Kanzaki plant.” See: Silence over asbestos-related cancer deaths in 1980s draws renewed condemnation.

International Scientists Call for Ban

Jun 26, 2015

On June 24, 2015, the Collegium Ramazzini, a global consortium of 180 scientists, reiterated its call for a worldwide asbestos ban. Commenting on the new position paper, the Collegium’s President Philip Landrigan said: “Given that ARDs [asbestos-related diseases] are 100% preventable, zero new cases of ARDs should be the ultimate goal for both industrializing and industrialized countries. The pandemic of ARDs is an urgent international priority for action by public health workers.” See: The Collegium Ramazzini Releases Official Position on The Global Health Dimensions of Asbestos and Asbestos-related Diseases.

Increased Cancer Risk for Asbestos Workers

Jun 26, 2015

Papers published this week about the impact of asbestos exposures on workers from Belgium and Poland confirm the excess of cancer mortality on people occupationally exposed to asbestos. The first paper highlighted the increase in mesothelioma and oral cancer in a Belgian cohort while the second reported “strong evidence that the lung cancer risk is associated with asbestos exposure and it increases along with the increasing exposure.” See: Enduring health effects of asbestos use in Belgian industries: a record-linked cohort study of cause-specific mortality (2001–2009) and Predictors of Lung Cancer Among Former Asbestos-Exposed Workers.

The Fight for Asbestos Justice

Jun 22, 2015

Asbestos victims are gearing up to play their part this week in crucial EU activities to raise the profile of asbestos issues throughout the continent. On June 23 a landmark event will take place when international activists join local people in the small town of Kapelle-op-den-Bos, formerly the headquarters of Belgium’s largest asbestos multinational. This will be the first international mobilization on asbestos to be held in this iconic town. After a vigil outside the site of the factory, the delegation will place a floral tribute at the cemetery and then visit Kapelle’s Mayor Mr. Edward DeWitt. See ABEVA Press Release.

Landmark Legal Victory!

Jun 19, 2015

Willem van Soest died of mesothelioma in 2013, a year after winning a $358,000 compensation claim against his former employer. The deceased was exposed to asbestos whilst employed as a painter and docker by BHP Billiton at its Whyalla shipyards in the 1960s. The company accepted that it had exposed him to asbestos but argued the exposure was below acceptable standards and it was not responsible for providing the workforce with protective equipment. The High Court today (June 19) rejected BHP’s petition to appeal; BHP announced that “it does not anticipate any further action on this matter.” See: Asbestos victim's family claims major win against BHP Billiton.

EU Asbestos Conference

Jun 19, 2015

Two European Committees are holding a conference on “Freeing Europe safely from asbestos” in Brussels on June 24, 2015 to quantify Europe’s asbestos epidemic and provide stakeholders the opportunity to discuss actions for tackling the multiple challenges faced. The sessions have been welcomed by asbestos victims groups, trade unions and campaigners. Issues being considered include: the implementation of a safe strategy for asbestos removal, demands for recognition and compensation of victims and measures to protect the public health of EU citizens. See: Freeing Europe safely from Asbestos. More than 300,000 asbestos deaths expected in Europe by 2030.

Union Calls for Asbestos Removal

Jun 19, 2015

The GMB trade union gave its support for plans by the Trades Union Congress to lobby for legislation mandating the removal of asbestos from public buildings at the annual conference of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health which took place in London this week. Speaking on behalf of the GMB, John McClean said that such a law would result in “better control of asbestos, better registry of it and eventually removal of it.” Many of the workers in Parliament are GMB members and are part of a cohort routinely exposed to asbestos contained in deteriorating Parliamentary buildings. See: TUC backs campaign for asbestos removal bill.

Scandal of Asbestos in Schools

Jun 17, 2015

Today, newspaper articles and a TV program highlighted the terrible toll paid by former teachers and pupils for their exposure to asbestos in schools. An 18-minute segment on the Victoria Derbyshire morning show featured the story of Paul Cowley who was diagnosed with asbestos cancer when he was in his mid-30s. Calling for urgent action, the National Union of Teachers says this “scandal” has been caused by the Government’s failure “to address the legacy of asbestos in schools,” 86 % of which contain asbestos. See: Government must ‘tackle the scourge of asbestos in schools’ to prevent ‘unnecessary deaths’ of teachers and pupils, says teachers’ union.

Baryulgil Remembered

Jun 17, 2015

The devastation caused by asbestos mining in Baryulgil, a remote community in New South Wales, was the subject of a short film premièred at the Sydney Film Festival this month. The film “Under Skin, In Blood” was made by Professor Larissa Behrendt, a prominent activist and Professor of Law who was determined to expose the effects not only on the people who worked at the mine but on an entire community in which people continue to die from asbestos-related diseases. See: Asbestos mine's impact on Baryulgil depicted in new short film.

Basque Report on Asbestos

Jun 16, 2015

The Commission of Employment, Social Policy and Housing of the Basque Parliament issued a paper on June 12, 2015 which considered the feasibility of creating a compensation fund for asbestos victims. Recognizing, the profound health effects of asbestos exposures and the difficulties victims face in obtaining compensation caused by the long time lag between exposure and the manifestation of disease, the Parliament recommended that a state-wide compensation fund be set up. Based on French asbestos mortality, it was estimated that there are 659 mesotheliomas and 357 cases of asbestosis per year in Spain. See: Parliamentary Report on Asbestos.

First Asbestos Verdict Against GM Spain

Jun 15, 2015

For the first time, a Spanish court has held General Motors (GM) Spain guilty of negligence in exposing a worker to asbestos. As a result of GM's failure to protect him, former GM employee Luis Tirado, died in December 2011, three months after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The Court in Zaragoza awarded his widow €99,911.38 (US$112,000), plus interest. GM is appealing this decision on the grounds that there had “been no breach of the legal regulations in relation to the use of asbestos.” See: Una sentencia condena a GM a pagar 99.911,38 € a la viuda del trabajador fallecido por Amianto [A judgment condemns GM to pay €99,911.38 to widow of worker killed by asbestos].

Progress of Municipal Asbestos Audit

Jun 15, 2015

Work is progressing in the municipality of Raciborz, in line with Poland’s plan to remove all asbestos-containing products from the national infrastructure by 2032. An update of the town’s asbestos inventory, produced in 2005-10, will be conducted between June 15 and July 30, 2015 by technicians tasked with completing questionnaires and conducting interviews with residents. The auditors will carry identification and authorization permits and work between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Their findings will inform the town’s asbestos removal program. See: Inwentaryzacja wyrobów azbestowych na terenie Raciborza [Inventory of asbestos products in Raciborz].

“The White Hell”

Jun 14, 2015

In the presence of former workers and local dignitaries, a commemoration was held on June 12, of the 50th anniversary of the closure of the largest chrysotile (white) asbestos mine in France. From the mid-1920s, operations at the Canari mine in Corsica hazardously exposed 1,400 mine workers and their families to asbestos. Survivors who attended the ceremony were: Armand Guerra (82), François Gassmann (84), Dominique Santini (74) and Raymond Roe (83). Rehabilitation work is currently ongoing to decontaminate the site and local area. See: Drame de l'amiante, il y a 50 ans la mine de Canari fermait ses portes [Asbestos drama, 50 years since Canari mine closed).

Asbestos Hazard for U.S. Workers

Jun 11 2015

The continuing asbestos risk to American workers was confirmed by scientists who analysed government air sampling data collected between 1984 and 2011 in the construction, automotive repair, manufacturing, and chemical/petroleum/rubber industries and reported asbestos fiber levels in excess of 10f/cc. Commenting on these findings, Alex Formuzis, Vice President for Strategic Campaigns at EWG Action Fund, said: “Through no fault of their own, millions of Americans went to work each day in order to provide for families — but at the cost of having to inhale dangerous levels of asbestos.” See: Federal Data Show Millions of American Workers Inhaling Asbestos.

Asbestos Victims Initiative

Jun 10, 2015

On June 9, asbestos victims and activists from Spain, Italy and France gathered at the offices of the Barcelona Ronda Collective, an organization that provides legal assistance to Catalonia’s asbestos victims, for preliminary discussions in preparation for a high-profile meeting in Cerdanyola del Valles, the town at the epicenter of Spain’s asbestos crisis. Over three days, a wide range of issues will be considered including the national situation and strategies for joint European actions. See: Barcelona y Cerdanyola acogen encuentro internacional de víctimas del Amianto [Barcelona and Cerdanyola host international meeting of asbestos victims].

The Belgian Asbestos Fund

Jun 10, 2015

Since it was established in 2007, The (Belgian) Asbestos Fund has facilitated compensation payments for 2,161 asbestos victims of whom 1,453 had mesothelioma and 735 had asbestosis (some of the claimants had more than one disease). Just over 50% of the mesothelioma victims were exposed to asbestos at work, 94% of the cases of asbestosis were work-related. In some cases, a lump sum was awarded while in others a monthly pension was paid. Since April 1, 2014, victims of environmental asbestos exposure have been allowed to make claims to the Fund. See: BELGIQUE: 2161 cas indemnisés dans le cadre du fonds amiante depuis 2007 [Belgium: 2161 cases compensated by Asbestos Fund since 2007].

Asbestos Alert at Palaces of Westminster

Jun 9, 2015

On June 7, 2015, The Sunday Times reported that crisis talks had been held after an asbestos incident in May 2015 contaminated the House of Commons chamber with asbestos. A question asked about this situation on June 3 by MP Nic Dakin was answered on June 9. In the reply on behalf of the Government, Sir Paul Beresford downplayed the risk and reassured Commons’ users “that there is no reason to stop using the Chamber, or the adjacent offices and spaces.” There are plans “ to eradicate the asbestos in the trunking by the end of 2015…” See: Asbestos scare may force out Mps.

Union Uncovers Worksite Hazard

Jun 9, 2015

A periodic construction site inspection in Christchurch by officers of the EPMU Construction trade union led to an asbestos alert being issued and the cessation of work. Commenting on the incident, EPMU organizer Hami Martin said: “They were using a jackhammer removing concrete around … an asbestos pipe. The pipe had a few holes in it but it also had a bit that looked like it had been sawn off.” Not only the workers but passers-by were put at risk by the actions of the workers on this site, Martin warned. See: Asbestos risk closes central Christchurch work site.

Risk Assessment of Asbestos Ships

Jun 9, 2015

Dennis Outram of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has said his union opposes the export of two Chinese-built tugboats contaminated with asbestos over fears that foreign seafarers will be exposed to the dangers of asbestos. It was believed that plans had been made to send the Warrunda and Warrego to Singapore. The MUA is demanding a full risk assessment be conducted prior to further action being taken. As of now, none of the MUA members “have been involved in a risk assessment," Outram reported. “If they [the boats] were unsafe some months ago, I'm guessing they're still unsafe.” See: Newcastle tug boat stand off as maritime union insists on asbestos risk assessment.

Latest Asbestos Trade Data

Jun 8, 2015

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has today released estimates for the global asbestos trade in 2014 based on trade data reported to the United Nations (UN) Commodity Trade Statistics Database. While a detailed analysis will take some time, a preliminary look at the figures indicate that in 2014 the top five producing and using countries have remained about the same as in 2013 and that global production and consumption has remained around 2 million tonnes/year. It is important to note that the figures for Russia, which has not yet reported its 2014 data to the UN, are USGS estimates. See: File USGS Asbestos Trade Data 2014.

Healthy Profits, Sick Workers

Jun 8, 2015

A feature article published today in India, highlights the plight of workers such as 64-year old Chinnapan Chinnakannu, who has been suffering from asbestosis since 2007, having received hazardous exposures whilst employed at the Gujarat Composites factory. The deterioration of Mr. Chinnakannu’s condition is contrasted with the healthy profits made by India’s growing asbestos industry which is currently worth $1.4 billion. Asbestos commercial and government vested interests deny the asbestos hazard, alleging that “health concerns are simply overblown.” See: India asbestos industry thrives despite health warnings.

Asia’s Asbestos Challenge

Jun 8, 2015

The International Commission on Occupational Health held the 31st International Congress on Occupational Health in Seoul from May 31 to June 5, 2015. On, June 4, there a workshop entitled: Asbestos Problems in Asia was addressed by key regional asbestos experts including: Professor Domyung Paek, Dr. Yeyong Choi and Dr. Yeonsil Kang (Korea), Mohit Gupta (India), Sanjiv Pandita (Hong Kong), and Sugio Furuya (Japan). The subjects they covered included the diagnosis of asbestos diseases, asbestos campaigns by civil society groups, and the suitability of science and technology studies for understanding the asbestos risk. See: Asbestos Problems in Asia.

Government Asbestos Enquiry

Jun 7, 2015

In comments he made to Parliament on June 5, 2015, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Stephen Kebwe confirmed the ongoing risk posed by asbestos-containing products in the country’s built environment: “This type of [asbestos] cancer will not affect you immediately; it often takes time to develop, but once diagnosed, it becomes difficult to treat…” In replying to a question from MP Amina Clement, Kebwe announced plans by the Government to conduct an audit to assess the asbestos hazard and consult with international experts about options for removing contaminated products. See: Beware of building materials coated with asbestos.

Jail Sentence for Contractor

Jun 7, 2015

On June 2, 2015, 59-year old Daniel Couet, the former head of an asbestos removal company, was sentenced to a year in prison for illegally dumping asbestos waste in north-west France. A Rennes court ordered him to pay damages of €3,000 each to seven former employees and €2,000 to other people whose health he endangered by his illegal operations. The prosecution had asked for a jail sentence of two years in recognition of the fact that Couet was a “serial polluter.” Couet’s company went into liquidation in 2008 with the loss of 25 jobs. See: Amiante: 1 an de prison pour un entrepreneur [Asbestos: 1 year in prison for a businessman].

Territory Guilty of Asbestos Charge

Jun 6, 2015

Having pleaded guilty to an asbestos infringement under the Safety Act, the Government of the Northwest Territories (NWT) was fined $115,000 on June 5, 2015 over hazardous exposures at the Yellowknife Museum in the NWT capital. The authorities failed to provide protective clothing or safety equipment for workers contracted to undertake repairs at the museum despite suspicions regarding the possible presence of asbestos contamination. Following queries by the contractors, it was confirmed that the chimney contained insulating mud which consisted of 75% chrysotile (white) asbestos. See: N.W.T. government fined $115K for workers' asbestos exposure.

National Asbestos Legacy

Jun 3, 2015

Official data just released by Safe Work Australia confirms that the number of cases of mesothelioma being diagnosed in Australia has continued to rise with a peak of 690 diagnoses in 2011; preliminary data for 2013 shows 575 cases diagnosed in that year. Mortality increased between 1997 and 2012 with a peak of 638 deaths in 2012. Australia mined, imported and used crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile asbestos. Annual consumption peaked around 1975 at approximately 70,000 tonnes. During the 1950s, Australia had the world’s highest per capita consumption of asbestos. See: Mesothelioma in Australia: Incidence (1982 to 2013) and Mortality (1997 to 2012).

Asbestos Mobilization in Japan

Jun 1, 2015

High-profile activities involving thousands of asbestos victims, campaigners, trade unionists and government officials took place in Tokyo between May 22 and 30, 2015. The 7th anniversary of landmark litigation on behalf of construction workers against the government and former asbestos manufactures was marked on May 22 with a huge public rally in the capital. One week later, members of the Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-Related Disease and their Families met with officials from Ministries of Labor, Health and Environment. The following day was the annual meeting of the Ban Asbestos Network of Japan (BANJAN). See: Photo May 22, 2015 rally.

Changing Russia’s Asbestos Dialogue

May 29, 2015

Campaigners are increasingly challenging pro-asbestos propaganda distributed in Russia’s asbestos heartland. An online article published this week quotes statements by environmentalist Elena Vasilieva, head of the NGO Volgograd-Ecopress, detailing the human health hazard posed by asbestos exposure not only to factory workers but to members of the public who live or work in properties containing asbestos materials. See: Елена Васильева: «Экологи единодушны: производство асбеста опасно для здоровья» [Elena Vasilieva, “Environmentalists are unanimous: the production of asbestos is hazardous to health”].

The International Asbestos Memorial

May 29, 2015

After more than a decade of planning and fund-raising, a stainless steel memorial will be unveiled tomorrow (May 30, 2015) in memory of 500 hundred Scottish asbestos victims. The artwork entitled “The International Asbestos Memorial – The Known and Unknown” was designed by Glasgow artist Jephson Robb and funded by donations collected by the Clydebank Asbestos Group. Many of the group have lost loved ones to asbestos-related diseases from exposures at the shipyards and factories that provided employment on the Clyde. Clydebank was, at one time, known as Europe’s asbestos capital. See: Town’s tribute to the victims of asbestos.

Asbestos Removal Target in Sight

May 28, 2015

An official at the Rwanda Housing Authority has reported that plans to safely remove 800,000 square meters of asbestos roofing, 60% of the 1,308,259 sq. meters of contaminated material, by 2016 are proceeding according to schedule. The pace of the work has increased by training extra technicians and increasing the number of disposal sites to 15. In 2009 the Cabinet gave instructions for the eradication of asbestos roofs. With limited funds and little expertise progress was slow. In 2013, it was estimated that there was still 1 million square meters of asbestos roofing to be cleared at a cost of Rwf23 billion. See: Asbestos deadline will be met - housing authority.

London Police on Asbestos Alert

May 27, 2015

It has been reported that facilities used by the Metropolitan Police to train armed officers between 1980 and 2007 were contaminated with asbestos. As a precaution, all former and current firearms officers have been contacted. Chief Superintendent Mike Gallagher, from the Specialist Firearms Command, announced that the Met is “offering a full support package which provides detailed information, advice, guidance, links and contacts.” There are, said Scotland Yard, “robust protocols” for training sites and new guidance has been drafted highlighting the risk of hazardous materials. See: Every armed police officer in London may have been exposed to asbestos.

Case Proceeds against Olivetti

May 26, 2015

As a result of preliminary hearings in an asbestos case over the deaths of factory workers, a calendar for the trial of managers from Olivetti (and its successor Telecom) who stand accused of failing to protect workers’ health from the asbestos hazard has been set. The trial will commence on September 23 and finish on October 5, 2015. The standing of parties civiles [civil parties] has been validated; these include the city of Ivrea, the metropolitan area, the victims’ association (AFeVA) and trade unions. See: Amianto all’Olivetti, anche il Comune di Ivrea parte civile contro l’azienda [Olivettit asbestos case, even the city of Ivrea is a civil partie to this action].

Good News for Asbestos Claimants!

May 23, 2015

The judge who is overseeing preliminary hearings in a new case (Eternit bis) against asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny has this week rejected requests from the defendant’s lawyers to transfer the trial from Turin to Ivrea and to exclude partie civiles (civil parties), including the government, region and province, from the proceedings. These decisions are good news for the 258 asbestos victims and their families (see: picture) on behalf of whom this case has been brought. It is hoped that by the end of June a ruling will be made by Judge Bompieri which will allow the case to proceed. See: Eternit bis, lo Stato Italiano è parte civile [Eternit bis, Italian State is a civil party].

Asbestos Issues in Asia

May 22, 2015

The latest issue of the Occupational Safety and Health Rights Newsletter (Number 34), a quarterly publication on occupational Health and safety issues in Asia, has just been published. The bumper edition contains many stories about asbestos developments in Asia, including news of grassroots mobilization in India in the run-up to the May 2015 meeting of the Rotterdam Convention, an update on asbestos public outreach programs from Indonesia and a report of a memorial service for asbestos victims in Japan. Also featured are brief reports from key organizations collaborating in the campaign to halt the use of asbestos in Asia. See: Occupational Safety and Health Rights Newsletter.

James Hardie Cuts Fund Contribution

May 21, 2015

The Australian building materials multinational James Hardie (JH) is significantly reducing contributions to an asbestos victims’ fund despite a 12% rise in profits. In 2014, the former asbestos giant paid Aus$119.9 million to the (Australian) Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund (AICF); this year's payment will be worth US$ 62.8 million which, at current exchange rates, would be around Aus$80 million. In 2014, the AICF paid out Aus$154.3 million to victims. Actuarial predictions show a large rise in the total bill for asbestos-related claims; a record number of 412 mesothelioma claims were received in 2013-14, an 11% increase in one year. See: James Hardie's payment to asbestos fund set to fall even as claims keep rising.

Supreme Court Protects Victims

May 20, 2015

In a judgment handed down today (May 20, 2015) by the UK Supreme Court in the case between Zurich Insurance PLC UK Branch and others, by a decision of 4 to 3, the Court favoured a solution which ensured the full recovery of compensation for mesothelioma victims. Lords Mance, Clarke, Carnwath and Hodge agreed that each insurer on risk for any period of tortious exposure must meet the liability in full. The Association of British Insurers and the Asbestos Victim Support Groups’ Forum UK were both interveners in this case. Their responses to this decision are expected in press releases on May 21. The Supreme Court’s ruling is contained in a 94-page judgment.

Action on Asbestos

May 20, 2105

“Asbestos: the lungs of capitalism,” is the title of an art installation by the Colombian artist Guillermo Villamizar which is being exhibited in the town of Bucaramanga, as part of a series of actions taking place this month to highlight the country’s asbestos scandal. On May 19, a seminar on malignant mesothelioma was held, during which the artist and other speakers made presentations. In 2012 and 2013 Colombia imported 25,164 and 15,961 tons of asbestos, respectively. Available figures for 2014 show a decline in asbestos import levels; this could partially be explained by the restarting of asbestos mining operations in Yarumal (Antioquia), Colombia.

New State Asbestos Ban in Brazil!

May 20, 2015

On April 30, 2015, the Legislative Assembly of the State of Amazonas enacted law 258/15 prohibiting the use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Asbestos use in Brazil is permitted under federal law although the states of São Paulo, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais have taken unilateral action to ban asbestos. In 2013, Brazil produced 307,000 tonnes of chrysotile (white) asbestos and consumed 181,168 tonnes. At last week’s meeting of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention, the delegation from Brazil acknowledged the asbestos hazard. See: Uso do amianto é banido por lei no Estado do Amazonas [Asbestos use banned by law in Amazon State].

Asbestos in Schools

May 19, 2015

Nearly all the 14,000 UK schools built between 1945 and 1975 contain asbestos as do schools refurbished during that period. Decontamination work is being delayed, says the Local Government Association, because of conflicts over who is responsible for removal costs. As many of the schools are coming to the end of their useful life, the issue of asbestos can no longer be avoided – it is illegal to demolish a building without first removing the asbestos it contains. The Department for Education’s latest audit of the condition of school buildings excluded asbestos, an “oversight” which is indicative of the government’s failure to engage with the “asbestos timbebomb.” See: Schools are facing an asbestos timebomb

The Asbestos Paradox

May 18, 2015

A recent issue of the World Health Organization Bulletin asks “What will it take to eradicate this [mesothelioma] highly preventable cancer?” The commentary contrasts health risks with assertions that asbestos can “improve quality of life.” The 2-page text details major gaps in the impact of scientific evidence on global disease prevention policy including: using doubt science to justify lack of action, casting aspersions on the safety of asbestos-free products and prioritizing economic development over public health. In some countries, “scientific knowledge of asbestos toxicity seems to have been lost in translation.” See: The asbestos paradox: global gaps in the translational science of disease prevention.

Industry Vetoes Listing of Chrysotile!

May 14, 2015

At the end of the today’s meetings of the Rotterdam Convention, the motion to include chrysotile asbestos on the Prior Informed Consent list was blocked by Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Zimbabwe. Activists present during the discussion spoke of open frustration by delegates and disappointment in the leadership of the Secretariat in failing yet again to make progress on this issue. The background to this decision is discussed in an article on this website. More information will be forthcoming on today’s events. See: Report from the Asbestos Frontline: Update from Geneva!

Activists Condemn Government Position

May 14, 2015

A press release issued today by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India (OEHNI) exposes the duplicitous position taken by the government of India during this week’s discussions at the Rotterdam Convention. India was one of a handful of parties to the Convention to block the listing of chrysotile (white) asbestos on the prior informed consent list using “bogus science” and advocating “controlled use.” The OEHNI spokesman urges the Prime Minister to reverse this position and support action needed to protect occupational and public health. See: OEHNI Press Release.

New Phase in Asbestos Struggle

May 14, 2015

Articles in the Italian media this week covered the new legal proceedings against asbestos entrepreneur Stephen Schmidheiny. Turin public prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello is asking that charges for the murder or manslaughter of 258 Italian citizens be brought. The defense allege that as the accused already stood trial on similar charges, this case should be dismissed on the grounds of double jeopardy. Preliminary objections were heard today (May 14). There will be two hearings a week; the preliminary hearings should be completed by mid-July 2015. See: Eternit, “stavolta speriamo nella giustizia” [Eternit, “this time we hope for justice”].

NASA: Asbestos-free Breakthrough!

May 14, 2015

Research to replace chrysotile asbestos-filled rubber as an insulator in Shuttle booster technology has succeeded in producing safer parts using “new processes, new repair techniques, and new inspection techniques that help ensure this is the safest booster ever built.” An additional thin sheet of rubber insulation – the “wallpaper butt-joint lay-up process” – was installed on top of an adhesive layer to add strength to the barrier. This asbestos-free component is “the most defect-free segment ever produced, showing not only a solution to the void issue, but also an improvement to the quality of the segments.” See: QM-1 examinations boost as QM-2 prepares for casting.

Victims Deplore Industry Veto

May 13, 2015

A press release issued by an umbrella organization representing French asbestos victims group – ANDEVA – has called “for the voice of reason and true consensus” to prevail in the face of an aggressive campaign by cynical “merchants of asbestos and death” to stop UN progress being made in the regulation of the global trade in chrysotile asbestos, the only type of asbestos still being sold. The text of the ANDEVA press release explains that the purpose of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention, now meeting in Geneva, is to “regulate information on hazards of exported products… to ensure ‘prior informed consent…’” See: ANDEVA Press Release.

UN Convention Undermined

May 12, 2015

In Geneva, deliberations began today on the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in a list of dangerous substances subject to regulation under the terms of the Rotterdam Convention. More than twenty industry lobbyists opposing inclusion have turned up, hoping to adversely influence delegates and impede progress on this important issue. Their booth in the exhibition area is distributing glossy multilingual disinformation extolling the virtues of “chrysotile.” It is of interest to note that the word “asbestos” is missing from their posters (see poster 1 and poster 2) as is any indication that this substance is carcinogenic (see: industry booth and propaganda).

Asbestos Trial Begins May 12

May 9, 2015

The first preliminary hearing in the proceedings against Stephen Schmidheiny, charged with the murder of 258 former Eternit workers and members of the public, will take place on May 12. The preliminary hearing judge may decide to indict the defendants and accept all or some of the cases or deny the prosecution’s request. If the action is allowed to proceed to trial, the court must decide whether the charge is murder or manslaughter. AFeVA, the Association of Families and Victims of Asbestos, trade unions and municipal authorities will petition the court for permission to be accepted as parties to the case. See: AFeVA Press Release (Italiano); also available in English and Français.

Risk from Environmental Pollution

May 9, 2015

Almost all of Cyprus is supplied with water from the Kouris reservoir, located in the foothills of the Troodos Mountain. The area’s geological composition includes a low percentage of asbestos. According to the authorities, tests carried out on drinking water were negative for the presence of asbestos. Irrigation water, however, was not tested and there are concerns about the effects of contaminated water in cultivated areas. Government services are carrying out studies to determine whether there is high concentration of asbestos fibers in the water. They will also measure environmental levels around the reservoir and the wider Limassol area. See: Call for asbestos study for Kouris water.

Asbestos Cancer Rate Increasing

May 9, 2015

Data collected by trade unions documents an increasing mortality rate from asbestos cancer three decades after Denmark banned the use of asbestos. Currently up to 130 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive type of asbestos cancer, every year; a decade ago that figure was 100. Four thousand Danish citizens have died from mesothelioma since 1943. Currently, 300+ Danes die from asbestos diseases every year; asbestos causes more deaths per year than road traffic accidents and workplace disasters. See: More Danes dying from asbestos exposure despite 1980s ban.

Commentary Calls for Asbestos Action

May 9, 2015

An article appeared on May 8, 2015 which questioned the Indian government’s policy regarding the inclusion of white asbestos on a list of hazardous substances under a UN protocol. This issue will be debated in Geneva in the week beginning May 12. India has changed its position on listing chrysotile in the past but there is no indication that the Indian delegate will support listing this time around. Data quoted in this article substantiates the risk to Indian workers and the deadly health consequences of asbestos usage for the general population. See: Millions of lives at stake as India makes up its mind whether white asbestos is deadly.

Industry Indicted by UN Rapporteur

May 6, 2015

Addressing UN delegates today (May 6, 2015), Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council to the Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, said that he was “deeply troubled” by the behaviour of vested interests who “continue to obstruct the listing of asbestos and paraquat under the Rotterdam Convention…” The right to access information is,” he said, “a right in and of itself and one of the rights upon which free and democratic societies depend.” See: Statement by Mr. Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur to the Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

Improving Occupational Safety

May 6, 2015

Canada’s first online asbestos registry was launched on Monday, May 5, 2015 by the Province of Saskatchewan. Commenting on the initiative Don Morgan, the labor relations and workplace safety minister, said: “This new database is another step toward ensuring the health and safety of workers across our province.” Registry users will not only be able to search for information detailing the presence of asbestos and types of products on sites but will also be able to update registry information. The site, which has geo-locating capabilities, is mobile friendly. See: Saskatchewan launches online asbestos registry.

Civil Society Calls for Asbestos Ban

May 5, 2015

In the run-up to next week’s UN discussion at the meeting of the Rotterdam Convention about designating chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance subject to minimal trade regulations, the Occupational Health and Safety Association (OHSA), an NGO based in Gujarat, India, has called on the Indian government to take immediate steps to ban the use of all asbestos. According to OHSA activists, cases of asbestos cancer have been diagnosed by the Gujarat Cancer and Research Center, but state and national bodies continue to frustrate compensation claims brought by the injured. See: NGO calls for blanket ban on import of asbestos by Centre, state govt.

Canadians Call for National Ban

May 5, 2015

A commentary published on May 5, 2015 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal called for an immediate ban on asbestos and action by the federal government to support UN attempts to regulate the global trade in chrysotile asbestos under provisions of the Rotterdam Convention (RC). Adding chrysotile to Annex III of the RC, which lists toxic chemicals and pesticides, will be discussed at next week’s meeting in Geneva. In 2014, the value of Canadian imports of asbestos products rose nearly 20% from the previous year. See: Canada urged to lobby to have asbestos added to UN hazardous list.

Call for Asbestos Ban in India

May 1, 2015

Asbestos victims graphically described the devastating impacts their diseases have had on their lives at a public meeting in New Delhi on April 30, 2015: “My life is in ruins because of asbestos. My chest feels like burning,” asbestosis sufferer Naran Mehra said. At the conclusion of the meeting (see photo of speakers), trade union leaders joined activists and the injured in issuing a series of demands which included an immediate national asbestos ban, support for UN action on asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention, measures to encourage safe asbestos removal and the use of safer products, and steps to increase medical capacity for the injured. See: Media Release April 30, 2015.

Confirmation of Regional Cancer Hotspots

May 1, 2015

Data from the Italian mesothelioma registry have been analyzed to identify territorial clusters of malignant mesothelioma (MM). 15,322 cases were recorded between 1993 and 2008; asbestos exposure information was obtained relating to 11,852 cases. Thirty-two MM clusters were found, many of which were in areas near asbestos-cement factories and/or shipbuilding yards. The conclusion of the study that “shared exposure patterns in territorial clusters of malignant mesothelioma [are] due to single or multiple industrial sources” has major implications for public health policy. See: Epidemiological patterns of asbestos exposure and spatial clusters of incident cases of malignant mesothelioma from the Italian national registry.

Continental Asbestos Hazard

Apr 30, 2015

At the closure today (April 30) of a meeting on environment and health in Israel, calls were made to eliminate asbestos-related diseases by ending asbestos use and eliminating contamination from European infrastructures. It was estimated that 300 million people in the WHO European Region live in countries which have not banned asbestos. Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said that: “We cannot afford losing almost 15,000 lives a year in Europe, especially workers, from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos. Every death from asbestos-related diseases is avoidable.” See: At least one in three Europeans can be exposed to asbestos at work and in the environment.

Asbestos: An Election Issue

Apr 30, 2015

A media release issued today by the National Union of Teachers highlighted the Coalition Government’s failure to tackle the hazard posed by asbestos contained in the UK educational infrastructure. In his comments, NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney pointed out that while action had been taken to reduce deaths caused by fires and cycle accidents, the Health and Safety Executive had stopped proactive asbestos inspections of schools despite data which showed that the same number of people die from asbestos exposure at schools as from domestic fires; twice as many former pupils die from asbestos as from bicycle accidents. See: Asbestos: a double standard.

Landmark Decision in Mesothelioma Trial

Apr 30, 2015

On April 28, 2015, after a 2-hour deliberation, a Los Angeles jury issued a plaintiff’s verdict in a controversial case over the asbestos content of Cashmere Bouquet, a widely sold talcum powder produced by the Colgate-Palmolive Company. The sum of $13 million was awarded to 73-year old Judith Winkel who contracted mesothelioma from her exposure to asbestos present in this product. The company was negligent, said the jury, and had failed to warn consumers about potential hazards. This is the first asbestos verdict against the company arising from talcum powder. See: Jury awards woman $13M for exposure to asbestos in talcum.

Calls for Asbestos Action

Apr 29, 2015

In the run-up to the upcoming meeting in Geneva of the Rotterdam Convention, Indian grassroots activists are organizing a series of public meetings to call for UN action to impose regulation on the global trade of chrysotile asbestos. On April 30, asbestos victims from Ahmedabad and Mumbai will be speaking publicly about the human toll of the widespread use of asbestos in India, the world’s biggest asbestos importer. The event, which is organized by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India (OEHNI), will take place at the Press Club of India in New Delhi. See: OEHNI Media Release.

Union Calls for Asbestos Ban

Apr 15, 2015

At the beginning of April 2015, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) called on the government to impose an immediate and comprehensive ban on the import of all asbestos-containing products, in order to curtail the country’s asbestos epidemic. Concerned over hazardous exposures in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, CTU Secretary Sam Huggard said: “New Zealand is out of step with other developed countries.” The CTU proposals also included a 12-point asbestos action plan which highlighted the need for an integrated and multifaceted program to eradicate the asbestos hazard. See: Asbestos needs a ban and a plan – petition presented.

Calls for Ban on Asbestos Use

Mar 28, 2015

Canadian imports of asbestos-containing products, including brake linings and pads, raw asbestos, friction materials and items containing crocidolite (blue) asbestos, continue to rise despite the known health risks of exposure to all forms of asbestos. Between 2004 and 2014, more than $250-million worth of asbestos and asbestos-containing products entered the country. Asbestos is Canada’s top occupational killer, accounting for 5,000 deaths since 1996. Producers of asbestos-free alternatives are complaining about the unfair cost advantage of these products even as calls are being made for a total ban. See: Asbestos imports rising in Canada despite health warnings.

Unions call for Asbestos Action!

Mar 26, 2015

In the run-up to the seventh meeting of the Rotterdam Convention, due to take place in May 2015, the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) has issued a call to arms to all its affiliates urging them “to contact their government representatives to encourage them to vote for the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the Convention.” BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said: “Chrysotile meets all the criteria for inclusion so it is quite outrageous that this is being blatantly and persistently blocked by other exporting countries. We need all governments to push the exporting nations to behave responsibly.” See: Chrysotile and the Rotterdam Convention - ACT NOW!

Audit of Asbestos Mines Mandated

Mar 26, 2015

The Indian Bureau of Mines and the Environment Ministry (MoEF) have been ordered to produce a complete updated list of India’s asbestos mines by Justice U D Salvi of the National Green Tribunal. He wrote: “Asbestos mining not only gives rise to asbestos related cancer but also to the asbestosis. Even if the asbestos mining activity has been closed, scientific closure of such mines remains in question. Odisha is directed to answer whether the asbestos mines in the state have been scientifically closed or not, and further answer whether there have been cases of asbestosis.” See: National Green Tribunal asks MoEF to submit list of asbestos mines across country.

Compensation for Power Station Worker

Mar 25, 2015

A compensation claim for asbestosis brought by Cassiem Mohammed, employed at the Athlone Power Station in Cape Town for 40 years, has succeeded. For decades, no personal protection was provided and there was little attempt to minimize hazardous exposures. As a result of action taken by the South African Municipal Workers' Union, a medical examination program for insulation workers was implemented; Mr. Mohammed was diagnosed with asbestosis in the mid-1990s. He has now received a payment of R665,000 (US$57,000) from his former employers. See: South Africa: Athlone Asbestos Victim Gets His Money.

Chinese Imports Contained Asbestos

Mar 23, 2015

In the last five months, the Italian authorities have seized ten thermos flasks imported from China which contained asbestos insulation; asbestos was banned in Italy in 1992. The most recent confiscations were made during the second week of March 2015. All the contraband articles were marketed under the “Theo” brand and were sold in shops and supermarkets. A sticker on the bottom of the flask says “Made in RPC” which stands for China. See: Thermos cinesi con pasticche di amianto: dieci sequestri dal mese di ottobre 2014 [Chinese thermos with asbestos insulation; ten seizures since October 2014].

Asbestos Hazard in Storm Damage

Mar 20, 2105

Tropical Cyclone Pam left areas of the Vanuatu archipelago contaminated with asbestos. Australian responders have removed 100+ kilograms of asbestos-contaminated debris from the Port Vila Central Hospital; most of the asbestos had been contained in sheeting and roofing products. The hazardous waste was sprayed with glue and wrapped in plastic for disposal. According to Gary Bailey, members of Australia's Urban Search and Rescue have “been going into various parts of the hospital and some primary schools today and rendering as much asbestos as safe as we can.” See: Tropical Cyclone Pam: Rescue teams remove over 100kg of asbestos from Port Vila's central hospital.

Under-recognition of Asbestos Disease

Mar 20, 2015

Data from the Spanish Employment Ministry has been analysed to calculate the number of cases of asbestos-related cancer recognized as occupational in Spain between 1978 and 2011. One hundred and sixty-four cases were recognized between 1978 and 2011. An estimated 93.6% of male and 99.7% of female claimants were unsuccessful in getting official recognition of their cancer. The authors conclude that their “findings provide evidence of gross under-recognition of asbestos-related occupational cancers in Spain.” See: Asbestos-related occupational cancers compensated under the Spanish National Insurance System, 1978–2011.

Asbestos Nightmare for Home Owners

Mar 20, 2015

The owners of apartments in Rotterdam are in limbo after workmen installing new windows in February disturbed asbestos-containing building materials. Once the contamination was discovered, the residents fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs, to take up residence in alternative accommodation. Last weekend, they returned home after remediation work had been carried out. Unfortunately, it seems that asbestos was still present in the flats. There is no insurance to cover relocation costs and the housing association has exhausted its funds. See: Wie helpt eigenaren van asbest-flat uit de ellende? [Who helps the owners of asbestos-contaminated flats?].

Asbestos Murder Trial

Mar 20, 2015

The preliminary hearing in a murder trial is due to start in May 2015; it concerns the asbestos deaths of 258 Italians. The Turin Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello has announced that the Swiss billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny stands accused of intentional homicide. Charges against Schmidheiny for causing a permanent environmental disaster as a result of which Italians died from asbestos disease were deemed to be statute barred by the Supreme Court in November 2014. See: Eternit Bis, a maggio processo per omicidio all’imprenditore svizzero Stephan Schmidheiny [Eternit Bis, May murder trial of Swiss entrepreneur Stephan Schmidheiny].

Court Curtails Compensation Eligibility

Mar 18, 2015

Two weeks ago on March 3, 2015, the French Supreme Court handed down a decision which restricted the ability of claimants who were exposed to asbestos at work to obtain compensation for anxiety caused by exposure to asbestos. Several previous court rulings had supported the right of those with psychological distress to receive awards for the impact hazardous exposures to asbestos had on their mental health. This decision restricts eligibility only to those whose workplace exposures occurred at companies required to provide early retirement for asbestos workers. See: Amiante: la Cour de cassation limite la réparation du préjudice d'anxiété [Asbestos: Supreme Court limits compensation for anxiety].

Asbestos: Symbolism and Fact

Mar 18, 2015

A paper published earlier this year in Medicina del Lavoro (Industrial Medicine) provides a fascinating look at the historical uses of asbestos and the almost mythical symbolism it enjoyed in ancient and classical times. The Italian authors of this text feature five fascinating images and cite a multitude of interesting and formerly unknown facts, such as the use of asbestos in the armour of a samurai warrior! They speculate that one reason why asbestos has not been banned worldwide could be because “the fascination with the magic stone is not exhausted.” See: Asbestos between science and myth. A 6,000-year story!

Contamination after Cyclone

Mar 18, 2015

Asbestos liberated in the wake of natural disasters is a common occurrence. Parts of Western Australia (WA) hit by Severe Tropical Cyclone Olwyn last week have been declared a natural disaster zone. On March 16, the Minister for Water and the Minister for Agriculture described widespread damage throughout the shires of Ashburton, Carnarvon, Exmouth and Shark Bay in northern WA to the Cabinet. WA Premier Colin Barnett has said the presence of asbestos in the area was a major concern and has pledged state funds to facilitate the clean-up. See: Natural disaster zone declared for cyclone-ravaged parts of northern Western Australia.

Lobbyists: Personae non Gratae?

March 17, 2015

A policy adopted earlier this year by the World Health Organization (WHO) calls for an end to WHO dialogue with the tobacco and arms industries. Now, North American experts have requested that the WHO add the asbestos industry to the list of entities with which the WHO will not engage. The March 9, 2015 letter to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO, highlighted the similarities between the asbestos and tobacco industries both of which put profits before health, thereby endangering the health of millions of people and undermining the efforts of the WHO. See: World Health Organization should not engage with the asbestos industry.

Criminal Prosecution for Asbestos Deaths

Mar 17, 2015

On March 16, 2015, Milan prosecutors asked for a jail sentence of six years for the asbestos-related deaths of 30 former employees of the Italcementi Group. Giampiero Pesenti, now the group’s President, was an executive at the company’s Tosi turbine factory from 1973 to 1980. He is accused of culpable homicide due to his alleged failure to install adequate safety measures in the 1970s to prevent hazardous exposures despite the fact that the cancer risk of human exposure to asbestos was known and technology was available to minimize the risks. See: Prosecutors want 6 yrs in asbestos deaths.

British Asbestos Newsletter

Mar 17, 2015

The autumn/winter 2015 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The leading article in issue 96, “Update from the Asbestos Battleground,” considers the UK’s elevated mesothelioma incidence and multiple attacks on victims’ rights in light of the May 2015 general election. Other articles cover the substance and ramifications of the McDonald Supreme Court Judgment 2014 and C. Heneghan vs. Manchester Dry Docks Ltd., et al. Trade unionist Richard Morgan reflects on the current state of the UK asbestos removal industry and steps which might be taken to protect operatives. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, issue 96.

Asbestos Outrage in Brussels

Mar 16, 2015

In December 2014, the Steenacker Company received authorization to store the highest classification of hazardous waste, including asbestos, on their premises. This development is problematic for multiple reasons, including the fact that in 2013 the Belgian company was held responsible for soil pollution and that the location of the company’s premises is near nursery schools and a residential area. The news of this situation has created outrage amongst citizens in the area – a Flemish commune in the Belgian capital – and led to calls for Mayor Frédéric Petit to resign. See: Le stockage d’amiante inquiète écoles et riverains [Asbestos storage concerns schools and residents].

Gold Medal for Ban Asbestos Crusader

Mar 16, 2015

Officials, guests and 45 honorees gathered on March 12 at the headquarters of the São Paulo 15th region Labor Court for a high-profile ceremony during which retired Labor Inspector Fernanda Giannasi received one of 15 gold medals for her services to the country. Fernanda dedicated the award to “to victims of asbestos, mercury, POPs, nuclear, Shell-Basf, benzene and their families.” (see: photo of Fernanda and colleagues – pictured (from the left) are Labor Prosectuor Maria Stela Guimaraes de Martin, Judge Eleonora Bordinii Coca and Fernanda Giannasi). See: 45 personalidades e instituições com a Ordem do Mérito da JT [ 45 people and institutions are awarded the Order of Judicial Merit].

Asbestos in Tahiti Schools

Mar 16, 2015

The results of samples taken last year from schools in Tahiti have established that asbestos is present in: Hitimahana elementary and Fareroi infants. The buildings at both premises were constructed 30+ years ago, before France banned the use of asbestos. On March 11, the Mayor of Mahina, the local commune, along with representatives of the education department and technical experts met with teachers and school staff to explain the situation. Steps are being taken to minimize hazardous exposures although the complete removal of all the contamination is not possible due to cost constraints. See: Découverte d’amiante dans deux écoles [Asbestos discovered in two schools].

Asbestos Sales Down by 10%

Mar 13, 2015

Eternit S.A., Brazil’s asbestos giant, has reported a 10.8% decrease in sales of chrysotile asbestos in the 4th quarter of 2014 compared to the same time of year in 2013. The decreased sales of 66,700 tons in 2014 were partially offset by an increase in exports according to a company press statement released on March 12. According to Eternit, the 4.1% rise in consolidated net revenue in 4Q14 was due to increased fiber-cement and chrysotile fiber exports. Although the Brazilian government has not banned asbestos, several states have acted unilaterally and done so. See: Eternit: Operating income grows 9.0% and adjusted EBITDA reaches R$ 54.7 million in 4Q14.

Proposals to Update Chemical Safety

Mar 13, 2015

This week two bills have been introduced to the U.S. Senate which are intended to improve the country’s chemical safety regime. The Boxer-Markey Toxic Chemical Protection Act, introduced on March 12, mandates a “rapid review of asbestos and toxic chemicals that are known to be persistent and build up in the human body.” The Udall-Vitter proposal, which is industry-backed, would introduce weaker standards and provide a 7-year phase-in period in some cases and unspecified time limits in others. These bills would reform the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. See: Chemical Safety Bills Face off in Senate.

Supreme Court Asbestos Ruling

Mar 13, 2015

Today, Chief Justice Riley of Australia’s Supreme Court overturned a decision which had barred compensation for a mesothelioma victim who had been negligently exposed to asbestos at the Gove alumina refinery in the 1970s. Seventy-four year old Zorko Zabic was diagnosed in 2014 with asbestos cancer; the company which he had worked for, Alcan Gove, is now owned by the global mining conglomerate Rio Tinto. Commenting on this decision, Mr. Zabic’s lawyer said: “The ruling will bring laws in the Northern Territory in line with other Australian states and will enable victims to right the wrongs of the past.” See: Compensation win for former Gove refinery worker dying of asbestos-related illness the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

Asbestos Contamination in Paradise?

Mar 13, 2015

Many tourists find the peace and quiet they seek on the Spanish island of La Gomera. Now community activists have filed a lawsuit to force the authorities to instigate an environmental asbestos audit and clean-up program. According to the campaigners, there is widespread dumping of asbestos-contaminated debris on the island which is both unsightly and hazardous to health. Asbestos was banned in Spain in 2002. See: Sí se puede presenta moción para la realización de inventario de amianto en Valle Gran Rey [Yes, you can present motion for conducting inventory of asbestos in Valle Gran Rey].

From China, with Asbestos

Mar 11, 2015

Australia’s customs authority has admitted it is unable to prevent asbestos-contaminated goods from China from entering the country. Of 2 million containers arriving in the country by sea every year, only 100,000 are inspected. Cases have been brought (two since 2008) concerning the import of asbestos-contaminated gaskets and machinery from China. But though asbestos-contamination has been found in trains and cars of Chinese origin there have been no prosecutions arising from their importation. The Chief Executive of the customs service told a Senate hearing in February 2015 that the onus was on importers of Chinese cars and not on customs officials. See: 5pc of imports get asbestos check, estimates hearing.

Congress Considers New Asbestos Bill

Mar 10, 2015

Today (March 10, 2015), The Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database Act was introduced to the Senate. The purpose of this legislation is to mandate measures to prevent hazardous asbestos exposures by providing prior warning of the location of asbestos-containing products (ACPs). Stakeholders would be required to report information about ACPs to the EPA annually; this would be fed into a publicly accessible database to “increase the transparency and accessibility of data informing the public about where asbestos is known to be present. This information will increase awareness, reduce exposure, and help save lives.” See: Durbin bill creates asbestos reporting requirements.

Asbestos in Westminster

Mar 10, 2015

It seems that the Palaces of Westminster are falling down. Politicians were reminded of the need for much-needed and long-delayed building work by the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow when he addressed a meeting of the Hansard society on March 9, 2015. Refurbishment of the 19th century building is long overdue and the building work could cost around £3bn. As well as crumbling stonework, dodgy electrics, flooding issues, rodent infestation and a leaking cast iron roof, the walls are “packed with asbestos.” See: Parliament is falling down. So what can be done about it?

