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Toxic Waste: Update

Sep 24, 2017

After years of protests by local people and environmental groups, an announcement that work will begin on October 15 to cover over 90,000 tonnes of asbestos waste dumped on a site in Toledo, Spain – which will be then be fenced – off has been welcomed as a stop-gap measure by members of the “My Neighborhood Without Asbestos Platform”. A sum of €2.5 million has been allocated by the authorities to undertake this work; €14m would be needed to completely decontaminate the site which is the ultimate goal of the campaigners concerned about public health. See: El 15 de octubre comenzarán los trabajos para "tapar" los restos de amianto en Toledo [October 15 work will begin to “cover” the asbestos waste in Toledo].

Asbestos: Update

Sep 24, 2017

A Nepalese newspaper article reported a meeting last week in Kathmandu during which regional experts, including representatives of the World Health Organization and the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, and local campaigners emphasized the need to enforce Nepal’s prohibitions banning asbestos use, with Ram Charitra Sah, director of the Center for Public Health and Environmental Development, revealing that despite these prohibitions the import, sale and use of asbestos products continues. Measures for ensuring safe disposal of asbestos waste were called for to prevent further toxic exposures. See: फाइबरयुक्त धातु प्रयोग रोक्न जोड [Emphasizing the need to prevent [asbestos] fiber use.

Earthquake: Asbestos Hazard

Sep 24, 2017

The environmental impact of the earthquake that hit Mexico City and nearby areas on September 19, 2017 is being assessed, with media reports detailing the multiple hazards from asbestos, heavy metals and other toxins faced by first responders and local people: “Experts warn the lingering dust triggered by the quake poses life-long health risks for the survivors.” In Mexico, the use of asbestos-cement building products is routine; average asbestos fiber consumption for 2010-2016 was around 10,800 tonnes per annum, with figures of 12,077 and 4,529 tonnes being recorded for 2015 and 2016, respectively. See: Mexico's earthquake survivors face the same crippling health issues as 9/11 first responders due to toxic cloud of concrete, asbestos, fungus and more.

Asbestos in Talc

Sep 24, 2017

The multinational Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is facing 5,000 US lawsuits from women alleging that the use of J&J baby powder products contaminated with asbestos has caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Lawyers representing 50 women plaintiffs in Kansas City, Missouri allege that the company knew that its talc products included asbestos fibers and that exposure to those fibers could cause ovarian cancer: J&J’s talc, they claim “is not now, nor has it ever been, free from asbestos and asbestiform fibers.’’ See: J&J Was Alerted to Risk of Asbestos in Talc in ’70s, Files Show.

Mesothelioma Clinical Trial

Sep 22, 2017

Bristol-Myers Squibb is progressing trials in 19 countries for mesothelioma patients ineligible for surgery, including those at specialist centers in Brazil: Barretos Cancer Hospital, São Paulo and the Institute of Cancer of São Paulo. The phase 3 randomized study is looking at the efficacy of immunotherapy protocols in combination with: Nivolumab, Ipilimumab, Pemetrexed, Cisplatin and Carboplatin. Trials are underway in: Australia, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK and the US. See: Estudo clínico sobre mesotelioma pleural recruta pacientes no Brasil [Clinical trial on pleural mesothelioma recruits patients in Brazil].

Priority: Asbestos in Schools

Sep 22, 2017

At a press conference on September 21, 2017, Korea’s Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon called for immediate measures to ensure that Korea’s schools were asbestos-free after reports that contamination had been found in many classrooms even after remediation work had been carried out. During a weekly government policy coordination meeting, the PM announced that: “The education, labor and environment ministries are jointly carrying out an inspection into whether asbestos still remains at 1,226 schools that have carried out asbestos-removal projects, and asbestos was found in many of them.” See: PM calls for measures to ensure school classrooms free of asbestos.

Updated: Asbestos Regulations

Sep 22, 2017

A stricter regime for preventing asbestos exposures in Western Australia came into effect on September 20, 2017 with the revision of the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992. The 22-page document addresses the ubiquity of asbestos-cement building products throughout the state and mandates strict measures to prevent the use, purchase or resale of these products and stipulates protocols for handling, removal and disposal of toxic debris. Substantial fines can be levied by authorized officers who are, along with Chief Health Officers, given wide-ranging discretionary powers to enforce the regs. See: Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992; Updated September 20, 2017.

Asbestos Mobilization

Sep 21, 2017

Work by ban asbestos campaigners in Nepal was reinforced on September 18 and 19 with the holding of asbestos activities in the capital, Kathmandu. The events, which were supported by Nepal’s Center for Public Health and Environment Development, the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN), the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) and other partnering groups, were attended by leading campaigners from throughout the region, including delegates from Nepal, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, India, Indonesia and Australia. See: Picture of delegates.

Asbestos Protest

Sep 21, 2017

On September 20, 2017, one hundred local people and environmental campaigners – belonging to the association “Stop the Salau mine” – who are opposed to the restarting of tungsten mining at the Salau mine in Couflens, a commune in the Ariège department in south-western France, protested asbestos testing at the mine as a precursor to the commencement of tungsten mining operations. A license had been granted to the Apollo Minerals company by the prefect of Ariège for the asbestos sampling to be carried out. See: Ariège: les opposants à la mine du Salau manifestent contre les recherches d'amiante [Ariège: Opponents of the Salau mine protest against asbestos research].

Asbestos-free Roofing

Sep 21, 2017

According to Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishard Bathiudeen, domestically produced red clay roofing tiles are now in high demand due to national asbestos prohibitions set to come into effect in 2018 which will ban all asbestos imports. This restriction has led to an increase in the production of clay roofing tiles, some of which are exported to the UK. Sri Lanka’s ceramic and glass industries employ 55,000 workers. In 2015 and 2016, Sri Lanka imported 34,505 and 47,379 tonnes of asbestos fiber, respectively. See: Red clay roof tiles in high demand as asbestos ban looms.

Collapse of Asbestos Lobby

Sep 20, 2017

The “National Agreement on the Controlled Use of Asbestos” between Brazil’s National Committee of Asbestos Workers and the National Confederation of [Asbestos] Workers in Industry and the country’s asbestos trade association the Chrysotile Institute (Instituto Brasileiro do Crisotila), which allowed for the contravention of mandatory health and safety measures, has been annulled by a court ruling. See: A farsa do lobby do amianto:Sentença – Acordo nacional do uso seguro do amianto celebrado entre CNTA/CNTI e IBC é extinto [The asbestos lobby farce: Judgment – National agreement on the safe use of asbestos signed between CNTA/CNTI and IBC is extinct].

Fact: All Asbestos Banned

Sep 19, 2017

A September 16 commentary on a Brazilian legal website clarified the content and ramifications of Supreme Court (STF) decisions handed down in August regarding the constitutionality of state asbestos bans and the unconstitutionality of the federal government’s asbestos law. The explanation is clear – the STF is competent to declare unconstitutional rules adopted as the basis for decisions even if those rules were not disputed by those bringing the litigation, in this case the National Confederation of [Asbestos] Industrial Workers. See: É proibida a utilização de qualquer forma de amianto no Brasil [The use of any form of asbestos in Brazil is prohibited].

Asbestos: Cosmetics Recall

Sep 19, 2017

On September 8, 2017 a Consumer Product Recall was issued by Health Canada, the department of the Canadian government responsible for protecting public health, for a series of make-up products marketed under the Justice Just Shine brand, including pressed powder, eye shadow, bronzer, shimmer powder etc. Trace amounts of asbestos were found in Just Shine Shimmer Powder imported from China; other products from the same manufacturer were recalled as a “cautionary measure.” Thousands of units were sold in Canada between February and August 2017. Tests done in the US also found asbestos in the “Just Shine Shimmer Powder” make-up sold by Justice. See: Justice (Tween Brands Inc.) recalls various cosmetics.

Guidance: Asbestos Removal

Sep 19, 2017

Guidance issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in September 2017 entitled “a14 asbestos essentials,” explains good practice for the removal of asbestos cement products from small structures which can be undertaken by non-specialists as non-licensed tasks. Topics considered in the 3-page factsheet include preparing the work area, equipment, procedure, overlaying AC sheets, removal, cleaning, disposal, personal decontamination, clearance and checking off. The list of essential HSE reading material included in this leaflet is informative. See: Removing asbestos cement (AC) sheets, gutters etc and dismantling a small AC structure.

Challenge to Asbestos Ban

Sep 18, 2017

At a September 14 press conference in Zaporizhia, a city in south-eastern Ukraine, a representative of the Ukrainian Chrysotile Association – responding to an announcement some weeks ago that Ukraine planned to ban asbestos – said that the country’s “economy is not ready to completely abandon the use of asbestos.” Asbestos industry lobbyist Yury Torosyan told journalists that: “For cars, especially heavy trucks, as well as railway carriages, there is virtually no alternative to asbestos-containing [brake] pads.” See: Экономика Украины не готова к отказу от асбеста – профильное объединение [The economy of Ukraine is not ready to abandon asbestos - a profile association].

Asbestos: Adieu!

Sep 18, 2017

A September 17 feature on the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Company marked the 25th anniversary of the demise of Cassiar, British Colombia – a Canadian company town that was centered around an asbestos mine. For 40 years this town was home to 1,500 people; in 1992 the mine shut down unexpectedly when the owners went into receivership. Residents were told to vacate their properties and the town was razed to the ground. A summer reunion this year provided the opportunity for many former locals to return to Cassiar to say a final farewell. See: ‘It was like one big family’: 25 years later, a B.C. ghost town's former residents still miss their home.

Asbestos Denied!

Sep 18, 2017

A scathing editorial in the French newspaper Le Monde on September 16, 2017 condemned the Paris Appeal Court for allowing asbestos defendants a “license to kill” tens of thousands of citizens by its cancellation of indictments for homicides and unintentional injuries against nine decision-makers, industrialists, scientists and senior civil servants suspected of promoting policies supportive of the asbestos industry between 1982 and 1995. The charges, which were dismissed on September 15, arose from test cases regarding toxic exposures at Jussieu University and the Normed shipyards in Dunkirk. See: Amiante: la dérobade de la justice [Asbestos: the evasion of justice].