Hazardous Exposure to Public Servant

Mar 10, 2015

As a result of research he conducted, Canadian electrician Denis Lapointe has discovered that he was exposed to asbestos throughout the 16 years he worked at the Canada Revenue Agency building in Ottawa. Prior to his departure in 2008, he had never been told about the presence of asbestos in the building. Mr. Lapointe’s job involved drilling and pulling wires through walls, floors and ceilings. He had no idea about the asbestos he was disturbing or the risks he was creating for himself or the thousands of other people who worked at the Heron Road premises. See: Asbestos at federal building was a surprise to electrician.

Criteria for Asbestos Diseases Revised

Mar 10, 2015

As of March 1, 2015, revisions made to criteria for the recognition of occupational diseases, including asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma, came into effect in China. These included: for lung cancer – reduction in length of cumulative occupational exposure to 1+ year, increase in latency period to 15 years+; for mesothelioma – decrease in latency period from 15 to 10 years. From 2006 to 2014, there were 1,824 cases of asbestosis recognized and 118 cases of asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma [18% of all occupational cancer cases (650)]. See: Amendments to Diagnostic Criteria for Occupational Diseases (in force from March 1, 2015).

Removal of Asbestos Water Pipes

Mar 8, 2015

The authorities overseeing water delivery and sewage for a rural area in Turkey have announced a program to remove 250 kilometers of asbestos-containing pipes this year. In a Turkish language article, the General Manager of Water and Sewerage Administration for the Adana municipal region Rahmi Pekar confirmed that the work would be carried and that all the contaminated pipes were scheduled for replacement with safer alternatives. The EU banned asbestos in 2005 and Turkey followed suit in 2010. See: Asbest boru kalmayacak! [No More Asbestos Pipes!].

Asbestos Industry Junk Science

Mar 7, 2015

Authors of 2015 academic papers detail manipulation of the scientific process by industry researchers. The articles are: How conflicted authors undermine the World Health Organization (WHO) campaign to stop all use of asbestos (spotlight on studies showing that chrysotile is carcinogenic and facilitates other non-cancer asbestos-related diseases) and Ethics, morality, and conflicting interests (how questionable professional integrity in some scientists supports global corporate influence in public health). Also see: Industry influence over science and public health policy challenged.

“Ecological Time Bomb” on City Site

Mar 7, 2015

Buried asbestos waste has been found on two acres of land scheduled to be redeveloped in the Italian town of Bari. Tests undertaken on this site uncovered an “ecological time bomb,” which included asbestos, a substance banned in Italy in 1992. It is unknown who dumped this toxic material and therefore who is responsible for the decontamination work needed. The authorities are investigating charges related to the illegal disposal of hazardous waste on the site. In the meantime, all building work has ceased. See: Cimitero amianto scoperto a Bari “Bomba ecologica” [Asbestos cemetery discovered in Bari “Ecological Bomb”].

Decade to Remove Asbestos Roofs

Mar 3, 2015

Proposals by the Netherland’s Minister of Infrastructure and Environment Wilma Mansveld that mandate a ten-year period for the removal of asbestos-cement roofs have been approved by the Cabinet. Commenting on this issue, the Minister said: “We have to take this risk seriously and tackle it. I want to prevent people from being exposed to asbestos fibers... Recent fires in which asbestos particles ended up in residential areas, underline the need for a ban.” Subsidies for undertaking the work required to comply with the 2024 deadline will be available from January 1, 2016. See: Asbestos must be stripped from Dutch homes by 2024.

Asbestos Case to go to Supreme Court

Mar 3, 2015

Leave to appeal a verdict in an asbestos case has been granted by the Supreme Court to a mesothelioma widower. The legal team representing Ian Knauer, whose wife Sally died in 2009 after occupational exposure at Guy's Marsh Prison, Dorset, is questioning the way the personal injury compensation of £650,000 was calculated and paid. It is alleged that a 5-year gap between the death of Mrs. Knauer and the award settlement order being made cost the family £50,000. If this appeal succeeds, it could radically alter the way in which all British personal injury claims are dealt with. See: Supreme Court Gives Right of Appeal to Swindon Solicitor.

Protest against Asbestos Factory

Mar 2, 2015

On February 28, 2015, residents and environmentalists stopped traffic when they took to the public highway to protest plans to construct an asbestos factory in the Anawilundawa region, located about 50 kilometers from the Sri Lanka capital of Colombo. Building the factory in this area could, the demonstrators claimed, adversely affect the health of the local community as well as impact on the biodiversity of the world-famous Anawilundawa bird sanctuary. The demonstration was called off when the factory owners agreed to halt construction. See: Protesters block Colombo-Puttalam road at Anawilundawa.

Sheet Metal Workers at High Risk

Mar 2, 2015

A study of 17,345 U.S. sheet metal workers documents a “significant excess mortality” for mesothelioma and asbestosis. Although this industry did not traditionally use asbestos material, members of this cohort had indirect exposure to asbestos products handled by others on construction sites. Hazardous workplace exposures also occurred as a result of drilling, hammering, punching or riveting sheet metal to asbestos products. This paper concludes: “This study demonstrates asbestos-related diseases among workers with largely indirect exposures and an increased lung cancer risk with low ILO scores.” See: Mortality among sheet metal workers participating in a respiratory screening program.

No One Guilty!

Mar 1, 2015

Charges against six former executives of the Enel company over asbestos cancer deaths of former power plant workers which occurred between 2004 and 2012 were dismissed by a criminal court in Milan last week. The relatives of the eight deceased victims, who had been employed at the Turbigo facility in the Lombardy region, were outraged when the verdict was read out. The prosecutor had asked for jail sentences of up to eight years. See: Milano, il processo sulle morti da amianto a Turbigo: tutti assolti gli ex manager Enel [Milan, case of fatal asbestos deaths in Turbigo: former manager acquitted].

Taxpayers’ Support for Asbestos Fund

Feb 27, 2015

The Government of New South Wales (NSW) has announced that extra funding will be provided if needed to cover a projected cash shortfall for James Hardie’s Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund Limited (AICF). An amendment to the terms of a loan facility will make a further $106 million available to the fund so that claims can be paid in one lump sum rather than in instalments. The AICF was set up in 2006 under a deal struck between James Hardie (JH) and the NSW government to compensate individuals injured by exposure to JH asbestos-containing products. See: Taxpayers to cover James Hardie asbestos shortfall.

Costly Chinese Exports

Feb 26, 2015

KiwiRail has put a multimillion dollar price tag on the remedial efforts imposed upon them by the supply of asbestos-containing trains from China (see: KiwiRail's $12 million asbestos bill). The discovery of sprayed asbestos on metal sheeting in the engine rooms of the freight locomotives necessitated their removal from service and decontamination work. The suppliers of the toxic trains have made a confidential and unspecified settlement with KiwiRail. Unlike other developed countries, New Zealand has no legislation banning the use of asbestos although it is understood that the contract for these vehicles stipulated they be asbestos-free (see: Trains pulled in asbestos shock).

Help for Asbestos Cancer Victims?

Feb 26, 2015

One quarter of the 120 Swiss citizens who develop mesothelioma every year were exposed to asbestos non-occupationally. These victims include the self-employed and people who lived near asbestos-processing factories; they are not entitled to compensation from Swiss accident insurers. The long latency period of asbestos diseases means that most asbestos personal injury claims are statute-barred. Following a decision by the European Court of Human Rights, an initiative is being progressed to improve support for the injured. See: A round table is to be set up with the aim of stopping victims of asbestos falling into financial hardship when they are ineligible for insurance paid for by an employer.

Supreme Court Reveals “Motivation”

Feb 24, 2015

Although the Italian Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) issued its contentious ruling in the infamous Italian trial against asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny on November 19, 2014, it was only on February 23, 2015 that the full “motivation,” the legal discourse behind the decision, was released. Schmidheiny had denied failing to provide adequate safety measures at four Italian Eternit plants. The Supreme Court overturned guilty verdicts regarding the deaths of 263 Eternit workers and their relatives on the grounds that even before the trials had started, the statute of limitations on these crimes had expired. See: Prosecution urges new trial for former Eternit owner- update.

Asbestos Imports from China

Feb 23, 2015

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) has admitted that it is unable to “guarantee that all imported goods will be free from asbestos,” despite the fact that this substance and products containing it are illegal in Australia. The focus of an article published today in The Australian was the tidal wave of imports entering Australia from China, some of which were contaminated. Asbestos has been found in Australian purchases of Chinese plasterboard, gaskets, trains, mining equipment and cars. The ACBPS has said that it is the responsibility of importers to ensure that only asbestos-free goods enter the country. See: Made in China (with asbestos) [subscription website].

Telegraph’s Pro-Asbestos Policy

Feb 21, 2015

This week saw the highly publicized resignation of Peter Oborne, formerly the Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator, over the newspaper’s failure to report on HSBC, a bank exposed in the Guardian and other newspapers for efforts to help clients evade taxes. Author Richard Wilson documents 42 Telegraph articles by columnist Christopher Booker downplaying the risks of asbestos and asks readers to vote in a poll asking: “Is it right for the Sunday Telegraph to mislead the British public about the health risks of asbestos?” See: Booker’s false claims (42 articles and counting) downplaying the risks of white asbestos.

Asbestos Criminals: Then and Now

Feb 21, 2015

During the 20th century, global asbestos markets were controlled and serviced by a handful of companies, many of which were family-owned. Amongst the asbestos dynasties were the Swiss Schmidheinys, the Belgian Cartiers, the Belgian Emsens and the British Turners. While efforts to hold individuals to account for the worldwide asbestos slaughter have been, on the whole unsuccessful, creative public relations initiatives have reinvented at least one asbestos entrepreneur as a high-profile philanthropist and environmentalist. The role of the Avina foundation in the rehabilitation of Stephen Schmidheiny is considered. See: Amianto rojo [Red Asbestos].

Court Recognizes Domestic Exposure

Feb 20, 2015

A Madrid Court has found asbestos producer Uralita negligent for causing the deaths of women who contracted asbestos cancer after hazardous exposure while washing their husbands’ or fathers’ contaminated clothing. The company was ordered to pay the families €700,000. Uralita disregarded legislation intended to prevent such exposure. Lawyers predict a wave of future claims for victims who did not have a working relationship with the company. See: Uralita deberá pagar 700.000 euros por la muerte de cuatro mujeres contaminadas con amianto [Uralita must pay €700,000 for the deaths of four women contaminated with asbestos].

Warnings over Asbestos Contamination

Feb 20, 2015

This week, the Portuguese environmental body Associação Nacional de Conservação da Natureza [National Association for Nature Conservation] highlighted the government’s failure to implement measures to identify asbestos contamination in the built environment and called for a national asbestos action plan. These calls were made as a three year deadline set by 2011 legislation which mandated the removal of asbestos-containing materials in public buildings, such as hospitals, schools and libraries, expired. See: Faltam medidas importantes no levantamento dos edifícios com Amianto [Important steps missed out in asbestos audits of buildings].

Mesothelioma in Miners

Feb 19, 2015

Twenty-one new cases of the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma have been diagnosed in a cohort of 69,000 mine workers which has been monitored since the late 1990s. A total of 101 individuals from the state’s iron mining industry have contracted this cancer. According to Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health: “The interval between exposure to the agent that causes the cancer and the time when the cancer appears can be as long as 40 or 50 years, possibly even longer. We have always expected to see additional cases as time went by, in people who were exposed many years ago. We expect to see still more cases going forward.” See: 21 new cases of mesothelioma in Iron Range miners

Supreme Court Asbestos Ruling

Feb 18, 2015

For the first time, on Feb 17, 2015 Japan’s Supreme Court upheld a judgment recognizing the negligence and liability of an asbestos-using company for a non-occupational asbestos-related death – that of Kojiro Yamauchi who for 20 years worked 200 meters from the Kuboto Corporation asbestos factory in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture. By a unanimous decision, the five-panel Court, ordered Kubota to pay ¥31.9 million ($267,000) in damages to Mr. Yamauchi’s relatives. Both the Kobe District Court and Osaka High Court had ordered Kubota to pay damages to the Yamauchi family. See: Top court upholds Kubota’s liability in asbestos death case.

Mesothelioma Research Funding

Feb 18, 2015

A question (QWA HL4789) asked by Lord Alton on Feb. 9, 2015 about the level of mesothelioma grant funding by the Medical Research Council was answered on Feb 17, 2015 by Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Minister for Intellectual Property. Between 2010 and 2014, there were four successful applications which received a total of £1.727 million with the largest grant of £992,471 going to Prof P. Elliot of Imperial College. Between 2004 and 2014, there were ten unsuccessful applications. See: Parliamentary Written questions and answers.

Spain’s Asbestos Killing Fields

Feb 18, 2015

Lack of visibility, support and assistance for Spain’s asbestos victims are highlighted in an article which describes an ongoing epidemic of asbestos cancer in Málaga. Cases are described amongst people who were occupationally exposed to asbestos in workshops, factories and in the state railway company. To counter the difficulties in obtaining compensation from negligent corporations, calls are being made for a national asbestos victims’ fund to be set up such as the those in France and Belgium. To minimize hazardous exposures from the removal of asbestos incorporated within the European infrastructure, an EU protocol should be introduced. See: Deadly Asbestos Still Costing Lives.

Cancers of the Larynx and Ovary

Feb 17, 2015

A report published by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) and Department for Work and Pensions on Feb 17, 2015 has considered findings regarding the relation between asbestos exposures and the occurrence of cancers of the larynx and ovary. Unfortunately, the IIAC concluded that “evidence of a doubling of risk of laryngeal cancer associated with asbestos exposure remains inconsistent… [and did not recommend] prescription for cancer of the ovary in relation to asbestos exposure.” See: Cancers of the Larynx or Ovary and Work with Asbestos.

Mismanagement by Defence Department

Feb 14, 2015

A report by the Australian National Audit Office into The Management of the Disposal of Specialist Military Equipment has revealed significant failings to manage health risks associated with asbestos in the public sale or donation of aircraft, tanks and trucks. In December 2014 the Minister for Defence was advised of a proposal to “undertake a review of a number of past disposal activities to identify those items that contain hazardous substances, in particular asbestos containing material, that may give rise to potential future liabilities.” See: Management of the Disposal of Specialist Military Equipment.

Mesothelioma Kills Renowned Scientist

Feb 14, 2015

The Globe and Mail has published an appreciation of the life of Dr. Patricia Martens which highlighted her “passion for understanding and spreading knowledge about health research…” Dr Martens died on January 10, 2015, aged 62, from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Having received her diagnosis in 2013, she went public and joined the campaign for Canada to ban asbestos. A letter she sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper was acknowledged but not acted upon. Commenting on the death of his friend and colleague, David Henry said: “It is surely a tragic irony that someone who was such a proponent for public health would die from this illness.” See: Obituary of Researcher Patricia Martens

Forum Intervenes at Supreme Court

Feb 14, 2015

The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (the Forum) was granted permission to intervene in Coventry and Others v Lawrence and Another [2014], a case proceeding in the Supreme Court which could impact on mesothelioma cases. Commenting on the implications of this case, the Chair of the Forum said “If Claimants in mesothelioma cases are made liable for additional legal costs, such as success fees and the premiums for After The Event insurance policies, the numbers who do pursue claims for personal injury will decline dramatically.” See: Coventry and Others v Lawrence and Another [2014] UKSC 46.

Asbestos in Belgian Schools

Feb 12, 2015

Even before the Belgian TV channel RTBF had the opportunity to broadcast a film exposing the dangerous asbestos contamination of Belgian schools on Feb. 11, 2015, the Belgian Minister of Education at 6:43 a.m. contacted the Belgian asbestos victims’ group ABEVA to request a meeting. This was the first such action by the Minister despite repeated attempts by ABEVA to initiate a dialogue. ABEVA has long been attempting to highlight the asbestos risk to schoolchildren and has urged that the decontamination of schools be regarded as a priority; action should be taken in consultation with all stakeholders (see: ABEVA Press release).

National Asbestos Profile for Germany

Feb 12, 2015

The 70-page National Asbestos Profile for Germany (in English) which has just been released by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a German governmental research institution which operates under the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, explores the socio-economic consequences of asbestos use in Germany. The report estimates that between 1990 and 2012, 393,895 years of life have been lost due to asbestos-related diseases. Over the period from 1998 to 2011, there was an inexorable increase in the annual number of mesothelioma deaths from 556 (women) and 818 (men) in 1998 to 1,147 and 1,434, respectively, in 2011. See: National Asbestos Profile for Germany.

Parliamentary Debate on Mesothelioma

Feb 12, 2015

An adjournment debate was secured in Westminster Hall of the House of Commons yesterday by MP Steve Rotheram on the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme. A number of MPs, including Kate Green, Ian Lavery, Tracey Crouch, Jim Shannon, Gregory Campbell and Andy McDonald, discussed diverse topics including whether excess sums raised by a 3% levy on insurers could be used for funding research into asbestos-related diseases. Addressing this issue, the Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper floundered in his attempt to distinguish between a “cap” and a “levy,” but agreed to look again at the available funding for research. See: Hansard Feb. 12, 2015 Debate.

Environmental Asbestos Hazard in US

Feb 11, 2015

Data in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, documents an elevated incidence of mesothelioma amongst women and individuals under 55-years old in Southern Nevada. The authors conclude “the presence of asbestos and other fibers in the environment of Clark and Nye Counties… suggests that some of these malignant mesotheliomas are caused by environmental exposure which can happen when human activities and natural processes… release fibers in the air.” See: Mesothelioma in Young People and Women in Southern Nevada likely the Result of Asbestos in the Environment.

Export of Jersey Asbestos to UK Mainland?

Feb 10 2015

Authorities on Jersey are in discussions with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs regarding the export of Jersey’s asbestos waste to the UK; a decision is expected by the end of March 2015. In the meantime, the toxic debris is stockpiled in rusting shipping containers in a site at La Collette. According to Ellen Littlechild, director of operations at Jersey’s Transport and Technical Services, plans are progressing regarding the construction of a “contained cell” reception facility for asbestos waste removed from Jersey buildings. See: Asbestos in Jersey – a are you concerned?

Asbestos Hit to European Cancer Journal

Feb 10, 2015

A furore caused by the publication in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention of an article entitled “Role of stopping exposure and recent exposure to asbestos in the risk of mesothelioma,” by Drs. Carlo La Vecchia and Paolo Boffetta, has led to the termination of the Journal’s association with the International Association of Cancer Registries (IACR) according to a February 5, 2015 letter by IACR President Dr. Roberto Zanetti. Complaints about the non-disclosure of conflicting interests by the authors were expressed by more than 140 scientists. See: The International Association of Cancer Registries has terminated its relationship with the European Journal of Cancer Prevention.

India and Asbestos: The Long View

Feb 9, 2015

The Dollar Business, a foreign trade magazine about India's trade policy, has just published a headline article examining the consequences of India’s position as the world’s largest market for asbestos imports. The 3-page feature includes interviews with the Executive Director of the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association, the Convener of the Ban Asbestos Network of India and the Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. Highlighting the controversial nature of continuing use of an acknowledged carcinogen, the author contrasts the profitability of the asbestos sector with the health risks of exposures to Indian citizens. See: Is the Whole World Wrong?.

Defeat for Welsh Asbestos Bill

Feb 9, 2015

This morning, the UK Supreme Court upheld a challenge by The Association of British Insurers to the Welsh Assembly’s plans to recover from negligent employers as much as £1m/ year in medical costs for the treatment of asbestos victims. According to the Court’s press summary, “The Welsh Assembly lacks legislative competence to enact the Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill in its present form.” The Bill had been proposed by Labour AM Mick Antoniw and was passed by the National Assembly in 2013. See: Wales' bid to force employers to pay for asbestos-related healthcare is blocked by the Supreme Court.

Charges Dropped Against Factory Boss

Feb 7, 2015

On Thursday, February 6, 2015, the Paris Court of Appeal dismissed the case against Claude Chopin, former head of the Amisol asbestos factory, for the manslaughter of thirty individuals who had been employed at, what the French asbestos victims’ group nicknamed, “the coffin factory.” For six months in 1974, Chopin had been in charge of operations at Amisol prior to the plant’s closure the same year. An appeal is being considered by the legal representatives of the claimants. See: Amiante: non-lieu pour l’ancien patron de l’usine Amisol [Asbestos: charges dropped against former boss of Amisol asbestos factory].

Asbestos Mortality in Basque Country

Feb 7 2915

Seventy-two year old Eusobio Pabola became the sixth asbestos victim to die in the Basque provinces of Álava, Biscay and Gipuzkoa in Northern Spain this year. Like the other deceased, Mr. Pabola was exposed to asbestos at work; he had worked for 28 years for the Montero Kaefer de Arrigorriaga company. He was a shop steward for the CCOO, Spain’s biggest trade union organization and played an important role in the formation of the Basque asbestos victims’ movement. See: Muere la sexta víctima del amianto en 2015 en Euskadi [The sixth asbestos victim of 2015 dies in the Basque Country].

TV Report on National Scandal

Feb 6, 2015

A report on Aljazeera news today documented the explosion of the national asbestos scandal onto the public consciousness in Colombia, a country where asbestos use and mining remains legal. The segment highlighted the consequences for workers and members of the public of the commercial operations of Eternit Colombia which produces asbestos pipes, tiles and water tanks. Footage of the funeral of an asbestos cancer victim and interviews with a mesothelioma patient, an oncologist, and a representative of the Ministry of Labor, who said that a joint ministerial meeting will be held this year to discuss asbestos issues, were shown. See: Colombians take legal action against asbestos mining.

Court Ruling on Welsh Asbestos Bill

Feb 6, 2015

The Supreme Court will issue its judgment on Monday, February 9, 2015 in a case regarding The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill 2013 [Case ID: UKSC 2014/0043]. At issue is whether the Welsh National Assembly has the power to enact legislation to recoup from defendants medical costs for treating victims of asbestos-related diseases in Wales. The case (Supreme Court Listing) was heard on May 14-15, 2014 by Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Hodge, Lord Thomas. See: Supreme Court to decide on asbestos NHS treatment cost recovery bill

Asbestos Issue in Post-Ban Denmark

Feb 6, 2015

Few victims of asbestos-related lung cancer in Denmark have their illnesses recognized or receive compensation. At a meeting in Copenhagen in December 2014, Dr. Poul Frost from Aarhus University Hospital reported that the Appeals Board of the National Board of Industrial Injuries was ignoring medical evidence and taking a case to the Supreme Court in order to deny compensation to workers who smoked. On January 20, 2015, the Appeals Board received permission to try a test case in the Supreme Court. See: Supreme Court of Denmark will hear critical case on compensation for asbestos victims.

Government Asbestos Removal Program

Feb 5, 2015

Gauteng, South Africa’s smallest province, has signalled its intention to remove all asbestos roofing under a program which will prioritize the decontamination of properties in poor communities. Under the apartheid regime, asbestos-cement roofing was widely used for houses in the townships. The Gauteng initiative has been warmly greeted by Dr Jim TeWaterNaude, a public health specialist, who warned that appropriate precautions must be taken to protect asbestos removal workers. South Africa banned the use of asbestos in 2008; before that, it was a big asbestos producing and consuming country. See: Plan to remove Asbestos from Gauteng roofs will require big bucks.

Quantifying and Diagnosing ARDs

Feb 5, 2015

The current issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health contains two articles of great interest; they are: Epidemics of asbestos-related diseases – something old, something new and Asbestos, asbestosis and cancer, the Helsinki criteria for the diagnosis and attribution 2014: recommendations. The latter paper details discussions which took place and conclusions which were reached in Espoo, Finland in February 2014 regarding plans to update the Helsinki criteria for the diagnosis and attribution of asbestosis and asbestos-related cancers. See: Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, vol 41, no 1, 2015.

“Asbestos: The Lungs of Capitalism”

Feb 5, 2015

In his essay Imaginando el Sistema [Imagining the system], Colombian artist Guillermo Villamizar explores the concept of art as social commentary, beginning with a discussion about a seminal piece by British artist Conrad Atkinson entitled “Asbestos: The Lungs of Capitalism,” which was created in the late 1970s. Villamizar considers the role of artists as “cultural producers,” and the interaction of their images with invisible and complex control systems which dominate public discourse. See also: Asbestos Issues in Colombia 2014 by the same author.

The Fight for Asbestos Justice Continues

Feb 4, 2015

Despite the Supreme Court’s overturning of the historic judgment against asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny in November 2014, the campaigners for asbestos justice in Casale Monferrato, Italy continue the fight. As another case against the same defendant, who has been charged with murder, proceeds through the Italian judicial system, a meeting will be held on February 16, 2015 in Casale Monferrato (see: Conference Poster) to update citizens on recent developments. Keynote speakers include the Turin Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello and oncologist Professor Luciana Mutti. See: Eternit: Ona, c'è ancora speranza di giustizia [Eternit: there is still hope for justice].

Calls for Asbestos Ban

Feb 1, 2015

Scientists are calling for an immediate ban on the use of asbestos-containing construction products in Sri Lanka; in 2013, national asbestos consumption was ~23,000t. In today’s issue of the Sunday Observer Dr. Waruna Gunathilake, head of the National Toxicology Information Unit, reported that: “It is now medically proven that long-term exposure to asbestos can cause respiratory problems and cancer. Research in recent years has proved this.” He called for consumers to use asbestos-free products in the run-up to national prohibitions and highlighted the lack of a “proper disposal system for asbestos waste in Sri Lanka.” See: Call to ban asbestos use and imports.

Global Asbestos Trade

Jan 31, 2015

Data on the global asbestos trade is very hard to come by. For this reason, statistics collected by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) are generally accepted as definitive, within certain limits. The asbestos section (pages 22 and 23) in The Mineral Commodity Summaries 2015 which was published yesterday includes interesting facts: U.S. asbestos consumption in 2014 was 400t (tonnes), the lowest since the 1800s; in 2014, global asbestos production remained around 2 million tonnes with Brazil (291,000t), China (400,000t), Kazakhstan (240,000t) and Russia (1,050,000t), the biggest producers. See: The Mineral Commodity Summaries 2015.

Call for Action on Asbestos Hazard

Jan 30, 2015

An online editorial queried the continued failure by the Government of Vietnam to act on the human health hazard posed by the country’s continuing use of asbestos. In Vietnam, there are 70 factories in 23 areas which manufacture asbestos-cement products, mostly for domestic use. Over the last decade, Vietnam has been one of the world’s top ten consumers of asbestos, using 79,000 tonnes in 2012 to produce 80 million square meters of asbestos-cement sheeting. At a conference in Hanoi last week, delegates were told of the World Health Organization’s position supporting an end to asbestos use. See: Vietnam hesitates to ban white asbestos use.

Decades Until Italy is Asbestos-Free

Jan 29, 2015

Although Italy has pioneered efforts in Europe to identify asbestos-containing products, locate polluted sites and establish protocols for dealing with asbestos, Italian experts have predicted that it will take until the end of the century to free Italy of the asbestos hazard. Every year, around 3,000 Italians die from asbestos-related diseases; half of all these deaths is caused by the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. It has been estimated that there are 32 million tonnes of asbestos-containing materials in Italy and as only 380,000 tonnes are disposed of each year, it could take 85 years to eradicate the problem. See: Amianto, 85 anni per smaltire asbesto in Italia [Asbestos, 85 years to dispose of asbestos in Italy].

Children at Risk from Asbestos

Jan 29, 2015

The health of children in the Wellington metropolitan area of New Zealand was put at risk by demolition of an asbestos-containing property next door to the Marlborough Street Childcare Centre. On January 23, the Centre manager Natalie Comerford contacted the local council about demolition restrictions. Finally on January 28, Worksafe NZ sent an operative to conduct tests which proved positive for the presence of asbestos. The demolition site and the Centre were closed. Comerford reported that after Worksafe had stopped the work, workmen continued to load rubble onto trucks creating “clouds of dust.” See: Upper Hutt childcare centre closed by asbestos.

HSE Guidance to Asbestos on Farms

Jan 28, 2015

Guidance on how to handle asbestos found on farms was issued today by the Health and Safety Executive, the UK agency tasked with protecting occupational health. Topics covered included: how to recognize white asbestos, where it can be found on farms, work that could create exposure, the safe management of asbestos-containing products, removing and disposing of asbestos waste. Farmers are advised that “asbestos waste must be treated as hazardous waste [and that]… if you dump asbestos illegally, you can be taken to court, prosecuted, and fined or jailed.” See: White asbestos: how farmers should handle and dispose of it.

Buy-Back Proceeding in Canberra

Jan 28 2015

Owners of 230 properties contaminated by “Mr Fluffy” asbestos insulation have agreed for the Canberra government to buy their homes under the multimillion dollar Loose Fill Asbestos Eradication Scheme announced in 2014. This constitutes 25% of those eligible. As of today, 371 formal valuation offers have been made with replies awaited from a further 140 owners. According to Chris Reynolds of the Asbestos Response Taskforce “We are almost a quarter of the way there in terms of those that have had the valuations and have indicated to the taskforce, yes please proceed with a sale.” See: Mr Fluffy: Almost a quarter of asbestos affected households in Canberra agree to buyback figure.

No More Secrets!

Jan 28, 2015

An initiative by U.S. academic and media groups was launched last month with the upload of 20,000 pages of secret documents obtained during the course of benzene litigation. The aim of this project is to make public materials revealed during toxic tort litigation that have been “locked away” in filing cabinets and on hard drives. According to the organizers: “In coming months, we’ll be posting hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery material from lawsuits involving lead, asbestos, silica, hexavalent chromium and PCBs, among other dangerous substances.” See: Internal documents reveal industry 'pattern of behavior' on toxic chemicals.

Pupils Suffer after Asbestos Shut-down

Jan 27, 2015

The new school year started in South Africa on January 21, 2015, the date by which 5 mobile classrooms were due to be in place for 200 students from the Khiba Middle School in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District in Kuruman, Northern Cape Province. On October 8, 2014, the Department of Labour had closed the school due to asbestos contamination after the threat of a lawsuit. A temporary fix was to be sited in a less polluted nearby area pending decontamination and reconstruction of the school. The partial and broken-down units delivered to the site are unfit for purpose according to local people. See: Section 27: N Cape Department of Education fails to deliver on its plan for learners of asbestos-polluted school.

Thousands Die in Asbestos Epidemic

Jan 20, 2015

France’s Institute of Health Surveillance has today released details highlighting the national epidemic of asbestos cancer. With 1,700 asbestos fatalities and 2,200 cases of asbestos cancer diagnosed per annum, the banned substance remains a potent hazard to life. The Institute reported a significant rise in the incidence of mesothelioma in the late 1990s and the late 2000s among women, 28% of whom had no known exposure to asbestos. The figures suggest that the French asbestos epidemic has not peaked. See: Amiante: Plus de 2.200 nouveaux cancers et 1.700 décès chaque année [Asbestos: More than 2,200 new cancers and 1,700 deaths each year].

Toronto’s Asbestos Policy

Jan 20, 2104

Asbestos remediation has cost the City of Toronto more than $5 million since 2010, as it has removed or encased asbestos in 185 of its buildings, according to information released under a freedom-of-information request. In 2014, the city spent $1million on asbestos decontamination of 23 buildings. The proactive municipal asbestos policy includes regular asbestos inspections, management protocols and measures to minimize hazardous occupational exposures during renovation, construction, demolition or maintenance work. See: City has dealt with nearly 200 asbestos concerns in public buildings since 2010.

Union Asbestos Campaign

Jan 19 2015

The UK’s Unite union has uploaded a range of resources on the asbestos hazard to raise awareness and prevent dangerous exposures to materials within the UK’s built environment. Union members who have been exposed to asbestos are asked to register with the union to protect their rights should they at some point develop an asbestos-related disease. In a union press release, Unite said: “Raising awareness about how to safely handle this killer substance is equally important. That is why our campaign is also about prevention… to help ensure that employers protect their employees from exposure to asbestos at work.” See: Unite Campaign on Asbestos Awareness.

Asbestos Victims Demand Justice

Jan 19, 2015

Shortly after news was released of the first personal injury asbestos lawsuit, reports are circulating of multiple cases of asbestos-related diseases in people who worked in or lived near asbestos processing factories in Colombia. Asbestos waste was given away for free by the owners of asbestos factories to community members for use in domestic properties. Asbestos has been used in Colombia for over 70 years and is still being used to produce roofing material, brake pads and textiles by various companies including Eternit Colombiana. Asbestos stakeholders deny there is any human risk from exposure to their products. See: Me declaro víctima de Eternit [I declare I am an Eternit victim].

First Case of Mesothelioma in Mongolia

Jan. 19, 2015

A case report has just been published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health that documents the first case of malignant mesothelioma in Mongolia. The forty-seven-year old female patient had worked at a thermal power plant in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for twenty-eight years. Due to the industrial history of asbestos use in Mongolia, the authors “expect additional cases of mesothelioma, as well as other asbestos related diseases, will be identified in the future.” To identify affected patients, the authors are calling for the establishment of an asbestos-related disease registry. See: Mesothelioma in Mongolia: case report.

Malta’s Epidemic of Asbestos Cancer

Jan 19, 2015

The elevated incidence of asbestos cancer which has been documented in a recent publication by the Centre for the Study of Environmental Cancer - Italian League Against Cancer has made headline news in Malta. The media has reported that the age-specific incidence rate of malignant mesothelioma in Maltese men was amongst the highest in the world. According to interviews with asbestos specialists in Malta, a low rate of public awareness about the asbestos hazard continues, as a result of which hazardous exposures continue even though Malta has banned new use of asbestos. See: Malta with one of the world’s highest rates of asbestos-related cancer.

Remediation of Asbestos Town?

Jan 16, 2015

Geotechnical works undertaken by the Government of Western Australia (WA) will begin in a few months in Wittenoom, formerly the center of asbestos mining in WA, to provide vital information “for effective management and securing of the [asbestos] tailings.” The Pilbara ghost town has been designated as “not suitable for any form of human occupation” due to deadly levels of asbestos contamination generated by the operations of the blue asbestos mine from 1943 to 1966. Mine tailings were used in the construction of the town’s sports fields, playgrounds, roads and car parks. See: Wittenoom test pits bring town's fate closer.

Meeting the UK Asbestos Challenge

Jan 16, 2015

As a result of consultations with civil society stakeholders, Stephen Timms, the Shadow Minister of State for Employment, has announced a raft of proposals to address the UK asbestos legacy. In an interview published this week, Timms says a Labour Government will impose a standing levy on insurers to fund life-saving mesothelioma research and will devise a long-term strategy to remove asbestos from the national infrastructure. Highlighting the role played by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), he pledged that Labour would provide more funding to enable the HSE to effectively carry out its duties. See: Banging the health and safety drum.

Europe’s Asbestos Derogation

Jan 16, 2015

Responding to a Parliamentary Question by MEP Glenis Willmott, representing the East Midlands, European Commissioner of Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elzbieta Bienkowska has confirmed that a report by the European Chemicals Agency regarding the asbestos derogation for the use of chrysotile in diaphragms is being considered by two committees which are expected to deliver their opinions in 2015. Their opinions will inform the Commission’s decision about the continuation of the exemption. Votes on future action will be taken by the REACH Committee, the European Parliament and the European Council. See: Answer by Commissioner Bienkowska.

Wishful Thinking by James Hardie?

Jan 15 2015

Eagle-eyed journalists have reported an “oversight” on the New Zealand website of James Hardie (JH), formerly Australia’s biggest producer of asbestos building materials. The website has been sanitized, with mention of JH’s asbestos history and liabilities prominent by their absence from the online company history. When questioned over this omission, a JH spokesperson said: “The updated version of the site is inadvertently missing a link to the above content on our Investor Relations websites, which will be shortly restored.” JM started importing asbestos-cement to New Zealand in 1906 and in 1936 set up a factory in Auckland. See: James Hardie asbestos omission ‘inadvertent.’

Colombian Victims Demand Justice!

Jan 15 2015

Next month, Flor Cecilia Riaño will file a civil lawsuit in Bogotá against the former employer of her husband Luis Alfonso Mayorga, alleging that Eternit Colombiana S.A. was responsible for his death and that of his father from asbestos cancer. Rafael Mayorga worked at the Eternit asbestos factory in Soacha, a city south-west of the capital, between 1971 and 1980. He received no protection from the asbestos hazard and took dust home on his work clothes; he died in 2000. His son Luis Alfonso died in 2013. This is the first such lawsuit against Eternit in Colombia; many more are expected. See: Víctimas de asbesto exigen reparación [Asbestos Victims Demand Compensation].

No Justice for Dying Asbestos Miner

Jan 14, 2015

A technical loophole has prevented a former asbestos miner who is dying of malignant mesothelioma from obtaining compensation of $425,000 from mining giant Rio Tinto, even though a judge was “satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was caused by the negligence of the defendant.” (see: Verdict of Justice Peter Barr in the Supreme Court of NT). Claimant Zorko Zabic removed asbestos pipes when he worked for Rio Tinto at the Nhulunbuy aluminia refinery from 1974 until 1977. Mr. Zabic’s life expectancy is six months. See: Miner dying from asbestos poisoning denied compo.

Asbestos Scare after Fire

Jan 14, 2015

After a fire which destroyed a warehouse in the Dutch town of Wateringen on January 12, local people were told to stay indoors. Civic authorities advised residents of the two hundred houses in the area near the affected site not to go to school or work on January 13 because of the threat posed by asbestos released during the fire. An asbestos removal company was tasked with remediating the area bordering the warehouse, including gardens and streets. The official advice was for people to only use the cleaned areas and to avoid playgrounds until further notice. See: Asbestos fears shut Dutch town after fire.

The Asbestos in Schools Scandal

Jan 12, 2015

Frustrations over a 7-month delay in the release of a government report on asbestos in schools are detailed in a new commentary. In 2013, the Government announced it would review the management of asbestos in schools. A public consultation was held from January to March 2014; a report scheduled to be released in June 2014 has still not seen the light of day. Unanswered calls by trade unions and civil society campaigners for the immediate publication of this report are fuelling speculation about the government’s lack of commitment to remedy the scandal of asbestos in UK schools. See: How the coalition is failing to act on ‘time-bomb’ of asbestos in schools.

Asbestos Removal Bill for Navy

Jan 12, 2015

It has been estimated that the cost for decontaminating submarines belonging to the Royal Dutch fleet will cost many millions of euros. Today, news has been released that the Defence Department has costed the clean-up of the Zeeleeuw submarine at a million euros. According to the media, crew members have been exposed to hazardous asbestos fibers as a result of poorly handled maintenance and removal work. A TV program reported an incident of “incompetent removal” of a heating element which spread asbestos fibers via an air ventilation system. Remediation of three other submarines will be required in the coming years according to the Defence Department. See: Submarine asbestos cleanup could get pricey.

The Ties that Kill

Jan 10 2015

The Bangkok Post today reported the support of Thailand's industry minister Chakramon Phasukavanich for increased financial links with Russia, the country which supplies 80% of all asbestos imports to Thailand. From January to November 2014, Thailand purchased 525 million baht (US$16m) of Russian asbestos. Commenting on this trade, the Minister said: “If the use of asbestos is banned… the burden to replace all products that contain asbestos would fall on the government. This would require a lot of money.” In none of the countries that banned asbestos has this happened. See: Russia keen on closer ties.

Quebec’s Post-Asbestos Era

Jan 10, 2015

On Thursday, January 8, 2015, Laurent Lessard, a Member of Quebec’s National Assembly and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Regions, was presented by the Appalachian Economic Coordination Committee with a plan for the economic diversification of the Thetford area, one of Quebec’s former asbestos mining regions. The document calls for an investment of $120 million in a range of target areas, including education, infrastructure, promotion, food, research, manpower recruitment and health. See: Ère post-amiante dans la région de Thetford: des projets espérés de 120 M$ [Post-asbestos era in Thetford region: $120 million project].

Death of Mesothelioma Victim

Jan 9 2015

The South African Mail & Guardian has reported the death of mesothelioma victim Charlie Bruwer on Jan. 5, 2015, two weeks after the Occupational Compensation Fund approved his claim. This government fund is notorious for delays in processing claims and its bureaucratic processes; it has been investigated for fiscal irregularities. Although Mr. Bruwer’s claim was submitted in Oct. 2013, it took the involvement of lawyers and a high court judgment for him to obtain recognition of his legal entitlement. Because of the delay in receiving compensation, the victim was unable to access medical care which might have eased his symptoms. See: Asbestos payout came too late.

Proposal to Recoup Asbestos Costs

Jan 9, 2015

On January 7, 2015 a bill was presented by Stuart McMillan MSP to the Scottish Parliament which aims to recoup the costs of diagnosing and treating people with asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) from their former employers. McMillan informed Parliament that currently £20+ million is being spent on treating people with ARDs in Scotland. Commenting on this bill, a spokeswoman for the Glasgow-based campaigning group Clydeside Action on Asbestos predicted the consultation on this proposal, which is open till March 30, will receive negative input from insurers who could face a multi-million pound bill for these charges. See: Plans for NHS to recoup asbestos costs.

Court Voids Extrajudicial Agreement

Jan 9, 2015

A São Paulo court has issued a claimant’s verdict on behalf of the surviving family of a man who had worked for the Brazilian asbestos manufacturer Brasilit. The worker died in 2013 of mesothelioma after exposure at work during the 1970s. An extrajudicial agreement the family had signed with the company which paid them US$57,325 was “illegal,” according to Judge Luiz Felipe Sampaio Briseli who highlighted the company’s failure to provide a safe workplace environment and awarded $R900,000 (US$340,000) to the family. See: Família de ex-empregado vítima do amianto receberá R$ 900 mil de indenização [Family of former employee victim of asbestos will receive £900,000 compensation].

Environmental Contamination in Turkey

Jan 8 2015

The Health Ministry has announced that asbestos contamination is widespread in Turkey’s rural areas. Samples from 379 villages, some of which have populations of 150,000, showed high airborne levels of asbestos. The official response has been one of caution – evacuations are not required but measures should be implemented to minimize hazardous exposures to prevent thousands of future cancer cases. In Istanbul last month reports were circulating about the risk posed by unregulated demolition of asbestos-containing buildings See: Evacuation ruled out after asbestos alert.

Spain’s Asbestos Epidemic

Jan 8, 2015

A piece in today’s issue of the Catalan newspaper “El Punt Avui” (The Point Today) highlights the ongoing regional epidemic of asbestos-related disease. Experts who have litigated thousands of personal injury claims against Spanish asbestos producers report that the cases seen so far are the tip of the iceberg and that the incidence of disease is likely to increase until 2024. Those affected by deadly exposures include workers, relatives and members of the public who inhaled asbestos fibers via environmental exposures. Even though asbestos is banned in Spain, the health risk remains from asbestos-containing products within the national infrastructure. See: Sentenciats per l'amiant [Sentenced by asbestos].

Carcinogens Do Indeed Cause Cancer

Jan 8, 2015

Professor Annie Thebaud-Mony responded on January 7 to an article, published in the journal “Science,” on January 2, which said that, predominantly, bad luck caused cancer. Having analyzed the erroneous logic of authors Christian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein, Thebaud-Mony pointed out that eliminating exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, environment and homes can prevent the occurrence of cancer. The contentious study was partially funded by the Virginia & DK Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research, a fund set up by American billionaire and shipping magnate Daniel Ludwig. See: Non, le cancer n’est pas le fruit du hasard! [No, cancer is not a coincidence!].

Damage from Low Level Exposures

Jan 7, 2015

A paper in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine confirms the health risk posed by exposure to low levels of asbestos. Researchers followed up a cohort of 513 individuals who had been exposed to asbestos whilst working at a vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana: “Of 191 workers with available CT scans, 53 percent had asbestos-related changes of the tissue lining the lungs (pleura), while 13 percent had changes of the lung substance (parenchyma).” Abnormalities were present even in subjects whose exposures had been three to ten times less than today’s permitted standards. See: Low Levels of Libby Asbestos Exposure Linked to Lung Abnormalities.

Court Ordered Asbestos Phase-Out

Jan 6, 2014

On January 5, 2015, a ruling was published in the Brazilian state of Paraná which ordered that Multilit Cement, a company based in the state capital, phase out the use of asbestos in its manufacturing of tiles and water tanks within the next three years. Failure to comply with this directive will be punished by daily fines of R$ 50,000 (US$18,500+); the penalties will be paid to the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA). New checks were mandated until the company is asbestos-free. See: Empresa é condenada a substituir amianto na fabricação de telhas e caixas d’água [Company is ordered to replace asbestos in the manufacture of tiles and water tanks].

Editorial Calling for Asbestos Ban

Jan 5, 2015

On January 4, 2015, the Bangkok Post issued a stinging rebuke to the Thai government for its failure in December 2014 to adopt a proposal by the Public Health Ministry to ban the use of asbestos. Having acknowledged the pro-ban stance of leading international agencies and the health risks posed by continued use, the article highlights the efforts of Professor Vithaya Kulsomboon, a leading anti-asbestos campaigner and member of the National Legislative Assembly. The fight by national vested interests to maintain the status quo is strengthened by international forces; it is suggested that trade links with Russia might be jeopardized by unilateral action. See: Asbestos inertia will cost lives.

Files Reveal Asbestos Skulduggery

Jan 3, 2015

A file just released by the Public Records Office in Belfast details pressure exerted by Turner and Newall, nicknamed the UK “Asbestos Giant,” on civil servants and officials to increase the use of asbestos-containing building materials in government projects. The provision of meals and trips by the company in 1969 seemed to effect a U-turn in government policy which benefited the company, according to memos and documents made public this week. Much of the communication disclosed relates to the operations of factories belonging to Turners Asbestos Cement Co. Ltd. in Ballyclare and Manchester. See: Government U-turn on killer asbestos after firm took officials out for lunch.

Illegal Asbestos Imports by Croatia

Jan 2, 2015

Although, under EU law, Croatia banned the use of asbestos, official data confirm that in the last three years thousands of tonnes of products containing white and blue asbestos were imported. Even when the toxic component of the products was declared, entry was permitted. According to a Croatian journalist, the duty of preventing the import of toxic material falls in a grey area between the Customs Administration (Ministry of Finance) and the Health Inspectorate (Ministry of Health), neither of which has acted to protect the population from the hazard. See: Santé publique: la Croatie, le cheval de Troie de l’amiante au sein de l’UE [Public health: Croatia, the EU’s Trojan asbestos horse].

Maritime Asbestos Legacy

Dec 31, 2014

In 2011, a 12,000-tonne vessel – the MV Miner – became stranded off the Nova Scotia coast en route from Turkey to Montreal. Last month, it was announced that the derelict ship contained 30 tonnes of asbestos, five times what the federal authorities had estimated. Other unwelcome discoveries, including the presence of 30,000 litres of diesel, have pushed the expected clean-up costs way over the original budget of $11.9m. Provincial authorities are calling on the federal government for logistical and financial assistance. See: Province seeks help from feds in clean-up of MV Miner off Scatarie Island.

Asbestos in Tsunami Reconstruction

Dec 29, 2014

An exposé published on Christmas Eve revealed that Australian funds used in post-tsunami reconstruction in Indonesia purchased asbestos-containing materials despite contractual stipulations that all acquisitions were to be asbestos-free. During 2005 to 2007, the toxic products were used in the ceilings, partition walls and eaves in new build schools, a warehouse and 90+ village halls in Aceh. Removal work was undertaken to decontaminate the affected premises and the toxic waste was dumped at designated sites; concerns, however, remain over the presence of asbestos in other constructions. See: Boxing Day tsunami: asbestos used in rebuilding effort funded by AusAid.

New Era in Fight for Asbestos Justice

Dec 27, 2014

Raffaele Guariniello, the Italian Prosecutor at the heart of criminal proceedings against former executives of the Eternit Asbestos Group, is progressing investigations related to the asbestos deaths of Italians employed by Eternit in Brazil. Research undertaken in conjunction with the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed has identified 40 Italian families which lost a member to asbestos disease as a result of toxic exposure in Brazil. Documents showing links between Eternit’s asbestos operations in Brazil and Italy could be crucial in establishing the judicial forum for future proceedings. See: Luta das vítimas do amianto ganha novo capítulo [The fight for asbestos victims starts a new chapter].

India’s Invisible Asbestos Victims

Dec 22, 2014

The legacy of asbestos mining operations in the Indian State of Jharkhand, in the northeast of the country, persists in the lungs of local people and in the environment. Recent tests showed that up to 14.3% of the soil content in the vicinity of mines was asbestos. Despite the high level of hazard this poses, government officials and industry representatives continue to deny responsibility for the high incidence of disease in the communities near the mine sites. A case is now being brought in the environment court to force the polluters to undertake decontamination work, compensate the injured and establish a fund for future victims. See: Forgotten asbestos mine sickens Indian villagers.

Asbestos Scandal Unfolds

Dec 22, 2014

On December 21, an article in the liberal newspaper Taraf detailed the unregulated demolition of asbestos-containing buildings throughout Istanbul as part of a huge urban regeneration program. According to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, it was not possible to obtain information about the presence of asbestos from the relevant municipalities; in the absence of this knowledge, preventive actions could not be taken. Politician Haluk Eyidogan, representing the Turkish opposition, is confronting the government over this issue; he pointed out that there is no facility in Turkey for the safe disposal or storage of asbestos waste. See: Urban demolitions spread asbestos as precautions forsaken.