Asbestos Memorial Day?

Sep 18, 2017

The community of Monfalcone, a city at the heart of Italy’s asbestos epidemic, has called on regional authorities to establish a mesothelioma day to raise awareness of asbestos cancer, in proposals submitted to officials of Friuli Venezia Giulia, an autonomous region in north-east Italy. In a bill proposed by the Mayor of Cantieri, April 28 is suggested as a memorial day for asbestos victims to acknowledge the “sacrifice of many Italian workers and their families who unknowingly went to their deaths [because of] breathing asbestos fibers.” See: Si istituisca la giornata nazionale per le vittime dell'amianto [Establishing a National Day for Asbestos Victims].

Mesothelioma Causation

Sep 18, 2017

Incidence data from the population-based Cancer Registry of the Republic of Slovenia for the period 1961-2014 were studied alongside data for national asbestos imports in order to delineate temporal and spatial variations in Slovenian mesothelioma incidence for the last 50 years. The authors of a newly published paper based on this research found that: “the maximum value of the asbestos import curve corresponds to the peak of mesothelioma curve exactly 30 years later. Both increases before the peak are comparable in time interval and steepness. The highest mesothelioma risk was detected for the cohort born between 1940 and 1944.” See: Time trends and spatial patterns in the mesothelioma incidence in Slovenia, 1961-2014.

Mission Accomplished!

Sep 18, 2017

On September 15, 2017, the intrepid walkers of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) completed their 2017 walk to raise mesothelioma awareness and research funds in Perth with a rally in Solidarity Park, across the street from Parliament House. ADSA officials, supporters and clinicians made the final stage of the walk together finishing up at midday at Harvest Terrace in West Perth. Throughout the week, the walkers have met local people, liaised with the media and proceeded along their way through the Central Wheat belt towns of Merredin, Quairading and Northam. Well done to all! See: Website of Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia.

Justice Denied!

Sep 16, 2017

The Paris Court of Appeal handed down a verdict yesterday (September 15) annulling criminal indictments lodged in 2011 and 2012 against nine defendants, charged over asbestos-related deaths, who had been accused of homicide and unintentional injuries as a result of their membership and/or employment by the Permanent Asbestos Committee, an association representing the interests of the French asbestos industry. Victims’ campaigners condemned the verdict saying it gave French manufacturers a “license to kill.” See: Amiante: les mises en examen annulées dans les dossiers Jussieu et Normed [Asbestos: cancelled indictments in Jussieu and Normed files].

Gold Mining: Asbestos

Sep 16, 2017

On September 22, 2017, an ultimatum by the Canadian mining conglomerate Eldorado Gold to the Greek government will expire. The company has threatened to pull the plug on plans for gold mining which could result in the loss of 2,000 jobs. Opposition to the mine has been vociferous from people concerned about the environmental impact, destruction of the forest and extinction of wildlife. The use of explosives could release asbestos and heavy metals into the atmosphere. See: Ναι ή όχι στην εξόρυξη του χρυσού; Μια ψύχραιμη απάντηση από έναν καθηγητή Εδαφολογίας [Yes or No to Gold Mining? A Considered Response by a Professor of Soil Science].

The British Asbestos Newsletter

Sep 15, 2017

The Summer 2017 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is available online. The lead article entitled Action Mesothelioma Day 2017 details a multitude of events which took place in July and concludes that this national day of mesothelioma awareness and remembrance has “now come of age.” Contributions from asbestos surveyor Ian Pass and Liz Darlison from Mesothelioma UK are informative updates on mandatory asbestos requirements for dutyholders and the availability and success of UK clinical trials for mesothelioma patients. See: Issue 104, British Asbestos Newsletter.

International Solidarity

Sep 13, 2017

A letter signed by global leaders in the fight for asbestos justice was submitted to the Yokohama District Court on September 7, 2017 and the Tokyo High Court on September 13 urging them “to support the rights of Japanese asbestos victims and issue a judgment which is fair to them and their families.” The letter relates to lawsuits brought by claimants and families regarding toxic exposures to asbestos during employment in the construction sector. The main defendants in these cases are the government and former manufacturers of asbestos-containing construction materials. See: International Joint Letter to Tokyo and Yokohama Courts.

Asbestos Legacy

Sep 12, 2017

Despite having banned asbestos, many people in Liberia live under asbestos-cement roofs; there is widespread ignorance about the dangers of asbestos in the country. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a program to remove toxic roofing which involves individuals or institutions notifying the EPA is ongoing. “The EPA will than recommend certified hazardous service providers that will help in the development of a removal and disposal plan that has to be approved by the EPA.” The EPA monitors removal work and toxic debris must be sent to a designated disposal site. See: Many Liberians Exposed to Cancer Living in Asbestos Roofed Buildings.

Flood Reconstruction

Sep 12, 2017

The Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India (OEHNI) has highlighted the error of using asbestos-cement building products in flood reconstruction in a letter to the Chief Minister of Gujarat saying: “Generally it is seen that while rehabilitating the villages asbestos cement sheets are being used as roofing which can bring negative results for the society in the long run.” Urging the Minister to carry out rehabilitation necessitated by widespread damage from the flooding in July, OEHNI National Coordinator Jagdish Patel points out that Gujarat can set a precedent for other states by banning asbestos use in the reconstruction. See: OEHNI Letter to Gujarat Chief Minister.

Ban Asbestos: Precedent

Sep 12, 2017

An article regarding the Supreme Court (STF) decision of August 24, 2017 about the unconstitutionality of asbestos use in Brazil highlights the impact of a verdict which cast “doubt about the continuity of the production chain of the substance in Brazil…” By upholding the São Paulo state ban, judges “incidentally declared the unconstitutionality of the federal mechanism that allowed the production chain of chrysotile asbestos in the country.” The precedent of this case will be used by the STF when the legality of the asbestos ban in Rio de Janeiro State is debated in the Court in the coming months. See: Amianto: não se permite nem se proíbe [Asbestos: neither permitted nor prohibited].

Asbestos Mining to Resume

Sep 11, 2017

It has been reported that Zimbabwe expects mining operations at two asbestos mines to recommence before the end of this year, a decade after production had ceased. According to Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa, Shabanie and Mashava in southern Zimbabwe – formerly the sixth largest asbestos mines in the world – are set to be re-opened following a capital injection as part of a $100 million loan from the Chinese company XCMG. Despite growing support for banning asbestos, Zimbabwean authorities claim that domestic and Asian markets for asbestos have been secured. See: Zim to resume asbestos production.

Asbestos at the Opera

Sep 11, 2017

A hearing took place in the 9th Criminal Court in Milan on September 8, 2017 over asbestos deaths due to exposure at the world famous La Scala opera house. The five defendants included Carlo Fontana, superintendent of La Scala from October 1, 1990 to February 24, 2005. In 2016, former mayors of Milan Carlo Tognoli, Paolo Pillitteri, Giampiero Borghini and Marco Formentini were fined for accidental murder and causing serious injuries by failures to act on the asbestos hazard. The trial will resume on September 26 with hearings set for October 11, November 9 and December 21. See: Amianto alla Scala, un caso di morte prescritto [Asbestos at la Scala, a death prescribed].

Ban Asbestos: India

Sep 8, 2017

Following discussion of a Supreme Court ruling which upheld the constitutionality of state asbestos bans in Brazil, the author of this commentary Dr Gopal Krishna called for action by governments in India, Russia and China to protect citizens from the asbestos hazard by banning asbestos production and use. According to data retrieved from a 2011 census, up to 20% of people in India’s urban areas live and work under asbestos roofs; exposures to these toxic products has led to an increased cancer incidence. Even yoga centers, like the one at Jawaharlal Nehru University, are located in asbestos buildings. See: India must ban asbestos urgently.

Asbestos in Buildings

Sep 8, 2017

A dissertation by José Janela on the compliance with laws to minimize hazardous asbestos exposures concludes that Law2/2011 “aimed at the removal of asbestos in public buildings, public facilities and public equipment in Portugal… has only been partially fulfilled…” The author pinpoints failings and lack of resources which initially delayed action and subsequently resulted in poorly carried out surveys. A rational and comprehensive approach is needed to implement all the provisions of Law2/2011. See: O amianto em Portugal: o cumprimento da Lei 2/2011, sobre amianto em edifícios públicos [Asbestos in Portugal: compliance with Law 2/2011 on asbestos in public buildings].

Asbestos: Storm Relief

Sep 8, 2017

The Polish Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management has allocated a further PL20 million (US$5.6m) to support removal, collection and disposal of asbestos-containing waste created by August hurricane winds. Eligible applicants must submit their requests between September 11 and October 31; subsidies of up to 100% are available. In addition, subsidies will be made available by some regional councils including Szczecin. See: Są pieniądze na usunięcie azbestu w gminach poszkodowanych przez żywioł [There is money to remove asbestos from communities affected by the storm].

Rehabilitation & Remediation

Sep 8, 2017

Contamination caused by decades of asbestos mining in South Africa remains a potent threat to populations living in affected areas. Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has recently confirmed a budget of nearly R2 billion (US$78.35m) for the rehabilitation by 2029 of asbestos mines in several provinces, including the Northern Cape. Zwane says that R150 million+ has already been spent and that 11 out of the 21 rehabilitated asbestos mines are in the Northern Cape; the rest of the 234 mines awaiting remediation are in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. See: Almost R2 billion to be used at old asbestos mines.

Renewing Asbestos Mine?

Sep 8, 2017

A report just issued by the management of the Shabanie Mashava Chrysotile Mines has detailed the requirements and resources needed to recommence asbestos mining at the Gaths Mine which was shut down in 2004 after the government seized the property from owner Mutumwa Mawere. Efforts to attract investment from China and South Africa have, to date, not succeeded. The study suggested that a cash injection of $20 million is needed to recommence operations although previous estimates have been higher. It is noteworthy that the article about the mine quotes health warnings from Health Canada. See: Report on SMM requirement now complete.