Asbestos Conference: Proceedings

Dec 20, 2014

The annals of the International Day for Asbestos Victims has been published by ANDEVA, the French association which organized a series of events in 2012 including this symposium. Chapters of the English and French language texts can be downloaded separately or as one file from the ANDEVA website. The contents cover a wide range of subjects and geographical areas; the authors include grassroots campaigners, politicians, academics, medical professionals and epidemiologists from five continents. See: International Day for Asbestos Victims [Journée international des victims d’amiante].

Asbestos Prosecutions of Executives

Dec 22, 2014

On December 19, 2014, prosecutors in Northern Italy asked that thirty-three people be indicted over asbestos deaths at an Olivetti factory. Amongst those being charged of culpable homicide were high-profile businessmen and government ministers including Corrado Passera, Italy’s Minister of Transport and Industry from 2011 to 2013. The case concerns the suspicious deaths of 14 workers who had been employed from the 1960s to the 1990s at the company’s factory in Ivrea, near Turin. In 2012, Turin’s Court of Appeal had convicted executive Ottorino Beltrami of manslaughter under similar circumstances. See: Trial requested for 33 in Olivetti asbestos case.

Asbestos: Chapter 2

Dec 20, 2014

In an article in Le Monde this week, journalist Stephane Foucart referenced a “remarkable” new book by Professor Annie Thebaud-Mony entitled “Science Enslaved” (see: La Science asservie) which exposes links between science and industry. Thebaud-Mony highlighted the 2013 controversy over Paolo Boffetta, an Italian scientist who at that time was being considered for one of France’s highest scientific positions. Amongst the issues highlighted was the publication by Boffetta and his co-author of an article which declared “no conflicts of interest” when both authors were consultants to asbestos industrialists. See: Amiante, chapitre II [Asbestos, chapter 2].

Update on Victims’ Mobilization

Dec 20, 2014

As a result of continuing pressure exerted by Japanese asbestos victims’ groups, the Ministry of Labor disclosed the names of companies where asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) have been recognized as occupationally-caused. This information has been recorded by the victims’ groups on a database which can be consulted by the public. On December 18 and 19, the Japanese network of asbestos victims and their supporters operated a nationwide telephone consultation service for victims and their families. They received 200 calls. Japan has a high incidence of ARDs due to heavy use of asbestos. Asbestos was banned in phases, a full ban was reached in 2012. See: Japan Asbestos Profile.

Victory in New South Wales

Dec 19, 2014

Today (December 19), the New South Wales (NSW) Government has announced a crisis program similar to the one set up in Canberra for dealing with the issue of homes contaminated with loose fill “Mr Fluffy” asbestos insulation. A NSW taskforce is being established to implement a buy-back program which will draw on government funds to purchase and demolish contaminated properties. Immediate financial support is being made available to affected households through the “Make Safe” assistance package. It has been estimated that more than 5,000 homes could be affected. See: NSW government endorses asbestos inquiry and announces crisis package.

Asbestos Use Continues in Vietnam!

Dec 19, 2014

Media reports from Hanoi indicate that the status quo regarding the use of chrysotile (asbestos) will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future after a meeting in the capital on December 17 which was addressed by pro-asbestos lobbyists from Latin America and the U.S. Urging the adoption of a national ban, health experts from the Vietnam Government cited data from international agencies substantiating the proven risks of exposure to all types of asbestos. Despite the known hazard, the Vice Minister of Construction Nguyen Tran Nam said there remained a lack of “convincing evidence.” See: Vietnam to stick to white asbestos, despite cancer concern.

Contamination in New South Wales

Dec 17, 2014

A parliamentary inquiry today recommended that the Government of New South Wales (NSW) follow the example of the ACT government and buy back homes contaminated by “Mr. Fluffy” asbestos insulation. The joint parliamentary committee advised that a mandatory testing program be set up for at-risk homes to establish the number of properties affected. Having quantified the problem, a taskforce would develop and implement the buyback program with funding from both the NSW and federal governments. Committee Chair Reverend Fred Nile highlighted the urgency of the situation. See: Mr Fluffy asbestos: Parliamentary inquiry recommends NSW buyback, demolition scheme.

Asbestos in the Asia-Pacific Region

Dec 17, 2014

The latest issue of the Asian-Pacific Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety, published by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, is devoted to the subject of asbestos. The articles contained include detailed examinations of national asbestos legacies and discussions of the actions being taken by international agencies to tackle the ensuing public and occupational health crisis that asbestos use has created. Of particular interest is the article: The ticking time-bomb of asbestos consumption in the Asian region by Australian authors Matthew Soeberg and Nico van Zandwijk. See: Asbestos issue of the Asian-Pacific Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety.

Levels of Non-occupational Disease

Dec 16, 2014

A study on the incidence of malignant mesothelioma (MM) in an Italian region where an asbestos factory was operational from 1932 to 1993, reports an elevated MM incidence for workers, family members and neighbors. Using data from the Lombardy Mesothelioma Registry, the scientists found 147 MM deaths, but only 38 of the victims had worked at the factory. The largest excess occurred in the towns of Broni and Stradella. The paper concludes that “half of the MM cases were attributable to environmental exposure, a quarter to occupational exposure, and a quarter to familial exposure.” See: Impact of asbestos cement factory on mesothelioma incidence.

Canada’s Asbestos Killer

Dec 15, 2014

Annual occupational asbestos deaths in Canada outstrip combined fatalities from highway accidents, fires and chemical exposures, according to figures produced by the federal government. Since 1996, asbestos has claimed 5,000 lives, making it Canada’s biggest occupational killer. Despite the death toll, the use and import of asbestos products remain legal in Canada, and the website of Health Canada plays down the asbestos hazard claiming that chrysotile (white) asbestos is “less potent” than other types and that there “is no significant health risk” if fibers are not inhaled. See: Data reveals asbestos is Canada’s top source of workplace death.

Government Acts over Judicial Fiasco

Dec 15, 2014

In the aftermath of the disastrous Supreme Court decision in a historic asbestos case, the Italian Government has announced that funding of €75m has been allocated to rehabilitate contaminated areas and provide support for asbestos victims whose exposure was environmental or para-occupational (from the asbestos on clothes brought home by family members). See: Il Governo assegna 75 milioni di euro per le bonifiche d’amianto a Casale Monferrato e Bagnoli [The Government allocates €75 million for the reclamation of asbestos in Casale Monferrato and Bagnoli].

Lung Cancer Test Case Appeal

Dec 14, 2014

On December 11, 2014, a High Court handed down the decision in an asbestos-related lung cancer test case. Under consideration was whether damages awarded for this type of injury were divisible under the rules laid down in the House of Lords’ decision in the Barker case. The deceased was employed by six defendants, all of whom admitted liability. Mr. Justice Jay found that “apportionment is the appropriate outcome in the present case…” An appeal is being pursued. According to one legal expert: “there is a strong possibility that whatever happens in the Court of Appeal the case will end up in the Supreme Court.” See: Heneghan v Manchester Dry Docks and others.

Asbestos in European Headquarters

Dec 13, 2014

Malta’s former Prime Minister Alfred Sant has led calls for an evacuation of the European Commission’s (EC) Luxembourg headquarters due to extensive asbestos contamination. Sant, now a Member of the European Parliament, has highlighted the risk posed by exposures to the 1,700 people who work at the EC’s Kirchberg offices in Luxembourg. The Jean Monnet building is owned by the “Fonds d'Urbanisme et d'Aménagement du Plateau du Kirchberg,” a public institution; the EC’s lease on this building runs out in 2014. See: Large amount of asbestos discovered in European Commission’s Luxembourg building.

National Asbestos Legacy

Dec 13, 2014

Scientists calculate that between 1975 and 2010, 6,037 people died from asbestos-related diseases in Spain. It has been predicted that between 2016 and 2020, 1,000+ Spaniards will die from the signature asbestos cancer, mesothelioma; it is not known how many more deaths will take place due to asbestos-related lung cancer and cancers of the larynx and ovary. Unfortunately, few of the asbestos-injured succeed in getting their diseases recognized; between 2007 and 2011, 6.4% of male and 4.4% of female mesothelioma fatalities were recognized as occupational diseases by the authorities. See: Las víctimas dobles del amianto [Victims twice over].

Debate on Mesothelioma Research Funding

Dec 11, 2014

In another display of ignorance, Lord Faulks this week told the House of Lords: “It is absolutely not the case that there is insufficient funding for [mesothelioma] research. As I have said more than once, the case is that, at the moment, there is not a suitable number of applications for research. The funding is very much there.” The UK is now at the cutting edge of mesothelioma research with a number of clinical trials under way and others being planned. A UK bid to host the world’s premier meeting of mesothelioma researchers was won in October – the 2016 meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group is to take place in Birmingham. See: House of Lords Debate December 9, 2014.

Asbestos Cancer Data Unrealistic

Dec 11, 2014

An ecologic study conducted of Brazilian mortality data established that between 1980 and 2010, there were 3,718 deaths from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Annual standardized mortality rate by age reached a maximum of 1.18 per million population in 2002, with the majority of deaths occurring in the Southeast. Considering that Brazil is one of the world’s biggest producers and users of asbestos, there can be little doubt that these figures “do not reflect the true magnitude of the problem.” Specific actions are called for by the authors including improvements in medical training, capacity and diagnostic protocols and better surveillance measures. See: Mesothelioma Mortality Rate in Brazil, 1980 to 2010.

Fight to Ban Asbestos Continues

Dec 9, 2014

On December 10, 2014, government officials and civil servants will hear presentations by asbestos apologists sent to Vietnam to reassure decision makers that chrysotile asbestos can be used safely under “controlled conditions.” The industry propaganda they will be parroting was soundly condemned at a workshop (see: workshop photo) held last month in Hanoi the purpose of which was to develop a roadmap to ban asbestos in Vietnam. At the November meeting a spokesman for the Ministry of Health confirmed that asbestos was a health hazard and that cases of asbestos cancer had been diagnosed in Vietnam. See: Ban on asbestos use in Vietnam is urgent.

Ministerial Announcement on Mesothelioma

Dec 8, 2014

Following the defeat of draconian moves by the coalition government to marginalize mesothelioma victims earlier this year, Minister Shailesh Vara today confirmed to Parliament (see: Minister's statement) that the status quo will be maintained for mesothelioma claimants; this means that the no-win, no-fee regime will continue pending further review. Vara also told MPs that changes are being introduced to speed up compensation claims which include streamlining the processes for obtaining hospital medical records and information from HM Revenue and Customs needed for legal cases. See: New support for industrial disease victims.

Landmark Asbestos Conference

Dec 8, 2014

On November 5-7, 2014, as part of a series of events to raise awareness of asbestos hazards in Columbia, an Asbestos Conference was convened in Bogotá. On the second day of the conference, international speakers addressed a wide range of subjects; amongst them was Dr. Barry Castleman from the United States who spoke about Criminality and the Asbestos Industry. In his remarks, he highlighted the corrupting influence of asbestos industry representatives on the judicial, political and legislative processes in countries all over the world. This talk has been uploaded to YouTube with Spanish subtitles. It is well worth a look! See: Presentation by Dr Barry Castleman.

Earthquake Asbestos Hazard Report

Dec 8, 2014

A report just released by WorkSafe New Zealand into the management of the asbestos hazard by the Earthquake Commission (EQC) found significant flaws in the oversight process. An analysis of the work of contractors engaged to undertake home repairs following the 2011 Canterbury earthquake established that there had been: a widespread lack of asbestos awareness, failure to properly assess sites and inappropriate and dangerous working practices. Although the EQC’s safety system and management of the asbestos risk were inadequate, experts are quoted as saying that the risk to workers and the public remained low. See: Asbestos risk 'very low' in quake repairs: Worksafe.

Battle to Ban Asbestos

Dec 7, 2014

A feature in the Bangkok Post on November 30, 2014 detailed the country’s ongoing battle over the future of the country’s asbestos industry. Despite a 2011 pledge given by the Cabinet to ban asbestos, no steps have been taken to implement prohibitions. The stakes are high and the opposition of vested interests to a ban remains fierce. Last month’s international asbestos conference in Bangkok was gatecrashed by the managing director of one of Thailand’s biggest asbestos manufacturers. Despite the aggressive stance of the Thai asbestos lobby, the Industry Ministry has introduced a new bill to ban asbestos in order to protect public and occupational health. See: The battle to ban asbestos.

On-board Asbestos Hazard

Dec 7, 2014

Despite the fact that the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea declared in 2002 that all new ships should be asbestos-free, maritime experts report that the vast majority of vessels are still being constructed with asbestos. As a result of confusion over documentation required to verify that a ship is free from the asbestos risk, decisions often taken by national authorities and shipowners continue to put maritime workers at risk. Experts recommend that build contracts should include a clause stating that ‘asbestos-free’ means 0% and that an asbestos absence certificate be issued by an independent ISO 17020 accredited asbestos specialist. See: 85% of new ships still contain asbestos.

Government Mesothelioma Scheme

Dec 6, 2014

A press release issued by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced that in the first seven months of operations the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme Levy 2014 paid out £15 million. Urging victims to come forward, the DWP predicted that a further £32 million could be disbursed by this insurance industry-funded scheme by March 2015. The average sum of compensation being paid is £125,000. Eligible claimants include sufferers of diffuse mesothelioma diagnosed after July 25, 2012 and surviving families who can’t trace a liable employer or an employers’ insurer. See: £32 million of compensation available for victims of asbestos related cancer.

Test Case Lodged in Canberra

Dec 6, 2014

Lawyers representing mesothelioma victim Chris Georgiou are suing the Federal Government in the New South Wales Dust Diseases Tribunal in a landmark legal case. Mr. Georgiou’s team has alleged that the Government was negligent in failing to prevent the installation of highly toxic asbestos insulation in homes and failed to warn residents of the health dangers. Previously to his purchasing the Canberra house in 1978, it had been insulated with loose fill amosite asbestos sold under the trade name of “Mr Fluffy.” See: Mr Fluffy: Homeowner with mesothelioma brings landmark case against Commonwealth over asbestos in his roof.

Campaign to Outlaw Killer Fiber

Dec 5

Following the death of her husband Thom, Deidre vanGerven has devoted herself to the campaign to rid New Zealand of asbestos. Thom’s exposure to the deadly fiber took place during his employment as a refractory bricklayer. Seventeen years after his passing, New Zealand has still not banned asbestos imports. This is something that Deidre cannot understand and cannot tolerate. She has reached out to civil society stakeholders at home and abroad to demand that action be taken. Despite an entrenched national policy of denial, Deidre persists in her attempts to have asbestos banned and achieve justice for the injured. See: Gran versus the killer asbestos.

National Tribunal Condemns Mining

Dec 5, 2014

Last month, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) castigated India’s Environment Ministry (MoEF) for failing to adequately respond to charges related to the continued mining of asbestos in India. An affidavit filed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) did not address the NGT’s questions about “what steps have been taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forests or any other authority of the State… (regarding whether) any asbestos mining was being carried on in any part of the State or not.” On December 23, further consideration will be given to this matter. See: Asbestos mining: NGT raps MoEF for vague response.

Court Upholds Jail Sentences

Dec 1, 2014

On November 21, 2014, Italy’s Supreme Court upheld the manslaughter convictions of Luciano Lemetti, Giuseppe Cortesi and Antonio Cipponeri for the asbestos-related deaths of 37 shipyard workers from Fincantieri. When the former executives were convicted in 2012, they were given prison sentences ranging from thirty-two months to four years. The prison sentences were slightly reduced by the Court of Cassation which upheld compensation payments awarded by the Court to relatives, the metalworkers’ union, the INAIL workmen’s compensation fund and an environmental group. See: Fincantieri asbestos convictions upheld – update.

Call for Ban in Latin America

Dec 1, 2014

Italian researchers have estimated the level of asbestos-related occupational cancer in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, the Latin American countries that are or have been the highest asbestos consumers in the region, using World Health Organization mortality data. They calculated that the 5 year incidence of deaths for “mesothelioma and for lung, larynx, and ovary cancers attributable to occupational asbestos exposures, were respectively 735, 233, 29, and 14 for Argentina; 340, 611, 68, and 43 for Brazil; 255, 97, 14, and 9 for Colombia, and 1075, 219, 18, and 22 for Mexico.” See: Occupational Burden of Asbestos-related Cancer in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.

International Mesothelioma Congress 2016

Nov 5, 2014

At the November 5, 2014 meeting of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group, Laurie Kazan-Allen informed MPs and delegates that the UK had won the bid to host the 2016 meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (IMIG), a premier organization for researchers, clinicians and scientists working on mesothelioma issues. The official announcement said that the “meeting will address the entire patient pathway and look beyond the scientific topics alone.” The feedback received after the House of Commons meeting was positive; there was a great deal of enthusiasm about how stakeholders could take part in the proceedings and encourage participation. See: IMIG 2016 announcement.

NGO Discloses Hospital Scandal

Nov 5, 2014

Asbestos contamination in hospitals in the UK, France and Australia has caused asbestos-related disease amongst nurses, doctors and hospital workers. New research by the Seoul-based Asian Citizen's Center for Environment and Health has confirmed that samples of ceiling tiles taken in October 2014 from 16 general hospitals in Korean provincial towns including Busan, Daegu, Gwangju tested positive for contamination with white (chrysotile) and brown (amosite) asbestos. The researchers found that the tiles exceeded permissible levels by up to 70 times. See: Asbestos found in 16 provincial hospitals.

New Asbestos Debate in Colombia

Nov 4, 2014

For decades the asbestos lobby has maintained a stranglehold on Colombia’s debate on asbestos. This week, a series of presentations and discussions will allow new opinions to be voiced detailing the national legacy of asbestos mining, processing and consumption. Experts from Latin America, North America and Europe will present research findings and update delegates on state-of-the-art technologies which are both cost effective and safer. The ethics of using asbestos profits to fund art collections will be considered. This initiative has been organized by ban asbestos campaigners in collaboration with academic institutions, scientific, medical and technical experts. See: Asbestos: Art, Science and Policy.

Mesothelioma Incidence in Vietnam

Nov 4, 2014

The absence of data on asbestos cancers is often used as proof that this carcinogen can be used safely under controlled conditions. Vietnam is a major consuming country which, despite the development of alternative technologies, has not banned asbestos. Research reported at an asbestos cancer conference in October 2014, documented 148 cases of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Vietnam. The authors believe this figure is “likely to underestimate the true number of incident cases…” See: Estimating the incidence of malignant mesothelioma in Vietnam: a pilot descriptive population-based cancer registry study.

New Occupational Cancer Campaign

Nov 3, 2014

At a Parliamentary event on November 3 a campaign by the Institute of Occupational Health (IOSH) was launched to reduce the incidence of occupational cancers. In the UK, workplace exposures account for 8,000 deaths a year of which half are due to the “biggest work cancer killer, asbestos.” The Health and Safety Executive estimates that 1.8 million Britons remain at risk of occupational exposure to asbestos; although, the majority of those at high risk are construction or maintenance workers or tradespeople, people working in older buildings such as department stores, schools and hospitals are also at risk. See: No Time to Lose.

Another Asbestos Scandal Unfolding

Nov 3, 2014

It seems that not a day goes by without another asbestos scandal hitting the press in Australia. A program broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation revealed warnings by trade unionists and lawyers about the presence of deteriorating and friable asbestos-containing products in hospitals throughout the country. Commenting on the situation, one expert said: “Wherever there was heat, wherever there was steam, there was asbestos.” Contamination has been identified in two major Sydney hospitals: Westmead and Royal North Shore. See: Hospitals in Australia riddled with asbestos and pose serious health risk, union officials say.

Asbestos in Talcum Powder Warning

Nov 2, 2014

Following extensive research undertaken in three U.S. laboratories, public health experts have issued warnings about the hazards of using talcum powder products contaminated with asbestos. A year of testing has established that the deadly contaminant can find its way into lung tissue and thereby create a risk of asbestos cancer. The study, which was published online in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health in October, 2014, substantiates the theory that some ovarian cancers are due to exposure to asbestos in talcum-based products. See: Study: Cosmetic talc products carry asbestos peril.

Cancer Spike near Brisbane Factory?

Nov 1, 2014

Another asbestos scandal has made its way into the Australian media. After several secret settlements of asbestos cancer cases, news is emerging of a high incidence of disease amongst people who lived near a former asbestos-cement factory in the Brisbane suburb of Gaythorne. The Wunderlich plant, which operated from 1936 to 1983, spewed contaminated air and dumped asbestos waste in the neighborhood. Queensland’s Minister of Health has announced that investigators will review medical records of asbestos cancer patients linked to local addresses. See: Investigation into links between asbestos-related cancers and Brisbane suburbs near factories.

Scientists Call for Global Ban

Nov 1, 2014

In a recently published paper, scientists analyse national asbestos data and conclude that the majority of the global asbestos-related disease burdens is carried by Europe as a result of heavy asbestos consumption during the 20th century. The authors raise concerns about future asbestos mortality in countries still using asbestos and warn that “attempts to reduce exposure without a concurrent reduction in overall use are insufficient to control risk; asbestos bans should be in place in all countries to eliminate asbestos-related disease.” Summaries of this paper are available in five languages. See: Asbestos: use, bans and disease burden in Europe.

Asbestos Event in Colombia

Oct 31, 2014

A seven-minute promotional video to raise public awareness of a landmark series of meetings due to take place next week in Bogota is now available for viewing online. The footage includes information about the asbestos hazard as well as interviews with experts from the U.S., Chile and Colombia who are scheduled to take part. Also in this feature are segments from an interview with Dr. Maria Neira of the World Health Organization (WHO) who reasserts the WHO’s position on asbestos. She clearly states that the best way to reduce asbestos-related diseases is to end the consumption of all types of asbestos. See: Promocional Asbesto [Asbestos Promotion].

No Swiss Fund for Asbestos Victims!

Oct 30, 2014

Today (October 30, 2014), an announcement has been made that the Swiss Government does not intend to establish a fund to compensate asbestos victims. Despite campaigns by trade unionists and victims, the Government maintains that the responsibility for compensating the injured remains with negligent corporations and the Swiss insurance system. Following a European Court ruling, the government will, however, increase the statute of limitations for personal injury cases to allow for the long latency periods of asbestos diseases. See: Pas de fonds public pour les victimes de l'amiante [No public funding for asbestos victims].

New UK Asbestos Cancer Data

Oct 29, 2014

An HSE publication released today entitled Health and Safety Statistics Annual Report for Great Britain 2013/2014 highlights the devastating impact of asbestos exposures on the health of British citizens. Amongst key statistics cited are: 2,535 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures occurred in 2012; more than half of all occupational lung cancer deaths are caused by mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer; 2,145 new cases of mesothelioma were assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit in 2013 compared with 2125 in 2012. See: HSE Statistics eBulletin – October 2014.

Revisions to Asbestos Guidelines

Oct 29, 2014

On October 24, 2014, the Hong Kong Government issued a revised Code of Practice (CoP) for Safety and Health at Work with Asbestos which was required following the implementation in April 2014 of the Hong Kong asbestos ban. According to an official spokesperson: “The amended Regulation bans (a) asbestos spraying; (b) the use of asbestos-containing insulations; and (c) works with amphibole and chrysotile asbestos, except asbestos removal or disposal works.” The revised CoP can be downloaded from the a government website See: Revised Code of Practice for Safety and Health at Work with Asbestos issued today.

Government Acts on Asbestos Scandal

Oct 28, 2014

The Australian Federal Cabinet has announced today that a $1 billion loan is being given to the Canberra government to demolish 1,021 asbestos-contaminated homes in the capital. This news will come as a huge relief to people whose homes are now viewed as death traps due to the presence of “Mr. Fluffy” insulation which was sprayed in these properties 50 years ago. In the 1980s and 1990s the Commonwealth spent $100m on remediation and declared the homes safe; unfortunately, despite their efforts, the hazard persisted. See: Over a thousand homes to be demolished to end “Mr Fluffy” asbestos crisis.

Claimant Wins at Supreme Court

Oct 27, 2014

On October 22, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that lorry driver Percy McDonald was entitled to compensation from the occupiers of Battersea Power Station even though they were not his employer. Whilst Mr. McDonald was collecting loads from Battersea, he would visit the turbine halls; the defendants labelled his exposure as that of “a mere spectator” or “sightseer.” The landmark judgment will allow people exposed to asbestos while working for another employer to claim compensation from the owners of the factory where their exposure took place. See: Supreme Court victory for mesothelioma sufferers: Asbestos cancer victims can apply for compensation.

Failure to Recognize Asbestos Cancers

Oct 25, 2014

A paper published last week detailed a gross under-recognition of asbestos cancers in Spain. When mortality rates of mesothelioma and lung cancer were compared in Spain and the EU, it was discovered that over 93% of cases had not been acknowledged. “In Europe for the year 2000, asbestos-related occupational cancer rates ranged from 0.04 per 105 employees in Spain to 7.32 per 105 employees in Norway.” The authors called on the authorities to take action to investigate cases of these diseases being treated by the Spanish Healthcare System. See: Asbestos-related occupational cancers compensated under the Spanish National Insurance System, 1978-2011.

Government to Settle Asbestos Claims

Oct 23, 2014

A Japanese Minister apologized on October 21, 2014 for deaths caused by asbestos exposure and announced that following the Supreme Court ruling of October 9, 2014, the government is anxious to settle claims brought by the injured and surviving family members. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki told a press conference that offers will be made to settle the lawsuit pending in the Osaka High Court related to exposures at asbestos factories in the Sennan area between 1958 and 1971. See: Gov't to promptly settle Osaka High Court asbestos suit.

Tests Reveal High Contamination Levels

Oct 19, 2014

The Montparnasse Tower is an iconic 1970s skyscraper which is a Paris landmark. It has been much in the news over allegations of widespread asbestos contamination. Although asbestos removal work has been ongoing in the building since 2005, the tower is still in use. Le Figaro newspaper commissioned tests on October 7 & 8 which showed a concentration of 15.3 fibers per liter air; in France, the permissible limit is 5 fibers per liter. The buildings’ owners have responded to this revelation by issuing a complaint over the newspaper’s “malicious act.” See: Amiante dans la Tour Montparnasse [Asbestos in the Montparnasse Tower].

Mesothelioma Funding Call by NIHR

Oct 17, 2014

The UK’s National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) has issued a funding call for UK clinical and applied health research into mesothelioma. Eligible proposals would include work on “any aspect of mesothelioma, its prevention, earlier diagnosis, treatment or care (including palliative care) – where there are likely to be benefits for patients or their families, within 5 years of the end of the research.” An emphasis on patient input will be a crucial part of all proposals. See: NIHR Themed Calls: Mesothelioma.

Earthquakes and Asbestos: Bad Mix!

Oct 17, 2014

New Zealand’s asbestos policy is, by all accounts, not fit for purpose. Various ministers have repeatedly refused to act on the fact that there is no national ban on asbestos imports and use. As a result of government inaction, awareness of the asbestos hazard is low. This ignorance has exacerbated the problems caused by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake which has left many buildings in disrepair. A campaign targeting small contractors and the DIY community is being launched by the Combined Health and Environment Risks Programme Control Group to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard. See: Campaign highlights asbestos risk in Christchurch rebuild.

Failure to Diagnose Asbestos Disease

Oct 17, 2014

Research presented by UK scientists at a German conference reported that a proportion of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) cases may be linked with asbestos exposure. An analysis of mortality rates for IPF, asbestosis and mesothelioma across England and Wales for the period 1974 to 2012 showed geographical correlations between the three diseases. This, suggested the scientists, supported the theory that a proportion of IPF cases are due to unknown exposure to asbestos. If this connection had been known it is likely that those affected would have received treatment for an asbestos disease. See: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) cases linked with asbestos exposure.

Court Victory for Asbestos Victim

Oct 15, 2014

Brasilit, a subsidiary of Saint Gobain Construction Products Industrial Brazil Ltda., has been found guilty by a regional labor court of an asbestos injury sustained by a deceased engineer and ordered to pay “moral damages” to his family. An extrajudicial agreement previously signed by the claimant, and by many other Brasilit asbestos victims, in which they gave up the right to sue the company in return for a paltry settlement was disregarded by the Court. See: Empregado contaminado com Amianto recebe indenizacao por danos morais [Employee with asbestos disease receives compensation for moral damages].

Diagnosing Asbestos-related Diseases

Oct 14, 2014

Asbestos, asbestosis, and cancer, the Helsinki criteria for diagnosis and attribution 2014: recommendations, which has appeared online, details the discussions and conclusions of a meeting of experts which took place in February 2014. The text summarizes current information on the methods for managing and eliminating asbestos-related diseases and delineates a criteria – the Helsinki Criteria – “for use in programs and practices for the detection, diagnosis and attribution of asbestos-related diseases.” See: Asbestos, asbestosis, and cancer, the Helsinki criteria for diagnosis and attribution 2014: recommendations.

Victoria Asbestos Scandal Unfolds

Oct 13, 2014

On Sunday (October 12), the results of a five-month investigation were published in an Australian newspaper. “White Death in a Melbourne Suburb” documented a cancer epidemic amongst people who lived within one kilometre of the Sunshine North Wunderlich asbestos factory. The factory was originally owned by the German Wunderlich brothers but was run from 1969 to 1977 by CSR, the owners of the Wittenoom crocidolite asbestos mine. CSR is responsible for the liabilities of the factory during both the Wunderlich and CSR periods of management. See: Wunderlich asbestos scare prompts calls to Slater and Gordon.

Calls for Asbestos Ban

Oct 11, 2014

A report in the Thai media today details the support of the Federation of Occupational Health, Safety and Environment at Work, a member of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network, for an immediate and comprehensive ban on the use of asbestos in Thailand. The consortium of groups calling for a ban reacted positively to a 2011 statement by the Thai cabinet supporting this action but nothing productive has been achieved due to political roadblocks since then. Industry’s dire predictions regarding the economic impact of a ban are groundless say critics as the cost of asbestos and non-asbestos roofing are the same. See: Work group promotes asbestos ban.

National Asbestos Awareness Campaign

Oct 10, 2014

After a wait of nearly four years, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard amongst at-risk tradesman. On October 9, the HSE reported that “Tradespeople, including construction workers, carpenters and painters and decorators, could come into contact with deadly asbestos on average more than 100 times a year…” There is a widespread lack of awareness amongst tradespeople who, on average, are dying at the rate of 20 per week from asbestos-related diseases. See: 1.3 million tradespeople at risk from dangers of asbestos.

All Asbestos is Carcinogenic!

Oct 9, 2014

On October 7, 2014, as a result of collaborations by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Employment and Social Security, all types of asbestos, including chrysotile (white) asbestos, were added to Brazil’s List of Human Carcinogens. This major advance underlines the fallacious industry argument that chrysotile is a non-toxic substance essential for developing economies. It constitutes an acknowledgement by Brazil of the asbestos threat and as such will drive forward the momentum for a national ban. See: Portaria Interministerial confirma amianto como cancerígeno [Interministerial ordinance confirms asbestos as a carcinogen].

Failed Attack by Asbestos Lobby

Oct 7, 2014

Union leaders derailed an attack by the Association of Chrysotile Industries (CIC) on plans to lower asbestos threshold limit exposure levels in the Philippines. A CIC representative attended a working group meeting tasked with finalizing the National Programme for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases this month. Citing industry propaganda, he asserted that chrysotile (asbestos) was not toxic. His arguments were countered by medical and union experts. In a trade union press release, it was noted that in August 2014 CIC representatives enjoyed a visit to Brazil’s asbestos mine at the expense of the Eternit asbestos company. See: Trade Union press release.

Dialogue on Asbestos Risk

Oct 6, 2014

On October 4, two films were shown in Bangkok which highlighted the asbestos hazard. One was a documentary, entitled Dust: The Great Asbestos Trial, about Italy’s epidemic of asbestos disease and death; the other was a 10 minute film detailing the health risk posed by the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos in Thailand. The films were also viewable via an internet link. After the showing, there was a seminar held by the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network (see photo: T-BAN supporters) during which experts substantiated the hazard asbestos poses and called for an immediate ban. An asbestos lobbyist said that chrysotile asbestos did not present a health hazard. The event was covered by Thai TV.

10 Year Anniversary Marked in Tokyo

Oct 4, 2014

The tenth anniversary of the Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Disease Victims and Their Families is being marked today at an international gathering in Tokyo attended by Japanese, Korean and Indonesian campaigners. A new video has been produced for this occasion. The first 1.43 minutes is a message (in Japanese) from an asbestos victim hospitalized in Hokkaido who is unable to join the activities. The rest of the 32 minute video is a touching tribute to the thousands of Japanese victims and supporters who have revolutionized their country’s asbestos dialogue. This film is highly recommended. See: Anniversary Video.

Mesothelioma Treatment Report

Oct 3, 2014

Data drawn from 8,700 patients diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK between 2008 and 2012 has been published in a report issued in September 2014 entitled: National Lung Cancer Audit Report Mesothelioma. The text highlights the level of variation in diagnosis, treatment and survival for mesothelioma by geographical area in England and Wales and across cancer networks. While the majority of patients are having their diagnoses confirmed by biopsy and are being treated by multi-disciplinary teams, there are still a significant number who are not receiving the support needed. There is much of interest in this report. See: National Lung Cancer Audit Report Mesothelioma.

Ban Asbestos Campaign

Oct 2, 2014

Campaigners from the Mexican association of Ayuda Mesotelioma, A.C. have uploaded an online petition calling on the Government to ban the use of all types of asbestos including chrysotile. The petition states that: “To allow the manufacture of asbestos in our country is a violation of human rights,[and] a threat to the health of workers and the environment.” There are more than 1,800 asbestos-processing factories in Mexico where workers are hazardously exposed to asbestos on a routine basis. As a result, there is an established rise in the incidence of asbestos-related disease and mortality. Consequently, government healthcare costs are also increasing. See: Ban Asbestos in Mexico Petition.

Judgment in Landmark Case

Oct 1, 2014

On October 2, 2014, Honourable Mr Justice William Davis will hand down his verdict in a case of pivotal importance to UK mesothelioma victims. At stake, is the legality of the Government’s collusion with British insurers to impose legal reforms which would disadvantage mesothelioma claimants in order to minimize corporate liabilities. During legal proceedings on July 29 and 30, 2014, a Secret Heads of Agreement between the Government and the Association of British Insurers was submitted in evidence which showed, so critics alleged, that a “secret deal” had been done. See: Press Release by Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK.

Mobilization in Asbestos Heartland

Sep 30, 2014

For decades a code of silence prevented people in the asbestos company town of Kapelle-op-den-Bos from speaking out about the epidemic killing employees and local people. A manifestation of how much has changed in recent years was the public rally on Sunday, September 28 in the center of the town which was attended by over 500 people. Participating in the activities were friends and family of Willy Vanderstappen, a politician and activist who died in 2007 of asbestos cancer. During the event, a check for €1000 was presented to Eric Jonckheere, President of ABEVA (the Belgian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed), who grew up in Kapelle-op-den-Bos.

Asbestos Tax Scandal

Sep 30, 2014

It has been reported that James Hardie (JH), formerly Australia’s asbestos giant, has “over the last decade paid an average of $0 in corporate tax in Australia… on average annual profits of $204 million…” Even as JH continues to pay generous dividends to shareholders, its compensation scheme for asbestos victims is in danger of defaulting on payments due to underfunding; there is talk of a government bailout. Commenting on the situation, Senator Nick Xenophon said: “When it comes to contributing their fair share, it seems James Hardie are leaners not lifters.” See: James Hardie 'paid an average of $0' in corporate tax over past decade.

Mesothelioma Research Findings

Sep 29, 2014

Research findings presented at the conference of the European Society for Medical Oncology in Madrid have questioned the efficacy of treating patients with high-dose radiotherapy after chemotherapy and surgery for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Prof Rolf A. Stahel, President of the European Society for Medical Oncology, reported the findings of a Swiss study which failed “to find any differences in relapse-free survival between patients treated with the additional radiotherapy, and those who were not.” Another paper discussed the possibilities of targeting a protein produced by mesothelioma cells. See: ESMO 2014 Press Release: Studies Report New Findings on Treatment Options for Mesothelioma.

New Technology Tracks Asbestos Waste

Sep 26, 2014

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) of New South Wales, Australia has announced the development of technology which will allow smartphones or tablet applications to track the origins of dumped asbestos waste. The app works by scanning a barcode attached to plastic-wrapped asbestos waste. The barcode contains information such as the size or weight of the material, who it has been given to, and when and where it is going to be dumped. It is expected to be made available early next year to local councils which are fighting a war against asbestos dumpers. See: Electronic tracking traces illegally dumped tyres, asbestos.

Multimillion Dollar Screw Up by EPA

Sep 26, 2014

Yesterday (September 25) a report was published which seriously criticized the (US) Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to uphold standards in its experimentation with alternative methods for dealing with asbestos contained in buildings due for demolition. Not only was the public put at risk but the data produced by the mismanaged tests was useless said the Office of the Inspector General. The controversial research program cost $3.5 million and was carried out between 1999 and 2011. A multiplicity of failings were identified in the report which concluded that the new techniques had not worked as well as traditional methods. See: Watchdog faults EPA on failed asbestos tests.

Contamination After Road Crash

Sep 25, 2014

On the morning of September 24, 2014, two trucks collided in the state of São Paulo causing traffic delays and toxic contamination after asbestos fiber had been liberated in the accident. The Fire Department cordoned off the area and took charge of overseeing decontamination work. Although asbestos is banned in the State of São Paulo (SP) the company that owns the cargo, SAMA mining (part of the Eternit group), routinely transports its asbestos on the public highways en route to SP ports. See: Carga de amianto cai em vicinal após choque entre caminhões em Olímpia [Asbestos cargo on road after truck collision].

Asbestos Prosecutions of Olivetti Execs

Sep 25, 2014

The public prosecutor has confirmed that criminal charges are being brought for the asbestos-related deaths of 20 former Olivetti employees against five former company executives who are alleged to have failed in their duty to protect the Italian workforce from the asbestos hazard. The deaths from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma occurred between 2008 and 2014 and relate to people who worked for the company in the 1970s and 1990s. See: Chiusa l'inchiesta sull'amianto all'Olivetti, tra gli indagati De Benedetti e Passera [The asbestos investigation at Olivetti, among the suspects De Benedetti and Passera].

War on Asbestos

Sep 24, 2014

The French Government has declared war on asbestos, a carcinogen pervasive throughout the built environment contaminating 3 millions homes as well as civic buildings, factories, stores, schools and hospitals. On September 23, 2014, at a Congress held by the French Association of Low Income Housing, Housing Minister Sylvia Pinel announced the allocation of €400 million (US$514m) per year for the removal of asbestos from public housing. Low interest loans of up to €10,000 per unit will be made available to organizations owning public housing for remediation work. See: Amiante et HLM: le plan a minima du gouvernement [Asbestos and Social Housing: Government Plan].

Priority Asbestos Remediation

Sep 24, 2014

The Israeli Government has allocated a sum of US$4 million (NIS15m) for the replacement of asbestos-containing roofing as part of an unprecedented five-year US$545m (NIS2 billion) socioeconomic package for the south of the country. Accepting that asbestos roofs damaged by rocket fire are a human health hazard, the Government has prioritized their removal within this plan. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, the asbestos producer will be required to pay for half of the asbestos remediation in Galilee. See: NIS45m. allocated for asbestos treatment, waste rehabilitation in the South.

Treatments for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Sep 24, 2014

An academic paper published this month by researchers in the United States considers the efficacy of traditional and novel treatments for malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. Although effective, some of the newer treatments have complication rates ranging from 30% to 46%. Consequently, there is growing interest in identifying molecular targets such as sphingosine kinase 1 (SphK1) which regulates the production of sphingosine-1-phosphate, a biologically active lipid implicated in various cancers including malignant mesothelioma” and developing targeted therapies. See: Advances in the management of peritoneal mesothelioma.

Vigil for Asbestos Sufferers

Sep 23, 2014

A vigil for justice for mesothelioma sufferers was held on the second day of the 2014 Labour Party conference (September 22). Monday lunchtime, victims, relatives and members of asbestos victims’ support groups were joined in front of the conference center by MPs including: Jim Sheridan, Kate Green, Simon Danczuk, Jonathan Reynolds, Debbie Abrahams, Graham Stringer, Jimmy Hood, Hugh Bayley, Andy Slaughter, Stephen Twigg, Russell Brown, Steve Rotheram and Bill Esterson. (see: group photo). Jim Sheridan, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, and Kate Green, Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, supported calls for a fairer regime for victims.

Awareness Campaign Wins Award

Sep 23, 2014

At a gala evening in Madrid last night (September 22), a national Australian asbestos awareness campaign won the prestigious Public Service Campaign Award of Distinction in the 2014 Global Alliance COMM PRIX Public Relations and Communication Management Awards For Excellence against stiff competition from world public relations and communication management campaigns conducted in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The creators of “Don’t Play Renovation Roulette – Asbestos Awareness Week 2012” are Clare and Alice Collins (see: photo), a mother and daughter public relations team based in Sydney, Australia. See: Media Release.

Calls for Asbestos Ban in Pakistan

Sep 20, 2014

A one-day national stakeholders conference was held in Lahore, Pakistan by the Building and Wood Workers’ Trade Union and its affiliates on September 3, 2014 to progress efforts to ban asbestos. The keynote speaker was Zahoor Awan, Secretary General of the Pakistan Workers Federation. Other eminent speakers included national labor leaders, international experts and representatives of asbestos victims. BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson told delegates: “Asbestos kills, it is a danger to the workers, their families and the communities…” The delegates unanimously agreed a declaration calling for an asbestos ban in Pakistan. See: BWI supports Ban Asbestos Campaign in Pakistan.

Contamination of Irish Fleet

Sep 20, 2014

After toxic asbestos materials had been found aboard Irish naval vessels the LÉ Ciara, LÉ Orla, LÉ Aoife, LÉ Eithne and LÉ Aisling, a fleet-wide survey was ordered. Investigations began on September 1, 2014 and are expected to take some weeks. In addition, the Naval Service has trained personnel in asbestos awareness and advised on low risk remediation of asbestos-containing materials. Defence Minister Simon Coveney has pledged that “medical concerns were and will continue to be addressed and a contracted civilian medical advisor on asbestos-related illness has provided briefs to all staff.” See: Fleet-wide check under way after asbestos found on Naval ships.

Asbestos and Education: A Bad Mix!

Sep 20, 2014

The Free University of Brussels is riddled with asbestos. Last week journalists were allowed to accompany labor inspectors surveying one of its campuses, along with trade unionists and asbestos experts. Within the university as a whole, it has been estimated that there are 7,000 places where asbestos-containing products are present. The university’s budget would need to be trebled for this public health crisis to be adequately managed. Results of the survey are due out shortly. See: Amiante: l'inspection du travail en visite à l'ULB à la demande des syndicats [Asbestos: labor inspection visits ULB at the request of the unions].

Asbestos Challenges: Debate Continues

Sep 18, 2014

A September 15, 2014 article in La República, the Colombian equivalent of the Wall Street Journal, examines moves to develop asbestos markets in emerging economies; the author discusses industry techniques including the use of “mercenary” scientists to produce junk research that “proves” that white (chrysotile) asbestos is safe. In 2012 and 2013 Colombia imported 25,164 and 15,961 tons of asbestos respectively. Available figures for 2014 show a decline in asbestos import levels; this is partially explained by the restarting of asbestos mining operations in Yarumal (Antioquia), Colombia. See: Historias del asbesto, de lo económico a lo legal [Asbestos Stories, from the economic to the legal].

Asbestos in Talc Causes Mesothelioma

Sep 17, 2014

A scientific paper published in the October 2014 issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health concluded that “a specific brand of talcum powder [Cashmere Bouquet] contained identifiable asbestos fibers [anthophyllite and tremolite asbestos] with the potential to be released into the air and inhaled during normal personal talcum powder application.” Asbestos fibers consistent with those found in the talcum powder were identified in the lungs and lymph node tissues of a woman who used this product and died from mesothelioma. See: Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of mesothelioma in women.

Industry Pressure Delays Ban?

Sep 16, 2014

Despite a government pledge to ban asbestos made more than three years ago, no action has been taken. News is now circulating that the Ministry of Industry has issued a proposal to Minister Chakkamon Pasukwanit to implement a phased ban on asbestos products with the use of the first group – for wall linings, ceilings, doors and floor tiles – to be prohibited in two years while the second group – roof tiles, cement pipes, brake and clutch parts – will be banned in five years. Thai ban asbestos activists have expressed serious criticisms of this plan saying asbestos is a known killer and should be banned immediately. See: Delay in Asbestos Ban.

Calls to End EU Asbestos Derogation

Sep 16, 2014

A consultation over proposals to extend a derogation allowing the use of asbestos-containing diaphragms is attracting criticism from the European Trade Union Confederation, the Trade Union Congress, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) and others. In its submission, IBAS pointed out: “In July 2014 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that asbestos exposures which took place in Malta contravened the rights of Maltese workers; in 2014, there can be no excuse to allow asbestos use to persist in Europe. Failure to end this derogation will not only lead to more avoidable disease and deaths but may well result in legal action by groups representing European stakeholders.”

Ready, Steady, Go!

Sep 15, 2014

The annual fund-raising walk of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) begins today in Pemberton, Western Australia (WA). Over the next 5 days, participants will cover the 327 kilometres to the state capital making stops along the way to raise awareness of the WA epidemic of asbestos-related diseases. On September 17 the ADSA “Rod Triplett Tribute Breakfast” will take place in Australind to spotlight the price paid by building workers, like Rod, for their exposures to asbestos. Rod died of mesothelioma in March. PLEASE SUPPORT THE ADSA – see ADSA Press Release.

Firm Guilty of Asbestos Cancer Deaths

Sep 10, 2014

An Italian steel manufacturer has been condemned in a verdict released this week in a case which found 27 former company executives guilty of failing to protect workers at a Taranto plant from the asbestos hazard. The lives of those who had died from mesothelioma could have been saved had action been taken to prevent hazardous asbestos exposures wrote Judge Simone Orazio in his 268 page judgment. Medical check-ups would have enabled earlier diagnoses of asbestos-related conditions to have been made thus allowing more effective treatment for the injured. The company’s policy of prioritizing profits had led to many deaths. See: Ilva Taranto, condanna per l’amianto [Ilva Taranto, condemned over asbestos].

Taxpayers to Fund Hardie Shortfall?

Sep 9 2014

International building conglomerate James Hardie (JH), a company which began life as an Australian asbestos manufacturer, paid a total of $500+ million in dividends in 2013 and 2014; at the same time its asbestos-related liabilities had risen by 10.4% to $1.9 billion. As a result, the JH asbestos compensation body may need to draw on a taxpayer-backed loan arrangement to pay victims’ claims. Commenting on this news, Australian Senator Nick Xenophon said: “The bottom line is if James Hardie can afford $500 million to give to shareholders it can find the money to give to dying victims of their product.” See: James Hardie asbestos compensation scheme millions short after big dividends.

Fraud by U.S. Asbestos Defendant

Sep 5, 2014

On September 3, 2014, a three-judge panel of the Philadelphia appeals court ruled that the world’s biggest chemical maker BASF had engaged in “systematic fraud” to defeat thousands of personal injury lawsuits over asbestos contamination of its talc. In its decision, the Court stated that the state of New Jersey did not accept the right of litigants to engage in “fraud calculated to thwart the judicial process.” The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the families of six workers who had died from asbestos-related diseases allegedly caused by exposure to talc mined by a BASF-owned company in Vermont. See: BASF Must Face Asbestos Coverup Fraud Claims, Court Says.

Huge Victory for Asbestos Victims

Sep 3, 2014

On September 1, 2014, Minister Celso de Mello of the Federal Supreme Court rejected an injunction by Eternit, Brazil’s leading manufacturer of asbestos-cement products, which barred a $1 billion lawsuit filed by the Public Attorney’s Office of the São Paulo Labor Court on behalf of former employees at the Eternit factory in Osasco, Sao Paulo. As a result, the public prosecutor can now proceed with the compensation claims for 1,000 injured employees and the surviving families of those who have died. See: STF mantém ação de R$ 1 bi contra Eternit por expor trabalhadores a amianto [STF holds share of R$ 1 billion against Eternit for exposing workers to asbestos ].

Quebec Rejection of Asbestos

Sep 2, 2014

After more than a century of asbestos profits, Quebec politicians have finally rejected asbestos, a natural resource once called “white gold.” The political climate in Quebec has undergone a complete reversal from one in which the asbestos industry was regarded as sacrosanct to one in which the cessation of asbestos mining and the remediation of contaminated sites are regarded as a priority. Bernard Coulombe, the President of Canada’s last asbestos mine (which closed in 2012), and an aggressive asbestos proponent now admits that asbestos contamination is “dangerous.” He and other owners of the mine are demanding compensation for lost profits. See: The end of the Jeffrey asbestos mine in Quebec.