Propaganda Offensive

Sep 6, 2017

A feature disseminated by Pravda – formerly the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – detailed discussions on August 25 at a pro-asbestos roundtable entitled “Chrysotile Asbestos” in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The event was hosted by the Chrysotile Association, an organization dedicated to “promoting and protecting chrysotile products.” The speakers included representatives of vested interests who denounced the global ban asbestos campaign as uninformed and ill-intentioned. “There is no epidemic of [asbestos] cancer” in former Soviet countries, said multiple speakers. See: Страшилки про асбест. Мифы и правда [Horror stories about asbestos. Myths and truths].

Asbestos Victims’ Battle

Sep 6, 2017

A feature in the periodical El Diario Vasco highlights the 5-7 year battle faced by Spanish asbestos victims to receive recognition of their diseases and discusses the importance of victims’ groups like ASVIAMIE which fights for the rights of the asbestos-injured in Euskadi (the Basque Region). Between 2009 and 2013, 149 people died from pleural mesothelioma in this region; the death rate is expected to rise between 2019 and 2023 to 387. Two victims’ verdicts overturned by Social Court 4 were themselves voided by the Basque Court of Justice as a result of which the claimants’ compensation was restored. See: El TSJPV revoca dos sentencias sobre víctimas del Amianto [The TSJPV revokes two asbestos judgments].

Occupational Asbestos Hazard

Sep 6, 2017

AN analysis of 6,916 Japanese workers diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) between 2008 and 2013 was undertaken to identify groups at risk of asbestos exposures, to facilitate the development of effective health surveillance strategies. Unsurprisingly, workers from the construction industry were found to have a high risk of ARDs; these workers “are still being exposed to asbestos during maintenance, renovation, and asbestos removal from buildings with asbestos containing products.” See: Compensation for Asbestos-Related Diseases in Japan: Utilization of Standard Classifications of Industry and Occupations.

Asbestos Panorama: 2017

Sep 5, 2017

Despite the continued use of asbestos in countries around the world, recent developments in Brazil suggest there may soon be a fall in global consumption. A verdict last month by the Supreme Court upheld the rights of states to ban asbestos to protect the health of inhabitants. Contrasting the strict measures in France to prevent hazardous exposures with the policies of denial and delay in major producing countries like Russia, China and Kazakhstan, this feature quotes trade union officials, victims’ spokesmen and ban asbestos campaigners. See: Terrible poison, l’amiante reste largement utilisé dans le monde [Terrible poison, asbestos still used around the world].

Asbestos Waste Disposal

Sep 5, 2017

The generation and disposal of hazardous wastes were the subject of a report, commissioned by the Oran environment agency, that was issued this week. Amongst the toxic waste identified were 953 tonnes of asbestos waste produced per year in Oran. Although the use of asbestos was banned in Algeria in 2009, the material was widely used prior to that time and is found in waste from asbestos-cement materials, building debris and personal protective equipment. As there is no installation for the disposal of such hazardous waste in Algeria, disposal must be accomplished at designated secure storage units. See: Algeria: About 1000 tonnes of asbestos annually generated in Oran.

Parents’ Asbestos Protest

Sep 5, 2017

Hundreds of parents protested the asbestos hazard posed to children studying at Gwacheon Gumun Elementary School by a massive reconstruction project at an apartment complex in Gwacheon city in the Seoul National Capital Area. On August 28, the Environment and Citizens’ Center (the Center) held a press conference to quantify the potential asbestos fallout from the rebuilding project. The contents of survey reports and videos of the contentious project were presented to the parents by health and safety experts from the Center. See: 과천 엄마들 "재건축에 초등학교로 석면 들어와" 기자회견 [Gwacheon mothers “Asbestos enters elementary school in reconstruction” press conference].

Global Mesothelioma Data

Sep 4, 2017

Quality mortality data on mesothelioma between 1994 and 2014 from 59 countries was amassed and analysed and used to calculate the global burden of mesothelioma deaths. Over the 3 most recent years, the 59 countries experienced 15,011 mesothelioma deaths per year; researchers extrapolated the number of global mesothelioma deaths from this incidence rate and calculated annual mesothelioma deaths as 38,400 based on asbestos use. Citing various qualifications, the authors of this paper concluded that these “estimates are within the range of previously reported values but higher than the most recently reported values.” See: Estimation of the global burden of mesothelioma deaths from incomplete national mortality data.

Another State Ban!

Sep 4, 2017

In what is being termed the “Supreme Court effects,” the Brazilian State of Rondônia has become the 11th state to approve prohibitions against the storage, commercialization and marketing of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. A vote taken on Rondônia Bill 645/17, sponsored by Deputy Aélcio, during a plenary session (August 30) approved the legislation. During the debate, Deputy Aélcio highlighted the health risks posed by asbestos exposures citing WHO and EU policies. See: Aprovado projeto do deputado Aélcio da TV que proíbe comercialização do amianto em Rondônia [Approved project of Deputy Aélcio of TV that prohibits commercialization of asbestos in Rondônia].

Agreement Disallowed

Sep 4, 2017

In a majority decision of August 29, 2017 by the New York Appellate Division of the first department of the Supreme Court, a plaintiff’s verdict was issued in a case brought by a mesothelioma widow over the death of merchant marine Mason South who had been exposed to asbestos during employment by Texaco. In 1997, Mr. Mason had signed an agreement absolving the company of asbestos claims in return for $1500. The Court, which noted that the consideration paid was “extremely low, given South’s alleged extensive asbestos exposure,” found that as Mr. South was not aware of the specific risk of mesothelioma in 1997, the waiver was moot. See: Matter of New York City Asbestos Litig.

Mesothelioma: Research

Sep 4, 2017

Findings of mesothelioma researchers in Australia, published in the latest issue of Lancet Oncology, suggest that a new treatment therapy could stop the growth of mesothelioma cancer cells and reduce tumour size by replacing missing microRNA nucleotides. Over the last four years, scientists working in Sydney found that injecting sufferers with missing genetic information was even able to reverse tumour growth. According to the study's principal investigator, Professor Nico van Zandwijk, it could take another six years of clinical trials before the replacement treatment could be registered. See: Research gives mesothelioma sufferers hope.

Pipeline Upgrade

Sep 4, 2017

A multi-million Rand program to upgrade an old asbestos water line between Empangeni to Ngwelezana in the port city of uMhlathuze, South Africa with new asbestos-free plastic pipes, expected to last seventy years, has been beset by delays due to labor stoppages. The tender was awarded in June 2017, since when there have been wage disputes between disgruntled workers and the KSS Group which was awarded the contract. Municipal officials aware of the problem are bringing pressure on the contractors to resolve the issues See: Strike delays R40-million water project in Empangeni.

The Wrong Diagnoses

Sep 2, 2017

Research published by South African scientists document a reality all too familiar to grassroots asbestos victims’ campaigners. Due to the difficulty in diagnosing asbestos-related diseases, “58% [of diseases] diagnosed at autopsy had been missed clinically.” An analysis of data based on the experiences of 149 former mineworkers revealed that the majority of cases of asbestos-related diseases had been missed by clinicians with autopsies identifying “77 versus 52 for asbestosis, 27 versus 14 for mesothelioma and 22 versus 3 for lung cancer.” See: Asbestos-related diseases in mineworkers: a clinicopathological study.

Precedent for Firefighter

Sep 2, 2017

A court in Barcelona has condemned the authorities in Catalonia for failing to provide adequate protection from asbestos to a firefighter now suffering from asbestosis. During the 1980s, firefighters from the Barcelona City Council's Prevention, Fire and Rescue Service were supplied with personal protective equipment containing asbestos; the firefighters were responsible for cleaning and maintaining their equipment and work clothes, requirements which breached health and safety regulations. See: Primera sentencia que condena a la Administración por la exposición al amianto de un bomber [First sentence that condemns Administration for asbestos exposure by a fireman].

Victim’s Victory!

Sep 2, 2017

On August 30, 2017, a Salerno Court concluded that the Ministry of Defense was responsible for the 2013 mesothelioma death of a former sailor who during the 1980s had served on-board two former US submarines purchased by the Italian navy; both of these ships were full of asbestos. The Ministry of Defense and the Navy had both contested claims brought by the deceased’s daughter who was awarded lump sum compensation of €200,000 plus a monthly income of €1,500. This could be the first of many similar claims, said the victorious claimant. See: Morì di amianto, ora lo Stato paga [He died of asbestos, now the state pays].

Asbestos Action Plan

Sep 2, 2017

Comments made by the Prime Minister (PM) Justin Trudeau at a press conference in New Brunswick confirmed the Canadian Government’s intention to reduce asbestos exposures in federal buildings, agencies, banks and post offices by amending the Federal Labor Code in the run-up to the country’s asbestos ban – expected by 2018. Pointing out that Ottawa’s regulations are limited to federal buildings, the PM urged Quebec and provincial authorities to reduce occupational asbestos exposure thresholds. See: Amiante: « Nous attendons que le Québec fasse son travail aussi », dit Trudeau [Asbestos: “We are waiting for Quebec to do its job too,” says Trudeau].

Rio’s Asbestos Alert

Aug 31, 2017

Pursuant to Rio de Janeiro State Law No. 3,579 of June 7, 2001 mandating the transition to asbestos-free technologies, inspection teams have this month been undertaking audits of workplaces. On August 30, 55,000 pieces of asbestos and 184 tonnes of asbestos fiber were found at the Eternit asbestos-cement factory in Guadalupe, Rio. The factory has been shut and orders given for all the toxic material to be disposed of as per regulations. Rio de Janeiro’s inspectors have also been alerting businesses about provisions of the state asbestos ban. See: Vigilância Sanitária interdita fábrica de amianto no Rio de Janeiro [Health surveillance interdicts asbestos factory in Rio de Janeiro].

Annual Fund-Raising Walk

Aug 31, 2017

The Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) has published news of its 2017 ADSA Walk for Research and Awareness. The walk from Merriden to Perth, Western Australia to raise funds for asbestos research and public awareness of the State’s deadly epidemic of asbestos-related diseases will take place over five days – September 11-15. All of the money donated will go to the ADSA PhD Scholarship in Mesothelioma supervised by Professor Anna Nowak and the team at the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases. Towns which will be visited by the stalwart ADSA walkers include Merriden, Yoting, Beverley, Quairding and Northam. See: ADSA flyer for 2017 walk.