A Deadly Ongoing Epidemic

Sep 1, 2014

Twice as many Britons die of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma as die in road traffic accidents. The mesothelioma epidemic is claiming the lives not only of people who worked directly with asbestos but of others exposed to contaminated products incorporated into the national infrastructure. Victims like consultant anesthetist Dr. Andrew Lawson, M&S employee Janice Allen, GP Graham Abbott have contracted the cancer having being exposed to asbestos at their workplaces. “Britain is today,” reports journalist Harry de Quetteville “at the peak of a mesothelioma epidemic.” See: Asbestos: the killer that still surrounds us.

Contamination from Derelict Mine

Aug 31, 2014

Pollution from a derelict Korean asbestos mine in Gangjeong Village, South Chunycheong Province has increased since a construction waste disposal company began operations on this site. Even though an epidemic of respiratory diseases and cancers has been reported, local and regional authorities have refused to take action. At a public meeting on August 25, Yeyong Choi from the Asian Citizens’ Center for Environmental Health explained the asbestos health hazard. Residents and civic groups are now demanding the immediate closure of the plant, remediation and closure of the mine and full healthcare provisions for the villagers. See: Village being choked off by reckless asbestos mining.

Pessimism in Asbestos State

Aug 31, 2014

A commentary published on August 29, 2014 in The Journal of Goiás, the Brazilian State which is home to the country’s main asbestos mine, reports a gloomy outlook for the asbestos industry. Multiple factors likely to impact on sales of Goiás asbestos are: bans by several Brazilian states and national governments, opposition to asbestos by Brazilian agencies, including the Ministry of Labor, and non-governmental organizations, public prosecutions of asbestos companies, civil lawsuits, a case being adjudicated by the Supreme Court over the unconstitutionality of asbestos use, market forces and the increasingly popularity of asbestos-free products. See: Tesouro em declínio [Profitability in Decline].

Delayed Asbestos Removal Proceeding

Aug 29, 2014

Four months after tests confirmed the presence of asbestos at the headquarters of the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) at the South Quay in Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, decontamination work has begun. Reporters at a press conference on August 28, reported that the two affected buildings were sealed off in decontamination zones and that workers were observed in protective suits and masks. Trade union official Marcus Grannum supported the PTSC’s efforts but said the delay in remediation was to be regretted. See: After protests by workers: PTSC spends $m to remove asbestos.

Progress on Asbestos Ban

Aug 27 2014

The Philippines imports $76.32 million worth of asbestos every year, even though this substance is a known carcinogen which is banned in the industrialized world. Parliamentarians in the Philippines are calling for a national ban of the import, manufacture, processing, use and distribution of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. In 2008, the 11th National Occupational Safety and Health Congress adopted a resolution supporting a total ban but no progress has been made on implementation. House Bill 4437 (The Asbestos Ban Act of 2014) has now been filed by Representatives Walden Bello and Ibarro Gutierrez III. See: Congressional Press Release.

Asbestos Threshold Limit Slashed

Aug 26, 2014

After protracted negotiations, the Associated Labor Unions and the Building and Woodworkers International have succeeded today in lowering the country’s threshold limit value for asbestos toxic dust from 0.5 to 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter of air in an 8-hour work period. This change has been implemented in a revision of government guidelines for minimizing hazardous occupational asbestos exposures. Representatives from the Chrysotile Industry Association of the Philippines and the Chrysotile Information Center, Philippines vehemently opposed the revision saying it would adversely impact on the profitability of their businesses.

Lobbyists at Global Congress

Aug 26, 2014

Delegates attending the XX World Congress for Safety and Health at Work in Frankfurt have reported the presence of Russian asbestos lobbyists and Brazilian hired gun scientists at the event. During a session on August 25, a well-known pro-asbestos fanatic accused Fiona Murie, Occupational Health and Safety Director of the BWI (Building and Woodworkers International), of corruptly receiving kickbacks from anti-asbestos stakeholders. Today, Anabella Rosemberg, from the International Trade Union Confederation, reported that pro-asbestos propaganda was being distributed at the Congress.

Ministry of Labor Backs State Ban

Aug 25, 2014

In the run-up to a September 2, 2014 vote in the Santa Catarina Legislative Assembly on the adoption of a state-wide ban on asbestos, the Ministry of Labor has mounted a public awareness initiative about the deadly effects of asbestos exposures and the urgent need for a ban. The Ministry is promoting television coverage which began broadcasting 30 second segments on August 24, 2014. Complimenting this campaign are other social media outreach projects, including a petition calling for asbestos to be banned in Santa Catarina. See: Asbestos Awareness Video.

Asbestos: Heritage Product in Favelas

Aug 23, 2014

Interviews with people in poor neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro, the favelas, reveal the ubiquity and constancy of asbestos use in the do-it-yourself construction of family dwellings. The most popular covering for these properties is roofing made of asbestos-cement tiles. While some people hire professionals for difficult tasks, such as roof installation, many do these tasks with the help of a few friends on a weekend. As a result of the recycling and trading of materials, asbestos tiles are present throughout the favelas. See: Estudo de caso: As regras tácitas da construção nas favelas [Case Study: The unspoken rules of construction in the slums].

Asbestos Cigarettes on Sale in UK

Aug 23, 2014

Bootleg cigarettes imported into the UK by black marketeers contain asbestos as well as other toxic ingredients, according to news released by the Local Government Association. Hundreds of thousands of illegal cigarettes have been seized in recent months by officials in Wolverhampton, Bristol and Nottingham during raids on premises throughout these cities. The contents of the confiscated cigarettes included human excrement, dead flies, rat droppings, mould and asbestos. It has been estimated that 114m illicit cigarettes are sold in six London boroughs every year. See: New effort to stop fake cigarettes filled with excrement, mould and asbestos.

Canada’s Deadly Asbestos Legacy

Aug 22, 2014

From March to December 2014, prevention officers for WorkSafeBC, a statutory agency in British Columbia, are conducting planned inspections of demolition worksites at private homes to ascertain that duty holders are acting in compliance with asbestos provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. The summer 2014 issue of Work Safe magazine highlights the consequences of hazardous exposures in the Province: between 2002 and 2011, asbestos was responsible for 512 occupational deaths; 500 claims for asbestos exposure are filed each year; since 2000, more workers have died from asbestos-related diseases than any other workplace illness. See: Asbestos Initiative Aims to Eradicate Exposures.

Documentation of Asbestos Scourge

Aug 21, 2014

The High Council of Public Health has issued a report documenting the deadly impact asbestos exposure continues to have on French citizens. In the document which went online last week, the Council estimated that up to 118,400 deaths could have been due to occupational exposures to asbestos between 1955 and 2009; the vast majority of the deaths were due to lung cancer. The report predicts that between 2009 and 2050, up to 100,000 more people could die from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma and cancer of the lungs, larynx, and ovary. See: FRANCE. Amiante: près de 100.000 décès d'ici à 2050 [FRANCE. Asbestos: nearly 100,000 deaths by 2050].

Prison Sentence for Asbestos Crimes

Aug 21, 2014

On August 20, Stafford Crown Court was told about illegal works carried out in 2012 at a former print works in Stoke-on-Trent by two brothers which hazardously exposed seven workmen to asbestos. The HSE prosecution of Akram and Inam Hussain, neither one of whom was licensed to remove asbestos, resulted in jail sentences of 22 months for the former and 14 months for the latter for breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. After the trial, an HSE inspector said: “The Hussains failed in their duty by choosing to ignore the dangers of this hidden killer.” See: Brothers given custodial sentence for exposing workers to asbestos.

Fernanda Giannasi Honored in Brasilia

Aug 15, 2014

On Monday, August 11, 2014, ban asbestos activist Fernanda Giannasi was awarded Brazil’s highest honor – the Order of Judicial Merit for Labor – at a gala ceremony in Brasilia (see: Picture of ceremony). Having received the commendation, Ms. Giannasi explained that it was: “recognition of a struggle that is not only mine, but all asbestos victims and their families. This shows the concern of the Brazilian judiciary with the exploitation of this deadly fiber which caused a health catastrophe of the century.” See: Top Brazilian Award for Fernenda Giannasi and also Fernanda Giannasi é condecorada com a ordem do mérito [Fernanda Giannasi is awarded the Order of Merit].

India’s Asbestos Time Bomb

Aug 14, 2014

As India’s asbestos sector grows rich, vested interests continue to promote the sale of a discredited technology with glitzy pseudo-scientific conferences, imported hired gun scientists and public statements proclaiming the innocuous nature of their product. Despite asbestos bans in industrialized countries and recommendations from international agencies that use should be stopped on health grounds, Indian sales of asbestos-cement construction materials are booming. Public opposition is on the rise with protesters destroying construction on a site earmarked for an asbestos factory in Bihar State. See: Asbestos still pushed in India and business is booming.

Lobbying for Asbestos Ban

Aug 13, 2014

On August 8, 2014, representatives of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network (T-BAN) petitioned the Ministry of Industry (MOI) for an immediate ban on the use of asbestos, support for the use of safer materials, a national fund for victims and implementation of preventative measures and medical protocols. (see: T-BAN Statement). Commenting on the meeting, T-BAN representative Mrs. Somboon Seekamdokkae said “We asked the MOI to think about Thai people’s health and after 70 years, not to give the industry more time to kill citizens from asbestos-related diseases.” Sakda Pankla, the deputy director-general of the Department of Industrial Works, received the T-BAN delegation (see: photo of the meeting).

Petition For Asbestos Ban

Aug 12, 2014

On August 5, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) sent a letter to Vietnam authorities urging that action be taken to prohibit the use of asbestos in construction materials. WHO and ILO representatives highlighted the community health, economic and social security benefits of banning asbestos and urged Vietnam to develop a program to eliminate the use of asbestos. WHO and ILO offered to provide technical support for Vietnam to end asbestos-related diseases. See: WHO sends proposal to stop the use of asbestos to the Prime Minister.

Asia’s Asbestos Time Bomb

Aug 12, 2104

An article published today explores the disconnect between asbestos vested interests and civil society campaigners over whether or not India’s expanding asbestos sector is a good or bad thing for the country. While spokesmen for India's Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association say they are providing a vital public service to the nation, activists say that the commercial exploitation of asbestos endangers not only workers but also members of the public. The opposition by local people to the construction of an asbestos-cement factory in Bihar State and the high-profile media campaign mounted by asbestos lobbyists are discussed. See: Asbestos pushed in Asia as product for the poor.

Capital’s Asbestos Pandemic

Aug 10, 2014

The use of asbestos-containing insulation in Canberra has left the capital with a deadly and costly legacy. An exposé which appeared on August 6th detailed the background to this catastrophe and highlighted the missed opportunities which could have prevented the tragedy. At the heart of this story was the commercial exploitation by Australian entrepreneur Dirk Jansen of an insulation product called Asbestosfluf which was made from amphibole asbestos. In the late 1960s, an expert warned the government that installers of this product were being “unnecessarily exposed to a harmful substance” when alternatives existed. See: Revealed: How the scandalous Mr Fluffly legacy lives on.

Delay in Vote on Ban

Aug 9, 2014

On August 5, 2014, a draft bill to ban asbestos was scheduled for debate at the Santa Catarina Legislative Assembly; four previous attempts had been defeated after pressure from asbestos lobbyists. The deputy-reporter, who is responsible for ascertaining the constitutionality of the bill, postponed the vote until September 2 alleging that more time was needed. Supporters of the ban, who were present at the meeting of the Committee of Justice and Constitutionality, said the delay was politically motivated; the deputy-reporter is known to be opposed to the ban. According to the ban supporters, there is overwhelming public support for unilateral action to protect citizens of the State from the asbestos hazard.

Environmental Asbestos Hazard

Aug 8, 2014

The scandal of asbestos contamination in the Italian Province of Lecce, in the southeast of the country, has led local associations and campaigners to take direct action to protect public health. According to an environmental survey, the situation in the towns of Lecce and Salento is particularly severe “with whole areas of the city affected by the phenomenon and never reclaimed.” Requests for a detailed urban plan to raise asbestos awareness, remediate land and decontaminate affected properties have been made. See: Amianto, petizione di Adoc e Ilse al sindaco Perrone [Asbestos, ADOC and Ilse petition to Mayor Perrone].

Asbestos Hazard for Shipbreakers

Aug 7, 2014

Shipbreaking workers, who spend their days dismantling ships on the beaches of Chittagong, work in extremely dangerous conditions and are exposed to a multitude of dangerous substances, including asbestos. The reality as described by the workers is far from that asserted by the yard owners who maintain that the workforce has all the protection required. An article informed by the experience of the Brussels-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform describes a cut-throat industry where both ships and workers are scrapped on a daily basis. See: Visiting the Deadly Shipbreaking Yards of Bangladesh.

Asbestos Hazard in War Zone

Aug 6, 2014

Highlighting the latent health threat of asbestos contamination in war zones, Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz has announced plans to replace asbestos roofs in hundreds of houses on “the front line of the Gaza perimeter communities.” In one farm at Ein Hashlosha, 80 buildings have 7,000 square meters of asbestos-cement roofing; 60 sq.m. per house. While the financing of removal and replacements costs has yet to be finalized, the Minister remained “confident that the program will receive swift government support and financing from partner organizations.” See: State and local council to replace asbestos roofs in the line of fire from Gaza.

Asbestos Risk to Police

Aug 4, 2014

Asbestos contamination at the Valmontorio shooting range in Rome where police personnel have trained has been revealed. More than 3,500 members of staff have used this facility for up to a week at a time, not to mention individuals who worked at the site. Training and use of this building have now been suspended as officials work on plans to monitor the health of those who have been exposed. According to official documents, the presence of asbestos was discovered here two years ago. See: Roma – Poligono di tiro all’amianto 3.500 vigili urbani a rischio [Rome – Asbestos at shooting range; 3,500 policemen at risk].

Risk to Construction Workers

Aug 4, 2014

Despite the existence of asbestos bans in the Middle East, construction expert Charles Faulkner has concerns about the use of asbestos-containing building products in power stations, office blocks, residential accommodation and schools. He says that prohibitions are “not an effective guarantee that Asbestos won’t make its way into a new construction project” due to lack of enforcement, effective penalties and awareness. Hazardous exposures resulting from unsafe demolition are putting the lives of workers and members of the public at risk. Faulkner calls for a comprehensive and evolved asbestos policy to reduce the incidence of asbestos-related disease. See: Silent killer.

Opportunities Following Ban?

Aug 4, 2014

Anticipating that Malaysia will ban asbestos in 2015, a major manufacturer of asbestos-free cement has established a trading office in the capital. SHERA, a leading non-asbestos fiber-cement maker in Asia, produces a range of lightweight fiber cement roofs that were previously unavailable in Malaysia. The company says they are “not only easy to install, but are also durable and free from asbestos.” SHERA is a subsidiary of the Mahaphant Group, a Thailand-based manufacturer of fiber cement boards, siding and roofing. The multinational has commercial operations throughout Asia, Oceania, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. See: Asbestos-free roofs now available in Malaysia.

Legal Challenge to Attack on Victims

Jul 31, 2014

On July 29, 2014, UK lawyers acting on behalf of the Asbestos Victims’ Support Groups Forum (Forum) began a High Court challenge of the decision to make mesothelioma claimants liable for legal and insurance costs incurred by lawsuits. Although a review of the effect that proposed changes would have on mesothelioma claimants had been ordered, no credible review has been undertaken. Forum Chair Tony Whitston said “sufferers and their families will accept a decision if it is based on a ‘fair and credible’ review. The government’s decision to proceed on the basis of such a flawed review will not be accepted by sufferers…” See: Lawyers take mesothelioma fight to High Court.

State Move to Ban Asbestos

Jul 31, 2014

The Santa Catarina Legislative Assembly will, for the fifth time, consider draft proposals to prohibit the use, handling and sale of asbestos and asbestos-containing products on August 5, 2014. Previous attempts have been defeated after pressure was exerted on politicians by asbestos lobbyists. The use of asbestos is permitted under federal law although the states of São Paulo, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais have taken unilateral action to ban asbestos. See: Deputados estaduais vão votar projeto que define pelo lucro das empresas ou a vida do trabalhador [State legislators’ vote will either support corporate profits or the workers’ lives].

Landmark decision by NSW Court

Jul 31, 2014

A decision on July 31, 2014 by the New South Wales’ Dust Diseases Tribunal (DDT) is the largest pay-out awarded to an asbestos victim in the DDT’s 25-year history. In 2010, Steven Dunning was diagnosed with the fatal cancer mesothelioma, having been exposed as a laborer to asbestos at the Newcastle steelworks in New South Wales operated by BHP Bilton. The judgment which awarded the 54-year old claimant $2.2m was for the first asbestos claim from this facility. Reacting to the development, the company said the verdict could be appealed. See: BHP ordered to make record $2.2m asbestos compensation payment.

NI Award for Pleural Plaques

Jul 30, 2014

In June 2014, the Belfast High Court awarded compensation for pleural plaques (pp) to a widow whose husband was exposed to asbestos as an employee at Harland and Wolff and Royal Mail Group. This was the first NI pp claim following the passage of the Damages (Asbestos Related Conditions) Act (NI) 2011. The deceased, who died in 2013 aged 74, did not die of an asbestos-related disease. As a result of NI legislation, the NI courts – unlike those in England or Wales – regard pp as a “statutory personal injury for which damages can and should be awarded if the plaintiff proves fault against the defendant.” See: June 27, 2014 McCauley Judgment.

Criticism of Vietnam Asbestos Policy

Jul 28, 2014

Opposition to Vietnam’s continued use of asbestos, a known carcinogen, is increasing daily. An article appeared today in the online English language VietNamNet.Bridge news outlet which highlighted the fact that the asbestos policy of Vietnam, a member of the World Health Organization (WHO), contradicts WHO advice and international trends. The article cited the opinion of Dr Le Van Trinh, Deputy Chair of the Vietnam Labor Safety Association who believes that “it is necessary to stop using asbestos in production and daily life as soon as possible.” See: Vietnam ignores scientists’ warnings about asbestos use.

WHO Acts over Zimbabwe Lies

Jul 28, 2014

Misinformation quoted by chrysotile asbestos stakeholders from Zimbabwe alleging that the World Health Organization (WHO) supports the “controlled use of asbestos,” included in a position paper published two months ago have led the WHO to take action, according to a letter authorized last week by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “WHO’s policy on asbestos, all forms, is unequivocal,” it stated. See: World Health Organization asks Zimbabwe to correct its misrepresentation of the WHO position on asbestos.

Verdict for Asbestos Cancer Death

Jul 25, 2014

High Court judge Mr Justice Bean has ordered the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to pay the family of Sally Knauer the sum of £650,000 for her death from mesothelioma contracted from exposure to asbestos at her workplace – Guy's Marsh Prison – between 1997 and 2007. The administrator died aged 46 in August 2009, just five months after being diagnosed with the asbestos cancer. The MoJ was sued for failing to protect Mrs. Knauer from hazardous exposure to asbestos; it admitted liability in 2013 but contested the compensation award. See: Husband of Gillingham woman killed by cancer after asbestos exposure at Guy's Marsh Prison receives £650,000.

Fiat Managers Charged over Deaths

Jul 25, 2014

The Milan Public Prosecutor has accused Paolo Cantarella and Giorgio Garuzzo, respectively, former CEO and former chairman of Fiat Auto, and four other former Alfa Romeo managers of manslaughter for the asbestos-related deaths of 15 workers caused by hazardous conditions at the Alfa Romeo factory in Arese, on the outskirts of Milan. Court proceedings will begin on November 5, 2014.See: Amianto, Cantarella e altri ex manager Alfa a processo per i 15 operai morti ad Arese [Asbestos, Cantarella and other former managers at the Alfa Romeo factory charged with the asbestos deaths of 15 workers in Arese].

Ban Asbestos Momentum Increasing

Jul 25, 2014

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health is backing plans to add asbestos to the country’s list of prohibited toxic chemicals. Asbestos is mostly used to produce asbestos-cement (AC) construction materials in Vietnam. Thirty-six AC manufacturers produce 100Mm2 of roofing sheets per year. Vietnam is one of Asia’s biggest asbestos users and the country’s asbestos industrial sector backed by foreign stakeholders is aggressively lobbying the government to allow consumption to continue even though a national program to devise asbestos-free technologies has been successful. See: Vietnam considers ban on asbestos in fibre cement boards.

Victory for Malta’s Asbestos Victims

Jul 24, 2014

In a 48-page verdict, the European Court of Human Rights has today (July 24, 2014) unanimously ruled that the Government of Malta had, between 1968 and 2003, failed to protect ship repair yard workers from exposure to asbestos in the case of Brincat and Others v. Malta. The infringements for which the government was condemned were: violating Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and violating Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the Convention. The Maltese Government was ordered to pay compensation to the claimants. See: Brincat and Others v. Malta.

Bad Times for Asbestos Billionaire

Jul 24, 2014

This has been a bad summer for asbestos magnate Stephan Schmidheiny. A court announced he had been charged with the “voluntary [asbestos] manslaughter” of 213 Italians. Swiss companies, successors to Schmidheiney’s Eternit Asbestos Group, have lost a multimillion dollar asbestos case in the U.S. Nowadays, much of the Schmidheiny fortune is tied up with AVINA, a “philanthropic” institution engaged in whitewashing his reputation in Spain and elsewhere. See: Stephan Schmidheiny, el magnate del amianto y financiador de AVINA, ha tenido un verano aciago [The fateful summer of asbestos magnate and AVINA backer Stephan Schmidheiny].

Debunking Asbestos Defense Strategies

Jul 24, 2014

Asbestos defendants employ standard legal arguments to defeat personal injury asbestos claims. The most favoured stratagems are discussed in a two-part paper by attorney Christopher Meisenkocthen published in the journal New Solutions. The author looks at: “the supposed harmlessness of chrysotile asbestos… so-called idiopathic mesothelioma… the pernicious notions of safe exposure thresholds for asbestos and the unreliability of Tyndall lighting.” See: The Four Most Pernicious Myths in Asbestos Litigation: Part I. Safe Chrysotile and Idiopathic Mesothelioma and Part II. Safe Thresholds for Exposure and Tyndall Lighting as Junk Science.

Calls for Thai Government Action

Jul 22, 2014

A letter faxed on July 21, 2014 to the Thai authorities by representatives of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat is today (July 22) featured in an online article on a Thai website. In the run-up to a crucial meeting in August 2014, the letter, which was translated into Thai (see: English version of letter), urges the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order General Prayut Chanocha to support the April 2011 decision by the Thai Government to ban the import of asbestos on the grounds of public health – to avoid a tsunami of avoidable and deadly disease. See: International Calls for Thai asbestos ban.

Asbestosis in Maharashtra

Jul 22, 2014

A scandal is unfolding in the Indian State of Maharashtra involving personnel from an asbestos company, private doctors, factory inspectors and state authorities. For 15 years, 34-year old Yogesh Sawant had worked with asbestos in the Ashadeep Frictions Ltd. factory. When he fell ill, he was examined by company doctors who assured him that he was fine. At the end of 2013, he was seen by experts from the Union Ministry of Labour. He and co-worker Manoj Saroj were confirmed to be suffering from asbestosis; they are the first individuals with this condition to be recognized in the State. See: They lied to me for 15 years of my life, says asbestosis-afflicted labourer.

Asbestos Legacy in Basque Region

Jul 22, 2014

Basque courts are issuing increasing numbers of victims’ judgments in asbestos cases; more than 208 cases of asbestos death have been recognized in the Basque region. The highest court fine awarded was €410,150 (US$550,000) for the family of a construction worker who died in 2012 from mesothelioma contracted from occupational asbestos exposure. Having highlighted the role higher awards have on improving occupational health and safety, asbestos victims’ groups are calling for the establishment of a compensation fund to speed-up payments to the injured. See: Las sanciones por amianto se disparan en el País Vasco [Penalties for asbestos soar in the Basque Country].

National Disaster, Personal Tragedy

Jul 21, 2014

The core of this July 20th feature in a major Canadian newspaper is the tragic case of mesothelioma victim Dr. Patricia Martens, a senior research scientist at the Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, who was routinely exposed to asbestos as a student. According to Canadian experts, the hazards of accidental exposures to asbestos remain in a national infrastructure riddled with asbestos. While government agencies say that the dangers can be safely managed, trade unionists disagree: “All you have to do is knock a chair into the wall if it’s got asbestos, even though it’s intact [and] it’s never been disturbed … now it’s been disturbed. That’s all it takes.” See: The case against asbestos.

Asbestos Stops New Road

Jul 21, 2014

The discovery by university geologists of naturally occurring asbestos at a site earmarked for development has postponed work on a $490m highway bypass in Boulder City, Colorado. Construction scheduled to begin in Spring 2014 was delayed to allow for asbestos testing and analysis; results are expected in August 2014. In the absence of federal regulations for dealing with naturally occurring asbestos, states are expected to devise rules based on Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines. Nevada does not have any such regulations. See: Asbestos proves to be a microscopic road block near Boulder City.

Asbestos Health Warnings!

Jul 21, 2014

A seminar entitled “How Asbestos Affects Health” took place in Hanoi on July 17, 2014; the event was organized by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the World Health Organization (WHO). Having detailed the health consequences of human asbestos exposures, the Vietnamese guidelines to protect occupational health were explained by Ministry of Health officials. Despite WHO advice that the best way to prevent asbestos-related diseases was a total ban on its use, since 2000 Vietnam has imported, on average, 6,000 tons of asbestos per year, most of which is incorporated into asbestos-cement products. See: Asbestos may cause harmful health: WHO.

Companies Dispute U.S. Verdict

Jul 18, 2014

Two Swiss companies, which have inherited the asbestos liabilities of Stephan Schmidheiny’s Eternit Asbestos Group, are disputing a $90.5m judgment handed down by a U.S. Court. Anova Holding AG and Becon AG have told journalists that the Swiss legal system will not uphold this judgment as neither company has traded in the U.S. and as such did not mount a defense against the charges brought in the New Jersey Court on behalf of 11 bereaved families. See: Schmidheiny, 90 milioni alle vittime [Schmidheiny, $90 million to victims].

Government Mesothelioma Report

Jul 18, 2014

The Justice Committee will publish its report on Mesothelioma Claims (HC 308) on Friday August 1, 2014. On May 13, 2014 evidence was taken at a Parliamentary hearing, during which three victims’ and three insurers’ representatives spoke (see: British Asbestos Newsletter Issue 94). Following that session, a letter from the Association of British Insurers surfaced which seemed to substantiate claims made by asbestos victims of secret negotiations between Ministers and insurers to cap asbestos liabilities. See: The Justice Committee publishes its report Mesothelioma claims on Friday 1 August 2014.

Tories Savage Victims to Protect Donors

Jul 15, 2014

A cartoon featured in an article published on July 13th depicts fat cat Tory donors side-by-side with David Cameron as a wizened mesothelioma victim fights for breath. This image is an accurate representation of the unholy alliance substantiated by a private document sent in error to the the Commons Justice Committee by the Association of British Insurers. It revealed the existence of an understanding reached by Ministers with insurers – some of whom bankroll the Tory Party – to shortchange mesothelioma victims in what MP Andy McDonald categorized as a “dodgy deal”. See: David Cameron has insured one final insult for workers dying because of their job.

Support for Asbestos Agency

Jul 13, 2014

Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, established on July 1, 2013, could be shut down as a result of budget cuts imposed by the Abbott Government. On July 14, Australia’s Parliamentary Group on Asbestos-Related Diseases (PGARD) hosted a Parliamentary event in support of the Agency. Peter Tighe the Agency’s Chief Executive Officer and mesothelioma sufferer Lou Williams spoke at the session hosted by MP Russell Broadbent and Senator Lisa Singh MP, co-chairs of PGARD, a body set up “to enable Parliamentarians to come together to raise awareness of, and to stop the burden of, asbestos related disease.”

Death of Courageous Union Leader

Jul 10, 2014

Fernando Soto, a Spanish political and trade union leader who was imprisoned under the Franco dictatorship for his union activities, died on July 9, 2014 from mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer. Mr. Soto was a metallurgist who had worked with asbestos in the aircraft manufacturing industry. He also worked for a short time at the notorious asbestos-cement factory in Seville belonging to the Uralita Company. Mr. Soto was a Member of Parliament and Senator and was awarded the Medal of Andalusia in 1998 for his union career. See: Fallece el sindicalista Fernando Soto Martín a los 75 años [Unionist Fernando Soto Martin Dies at 75].

Another Victory for Brazilian Victims

Jul 10, 2014

For the second time in less than a month, a lawsuit brought by a Brazilian asbestos victim has succeeded against a major asbestos conglomerate: Brasilit. Last week, a former worker from a Brasilit asbestos-cement factory in Sao Caetano do Sul was awarded the sum of US$200,000 which included punitive damages for pleural plaques contracted after occupational exposure to chrysotile asbestos. See: VITÓRIA A&R: Brasilit é condenada a pagar indenização de R$ 200 mil a vítima de amianto crisotila [Victory A&R: Brasilit condemned to compensate asbestos victim].

Asbestos Dumping in French Forest

Jul 10, 2014

In the Mormal forest in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, asbestos-cement debris is being dumped on a regular basis. Although landfills exist which can safely accept the hazardous material, the high cost of legal disposal deters compliance with regulations which specify strict procedures for disposal of toxic waste. Specialized companies authorized to deal with the removal and disposal of asbestos debris exist, but they are expensive and far from this area. See: Locquignol: les dépôts sauvages d’amiante en forêt, une fatalité? [Locquignol: deadly asbestos deposits in forest].

Asbestos-free Products Sold in Russia

Jul 9, 2014

Russia has for some years been the world’s largest supplier of asbestos fiber with an annual production figure of around 1m tonnes. The Russian asbestos industry is powerful and well-connected so it is reassuring to know that despite the industry’s best efforts asbestos-free products are being made in Russia. The link below is to an article which cites the landmark Italian case against asbestos criminal Stephan Schmidheiny and the fact that the WHO and IARC declare asbestos to be a human carcinogen. The text highlights the dangers of asbestos and supports the use of safer asbestos-free alternatives. See: Осторожно асбест! [Caution – Asbestos!].

European Commission Quits HQ

Jul 9, 2014

At a meeting in Brussels on July 8, 2014 work progressed on plans to relocate European Commission personnel currently working in the asbestos-contaminated Jean-Monet building in Luxembourg. Officials pledged to follow the precautionary principle to prevent health repercussions to building users: “even though asbestos does not pose an immediate danger, this is an untenable situation,” said a Commission spokesman. A working group was constituted and as from today (July 9) will be exploring all options to relocate all staff from the Jean Monet building by the end of the year. See: Luxembourg: amiante dans le bâtiment Jean-Monnet [Luxembourg: asbestos in the Jean Monnet Building].

British Asbestos Newsletter

Jul 8, 2014

The spring issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The leading article in Issue 94, The Westminster Parliament and the Asbestos Tragedy, is an insightful analysis of the troubled asbestos history of the British Parliament. This feature presents a detailed report of the first evidence session held by the Justice Committee on mesothelioma claims on May 13, 2014. Other articles in this issue of the newsletter looked at: the issue of Asbestos in Schools, the establishment of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Tissue Bank and recent developments such as the resurrection of the HSE Hidden Killer Campaign. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, Issue 94.

Environmental Compensation Tops $100m

Jul 7, 2014

According to an article in the Japanese press on July 6, 2014, the Kubota Corporation has now paid out a total of $100+ million to 265 claimants with asbestos-related diseases who were environmentally exposed to asbestos liberated by processing operations at the company’s Kanzaki plant. These payments were made following a 2006 agreement negotiated by the company and local victims and relatives from the community. Japan, a major and long-standing asbestos consumer, did not implement a comprehensive ban on the use of all asbestos-containing products until 2012.

Toxic Building to be Evacuated

Jul 6, 2014

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has ordered the evacuation of the Jean Monnet building in Kirchberg, southern Luxembourg after asbestos contamination was discovered. Asbestos was identified in false ceilings, fire doors and floor tiles. Sixteen hundred people work at these premises, which are leased to the European Commission. Three cases of asbestos-related disease have been diagnosed amongst people who worked there. A European Commission spokesman responsible for these cases says: “We are doing our best to make sure that these people are receiving good medical care.” See: Asbestos scare - Jean Monnet building should be evacuated, says Bettel.

Asbestos Cancer in Colombia

Jul 6, 2014

Asbestos cancer is one of the many types of occupational diseases that are on the rise in Colombia. Victor Manuel worked as an operator in an asbestos factory for five years in the mid-1980s. The fibers he inhaled during that time resulted in him contracting malignant mesothelioma. He was diagnosed in 2010 at the age of 52; he was dead within a year. This was one of the first cases of occupational cancer to be recognized by the Ministry of Health. See: Las enfermedades laborales, un dolor de cabeza para los trabajadores [Occupational disease, a headache for workers].

Judgment against Eternit Companies

Jul 4, 2014

On July 2, 2014 a Superior Court Judge in New Jersey issued a claimants’ verdict ordering two Swiss companies, which did not contest the court proceedings, to pay $90.5m for the pain and suffering of 11 families who lost loved ones to asbestos cancer. The deceased had worked at the Johns Manville (JM) asbestos factory in Manville, NJ. The payouts, relating to the supply of asbestos to JM from the 1950s to the 1980s, are to be made by Anova Holding AG and Becon AG; these companies are successor companies to the Eternit group which was, for decades, a leading player in the mining and processing of asbestos. See: $90.5 million awarded to 11 Manville families who lost members to asbestos-related cancer.

Experts Call for Asbestos Ban

Jul 4, 2014

At a meeting organized by the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations in Hanoi last week, experts called for asbestos to be banned due to the human health hazard posed by asbestos-containing products. Research by the Ministry of Health documented the deadly risk not only to workers but also to people living near asbestos processing facilities or under asbestos roofs. Replacing asbestos with safer products is possible as well as advisable said Dr Le Van Trinh, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Labour Safety Science and Technology Association. See: Asbestos use in construction a labour hazard: experts.

Landmark Asbestos Ruling in Brazil

Jul 4, 2014

Imbralit, a company which manufactures asbestos-cement tiles in Criciúma, a city in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, has been ordered by Judge Zelaide de Souza Philippi of the Labor Court to pay US$1,000,000 for negligently exposing hundreds of workers to asbestos. Inspections by factory inspectors documented multiple infringements of workplace regulations as a result of which the health of workers was endangered. This verdict is, says labor lawyer Luciano Lima Leiva, a ground-breaking precedent which can be used to punish other law breakers in the construction and manufacturing sectors. See: IMBRALIT é condenada [Imbralit is convicted].

CEO Accused of Wilful Murder

Jul 2, 2014

Public Prosecutors in Turin have charged Stephan Schmidheiny, the former owner-CEO of the Swiss Eternit Asbestos Group, with the wilful murder of 213 people who worked for Eternit or lived in Casale Monferrato, the town where the company’s asbestos-cement factory was located. The cases in this action – known as Eternit bis – relate to exposures after 1976; the deaths took place between 1989 and 2013. Schmidheiny had previously been convicted of wilful environmental disaster for other asbestos-related deaths. See: L’ex ad di Eternit accusato di “omicidio volontario” [Former CEO at Eternit accused of “intentional homicide”].

Mesothelioma Deaths Increasing

Jul 2, 2014

Data released today (July 2) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirms what asbestos victims’ advocates know very well: the number of people dying from mesothelioma in the UK is rising. In 2012, 2,535 people died from mesothelioma, an 11% increase in one year. Reacting to this news, HSE Chair Judith Hackett said: “The high numbers of deaths relating to mesothelioma are a reminder of historically poor standards of workplace health and safety, which decades later are causing thousands of painful, untimely deaths each year.” See: New figures show all time low in fatal injuries to workers.

Charges Dropped in Asbestos Case

Jun 30, 2014

On June 27, 2014, the asbestos indictment against Martine Aubry, former French government Minister and now Mayor of Lille, was annulled in Paris by the Court of Appeal. The indictments of seven other government officials, scientists and industrialists involved in the Permanent Committee on Asbestos were also dropped. The accused had been charged with homicide and unintentional injuries for their role in the country’s asbestos epidemic. An appeal to the Supreme Court is being launched by the French victims’ group, ANDEVA. See: Amiante: la mise en examen de Martine Aubry a été annulée [Asbestos: the indictment of Martine Aubry has been cancelled].

Asbestos Alert in Glasgow

Jun 30, 2014

Suspected asbestos waste has been found near the athletes’ village for the Commonwealth Games which are due to commence on July 23. According to Scottish asbestos expert Robin Howie: “It is asbestos cement which looks as though it has been flytipped there.” Warning of the human health risk posed by exposure to this material, Howie called for the site to be sealed off and a thorough search to be made. The discovery was made in Dalmarnock by cyclist John Paul Clark who had some asbestos training at work. “I am not an expert,” he said “but it made me aware enough to know when I see asbestos. I could see the telltale signs from a mile away.” See: Commonwealth Games asbestos alert.

Bernstein’s Conflict of Interest

Jun 27, 2014

David Bernstein is a toxicologist often commissioned to promote asbestos industry disinformation that chrysotile (white) asbestos can be used safely. He has been paid to produce literature for scientific journals, speak at numerous pro-asbestos events and take part in discussions with national authorities and international agencies. Despite this, Bernstein stated in his 2014 article Health Risks of Chrysotile Asbestos that he had “no conflicts of interest.” A complaint has been sent to the journal in which this paper appeared demanding full disclosure of Bernstein’s ties with asbestos stakeholders. See: Scientist, financed by the asbestos industry, falsely states that he has no conflict of interest.

Lancet Publishes Mesothelioma Study

Jun 27, 2014

A randomized controlled trial in the UK compared the effectiveness of treatments for preventing the recurrence of pleural effusions and consequent breathlessness in mesothelioma patients. One hundred and ninety-six patients received pleurodesis, a procedure which drained off fluid and inserted sterile talc into the pleural space, or video assisted thoracoscopic surgery to remove fluid. While there was no difference in survival rates, the results suggest that the surgical procedure was better able to prevent further pleural effusions, thereby improving the patient’s quality of life. See: Effect of partial pleurectomy on survival in mesothelioma.

Landmark Case Condemns M&S

Jun 26, 2014

Janice Allen has mesothelioma contracted from exposure to asbestos whilst she was employed by Marks and Spencer (M&S) at its Marble Arch store in the 1970s and 1980s. Having consistently denied the allegations, the company finally admitted in April 2014 that it had breached its duty of care to Mrs. Allen (see: video in which Janice and her husband give an informative and moving account of the tragedy that has engulfed them). Solicitor Harminder Bains has expressed her concerns about other M&S employees and members of the public who may also have been exposed to asbestos due to inadequate safety procedures at M&S premises. See: Marks & Spencer asbestos case: 'I feel so angry and betrayed'.

Asbestos Response Taskforce

Jun 26, 2014

The Canberra Government has announced that a central body is being set up to coordinate action over the contamination of the capital’s homes by “Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos insulation.” The Asbestos Response Taskforce would, said Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, provide assistance, information and advice. Opposition politicians and campaigners are calling for real action backed by a funding commitment, and have categorized the government’s response as “manifestly inadequate.” On June 24, regulations were adopted which mandate asbestos training courses for all at-risk workers. See: Mr Fluffy asbestos taskforce set up to help homeowners.

Tighter Controls on Asbestos Removal

Jun 25, 2014

There has, over recent years, been a tightening up of regulations pertaining to asbestos abatement work in France. In 2008, it became mandatory for asbestos removal companies to obtain a license. In 2012, allowable exposure limits were decreased; on July 1, 2015, these limits will be further reduced. As from next Tuesday (July 1), certification will be required for workers who remove asbestos roofing. As a result of these changes, the price for removing asbestos-containing material prior to demolition has increased by up to 50%; it now represents at least half the total cost of deconstruction projects. See: Amiante: l'ajout de règles fait monter la facture [Asbestos: tightened controls increase bills].

“Old” Claim Allowed by Court

Jun 25, 2014

Earlier this month, an Australian Court of Appeal allowed an asbestos case to proceed despite the fact that the death which forms the basis of the claim occurred 19 years ago. Greg Hall was 44 years old when he died of mesothelioma; he had worked in automotive spare parts since he was 15. The case, which has been brought against WorkCover Queensland, could have ramifications for other claimants. It was lodged in 2011; in December 2013 the Supreme Court decided it was time-barred. The new decision is a result of court proceedings that began on May 28, 2014 in the Appeal Court. See: Woman to claim asbestos compensation 19 years after husband's death.

Check-ups for At-Risk Personnel

Jun 25, 2014

As clean-up operations proceed on asbestos-contaminated Irish ships, Parliament has been told that medical screenings are also being carried out on civilian employees who worked on the affected ships. Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence Paul Kehoe has confirmed that at-risk naval personnel have had check-ups and that “medical screening of civilian employees by an occupational health practitioner has commenced and will be completed in the coming weeks.” See: Medical exams underway on staff of navy ships where asbestos detected.

T&N Ltd. Loses Mesothelioma Case

Jun 24, 2014

After a two-week trial in a Massachusetts federal court, a jury found T&N Ltd., a subsidiary of the U.S. autoparts company Federal-Mogul (FM), liable for the 2010 mesothelioma death of a pipefitter who had been exposed to asbestos whilst using T&N’s Limpet spray insulation during the construction of the Prudential Tower in Boston in the early 1960s. The lawsuit was brought by FM’s asbestos trust against the former British insulation manufacturer. A report on the $9.3 million wrongful death verdict says it brings the “trust closer to tapping a wealth of prebankruptcy insurance.” See: Federal-Mogul Bankruptcy Trust Wins $9.3M Asbestos Verdict.

Update on Schools’ Asbestos Regime

Jun 24, 2014

A report published yesterday (June 23) by the Health and Safety Executive revealed that a substantial number of schools outside of local authority control – including foundation, voluntary aided, independent, academy and free schools – in England, Scotland and Wales were not following protocols for the safe management of asbestos as specified under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Forty-four schools (29%) received written advice, with enforcement action taken in 20 of these schools (13%) – an Improvement Notice was served on each of these 20 schools. See: Asbestos management in schools outside of local authority control 2013/14.

Landmark Italian Asbestos Judgment

Jun 23, 2014

The Civil Court of Venice has upheld the rights not only of the wife and children of a shipyard worker killed by occupational asbestos exposure in 2001 after years of suffering but has also awarded compensation to three of his grandchildren. Judge Paul Talamo ruled that the illness and death of this worker would have been preventable had adequate precautions been taken by his employers in the 1970s and 1980s. The deceased’s wife was awarded €190,000; each of the three children was awarded €130,000; and the grandchildren are to receive €22,000 each. See: Ucciso dall’amianto, maxi risarcimento [Killed by asbestos, maxi compensation].

Capital’s Asbestos Crisis

Jun 23, 2014

The Australian capital’s asbestos crisis shows no signs of letting up. The presence of “Mr Fluffy” asbestos in 1,000+ homes has been a disaster for residents as well as property owners. Calls were made at a public meeting in Canberra on June 21 for the government to take the financial responsibility for this problem and to cover the relocation costs and other expenses being incurred by those affected. In the meantime, The Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly has agreed to waive fees for the disposal of asbestos debris from contaminated properties. See: Mr Fluffy victims call for crisis support and rebuilding costs.

Landmark Asbestos Project

Jun 23, 2014

Contractors employed to remove 860 square meters of Uralita asbestos-cement roofing tiles from the Andalucia Cinema in Malaga completed the decontamination on June 21, 2014. The work was undertaken by the only company specialized in asbestos removal in the area. Explaining the delay in beginning the asbestos removal, which was commissioned after a fire on March 15, José Antonio Méndez said that the plan of action developed by the company needed to obtain certification from the Ministries of Environment, Labour and Health. See: Cine Andalucía: Mucho mejor sin Amianto [Andalucia Cinema: Much better without Asbestos].

Asbestos Motion Passed by Parliament

Jun 19, 2014

On June 18, 2014, a motion was passed by the Italian Parliament which committed the Government to a series of measures to address the national asbestos tragedy, including the increasing number of injured (victims of both occupational and environmental exposures), the contamination of infrastructure and widespread environmental pollution. Approval was given to the National Asbestos Plan which included funding “consistent with the current constraints on public finances” required to implement recommendations. See: Italian Parliamentary Asbestos Motion, June 18, 2014.

Europe’s Asbestos Crisis

Jun 19, 2014

At a meeting held by the World Health Organization on June 10 and 11 at its headquarters in Bonn, representatives and experts from 16 European countries took part in discussions about how to end Europe’s epidemic of asbestos-related diseases. Participants highlighted the need for occupational disease registers to: better understand national situations, take effective action and raise awareness on the challenges amongst policy makers and the public. A discussion about asbestos removal led Member States to call for support to develop waste management strategies and identify asbestos substitutes. See: Making the European Region free of asbestos-related diseases.

Court Challenge over Asbestos

Jun 19, 2014

Tenants from the French island of Réunion are in dispute with the Housing Agency (SIDR) over the failure to progress redevelopment work and remove asbestos contamination in housing stock on the Réunion island of Camélias. In 2012, the presence of asbestos was reported in units built in the 1960s, but no further information has been made available. The SIDR has, however, said that there is “no friable asbestos in Réunion.” The tenants’ frustration over the lack of action has led them to commence legal proceedings. The case will be heard on July 3. See: Amiante: Nouvel épisode du bras de fer entre locataires et la SIDR [New incident between tenants and Housing Authority].

Asbestos Disease in Rag Sorters

Jun 19, 2014

Data presented last month by the Italian Institute for the Study and Prevention of Cancer documented an elevated incidence of asbestos cancer amongst former rag sorters employed to recycle hessian bags used for the transport of asbestos fiber. Epidemiological research covering the years from 1988 to 2012 showed that the rag sorters had a mesothelioma incidence ranging from 74 to 166 cases per 100,000. The incidence in the rest of the textile industry was 3.5 cases per 100,000. See: Amianto killer degli stracciaioli, a Prato malati come nella fabbrica dell’Eternit [Asbestos Deaths of Rag Sorters ...].

Asbestos Fraud in Mining Sector

Jun 17, 2014

A multimillion dollar fine and jail sentences exceeding five years were handed down by federal judge Mara Elisa Andrade to former business executives who colluded in the operation of a fraud which deprived the state of Goiás and the municipality of Minaçu of financial compensation for exploiting mineral resources – i.e. chrysotile asbestos. The criminal operation ran from 1991 to 1997 and was related to the production of asbestos at the Sama mine; it cost the State more than US$16 million. See: MPF/GO consegue a condenação de envolvidos em estelionato contra o DNPM [Federal prosecutor convicts asbestos mining businessmen].

Miners Compensation Campaign

Jun 17, 2014

A news segment broadcast on June 16, 2014 on Canadian TV documented the fight for compensation by Newfoundland’s former asbestos miners, many of whom have contracted asbestos-related diseases. The Baie Verte mine closed 20 years ago but the majority of the mine workers suffering from asbestos-related diseases have been denied compensation. A report released this week has documented the impact of the hazardous occupational exposures experienced. Calls are being made for the State to introduce legislation to ensure that the injured are compensated. See: Former Newfoundland asbestos mine workers fight government.

Asbestos Demonstration in Bordeaux

Jun 16, 2014

Hundreds of asbestos victims took to the Bordeaux streets this morning. Local sufferers were joined by compatriots from other asbestos hotspots in south-west France. They gathered in front of the headquarters of the Regional Health Authority with banners which had mottos such as “lethal profession” and “asbestos kills.” This afternoon, a demonstration was held outside the Court of Appeal where 48 asbestos cases are being heard; the claims being reviewed relate to anxiety over occupational asbestos exposures. See: A Bordeaux, les victimes de l'amiante se rebiffent [Asbestos protest in Bordeaux].

Asbestos Maritime Legacy

Jun 16, 2014

Three percent of the ships tested in a survey carried out by the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji contained asbestos. The results of the dust and air tests indicated that the levels of asbestos present were below 0.01 f/ml. At this level, the authorities said, the threat posed was “deemed to be negligible.” Nevertheless, to comply with the asbestos guidelines of the International Maritime Organization, the ships’ owners must ensure that control measures are in place “to eliminate or minimize exposure and prevent further release of asbestos." See: Asbestos on ships.

Football’s World Cup and Asbestos

Jun 16, 2014

Journalist Stephen Bertolino has published a report detailing asbestos contamination caused by clearance of low-income neighborhoods (favelas) undertaken prior to the construction of venues for the 2014 World Cup. In Brazil, the world’s 4th biggest producer of asbestos, asbestos is widely used in construction materials and water tanks; there is no doubt the demolished premises contained asbestos. Bertolino says that the asbestos contamination which has occurred will lead to an epidemic of fatal diseases and cancers. See: Favelas demolite per i mondiali di calcio: in Brasile scoppia l'emergenza Amianto [Favelas demolished for the World Cup: asbestos emergency in Brazil].

Asbestos Crimes in Castelló, Spain

Jun 16, 2014

Thirty-nine people have been indicted by the Spanish authorities for the illegal dismantling of an asbestos-riddled derelict tile factory in the City of Villarreal. They are alleged to have committed crimes against the environment as well as other crimes. The company owning the industrial site is now bankrupt and it is believed that the individuals charged were involved in operations to salvage metal, roofing materials and other parts of the building’s infrastructure without implementing mandatory measures to minimize hazardous exposures to asbestos. See: 39 acusados por manipular amianto en Villarreal [39 charged with handling asbestos in Villarreal].

Award for Asbestos Campaigner

Jun 14, 2014

The incredible work of Michael Lees, the Founder of the Asbestos in Schools Group, was recognized today when he was named in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. He received an MBE, an order of chivalry, for services to the Wellbeing of Children and Teachers. Since his school teacher wife died in 2000 at the age of 51 from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, Michael has been campaigning to raise awareness of the dangers posed by asbestos contamination in UK schools. He was worked collaboratively with asbestos victims, trade unionists, politicians, civil servants and others to address the threats posed to teachers, staff and children. See: Queen's birthday honours list 2014: MBE.

No Safe Use

Jun 14, 2014

A hard-hitting series has today been published in the Globe and Mail which explores the tragedy caused by Canadian asbestos mining at home and abroad. The articles are illustrated with stunning black and white photographs which highlight the human tragedy caused by Canada’s exploitation of the “magic mineral.” The topics covered include: The Invisible Epidemic, Exposure is still Widespread, Boom Years, Six Months to Live, Officially Safe in Canada and What is to be Done. Quotes from international experts reinforce the need for the authorities to act urgently to address the issues caused by asbestos contamination of the infrastructure and environment. See: No Safe Use.

Government Colludes with Insurers

Jun 13, 2014

A letter written by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has this week been made public. The letter confirms what asbestos victims have long suspected: the existence of a behind-closed-doors-deal between insurers and the Government which would, according to Ian McFall from Thompsons’ Solicitors (see: Government ‘behind closed doors’ deal with insurers comes to light) “benefit the insurance industry and [be] to the detriment of mesothelioma claimants.” Asbestos victims agree: “this appalling deal offends against the very principles of transparency and fairness.” See: Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK Press Release.

Award for Awareness Campaign

Jun 13, 2014

On June 12, 2014 at a ceremony in Amsterdam held during a meeting of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, a high-profile and prize-winning Australian campaign by a specialist media company from Sydney beat international competitors to secure an industry award for “Best Use of Communication Management: Not-for-Profit (Bronze).” Central to the winning entry was the innovative marketing and community outreach tool: “Betty – The ADRI House.” Attending the ceremony to accept the honor were Directors Clare and Alice Collins, the mother and daughter team who run the Insight Agency. See: Media Release.

Aftermath of Asbestos Fire

Jun 12, 2014

Public concern is high after a fire destroyed an asbestos-cement roofed storage building in the outskirts of Tel Aviv. A strong wind spread the smoke and toxins from the fire throughout one of the country’s largest industrial zones, where thousands of people work in high rise buildings. The Ministry of Environmental Protection is advising people to stay away from the area until decontamination work has been completed. Local residents were told to: stay indoors, keep windows shut and air conditioners off to avoid inhaling asbestos fibers. This incident is the latest of many which have released asbestos into the environment. See: Asbestos fire survival guide.

Mining Legacy in Corsica

Jun 12, 2014

Corsica’s Canari asbestos mine was one of the biggest in Europe; it operated from 1930 until 1965. The mine and the surrounding area were designated a polluted site by the Ministry of Environment in 1994. Although preventative work begun earlier in the year has stopped, monitoring of the contaminated site continues according to a local news source. From June 10 to June 27, 2014 surveyors will examine erosion and water flow. The work is scheduled to take place at night so as not to affect traffic. See: Corse, Environnement: “derniers travaux sur l’usine d’amiante de Canari” [Corsica, Environment: “latest work on the Canari asbestos factory”].

Ministerial Asbestos Briefing

Jun 11, 2014

Civil society activists today briefed India’s Minister of Mines, Steel and Labor on the urgent need to ban asbestos to end the human suffering caused by exposure to a substance designated by international authorities as a human carcinogen. Details were provided of the high incidence of asbestos-related diseases amongst people working in various sectors including shipbreaking and asbestos processing. A copy of a 2011 document issued by the Indian government was shown to the Minister which clearly stated that the government was “considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population.” See: Press Release and Photo of Gopal Krishna briefing Minster.

Asbestos Issues on Parliament's Agenda

Jun 11, 2014

In a debate in the Italian Parliament yesterday (June 10), politicians expressed concerns about the slow pace of asbestos eradication. Even though Italy banned the use of asbestos in 1992, millions of tonnes of asbestos-contaminated products and debris continue to pose a health risk to citizens. The consequences to Italy’s schoolchildren from hazardous exposures at school were highlighted during the debate. A National Asbestos Initiative announced by the government in March 2013 remains under consideration but has not yet been implemented. See: L’amianto torna in Parlamento [Asbestos on Parliamentary Agenda, Again].

Authorities Arrest Toxic Japanese Ship

Jun 11, 2014

The Flemish Environment Ministry has seized a Japanese owned end-of-life ship called Global Spirit which was en route to India. Until the owners provide the authorities with evidence that the toxic ship, believed to contain asbestos as well as other hazardous materials, will be dismantled in accordance with European laws, the vessel will remain in Belgium. The NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, which had highlighted its concerns over the Global Spirit, has issued a press release which calls on the ship’s owners “to find a sustainable solution for their entire fleet – a not only the Global Spirit.” See: Press Release: Japanese End-of-Life Ship Arrested in the Port of Antwerp.

Multimillion Asbestos Research Grant

Jun 10, 2014

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have been awarded a $10 million grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences over the next four years “to study asbestos exposure pathways that lead to mesothelioma, the bioremediation of this hazardous material, and mechanisms that lead to asbestos-related diseases.” Issues to be investigated include: the remediation of asbestos disposal sites, the threat posed by environmental asbestos contamination, the existence of a genetic predisposition to develop mesothelioma and measures to prevent disease in exposed subjects. See: Penn receives $10 million award to study asbestos adverse health effects, remediation.

Awareness Campaign Nomination

Jun 9, 2014

On June 12, 2014 at a ceremony in Amsterdam held during a meeting of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), winning projects will be announced. A finalist in the category of “Best Use of Communication Management: Not-for-Profit” is a campaign developed by Insight Communications for the Asbestos Education Committee in Partnership with the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute – Don’t Play Renovation Roulette Asbestos Awareness Week 2012. We wish them luck! See: Asbestos Awareness website.

Proposed Policy not fit for Purpose

Jun 9, 2014

A Discussion Document released by New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment outlining proposals for new health and safety regulations describes the country’s asbestos policy as being out of step with other countries, including Australia and Europe. The text criticised aspects of The Health and Safety at Work Act; weaknesses highlighted included a lack of rigor in asbestos sampling protocols, lack of training for at-risk workers and confusion over responsibilities of various stakeholders. Calls are made for New Zealand to urgently ban asbestos imports. See: NZ out of step on asbestos – ministry.

Nicaraguan Asbestos Epidemic

Jun 8, 2014

The dominant force in Nicaragua’s asbestos sector was the Swiss Eternit asbestos group, owned by the Schmidheiny family. From 1967 until 1996 the Eternit company operated the Nicalit asbestos-cement factory in San Rafael del Sur, 45 miles from the capital. Testimonies by some of the 1,800 former workers at this plant detail the lack of workplace precautions to minimize hazardous exposures to asbestos. The Association of Former Nicalit workers has documented many cases of asbestos-related deaths. See: Nicalit: el monopolio del amianto en Nicaragua del magnate suizo Schmidheiny [Nicalit: the Nicaragua monopoly of Swiss asbestos magnate].

State Ordered to Pay Compensation

Jun 8, 2014

The Orléans Administrative Court has condemned the French State for failing to implement measures to protect factory workers from asbestos exposures. This ruling is the result of an appeal by Latty International which had been found guilty of the asbestos-related death of a former worker. Latty claimed that as the State’s inaction on asbestos had been negligent, it should pay the compensation awarded by the Versailles Court of Appeal. The Orléans Court ordered the State to pay €127,330 to the company. See: Scandale de l'amiante : l'État condamné [Asbestos scandal: the State is condemned].

Environmental Asbestos Legacy

Jun 7, 2014

On World Environment Day 2014 (June 5), a coalition of community activists, environmentalists and local politicians filed a complaint with the State Attorney General’s office in Madrid about the public health hazard posed by environmental asbestos contamination in Toledo. Included in the dossier submitted to the authorities, were current photographs of discarded toxic waste produced by a local asbestos manufacturer which closed down its operations in 2004. See: Cuatro colectivos llevan al Fiscal del Estado el amianto del Polígono [Civil Society Groups Issue Asbestos Complaint].

Mobilization by Asbestos Victims

Jun 7, 2014

On June 3, 2014, a German TV program was broadcast which focused on the plight of German asbestos victims, most of whom are refused compensation for their injuries. Calls are being made for restrictive laws and protocols to be changed. These and other issues will be discussed at the June 23, 2014 annual meeting of the German Asbestos Victims’ Organization which will, for the first time, be held in Cologne. Taking part in this event will be asbestos victims, family members, trade unionists, campaigners and experts. See: Kölner Asbest-Workshop [Cologne Asbestos Workshop].

Drug Company Loses Appeal

Jun 6, 2014

In a judgment handed down in Paris on June 5, 2014 by the Court of Appeal, the Sanofi pharmaceutical company was found guilty of “gross negligence” for the asbestos death in 2010 of a former employee. The deceased, who had worked for 37 years at the company’s plant in Vitry-sur-Seine, died from lung cancer at the age of 63. Compensation of €200,000 was awarded to the victim’s family. See: Amiante: Sanofi condamné en appel pour "faute inexcusable" après la mort d'un salarié [Asbestos: Sanofi sentenced on appeal for “gross negligence” after the death of an employee].

Asbestos Trial of Pirelli Executives

Jun 6, 2014

Piero Sierra is on trial in Milan with other former Pirelli executives accused of involuntary manslaughter for the asbestos-related deaths of former factory workers. In what many would regard as a conflict of interest, Sierra was, for a period of nine years, also the head of the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC). According to witnesses, no measures were implemented by Pirelli to protect workers from the asbestos hazard at the factories. See: Amianto, tra gli imputati del processo Pirelli anche l’ex presidente dell’Airc [Asbestos, among defendants in Pirelli trial is former president of AIRC].

Asbestos Giant Hits Out at Critics

Jun 6, 2014

As the Brazilian Supreme Court continues deliberations regarding the constitutionality of asbestos use in Brazil, the trade association representing the country’s asbestos sector has gone on the offensive. In a press release issued last week, Marina Julia Aquino, President of the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute, regurgitated industry propaganda and excuses about why the use of asbestos cannot be prohibited – Brazil’s asbestos is safe, poor people cannot afford alternative products, the deadly effects of asbestos are related to past practices – to counter growing support for a national ban. See: A guerra suja contra o amianto [The dirty war against asbestos].

Major Victory for Asbestos Victims

Jun 5, 2014

The Swiss authorities have announced that they will not challenge a decision handed down in March 2014 by the European Court of Human Rights which supported claims by an asbestos widow and her family for the death of an asbestos-exposed worker, even though the statute of limitations had, according to Swiss law, expired. In addition, the authorities have announced that the limitation period for personal injury claims in Switzerland will be extended from ten to thirty years. See: Bund akzeptiert Asbest-Urteil des Strassburger Gerichts [Confederation accepts asbestos judgment of the Strasbourg Court].

Death Caused by Asbestos Crime

Jun 5, 2014

An HSE investigation resulted in a jail sentence of one year being handed down on June 4, 2014 by Worcester Crown Court to Robert Marsh who had supplied used asbestos-containing sheets for the construction of a new barn in Frankley, Worcestershire. The illegal sale of the banned material came to light after Tony Podmore, a 56-year-old construction worker, fell through the fragile roof in June 2011 and later died. Judge Michael Cullum called Mr Marsh’s actions “wholly reprehensible;” he acted, said the Judge, out of “selfish self-interest” to maximise profit at the expense of health and safety. See: Shropshire director jailed for illegal supply of asbestos sheeting after worker fell to his death.

Japanese Asbestos Victims Meet

Jun 3, 2014

On Saturday May 31, Ban Asbestos Japan (BANJAN) held its 26th annual meeting in Tokyo. The discussions were preceded by an outdoor rally and outreach activities with members of the public. The subject addressed during the discussions was “Ten years after the Global Asbestos Congress 2004.” The keynote presentation was given by Professor Ken Takahashi. Other speakers included asbestos victims, family members, Dr. Yuji Natori and trade unionist Satoru Takyu. Several BANJAN members who took part are due to take part in discussions with Korean and Indonesian activists in Seoul this week. See: Picture of BANJAN meeting.

ETUC Rejects EU Asbestos Proposal

Jun 3, 2014

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is calling for an end to the EU derogation which allows chrysotile asbestos diaphragms to be used in the production of chlorine and for rejection of proposals to allow chrysotile asbestos imports into the EU. In comments submitted to the European Chemicals Agency in May 2014, the ETUC said the European Commission and Member States must, in light of the availability of safer asbestos-free substitutes, honor the EU’s commitment to a global asbestos ban. See: ETUC comments on the amendment of entry 6 (asbestos fibres) of REACH ANNEX XVII.

Asbestos Removal in Hungary

Jun 3, 2014

An association representing asbestos removal firms in Hungary has warned that decontaminating the country’s buildings could cost tens of billions of dollars. Sprayed asbestos fireproofing was widely used in the past and experts believe that many residential buildings could still contain 150,000 - 200,000 square meters of this highly toxic material. The association is lobbying government to prioritize the removal of asbestos and to educate the public and workers about the asbestos hazard in order to minimize dangerous exposures. Asbestos use is banned in Hungary. See: Asbestos decontamination in Hungary to cost HUF20bn-25bn.

Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases

Jun 2, 2014

The headline article in the June 2014 newsletter of the National [Australian] Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases (NCARD) pays tribute to Australian mesothelioma sufferer Rod Triplett who died on March 10, 2014. Rod was an expert builder who had been exposed to asbestos-containing construction materials throughout his career. Other articles in the newsletter cover awards received by NCARD Director Bruce Robinson and NCARD Professor Anna Novak as well as a visit to NCARD by Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. See: NCARD Newsletter, June 2014.

Saskatchewan Sets Asbestos Agenda

Jun 2, 2014

As of June 1, 2014, compliance became mandatory with regulations intended to protect workers in Saskatchewan from the asbestos hazard; infringements could result in fines of up to $20,000. Howard’s Law – named after asbestos victim, campaigner and public building inspector Howard Willems – stipulates that owners of public buildings compile and register asbestos audits of their properties to prevent workplace exposures due to building repairs and maintenance work. Saskatchewan’s web-based asbestos registry is the first and only one of its kind in Canada. See: Asbestos registry expanded for Saskatchewan public buildings.

Asbestos Risk to Schoolchildren

Jun 1, 2014

A study of the condition of the Italian educational infrastructure has highlighted the risk of asbestos exposure in 2,000+ schools. This hazard is a threat to the health of 342,000 children as well as thousands of teachers, support staff and maintenance workers. Serious problems were also identified with electrical and plumbing systems as well as structural integrity of buildings. Responding to this report, the government has earmarked billions of euros to update and secure school buildings. See: Intonaci che crollano e amianto Il Censis lancia l’allarme scuole [Italian study highlights asbestos risk at schools].

Asbestos in Quebec Schools

Jun 1, 2014

To comply with stricter regulations adopted by Quebec’s Ministry of Education, asbestos audits are being progressed in Sherbrooke, a region at the center of Quebec’s former asbestos-producing heartland. A detailed survey is planned for each primary and secondary establishment so that workers and building users will be protected from hazardous exposures; asbestos was widely used in Quebec’s schools. Budget allocations for this work are being integrated into municipal investment plans. See: Amiante dans les écoles: les CS dresseront un inventaire [Asbestos in Schools: CS develop an inventory].

Exposure in Tasmanian Capital

May 31, 2014

Results of an investigation undertaken by WorkSafe Tasmania have confirmed that occupational asbestos exposures did occur at the $100 million Parliament Square development site in Hobart, the state capital. The project, one of Tasmania’s biggest, will include an office building and a public square with an amphitheater. Three workers were exposed to asbestos during the early stages of the demolition work. Invitations from the construction union to meet with the developers – the Citta Property Group – have been declined. See: Unions Tasmania Media Release: Asbestos Exposure Confirmed.

Asbestos Activists Call for Action

May 30, 2014

Members of the Italian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed were joined by representatives of trade unions CGIL, CISL and UIL at an asbestos demonstration in Rome on Friday, May 30. Activists distributed asbestos awareness information in several piazzas in the city to coincide with the launch of a new asbestos online initiative by the authorities in Rome. The slogan “liberate Rome from asbestos” was seen on placards and leaflets. See: “Liberiamo la città dall’amianto”; Il I Municipio apre le info online [“We free the city from asbestos”; the Town Hall opens online information service.].

Victory for Asbestos Victims!

May 30, 2014

On May 30, 2014 the labor court in Chaumont recognized for the first time the right of asbestos-exposed workers to be compensated for anxiety over the repercussions of hazardous workplace exposures. The claimants, each of whom was awarded €10,000, were former McCormack employees. Welcoming the historic decision, Pascal Vaglio, President of the association of asbestos victims in Haute-Marne, told a journalist that the compensation was for the very real anxiety suffered by at-risk workers who are fully aware of the painful asbestos deaths of their colleagues. See: Amiante: le préjudice d'anxiété reconnu à Chaumont [Asbestos injury anxiety recognized in Chaumont].

Calls to Restart Asbestos Mining

May 30, 2014

Calls were made in Harare yesterday for the recommencement of asbestos mining in Zimbabwe. At the official launch of the Zimbabwe chrysotile asbestos position paper, businessman John Jere estimated that over $180 million could be generated through the resuscitation of the asbestos mines in Shabanie and Mashaba. Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha said: “Zimbabwe still has the potential to be one of the world’s largest producers of high quality chrysotile asbestos fibre and contribute immensely to employment generation and the downstream industries.” See: Resuscitate Shabanie, Mashaba asbestos mines.

Asian Asbestos Conference

May 30, 2014

The third international workshop for Asian asbestos victims will take place in Seoul on June 12-13, 2014. Participants will include asbestos victims, campaigners and experts from Korea, Japan and Indonesia who will consider measures to improve the care of and support for asbestos patients in their countries. The sessions have been organized by the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea, the Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos Related Disease Victims and their Families and the Indonesia Ban Asbestos Network. Sponsorship has been obtained from a consortium of groups including the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. See: Workshop Poster.

Family Crushed by Asbestos Verdict

May 30, 2014

On May 29, 2014, a Labor Court in Spain issued a verdict which could result in the family of an asbestos cancer victim losing their home. Legal proceedings initiated by Ana Saavedra, the daughter of a former shipyard worker who died at 58 years old, were concluded yesterday with a verdict against the family. Unfortunately, the doctor who was scheduled to testify did not attend the court. The Judge ordered that the family pay €98,600 (US$80,243). See: Denuncia que le condenan a pagar 98.600 euros por un juicio de un caso de amianto [Verdict of €98,600 goes against family of asbestos victim].

Asbestos: Environmental Dimension

May 30, 2014

While the media has covered Italy’s epidemic of asbestos-related disease due to occupational exposure, cohorts of people have also been suffering from these diseases due to environmental exposure from unremediated sites. One such cluster in the “forgotten massacre” is to be found in Campania where air monitoring has found 27 asbestos fibers per liter of air. Local authorities have been asked to evacuate the area and school children have already been screened for symptoms. A few months ago, the prosecutor began an investigation into asbestos deaths. See: Amianto, la strage dimenticata [Asbestos, a forgotten massacre].

Mesothelioma: Research Findings

May 30, 2014

Doctors at the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul undertook a study of 66 pleural malignant mesothelioma patients over an 18-year period beginning in 1995. The age range of the patients was from 28 to 80 years old with an average age of 56.84 years; average overall survival was 15.39 months. One third of the patients underwent a pneumonectomy. Asbestos-exposure data was missing in 65 out of the 66 cases. The researchers concluded that: “The combination of calretinin, Wilms tumor 1, HMBE-1, and thyroid transcription factor-1 may provide high diagnostic accuracy in diagnosing mesothelioma.” See: Pleural mesothelioma: an institutional experience of 66 cases.

Death of Worker under Investigation

May 29, 2014

On May 28, 2014, the Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) directed the District Magistrate to appear before the Commission on July 9, 2014 to report on the operations of the Ramco asbestos-cement factory in Bihiya; specifically the Magistrate was instructed to address the issue of the lung cancer fatality of former Ramco asbestos worker Virendra Jumar Singh. The BHRC had been petitioned about this matter by the ToxicsWatch Alliance which was seeking its intervention to protect workers and communities from the hazardous repercussions of Ramco’s asbestos processing operations. See: Bihar Human Rights Commission Order May 28, 2014.

Bologna: Asbestos Hotspot.

May 29, 2014

In Bologna, an industrial town in the north of Italy, the local epidemic of asbestos-related diseases shows no sign of abating. Five former workers from a local employer have died in the last five months from the asbestos cancer: mesothelioma. They had all worked for decades at the Officine railways works on the maintenance, renovation and repair of locomotives or cars. See: Amianto, la strage infinita degli operai: quinto morto in cinque mesi a Bologna [Asbestos, the endless massacre of workers: five dead in five months in Bologna].

Asbestos Criminal Trial 2015

May 29, 2014

French asbestos victims are confident that next year a criminal trial will begin along the lines of the one that took place in Italy, in which former asbestos businessmen and directors were held to account for the crimes committed during manufacturing operations at Eternit asbestos-cement factories. It is believed that French Eternit director Joseph Cuvelier, who was indicted in November 2009 by Judge Bertella-Geffroy, could be amongst those on trial. It is predicted that 100,000 asbestos-related deaths could occur by 2025. See: Eternit : le profil d'un procès de l'amiante au pénal se dessine à l'horizon 2015.

Calls to Curb Toxic Trade

May 28, 2014

On May 27, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a call for countries to increase taxes on tobacco on May 31, World No Tobacco Day. People who smoke die prematurely from several diseases. People who smoke and are exposed to asbestos are at a highly elevated risk of contracting lung cancer. For this reason, global ban asbestos campaigners have urged the WHO and the International Labor Organization to adopt a World No Asbestos Day! See: WHO calls for higher tobacco taxes to save more lives.

Analysis of Mesothelioma Risk

May 28, 2014

Researchers from Australia and Italy have published findings based on data from six cohort studies of asbestos-exposed workers and two cohorts of individuals with residential exposure. The scientists concluded that: “the rate and risk of pleural MM [malignant mesothelioma] increased until 45 years following first exposure and then appeared to increase at a slower power of time since first exposure. The rate of increase in peritoneal MM over the 10-50 years since first exposure continued to increase.” See: Mesothelioma risk after 40 years since first exposure to asbestos: a pooled analysis.

New Workplace Regulations

May 27, 2014

From May 30, 2014 tighter restrictions will be enforced to protect workers from the hazards of asbestos exposures in Singapore. The new Workplace Safety and Health (Asbestos) Regulations, which replace the Factories (Asbestos) Regulations, mandate that asbestos audits be carried out before any refurbishment or demolition work is undertaken. The surveys must be conducted by someone trained to a standard recognized by the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications framework. Although Singapore banned the import of raw asbestos in 1989, there is no ban on the use of asbestos-containing products. See: New asbestos safety rules take effect from Friday.

Asbestos Disaster in New Zealand

May 27, 2014

It has long been known that New Zealand’s policy on asbestos is failing. In recent days, evidence about the deadly repercussions of this situation has been revealed. In the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, the number of complaints of asbestos exposure to workers has risen by 350% (see: Asbestos complaints rocketing). Although this rise is extremely disturbing it is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are no requirements in New Zealand which stipulate that companies report incidents of asbestos exposure. Trade unions are calling for immediate action to protect at-risk trades and householders from the hazard.

Executives Guilty of Manslaughter

May 27, 2014

On May 23, 2014, a criminal judge in Southern Italy sentenced 27 directors of a steel producing company to a total of 189 years in jail for environmental disaster and manslaughter caused by occupational exposures to asbestos and other carcinogens. The charges relate to asbestos deaths of 15 workers who died between 2004 and 2010. The sentences handed down ranged from 4 to 9½ years. The court proceedings lasted two years; during this time workers, doctors, engineers and others described hazardous conditions prevalent at the factory. See: Ilva, condannati 27 ex dirigenti per le morti da amianto [Ilva, sentences 27 former executives for asbestos deaths].

Mesothelioma in Gujarat

May 23, 2014

In a letter written on May 7, 2014, the Gujarat Cancer Research Institute in Ahmedabad confirmed that between 2008 and 2014 sixty-six patients with mesothelioma had been treated. This information was released after a determined effort by grass-roots activist Manwar Raghunath who in 2009 and 2014 submitted requests under the Right to Information Act 2005. Eighty-nine percent (59) of the patients had pleural mesothelioma and 11% (7) had peritoneal mesothelioma. There were no cases of pericardial mesothelioma. India remains the biggest importer of asbestos fiber; in 2012, the latest year for which data are available, national usage was 493,086 tonnes.

Judicial Victory for Trade Union

May 23, 2014

The Unite trade union has today announced that it has won a judicial review against HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) which had failed to comply with a request by the Liverpool coroner to produce a work history for trade union member Mr. Carmichael who died from asbestosis. HMRC demanded that the coroner obtain a High Court order before action would be taken. The Administrative Court stated that “There were some 2,576 conclusions of industrial disease from inquests in 2012.” The HMRC was, it said required “to produce a work history for the coroner’s inquest…” See: Unite Press release.

Asbestos Initiative in Santa Catarina

May 23, 2014

On May 22, 2014, a new public awareness campaign was launched in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina by the Public Ministry which featured a hard-hitting poster warning of the deadly dangers of asbestos exposure. The capital letter headline “ELIMATE ASBESTOS; IT’S A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH” is accompanied by the photograph of Aldo Vincentin, a former asbestos-cement factory worker who died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Santa Catarina has not banned asbestos; the states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Sul and Mato Grosso and 31 municipalities have.

James Hardie: Profits and Liabilities

May 22, 2014

Business is good for James Hardie (JH) the multinational building products manufacturer responsible for much of the asbestos-related disease in Australia. Accounts just published show that net profits have doubled since last year; for the year to March 31, they were $US99.5 million. JH is obligated to put up to 35 per cent of its operating cash flow into the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund to provide payments to Australian victims of asbestos-related diseases. Actuaries estimate that due to a surge in claims, JH’s total asbestos liabilities have risen by $177 million since last year. See: Rising asbestos liabilities hang over James Hardie profit surge.

Proceedings against Asbestos Giant

May 22, 2014

On May 22, hearings began in a Madrid court of cases brought by the families of women who died from asbestos-related diseases contracted from exposure to their husbands work clothes. It is alleged that the deceased became ill because of the negligence of the Uralita company, Spain’s leading manufacturer of asbestos-cement products. A spokesman for the Spanish Association of Asbestos Victims says that the proceedings are “highly significant” and could open the way for others with asbestos claims. See: Familiares de mujeres víctimas del amianto acuden a los juzgados [Families of Female Asbestos Victims Go to Court].

U-Turn Expedites Legal Process

May 21, 2014

A change in government policy which compromised litigation by families of deceased asbestos victims will be overturned according to a notice of amendment tabled in the House of Commons on May 7, 2014. Last year, HM Revenue and Customs adopted a policy which stipulated that requests for the employment history of a deceased claimant would only be released if a High Court order had been obtained. This requirement caused serious difficulties in cases involving long-tail disease claims such as mesothelioma. See: House of Commons Notices of Amendments. May 7, 2014. [Section NC6].

New Guide for Construction Workers

May 21, 2014

The French Federation of Construction Workers (Fédération française du bâtiment / FFB) has published a new asbestos guide for construction workers which details measures to prevent workplace exposures especially during removal or demolition work. The text also explains provisions contained in regulations introduced in May 2012 and the responsibilities of clients, subcontractors and self-employed workers as well as the penalties for infringements of the asbestos law. Issues such as the management of asbestos waste and the use of mandatory equipment are also covered. See: Prévention – La FFB édite son guide amiante [Prevention – FBB edits asbestos guide].

Corruption in Colombian Politics

May 19, 2014

In the run-up to Presidential elections, calls have been made for politicians to prioritize the issue of asbestos, an acknowledged carcinogen the use of which remains legal in Colombia. Questions are being asked about one of President Santos’ major re-election projects: the construction by the Ministry of Housing of 100,000 low income homes containing asbestos. It seems that a director of a company which produces the contaminated roofing tiles has the same surname as one-time Housing Minister Germán Vargas Lleras. See: Parece un chiste de mal gusto, pero no; es un “negocio” [Looks like a bad joke, but no it is "business"].

Widows Meet French President

May 19, 2014

On May 16, 2014, a delegation of asbestos widows from the port town of Dunkirk had a meeting with the French President at the Elysee Palace. Marjorie Veziel, Colette Ozouf, Chantal Pakosz and Yvelines Ardhuin urged the President to progress judicial efforts to hold all those responsible for the country’s asbestos catastrophe to account. A criminal trial of implicated politicians, businessmen and others should, they said, be regarded as a priority. See: François Hollande a reçu des veuves de l’amiante de Dunkerque à l’Élysée ce vendredi [François Hollande meets Dunkirk asbestos widows at the Elysee Palace].

Asbestos Waste in City Streets

May 19, 2014

For decades, Kapelle-op-den-Bos, a municipality in the heart of Belgium, was at the center of the manufacturing operations of the asbestos-cement giant Eternit S.A. Years after the factory’s closure, asbestos-contaminated waste remains a health risk to local residents. Despite assurances that land being prepared for building work in the area near where the factory once stood was safe for development, a 25 cm piece of asbestos-cement pipe was found on this site last week (May 16). This evidence leads one to question the assurances which had been given and the safety of those who are working on the site and who will live in the houses now under construction. See: Photograph by Eric Jonckheere.

Gas Masks Warnings to Schools

May 14, 2014

Government advice given to schools this week warns of the asbestos hazard in gas masks and tin helmets popularly used as wartime artefacts during lessons in the run-up to the centenary of World War I. Analyses by the Health and Safety Executive found asbestos, often crocidolite, in the majority of masks sampled. The Imperial War Museum has confirmed that World War One British Army helmets should be assumed to contain asbestos and other toxic materials. Schools should remove these items from use and either dispose of them safely or have the asbestos removed. See: Wartime helmets and gas masks 'dangerous', schools told and Asbestos Warning to Schools.

Senate Bill Threatens Victims’ Rights

May 14, 2014

Six months after the House of Representatives passed the Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act, the Senate’s version of the bill has been tabled. Bill S. 2319 requires asbestos bankruptcy settlement trusts to release information on asbestos claimants including “detailed information regarding the receipt and disposition of claims for injuries on exposure to asbestos, and for other purposes.” Critics have said the “mean-spirited” Bill threatens victims’ privacy; in addition, they say, there is no evidence of “systematic fraud” in the asbestos trust system. See: Jeff Flake introduces Senate version of bill seeking transparency in asbestos bankruptcy trusts.

Eternit’s Asbestos Killing Fields

May 14, 2014

The mesothelioma deaths of Salvina Ballarò and Adele Meneguz were reported in The Monferrato newspaper yesterday (May 13). The two local woman local died from their exposures to Eternit’s asbestos on the same day. Sixty-eight year old Salvina Ballaro was a former textile worker and an active trade unionist who fought for the rights of asbestos victims; she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2013. Fifty-six year Adele Meneguz worked for more than thirty years in a laboratory at a local hospital. See: Amianto: altre due vittime [Asbestos: one more victim].

Asbestos-related Lung Cancer

May 13, 2014

Yesterday (May 12), a claimant’s verdict was issued by Judge Ryoji Kudo of the Kobe District Court who dismissed an earlier ruling which found that lung cancer contracted by a 60-year old construction worker was not caused by occupational asbestos exposure due to the relatively low level of asbestos fibers in his body. The judge ruled that the government’s criteria for the recognition of asbestos-related disease based on the number of asbestos fibers was unreasonable. The verdict recognized the cause of death as occupational asbestos exposure. See: Kobe court rules criteria for recognizing asbestos-related lung cancer unreasonable.

Swiss Appeal Victims’ Verdict?

May 13, 2014

A landmark ruling handed down in March 2014 by the European Court of Human Rights which supported claims by an asbestos widow and her family may be appealed by federal authorities who allege that the judgment was based on an inaccurate assessment of the Swiss judicial system. The Federal Office of Justice has three months to appeal the decision of the Strasbourg Court; judging by statements made, it looks likely that such an appeal will be lodged. See: Amianto: la SUVA vuole il ricorso contro la Corte europea dei diritti dell'uomo [Asbestos: SUVA wants to appeal against the European Court of Human Rights].

Asbestos in Quebec Schools

May 13, 2014

To comply with mandatory regulations, regional school boards have embarked upon a program to identify asbestos-containing products within the education infrastructure. The asbestos audits being compiled for primary and secondary schools will prevent accidental hazardous exposures to workmen. The education board of one Quebec community has provided a budget of $100,000 for surveys in 73 premises, the majority of which contain asbestos. See: Les grands moyens pour détecter l'amiante dans les écoles [Major initiative to detect asbestos in schools].

Justice Committee Mesothelioma Hearing

May 12, 2014

The first hearing of the Justice Committee on mesothelioma claims will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 in Committee Room 16 of the Palace of Westminster. The first 45-minute panel will feature four speakers representing the interests of asbestos claimants, including an asbestos victims’ group representative, a trade unionist and two legal professionals; the second panel will present the views of asbestos defendants and insurers. The sessions will be broadcast live on Parliament TV. See: The Justice Committee holds its first evidence session on Mesothelioma claims on Tuesday 13 May.

Workers Fear Asbestos Fallout

May 12, 2014

Drivers for a transportation company in Boulogne have serious concerns about the hazard posed by the demolition of asbestos-containing buildings near their company’s depot. Plans have been announced for the site to be relocated in July but the drivers remain troubled about the potential health effects of environmental exposure. Speaking to a journalist, one of the workforce highlighted the contrast between the white-suited asbestos removal workers and the transport staff who have no protection from the hazardous dust. See: Boulogne: les chauffeurs de Keolis Caron Voyages ont peur de l’amiante à Résurgat [Boulogne drivers for transport firm afraid of asbestos].

Parent Raises School Alarm

May 12, 2014

On May 2, 2014, the parent of a pupil from an Auckland school alerted officials of the possible threat of asbestos contamination during demolition work at Bayfield School. On May 7, tests results were received which verified the presence of asbestos. On May 8, Ministry of Education Head of Education Infrastructure Service Kim Shannon told reporters that asbestos had been found within the immediate work site area; further testing has been scheduled. Until the all clear is given, Bayfield students will be taught at space made available in a neighbouring school. See: Asbestos risk: Pupils to study at neighbouring school.

London Showing of Iconic Documentary

May 12, 2014

To this day, a film made 32 years ago remains the touchstone by which all films about asbestos are judged. Alice – A Fight for Life told the story of Alice Jefferson, a former asbestos worker who was dying of asbestos cancer. The film was watched by millions of people and impacted on the national consciousness; it was mentioned in Parliament and brought about changes in legislation. It also decreased the share prices of British asbestos companies (see: Appreciating “Alice”). On May 20, 2014 “Alice” will be screened in central London. Don’t miss it! See: Alice – A Fight for Life.

Town Covers Asbestos Disposal Costs

May 12, 2014

Druskininku, a spa town in southern Lithuania, is pioneering a solution for the environmental challenge posed by the widespread presence of asbestos-contaminated products. Residents will be allowed to dump these products free of charge at the local landfill site at Alytus with the municipality paying the disposal charges. Druskininku residents wishing to use this new scheme must present a certificate of residency and ensure that the waste is properly packaged. See: Druskininku savivaldybe padengs atvežtu asbesto gaminiu atlieku šalinimo išlaidas [Druskininkai municipality to pay for disposal of asbestos-contaminated waste].

Abolition of Asbestos Agency?

May 9, 2014

Last week, Australia’s Commission of Audit recommended that funding be withdrawn for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Council, a 2013 government initiative to address the issue of asbestos exposure at work, at home and in the Australian environment. On May 9, asbestos victims’ groups from across Australia issued a Joint Media Statement urging a rethink: “the ongoing existence of a strong independent body focused on coordinating asbestos issues nationally is essential to turn the tide on this scourge.” Support for this call has been expressed by Senator Lisa Singh (see: Media Release) and the CFMEU trade union (see: CFMEU rejects the abolition of the Asbestos Safety Council: too many lives at risk).

Moral Damages for Asbestos Death

May 9, 2014

The Supreme Labor Court has ordered the Eternit asbestos company to pay Reais$1 million (US$451,304) to the family of an engineer who died of an asbestos-related disease in 2005, aged 72. The damages include sums for pain and suffering as well as moral damages. The Court increased the amount of compensation awarded by a lower court by over 60% to punish Eternit’s misconduct and incentivize improvements in health and safety protocols. The deceased had worked at Eternit’s Osasco asbestos factory from 1964 to 1967. See: Eternit pagará R$ 1 milhão por morte de trabalhador em contato com amianto [Eternit to pay 1 million Reais for the asbestos death of worker].

Court Judgment in Landmark Case

May 9, 2014

It has been announced that the Italian Supreme Court will issue its verdict in a landmark asbestos case in Rome on November 19, 2014. The lower courts have upheld guilty rulings, huge fines and prison sentences for Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny whose company failed to protect workers and the community from the effects of asbestos processing in several Italian towns. As a result of corporate negligence, thousands of people have died from asbestos-related diseases. See: Processo Eternit: il 19 novembre l'udienza alla Corte di Cassazione [Eternit Trial: November 19 hearing before the Court of Cassation].

Damages for Shipyard Death

May 4, 2014

The family of an Italian welder from Monfalcone who died of mesothelioma and asbestosis has been awarded more than US$1 million plus interest for his wrongful death. Experts told the court that his death was avoidable had his employers taken measures to protect the workforce from hazardous asbestos exposures. Shipbuilding company Fincantieri was ordered to pay the court-awarded damages to the widow and five children of the deceased who had been employed by the company from 1942 to 1978. See: Morto d’amianto, 920mila euro ai familiari [Asbestos death, €920 thousand to the family].

Asbestos Stops Urban Renewal

May 4, 2014

Work on the construction of new homes in Bloemendaal, in the province of North Holland, has been stopped as a result of asbestos contamination in the vicinity of old tramways. Asbestos-containing debris, often supplied free of charge by the Eternit asbestos-cement company, had commonly been used as foundations for roads, farmyards and buildings. The clean-up costs will be paid for by the municipality. Asbestos which had been identified elsewhere on the site in old barns and greenhouses has been dealt with by a company specializing in asbestos removal. See: Weer asbest gevonden op Haringbuysterrein [Asbestos found in Haringbuysterrein].

Mobilization on Asbestos in Schools

May 2, 2014

A delegation from the National Federation of Teachers (Fenprof) has met with representatives of Quercus (Associação Nacional de Conservação da Natureza [National Association for Nature Conservation]) in Portugal today to discuss the ongoing threat posed by asbestos contamination of schools. In 2013, a remediation program was begun by the authorities which removed asbestos roofs from 147 schools; this summer a further 150 premises will be decontaminated. Fenprof is lobbying for public access to asbestos audits of all public buildings. See: Fenprof reúne-se com Quercus por causa de amianto [Fenprof meets with Quercus because of asbestos].

Quebec Union Calls for Asbestos Ban

May 2, 2014

According to a statement made on the occasion of International Labor Day (May 1, 2014) by union official Jean Lacharité, following the election of a new Quebec government trade unionists from the Confederation of National Trade Unions are pressing for asbestos to be banned to protect workers from the dreadful consequences of hazardous exposures. This issue is now regarded as a priority by the union which is highlighting the high level of asbestos disease amongst construction workers. See: Rencontre CSN-Sam Hamad: bannir l'amiante pour protéger les ouvriers [Union meets Minister to discuss asbestos ban].

Asbestos Hazards Conference

Apr 30, 2014

A conference on changing responses to asbestos usage (no longer the province of occupational health practitioners alone but increasingly seen as a public health issue) will take place at the Institute Elinyae in Athens on May 5 under the auspices of The Hellenic Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (see: Poster). Expert speakers will address a range of topics including: occupational and public health risks, asbestos-related diseases and their treatments, the history of asbestos use in Greece and possibilities for safely managing asbestos contamination in built and natural environments. See: The Hellenic Institute for Occupational Health and Safety website.

Contamination caused by Hailstorm

Apr 29, 2014

A hailstorm on April 27 has wreaked havoc in Mexican towns in the state of Veracruz. It has been reported that 17 people were injured, cars were damaged and asbestos-cement roofs on a thousand homes were broken. Asbestos sheeting was perforated by hailstones the size of baseballs as a result of which people were injured and household contents were damaged. In 2012, 17,000 tonnes of asbestos were used in Mexico, most of it was for asbestos-cement building products. See: Daños en mil casas y 2400 automóviles [Damage to a thousand houses and 2400 cars].

Essay: Spain’s Asbestos Legacy

Apr 29, 2014

In an extended essay, a well-known Spanish asbestos expert has highlighted the ramifications of the fire which took place earlier this month at an abandoned movie theater in Malaga. Paco Puche details the scale of the conflagration, highlighting the explosion which scattered the asbestos-cement Uralita roofing throughout the densely populated surrounding area. Politicians and members of the city council are denying responsibility for the resulting environmental contamination which continues to endanger the lives of local people. See: Amianto - Cine Victoria de Málaga, crónica de un desastre anunciado [Asbestos – Malaga movie theatre, chronicle of a future disaster].

Lung Cancer Monitoring at Hotspots

Apr 28, 2014

Government funding has been allocated for the 2015 launch of a pilot lung cancer screening program of at-risk residents in Japanese municipalities where asbestos factories had been located. In 2006, the Environment Ministry undertook health surveys of residents in collaboration with local governments of seven regions where asbestos plants had been sited, including Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture. Asbestos consumption continued in Japan long after other developed countries had banned its use. Japanese prohibitions were phased in over a period of years with the final use of asbestos being made illegal in 2012. See: Asbestos lung project in Japan set for 2015.

Contamination at South Carolina Resort

Apr 28, 2014

Land Services, a U.S. demolition firm which has received multiple citations for asbestos removal violations, is once again in the news. This time it is for work undertaken earlier this year at the Golden Sands Motel, a beach-front property in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In February, 2014 tests carried out by state regulators after demolition found asbestos in building debris; eleven citations were issued to the contractors. Last week a fence was erected around the piles of contaminated waste and the firm has said it will remove the material within two weeks. See: Illegal asbestos dumping creates headaches for environmental regulators.Apr 28, 2014

Victims Mark Workers’ Memorial Day

Apr 28, 2014

On April 28 and 29, 2014, AFEVA, a victims’ association representing Italian citizens injured by the operations of the Eternit asbestos multinational, will mark International Workers’ Memorial Day with a church memorial service followed by a procession to the site of the notorious Eternit factory in Casale Monferrato; in the afternoon, an exhibition of artwork by local schoolchildren on the subject of asbestos will be opened. The following day, a dramatic piece entitled: The Dust Empire will be premiered in Casale’s municipal theatre. See: Amianto: le vittime, la memoira [Asbestos: the victim, the memory], Il Monferrato, April 25, 2014.

At-risk Workers Claim Compensation

Apr 28, 2014

Last week, ten asbestos-exposed employees of the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi S.A. asked an industrial tribunal in Créteil for compensation of €30,000 each for the anxiety cause by their occupational exposures. A spokesperson for the company said: “"Sanofi does not dispute the fact that there was asbestos in the plant, as in all societies at the time. The fact remains that some people here were exposed in 1975. As latency is twenty to forty years, it is estimated that there is no more risk today." The tribunal’s ruling is expected on July 11, 2014. See: Sur les six du labo, un est mort de l'amiante, un autre est malade [Of the six in the lab, one died of asbestos, another is sick].

Victims Spurned by Cancer Society

Apr 28, 2014

Fewer than one out of four Germans with occupational asbestos-related disease are compensated for their injuries. To raise awareness of the inequitable treatment they receive, German asbestos victims held a session at the 2014 German Cancer Congress (see: Support for Asbestos Victims in Germany). The Berlin Declaration, which was issued at the Congress [LINK: Berlin Declaration], and endorsed by international organizations and trade unions, has now been rejected by the German Cancer Society. See: Wer Hilfe will, muss durch die Bürokratie-Hölle [If you want help, the red tape is murder].

Continuing Asbestos Use in EU?

Apr 25, 2014

The European Union (EU) banned the use of asbestos in 2005 with an exemption which permitted the import of diaphragms containing chrysotile asbestos fibers for existing electrolysis cells. Under industry pressure, the European Commission is considering extending this concession indefinitely. In fact, the exemption may be broadened not only to allow the import of diaphragms containing asbestos fibres, but also permit the asbestos fibers needed to maintain them to be brought into Europe. See: Asbestos fibre imports – coming legally to Europe soon? Strong objections are already being raised by victims' groups.(see: ANDEVA letter).

Workplace Register for Exposures

Apr 25, 2014

On the eve of International Workers Memorial Day, the FNV, the largest trade union confederation in the Netherlands, has issued calls for the government to implement plans for an asbestos register to streamline claims by injured workers. In the Netherlands, 900 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases; while one mllion tonnes of asbestos remain in situ. To address the asbestos workplace hazard, the FNV is also calling for asbestos audits of buildings to be made mandatory in order to identify where the toxic material remains. See: FNV asbestregister tegen misstanden asbestbranche [FNV calls for asbestos register].

Urban Renewal: The Asbestos Hazard

Apr 24, 2014

Following the introduction of stricter national asbestos regulations, surveyors working for the company Knight Diagnostics have been conducting tests on street and pavement surfaces in the town of Rennes, looking for asbestos-contaminated asphalt which was used by some French companies before the asbestos ban was introduced. As the results of the tests will not be available until the end of June, the city is following the precautionary principle says François Belot, Head of Risk Management for the City of Rennes. See: Chasse à l'amiante sous nos pieds [Hunting asbestos beneath our feet].

Spain’s Asbestos Genocide

Apr 23, 2014

A new book entitled “Amianto: Un Genocidio Impune” documents the existence of a “conspiracy of silence” which prioritized asbestos profits over occupational and public health in Spain. The book’s author Francisco Baez Baquet, a former asbestos industry worker, presented the book at an event held on April 22, 2014 at the Málaga headquarters of the CGT union. A further session is planned for Seville; it will be sponsored by the School of Labor Studies and the Union Comisiones Obreras of Andalusia. The author hopes to visit other asbestos hotspots to highlight the epidemic of asbestos diseases. See: Amianto: Un Genocidio Impune [An Unpunished Genocide].

Maritime Asbestos Controversy

Apr 22, 2014

It has been announced that thirty workers who could have been exposed to asbestos on board the Irish ship LÉ Ciara will receive health check-ups every two years to screen for asbestos-related diseases. The civilian workers were employed by the Department of Defence to carry out a refit on the ship in March; prior to the commencement of work, no risk assessment had been carried out. The Naval Service was informed on March 28, 2014 that tests showed that chrysotile asbestos was present on this ship. The ship and her sister ship LÉ Orla are locked down at the naval dockyard at Haulbowline. See: Regular Tests for Workers over Asbestos.

Eternit Asbestos Criminal Speaks!

Apr 22, 2014

Breaking his long-standing silence, Stephan Schmidheiny has given an interview to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a Swiss daily newspaper known for its coverage of international and business affairs. The Swiss billionaire, who was sentenced in absentia to 18 years in jail by an Italian Appeal Court for asbestos crimes (see: Postscript to Great Asbestos Trial), regards the criminal proceedings as absurd. The Italian Supreme Court is expected to issue a final ruling later this year. Schmidheiny defended his actions claiming that in the 1970s nothing was known about the occupational risk of asbestos exposure. See: Schmidheiny attend le verdict du procès de l'amiante avec sérénit [Schmidheiny calmly awaits asbestos verdict].

Action to Reduce Asbestos Hazard

Apr 22, 2014

Asbestos is the single largest occupational killer in British Columbia (BC), Canada. Mortality from asbestos-related lung diseases is particularly high amongst BC construction workers. WorkSafeBC – BC’s Workers' Compensation Board, the agency tasked with promoting workplace health and safety – has launched an enforcement initiative to reduce occupational asbestos disease caused by exposure at residential demolition sites. Prevention officers will inspect single-family demolition work sites from March through December 2014 to ensure that all duty holders are complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. See: WorkSafeBC conducting asbestos enforcement blitz.