Deadly Environmental Cocktail

Aug 30, 2017

A new report entitled “Waiting to Inhale” documents a toxic nightmare in which residents of communities near Johannesburg’s infamous mine dumps live their lives. The affected areas include Riverlea, Dieokloof, Meadowlands and Doornkop where asbestos-cement roofing is just one of many environmental hazards local people endure. Research undertaken by the Bench Marks Foundation over three years established that 56.1% of residents had respiratory ailments as a result of exposures to dust from mine operations and tailings, asbestos roofing and/or smoking. See: Joburg's mine dumps a huge health risk, study finds.

Asbestos Under Fire

Aug 29, 2017

Criticism of asbestos use has arisen during debates over highway construction in Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan Republic, Russia with Tatarstan’s President Rustam Minnikhanov criticizing the Ministry of Transport and challenging reassurances given by Andrey Golem, the head of Orenburg Minerals JSC – one of the world’s leading producers of chrysotile asbestos – regarding the use of asbestos in road construction. Minnikhanov asked Golem if asbestos was a “poison.” Artem Chukin, from the Transport Ministry, said that past experience showed that chrysotile was not suitable for road building. See: Минниханов — минтрансу: «Г..…е дороги делаете!» [Minnikhanov vs Ministry of Transport].

Victims’ Victory!

Aug 29, 2017

The Galician Association of Asbestos Victims (AGAVIDA) has welcomed a Madrid court ruling which recognized the asbestos injuries of women who washed their husbands’ asbestos-contaminated work clothes; the men had been employed at a Getafe factory operated by the Uralita company. AGAVIDA is campaigning for Spain to establish an asbestos compensation fund like those that operate in France and the Netherlands; such a fund could be of benefit to thousands of people. See: Nuevas sentencias reconocen la asbestosis en mujeres por lavar ropa de trabajo de sus maridos [New judgments recognize asbestosis in women who washed husbands' work clothes].

Asbestos-free Bengal?

Aug 29, 2017

A ruling handed down in the Calcutta High Court could set a precedent which would result in orders to remove asbestos throughout West Bengal says ban asbestos campaigner Dr Gopal Krishna. The order mandated the removal of asbestos-containing roofing material from Court buildings. “Given the fact that health is a state subject,” writes Krishna, the “Government of West Bengal faces a logical compulsion to stop manufacturing, procurement and use of all forms of asbestos including white asbestos to protect the residents of West Bengal…” See: Calcutta High Court’s Order Paves Way For Asbestos Free West Bengal & India.

Towards a Ban

Aug 27, 2017

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s August 24th decision against the national policy allowing asbestos use, the Attorney General Brazil’s Public Labor Ministry (MPT) Dr. Ronaldo Fleury has announced that the MPT will increase inspections and lawsuits against companies to ensure a nationwide and comprehensive ban on asbestos is achieved in Brazil. In 2012 the MPT created the National Asbestos Banishment Program and has already filed several lawsuits against companies using chrysotile asbestos throughout the country. See: MPT intensificará ações contra o Amianto [MPT will intensify fight against asbestos].

Asbestos Hazard in Construction

Aug 27, 2017

A campaign by WorkSafeBC in the Canadian Province of British Colombia (BC) is being launched to address the high risks of occupational asbestos exposures especially to workers in the construction sector. Thousands of contractors will be reminded of the mandatory provisions in the regulations and the costs of breaching them, which include reputational damage as well as financial penalties. In 2017 WorkSafeBC has issued asbestos-related penalties totalling more than C$20.8 million (US$16.6 million) and has 15 officers based in Vancouver focusing on asbestos and renovation work. Between 1996 and 2016, 342 construction workers died of asbestos diseases in BC. See: British Columbia Raises Stakes on Asbestos Safety.

Asbestos Hazards

Aug 26, 2017

Colombian and US medical experts have taken part in events in Bogota this week to highlight the under-reporting of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Colombia and to educate medical professionals about the routine hazards which can cause this and other asbestos-related diseases, such as working in a building undergoing refurbishment or living in the same house as a person exposed to asbestos at work. Highlighting the huge death toll from asbestos-related diseases in the US and Europe, Dr. Kindler told Colombian delegates that banning asbestos should be a priority for the government. See: Asbesto: Un asesino a largo plazo [Asbestos: A Long-Term Killer].

Criminal Asbestos Trials?

Aug 25, 2017

MP Jean-Paul Lecoq, representing a constituency in Normandy, has issued a statement announcing a bill to facilitate criminal trials of those responsible for France’s deadly epidemic of asbestos cancer and disease. This bill is intended to bring justice to thousands of citizens whose lives have been destroyed by avoidable asbestos exposures and who have yet to see anyone brought to trial for the decisions taken by public and private decision-makers which resulted in the national epidemic. See: Amiante: le député Jean-Paul Lecoq l’impunité de supprimer s responsables d’entreprise [Asbestos: MP Jean-Paul Lecoq to remove the impunity of business leaders].

Post-Asbestos Era

Aug 24, 2017

On Friday, August 25, 2017, during a visit to the MRC des Appalaches, a region in south-eastern Quebec, local politician Paul Vachon and Marc Alexandre Brousseau, President of the Regional Economic Development Corporation, will call on the Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau and federal politicians to explain their plans for the economic redevelopment and environmental remediation of former asbestos mining areas in the run-up to Canada’s new “post-asbestos” era. See: Bannissement de l'amiante: le plan du fédéral est attend [Banning asbestos: the federal plan is expected].

Deadly Legacy

Aug 24, 2017

A recent report reveals that a number of people between the ages of 50 and 65 have being diagnosed with asbestos diseases following childhood exposures to their parents’ asbestos contaminated work clothes. Research into cases presented at San Polo Hospital, Monfalcone, identified two of mesothelioma and two of pleural plaques in people under 61 years old. In addition, according to Dr. Paolo Barbina, four more cases of mesothelioma have been reported in women who washed their husbands' work clothes. See: L’amianto ora colpisce i figli degli operai [Asbestos now strikes the workers' children].

Setback: Asbestos Program

Aug 22, 2017

The National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management has withdrawn funding for the asbestos removal program for Poland’s northern state of Warmia and Mazury. Subsidies available for carrying out remediation work have been reduced as a result of which applications for state assistance have decreased. Under a mandatory national scheme, all regions have until 2032 to eliminate asbestos contamination; failure to comply will incur heavy penalties. Experts believe there are still more than 200,000 tonnes of contaminated material in the state. See: Azbest zostanie z nami na dłużej. Narodowy fundusz wycofuje się z programu [Asbestos will stay with us longer. National fund withdraws from the program].

Toxic Asbestos Legacy

Aug 20, 2017

Even if asbestos is banned in Brazil, as many experts believe will happen as a result of a landmark Supreme Court decision expected on August 23, many people will die from toxic workplace or environmental exposures. Welcoming the end of asbestos use, former asbestos worker and President of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) Eliezer João de Souza told journalists that there is a lot of work to do in supporting the injured and eradicating the asbestos hazard from the Brazilian infrastructure. See: O amianto no Brasil está com os dias contados, diz ex-funcionário [The days are numbered for asbestos use in Brazil says former employee].

Another Brazilian Ban!

Aug 18, 2017

A bill to end the use of asbestos in Mato Grosso do Sul State, Brazil was presented on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 to the state legislature by Representative Eduardo Rocha, who claimed such action was needed to protect public and occupational health. The proposed law would prohibit the installation or purchase of asbestos-containing products, materials or artifacts. Several other Brazilian states have already banned asbestos. They include: Santa Catarina, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Pernambuco, São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Amazonas See: Projeto de lei busca vedar a utilização do amianto no MS [Bill Bans Prohibition of Asbestos Use in MS].

Asbestos: At Home

Aug 18, 2017

In a public demonstration by Greenpeace in the National Park of Bogotá on August 15, 2017, demands were made that Eternit, one of Colombia’s biggest asbestos companies, ban asbestos from its products. Greenpeace members mounted a performance set within a typical living room illustrating the hazards to family members of living with asbestos and products containing it. A bill to ban the commercial exploitation of asbestos, still mined and used in Colombia, is being considered by the Senate. See: Greenpeace pide a Eternit dejar de producir productos con asbestos [Greenpeace calls on Eternit to stop producing asbestos products].

Asbestos in the Outback

Aug 18, 2017

Asbestos widely used in Australia after the Second World War to develop urban areas is also prevalent in remote rural communities. An innovative program by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, the result of consultation with communities in rural areas, is being run in collaboration with the Government of the Northern Territory, employing asbestos specialists to train local people to remove asbestos from their communities and other areas. One particular challenge is the distance from licensed asbestos disposal sites. New community waste facilities are being developed to accept asbestos debris. See: Fighting the scourge of asbestos in remote communities.

Victory For Victims!

Aug 18, 2017

Spain’s Supreme Court has this summer upheld a ruling condemning the Uralita asbestos company for the mesothelioma deaths of two women who were exposed to asbestos whilst washing their husbands’ contaminated work clothes; both men had worked for decades at the company’s Getafe factory – from the 1960s. The Court awarded compensation of €180,000 to each family. See: El Supremo confirma una indemnización de 360.000 euros a los familiares de dos mujeres fallecidas por Amianto [Supreme Court confirms compensation of 360,000 euros for relatives of women killed by asbestos].

Court Removes Asbestos

Aug 16, 2017

Acting Chief Justice Nishiata Mhatre and Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty have this week directed that asbestos-containing sheeting on the roofs of at least 10 courtrooms, the portico, 5 bar association rooms, the Bar Library, the study of the Bar Association and the department of the first assistant registrar in Kolkata’s High Court be removed. The toxic building material will be replaced with safer alternatives according to the orders handed down by the justices. This action has been taken after litigation was brought in 2016 by local resident Ashis Mitra. See: No more asbestos in HC: Acting Chief Justice.

Asbestos: The Human Cost

Aug 16, 2017

To quantify the economic costs of lung cancer and mesothelioma cases associated with occupational and para-occupational asbestos exposure diagnosed in 2011, researchers studied data relating to 2,331 cases. Direct and indirect total costs were estimated at $C381m and $C1.5 billion in quality of life costs. The contents of this paper are, the authors say, of importance to policymakers, and support the conclusion that the “economic burden of lung cancer and mesothelioma associated with occupational and para-occupational asbestos exposure is substantial.” See: The economic burden of lung cancer and mesothelioma due to occupational and para-occupational asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma Research

Aug 15, 2017

Through its outstanding fund-raising efforts and in collaboration with the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases (NCARD), the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) has made a generous scholarship available to provide $60,000 per year (and payment of other costs) to a suitable candidate “to grow the knowledge and expertise in mesothelioma and asbestos related diseases… (and to) directly contribute to ongoing NCARD research combating asbestos diseases…” Every year, the ADSA walk raises substantial sums for NCARD (see details of the 2017 walk, scheduled to commence on September 10). See: Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia Phd Scholarship in Mesothelioma.

Asbestos Liabilities

Aug 5, 2017

Amec Foster Wheeler, one of Britain’s biggest engineering groups, has announced potential future liabilities of £310m for thousands of asbestos cases most of which are expected from US claimants and all of which relate to exposures to equipment manufactured during or before the 1970s. In figures released a few weeks ago, the company reported 3,800 US claims in 2016, up from 3,420 claims in 2015, many of which were for mesothelioma or lung cancer. Amec Foster Wheeler has quantified the projected figures saying that the predictions are “subject to a number of uncertainties.” See: Amec Foster Wheeler faces £310m bill to settle asbestos-related claims.

General Electric: Restitution

Aug 14, 2017

Advocates for former General Electric (GE) workers exposed to occupational toxins, including asbestos, are campaigning for automatic compensation from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. Lobbying for injured Canadian workers and family members, the Occupational and Environmental Health Coalition –Peterborough is calling for “presumptive entitlement” to compensation for illnesses contracted as a result of exposure to carcinogens used at GE’s Peterborough plant. See: More for Automatic compensation for General Electric Peterborough retirees exposed to toxins remains goal of Occupational and Environmental Health Coalition.

Another delay!

Aug 14, 2017

The long-awaited Supreme Court decision regarding the constitutionality of asbestos use in Brazil, the world’s third largest asbestos producer, scheduled to be handed down on August 10, 2017, brought many people to Brasilia including veteran ban asbestos campaigners Fernanda Giannasi and Eliezer João de Souza from the Brazilian Group of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA). After the vote of Justice Dias Toffoli, however, the proceedings were suspended until August 17. See: ‘Atenção, contém amianto’: STF julga futuro da polêmica fibra, comum em telhados no Brasil [‘Attention, contains asbestos’: STF judges future of controversial fiber, common on roofs in Brazil].

Ban Asbestos Bill

Aug 14, 2017

Senator Nadia Blel presented a proposal to ban asbestos, entitled the Ana Cecilia Niño bill in honor of a deceased mesothelioma sufferer, to the Colombian Congress on August 2, 2017, highlighting the toxicity of the substance and the scores of countries which had already banned its use. (see August 8, 2017 TV interview with Senator Blel). The motivation of the ban asbestos project was, said the Senator, to protect “the health of Colombians.” A 5-year phase-out period is proposed to allow industries to make the transition to safer technologies. See: Nadia Blel radica proyecto de Ley “Ana Cecilia Niño” en contra del Asbesto [Nadia Blel’s bill “Ana Cecilia Niño” against Asbestos].

School Decontamination

Aug 14, 2017

A collaborative project between private enterprise and school officials has succeeded in remediating asbestos contamination at Laerskool Hoeveld, a primary school in the South African City of Mpumalanga. During the Summer vacation, commercial asbestos specialists and staff from local businesses removed asbestos-containing products and refurbished the school premises. Commenting on this project, school principal Danie Heese said: “It was such a wonderful surprise for the children when they returned to school. They were buzzing with excitement about the upgraded facilities.” See: Hazardous asbestos cleared from Mpumalanga school.

Asbestos at the Opera

Aug 11, 2017

One week after the discovery (July 24) of asbestos in service ducts at the Sydney Opera House where 25 electricians had been working, the Electrical Trades Union issued an order stopping work by its members on the $200 million renovation program. The exposed tradesmen had not been issued with protective clothing to work with the toxic material, nor had they received mandatory training for such work. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union is considering the possibility of further bans on the site. SafeWork NSW is investigating the asbestos discovery. See: Union bans workers from Sydney Opera House renovation after asbestos found.

Mesothelioma: Victory!

Aug 11, 2017

The long-dreaded Review of Civil Litigation Costs: Supplemental Report Fixed Recoverable Costs – known more succinctly as the Jackson Report – which was published at the end of last month (July, 2017), made an exception for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related lung disease claims as specified on pages 101 and 102; on page 65, the report also highlighted the value of input received from the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum (AVSGF) on March 10, 2017: “The general view of the AVSGF was that such cases were not suited to FRC [Fixed Recoverable Costs].” See: Review of Civil Litigation Costs: Supplemental Report Fixed Recoverable Costs.

Asbestos Acknowledgement

Aug 1, 2017

A fact sheet in the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas issued by the Research Council of Canada has highlighted the repercussions of asbestos production and use at home and the impact of exposures to Canadian asbestos abroad. In Canada, asbestos is “one of the leading causes of occupationally-related cancer deaths… most asbestos-related diseases are first detected long after exposure to the mineral.” The international sale of Canadian asbestos over many decades and the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases mean that “in developing countries using Canadian asbestos today, an increase in mesothelioma deaths can be expected in future.” See: Asbestos Production in Canada.

Asbestos Phase-Out

Jul 30, 2017

As the Brazilian Supreme Court prepares to recommence hearings on the unconstitutionality of asbestos use, an article has revealed that most asbestos-using companies in Brazil have either transitioned to safer technologies or have signed agreements with the Public Labor Ministry to end use by 2018. Only Eternit, the owner of Brazil’s sole asbestos mine, and Precon remain committed to asbestos use. While Precon has been ordered to phase out the use of asbestos in its manufacturing of tiles by September 2018, Eternit refuses to discuss the subject. See: Amianto: de 9 empresas, 7 já deixaram de usar a fibra ou vão abandoná-la até 2018 [Asbestos: of 9 companies, 7 have already stopped using the fiber or will abandon it by 2018].

Asbestos Alert

Jul 28, 2017

In the Newcastle Advertiser, a newspaper serving South Africa’s third largest city in KwaZulu-Natal Province, Occupational Hygienist Paul Muchemi details the legacy of decades of asbestos consumption in the only country where all three types of asbestos – crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile – were produced. Although asbestos was banned in 2001, the imminent hazards posed by its presence continue. Muchemi recommended that asbestos audits be carried out and that hazardous material be disposed of via trained and regulated asbestos removal contractors. Action should be prioritized when asbestos-containing material is damaged or deteriorating, he said. See: Asbestos, the hidden killer.

Basque Asbestos Ruling

Jul 28, 2017

In October 2016, aged 61, José Luis R.S. died from, mesothelioma, a year after his occupational disease was recognized. The Basque High Court has this week rejected an appeal by his employer Garay Recubrimientos (Garay Coatings) of a claimant’s ruling from the Social Court; the company has been ordered to pay compensation of ~€450,000 to the wife and children of the deceased. From 1986 to 1999, José Luis R.S. had been employed by the company to repair steam pipes which necessitated the handling of asbestos insulation; at no time was he provided with respiratory protection. See: Una empresa deberá pagar 450.000 € a la familia de un fallecido poramianto [A company must pay €450,000 to the family of a deceased asbestos victim].

Dangers of Asbestos Exposure

Jul 28, 2017

A new Brazilian website and outreach campaign have been launched to raise awareness of the ubiquity of asbestos and hazards relating to its continuing production and use in Brazil. Information available from these sources highlights high risk occupations, such as working in the construction industry, and the public health risk to family members and members of the public living near asbestos processing facilities. The opposition to Brazil’s banning asbestos comes from vested economic interests determined to preserve the status quo. See: Amianto causa cancer [Asbestos causes cancer].

£1.27m Asbestos Fine

Jul 27, 2017

Southwark Crown Court imposed a £1.27 million fine on Balfour Beatty and two subcontractors who were, it found, been responsible for asbestos exposures which occurred on July 24, 2012 during refurbishment work at a school in Waltham Forest. Commenting on the verdict, HSE inspector Sarah Robinson said: “The principal contractor and contractors on site did not review the survey report in detail, and did not take into consideration the multitude of caveats. Therefore the work undertaken did not adopt the high standards of control expected for working where there was the potential to expose workers to asbestos.” See: Balfour and subcontractors hit with £1.27m in asbestos fines.

Ban Asbestos Dialogue

Jul 26, 2017

Three days of asbestos awareness events began today in Jakarta organized by local campaigning groups in partnership with Australia’s Union Aid Abroad, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, the Asian Ban Asbestos Network and others. The speakers at today’s trade union workshop at the Legal Aid Institute include Associate Prof. Dr Yv Viger (Canada) and campaigners M. Darisman (Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network) and Bernawan Sinaga, from the Ministry of Manpower. In the coming days, events focusing on the medical management of asbestos-related diseases and the development of a national ban asbestos road map will also take place. See: Photograph of Jakarta seminar July 26, 2017.

Court Action against Regulators

Jul 26, 2017

The Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) has withdrawn a certificate which had allowed asbestos factory units belonging to companies from Tamil Nadu to operate in Bhojpur, Bihar. Despite the BSPCB’s actions, the factories are still manufacturing asbestos products. Legal actions regarding the companies’ actions are ongoing before the Patna High Court. A case against the BSPCB, Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) and the State of Bihar has also been filed by one of the asbestos companies. The next court hearing will be on August 7. See: Nibhi asbestos company in Patna High Court after cancellation of its permission by Pollution Control Board.

Asbestos Contamination

Jul 25. 2017

The legacy of asbestos use throughout the built environment is a serious concern of Jeffrey Headley who, before he retired in 2013, was the head of the Barbados Environmental Protection Department. In an interview with the Sunday Sun newspaper, Headley said that although he had hoped that the removal of asbestos roofing material would be prioritized by the government, he has in the last few years seen little evidence of this happening. Headley confirmed that many buildings – such as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – and state housing units still had the original asbestos sheeting first installed on roofs when the premises were constructed. See: Health hazard.