India’s Asbestos Trade

Apr 22, 2014

A recent snapshot of Indian asbestos shipments obtained from a commercial website is informative about some aspects of the country’s huge trade in this acknowledged carcinogen. Incomplete data for imports over two days this month showed imports of raw chrysotile (white) asbestos fiber from Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Brazil; the majority was from Russia. Asbestos exports shipped on April 10-12 were of fabricated asbestos fibers, concrete asbestos [stet] and compressed asbestos fiber jointing sheets, sent to Sudan, Yemen and Brazil. For samples of Indian asbestos-trade data, see Cybex Import Data and Cybex Export Data.

National Asbestos Legacy

Apr 16, 2014

The Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos Related Disease Victims and their Families has reported the deaths of people who had worked at recycling sites where asbestos-contaminated hemp bags were processed; family members of these workers and local residents have also died from exposure to the asbestos generated at this site. Ten deaths have been recorded in the city of Sakai from asbestos-related cancers. The situation at similar recycling plants in Tokyo, Fukuoka Prefecture and Saitama Prefecture remains to be clarified. See: 10 people in hemp sack recycling centers reportedly dead from asbestos-related sickness.

Victory for Mesothelioma Victim

Apr 15, 2014

In a landmark decision handed down on April 9 by Santiago’s 2nd District Labor Court, a plaintiff’s verdict was issued to mesothelioma victim Raul Olivares who had previously been employed by the Pizarreño company. Until then Pizarreño had never had damages awarded against it for failure to protect its workforce from the hazards of asbestos exposure. Compensation of US$100,126 was awarded; it is believed that thousands of additional asbestos cases could be brought by workers and/or members of the public. See: Pizarreño deberá indemnizar a trabajador que sufre cáncer por asbesto [Pizarreño must compensate workers suffering asbestos cancer].

Trouble at Eternit Asbestos Group

Apr 15, 2014

Following the untimely death of Eternit S.A.’s long-term President Elio Martins, dissension in the boardroom continues for Brazil’s biggest asbestos-cement company. Luiz Barsi, one of Eternit’s biggest shareholders, was put in charge of the company by the administration board. Since he has been in charge he has been highly critical of the former President’s policies. Barsi heads a group of investors who want to change everything including all the top managers and executives. A board meeting scheduled for April 23 could be as explosive as it is decisive. See: Racha no clube do bilhão [Cracks in the billionaire’s club].

Victims Call for Equal Rights!

Apr 14, 2014

Despite the widespread incidence of asbestos-related diseases in their State, West Australians have fewer rights to compensation than fellow citizens. A private members’ bill – The Asbestos Diseases Compensation Bill 2013 – tabled by Kate Doust is intended to close loopholes which prevent victims from claiming compensation for injuries. The proposed legislation would allow West Australians diagnosed with additional asbestos-related diseases the right to claim further damages as is permitted in other states; despite the fact that there are no financial ramifications for the WA government, Attorney General Michael Mischin continues to block its passage. See: Push to close WA's asbestos compensation loophole.

Urban Renewal: Asbestos Hazard

Apr 14, 2014

A serious public health hazard has been highlighted in an article published on April 12, 2014 which focused on the ramifications of the urban renewal project launched by the Turkish Government in 2013. Under this program, which aims to demolish more than 6 million properties by 2020, no consideration is being given to the risk to workers or members of the public of exposure to asbestos-containing building and insulation products contained within the structures earmarked for demolition. See: Kentsel dönüsümde asbestli malzeme alarmi çaliyor [The Hazard of Asbestos-containing Material during Urban Renewal].

Court Upholds Anxiety Claims

Apr 14, 2014

Claims for anxiety caused by occupational exposures to asbestos were validated by a ruling handed down by the Court of Cassation, France’s Supreme Court on April 2, 2014. Reversing a previous verdict which required proof of medical check-ups, the Court said that for people who had worked in high-risk establishments, as recognized by ministerial decree, psychological disorders caused by fear of asbestos illness were sufficient to warrant compensation even in the absence of any disease or symptoms. See: Amiante: reconnaissance du préjudice d’anxiété [Asbestos: Recognition of Anxiety].

Calls for Demolition of Homes

Apr 11, 2014

Peter Tighe, the head of of Australia's Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is calling for radical action on asbestos contaminated homes in the nation’s capital. Despite a massive effort in the 1980s to decontaminate properties in Canberra, over the past two months tests conducted have shown that asbestos contamination persists. The lack of legislation to prevent domestic asbestos exposures, as opposed to safety laws controlling workplace hazards, is another cause for concern says Tighe. See: Homes with Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation should be demolished, says safety chief.

Asbestos in Schools

Apr 11, 2014

Highlighting the recent publication of Asbestos in Schools: The Need for Action by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, Lord Alton asked on April 9 when the government will “publish their response to the evidence submitted to their review of policy on asbestos management in schools.” Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, replied that the outcome of the Department for Education’s review is due out by the end of June. See: Lords written answer: Schools Asbestos, April 9, 2014.

Asbestos Risk to Archaeologists

Apr 11, 2014

A letter published in the current issue of the Italian journal Medicina del Lavoro confirms the asbestos risk at historical sites such as the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos monastery on Cyprus where white asbestos was incorporated into religious murals to provide an attractive shine to the surface. Considering that asbestos items have been found at Neolithic and Bronze Ages sites, researchers are recommending that “a precautionary approach should be taken in all archaeological investigations regarding prehistoric and historic sites.” See: Byzantine Monks Built Walls With Asbestos, Too.

Massive Victory for Swiss Victims!

Apr 11, 2014

Last month, the European Court of Human Rights issued a plaintiff’s verdict in the case of Swiss asbestos victim Howald Moor, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2004; he died the following year. Swiss courts had dismissed claims for damages brought by his family on the grounds they were time-barred. The Strasbourg Court found that given the long latency period of this disease, the Swiss ten-year limitation period deprived claimants of the “chance to assert their rights before the courts.” Switzerland was ordered to pay compensation for non-pecuniary damage, costs and expenses. See: Press Release European Court of Human Rights March 11, 2014.

Mesothelioma Payout Increased

Mar 6, 2014

During the protracted consultation process over the UK’s Mesothelioma Bill, the original concept was shrunk from one which would establishes a fund of last resort for all sufferers of asbestos-related diseases to one which would pay a proportion of compensation to mesothelioma claimants diagnosed after a 2012 deadline. The proportion had been set at 75% of average civil damages. Today, a letter released by Tracey Crouch MP from Minister Mike Penning MP confirms that this figure has been increased to 80%. This means that successful applicants will receive an average of £123,000 before benefit recovery. See: Letter from Minister of State Mike Penning.

Hong Kong Asbestos Protest

Mar 6, 2014

The discovery this week that the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR) had purchased the same type of trains from a Chinese manufacturer that have been found to be contaminated with asbestos in New Zealand has led to calls for immediate action. On March 5, the “No More Asbestos in Hong Kong Alliance” held a silent protest in train stations and in train carriages to raise awareness of the potential health hazard for MTR staff as well as members of the public. A letter listing the protesters’ requests was submitted at the MTR headquarters. See: No More Asbestos in Hong Kong Alliance Press Release.

No Asbestos-Cement Cartel?

Mar 6, 2014

On February 11, 2014, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) dismissed charges related to the existence of an asbestos-cement cartel operated by the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association(ACPMA) (see: CCI ruling). The watchdog said that “there is no evidence on record to suggest cartelisation by ACS manufacturers.” The CCI had been tasked with this investigation in late 2012 by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office. According to the 15-page ruling, the “the role of ACPMA is to … to promote the use of ACS and fight against anti-asbestos lobbies...” See: CCI finds no cartelisation in asbestos cement products mkt.

Asbestos Consumption Continues

Mar 5, 2014

A 199-page document published by the United States Geological Survey has revealed that although U.S. consumption of chrysotile asbestos dropped by 46% in 2013, it is likely that annual usage will continue at around 1,000 tonnes for the foreseeable future. The majority of the asbestos used (67%) was for the production of chloralkali; 30% was for the production of roofing materials with 3% going into unknown applications. In 2012 and 2013 worldwide mining of asbestos produced 1.97 and 1.94 million tonnes, respectively, with Russian annual output amounting to around 1 million tonnes. See: U.S. Mineral Commodity Summaries 2014.

Hong Kong’s New Asbestos Trains?

Mar 5, 2014

From 2008 to 2012, the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR) bought 22 trains from the Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd, part of the China North Locomotive and Rolling Stock Industry Corporation. Although the MTR stipulated that no asbestos be used, the same series of China-made vehicles imported to New Zealand was recently found to be contaminated with asbestos. The Hong Kong Workers’ Health Centre is urging that a thorough examination of the suspected trains is undertaken in order to protect the health of staff and the public. See: Asbestos scare prompts checks on China-made trains.

Asbestos Found in Trains

Feb 28, 2014

KiwiRail has pulled 40 freight trains off-line after asbestos was discovered in resin from one of the locomotives. The resin was present in a soundproofing compound used on the DL locomotives manufactured in China. Half of them were imported to New Zealand four years ago and the other half in 2013. In the purchase contract, KiwiRail had stipulated that the trains be produced without asbestos or other toxic materials. Following the asbestos scandal over Chinese-manufactured locomotives in Australia last year, KiwiRail company sought and was given assurances that the locomotives were asbestos-free. See: Trains pulled in asbestos shock.

Litigation over Asbestos in Helicopters

Feb 28, 2014

Managers at Agusta Westland, a company that manufactured helicopters from the 1990s to 2013, are being investigated by the public prosecutor’s office in Turin over charges of negligent disaster for failing to issue warnings regarding the presence of asbestos in their helicopters. Asbestos had been used in gaskets, brake pads, wheels and conduits. Although Agusta had informed government officials in 1996 about this issue, the information provided was incomplete; a comprehensive list of the contaminated material was only made available in September 2013. See: “Amianto negli elicotteri” Indagati i vertici di Agusta [“Asbestos in helicopters” Suspects at Agusta Westland].

British Asbestos Newsletter

Feb 25, 2014

The winter 2014 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The leading article in Issue 93, Asbestos in the UK: Then and Now quantifies the amount of asbestos used in the UK and the repercussions that consumption of this carcinogenic substance has had. The feature highlights the epidemic of asbestos-related diseases now occurring: “Annually, nearly three times as many Britons die from asbestos-related diseases as from road traffic accidents.” Other articles discuss the Mesothelioma Bill and the campaign to address the asbestos-contamination of UK schools. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, Issue 93.

Plans to Remove Asbestos Roofing

Feb 25, 2014

Gauteng, the smallest of South Africa’s nine provinces, announced plans on February 25 to get rid of all asbestos-containing roofing materials. The authorities will finance the removal and replacement work for poor people under a new multi-million rand program to eliminate the health hazard posed by exposure to asbestos. Public health activists are encouraging the government to also remove asbestos-containing gutters and downpipes, to ensure that once removed the contaminated material is properly disposed of and not resold and to mandate precautions for workers removing the contaminated material. See: Gauteng to be rid of all asbestos roofing.

Asbestos Ban April 4, 2014

Feb 24, 2014

It’s official! According to a letter received from the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department, an asbestos ban – which is being implemented under the Air Pollution Control (Amendment) Ordinance 2014 – will take effect on April 4, 2014. The letter states that the “import, transshipment, supply and use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos containing materials will be banned except goods in transit and registered proprietary Chinese medicine.” This action has resulted from a concerted campaign by grassroots ban asbestos activists in Hong Kong – congratulations to them all! See: EPD Guidelines & References – Banning Asbestos.

Pioneering Treatment for Mesothelioma

Feb 24, 2014

A technique has been developed by Toronto-based physicians to extend survival time for mesothelioma patients. According to an article published today in a Canadian newspaper, 74-year old mesothelioma patient Man Hong Chan has been “cured” of this aggressive and fatal cancer. Under the new protocol, patients are given radiation before surgery instead of after it to ensure that any cancer cells left are not viable; 3-year survival rates have more than doubled. Quick treatment appears to be the key to success; Chan underwent radiation therapy and surgery within a month of his diagnosis. See: Revolutionary Toronto cancer treatment gives asbestos victims new life.

Bid to Recoup Asbestos Costs

Feb 24, 2014

A bill lodged by the Holyrood Government on February 21 – The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Scotland) Bill – could recover £20 million for the medical treatment of Scottish patients with asbestos-related diseases from employers and insurers. The bill was launched at a press conference by Clydeside Action on Asbestos and Scottish Nationalist MSP Stuart McMillan. Similar Welsh legislation passed last year is facing robust legal challenges from the insurance industry. Experts believe that due to Scotland’s greater devolved powers, similar challenges would not be mounted. See: CAA Press Release: New Asbestos Law will Recover Millions for the NHS in Scotland.

Gujarat Court Acts on Workers’ Health

Feb 19, 2014

Concerns over lung function abnormalities amongst workers at power stations led to a case heard last month by the Supreme Court (SC). The SC directed high courts to ascertain levels of healthcare provided to individuals at coal-fired thermal power plants in India. Pursuant to these instructions, the Gujarat high court has demanded that authorities supervising the State’s 11 power units submit documentation detailing their health and safety regimes. High levels of asbestosis and other asbestos-related conditions have been found amongst power station workers. See: Workers' health: Gujarat high court notice to 11 power units.

International Trade Union Conference

Feb 19, 2014

The Building and Woodworkers International (BWI), a global union federation representing 12 million members in the Building, Building Materials, Wood, Forestry and Allied sectors announced its plans this week to hold an International Conference on Asbestos in Vienna, Austria on May 6 and 7, 2014 in collaboration with the Industriall Global Union, the Austrian trade Union GBH and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. The event will progress trade union efforts to ban the future use of asbestos, a potent threat to all those working in the construction sector. See: International Conference on Asbestos.

Asbestos Threat to Residents

Feb 19, 2014

Inhabitants of asbestos-contaminated housing units in an Algerian district called Hamma Bouziane report high levels of ill health which, they believe, comes from living in properties constructed in 1982 with asbestos building products. Despite medical advice warning of the dangers to residents, no action has been taken by the health authorities to remedy the situation according to an article written by journalist Yousra Salem. Asbestos exposures to local people, who have asked to be rehoused to safer properties, remain a daily occurrence. See: Des familles dans des bâtisses en amiante depuis 1982 [Families in asbestos buildings since 1982].

Calls for Global Asbestos Ban

Feb 13, 2014

At the end of the International Conference on Monitoring and Surveillance of Asbestos-Related Diseases in Espoo, Finland, a press release was issued calling for a global asbestos ban. Speaking on behalf of the conference organizers, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Dr. Panu Oksa said: “There is no safe use of asbestos.” Dr. Ken Takahashi was categorical that “Asbestos-related deaths are preventable by banning the use of asbestos, as WHO recommends.” An increase in asbestos-related mortality is being observed in developing countries where knowledge is lacking about the hazards of exposure. See: Only a total ban of asbestos will end asbestos related deaths.

Investigation of Chinese Imports

Feb 13, 2014

Italian officials have begun an investigation into the illegal import from China of cars believed to be contaminated with asbestos. The Turin prosecutor’s office is focusing on models produced by Great Wall Motors, the largest car manufacturer in China. It is thought that asbestos may be contained in exhaust gaskets. Evidence will be presented to a judge who will decide if the import of these vehicles breaks a 1992 Italian law banning the use of asbestos. In 2012, Great Wall Motors was forced to recall thousands of cars which had been sold to Australia because of the presence of asbestos. See: Turin investigating asbestos found in cars from China.

Commission Upholds Asbestos Complaint

Feb 13, 2014

A commission appointed by the Pakistan authorities to investigate a criminal complaint over the occupational and environmental hazard created by Dadex Eternit Ltd., an asbestos manufacturer in Karachi has found that the company’s occupational health and safety precautions were inadequate (see: Two million Karachiites face cancer threat). The 25-page ruling verified the threat posed by the presence of chrysotile asbestos to workers, family members and the public in Gandap Town and found that air samples collected up to 15 km from the factory also contained chrysotile asbestos. See: Commission Report.

Dithering as Toxic Waste Grows

Feb 13, 2014

As rumors circulate about government proposals to minimize costs for dumping earthquake-generated asbestos waste by disposing of rubble at a substandard landfill (see: Questions asked over dumping of asbestos), the Minister for the Environment Amy Adams continues to prevaricate over the possibility of New Zealand banning the import, sale and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products, blaming delays encountered in the preparation of an asbestos inventory which is not due for completion until the middle of 2014. See: Letter from Minister Amy Adams.

Unregulated Asbestos “Specialists”

Feb 10, 2014

The regulation of the industry for removing and disposing of asbestos-containing waste in Malta is a shambles according to an exposé by the Sunday Times of Malta. The result of this is hazardous conditions created not only by small outfits but by larger companies which operate without mandated public health insurance for government contracts. In his article of February 9, journalist Mark Micallef reported a black hole in government oversight of the situation with one agency saying another authority is responsible and the health authorities failing to respond when asked which body is tasked with preventing public and environmental health risks from asbestos? See: Most asbestos removers not insured for accidents.

Millions at risk!

Feb 10, 2014

The nearly 3 million residents of Quezon City (QC), the country’s most populated municipality and part of Metropolitan Manila, have once again been warned about the health hazard posed by asbestos-contaminated materials incorporated within residential properties. The population in QC, however, is not only at risk from asbestos building products, such as the many remaining asbestos-cement roofs in QC, but also from asbestos-containing products sold in the open market. The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and environmental groups are calling for a ban on the import, processing, sale and use of all asbestos products. See: Residents warned vs. exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos Experts Speak Out!

Feb 8, 2014

Public Health and Medical Experts from Italy and Colombia will join forces at a conference in Bogotá on February 19 to 21 to discuss issues related to occupational and environmental health. A primary focus of this event will be the health threat posed by asbestos exposures. Named speakers include Daniela Marsili and Pietro Comba, both of whom are involved in an Italian–Latin American consortium to develop asbestos awareness training protocols as detailed in a recently published commentary in an Italian health journal. See: International Conference on Occupational and Environmental Health.

Asbestos Cancer at Turin University

Feb 8, 2014

La Stampa has reported the third workplace-related death due to asbestos cancer at the University of Turin. The victim in this case was a 54-year employee who had worked on the campus since 1982; she died earlier this week. It is believed that all of the asbestos victims had been environmentally exposed to asbestos in the library which was built in 1970 and where there was known contamination by crocidolite and chrysotile asbestos as recently as 2003. Turin’s Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello is investigating these deaths. See: Palazzo Nuovo, un morto per la presenza di amianto [New Palace, another asbestos death].

Ovarian Cancer an Occupational Disease

Feb 5, 2014

For the first time, a French compensation scheme has accepted that workplace asbestos exposure was linked to death from ovarian cancer. A February 3 Press Release from ANDEVA (the National Asbestos Victims Association) announced that a regional committee for the recognition of occupational diseases had acknowledged the death of Liliane Claude Huet, who had worked with asbestos for 20 years at a boiler factory. See: Un cancer des ovaires lié à l'amiante bientôt reconnu comme maladie professionnelle [Ovarian cancer is finally recognized as an occupational disease].

International Agencies Call for Prevention

Feb 3, 2014

At a press conference in London today, representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) launched a new book detailing the “alarming” growth in the global incidence of cancer: “developing countries are disproportionately affected by the increasing numbers of cancers.” The international agencies urged governments to adopt “efficient prevention strategies to curb the disease.” One example cited of a successful strategy was the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which helped reduce tobacco consumption. See: IARC/WHO Press Release: Global battle against cancer won’t be won with treatment alone.

Ban Asbestos Conference in Pakistan

Feb 3, 2014

On Saturday, February 1, the first ban asbestos conference in Pakistan was held in Karachi. Victims, medical experts, academics, lawyers and politicians addressed the meeting; they confirmed that exposure to all types of asbestos can be lethal. Despite this known hazard, “nothing has been done to ban it by the Pakistani government,” organizer Haroon Ahmed said. In his talk Muhammed Yaseen Azad, a former president of Supreme Court Bar Council, pledged to investigate asbestos cases pending before the Supreme Court and to lobby for judicial action. See: Banned across the world, asbestos continues to plague Pakistan.

Algeria’s Asbestos Hazard

Feb 3, 2014

Despite having banned asbestos, widespread asbestos contamination of public buildings and homes remains a potent threat to public and occupational health in Algeria. According to data cited, hundreds of people die every year from asbestos-related diseases. Calls are being made for the government to introduce stricter regulations to prevent hazardous exposures and to undertake campaigns to raise public awareness. A new company has recently been launched in Algeria which is specializing in the safe removal of asbestos based on protocols and practices devised in France. See: Les dangers de l’amiante sur la santé publique [The dangers of asbestos for public health].

Waste Disposal in New Zealand

Feb 1, 2014

New Zealand is a country which has continually denied its asbestos problem (see: New Zealand’s Failing Asbestos Policy!). It comes as no surprise, therefore, to hear that 32,000 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated waste has been buried at a North Canterbury site; the majority of this rubble comes from the Canterbury earthquake. Although the public is assured that safety precautions are followed in the disposal, the fact of the matter is that had asbestos not been used in the first place – and it is still being used – there wouldn’t have been the need for expensive precautions to be taken whilst dumping it. See: Asbestos mountain fills Kate Valley.

Disposal of Asbestos Waste in Serbia

Feb 1, 2014

The disposal of hazardous construction and demolition waste in Serbia remains problematic. To address the issue of managing asbestos waste, a workshop was held in Belgrade on January 27 & 28, 2014 (see: Workshop Agenda). The event was sponsored by a consortium of national organizations with the assistance of European partners. Croatian, Serbian and German experts made presentations to dozens of participants who included high-level government officials, civil servants, ministerial and municipal consultants and technical analysts. Two presentations from the Workshop – one concerning treatment of asbestos in Serbia the other an overview of EU legislation – are informative.

Boffetta Withdraws from Top Job

Jan 31, 2014

A 15-line tidbit in today’s Le Monde draws the line under the controversial candidacy of Paolo Boffetta as head of one of France's leading health institutions: the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health (CESP). The news item states that the industry-linked scientist withdrew his candidacy in a letter sent to the heads of CESP on January 28. Boffetta’s links to industry had been exposed in Le Monde and his candidacy had been denounced by asbestos victims and international scientists. See Le Monde: Epidémiologie: retrait d’une candidature contestée (Epidemiology: retraction of contested candidature).

Victims Meet Ministerial Official

Jan 31, 2014

Yesterday (January 30, 2014), a delegation of Belgian campaigners from the asbestos victims’ group ABEVA had a 40-minute private meeting with the Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister on the occasion of a Parliamentary vote on whether the national asbestos fund should be extended. The official received a detailed letter presented to him by ABEVA for the Prime Minister which demanded that a real discussion on the country’s asbestos legacy be initiated. Although some improvements were made yesterday by Parliament to the compensation regime, many victims, such as those with asbestos-related lung cancer, remain unacknowledged.
Source: ABEVA Correspondence.

Fire at old Turner & Newall Asbestos Mill

Jan 31, 2014

Residents were warned to keep windows closed as fire took hold Thursday night at the old Turner & Newall premises on Rooley Moor Road. Local activists who have long campaigned for the asbestos pollution at the site to be remediated are seriously concerned that the authorities are providing false reassurances to the public about the potential health and safety issues posed by this incident. A spokesman for the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service had said the threat of asbestos being airborne was "limited". See: Huge fire at former asbestos factory.

Summons Issued for Asbestos Pollution

Jan 30, 2014

On January 20, 2014, the National Green Tribunal in New Delhi issued a ruling which allowed a case regarding hazardous contamination posed by abandoned chrysotile asbestos mines in Roro, Chaibasa, Jharkhand to proceed. Indian activists have established the prevalence of asbestos-related diseases amongst local people and former mine workers. The miners as well as the mines were abandoned in 1983 when Hyderabad Asbestos Cement Products Ltd. (now known as Hyderabad Industries Limited) ceased operations. Asbestos-containing debris dumped in this region adds to the hazardous situation faced by 14 nearby communities. See: Ruling of National Green Tribunal.

Baryulgil’s Asbestos Legacy

Jan 30, 2014

Even though the asbestos mine at Baryulgil closed more than 30 years ago, new cases of asbestos-related disease are still occurring. While most of the miners have now died, new cases are being diagnosed from environmental exposures. According to local GP Dr Ray Jones: "For the next 10 years at least, the number of cases of asbestos-related illnesses across Australia will still increase.. We're still seeing many cases of disease as a result of the asbestos that was breathed in 40 years ago in Baryulgil, when the mine was operational. See: Asbestos related illnesses continue to take a toll on the Aboriginal community of Baryulgil.

Asbestos Case in India’s Supreme Court

Jan 29, 2014

Arguments began on Monday, January 27, 2014 at the Indian Supreme Court over whether Google was guilty of defaming Visaka, a producer of asbestos-cement building products, for hosting an article by ban asbestos campaigner Gopal Krishna which “contained allegations Visaka was being protected because it was backed by leaders of the ruling Congress party.” Google India challenged Visaka’s charges at the Andhra Pradesh High Court. It lost that case in 2011, after which it appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming it shouldn't be held responsible for everything on its sites as it cannot control what users post. See: Google Takes Defamation Case to India's Supreme Court.

Swiss Eternit Guilty of Manslaughter

Jan 29, 2014

In a landmark case, the highest Swiss Court found the Swiss Eternit asbestos company guilty of manslaughter for the death of a worker from its Niederurnen factory. As a teenager, the deceased had been exposed to asbestos at the plant. He died in 2007 from mesothelioma aged 49. The verdict noted that by the 1970s the hazards of exposure to asbestos were known; the family of the deceased were awarded the right to support from the Law on Assistance to Victims of Crimes. Although Swiss law currently prevents a criminal case being brought, appeals to a European Court could change this. See: All’Eternit di Niederurner negli anni ‘70s vonsumo un “amicidio colposo” Il Monferrato January 28, 2014.

Routine Flouting of Asbestos Ban

Jan 28, 2014

An investigation by a Croatian reporter which exposed the widespread import of illegal asbestos-containing products into Croatia has been awarded prestigious journalistic prizes. The 6-page 2012 article entitled We import banned asbestos from the EU won reporter Sergej Župancic awards for environmental and investigative journalism. Documents from the Customs Authority he cited revealed that since the country had banned asbestos (January 1, 2006), 11,677 tons of asbestos material had been brought into Croatia; the majority of the illegal imports came from EU countries (which also have bans). See: EU countries sell banned asbestos to Croatia.

Victims’ Groups Launch Initiatives

Jan 24, 2014

The Italian asbestos victims group from Casale Monferrato – AfeVA – is holding hold a press conference on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at which two projects will be launched. The first is a World Asbestos E-library to help catalogue the huge flow of information on legal, political, medical and research developments related to asbestos. The second is a joint research initiative with French colleagues (ANDEVA) to document the role of European victims’ groups in the struggle for asbestos justice and the campaign to ban its use. AfeVA’s Alessandro Pugno, who is involved with both projects, will be available to answer questions. See: Press release: AfeVA Launches New Projects.

Asbestos Exposure and Digestive Cancers

Jan 24, 2014

A new paper in Occupational and Environmental Medicine detailed research using data collected from a cohort of Chinese chrysotile asbestos miners and mill workers over 26 years that found “a clear exposure-response relationship between asbestos dust exposure and mortality from stomach cancers …” The paper concluded that there was “additional evidence for the association between exposure to chrysotile mining dust and excess mortality from digestive cancers, particularly stomach cancer.” Excess mortality was also observed from oesophageal and liver cancers. See: Exposure to chrysotile mining dust and digestive cancer mortality in a Chinese miner/miller cohort.

Industry Lobby Blocks Asbestos Ban

Jan 24, 2014

In a paper commissioned by the International Labor Organization, the destructive role played by the asbestos lobby is highlighted. Author Somkiat Siriruttanapruk states: “In spite of policy commitments by the previous Government, the deadline for banning asbestos in the country has been postponed on a number of occasions… the continuous interruption of the process by pro-asbestos agencies (both international and local) is a major obstacle. Consequently, despite considerable support from several alliances and the public, making the national asbestos ban a reality is still a long way off.” See: Strategy and implementation of the programme for the prevention and control of pneumoconiosis in Thailand.

Asbestos Ban in Hong Kong!

Jan 23, 2014

On January 22, the Air Pollution Control (Amendment) (No. 2) Ordinance 2013 (APCO) was adopted by Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. The APCO bans the import, transshipment, supply and use of all forms of asbestos to protect public health. It will come into force on April 4, 2014. Welcoming this Ordinance, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing explained that it also requires asbestos abatement work and related activities to be conducted by registered asbestos professionals in accordance with the APCO requirements and codes of practice. See: Government welcomes passage of Air Pollution Control (Amendment) (No. 2) Ordinance 2013.

Stricter Asbestos Regulations

Jan 23, 2014

Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council and the Ministry of Manpower have announced stricter regulations for work involving asbestos, which is often found in pre-1990 constructions in materials such as corrugated roofs, ceiling boards and partition walls. The new WSH (Asbestos) Regulations, which will take effect from May 1, mandate that an expert be appointed to ascertain if asbestos-containing materials are present before demolition or renovation works on buildings constructed before 1 January 1991 can take place. See: Enhanced regulations for work involving asbestos to be introduced.

Sanction for Asbestos Criminal Trial

Jan 22, 2014

A verdict handed down by the French Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) last month could, according to a press release issued this week by French civil society groups, open the way for a criminal trial of French executives, employees and civil servants involved in the national asbestos scandal. The Court’s decision reversed a 2011 ruling that dismissed the case against nine asbestos defendants; the charges against the accused will now be considered by the Paris Court of Appeal. It is expected that individuals associated with the French asbestos multinational Eternit and the Permanent Committee on Asbestos could face charges this year.

Asbestos Scares Hospital Staff

Jan 21, 2014

The demolition of the old nurses’ quarters at the Port of Spain General Hospital has set off alarm bells amongst staff who fear that construction debris being generated might contain asbestos which was commonly used in the production of roofing materials for public buildings. Visiting the site last week, a reporter confirmed that demolition work was proceeding and reported the concerns of nursing staff that people in facilities nearby, which include a primary and secondary school, the School of Nursing, nurses’ accommodation and a maternity ward, could also be at risk. There was little evidence of health and safety precautions being used. See: Hospital workers, nurses stay away.

State of Minas Gerais Bans Asbestos

Jan 21, 2014

Minas Gerais has become the sixth Brazilian state to ban the use of asbestos. Law 21.114 signed by Governor Antonio Anastasia prohibits the importation, transportation, storage, processing, marketing and use of products containing asbestos or asbestos fiber. The state joins São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Sul and Mato Grosso and 31 municipalities that have prohibited asbestos. During the asbestos phase-out period, strict measures will be introduced to minimize hazardous asbestos exposures. See: Minas Gerais edita lei que bane uso do amianto no estado [Minas Gerais passes a law banning the use of asbestos in the state].

Asbestos Epidemic Escalates

Jan 20, 2014

Figures released by the Belgian Asbestos Fund confirm a continuing rise in the number asbestos-related deaths over recent years. Commenting on January 19, 2014, a spokesman for the Belgian Asbestos Victims’ Group (ABEVA) warned that the country’s asbestos health catastrophe is far from over. The ABEVA President added that the official figures vastly underestimate the tragic toll asbestos diseases are taking and that most victims are unaware of the financial support available. See: Augmentation du nombre de décès dus à l'amiante: “La catastrophe sanitaire est encore à venir.” [Increase in the number of asbestos deaths: “The health disaster is yet to come.”].

Naturally Occurring Asbestos Hazard

Jan 17 2014

The hazard posed by naturally occurring asbestos in the Southern Nevada dessert was the focus of an academic paper published late last year. The authors warned that the asbestos fibers “could be transported by wind, water, cars or on clothing after outdoor recreational activities.” These findings present a serious problem for communities in the region, including Las Vegas. Research has identified similar problems elsewhere in the US; areas where naturally occurring asbestos has been found include the Sierras in California and Staten Island in N.Y. In El Dorado County California neighborhoods have been built on land with asbestos deposits. See: Landscapes Tainted by Asbestos.

Asbestos Hazard in Fire Cleanup

Jan 17, 2014

Officials have warned of the hazard posed by asbestos fibers in debris at the site of a Christmas Eve fire and explosion at the Co-op Refinery in Regina. The investigation into the causes of the fire was delayed until January 13 when officials were finally able to access the heavily damaged site. Although some asbestos had been removed by private contractors, the site remains contaminated. According to fire marshal Randy Ryba of the Regina Fire Department, investigators are looking into the area surrounding the explosion but have not yet reached the center of the blast. See: Asbestos cleanup delays explosion probe at Regina refinery.

Ban Asbestos Mobilization in Asia

Jan 16, 2014

A bumper issue of the Occupational and Safety Health Rights Newsletter released today documents the incredible growth in ban asbestos activism throughout Asia in 2013. The 32-page online resource contains features on ban asbestos meetings in Bangladesh and Indonesia, grassroots asbestos activities in India and Korea and crucial news about the work of asbestos industry scientists, landmark judicial decisions and the first government payouts to asbestosis victims in India. The formation of the Bangladesh Ban Asbestos Network was announced. See: January 2014 issue of the Occupational and Safety Health Rights Newsletter.

New Sites Accept Asbestos Waste

Jan 16, 2014

From yesterday (January 15, 2014), individuals were permitted to dump small amounts of asbestos-containing waste free of charge at four landfill sites in communes in Central France under carefully regulated conditions. Deposits were restricted to a maximum of one cubic meter each and must be packaged according to prescribed conditions which include the use of insulating wrap and reinforced bags. Failure to take sufficient care with the wrapping could incur a fine. See: Quatre déchetteries acceptent le dépôt d'amiante liée [Four landfills accept asbestos waste].

Italian Victims Call for French Justice

Jan 16, 2014

A victims’ group from Casale Monferrato (AFeVA) has welcomed efforts of their French counterpart (ANDEVA) to press for charges of manslaughter to be issued against owners/managers of asbestos companies and executives employed by the Permanent Committee on Asbestos. Italian criminal proceedings against asbestos defendants Stephan Schmidheiny and Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne are cited as a template which could be followed. “AFeVA and ANDEVA… believe this will contribute to the fight for a world ban on asbestos, to justice for victims, to decontamination and to research so that we may find a cure and eliminate mesothelioma.” See: AfeVA Press Release.

Investigation by Government Agency

Jan 15, 2014

Responding to a complaint from the Toxics Watch Alliance that 50,000+ people die from asbestos-related diseases annually in India, it was reported today that the National Human Rights Commission, a body set up in 1993 under the Protection of the Human Rights Act, has asked all state governments to investigate this issue. The report by the Government of Delhi noted that there are three asbestos-processing factories in the capital and that the Government keeps health records of all workers at these factories. See: NHRC wants report on asbestos’ health effects.

Multinational Awareness Project

Jan 15, 2014

Information related to an ongoing project by an Italian– Latin American consortium to develop asbestos awareness training protocols was detailed in a recently published commentary in an Italian health journal. Using a cross-disciplinary approach, public health policies and measures to prevent asbestos-related diseases have been developed as part of the Italian National Asbestos Project. This text recognized the urgent need for asbestos use to be banned globally and urged stakeholders in ban and non-ban countries to mount joint initiatives towards this goal. See: Asbestos case and its current implications for global health.

McGill Asbestos Controversy

Jan 15, 2014

An editorial in the current issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health is a damning indictment of the continued failure by McGill University to address the controversial research program and findings of Professor J. C. McDonald from the McGill Department of Epidemiology. Industry-funded studies undertaken by McDonald continually yielded results which were beneficial to the asbestos industry such as the fact that “exposure to chrysotile asbestos gave protection against cancer” and that “chrysotile asbestos was essentially ‘innocuous’.” See: Asbestos: a continuing failure of ethics by McGill University.

Asbestos Alert by Cancer Council

Jan 15, 2014

The Cancer Council of Australia has today confirmed the increasing incidence of asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) in Australia. Experts predict that more and more Australians will be diagnosed with ARDs for years to come, largely due to hazardous exposures experienced by construction workers and home renovators. A new eLearning course has been developed to raise awareness amongst DIY-ers of the asbestos hazard found throughout Australia’s infrastructure. Over 3000 asbestos-containing building products were manufactured or used in Australia between the 1940s and 1980s. See: Drill into that wall at your peril!

Bakers’ Exposure to Asbestos

Jan 14, 2014

According to an episode of the program Zembla, shown today on Dutch TV, 38 cases of asbestos-related cancer have been recognized in the last 14 years amongst bakers exposed to asbestos insulation in ovens. This week’s program follows up on accusations made last week that a well-known bakery group had experienced problems at three of its factories related to asbestos contamination of bread. Eugene Scholten, a company spokesman, refuted charges that there had been direct contact between bread and the asbestos used as insulation in the company's ovens. See: Bakers contract cancer from asbestos in old ovens.

Time has come for Asbestos Justice

Jan 14, 2014

Yesterday ( January 13), the Journal of the Environment highlighted the national asbestos scandal and urged judicial authorities in France to follow the example of the Turin Court of Appeal which in 2013 sentenced an asbestos executive to 18 years in jail. Despite efforts to hold negligent individuals to account for their asbestos crimes, no legal actions have been instigated against officials from Eternit or other asbestos companies or industry groups such as the Permanent Committee on Asbestos. Legal proceedings may, however, begin in early 2015. See: Amiante: 2014, enfin l’heure de la justice en France? [Asbestos: 2014 finally the time for justice in France?].

Environmental Asbestos Fallout

Jan 13, 2014

The BBC today reported on the case of a mesothelioma victim from County Durham who brought legal proceedings against Cape Intermediate Holdings, part of the group which in 1967 took over Universal Asbestos Manufacturing, the owner of an asbestos factory in Bowburn. Although Cape has denied liability for Caroline Wilcock's claim, they have offered her a "substantial" out-of-court settlement. Caroline, who lived across the street from the Bowburn plant, and other local children played with asbestos liberated from the factory between 1967 and 1983. See: The Children who Played with Asbestos.

Progress on Mesothelioma Research

Jan 13, 2014

A research collaboration by scientists in Italy and the U.S. is reporting significant progress on new molecular therapies for the treatment of mesothelioma, a signature disease caused by exposure to asbestos. Recent studies published in academic journals detail work led by Italian scientist Professor Antonio Giordano on the treatment of mesothelioma with the new anticancer agent (MK-1775) given in combination with cisplatin. Clinical trials in the U.S. are already using MK-1775 for the treatment of other types of tumors. See: Siena, nuove prospettive per la cura del ''tumore dell'amianto'' [Siena, new perspectives for the treatment of asbestos cancer].

More Asbestos Imports from China

Jan 10, 2014

News has been released detailing the sale by the Chinese manufacturer CSR of contaminated train cars and equipment to Bradken Ltd., an Australian mining products group. As asbestos has been banned in Australia since 2003, these shipments constitute contraband goods and as such have been impounded by Australian customs which is carrying out further investigations into the matter. A Bradken spokesman said this was the first time the company had purchased CSR products. Breaking the ban restrictions could cost the company in excess of AU$850,000. See: CSR Train Cars, Parts Shipped to Australia Tainted with Asbestos.

Rise in Mesothelioma Incidence

Jan 10, 2014

Data published last week in a Cancer Journal documented a 45% rise in the rate of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) in Ireland over a 15-year period. "Over the study…the age-standardized malignant pleural mesothelioma incidence in the Republic of Ireland rose from 4.98 cases per million to 7.24 cases per million." An analysis of the National Cancer Registry of Ireland statistics shows similar trends to those in other countries: excess mortality was associated with age at diagnosis and the 1-year survival rate for all MPM cases was 29.6%. See: Jennings, CJ, et al. Malignant pleural mesothelioma incidence and survival in the Republic of Ireland 1994-2009.

Hong Kong Asbestos Scare

Jan 9, 2014

The Haking Wong Building at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) will be reopened today (Jan. 9) after an asbestos scare. The building had been closed on Tuesday after asbestos-containing debris had been identified in maintenance rooms on six floors. A task force agreed to commission air quality tests to establish the risk of contamination being spread through the air-conditioning services. A spokeswoman for the University said yesterday said that the "The test results of airborne asbestos fiber level from air samples taken from the building suggested that the building is safe for normal occupation." See: HKU building cleared after asbestos scare.

Government Acts on Roofing

Jan 9, 2014

Measures being progressed by the Rwandan Government aim to remove and dispose of more than a million square meters of asbestos roofing from public buildings by 2016, according to a pronouncement this week by Xinhua Frédéric Bizimana, acting coordinator of the Asbestos Clearance Project of the Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA). Bizimana urged the public to follow RHA instructions when dealing with asbestos-contaminated roofing in order to protect public health. See: Le Rwanda lance une campagne visant à résoudre le dilemme de toits mortels [Rwanda launches campaign to solve the dilemma of fatal roofs].

The Mesothelioma Bill

Jan 8, 2014

The third reading of the Mesothelioma Bill took place yesterday in the House of Commons; dozens of MPs took part in the debate. Unfortunately, attempts to obtain a modest increase in the value of payments to victims was defeated by 39 votes. An amendment to provide funding for mesothelioma research was lost by 40 votes. Despite these setbacks, the efforts of UK asbestos victims groups to force the insurance industry to award compensation for mesothelioma victims unable to trace their employer's insurance policies is a marked victory which will provide much-needed funds to some of those who have contracted this fatal disease. See: Hansards Text of Mesothelioma Bill Debate.

Asbestos Epidemic

Jan 8, 2014

On January 7, 2014, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced that 28 Japanese workers had been officially recognised as having contracted asbestos-related diseases after toxic exposures at US military bases in Okinawa Prefecture; 21 of them have died. The workers from the base carried out demolition of asbestos-containing buildings, spraying of asbestos, waste disposal and collection, and repair and manufacturing of machines. Asbestos has been found at former US military sites returned to Japan; Japanese workers renovated bases without prior notification of the asbestos hazard. See: Japan Workers Sick from Asbestos.

The Curse of Asbestos

Jan 6, 2014

Today, award-winning Brazilian journalist Eliane Brum reported in El Pais, the highest-circulation Spanish language newspaper, efforts by Brazilian asbestos victims from ABREA to have an honor bestowed upon asbestos magnate Stephan Schmidheiny by the Brazilian Government rescinded. ABREA's action was inspired by a petition submitted to Yale University by Italian victims for the revocation of an honorary degree awarded in 1996 to a man convicted 16 years later for his role in the asbestos deaths of thousands of citizens. In Venezuela and Costa Rica civil society groups are considering similar actions. See: A maldição do Amianto [The Curse of Asbestos].

Another Death from Pirelli Factory

Jan 6, 2014

Pensioner Aldo Settembre died last week from long-term occupational exposure to asbestos at the Pirelli factory in Milan. Although Settembre had never worked with asbestos, he had been exposed to asbestos contamination at the industrial site. The public prosecutor has ordered that an autopsy be performed. Settembre was part of a class action against eleven Pirelli executives who are facing manslaughter charges related to dozens of cases of asbestos-related diseases and deaths arising from the factory. See: Un vogherese tra i morti per l'amianto alla Pirelli [A Vogherese among Pirelli's asbestos dead].

Court Ruling: Exposures Unacceptable

Jan 6, 2014

Two years of litigation have ended with a verdict by the Court of Cassation endorsing actions in 2011 by a labor inspector who ordered that a Draka Paricable Company workshop be evacuated due to the asbestos hazard. The company, which manufactures electrical cables, filed a lawsuit and reopened the facility three days later. A judge then ordered that the workshop be vacated. The claims, counterclaims and appeals were resolved with a judgment supporting the inspector's actions. See: Amiante: après 2 ans de procédures, la Justice donne raison à un inspecteur du travail [Asbestos: after 2 years of litigation, Justice supports labor inspector's actions].

Yalegate Scandal Unfolds

Jan 4, 2014

On January 3, 2014, the National Public Radio station in New Haven, home of Yale University, ran a 16-minute segment (25 sec into Where We Live broadcast) on the unfolding controversy over Yale's refusal to rescind the 1996 award of an honorary doctorate to Stephan Schmidheiny, in response to requests from Italian citizens who contracted asbestos-related diseases due to the operations of Schmidheiny's family business. The final question by the interviewer asked whether a man's philanthropic acts could compensate for past misdeeds. The answer by Dr. Barry Castleman, who testified in the landmark Italian trial which sentenced Schmidheiny to 16 years in prison, was an emphatic No!

Asbestos Inaction is a Killer

Jan 3, 2014

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) marked the 10th anniversary of the national asbestos ban by calling for greater action to prevent the import of asbestos-containing products. In a New Year's press release the ACTU noted that "The goal of an asbestos free Australia by 2030 cannot be reached if an ineffectual Ban allows more asbestos containing material into the country." The 2013 scandals over imports from China of asbestos-contaminated freight trains and motor vehicles led to calls for increased funding for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to prevent future breaches of the country's asbestos prohibitions. See: ACTU Press Release.

Executives to Face Criminal Charges?

Jan 3, 2014

An article was published on January 2, 2014 in the Journal of the Environment which explored the likelihood of French courts seeking criminal prosecutions of high-level corporate officers for negligence over workplace asbestos exposures. A top secret memo leaked by Le Figaro stated that an investigation into the actions of executives from the French asbestos giant Eternit will be completed soon; a criminal trial could begin in early 2015. In another case, 5 asbestos executives will face criminal charges as per a decision last month by the Court of Cassation. See: 2014, l'année de l'amiante en France [2014, the asbestos year in France].

Warnings of Post-cyclone Hazard

Jan 2, 2014

Earlier this week ex-cyclone Christine battered the Pilbara and Kimberley mining regions of Western Australia with rain and winds of up to 170km/h. In the aftermath of the storm, warnings were given of the risk of asbestos exposure during clean-up operations. Asbestos-containing building products were commonly used in Australia throughout the 20th century. Commenting on the hazard, one legal specialist said: "Asbestos products damaged by severe storms like cyclone Christine can release a very dangerous dust which, once breathed in, can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other serious illnesses." See: Pilbara asbestos fears follow in the wake of cyclone Christine.

Initiation of Remediation Program

Jan 2, 2014

Officials from Udine, a city in the northeast of Italy, today confirmed the commencement of a two-year effort to identify asbestos-contaminated sites. "The first thing we will do in 2014 – announced Commissioner Sara Vito – will be to take up the subject of asbestos." Work will, Vito said, begin this month to update the 2006-2007 regional asbestos audit and a precise mapping of the situation will be carried out to prioritize areas where urgent action is needed. See: Amianto, la Regione avvia il censimento dei siti da bonificare [Asbestos, the region starts the census of sites requiring remediation].

Landmark Court Ruling

Dec 30, 2013

A 49-year-old man, exposed to asbestos as a teenage worker at an Eternit factory in Switzerland, died in 2007. The compensation case filed for his death from mesothelioma, which had been rejected by the authorities in Glarus and the District Administrative Court, has received the green light from the Federal Court in Lausanne which ruled today that his widow and three children are entitled to compensation and that Eternit officials were guilty of negligent homicide for breaching their duty of care to the teenager when the carcinogenic risk posed by asbestos exposure was known. See: Décès dû à l'amiante: aide aux victimes pour les proches [Asbestos deaths: help for victims soon.].

Government Liable for Exposures

Dec 25, 2013

On December 25, 2013, in a landmark ruling by the Osaka High Court, the Japanese Government was held liable for asbestos-related diseases due to its failure to protect workers from harmful exposures. This is the first time such a judgment has been handed down. The 58 claimants in this case, who include former asbestos mill workers from the Osaka South Prefecture, were seeking 700 million yen (U.S. $6.7 million) in damages; today's ruling awarded them 340m, nearly double that awarded by a lower court. See: High court holds gov't liable for asbestos exposure for 1st time; also see: Asbestos Health Hazard in Seenan.

Demonstration at Ministry of Health

Dec 24, 2013

Scores of members of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network (T-BAN), today mounted a protest outside the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Bangkok to condemn the continued use of asbestos more than two years after a cabinet resolution was adopted supporting a ban. The demonstrators read out a statement which criticised the status quo and the position of an interim MoH's official who supported it (see: T-BAN Statement). It is understood that the controversial report supporting the use of chrysotile will not be submitted to the cabinet. T-BAN is calling for full disclosure relating to the actions of this official.

Paris Subways Stopped by Asbestos

Dec 23, 2103

On December 20, 2013, four lines of the Paris Metro were shut-down for three hours in the late afternoon due to an asbestos alert issued by transport union supervisors. Thirty thousand people were evacuated from the trains. A technical fault in a containment system used by asbestos removal workers in the command center of these lines had resulted in unacceptable readings of airborne fibers. As a consequence, an order was given by the union for the workers who manage these subway lines to evacuate. See: Interruption du métro parisien: "Le seuil d'amiante avait été atteint", dit le vice-président du STIF [Interruption of the Paris Metro: "The asbestos threshold had been reached," said STIF vice president].