Asbestos Hazard: Thailand

Jul 25, 2017

On July 24, Canadian and Thai colleagues took part in an International Asbestos Seminar entitled Canadian Ban Asbestos Policy 2018, at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. Featured speakers included Associate Prof. Dr Yv Bonnier Viger (Canada), Prof. Dr Pornchai Sithisarankul, Associate Prof. Dr Wantanee Phanprasit and representatives of the National Health Commission, the Department of Disease Control, the Council of Work and Environment Related Patient Network and government units. The prime focus of the day was to understand national strategies for minimising the occurrence of asbestos-related diseases through banning asbestos use. See photo: Invitation to Thailand Asbestos Seminar.

Progress: Asbestos Ban

Jul 24, 2017

Following meetings and discussions held last week in Hanoi about the deadly asbestos hazard, media reports have been published documenting increased government support for a national asbestos ban by 2020 to eliminate asbestos-related diseases. Simultaneously, industry-informed articles (see: Business anxiety before the proposed ban on white asbestos) have appeared, denying that any occupationally-linked cases of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma had been diagnosed, that smoking caused mesothelioma and that white asbestos was an essential resource for Vietnam. See: Tiến tới dừng sử dụng amiăng trắng tại Việt Nam [Towards stopping the use of white asbestos in Vietnam].

Good Omen?

Jul 24, 2017

A former asbestos factory in Chongqing, a major manufacturing city in southwest China, has been transformed into a space for artistic exhibitions and installations. Commenting on this news, the author of an online Chinese article asserts that this development heralds a new era for the Chinese economy in which “heavy industry businesses trapped in overcapacity and environmental problems are being shut down across the country and removed from urban areas to make way for services and consumer industries.” See: 中国昔日工厂正变身艺术园区 外媒:用创意产业擦亮“锈带” [Former asbestos factory in China transformed into art gallery].

Asbestos Oil Rig Hazard

Jul 23, 2017

On July 21, 2017, Cork City coroner Philip Comyn backed a jury’s recommendation that the historic risks of toxic asbestos exposures to oil rig workers be brought to the attention of the Department of Jobs, after deciding that the death of a 64-year-old Limerick man James O’Brien on June 6, 2016, months after he had been diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, was due to occupational exposures. Mr. O’Brien had worked as a general labourer on oil rigs off Ireland in the 1980s. The family’s solicitor Raymond Bradley asked the jury to recommend that a review be undertaken of Irish workers from the oil rig industry to assess their exposures to asbestos. See: Call for screenings of oil rig workers.

Asbestos: Parliamentary Dossier

Jul 23, 2017

In the aftermath of a recent pronouncement by the public prosecutor’s office that criminal investigations relating to France’s asbestos scandal would be dropped against civil servants, politicians and businessmen, the Minister of Health Agnes Buzyn and the Minister of Labor Muriel Pénicaud faced hostile questioning last week by members of the National Assembly and the Senate demanding justice for the thousands of French people condemned to early deaths by the government’s collusion with the asbestos industry. Defending the government’s position, Ministers cited the existence of FIVA, a national compensation fund, and a 3-year inter-ministerial plan. See: Deux ministres interpellés sur l'affaire de l'amiante [Two ministers challenged over asbestos case].

Asbestos in Schools

Jul 23, 2017

The results of a survey conducted by the National Union of Teachers informs a new commentary in the Health and Safety Bulletin which concludes that the eradication of asbestos-containing materials from all schools must be a priority: “Schools are unlike the majority of other workplaces in that majority of their occupants are children, who engage in normal, but boisterous, behaviours that are likely to disturb asbestos.” Despite the widespread nature of the problem, the HSE has no plans to investigate the 100+ English schools which gave authorities “significant cause for concern.” See: Managing asbestos in schools is no longer a sensible option.

Ending Asbestos Use!

Jul 21, 2017

The Public Labor Ministry in Rio Grande do Sul reached an agreement in May 2017 with Isdralit, the last manufacturing company using chrysotile asbestos in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, to transition to an asbestos-free technology by November 10, 2017 and dispose of all toxic waste and contaminated products according to strict protocols. In addition, the company must establish a medical plan for all employees which provides periodic examinations for a period of 30 years. See: Com TAC, uso de amianto é banido na última indústria utilizadora da fibra no Estado [With TAC (the term of conduct adjustment), asbestos use is banned in the last fiber-using industry in the state].

Tackling Asbestos Disease

Jul 21, 2017

Meetings in Hanoi took place on July 19 and 20, 2017 between international and local asbestos experts and government officials, representatives of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour, civil society campaigners from the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network and other groups to consider the multifaceted nature of the asbestos challenges facing the country including the impact of hazardous exposures on human health, the availability of safer materials, and the problems regarding demolition and disposal of asbestos-containing materials. Technical and medical information presented by Canadian, Australian and Japanese speakers was warmly received. See: Photograph of discussion panel.

Supreme Court Ruling?

Jul 21, 2017

Litigation regarding the unconstitutionality of Brazil’s policy allowing the use of asbestos will once more be before the Supreme Court on August 10, 2017. At that time, the Court in Brasilia will hear submissions related to actions regarding the: legality of asbestos bans in São Paulo, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul and the national policy supporting “the controlled use” of a carcinogenic substance which, so the litigants contend, constitutes a violation of the human rights of Brazilians. A 2012 hearing was adjourned with no decision taken. See: Saúde em jogo: Supremo retoma julgamento sobre o uso do Amianto [Health at stake: Supreme resumes judgment on the use of asbestos].

Asbestos Hazard

Jul 21, 2017

A July article in the Vietnamese media detailed the death of a British woman from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Susan MacGregor died in 2014, 14 months after she had been diagnosed, aged 58. As a child, she had hugged her father when he returned home wearing asbestos-covered work clothes. The article cites evidence from the World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency confirming the deadly nature of human exposure to asbestos. See: Niềm vui đón bố đi làm về không ngờ là lý do khiến người phụ nữ bị ung thư mà chết 50 năm sau đó [The joy of going to work resulted in cancer death of a woman 50 years later].

Towards an Asbestos Ban!

Jul 20, 2017

To minimize the risk of occupational asbestos exposures, the Government of Canada announced on July 12 an immediate reduction in workplace exposure limits for chrysotile asbestos. This policy change is part and parcel of the federal government’s plans for banning the use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018. Welcoming the more stringent regulations, Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff said the lower threshold sent “a clear message” that asbestos should not be used and brought Canada “one step closer to the… complete ban of both import and export of asbestos.” See: Federal government lowers limit of exposure to airborne chrysotile asbestos.

Raising Asbestos Awareness

Jul 20, 2017

On July 19, 2017, academics from Taiwan University launched a publication entitled “Deadly Dust” detailing the hazards posed to workers and the public from exposures to asbestos-containing materials and called on the government to implement measures to increase workplace and environmental protection. Professor Zheng Yawen informed journalists that people suffering from cancer caused by asbestos exposure have been diagnosed in Taiwan and that due to the presence of asbestos throughout Taiwan, more cases are anticipated especially amongst construction workers. See: 石綿致癌工人受害 學者憂政府漠視害命 [Academics concern over occupational asbestos hazard].

Surveillance Aid

Jul 19, 2017

The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) has awarded a bursary to the Paraná branch of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA), to purchase a set of ILO Classification Radiographs including ILO Standard Images of Pneumoconiosis, for the diagnosis of asbestos-related diseases by doctors from the State University in Londrina who are implementing a surveillance program for former workers from an ex-asbestos-cement plant belonging to the Infibra company. Thanking IBAS for this award, ABREA President Eliezer João De Souza said: “We are optimistic that the treatment of ABREA members will be improved by access to this new program.”

Update: Asbestos Emergency

Jul 19, 2017

New data published in Italy documents a growth in the volume of asbestos waste generated and a fall in the availability of regulated waste sites resulting in the export of 145,000 tonnes of waste to Germany. At the current rate of remediation, it is estimated that decontamination of the country won’t be achieved until the next century with asbestos-related deaths continuing for a further 130 years. In 2015, 369,000 tonnes of asbestos-containing waste were produced in Italy. See: Amianto, cresce la produzione di rifiuti in Italia ma gli impianti per gestirla sono sempre meno [Asbestos, waste generation in Italy is growing, but the facilities for managing it are getting less and less].

NHS Asbestos Threat

Jul 18, 2017

An investigation by BBC London has established that 94% of the capitals’ hospitals contain asbestos products. Of the 1,000 London people who have died from the signature asbestos cancer, mesothelioma since 2011, seven were doctors or nurses. While the Health and Safety Executive and government agencies such as NHS Improvement, part of the Department of Health, attempt to downplay the dangers posed by this contamination, others have claimed that the situation is tantamount to a “ticking time bomb.” An interview with the widow of a surgeon who died from mesothelioma details widespread use and uncontrolled exposures experienced by NHS staff. See: Hospital asbestos ‘a ticking time bomb’.

Quantifying the Asbestos Hazard

Jul 18, 2017

Members of Parliament representing areas on the Peloponnese peninsular in Western Greece have demanded answers from the government regarding the environmental asbestos hazard and plans, reported by the Greek Ecological Research Center, to build a landfill dumpsite for asbestos and radioactive industrial waste in the region. The government’s proposals, which have never been submitted to the Region of Western Greece for consultation, are being challenged by communities in and around the Peloponnese provinces of Achaia and Arcadia. See: Παρέμβαση βουλευτών για τον καρκινογόνο αμίαντο στην παραλία Δρεπάνου Αχαΐας [Members' intervention on carcinogenic asbestos at Drepanos Achaia beach].

Asbestos Industry Offensive

Jul 18, 2017

The Ukrainian Center for Steel Development has warned of the escalation of building costs following the recent announcement by the Ukraine Ministry of Health (MoH) that asbestos use and imports would be banned in six months. Two thirds of Ukraine’s asbestos imports come from Russia with the remainder coming from Kazakhstan. An asbestos industry trade association – the Ukrainian Chrysotile Association – is calling on the government to reverse the decision taken by the MoH. In 2015, Ukraine consumed 12,070 tonnes of asbestos. See: Запрет асбеста в Украине затронет ещё один стройматериал [Prohibition of asbestos in Ukraine will affect another building material].