Risk of Low Level Asbestos Exposure

Dec 22, 2013

A paper in the Journal of Occupation and Environmental Medicine last week highlighted the association between low level occupational asbestos exposures and asbestos cancers. Data from a Dutch cohort of nearly 60,000 men aged 55 to 69 years, documented the following number of asbestos-related cancers: 132 pleural mesotheliomas, 2,324 lung cancers and 166 laryngeal cancers. The authors conclude that low level asbestos exposures "may be associated with an increased risk of pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer, and laryngeal cancer." See: Occupational Asbestos Exposure and Risk of Pleural Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer, and Laryngeal Cancer in the Prospective Netherlands Cohort Study.

Landmark Compensation for Asbestosis

Dec 21, 2013

On December 20, 14 tribal workers with asbestosis who had been employed at Udaipur asbestos mines received compensation of around U.S. $1,600 from the Rajasthan State Government (see: Picture of recipients). This comes as the conclusion to a 6 year-fight by the Mine Labor Protection Campaign with medical institutions and government departments. Future victims will also receive this amount; widows of deceased claimants will receive $4,800. These payouts mark a landmark victory for injured workers as it is the first time Indian asbestosis victims have received monetary relief from the State. See: In a first, 14 asbestosis victims get 1L cheques.

Environmental Asbestos Risk

Dec 21, 2013

A journal article just published details the ongoing threat posed by exposure to asbestos-containing materials and environmental contamination in South Africa, a country which banned asbestos in 2008. The paper highlights the hazards of unrehabilitated mine dumps and unregulated dumping of asbestos waste as well as elevated levels of asbestos contamination found throughout the country's educational infrastructure. The authors urge that measures to identify and monitor contamination be adopted in order to "assist in the safe removal of asbestos and in reducing its adverse health effects." See: A South African database of samples analysed for the presence of asbestos.

WHO Issues Asbestos Alert

Dec 19, 2013

On Monday (December 16, 2013), the World Health Organization issued a warning on the health risk of exposure to asbestos and other environmental toxins. This was in response to conclusions reached by delegates who took part in the third meeting of the Environment and Health Task Force in Brussels (December 10-11, 2013). At the meeting, representatives from thirty countries expressed support for action "to free Europe from asbestos-related diseases and exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke and toxic chemicals." See: Countries urged to sink health risks from asbestos, second-hand smoke and toxic chemicals by 2015.

Widespread Asbestos Contamination

Dec 19, 2013

Reacting to research conducted by the Socialist Trade Union, which found non-compliance with asbestos regulations in up to 1,000 public buildings in Brussels, the Belgian asbestos victims' group ABEVA issued a press release calling for effective but non-precipitous action. Previous calls by ABEVA for a joined-up government policy on asbestos had been ignored with dire consequences. Highlighting the potential for contamination of schools, ABEVA recommended the urgent prioritization of remedial work in the educational infrastructure. See: Asbestos in many of Brussels' public buildings.

Agreement to Ban Asbestos in Laos

Dec 17, 2013

News was published yesterday of an agreement signed in Vientiane on December 13, 2013 by Somphong Soukivanh, the Deputy Director General of the Industry and Handicrafts Department, and Philip Hazelton, regional representative of the Australian organization Union Aid Abroad to develop a National Asbestos Profile. Work will begin in January 2014. Upon completion in June, 2014 the profile will constitute a fundamental part of the National Strategy on the Elimination of Asbestos. Laos uses asbestos to produce industrial products including cement roofing tiles. In 2002, the country began importing significant amounts of the deadly material. See: Laos plans to eliminate the importation of asbestos.

Anger at Expansion of Asbestos Sector

Dec 17, 2013

Yesterday (December 16, 2013), a delegation of activists and local people met with state officials to submit a Memorandum criticising the plans by Utkal Asbestos Limited, a company based in West Bengal, to construct an asbestos factory in their village. This was the latest manifestation of anger by civilians over the seemingly unchecked expansion of the hazardous asbestos sector in Bihar State. During demonstrations, protestors have been injured by the police and company security guards and workers have been sacked. See: Some 10, 000 Vaishali Villagers Submit Petition Against proposed Hazardous Asbestos Factory of Bengal's Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL).

Iconic Paris Landmark Contaminated

Dec 16, 2013

A preliminary report leaked last week to Le Monde and Agence France Presse confirms that cable ducts in the Tour Montparnasse, a landmark building in which 5,000+ people work, are lined with asbestos. Ventilation systems also contain asbestos liberated during seven years of decontamination work at a cost of €250 million. As a result of these findings the authorities have suspended remedial work until further notice. The final version of the report is expected to be published in the New Year. The 207 meter tower complex was built in 1973 at a cost of $140m by N.Y. property developer Wylie Tuttle. See: Tour Montparnasse contaminated with asbestos.

Threat from Asbestos Deposits

Dec 16, 2013

Last week, Spain's award-winning Observer Magazine, published an article which focused on the country's asbestos history including attempts to mine chrysotile and tremolite in Andalusia. Three million tonnes of asbestos were used in Spain with consumption peaking in the 1970s; only a small amount was produced locally. The threat posed by the geographical presence of asbestos in areas including the Costa del Sol and Serrania de Ronda is yet to be acknowledged by the authorities. See: "Fiebre del oro blanco" en la Costa del Sol y en la serranía de Ronda [White Gold Fever on the Costa del Sol and in the Serrania de Ronda].

Schmidheiny's Donations to Yale

Dec 14, 2013

Further information has been forthcoming regarding the decision by Yale University not to revoke an honorary doctorate awarded to convicted criminal Stephan Schmidheiny. In an article which appeared yesterday in the local newspaper of Casale Monferrato, an Italian town decimated by the operations of Schmidheiny's asbestos company, it was revealed that the reclusive billionaire and/or an organization he founded, made substantial donations to the University in 1996 and 1997. The article's headline says it all: Schmidheiny pagò la laurea ad honorem [Schmidheiny paid for honorary degree].

End of the Road for Quebec Mine

Dec 14, 2013

At this point in time, the Jeffrey Mine exists in name only. Attempts by asbestos stakeholders to resurrect the mine were finally defeated when the new Marois government cancelled $58 million of government support (2012). An article just released suggests that although secret negotiations have been ongoing, as of December 31 the company will be liquidated and the contaminated mine will become an orphan site with potentially disastrous consequences for the population as well as local, regional and federal governments. It has been estimated that keeping the site safe could cost $2 million/year. See: Négociations secrètes chez Mine Jeffrey [Secret Negotiations at the Jeffrey Mine].

Workplace Health and Safety

Dec 12, 2013

WorkSafe NZ will begin work on Monday, December 16, 2013. Its focus will be on issues related to workplace health and safety; these issues were previously handled by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The new agency will make recommendations on legislative change and play a major role in the development of a health and safety strategy. An asbestos advisory panel is being set up under WorkSafe NZ. It is hoped that having examined the failure of the national asbestos policy, the panel will progress efforts to ban asbestos in New Zealand. See: WorkSafe New Zealand is being established.

Victory for Asbestos Victims

Dec 11, 2013

French asbestos victims yesterday welcomed a landmark decision by the Court of Cassation which ruled that executives of the multinational asbestos company Eternit and asbestos stakeholders who, for decades, progressed the industry's agenda must face criminal proceedings. This decision reversed a 2011 ruling that dismissed the case against nine asbestos defendants; the charges against the accused will now be considered by the investigating chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal. See: Martine Aubry reste mise en examen dans le dossier de l'aimante [Martine Aubry remains under examination in the asbestos case]; see also: ANDEVA Press Release.

Cancer Working Group Memorandum

Dec 11, 2013

A 109-page Memorandum from the Finnish Occupational Cancer Working Group uploaded on December 10, 2013, categorically states that there is an "indisputable" relationship between exposure to asbestos and cases of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and laryngeal cancer. Highlighting the deadly effects of asbestos exposures, the authors note that: "Today, lung cancer and mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos are definitely the most important types of diagnosed occupational cancers." See: Memorandum from the Finnish Occupational Cancer Working Group.

Progress on Asbestos Research Initiative

Dec 11, 2013

The National Centre for Asbestos-Related Diseases (NCARD), a collaborative effort nominally based in Perth, Western Australia, has issued a bumper newsletter which includes details of the iMig-NCARD October 26, 2013 Mesothelioma Symposium in Sydney, the second Australian Asbestos Forum in Sydney on November 25 during National Asbestos Awareness Week as well as progress on mesothelioma research projects and fund-raising initiatives. Articles on the work of eminent mesothelioma researchers Professors Bruce Robinson and Bill Musk are featured. See: NCARD Newsletter Vol 3 Issue 3 (December 2013).

British Asbestos Newsletter

Dec 11, 2013

The autumn 2013 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The feature article in Issue 92, The Mesothelioma Bill - A Gift to Insures, forensically examines the genesis and contents of a controversial bill currently being debated in the House of Commons. Author Tony Whitston reiterates the call by UK asbestos victims for 100% justice for the injured and for compensation to be provided for all asbestos victims. Other articles discuss pleural thickening litigation and a UK mesothelioma research initiative being spearheaded by the James Lind Alliance. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, Issue 92.

Urgent Asbestos Warning

Dec 6, 2013

On Thursday, December 5, 2013, experts from New Zealand and Australia addressed a conference in Christchurch and issued grave warnings about the post-earthquake consequences of asbestos exposure. Australian authorities on the asbestos hazard Craig Simmons and Professor Bill Musk used language which left the hundreds of delegates in no doubt as to the seriousness of the situation. Professor Musk said he was shocked by the huge potential for exposures in the city and warned that the country needs to immediately ban imports of asbestos. See: Asbestos risk in rebuild unprecedented – experts; also see: New Zealand's Failing Asbestos Policy!.

Injured Mine Workers Petition Rejected

Dec 6, 2013

The Baie Verte asbestos mine in Newfoundland closed in 1995. Former mine workers who have contracted asbestos-related diseases have collaborated with union leaders and academics to set up a miners' registry in order to facilitate claims for compensation. Although the authorities welcomed this initiative, the Newfoundland and Labrador government has turned down a request for legislative changes to help the Baie Verte asbestos claimants. Dan Crummell, the Minister of Service for Newfoundland and Labrador rejected the miners' petition. See: Government says no to changes to help sick mine workers.

Asbestos Lobby Hits Delhi

Dec 6, 2013

At a two-day conference in the Indian capital this week, the asbestos roadshow laid out its wares of industry-commissioned research and arguments to bolster the sales pitch of asbestos profiteers in a country which has embraced asbestos technology. David Bernstein, the industry's preferred "scientist," led the pack with a presentation used to enforce the propaganda that chrysotile asbestos can be used safely under controlled conditions; the vast majority of the delegates represented Indian asbestos industry stakeholders. As of 2012, India had used over 7 million tonnes of asbestos; India is the world's biggest importer of asbestos. See: Picture of Speakers at Asbestos Industry Event.

Controversial Bill Goes to Commons

Dec 2, 2013

Today, The Mesothelioma Bill is being debated in the House of Commons having completed its passage through the House of Lords before the Summer recess. Asbestos victims, who have given a qualified welcome to the legislation, are urging MPs to make improvements which will recognize the suffering of all asbestos victims, increase payments to the injured and withdraw taxpayers' support for the insurance industry which, after extensive back room lobbying, is due to receive "Government largesse on an unprecedented scale." See: Press Release by Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK; also see: The Mesothelioma Bill - A Gift to Insurers.

Asbestos in Imported Rolling Stock

Nov 30, 2013

Veteran journalist Matt Peacock knows a thing or two about asbestos. He has spent the last 3 decades investigating asbestos stories in Australia and abroad. A Peacock exposé on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's primetime TV news show "7:30" on Tuesday (Nov. 26) is amongst the best he has done. Peacock revealed that ten locomotives imported from China which had asbestos-free certificates were not in fact free of asbestos. The trains were, according to specialists, contaminated with chrysotile asbestos. An eight-minute segment can be viewed online along with relevant documents including the analyst's report. See: Asbestos scare strikes Chinese imports to Australia.

Hazards of Increasing Asbestos Use

Nov 28, 2013

The occupational risks for people in the growing asbestos industry in Laos were highlighted in an article uploaded yesterday which predicted that national consumption could reach 9,000 tonnes/year. Ignorance about the human health hazards posed by asbestos exposures has enabled sales to increase without government or civil society opposition. This is changing. In July 2013 a 2-day conference entitled Working towards a National Strategy on Asbestos in Laos attracted widespread participation including the attendance of government officials from eight ministries, trade unionists, academics and experts. See: Fight Against Asbestos Goes Global.

Asbestos Alert in Kathmandu

Nov 27, 2013

The Executive Director of the [Nepal] Centre for Public Health and Environmental Development Ram Charitra Sah has warned the authorities of the hazards posed by the lack of care taken regarding the use and storage of asbestos-containing products. "Asbestos is," he told a reporter for the Himalayan Times "piled up in different parts of Kathmandu, including Maitighar, for use in road construction work…" In an article citing the official positions of the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organizations, Mr. Sah called on the Government to ban the use, import and export of asbestos products. See: Handle asbestos carefully: NGO.

Asbestos Exposure in Indian Workplaces

Nov 27, 2013

Media reports published today highlight the deplorable situation of Indian migrant laborers who have contracted fatal asbestos-related diseases from workplace exposures. Raghunath Manwar, President of the Occupational Health Association, confirmed the situation citing the case of S.R. Gaunder's widow who has, since his death 3 years ago, received no support or compensation as her husband was a migrant from Tamil Nadu. Gaunder, who had been employed as a laborer at a notorious asbestos-cement factory, died in 2010 from asbestos cancer. Similar examples are documented along with comments from activists helping the injured. See: Vapi hellhole gets worse for migrant workers.

Queries over Journal's Ethical Failings

Nov 26, 2013

In a letter to the editor of the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology, serious questions are asked about the lack of disclosure by the authors of a 2013 article entitled: Health Risks of Chrysotile Revisited. The authors of the letter, who believe that the "article violates ethical standards of disclosure that all scientists and scientific publications are expected to uphold," cite incorrect information provided by David Bernstein and Jacques Dunnigan about the funding of the paper and their ties to asbestos industry stakeholders. Links between the Editor in Chief Roger McClellan and an asbestos firm are also mentioned. See: Complaint submitted to Editor of scientific publication regarding hidden asbestos industry ties.

Online Resource: London Health Reports

Nov 26, 2013

The Wellcome Library has digitized 124 years of reports by Health Officers for London boroughs; this archive is an invaluable resource for researchers investigating the history of asbestos knowledge. Items written in the 1930s by Dr Williams, the Medical Officer of Health for Barking - the borough in which a notorious factory belonging to Cape Asbestos was located - are informative. Williams' was described by Dr. Merewether - co-author of the seminal 1930 Merewether and Price asbestos report - as being "obsessed with the subject [asbestos]." See: London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972.

Launch of Ban Asbestos Network

Nov 25, 2013

On November 23, 2013, at the culmination of a 2-day meeting of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network in Dhaka, a new organization was launched: the Bangladesh Ban Asbestos Network (B-BAN). Calling for urgent action, occupational health and safety campaigner and co-host of the meeting Repon Chowdhury said "Bangladesh cannot close its eyes to the asbestos issue." Asbestos activists, victims and trade unionist delegates at the meeting endorsed the new organization and pledged to continue international collaboration to achieve an Asian ban on the use of asbestos. See: Press Release.

Illegal Asbestos Imports

Nov 25, 2013

In 2012, the import of asbestos-contaminated cars from China caused a huge uproar in the Australian media. Today, news has been released that the import of hazardous materials is continuing due to a systemic failure by the Customs authorities. Asbestos contamination has been recently found in imported train engines. This news has led to an outcry from asbestos victims' groups and trade unions over the potential for deadly exposures from unidentified imports. In June, tests revealed that imported motorcycles contained asbestos; they were destroyed. See: Imported asbestos products getting past Australian customs.

Medical Workshop on Asbestos

Nov 20, 2103

Ban asbestos activists from Indonesia and Korea are today holding a medical workshop on asbestos in Jakarta (see: workshop poster) to highlight the ongoing risk posed by occupational and environmental exposure to a substance widely used in Indonesia (see: Growth of Asian Asbestos Markets). Speakers invited by the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) and the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network (Ina-ban) will reveal details of the incidence of asbestos-related disease identified amongst workers from an asbestos textile factory in Cibinong, Indonesia; the company which owns this factory moved its operations from Korea to Indonesia in the 1990s.

Asbestos Alert for Investors

Nov 20, 2013

A 27-page Australian report by financial analysts at Citi Research has today been issued to alert potential investors to the asbestos trading of stock market-listed companies. Amongst the names mentioned are mining companies in Russia (Uralasbest), Brazil (Eternit), Kazakhstan (variously described as DAGOK Kustanaiasbest, or Kustanai Minerals); information on mining companies in China was not available. Also listed were companies involved in the manufacture of asbestos-containing construction and automotive products; eight Indian producers of asbestos-cement construction material were named. See: Asbestos: Assessing Exposure of Certain MSCI World Index Sectors.

Fear and Loathing in Asbest, Russia

Nov 19, 2013

Journalists working on a project on the future of Russian monotowns reported a high level of anxiety and fear in the Russian town of Asbest, home to Ural Asbest's open-pit asbestos mine. There is, they found, widespread concern about the future of the company which employs 10% of the population, in light of perceived threats from the "mysterious forces of the international anti-asbestos campaign." Security service personnel maintained a watchful and threatening eye on the journalists' activities and a person interviewed was summarily fired for speaking to them. According to the article: "Every second person [at Ural Asbest] has asbestosis." See: The People of the Pit.

Eternit Asbestos Continues to Kill

Nov 18, 2013

More than 700 cases of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma have been diagnosed in a district in North Lebanon which was formerly the location of an Eternit asbestos-cement factory. Former employees, family members and residents are amongst the dead. Local people bought Eternit waste to make concrete which was used in and around homes. As a result, there is widespread environmental contamination. The company's owner, Stephan Schmidheiny, sold the asbestos operations in Chekka (Koura district) to Lebanese businessmen who continued production until 1991. See: North Lebanon: Closed Asbestos Factory Still Kills.

Asbestos Contamination in Tenerife

Nov 18, 2013

Seventeen homeless people sheltering in a theater named after a famous Spanish literary figure face eviction should the Canaries' Government decide to act on the recent discovery of asbestos-cement pipes in the dilapidated structure. A technical expert who inspected the premises in Tenerife this weekend concluded that urgent action was needed including the removal of the remaining 40 meters of contaminated pipes. A decision by the municipal authorities is expected this week. See: El Pérez Minik será desalojado tras detectarse tubos de Amianto (Evictions from Pérez Minik [theater] after discovery of asbestos pipes).

ABREA's Role Acknowledged

Nov 15, 2013

A 24-page segment in a magazine [see: magazine cover] published today by the Brazilian Federal Public Ministry of Labor focuses on the pivotal role played by ABREA, the national asbestos victims' group, in the struggle against the country's notorious asbestos group: Eternit. The text exposes the company's attempts to deceive and co-opt workers into signing extra-judicial agreements absolving their former employer of its liabilities for the negligent and hazarous occupational exposures to asbestos which took place at the Eternit asbestos-cement factories. See: A morte lenta e silenciosa dos empregados da Eternit [The slow and silent death of employees of Eternit].

Thousands in Asbestos-riddled Homes

Nov 14, 2013

In 1985, Sonatrach, an Algerian-government owned oil and gas consortium which is the largest company in Africa, built accommodation for its employees in Sicel city. The asbestos-cement construction products used on the blocks of flats, now abandoned by the company, are in an advanced state of decay exposing 2,000 occupants to cancerous fibers; media reports say that 20 residents have died of asbestos diseases. Despite negotiations between Sonatrach, local authorities and federal officials, no efforts have been made to address this and other hazards posed by the deterioration of the infrastructure. See: Plus de 600 familles exposées à l'amiante [More than 600 families exposed to asbestos].

Allegations that Eternit Bribed Victims

Nov 13, 2013

Eternit, S.A., Brazil's foremost asbestos company, has been charged over attempts to entice asbestos-exposed ex-employees to sign agreements absolving the company of liability through an outreach social program for the "Eternit family" workforce. Letters on this issue have been submitted as part of a legal action by ABREA, the national group representing the asbestos-exposed, many of whom worked for Eternit. Activities offered included barbecues and TV screenings of World Cup games. See: Eternit 'cortejou' ex-funcionários contaminados com amianto para evitar ação na Justiça, diz MPT [Eternit "courted" asbestos-exposed ex-employees to prevent legal action].

Prosecution of Olivetti Executives

Nov 12, 2013

The former President, Vice President, Managing Director and CEO of Olivetti are amongst twenty people being investigated for overseeing a regime which failed to prevent hazardous exposures to asbestos at industrial premises in northwest Italy. It is alleged that their negligence resulted in twenty former workers dying from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma between 2003 and 2013. From the late 1970s until the early 1990s, the deceased had worked in Olivetti departments contaminated with asbestos. See: All'Olivetti operai uccisi dall'amianto [Olivetti workers killed by asbestos].

Dismantling of US "Ghost Ships"

Nov 11, 2013

The arrival in Hartlepool in 2003 of the Caloosahatchee, a rusting US warship, set off ten years of protest by local campaigners. Friends of Hartlepool objected to their town becoming "the dumping ground of the world"; during the struggle, legal and environmental objections were raised to the dismantling in Hartlepool of toxic US "Ghost Ships" which contained nearly 2,000 tonnes of asbestos as well as mercury, cadmium, chromium and other toxins. As a result, only four US ships were processed at the Able UK yard and work was stopped in January 2011. The dumping of the yard's hazardous waste in local landfills remains a contentious issue. See: The Legacy of Hartlepool's US Navy 'ghost ships'.

Deadline for Asbestos Judgment

Nov 8, 2013

The French Supreme Court has announced it will hand down its decision on landmark asbestos cases on December 10. Charges in this litigation relate to the responsibility of government officials, scientists and industrialists for hazardous asbestos exposures experienced by French citizens which resulted in their contracting asbestos-related diseases. ANDEVA, a national asbestos victims' group, has challenged the lower courts' decisions and the Advocate General's recommendation to acquit the defendants. See: Amiante: décision en cassation le 10 décembre sur deux dossiers emblématiques [Court decision on two landmark asbestos cases on December 10].

Saskatchewan's Asbestos Registry

Nov 8, 2013

With the enactment on November 7 of The Public Health (Howard's Law) Amendment Act, Saskatchewan has become the first Canadian Province to establish a mandatory web-based asbestos registry for crown corporations, school districts, health regions and facilities and provincial government buildings. "This registry will," said Health Minister Dustin Duncan "improve the health, safety and well being of our workers and their families… In addition to the registry, publications that address the safe removal and handling of asbestos are available." See: Province Makes Asbestos Registry Mandatory. See also: Saskatchewan First Province to Require Mandatory Asbestos Reporting.

Award for Asbestos Diseases Society

Nov 8, 2013

The Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) was honoured last month at the 15th World Conference on Lung Cancer in Sydney when it received the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer's Patient Advocacy Award. A travel bursary providing funds to cover the costs of attending the conference was provided to the ADSA President Robert Vojakovic. The ADSA has been Australia's leading patient advocacy group for asbestos victims for more than thirty years. See: IASLC Gives 5 People Advocacy Travel Award. Also see: Confronting Australia's Asbestos Catastrophe.

Upheaval at Eternit S.A.

Nov 7, 2013

The President of Eternit, S.A., Brazil's leading asbestos producer, died unexpectedly last month. President Elio Martins was a known quantity who had given 38 years of service to the company, the last 13 as President. In the aftermath of his death, investors were reassessing the company's financial performance and asking pointed questions about operating costs, executive salaries, and dividend policy. The change in leadership is particularly problematic in light of a pending Supreme Court ruling on the legality of asbestos use. See: O futuro da Eternit após a morte do presidente Élio Martins [The Future of Eternit after the Death of President Elio Martins].

Trade Union Asbestos Conference

Nov 7, 2013

The World Federation of Trade Unions' (WFTU) Asbestos Conference took place last Wednesday (October 30) in Athens. In his opening speech, the WFTU's General Secretary George Mavrikos highlighted the occupational as well as public health risk posed by the presence of asbestos in post-ban countries and condemned the continuing use of asbestos in developing countries. The privatization and degradation of health systems around the world has, he said, commodified health and deprived "large masses of workers and poor people from the right to fight against health problems, which were caused by the same voracious activity of capitalism." See: Speech by George Mavrikos.

Asbestos Whistleblower Wins Claim

Nov 6, 2013

Trade unionist Darren Hayes, who alleged he was sidelined by his former employer after raising safety concerns about asbestos exposure during work on the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout, has today won a claim for constructive dismissal. After Hayes informed the Communication Workers Union (CWU) about the hazardous conditions, he was, according to a CWU spokeswoman, "marginalized and abused." A confidential settlement has now been reached between Visionstream and Mr. Hayes after mediation by the Fair Work Commission. See: NBN asbestos whistleblower gets payout in Fair Work Commission case.

Denial Strategy Targets Victims

Nov 5, 2013

Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BH) is denying that it was company policy to "wrongfully delay or deny compensation to cancer victims ..." Over a number of years, BH has assumed billions of dollars of asbestos liabilities for global insurers including Lloyd's of London. According to a company spokesman, BH has "the largest single exposure to asbestos and pollution claims of any insurer today." U.S. corporations have taken legal action charging BH associates of bad-faith for committing "willful or knowing" acts that were "unfair or deceptive." See: Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Press Statement. Also see: Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries deny, delay asbestos, hazard claims, suits, insiders allege.

New Online Resource

Nov 4, 2013

An information video detailing how asbestos fibers attack the human body, translated by members of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) into 17 languages, is now available online with Spanish subtitles, thanks to the efforts of ban asbestos activists in Colombia. The graphics and language of this short clip make it an ideal educational resource for campaigners, educators and concerned citizens. Versions of this film are also available in: Bengali, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, English, Filipino, Hindi, Indonesian, Laotian, Mongolian, Portuguese, Russian, Tamil, Thai, Urdu and Vietnamese. See: ABAN Asbestos Information Video.

Asbestos Diseases: Government Data

Nov 4, 2013

A report released by the German Government reveals the price the country is paying for its asbestos legacy. Data collected by the German Social Occupational Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung: DGUV) covering the period 1994-2010 state that over a billion euros in compensation were paid to sufferers of asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung and throat cancer. Of these three categories of disease, the lowest success rate was experienced by people with lung or throat cancer, the majority of whom failed to qualify for DGUV insurance coverage. See: Lage der Asbesterkrankten in Deutschland [Location of Asbestos Sufferers in Germany].

Another State to Ban Asbestos?

Nov 1, 2013

In Brazil, the world's third biggest supplier of raw chrysotile asbestos fiber, federal law allows the production and use of asbestos. Nevertheless, the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Pernambuco and Mato Grosso - which account for 90% of the Brazilian population - have adopted state-wide prohibitions. On October 20, law 1.259/11, which banned asbestos, in Minas Gerais State was approved by 48 votes. The bill has one more legislative hurdle to overcome before it is sent to the Governor. See: Plenário aprova projeto que proíbe uso de amianto [Plenary Passes Bill banning use of asbestos].

Another National Asbestos Tragedy

Nov 1, 2013

Last week a new book was launched in Chile which documents the terrible devastation caused by the country's use of asbestos. The 146-page Spanish text, which is available online, was written by Constanza San Juan Standen and Tania Muñoz Cuevas and published by the group "Unidos Contra el Asbesto," (United Against Asbestos). The authors examine the national repercussions of widespread asbestos consumption within a global framework highlighting the toll paid by workers and their families for industry's asbestos profits. See: Fibras grises de muerte, el silencio del mayor genocidio industrial en Chile [Deadly grey fibers, the silence of the largest industrial genocide in Chile].

2013 Asbestos Industry Offensive

Oct 31, 2013

Following up on a recent pro-asbestos event in the Philippines, industry apologists will take part in a sham conference in New Delhi on December 3 & 4, 2013. Once again, the chrysotile lobby's favourite spokesman David Bernstein is heading the agenda; his back-up consists of speakers from Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Canada and Vietnam [see: Agenda]. Asbestos manufacturing is a growing industrial sector in India. In 2012, the use of chrysotile asbestos was just under 500,000 tonnes; this was a 53% increase in one year. See: Global asbestos lobby organizes events in the Philippines and India to promote continued use of asbestos in Asia.

Indictment of Corporate "Scientists"

Oct 30, 2013

An article just published in The Scientist, "the magazine for life science professionals," references the ongoing scandal under investigation by the New York Supreme Appellate Court whereby hired gun scientists disguise their financial links to corporate paymasters, in this case U.S. asbestos defendant Georgia-Pacific, in journal articles. Author Philippe Grandjean points out that "when the billing records were reviewed, it became clear that the company's authors had completed more than five drafts of one particular manuscript before any external co-authors were approached." See: Opinion: Problems with Hidden COI.

Chrysotile Lobby Meeting

Oct 30, 2013

It comes as no surprise to learn that as independent Asian scientists were preparing for the 6th Asian Asbestos Initiative International Seminar (November 13-15, 2013) in Manila, on October 25 the asbestos industry held a spoiler conference (see: Agenda) to reinforce corporate propaganda that the use of chrysotile asbestos is safe. This is a well-known industry strategy; in 2008, chrysotile lobbyists organised a pro-asbestos conference at the same time and in the same venue as the Building and Woodworkers' International Trade Union Asbestos Conference. Speakers at Friday's event included David Bernstein, an industry-linked scientist at the center of an alleged judicial scandal being investigated in New York.

Court Sanctions Construction of Plant

Oct 29, 2013

Plans to build a highly controversial asbestos factory in the Vaishali district of Bihar State were advanced by a decision handed down on October 28 by the Patna High Court. Justice Jayant Singh ordered the Bihar State Pollution Control Board to green light construction of Utkal Asbestos Limited's new plant despite widespread opposition by local people who are concerned about the proximity of the site to a village and school. Vaishali opponents of this scheme plan to appeal this week's decision. See: High court orders renewal of permit to Utkal asbestos plant in Bihar

Geneva Declares War on Asbestos

Oct 29, 2013

The State of Geneva has today launched a high-profile campaign to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard among professionals in the construction sector with a particular focus on smaller companies. The authorities have found asbestos – banned in Switzerland since 1991 – in 80% of Geneva real estate. The multilingual initiative, with material in French, Italian, Spanish, Albanian, Portuguese, and Polish will continue for three years and features brochures, online resources and a mobile information unit. See: L'Etat de Genève déclare la guerre à l'amiante [The State of Geneva declares war on asbestos].

Death of Revered Judge

Oct 29, 2013

The death was reported on October 25 of Giuseppe Casalbore, the President of the Turin Court which in 2012 found Eternit directors guilty for the parts they played in the asbestos-related deaths of thousands of Italians. Throughout his career, Judge Casalbore dealt with complex and high-profile cases. In a statement issued this week by AfeVA, the asbestos victims' group at the center of the landmark Eternit trial, Judge Casalbore's dedication and leadership were highlighted. Throughout the seemingly interminable judicial hearings, the Judge's courtesy and humanity encouraged victims that justice would be achieved. See: E' morto il giudice Casalbore oscurò le tv Fininvest.

Managing Asbestos in the Retail Sector

Oct 29, 2013

A guidance document entitled Managing Asbestos in the Retail Sector has today been published by the Retail Working Group to inform UK retailers of best practices regarding the management of asbestos during trading, maintenance and refurbishment operations. The 54-page text, which is available online, outlines duties of stakeholders as mandated by the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and itemizes compliance stategies and mandatory measures with a focus on the retail sector. See: The Management of Asbestos Containing Materials in the Retail Sector.

Conflict of Interest Controversy

Sep 23, 2013

As participants gathered for an "Inhaled Particles" conference in Nottingham this week, an online article was published which discussed the high-level participation of Professor Ken Donaldson, co-author of articles at the heart of a "potential crime-fraud allegation." This article, which forensically examines the Donaldson's participation in the writing of "scientific papers" commissioned by U.S. asbestos defendant Georgia Pacific, reveals how vested interests are working behind the scenes to create doubt amongst scientists and juries about the risk posed by exposures to chrysotile asbestos. See: Potential crime-fraud and the asbestos industry - the UK connection.

Anger over Mesothelioma Stitch-Up

Sep 23, 2013

A press release issued today by UK charities representing the interests of asbestos cancer victims lambasts the government for proposals which victimize people dying from mesothelioma. Representatives from Mesothelioma UK, The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum, The June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund and the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund will, with other stakeholders, be meeting Justice Minister Helen Grant in London to present their objections to a "partisan consultation which disadvantages mesothelioma sufferers." See: Charities furious at one-sided MoJ Mesothelioma reform consultation.

Victims Petition Yale University

Sep 23, 2013

AfeVA, a group representing asbestos victims from Italy's Piedmont region, has written to Yale University asking for the University to "consider stripping convicted criminal Schmidheiny of the great honor you bestowed on him." In 1996, an asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny had been recognized for his creation of "create an attainable vision of a global economy based on sustainable, ecologically sound development." Since then, he has been convicted by Italian criminal courts of "environmental disaster." See: AfeVA Petition - Revoke asbestos magnate's honorary doctorate and A Toxic Legacy

Asbestos remediation in Milan schools

Sept 18, 2013

The authorities in Milan have begun the rollout of a program to tackle the legacy of asbestos use in the city's schools. The multimillion euro program will see asbestos removed in one hundred elementary and middle schools. Phase 1, which is due to be completed by December 2013, will address contamination in 16 schools where there is need for urgent action. In the next phase, 18 more schools will be remediated with plans for work at a further 70 institutions in 2014. The authorities have pledged to make all Milan school "asbestos-free." See: Amianto, a Milano 41 milioni di euro per la bonifica delle scuole [Asbestos, Milan €41 million for the remediation of schools].

DIY Risk to Home Renovators

Sep 17, 2013

On September 16, 2013, the risk posed by asbestos to do-it-yourself (DIY) builders in New South Wales was highlighted in a segment on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Presenter Emma Alberici reported the findings of a new survey which revealed that 60% of DIY renovators in the State have come into contact with asbestos. An interview conducted by reporter John Stewart with asbestos victim Carol Klintfalt explored the consequences of such exposures. In the 1970s and 1980s Mrs. Klintfalt and her husband had used asbestos sheets (fibro) for refurbishing their house. In 2006, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. See: Home renovators risk deadly disease.

Rajasthan to Compensate Victims

Sep 17, 2013

It has been announced that the Government of Rajasthan will set up a Pneumoconiosis Board (the Board) which will pay compensation of U.S. $35,000 to people suffering from asbestosis. This is the first such scheme in India and is the result of years of mobilization by a local non-governmental organization: the Mine Labor Protection Campaign (MLPC). The Board will examine mine workers and those who are diagnosed with occupational diseases will have their claims submitted to local administrators of the Monetary Relief department. The MLPC has also gained government agreement for the issuing of health cards for mine workers. See: Support for Mine Workers in Rajasthan.

Recognition of Miners' Claims?

Sep 17, 2013

Asbestos is "a huge historic problem" for former employees from the Baie Verte Asbestos Mine; from 1955 to 1992 mining operations at this Newfoundland site exposed the workforce to high levels of toxic fiber. Of 145 former workers who have filed claims with Newfoundland and Labrador's Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission, less than one-third have had their claims approved. On September 9, representatives of the United Steelworkers union (USW) met with government officials to consider the plight of the former miners, many of whom now have asbestos-related diseases. See: Union, government meet to discuss asbestos concerns.

Trade Union Victory in Philippines

Sep 16, 2013

A letter received by Michael Mendoza, the President of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress (ALU-TUCP) of the Philippines, from the Department of Education signalled a small but significant victory for the labor federation. The letter stated that due to pressure brought by the ALU-TUCP the use of asbestos wire gauze mats in secondary schools had been reviewed. As a result, a DepEd Memorandum is being issued ordering the disposal of these contaminated items which will now be replaced by ceramic products in order to "safeguard the well-being of the learners, teachers and other school personnel." See: Letter from Department of Education, the Philippines.

Rwanda Plans to Remove Asbestos

Sep14, 2013

National plans to eradicate the threat posed by asbestos roofing in Rwanda are being implemented throughout the country according to a September 11th report on the authoritative allAfrica website. Experts estimate that although 2,309,905m² of contaminated material has been removed, 1,068,190m² remains. Plans are proceeding to deal with this material within the next three years; hospitals, schools, and military and police camps have been identified as priority remediation sites. One high-profile institution named in the article is the Kigali university teaching hospital. Once removed, asbestos-contaminated building products are buried. See: Rwanda: Hazardous Asbestos Still on Many Houses.

New Phase for Asbestos Remediation

Sept 13, 2013

On September 11, 2013, the Italian region of Tuscany unanimously approved a law to deal with the imminent hazard posed by the presence of asbestos-containing material and waste. The law stipulates measures for the mapping of the asbestos contamination, the remediation of environmental pollution and the safe disposal of hazardous waste throughout Tuscany. The area is an asbestos hotspot; 664 deaths from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma were recorded for the period 1993-2004. See: La prima regione che si dota di una piano di bonifica e smaltimento dell'amianto [The first region adopts comprehensive asbestos remediation program.].

Calls to Strip Schmidheiny of Yale Degree

Sep 13, 2013

A newspaper published by Yale University students this week reported calls for an honorary degree awarded to asbestos defendant Stephan Schmidheiny to be withdrawn. Sixteen years before Schmidheiny was sentenced to 16 years in jail by a Turin Court (2012), he had been feted at Yale. The University's President Richard Levin cited his creation of "an attainable vision of a global economy based on sustainable, ecologically sound development." In 2013, calls have been made by the Italian asbestos victims' group AfeVA for this honor to be withdrawn. So far, the university is standing by its decision according to Yale spokesman Tom Conroy. See: A Toxic Legacy.

British Asbestos Newsletter

Sep 5, 2013

The summer issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The feature article in Issue 91 -Annual Parliamentary Asbestos Seminar - describes an activity on July 3, 2013 which took place in the House of Commons under the auspices of the All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group. Speakers from the U.S., UK and Germany addressed medical issues, trade union mobilization, asbestos victims' needs and the global campaign to ban asbestos. Other articles in this issue look at an ongoing environmental asbestos claim against Cape, the asbestos debacle at Cwmcarn High School and the funding of UK mesothelioma research projects. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, Issue 91.

New Direction for Asbestos Policy?

Sep 5, 2013

After years of persistence and frustration, yesterday ban asbestos campaigner New Zealander Deidre van Gerven received the first positive reply from her Government. In a letter from the Minister for the Environment, MP Amy Adams wrote: "I agree that managing the potential effects of asbestos is important… I have also directed my officials to investigate whether asbestos containing materials are being imported and, if so, their volume and type. Further measures to manage the risks posed by asbestos remain a possibility following this investigation." See: Letter from New Zealand Minister for the Environment MP Amy Adams.

Demand that Schmidheiny Pay €90m

Sep 4, 2013

Following the publication on September 2, 2013 of the Turin Appeal Court's "Motivation" for the verdict issued in June 2013, in the action against Stephan Schmidheiny, calls are increasing for action by the authorities to implement the Court's ruling that the defendant pay €90 million in compensation to victims, local authorities, organizations and others as he was ordered to do, by both the lower Court and the Court of Appeal. See: Eternit, parti civili: "Ora Schmidheiny paghi i 90 milioni di euro per i risarcimenti già esecutivi" [Eternit, civil parties: "Schmidheiny must now pay 90 million euro compensation"].

Trade Union Action to Ban Asbestos

Sep 4, 2013

The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) has retabled a bill in the House of Representatives to ban the import, manufacture, processing, use and distribution of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. The bill, which had been filed in two previous Congresses, is known as House Bill 2638. In 2011 and 2012, asbestos use in the Philippines was 3,245 and 1,970 tonnes, respectively. Speaking on behalf of the ALU-TUCP, Gerard Seno said: "Banning asbestos is the way to go if we want to protect our workers and the general population from first-hand and secondary [asbestos] exposure." See: ALU-TUCP Press Release.

Cancer Mortality in Chinese Miners

Sep 4, 2013

To assess the relationship of lung cancer mortality and other causes of death to asbestos exposure levels, a cohort of male workers from a chrysotile mine in China was examined in a study covering the period 1981-2006. The authors of the resulting paper conclude that: "There were clear exposure-response relationships in this cohort, which imply a causal link between chrysotile asbestos exposure and lung cancer and nonmalignant respiratory diseases, and possibly to gastrointestinal cancer, at least for smokers." The authors admit that in China there is a failure to diagnose cases of malignant mesothelioma. See: Cancer Mortality in Chinese Asbestos Miners: Exposure-Response Relationships.

Turin Court Ruling "Motivation"

Sep 3, 2013

An 800-page "motivation" document substantiating the Turin Court of Appeal's June 2013 ruling in the trial of former asbestos magnate Stephan Schmidheiny was released on September 2. The Court concluded that despite extensive knowledge about the asbestos hazard, work continued in Eternit's asbestos-cement plants without precautions being taken. An asbestos public relations campaign mounted under Schmidheiny's leadership allowed a further decade of production as a result of which a deadly epidemic has emerged. See: Eternit, motivazioni sentenza: "L'Ad disinformò sui pericoli".

Eternit, Brazil Launch PR Fight-back

Sep 2, 2013

Efforts are being made by Eternit, S.A., a company named in a landmark Brazilian court judgment last week, to counter adverse publicity and restore public confidence. An Eternit press release issued on August 30 downplays the effect the ruling will have on the company and pledges that a "vigorous defense" will be mounted. The company blames ban asbestos pressure groups for creating the climate in which this case was pursued by the Public Labor Ministry. See: Eternit estima que 110 ex-funcionários atingidos por amianto estão sem assistência médica [Eternit estimates that 110 former employees affected by asbestos are without medical assistance].

New Mesothelioma Guidelines

Sep 1, 2013

New guidelines produced in Australia for the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma have been welcomed by medical practitioners. Commenting on the text, one UK physician said: "they look very good and a significant update compared to the 2007 British Thoracic Society guidelines. They highlight the many gaps in knowledge and very limited effect of any active treatments as well as emphasising the need for early specialist palliative care and psychological support." The 116-page document makes 27 recommendations of which ten relate to diagnosis, eleven to assessment and six to treatment. See: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.

Exposure at Honeywell Plant

Sep 1, 2013

A Prime Ministerial ruling, which recognized the occurrence of occupational exposure to asbestos at a Honeywell brake factory in Condé-sur-Noireau between 1997 and 1999, will allow a further 500 workers to take early retirement. A declaration implementing this decision is due to be signed in a fortnight. There is criticism over the limited time frame of the recognition considering that the site in Calvados was contaminated with asbestos and did not close down until June 2013. Calls are being made to allow all workers to qualify for early retirement. See: L'Etat reconnaît l'exposition à l'amiante de l'usine Honeywell [The State recognizes asbestos exposure at Honeywell factory].

Contamination Threatens Students

Aug 27, 2013

As British university students prepare for the Autumn 2013 term, an article in today's Guardian newspaper is a salient reminder of the continuing threat they could encounter from asbestos-containing products in student halls. Thirty-eight universities have admitted that they do not tell students asbestos is present in dormitory rooms. With 2,313 bedrooms, the University of Warwick had the highest number of rooms. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers is "deeply concerned" about the extent of asbestos in universities and is calling on the Government to take action. See: Students are sleeping in bedrooms that contain asbestos.

Mesothelioma Deaths Rising

Aug 27, 2013

A paper published this year (2013) in the Danish Medical Journal by three Danish researchers revealed that twenty-seven years after a full ban on asbestos was introduced in Denmark, male rates of malignant mesothelioma continue to increase. Having studied data from the Danish Cancer Registry which covered the period 1943 to 2009, the authors state that: A clear long-term effect of the Danish asbestos ban has not yet occurred." In 2008-2009, the median survival rate for men with mesothelioma was 12.5 months and for women was 13.3 months. See: Regional differences in incidence of malignant mesothelioma in Denmark.

Asbestos Cancer Epidemic in Canada

Aug 27, 2013

A Canadian Medical Association paper leaves no doubt about the repercussions of Canadian asbestos mining and use. An analysis of data from 1997 to 2010 revealed that "deaths from lung cancer and mesothelioma comprise most of the compensated claims for deaths from occupational cancer in Ontario and Canada… In the final 5 years of the study period, about 93.0% of all claims for asbestos-related deaths in Canada that resulted in compensation were attributed to mesothelioma or lung cancer…" The authors accept that the figures underestimate Canada's burden of occupational cancer. See: Trends in compensation for deaths from occupational cancer in Canada: a descriptive study.

Asbestos Debate Reignites

Aug 25, 2013

Congressman J. Delgado Zegarra urged representatives of Peru's Multispectral Technical Committee to progress the implementation of regulations protecting citizens from cancer-causing exposures to asbestos. The politician expressed his frustration with the government's impasse on asbestos which was, he said, caused by a handful of asbestos vested interests. In the meantime, some companies have ended their use of asbestos and replaced the toxic fiber with safer substitutes as recommended by the WHO and the ILO. See: Empresas prohíben uso de asbesto por ser cancerígeno [Companies prohibit the use of asbestos due to its carcinogenicity].

Emergency at Puerto Rico University

Aug 25, 2013

The discovery of asbestos contamination at the University of Puerto Rico may result in half a million dollars' worth of remediation work at the General Studies Center on the Rio Piedras campus according to media reports being circulated. The University commissioned 200 samples to be taken in offices, public areas and outside spaces by an independent inspector; the results were expected last week. Costs incurred to date, which include the hiring of temporary classrooms, air testing, clean-up work and disposal of waste, have been paid for by the University. See: Asbesto le costará a la UPR más de $500,000 [Asbestos UPR will cost over $ 500,000].

Eternit Must Pay for Workers' Healthcare

Aug 24, 2013

Judge Raquel de Oliveira of the 9th Labor Court in São Paulo has ruled this week that Eternit, S.A. must pay the healthcare costs for thousands of former workers from its Osasco asbestos-cement factory; the factory closed in 1993. This civil action, the largest lawsuit for punitive damages ever mounted by Brazil's Labor Public Ministry, could cost the company over US$400 million. The company can appeal. See: Eternit terá de custear saúde de ex-operários devido exposição ao amianto [Eternit will have to pay for healthcare for former asbestos-exposed workers] and TV news journal coverage.

Iconic Landmark under Threat

Aug 23, 2013

Municipal authorities are threatening to evacuate the 5,000 people who work in the Montparnasse Tower if asbestos levels continue to exceed permissible levels. The Paris Prefecture issued an order last week citing significant occupational and public exposures to asbestos in the tower on at least 72 occasions since 2009. The owners of the building have admitted that high levels of asbestos led to the evacuation by two companies in June 2013. Asbestos removal work, which began in 2005, is not expected to be completed until 2017. See: Amiante. La tour Montparnasse sous la menace d'une évacuation [Asbestos. The Montparnasse Tower under threat of evacuation].

Asbestos, Deadly Fiber

Aug 23, 2013

On August 21 and 23, 2013, Caracol TV, one of the biggest television networks in Colombia, broadcast a segment highlighting the deadly threat posed by asbestos exposures. The reporter spoke to mesothelioma victim Luis Alfonso Mayorga who was lying in his hospital bed. His wife Cecilia Riana and his mother were also interviewed as was his physician Dr. Dario Isaza. Luis never worked with asbestos but his father, who died of mesothelioma, brought asbestos dust home on his work clothes. See: Asbesto: el mortal mineral que debería permanecer bajo tierra [See: Asbestos: the deadly mineral that should stay underground].

Judicial Win for Victims in Louisiana

Aug 22, 2013

A jury found the Dow Chemical Company guilty of exposing former worker Sidney Mabile to asbestos as a result of which he has contracted the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Documents presented to the court "suggested that Dow had performed a 'cost per cancer' analysis and determined that it would cost Dow over $1.2 billion to switch all of its plants to non-asbestos processing methods." Dow has continued to use asbestos at its factories in the U.S. and abroad in order to keep production costs down; the jury was told that the use of this deadly substance reduces processing costs by approximately 10%. See: Dow Chemical Company Hit With $5.95 Million Asbestos Cancer Verdict.

Tyre Factory Asbestos Exposure

Aug 22, 2013

The Social Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of Castile and León has recognized as valid a claim brought on behalf of a mesothelioma victim, who died aged 55 in 2011, that he had contracted an occupational disease. The claimant had been employed at Michelin's tyre factory in Valladolid from 1979 until 2010; asbestos was present in the factory in insulation and fireproofing products. This judgment awards the victim's widow an increase of 52% in pension payments. See: Reconocen la prestación de una muerte por amianto en la factoría de Michelin en Valladolid [Recognition of asbestos death at Michelin factory in Valladolid.].