Growing Pressure for Eradication

Jul 17, 2017

Following the announcement that the Portuguese Government had set a 2020 deadline for the removal of asbestos from all of the country’s 4,200 public buildings, politicians from the Green Ecological Party (ENP) have increased their calls for a government policy which mandates the same deadline for buildings in private ownership. The ENP has presented a bill in Parliament which proposes that a program for the identification of all companies which own buildings and/or installations containing asbestos materials be set up. See: Verdes querem remoção de amianto também em edifícios de empresas privadas [Greens want asbestos removal also in private business buildings].

Asbestos Waste Scandal

Jul 17, 2017

News of a public health scam has been reported by the Kenyan media which details corporate and government collusion to off-load toxic asbestos waste at a dump site in the town of Kitui, 180 kilometers from Nairobi. Villagers, who had been told that designated farmland was to be the site of a new hotel, were amazed when they saw huge earth moving machines dig four large holes into which tons of asbestos waste were illegally dumped under orders from representatives of Sonata Kenya Ltd. and Earth Care Company – overseen by officials from the National Environment Management Authority. Local people are demanding the removal of the toxic material. See: Deadly fibre: Kitui residents live in mortal fear of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos: Water Networks

Jul 17, 2017

A Spanish language online article highlights the health hazards posed by asbestos-containing water pipes to maintenance workers as well as members of the public and points out that these toxic water networks have, after several decades, finally come to the end of their usefulness. Increased awareness of the asbestos hazard, partially due to political lobbying, has led to public pressure for replacement by asbestos-free pipes to be made a priority issue in several Spanish cities including: Calviá, Tavernes, Los Corrales, Cieza, Castro, Boadilla, Murcia, etc. See: Amianto por un tubo [Asbestos Through a Tube].

Asbestos Scandal: Schools

Jul 12, 2017

Following its second survey of asbestos in schools undertaken in 2016, Japan’s Education Ministry announced last week that 227 institutions in 14 of the country’s 47 prefectures had chimneys using asbestos as heat insulation. Local governments responsible for the 227 public kindergartens, elementary, junior high and high schools with old chimneys that may scatter asbestos were instructed to address this matter. Amongst the public schools with risky chimneys, Hokkaido had 116 schools, the largest number, followed by Ishikawa Prefecture, with 34, and Tokyo, with 22. See: Japan study finds chimneys at 227 public schools at risk for scattering asbestos.

Asbestos Strike

Jul 11, 2017

Asbestos found in the drivers’ carriages of the T5 train line in Sydney on July 6, 2017 led to a suspension of services after a strike was called by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) NSW Locomotive Division. In a statement, the RTBU said that “asbestos dust or particles had been found between March and June 2017 within the Flemington and Hornsby Maintenance Centres.” Commenting on the “wholly inadequate” response by Sydney Trains, a union spokesperson said action will continue “until such time as Sydney Trains can provide satisfactory information to allay concerns of members.” See: Chaos for commuters as Sydney's T5 train line suddenly closes until further notice and drivers announce a snap strike over deadly asbestos.

National Remediation Program

Jul 10, 2017

On July 7, 2017, the Portuguese government announced plans to remove asbestos from public buildings by 2020. The €422 million remediation program will decontaminate 4,200 buildings to protect public health from hazardous exposures. Part of the budget will come from EU and Portuguese funds; the rest will be provided by the European Investment Bank of the Council of Europe. Welcoming the plans, critics point out that asbestos audits should be undertaken as a priority before the start of a phased program with removal work commencing in the most polluted buildings. See: Despesa para remoção de amianto publicada em Diário da República [Budget for asbestos removal published in Diário da República].

Asbestos Victims Betrayed

Jul 10, 2017

The French newspaper Le Monde published a commentary denouncing the announcement on June 27 that the judiciary would not be carrying on with criminal cases against named government officers, civil servants and businessmen for the asbestos deaths of thousands of citizens. Reviewing the deadly industrial legacy created by asbestos companies such as Eternit and employers’ legal duty to provide a healthy environment at the workplace, sociologist and historian Pascal Marichalar condemned the failure to provide justice for those injured in the country’s largest occupational health epidemic. See: Amiante: un « renoncement à rendre justice » [Asbestos: a “renunciation of justice”].

Rise in Mesothelioma Deaths

Jul 7, 2017

Figures released on July 5, 2017 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) document a rise in mesothelioma mortality. In Great Britain the number of mesothelioma deaths in 2015 was 2,542, an increase on the 2014 figure of 2,519 deaths. According to the HSE press release: “The increase in mesothelioma deaths in recent years has been driven mainly by deaths among those aged 75 and above… The latest projections suggest there will continue to be around 2500 deaths per year for the rest of this current decade before annual numbers begin to decline. The current figures relating to asbestos-related cancer reflect widespread exposures before 1980.” See: HSE releases annual workplace fatality figures.

Brazil-Italian Coalition

Jul 3, 2017

An interview with Fernanda Giannasi, leader of the ban asbestos struggle in Brazil, was published on Sunday, detailing her June mission to Italy during which she strengthened the ties between victims and discussed strategies with comrades from Casale Monferrato, Milan, Bologna, Bari and elsewhere. Ms. Giannasi highlighted the pioneering work undertaken in Brazil by Agata Mazzeo, now known as the “Italian granddaughter of ABREA,” the group representing Brazil’s asbestos victims. See: Fernanda Giannasi: Trabalho conjunto com ONGs italianas foi vital para nossas lutas e vitórias contra o cancerígeno Amianto [Fernanda Giannasi: Working together with Italian NGOs was vital to our struggles and victories against the carcinogenic asbestos].

More Lies!

Jul 3, 2017

A Russian article took to extreme depths the depravity of asbestos lobbyists who blamed the fire at the Grenfell Towers, London on the fact that asbestos-containing products were not present. Their offensive diatribe contained many errors, as revealed by an alert issued by Public Health England about the health hazards of the asbestos fallout from the conflagration. Ignoring, as the industry propagandists always do, the fact that safe asbestos-free products exist, the author insinuated that environmental activists were to blame for the loss of life due to the international campaign to ban asbestos. See: Асбестовая изоляция могла защитить Гренфелл Тауэр от пожара [Asbestos insulation could have prevented Grenfell Tower fire].

Industry Offensive

Jul 2, 2017

A “study” published last week asserted that a proposed asbestos ban in Sri Lanka would disastrously impact on the country’s finances. It is of relevance to note that this report was launched at a seminar entitled: “Socio Economic Impact of the Potential Prohibition of Chrysotile in Sri Lanka” held by the Chrysotile Information Centre of Sri Lanka, an asbestos industry trade association which continues to assert that the “safe use” of carcinogenic asbestos products can be achieved. This industry-tailored document is clearly an attempt to dissuade key decision makers from following through on their pledge to ban asbestos in Sri Lanka by 2024. See: Proposed asbestos ban a costly affair, says report.

Chrysotile Update

Jul 2, 2017

A study undertaken by six scientists from the Institute for Pathology of the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany using data from the German Mesothelioma Register presents “longitudinal intra-individual data about the asbestos fibre burden in living human lungs.” Regarding the hazardous nature of chrysotile (white) asbestos, the researchers demonstrated: “high biopersistence of not only amphibole but also chrysotile asbestos in the human lung and thus gives mechanistic explanations for the toxicity of the fibre and the long latency period of asbestos related diseases.” See: The asbestos fibre burden in human lungs: new insights into the chrysotile debate.

Asbestos Treachery

Jun 28, 2017

After waiting decades for justice, asbestos victims in France have been informed that public prosecutors in Paris are recommending that pending criminal cases over deadly asbestos exposures which have been progressing through the judicial system against asbestos companies such as Eternit, the leading French producer of asbestos-cement, shipyard and building owners should be dropped, due to uncertainty regarding the dates of toxic exposures experienced by victims. The first criminal complaints were filed in 1997; to date, no trials have taken place. See: Scandale de l’amiante. La justice s’oriente vers une serie de non-lieux [Asbestos scandal. Justice is going nowhere].

Asbestos Ban!

Jun 28, 2017

The announcement on June 26, 2017 that Ukraine was banning asbestos was welcomed by global asbestos activists. The press conference at which the Ministry of Health spokeswoman declared the new policy can be watched on youtube in the original Ukrainian and with English translation. Press briefings regarding this development are available online in Ukrainian and in Russian. There are currently seven companies in Ukraine employing 4,000 people who process asbestos fiber from Russia and Kazakhstan. See: The Ministry of health has banned the use of all forms of asbestos.

Asbestos in Schools

Jun 28, 2017

A commentary published in The Guardian on June 27, 2017 highlights the downgrading of fire safety at schools which has taken place under Conservative governments. It documents failures to include asbestos as part of 2014 infrastructure audits and condemns the lack of data on the schools’ asbestos hazard. Outraged author Lola Okolosie writes: “Our collective attitude to asbestos in schools mirrors the same sleepwalking into disaster that comes from viewing rigorous safety standards as more rigmarole than necessity. In the wake of the fire at Grenfell Tower, we have a simple choice: we choose to be safe.” See: We cannot compromise safety in schools. Asbestos must be removed.

Remediation at Schools

Jun 28, 2017

After a series of articles detailing the existence and consequences of widespread asbestos contamination in schools in South Africa’s Gauteng Province, Panyaza Lesufi, Member of the Executive Council for Education in Gauteng announced in a budget speech made at the Provincial Legislature on June 27, 2017, that: “We intend to use the R40 billion budget that has been allocated to us to kick-start the eradication of both the asbestos [in] schools and [in] the mobile schools within the schooling environment.” See: Gauteng education wants to eradicate asbestos at schools.

Grenfell Tower: Asbestos

Jun 23, 2017

On June 21, 2017, Public Health England published health advice regarding toxic exposures caused by the Grenfell Tower conflagration which included a warning about the asbestos fall-out from the disaster. Attempting to minimize public concerns over the asbestos danger, the statement admitted that while asbestos-containing material had been present in the building, the asbestos fibers were “bound” within construction products and so only “very small amounts of asbestos fibres will have been dispersed … any asbestos would present a minimal additional risk to health.” See: Public health advice following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Mesothelioma: Temporal Patterns

Jun 23, 2017

A study on asbestos latency periods by scientists from Poland’s Nofer Institute compared data from 131 patients with pleural mesothelioma with data from a control group of 655 people in an asbestos health surveillance program. Findings were: the mesothelioma risk increased 40 years after last exposure; dose-response relationships in at-risk occupational cohorts were critical to understanding the hazard of environmental exposures; the “mesothelioma risk increases along with the increasing time since exposure termination.” See: Mesothelioma continues to increase even 40 years after exposure - Evidence from long-term epidemiological observation.

Protest: Ban Asbestos

Jun 23, 2017

A video uploaded to youtube on June 16, 2017 documents a dramatic ban asbestos demonstration mounted in Bogota, Colombia by Greenpeace that featured “patients” lying in hospital beds struggling to breathe, attached to oxygen cylinders with the name of the country’s biggest asbestos company “Eternit” written on them. Surrounding the scene taken from a hospital ward were banners with the equation Eternit = asbestos = cancer on them. See: Eternit enferma a Colombia! [Eternit makes Colombia sick!]. (For more on Eternit’s role in the national asbestos debate see: Asbestos in Colombia.)

Asbestos Shipbreaking Death

Jun 22, 2017

On June 21, 2017, the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) reported the death of asbestosis sufferer Mohammad. Ridwan, aged 55. The former shipbreaking worker had worked for 20 years as a cutterman at the KSRM Steel Yard in Shitalpur, Shitakunda, Chittagong. During that time, he had routinely been exposed to asbestos; he was diagnosed with 80% disability at an asbestos outreach diagnosis camp set up by the OSHE in Chittagong and had been receiving treatment from the OSHE Workers Health Clinic at Shitakunda, Chittagong. He died on June 11, 2017. See: Photo of Mr. Ridwan in 2016.

ACT Asbestos Hazard

Jun 22, 2017

Research released by scientists from the Australian National University, based on death registrations and cancer databases over a 30-year period up to 2013, has found a two and a half increased risk of mesothelioma in men who lived in Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos houses in Canberra. Chief health officer Paul Kelly said the findings showed that while mesothelioma remained very rare in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) “there is a higher risk for males living in the houses.” The study also found higher rates of colorectal cancers including bowel cancer among Mr Fluffy residents. See: Mr Fluffy asbestos: Male residents at increased risk of contracting mesothelioma.

Eternit Defeated!

Jun 21, 2017

On June 20, 2017, Eternit announced it would accept a March 2017 verdict which said the company had caused the death of Françoise Jonckheere by failing to control hazardous asbestos exposures despite knowing that such exposures could harm human health. Speaking outside the court on the day that ruling was announced her son Eric said: “Ils savaient!” [They knew!] On Tuesday, an Eternit spokesperson said: “Eternit is also of the opinion that the principle of fair compensation as defined in the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Brussels is in conformity to its own policy. For this reason Eternit decided not to appeal.” See: Procès de l’amiante: Eternit n’ira pas en cassation [Asbestos trial: Eternit will not go to Supreme Court].

Asbestos in Schools

Jun 21, 2017

Part one of a three-part series investigating the asbestos hazard in schools in the Gauteng Province of South Africa, which was published yesterday, reported that while 29 Gauteng schools are built entirely or predominately of asbestos materials and have been listed for replacement, another 214 partially built with asbestos materials have not. Part two examines the health risks posed to children and staff of the asbestos contamination and part three highlights the inconsistencies in advice provided by the Gauteng education department about the asbestos hazard. See: More than 200 Gauteng schools contain asbestos. Here’s where they are.

WHO: Asbestos Report

Jun 20, 2017

A 48-page report, in English and Russian, published this month by the World Health Organization provides yet more evidence for policy makers looking to ban asbestos use in their countries. The authors conclude: “Overall, the trends show that the global asbestos industry is shrinking… its continued use carries substantial costs, including those related to health, remediation and litigation. Countries that continue to produce and consume asbestos will sustain substantial health costs, and… perhaps even greater remediation and litigation costs.” See: Asbestos: Economic Assessment of Ban and Declining Production and Consumption (for Russian version click here).

Asbestos Imports: No Prosecutions

Jun 19, 2017

Testimony to a hearing of the Australian Senate confirmed that the Australian Border Force (ABF) had made 40 detections of illegal asbestos imports this year; since it was established 2 years ago, the ABF has imposed only 3 financial penalties for illegal asbestos imports. Commenting on this hazardous situation, Dave Noonan, General National Secretary for the CFMEU, said: “If this soft touch approach to prosecutions continues we’ll have no choice but to consider banning certain building products from certain countries on health & safety grounds until Minister Dutton is willing to take decisive action.” See: Detection of illegal asbestos imports triple, but still no prosecutions.

Asbestos and Human Rights

Jun 19, 2017

A one-day hearing is being held in Brussels on June 23, 2017 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur Michel Forst on the safety of human rights defenders working in the field of business and human rights. Information received at this hearing as well as input from a public consultation will be part of a report presented to the UN General Assembly in October 2017. Fernanda Giannasi, a retired Brazilian Labor Inspector, will testify on Thursday about the death threats, attacks and intimidation she has faced in Brazil during her campaign for asbestos justice and a national asbestos ban. See: Report on the Situation of human rights defenders working in the field of business and human rights.

Mesothelioma Research

Jun 19, 2017

The June 2017 newsletter of the National Centre for Research on Asbestos Diseases (NCARD) has been published; included is news regarding NCARD personnel and progress achieved by Australian victims’ groups. The lead article details awards recently bestowed upon NCARD senior researcher Joost Lesterhuis for his work in identifying new treatments for mesothelioma. On page two is a feature about the stunning fund-raising efforts of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia which has just announced that it will fund a three and a half year PhD scholarship, to be supervised by NCARD’s Professor Nowak, into translational mesothelioma research. See: PDF version of NCARD newsletter, June 2017

Where is the Justice?

Jun 17, 2017

On June 15, 2017, a Milan court cleared 8 former managers of the Breda Termomeccanica-Ansaldo engineering company of charges related to asbestos deaths of 12 workers at its plant in Milan between the 1970s and 1985. Prosecutors, who accused the defendants of being “gravely culpable,” had asked for sentences of up to 4 years and 11 months. Friends and relatives of the Breda dead voiced their disappointment and held up a banner saying: “Remember all the workers killed in the name of profit.” In February and May, Milan courts acquitted ENEL (National Board of Electricity) and Fiat managers of charges related to 18 occupational asbestos deaths. See: Breda-Ansaldo ex-execs cleared in asbestos trial.

Asbestos in Prison

Jun 17, 2017

Canadian contractor Don Garrett must certainly rue the day when he won a contract to undertake plumbing work at Kent Institution, a maximum security federal prison in Agazziz, British Columbia. The businessman had no idea that routine work at the facility would expose him and his employees to asbestos nor that the stand he was forced to take over the failure of the authorities to inform him of the known hazard would cast him in the role of whistleblower. Despite nine years of enquiries and discussions with local and federal officials, the situation remains unresolved. See: B.C. contractor exposed to asbestos blows whistle, says government made his life a ‘nightmare’.

Support for Ban

Jun 17, 2017

Leading medical experts from Brazil’s National Cancer Institute have condemned the country’s continuing use of asbestos in a commentary published on June 15. Comparing the Brazilian with the United States asbestos legacy, authors Drs. Ubirani Otero and Ana Cristina Pinho suggest that: consumers do not buy asbestos-containing products; unions maintain active surveillance of workers in at-risk trades; and legislators implement national regulations to abolish the use of all forms of asbestos in Brazil. Brazil is currently the world’s third largest producer of chrysotile (white) asbestos. See: Brasil sem Amianto [Brazil without asbestos].

Asbestos-free Water

Jun 17, 2017

A program has been announced by the municipalities of Chania and Kissamos, on the northern coast of the Greek island of Crete, to replace asbestos water pipes as part of planned improvements to the water supply network which will reduce leakages and save energy. Announcing the plans last week, the Mayor of Kissamos Thodoris Stathakis said that the new network will be the same length as the old one necessitating the replacement of 4,500 meters of contaminated pipes and that “the aim of the municipal authority is the continuous improvement of the quality of life of our citizens and visitors.” See: Χανιά: Νέο δίκτυο ύδρευσης θα κατασκευαστεί στο δήμο Κισσάμου [Chania: A new water supply network will be built in the municipality of Kissamos].

Calls for India Ban

Jun 16, 2017

A commentary by activist Jagdish Patel, national coordinator of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India, uploaded on June 15 has called into question continuing government support for the country’s asbestos sector by highlighting statistics which document the high toll being taken by dangerous exposures to asbestos, citing a report by the Ministry of Labour and Employment which said: “It is also high time that the government take initiative in formulating a national plan for prevention and control of silicosis and asbestosis in India…” See: Need for urgent action to protect workers from exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos fibers.

Asbestos: New Technology

Jun 16, 2017

On June 15, 2017, PhD student Matthew Govorko from Western Australia’s Curtin University released a free app for Android and Apple devices to help D-I-Y renovators evaluate the level of asbestos risk in their homes. According to Mr Govorko: “The app guides users through a series of questions, aided by photographs, to identify the potential level of risk in and around their homes before they start to renovate… Once they have completed the questionnaire through the app, they are offered a series of recommendations about what action to take based on the level of risk identified for each product.” See: New app maps the prevalence of asbestos in WA homes.

New Mesothelioma Trial

Jun 15, 2017

An article uploaded to the Mesothelioma Circle website on June 14, 2017 discussed a new collaboration by two pharmaceutical companies, which are commercial competitors, to progress the search for an effective immunotherapy treatment for mesothelioma. Thirty-five mesothelioma patients who have unsuccessfully tried one or two other types of treatment will be administered Keytruda (Merck), and CRS-207 (Aduro Biotech) in 3-week cycles. If there are no safety issues and there is evidence of clinical benefit for the participants, treatment cycles could continue for up to two years. See: New Mesothelioma Clinical Trial Combines Keytruda, CRS-207.

Update: Asbestos Dialogue

Jun 15, 2017

The June 2017 issue of