Victory in Australian Asbestos Case

Aug 21, 2013

Five years after the mesothelioma death of shipyard worker Raymond Hamilton, the South Australian Supreme Court confirmed (on August 15, 2013) a 2012 verdict in favor of his widow. Former employer BHP Billiton Ltd. had been ordered by a district court to pay $115,000 for pain and suffering; the higher court upped this sum by $75,000. Calling this verdict "a watershed decision'' for South Australian mesothelioma sufferers, Lawyer Peter Moloney said it gave South Australian asbestos victims parity with victims in the eastern states. See: South Australia asbestos victims' handed 'watershed' decision.

Asbestos Hazard During Demolition

Aug 21, 2013

Demolition of asbestos-cement roofing by contractors flouting laws on the removal and disposal of asbestos waste has endangered occupational and public health on a site in Dubai's Al Satwa neighbourhood this Summer. A witness observed asbestos waste being scooped up by an excavator with no protection for the operator or dust suppression control measures in place. Commenting on this, an asbestos removal specialist said: "When asbestos materials are damaged or disturbed they release asbestos fibres into the air… there is a risk of asbestos exposure to local residents, members of the public and the workers involved in the demolition." See: Dubai residents fear asbestos exposure.

Exposé: Asbestos Death in Colombia

Aug 20, 2013

Last week, a detailed article was published which revealed a sea change in Colombia's dialogue on asbestos. Having included blanket reassurances about the possibility of the "safe use of asbestos" in Colombia from asbestos profiteer Jorge Hernán Estrada and Eternit trade unionist Libardo Sandoval, the journalist detailed the harsh reality of Luis Alfonso Mayorga, who is dying from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Luis never worked with asbestos but his father was employed by Eternit and brought asbestos dust home on his clothes. He died from the same asbestos disease which is now killing his son. See: Asbesto no seguro: los rostros de una tragedia [Unsafe Asbestos: The Faces of a Tragedy].

Thetford: Call for Government Action

Aug 19, 2013

Last week, Luc Berthold, Mayor of the City of Thetford Mines and Chair of the Economic Development Corporation of Thetford, published a letter to Premier Pauline Marois calling on her Government to honor its pledge to assist former asbestos producing communities with the many challenges they face. The promised interministerial initiative to help the region diversify its economy, improve living conditions and develop a sustainable way of life has failed to produce any positive results and has, he said, been a focus for "anti-asbestos policies that exist within the Government of Quebec." See: Mine d'amiante chrysotile dans la région de Thetford - Demande d'interventions à la Première ...

Public Ministry Sues Brazilian Eternit

Aug 18, 2013

Brazil's Labor Public Ministry has filed a R$1 billion (€313 million) civil action against Eternit in the 9th Labor Court in São Paulo. This, the largest lawsuit for punitive damages ever filed by the Ministry, accuses the company of having been responsible for hazardous workplace exposures to asbestos which occurred at its asbestos-cement factory in Osasco. Over fifty years, hundreds of people were employed at this plant; many of them have contracted asbestos-related diseases, including fatal cancers. See: Eternit é processada em R$1 bilhão por contaminação com amianto [Eternit Brazil being sued for R$1 billion for asbestos contamination].

The Philanthropy of S. Schmidheiny

Aug 18, 2013

A 3,000+ word article on a Spanish language website examines the philanthropic activities of Stephan Schmidheiny (SS) in light of his criminal convictions. SS's donations have, the author alleges, been generated by commercial operations which cost a massive loss of life in Switzerland, Italy and wherever Eternit asbestos factories were run. Author Paco Puche highlights the public relations campaign to protect SS including the April 2013 launch of the "Stephan Schmidheiny Award for innovation for sustainability." See: Stephan Schmidheiny, magnate del amianto y fundador de AVINA, desmontado [Stephan Schmidheiny, asbestos magnate and founder of Avina, revealed].

Asbestos in Phone Booths

Aug 16, 2013

It was announced this week, that a thousand telephone booths in the Belgacom network are contaminated with asbestos. It has not been revealed which of the 3,834 units throughout Belgium are affected by the presence of asbestos in the floors of the booths. Belgacom has said that all the booths will be scrapped by 2015. In the meantime, the company says, there is no risk to the public or repairmen as there is no "asbestos dust escaping." See: De l'amiante dans le plancher d'un millier de cabines téléphoniques [Asbestos in the floor of a thousand telephone booths].

Asbestos, a Labor History

Aug 14, 2013

A book by Italian author Alberto Prunetti has been published entitled "Asbestos, a labor history," which reveals the depth of the occupational health disaster caused by the use of asbestos in Italy through the stories of individual workers. Renato Prunetti was one casualty. He was a man who "who breathed zinc, lead and a good part of the Mendeleev table of elements" during his employment as a welder. It was asbestos which caused his death. See: Amianto, dietro il dramma le vite spezzate degli operai [Asbestos, the drama behind the broken lives of the workers].

Medical Breakthrough in Mesothelioma?

Aug 14, 2013

Researchers at the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute in Sydney have announced plans for a clinical trial for an experimental therapy, TargomiRs, which they hope will be effective in treating the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. A significant inhibition of tumor growth has been seen using this approach in mice with human mesothelioma-derived tumors. A new drug delivery system has been developed to transport the drug to the tumor area. It is anticipated that clinical trials in human patients with mesothelioma could begin soon. This new treatment may even be effective in inhibiting the growth of other types of tumor. See: World Fist Clinical Trial of New Cancer Drug.

HSE Update on Asbestos Activities

Aug 13, 2013

In advance of a meeting of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Board on August 14, 2013, a paper was published detailing activities undertaken by the HSE on asbestos. Subjects covered included licensing and enforcement, communications, awareness raising, training and guidance, asbestos in schools, prohibitions on the use, importation and supply of asbestos, EU activity, current research and other issues. Considering the HSE's controversial advice relating to the asbestos scandal at Cwmcarn school, some might argue that the sanitized language in that section of the paper did not accurately reflect the complexity of the situation. See: Update on HSE Activities on Asbestos.

Remediating Asbestos Superfund Site

Aug 12, 2013

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has outlined its future strategy for resolving the asbestos pollution of Libby, Montana. Work is ongoing on a toxicology assessment, risk assessment and feasibility study, all of which are due for completion by the end of 2014. The reports will be peer-reviewed by federal agencies including the White House prior to the commencement of the final phase in the Libby clean-up. As of now, it is believed that 400 deaths have occurred in Libby caused by exposure to asbestos generated by W. R. Grace & Co.'s mining of vermiculite. See: Libby asbestos: EPA promises assessment of risk by late next year.

Storm Damage to Asbestos Roofing

Aug 11, 2013

In the wake of a ferocious storm in southwest France last week, warnings have been issued of the hazard posed by broken asbestos-cement roofing on old barns or houses in the Dordogne area. Representatives of a local asbestos victims' support group have warned members of the public to call in professional workmen to remove and dispose of the contaminated material. With only six members of staff, the one licensed asbestos removal company in the area is working to full capacity. See: Après les orages en Dordogne: attention à l'amiante des toits! [After the storms in Dordogne: emphasis on asbestos roofs!].

Asbestos death of railway worker

Aug 11, 2013

On August 6, 2013, the mesothelioma death occurred of a Spanish trade union member who had worked as a plumber for the International Sleeping Car Company (Compagnie Internationale des Wagon Lits). Although this was the first known death from asbestos amongst this workforce, it was the seventh recorded asbestos death in the region according to the CC.OO, a Spanish trade union. The union is calling for the establishment of an asbestos compensation fund in order to save dying asbestos victims from the second "hell" of fighting for the recognition of and compensation for their diseases. See: El amianto mata a un trabajador de Irún de Wagon Lits [Asbestos kills a Wagon Lits worker from Irun].

Asbestos Hazard in Helicopters?

Aug 10, 2013

Correspondence regarding the presence of asbestos in helicopters used by Italy's armed forces has been cited in an article in the Huffington Post as evidence of an ongoing hazard to service personnel. The helicopters involved - which have been categorized as flying boxes of asbestos - include several different models. As Italy banned the use of asbestos in 1992, this situation could be grounds for legal proceedings; prosecutors are investigating. Asbestos-containing parts used on board include: gaskets, ducts, pipes, brake pads, wheels rotors, friction material and seals. See: Elicotteri delle forze armate pieni di amianto [Armed forces helicopters full of asbestos].

Asbestos-related Lung Cancer Burden

Aug 8, 2013

A letter to the editor of the British Journal of Cancer was published online this Summer which critiqued a 2012 paper by Dr. Valerie McCormack et al. The U.S. authors of the letter assert that as the paper in question ignored various sources of data, the conclusions and recommendations it made were seriously undermined. The reply by Dr. McCormack and her co-authors is a defense of their methodology and conclusions. See: Comment on 'Estimating the asbestos-related lung cancer burden from mesothelioma mortality' - IARC and Chrysotile Risks and also Reply: Comment on 'Estimating the asbestos-related lung cancer burden from mesothelioma mortality'.

Asbestos Removal Program for Schools

Aug 7, 2013

A public inspection took place on Tuesday morning, August 6, 2013, to showcase ongoing work to remove asbestos-cement roofing from school buildings. The decontamination is part of a €2m project which will refurbish and modernize the educational infrastructure in Milan by the installation of products which are both safe and energy efficient. At the site being examined, the complete reconstruction of the school roof, measuring more than 2900 square meters, was in progress at a cost of €360,000; work is due to be finished on this school before the start of the new school year. See: Consegneremo alla città una struttura senza Amianto [We will deliver to the city a structure without asbestos].

Factory Classified as Asbestos Site

Aug 3, 2013

On Thursday (August 1), a top-level French advisory body, the "Counseil d'Etat," classified a factory in central France as an asbestos site. This designation was given to industrial premises belonging to the Aubert & Duval company for the period from 1917 to 1992. The failure to extend this until 2005 has been criticised by asbestos victims' groups and trade unionists who suggested that the decision not to do so was taken on economic grounds. According to a spokeswoman for the Asbestos Victims: "Aubert & Duval holds the French record for the number of asbestos victims." See: Une usine Aubert & Duval partiellement classée en site amiante [Aubert & Duval factory partially classified as asbestos site].

Increased Government Funding

Jul 31, 2013

Minister Bill Shorten today announced an extra $6.4 million in government funding for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency which began work on July 1, 2013. The Agency's remit is the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management which aims to forestall hazardous exposures in order to reduce asbestos-related deaths in Australia. Shorten, who has continuously highlighted "the persistent [asbestos] threat to Australians," has said that "the Government views the identification and safe removal of asbestos as an absolute priority." See: Media Release, Ministry of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Government Committee Whitewash

Jul 30, 2013

On July 29, a Committee of the Public Health Ministry said that it could find no evidence about the risk of asbestos use to Thai citizens. The study undertaken under the leadership of Dr. Charnwit Tharathep has been soundly ridiculed in the pages of the Bangkok Post by all the posts which have been uploaded. One critic wrote: "K. Chanwit. Could you publish your research methodology. Thailand is the only country that I know who could not link asbestos to cancer. Back in the USA, asbestos producing cos have gone out of business. There have been lots of compensation paid to the inflicted." See: Asbestos variant safe, govt claims.

Earthquake Reconstruction

Jul 30, 2013

A deal with a Chinese construction conglomerate to rebuild earthquake damaged areas in Christchurch has been flagged up as problematic by New Zealander Deidre vanGerven, who lost her husband, father and sister to asbestos disease. In a letter to the authorities in Christchurch and Auckland, vanGerven pointed out that China is the world's biggest asbestos user and second biggest producer. As there is no asbestos ban in New Zealand, a country where the import of asbestos products remains legal, and as the contract includes sourcing cheaper products in China there are, she says, serious grounds for concern. See: An Open Letter to Christchurch and New Zealand Authorities.

Asbestos: Imminent and Persistent Hazard

Jul 29, 2013

It should come as no surprise to any responsible person that asbestos could be found in UK buildings or homes. Unfortunately, some people continue to carry out their professional duties with little regard for this known hazard. Today an article was published which documented one such case in north Cumbria where the social landlord Riverside admitted that many of its 6,000 homes may contain asbestos. According to a Riverside spokeswoman: "Asbestos was used extensively as a building material in Great Britain from the 1930s… This could mean approximately 50 per cent of our stock has some asbestos." See: Asbestos fears for thousands of Carlisle homes.

Raising Funds for Research

Jul 29, 2013

On July 26, 2013, a cheque for $50,000 was presented to Australian mesothelioma researcher Prof. Anna Nowak by the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA). The funds were raised by the ADSA's 2013 Walk for Research and Awareness. In a photograph taken at the handover are (from left) mesothelioma widows Jan Truman and Sharon Butler, Dr. Cleo Robinson, Roxanne Otadoy and Tracy Hayward from the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases, Dr. Scott Fisher, Rose Marie Vojakovic and Prof. Anna Nowak. At the ceremony, ADSA'S President Robert Vojakovic thanked the walkers and donors but highlighted the urgent need for more research. See: Media Release.

National Mobilization on Asbestos

Jul 28, 2013

A two-day meeting in Vientiane, Lao entitled "Towards a National Strategy on Asbestos in the Lao P.D.R." provided the opportunity for Lao citizens and experts from Japan, Thailand and Australia, to engage in a frank discussion about the hazards posed by the continued use of asbestos (See: photo of four delegates) The event was reported by The Vientiane Times, an English language daily newspaper published by Lao Press, an agency of the Ministry of Information and Culture. According to the newspaper, the objective of the discussions which took place was to initiate action that would "protect the health of factory workers and consumers in [Lao] society." See: Laos working towards national strategy on asbestos.

Prison Sentence for Asbestos Directors

Jul 28, 2013

The Voghera Court, in the Lombardy region of Italy, has issued a first instance ruling in a case brought by hundreds of asbestos victims against Fibronit, an asbestos-cement company which collaborated with Italy's asbestos giant Eternit. After more than a year of court proceedings, the verdict has been warmly received by asbestos victims and their representatives. A total exceeding a million euros has been awarded by the Court to 132 individuals and eleven public bodies and associations. Two former Fibronit directors have been sentenced to four years in prison for manslaughter and negligent environmental disaster. See: Fibronit, un milione alle vittime dell'amianto.

IJOEH Asbestos Papers

Jul 27, 2013

The contents of the September 2013 issue of the International Journal Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH) include three texts on asbestos-related subjects. These are: UN Scientific Agency collaborating with scientists involved in sabotaging UN Rotterdam Convention; Use of asbestos building materials in Malaysia: legislative measures, the management, and recommendations for a ban on use; and A Commentary on 'Evaluation of take home (para-occupational) exposure to asbestos and disease: a review of the literature,' Donovan et al. The first of these articles can be downloaded free of charge. See: IJOEH Table of Contents 2013, Vol. 19 No. 3.

Draft Asbestos Bill

Jul 26, 2013

On July 25, 2013, the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament discussed proposed legislation entitled: "Rules to protect workers, citizens and the environment from asbestos." The text, which had been amended during its passage through the Senate, focuses on three key areas: land remediation, healthcare and the national asbestos victims' fund. During their debate, the politicians recognized the crucial role played by asbestos victims' groups, trade unions and other partners in highlighting the country's tragic asbestos legacy. See: Presentazione a Roma del Ddl sull'amianto [Presentation of draft asbestos bill in Rome].

Long Walk for Research

Jul 25, 2013

Earlier this month, President of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) Robert Vojakovic announced that efforts of the intrepid volunteers who walked from Dunsborough, on the southwest coast of Western Australia, to the state capital of Perth in May 2013 raised $50,000 for research into the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma. Funds from the ADSA golfing day, scheduled for September 2013, will be added to this total. It is hoped that the funding generated by the 2013 activities will top the $100,000 collected in 2012. See: Asbestos Disease Society of Australia Facebook Page and also Also: Ready, Steady, Go.

Mexican Asbestos Scandal Exposed

Jul 24, 2013

As pictures of the dumping of asbestos waste in Mexico were published, details emerged of an ongoing occupational and public health scandal. Over the last fifty years, more than 500,000 tons of asbestos were imported to Mexico; as a consequence of hazardous exposure, the government admits that 2,154 Mexicans have died. The reported mortality is known to constitute but a small percentage of the actual number of asbestos deaths. Mexican authorities, including government officials, refuse to acknowledge the danger posed by asbestos and have consistently taken no action to protect citizens. See: Mexican Government Fails to Protect its Workers from Asbestos Harm.

Asbestos Trial of Pirelli Directors

Jul 22, 2013

At a preliminary hearing on July 22, Milan Judge Luigi Varanelli indicted eleven former company directors for their alleged role in the asbestos-related deaths of nineteen Pirelli factory employees. This is the second such action in this jurisdiction; hearings in another lawsuit relating to twenty-four asbestos cancer deaths will resume on September 24. A further action is expected to begin on September 30 on behalf of five more asbestos claimants, two of whom have died. See: Amianto, omicidio colposo su operai: the trial of 11 former a processo 11 ex manager Pirelli [Asbestos, manslaughter of workers: the trial of 11 former Pirelli Directors].

Attack by Asbestos Defendant Begins

Jul 22, 2013

Bankruptcy hearings of U.S. asbestos defendant Garlock Sealing Technologies begin today in North Carolina federal court. In 2010, Garlock sought protection under Chapter 11 from asbestos claims it estimated to be $125m; representatives of claimants believe this figure grossly underestimates the situation saying that total liabilities could be around $1.3bn. The company's problems relate to its production of asbestos gaskets and packing material. The controversial Garlock defense strategy is partially based on allegations of misdeeds by claimants and administrators of other asbestos bankruptcy trusts. See: To Fight Asbestos Cases, Garlock Uses Other Claims as Defense.

Mesothelioma Voyage

Jul 19, 2013

Japanese mesothelioma patient Mituse Yamashita set sail on July 18th from the Japanese port of Yokohama on an 85-day voyage which will take her around the world [see: photo (2012) with Mituse on the left]. The three-month journey will take her to 19 countries including Vietnam, Egypt, Greece, Jamaica and Mexico. Mrs. Yamashita was diagnosed with the asbestos cancer mesothelioma 9 years ago and her enthusiasm for this challenge has inspired all her colleagues in the Ban Asbestos Japan network. She is sailing on the 80th Peace Boat, a Japanese institution dedicated to the promotion of world peace, human rights and respect for the environment. See: Peace Boat website.

Mesothelioma Bill: Lords Vote Defeated

Jul 18, 2013

By just seven votes, a proposal made by Lord Alton for a levy on the insurance industry to fund medical research into the asbestos cancer mesothelioma was defeated on July 17. This vote took place during a protracted and heated debate in the House of Lords on the Mesothelioma Bill. It is relevant to note that mention was made during the session of the work of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum, the umbrella group representing UK asbestos victims. The Bill will now go to the House of Commons when MPs return from the Summer recess. See: House of Lords debate, July 17, 2013 (report) or watch recording of the debate.

Public Health Threat Posed by Asbestos

Jul 15, 2013

An editorial in the July 15th issue of The News International, Pakistan's largest English language newspaper, has commented on the environmental study published last week which highlighted the health risks posed by the operations of the asbestos-cement producer Dadex Eternit Ltd. Calling this a "health problem of almost unimaginable proportions," it asks "who will be held responsible or accountable" for the "wholly preventable" epidemic of asbestos-related disease and death which is to come. Mentioned in the text are threats made by vested interests to researchers; their work was temporarily suspended due to safety fears. See: Editorial: Asbestos and Cancer.

Gerit Schepers' Final Journey

Jul 15, 2013

Honoring the last wishes of Dr. Gerit Schepers, Mimi Logothetis and Kori Mosley arrived in South Africa on July 9, bringing their grandfather home; his final wish was to be buried in his homeland. Dr. Schepers was a towering figure in the discovery of the human health hazard posed by exposure to asbestos. He was a man of independent thought, a fearless researcher and a thorn in the side of asbestos vested interests in South Africa, the US and around the world. His 1949 report confirming cases of asbestosis amongst South African miners was a landmark publication. See: Fearless researcher finally comes home and also The Passing of a Great Man.

Russian Asbestos Dumped in Mexico

Jul 15, 2013

A front page newspaper report this weekend disclosed the dumping of 800 tons of Russian asbestos in the port town of Veracruz on the Mexican Gulf. The Mexalit Company, a manufacturer of construction material, had imported this shipment of chrysotile asbestos and stored it off-site in Veracruz since 2012. The storage facility, which was owned by a transport company, alleges that payment for this service was not received as a result of which the shipment was dumped on the Veracruz-Xalapa highway in a populated area. No attempts have been made to protect the public from hazardous exposures. See: Health risk alert due to 800 tons of asbestos dumped in Mexico.

Asbestos threatens millions in Karachi

Jul 12, 2013

An environmental study commissioned by the Pakistan Supreme Court is now under consideration. The research documents hazardous asbestos exposures inside Karachi asbestos factories and in adjacent areas as well as in properties built on former asbestos dump sites such as new units at Naya Nazimabad. The threat to public health was brought to light by Syed Haroon, the brother of Syed Farid Ahmed; Haroon blamed his brother's death from cancer in 2006 on asbestos exposures experienced at the Dadex Eternit Ltd. factory, a plant where chrysotile asbestos was used to manufacture building materials. See: Two million Karachiites face cancer threat.

Plans to Reopen Asbestos Mine

Jul 12, 2013

Permission has been granted for mining of asbestos to recommence in a mountain town, three hours from Medelin. Local people support the plan due to the need for employment; prior to the bankruptcy of the mine's owners, the mine had provided jobs for 200 people. In 2012, a new company (Bricolsa) purchased the mine; it obtained permission to mine 1,500 tonnes of asbestos a month from 5,500 hectares. At a medical conference in Medellin last April, a Colombian expert highlighted the global consensus regarding the health risk posed by asbestos exposures. See: La polémica mina que revivió en Antioquia.

Bilateral Action on Asbestos

Jul 12, 2013

Korean and Japanese campaigners on asbestos issues and victims' rights will join medical experts, occupational health researchers, environmentalists and trade unionists at a full day asbestos symposium being held on Sunday, July 14, 2013 at Seoul National University. Subjects which will be considered during the day include strategies for identifying asbestos victims, criteria for the recognition of asbestos-related diseases, the high incidence of asbestos-related disease amongst construction workers and ongoing initiatives in Korea and Japan to tackle a wide range of challenges posed by hazardous exposures to asbestos. See: Poster advertising Asbestos Symposium.

Ban Asbestos Mobilization

Jul 11, 2013

INA BAN, the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network, continues to mobilize asbestos awareness amongst members of the public, workers, the medical profession and civil servants. A recent infographic it has produced has proved a useful and popular resource for the campaign. To view these images click on: Bahasa infographic and English infographic. In 2011 and 2012, Indonesia used 124,049 and 161,824 tonnes of asbestos, respectively (an annual increase of 30%), making it one of Asia's biggest consumers of asbestos. See also: Indonesia Mobilization on Asbestos

Hundreds Died at Italian Asbestos Mine

Jul 11, 2013

Epidemiological research commissioned by Italian Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello into mortality at the Balangero chrysotile asbestos mine has found that of 1,600 former workers, 226 have died from asbestos-related diseases - 11 died from the asbestos cancer: mesothelioma. For decades, Europe's largest asbestos mine was linked to the Eternit asbestos group, an industrial conglomerate named as a defendant in the landmark lawsuit mounted by Prosecutor Guariniello in Turin. The mine closed in 1990. It is understood that legal action may be taken related to the mesothelioma deaths. See: Amianto a Balangero si indaga su 226 morti.

Asbestos Company Offensive

Jul 11, 2013

A decision issued by the Bihar State Pollution Control Board which blocked the building of an asbestos-cement production facility in the town of Vaishali has today been challenged by Utkal Asbestos Ltd. at hearings before the Patna High Court. Vaishali citizens have protested the siting of this factory in their town due to the occupational and public health hazard posed by the processing of asbestos fiber, a substance banned in 50+ countries. See: Killer asbestos company challenges Pollution Control Board's cancellation of its hazardous plants, questions 'battery limit'.

Bangkok Asbestos Protest

Jul 10, 2013

On July 8, 2013, 120 members of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network (TBAN) demonstrated outside the Prime Minister's office in Bangkok about government proposals to delay the ban on the use of asbestos-cement products for five years. TBAN is pressing for government action to prohibit the import of chrysotile asbestos by the end of this year, to stop asbestos-cement production in 2014 and to ban all imports of asbestos-cement material in 2015. Professor Surasak informed the demonstrators that a case of mesothelioma has been diagnosed at Thailand's Thmmasart Hospital. See: Picture of TBAN July 8 protest.

Academic papers call for asbestos ban

Jul 8, 2013

The current issue of the journal Safety and Health at Work includes papers which highlight the escalation of asbestos use and mining in Asia and call for the phasing out of asbestos use. The papers Awareness of Asbestos and Action Plans for Its Exposure can Help Lives Exposed to Asbestos and Asbestos and Asbestos-related Diseases in Vietnam: In reference to the International Labor Organization/World Health Organization National Asbestos Profile agree that the future holds no place for the asbestos industry. See: Safety and Health at Work, June 2013, Vol. 4, No. 2

Appeal Court Win for Asbestos Victims

Jul 8, 2013

On June 27, 2013, the Tokyo High Court upheld a decision by the Tokyo District Court which had found that a 61 year-old lung cancer victim exposed to asbestos at work had a legitimate work-related injury; the government's criteria which barred such a claim were, the Court said, "unreasonable." The claimant had worked as an engineer at a steelmaking plant from 1973-1984. Officials refused to recognize his claim on the basis of a "low" lung fiber burden. It is thought this ruling will benefit four other claimants with similar lawsuits in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe. See: High court rules criteria for recognizing lung cancer caused by asbestos unreasonable.

Bigger Asbestos Bill for James Hardie

Jun 30, 2013

Australia's "asbestos giant," James Hardie (JH) is looking at an increase of more than $115 million in its asbestos liabilities according to figures contained in the company's 2013 financial report. JH's asbestos liabilities are now estimated at $1.7 billion, up from $1.58 billion a year ago. A statement in the annual report about this increase said: ''During fiscal year 2013, mesothelioma claims reporting activity has been above actuarial expectations for the first time since fiscal year 2009.'' The number of claims, an increasing number of which were for mesothelioma, and the average size of the claims have risen over the last year. See: Hardie slugged with more asbestos claims.

An Asbestos Victim's Battle

Jun 30, 2013

A French language book, entitled My War Against Asbestos, was launched on June 29 in Brussels by Belgian author Eric Jonckheere. Both of Eric's parents and two of his brothers died from cancer caused by exposure to asbestos liberated by the operations of the Eternit factory in Kapelle-op-den-Bos. In a tale which pits David against Goliath, Eric and his family mounted the first lawsuit against Eternit in Belgium for the asbestos death of his mother. This book recounts the obstacles they encountered and the steps taken in their fight for justice. See: Ma Guerre Contre l'Amiante (My War Against Asbestos).

Sale of Contaminated Rolling Stock?

Jun 28, 2013

According to reports received, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will consult early next month on proposals to give the Office of Rail Regulation the power to, contrary to European Regulation, allow UK parties to sell asbestos-contaminated articles, including rolling stock. It is unclear how wide an exemption is being sought but it may also include other similarly polluted items from the railway industry. The use and sale of asbestos in the European Community was banned as of June 1, 2005 by Commission Directive 1999/77/EC.

Ship Recycling Exemption Criticized

Jun 27, 2013

Civil society campaigners have criticized today's approval by the European Council of a new EU regulation on ship recycling, which will allow the continued externalization by European shipping interests of the environmental and human health costs created by shipbreaking on the beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The regulation approved today by European lawmakers exempts ships from the European Waste Shipment Regulation, which aims at protecting developing countries from the dumping of hazardous wastes and incorporates the Basel Convention and its Ban Amendment. See: Press Release - NGOs Do Not Support Newly Approved EU Ship Recycling Regulation.

Deadly Global Impact of ARDs

Jun 26, 2013

An analysis by nine Asian researchers of World Health Organization mesothelioma and asbestosis mortality data from around the world over the period from 1994 to 2010 confirmed the tragic impact these diseases have had. The scientists calculated that during this period, more than 2.3 million years of life have been lost; on average, mesothelioma and asbestosis sufferers have been deprived of 17 and 13 years of life respectively. The authors conclude that: "The future burden of ARDs can be eliminated by stopping the use of asbestos." See: Potential years of life lost (PYLL) caused by asbestos-related diseases in the world.

Foreign Victims Bring US Lawsuit

Jun 25, 2013

On July 17, 2013, a hearing will take place in a case brought by asbestos victims from Argentina against the American-based DuPont company for compensation for injuries sustained as a result of workplace exposures that took place in a DuPont factory in the town of Mercedes, Argentina. The President of the Argentina Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, lawyer Dr. Mariano Acevedo, will attend this hearing. Dr. Acevedo is "convinced that US justice should intervene in these cases to bring solutions to the people who have suffered." See: Press Release: Asociación Argentina de Expuestos al Amianto.

Asbestos Debate in Sri Lanka

Jun 25, 2013

The Consumer Affairs Authority in Sri Lanka, a country which over recent years annually used around 55,000 tonnes of asbestos, is considering recommending the use of asbestos-free products to protect the population from hazardous exposures. The Central Environmental Authority admits that workplace monitoring at asbestos processing facilities is inadequate and public as well as occupational awareness of the asbestos hazard remains low. National vested interests are working with international asbestos lobbyists to promote the continuing use of asbestos in Sri Lanka. See: Asbestos an untamed and silent killer thriving on ignorance.

Death of Schmidheiny's Cousin

Jun 24, 2013

The Schmidheiny family's asbestos heritage has claimed the life of Anton Schrafl, an 81 year-old cousin of Stephan Schmidheiny, convicted for his role in the asbestos deaths of thousands of Italians by a Turin court and appeal court in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Schrafl, who trained as a mechanical engineer, worked with asbestos in South Africa during the 1960s; he died last week of mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. See: Familie Schmidheiny leidet an den asbestfolgen [Schmidheiny family suffers the consequences of asbestos]

British Asbestos News

Jun 24, 2013

The spring issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The feature article in Issue 90, entitled Mesothelioma: The British Disease, estimates that by the end of 2013 more than 60,000 Britons will have died from asbestos-related diseases in the 21st century. Other articles in this issue look at the report by the Committee on Carcinogenicity on the relative vulnerability of children to asbestos exposure and the work of the Queen's Bench Asbestos List. The news round-up includes details related to developments, publications and upcoming UK events. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, Issue 90.

Historic Bill Enacted

Jun 21, 2013

On June 20, 2013, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Bill was passed by the Australian Parliament. The new Agency will start work on implementing the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management on July 1. This news was announced in a press release issued by MP Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations who highlighted Australia's massive use of asbestos: "1 in 3 homes built in Australia between the end of the Second World War and 1987 contain asbestos." The birth of this Agency is, said Shorten, the culmination of three years' work by the Labor Government. See: Media release: Minister Bill Shorten MP.

Asbestos in Schools Scandal

Jun 20, 2013

A high level of concern has resulted from the publication earlier this week of research findings by labor groups in the Philippines. The Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) revealed that asbestos-containing products were being used by high school students conducting experiments in school laboratories despite the fact that the use of such material had been banned by the Department of Education. Visits to eight schools in the metropolitan area of Manila confirmed that asbestos-wire gauzes were being handled by students. The hazardous products are being purchased from laboratory supply stores in Manila. See: ALU - TUCP press releases.

The Long and Winding Road

Jun 20, 2013

On June 19, the launch took place in Brussels of a sourcebook entitled: The long and winding road to an asbestos-free workplace. The 160-page text contains contributions from ten leading experts. The chapters and interviews in the book reveal how pressure from a range of civil society actors increased occupational safeguards for European citizens. An analysis of the legislative changes required to reach this situation is informative. Chapters dealing with national situations reveal the continuing disparity amongst EU member states regarding protection from asbestos. See picture: Seven of the authors attend the book launch and The long and winding road to an asbestos-free workplace.

New York Times Editorial

June 20, 2013

The headline of an editorial in one of America's foremost newspapers said it all: "One-Sided Bill on Asbestos Injuries." The text was highly critical of a bill which had been "rammed" through a Congressional Committee to make it harder for asbestos claimants to get fair compensation. The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2013 is, needless to say, being progressed by Republicans. While the burden it would place on the claimants is substantial, that put on asbestos companies is minimal. The editorial calls on Congress to undertake "an objective study of whether there is even a problem that needs fixing." See: One-Sided Bill on Asbestos Injuries.

Launch of Asbestos Book

Jun 17, 2013

At a meeting in Brussels on June 18, Jan Cremers and Rolf Gehring will launch The long and winding road to an asbestos free workplace, a 160-page text that examines the EU's transition from asbestos-consuming to non-asbestos using. Contributions from noted authors reflect on the residual problems Europe is facing due to massive asbestos contamination of its infrastructure and the mounting death toll amongst its population. Contributing author Laurie Kazan-Allen says: "Even after asbestos is banned, a coordinated and prolonged program is required to eradicate hazardous exposures and support the injured." See: The long and winding road to an asbestos free workplace.

Federal Funding for Asbestos Region

Jun 17, 2013

Last week, Canadian Minister Denis Lebel visited Thetford Mines, a former asbestos mining town, to discuss details relating to the release of government subsidies for the economic diversification of the region. The sum of $50m will be provided over seven years to help the community create new jobs and businesses to compensate for the loss of income and profits generated by the now defunct asbestos industry. Christian Paradis, a former asbestos cheerleader, was present at the press conference; Paradis encouraged SMEs and others to "seize the opportunity" and submit project proposals to the Canada Economic Development Agency. See: 50 M$ enfin débloqués! [$50 million unblocked!].

Initiative to End Toxic Shipbreaking

Jun 13, 2013

A website that went live today is the result of years of work by the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, a broad-based coalition of civil society groups, which aims to improve global shipbreaking practices. The online database - Off the Beach - records the names of 2,600 ships sent for breaking on the beaches of South Asia since 2009 as well as the names of 1,000+ shipping companies that sent toxic ships, most of which contained asbestos, to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan for dismantling at workplaces where labor rights violations and serious environmental contamination are routine. See: Off the Beach website.

IBAS Bursary Success

Jun 12, 2013

Dr. Abhijeet Jadhav, the recipient of a 2012 IBAS bursary, successfully completed his training for an ILO 2000 International Certification of Radiographs of Pneumoconioses. Dr. Jadhav is the author of a paper published in May 2013 entitled: Asbestosis: Past voices from the Mumbai Factory Floor which highlighted the terrible price being paid for India's rapid industrial development by workers, many of whom are suffering from asbestos-related conditions. Concluding the paper, he calls for an asbestos ban and a rehabilitation and palliative care program for the asbestos-injured. See: Asbestosis: Past voices from the Mumbai factory Floor.

Curitiba Conference Asbestos Agenda

Jun 11, 2013

On June 11 and 12, asbestos sessions at a conference in Curitiba will provide the opportunity for an in-depth examination of the relevance to Brazilians of the landmark appeal court judgment in the Italian case against Eternit asbestos defendants Stephan Schmidheiny and Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne. Italian prosecutors Sara Panelli and Gianfranco Colace and activists Bruno Pesce and Nicola Pondrano will update delegates on the June 3, 2013 Italian verdict and other developments in Turin. Brazilian asbestos experts who will be addressing the meeting include Fernanda Giannasi, Eliezer João de Souza and Urbitan de Paula Santos.

Class Action against Spanish Eternit

Jun 9, 2013

On June 10, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. legal proceedings will begin in Seville against a former Eternit subsidiary, Uralita, which is being sued by asbestos victims for over €2 million of compensation. This is the first time collective action has been taken despite the large number of those injured over the six decades during which the company produced asbestos-cement material in the Bellavista section of the city. To mark the significance of this event, asbestos victims and groups from Spain and abroad will engage in a demonstration in front of the court building in Buhaira Avenue. See: Press Release: First Collective Asbestos Trial against Uralita.

Eternit Appeal Verdict

Jun 8, 2013

A video recording of Appeal Court Judges reading a June 3, 2013 decision in a landmark Italian asbestos case has been translated into English and uploaded to YouTube. The Turin Court increased the prison sentence handed down in 2012 from 16 to 18 years for defendant Stephan Schmidheiny and ordered that as he and the other defendant were jointly and severally liable and as the other defendant died in May, that Schmidheiny pay all the costs. Damages for environmental pollution in localities excluded from the first instance judgment were raised as was compensation to some organizations and municipalities. See: Video of Eternit appeal verdict June 3, 2013.

Call for Review of Asbestos "Research"

Jun 7, 2013

On June 6, 2013, a New York Appeal Court upheld a decision which ordered an "in camera" (private) review of documentation between asbestos defendant Georgia Pacific (GP) and its in-house counsel Stewart Holm related to litigation-driven "research" intended to cast doubt on the health risk of exposures to chrysotile asbestos. GP's argument that this correspondence was covered by attorney-client privilege was dismissed by the panel of judges. See: Scientific articles, intended to cast doubt on harm caused by chrysotile asbestos, were potentially part of a crime–fraud and NYC Supreme Court, Appellate Division ruling.

Eternit, Brazil says "It was not us."

Jun 6, 2013

After the landmark verdict by an Italian appeal court on June 3, Brazil's Eternit S.A. issued a news release to "make clear that it has no relationship with Eternit companies in other countries, including Italy." The company also asserted categorically that "there have been no cases of any diseases related to the use of chrysotile asbestos recorded among employees joining the Group from the 80s." There is no mention of the fact that five Brazilian states have banned the use of asbestos or that the Supreme Court is currently considering whether the use of asbestos in Brazil is constitutional. See: Eternit clarifies the asbestos issue.

Safety and Eradication Agency

Jun 4, 2013

On June 3, 2013, the Australian Federal Parliament passed legislation required to formalize the setting up of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency on July 1, 2013. The remit of the Agency is to "administer the National Strategic Plan which aims to prevent exposure to asbestos fibres in order to eliminate asbestos-related diseases in Australia." Ongoing revelations regarding asbestos contamination generated by work to roll out Australia's $37.4 billion national broadband network underscores the importance of coordinated and nation action on the asbestos hazard. See: Asbestos Safety and Eradication Bill.

Appeal to Supreme Court

Jun 4, 2013

Reacting to yesterday's decision by the Appeal Court in Turin which confirmed a 2012 guilty verdict and increased by two years the prison sentence for Stephan Schmidheiny, his lawyer Astolfo Di Amato said he was outraged by this decision and confirmed his client's intention to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court. Welcoming the decision, Public Prosecutor R. Guariniello called it a "hymn to life"; asbestos victims claimed it as a victory for all those who have been injured by asbestos. See: Eternit, condanna di 18 anni per l'imprenditore Schmidheiny [Eternit sentence of 18 years for the entrepreneur Schmidheiny].

The Great Asbestos Appeal

Jun 3, 2013

The proceedings in the Turin Court began just after 9 a.m. Expert witness Pietro Clerici was asked by the Court to authenticate the death certificate of one of the defendants, Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne. When this had been done, lawyers for the deceased and for Etex, the company of which he had been a director, asked for the cases against their clients to be struck off. Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello agreed that the crimes against de Cartier no longer stood. The Court adjourned until 3 p.m. for the verdict against Stephan Schmidheiny to be read.

Award for Asbestos Researcher

Jun 3, 2013

Professor Bruce Robinson was named West Australian of the Year, the State's top honor, at a ceremony in Perth on June 1. He was cited not only for his personal contribution to research into the treatment of people suffering from asbestos-related diseases but for the leadership role he has played in collaborative efforts to tackle the Australian asbestos epidemic. Bruce is a founding member and active participant in the International Mesothelioma Interest Group, the most proactive and global attempt to find a cure for the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. See: Asbestos researcher named West Australian of the Year and the NCARD Special Newsletter devoted to Bruce's award.

Italian Victims Ask Pope's Blessing

May 29, 2013

On May 30, at a public ceremony in the town of Casale Monferrato, a message from Pope Francis will be read out which responds to a request from Italians harmed by exposure to asbestos. In a letter to the Pope the victims condemned the criminal activities of the asbestos multinational Eternit and highlighted the global nature of the asbestos scandal. Around the world, they said, poor people are continually being exposed to deadly asbestos so that maximum profits can be achieved by industry. The victims' letter to Pope Francis ended with the words: "This slaughter must stop." See: Amianto, le parole di Papa Francesco [Asbestos, the words of Pope Francis], Il Monferrato, May 28, 2013.

Asbestos Death: Port Authority Guilty

May 29, 2013

Having concluded that Giancarlo Vianello died of mesothelioma caused by negligent exposure to asbestos which occurred whilst he was employed at the Port Authority in Venice, the Court of Venice ruled that his wife and four children were entitled to a payment of €670,000 ($863,480). Vianello routinely unloaded shipments of asbestos from 1960 to 1988. Evidence has shown that at least until 1979, asbestos arrived in Venice in jute bags which often broke during the transhipment process. See: Morto di amianto, condannata l'Autorità portuale: 670 mila euro alla famiglia [Port Authority Guilty of Asbestos Death: 670,000 euros to family].

Uralita Found Guilty of Negligence

May 28, 2013

More than two years after his mesothelioma death, the family of an asbestos worker from the Uralita factory has been awarded a 50% increase in monthly pension payments by a Court which found that his employer of 18 years had failed to enforce mandatory measures to minimize hazardous workplace exposures to asbestos. The Judge recognized a direct link between the tasks carried out by the defendant, which included unloading trucks delivering asbestos fiber to the factory from 1974 to 1992, and his disease. See: La autopsia confirma la muerte por amianto de un operario de Uralita [Autopsy confirms death by asbestos of a Uralita operative].

Contamination at Piedmont School

May 26, 2013

Warning signs, dated May 24, were erected in the hallways and lobby of a Piedmont school advising of the presence of asbestos in floor tiles. Children at the Silvio Canevari elementary school in Via Carlo Cattaneo were asked by the Principal not to damage the floor due to the hazard created by the liberation of asbestos fibers. A few days after these signs were posted, citizens were due to cast their votes in an election on the school's premises. They will see the signs on their way to the ballot box; will this, the reporter asked, affect their choices? See: Pericolo amianto all'elementare Canevari [Asbestos danger to Canevari elementary school].

Goa to Replace Asbestos-cement Pipes

May 25, 2013

By 2015, a massive new infrastructure project to provide water to residents in the capital city of the Indian state of Goa, Panaji, will replace 90 km of asbestos-cement water pipes with high density polyethylene pipes according to a report in The Times of India. The current pipeline network is more than 40 years old and is often subject to breakdowns, contamination and under capacity. This decision has been taken despite aggressive ongoing lobbying by the Indian asbestos-cement industry It is expected that work will begin in Panaji shortly after a choice of contractor has been made. See: 24x7 water for Panaji by 2015.

Legislative Moves will Impact on Victims

May 24, 2013

A media statement by the American Association for Justice has highlighted the negative impact that the so-called "Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2013" (FACT) would have on the dispensation of compensation to asbestos claimants. The proposed legislation, backed by asbestos defendants, would impose new requirements on private asbestos bankruptcy trusts which would inevitably slow down the processing and payment of claims. Under the new FACT regime, the trusts would also be forced to divulge extensive information about asbestos victims. See: AAJ: Controversial Asbestos Bill Offensive, Unnecessary and Must be Stopped.

Raising funds for Asbestos Research

May 22, 2013

Setting off on May 13, dozens of supporters of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) walked hundreds of kilometres through country towns and bush in Western Australia to raise awareness of a silent killer. "Would you invite a killer into your homes," was the question they asked at meetings in small communities along their route. Their arrival in Perth was marked with music and applause by local politicians and family members who joined them for the final steps of the 2013 ADSA walk. Once sore feet have healed, work will begin on planning the 2014 walk! See: Raising Awareness of a Silent Killer.

Publication of Articles on Asbestos

May 22, 2013

The current issue of The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health features three papers relating to the asbestos hazard which focus on the diverse approaches taken by national governments to asbestos. One of the publications - Why some, but not all, countries have banned asbestos - is authored by Korean researchers as is a commentary; another commentary on this subject is by Dr. Arthur Frank who criticizes the lack of political will which allows the dangerous trade in asbestos to persist in developed as well as developing countries. See: The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 2013 Vol. 19, No. 2.

Death of Asbestos Defendant

May 21, 2013

It has been reported today that Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne, one of two former asbestos executives found guilty by a Turin court for the asbestos deaths of thousands of Italians, has died. Stephan Schmidheiny (Swiss) and Cartier de Marchienne (Belgian) were convicted of causing wilful permanent environmental disaster and failing to comply with safety rules in the 2012 landmark ruling. As a result of this development, claimants can no longer bring legal action against the Belgian or the company (Etex) he represented. An appeal court verdict, which was expected on June 3, 2013, may be delayed by a few days. See: Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial: Appeal Proceedings.

Asbestos Giant Liable for Cleanup Costs

May 20, 2013

In April 2013, Israel's Supreme Court turned down an appeal by Eitanit Construction Products over its liability to pay 50% of the bill for asbestos decontamination work being carried out by the Environmental Protection Ministry in Northern Israel. The company had claimed that it was not the actual polluter and that Israeli law had violated its property rights and its right to equal treatment before the law by retroactively imposing a legal obligation on the company without proof of guilt and exempting other parties. The polluter pays principle was upheld. See: High Court upholds Israeli law placing onus of asbestos clean-up on company.

Tenth Anniversary of Relief Trust

May 17, 2013

In July, 2003, the Asbestos Relief Trust (ART) began distributing compensation for people suffering from asbestos-related diseases (ARDs). The Trust was established following an out-of-court settlement with former asbestos mining companies. The total compensation for 3,639 claimants who have suffered from occupational or environmental exposure exceeds US$26.6m. Tina da Cruz, who manages the ART, has said that the 10th anniversary will be marked by lectures and discussion groups in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Kuruman, the asbestos hotspots where most ART claimants live. See: Asbestos Relief Trust pays out R250m to 3 600 claimants in ten years.

Case against Former Minister Dismissed

May 17, 2013

A Paris Court today dismissed a case brought last year against Ministerial official Martine Aubrey for her failure to protect workers against the asbestos hazard in the 1980s. The "involuntary homicide and injuries" charges lodged against the former leader of the Socialist Party and a future contender for the office of Prime Minister were today dropped by a ruling of the Court of Appeal. Aubry told journalists: "The courts have recognized today that there can be no fault nor negligence attributed to me in the asbestos affair." See: Martine Aubry cleared of asbestos manslaughter charges.

Death at Asbestos Factory

May 13, 2013

Ban asbestos activist Gopal Krishna has reported the death of a 35-year-old employee at the Utkal Asbestos Limited factory in the Bhojpur District of Bihar State. Dharmendra Kumar Rawani died as a result of a workplace accident in the early hours of May 10. After a demonstration by the All India Central Council of Trade Unions, the factory was closed; calls are being made for a permanent shutdown of the facility. Elsewhere in Bihar, activists continue efforts to block construction of new asbestos factories by Utkal Asbestos and Ramco Industries, two of India's largest manufacturers of asbestos-cement building products.

Challenge to Ottawa over Asbestos Funds

May 13, 2013

Federal aid of $50 million promised for the economic diversification of Quebec's former asbestos-producing communities has not materialized. MP Jean Rousseau has openly challenged Minister Christian Paradis, who also represents a former asbestos mining constituency, over the delay, stating that benefits for the former mine workers have now run out. Despite Ottawa's reassurances, the conservatives have, Rousseau said, turned their backs on these communities. See: Fonds de 50 M$: Jean Rousseau interpelle Christian Paradis [Jean Rousseau challenges Christian Paradis over $50m].

Asbestos Contamination in Sunderland

May 13, 2013

It has been revealed that some of Wearside's most popular tourist attractions are amongst 37 properties listed on the Council's Asbestos Risk Register. These include: three museums, a market, art center, ski slope, library and tennis center. The majority of schools in Sunderland also contain asbestos. A spokesperson for the local authority told journalists that the Council's asbestos management policy complies with current legislation and that an ongoing inspection programme ensures that the asbestos risk is being carefully controlled. See: Tourist attractions, sports centres and Jacky White Market among dozens of Sunderland buildings on asbestos risk list.

Public Responsibility of Health Professionals

May 13, 2013

An editorial in the May 5, 2013 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives called on public health professionals to "make the effort to make policy content and information of public interest both accessible and usable by the general public." Author Wael K. Al-Delaimy discussed the 2012 Position Statement on Asbestos issued by the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology and highlighted the Russian-led "ethically controversial research collaboration" underway to block UN progress on designating chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance under the rules of the Rotterdam Convention. See: Editorial, Environmental Health Perspectives.

Judge Bertella-Geffroy barred from case

May 3, 2013

Today, the Council of State ruled that Judge Bertella-Geffroy, who pioneered the ground-breaking case against French asbestos criminals, will not be allowed to recommence her work in the healthcare division of the High Court due to the expiration of the allocated ten-year tenure period. Under a decree issued on March 27, 2013, her position as a specialist judge in charge of investigating this case had been terminated. Despite highly vocal protests by asbestos victims groups, the Court has today upheld the original ruling. See: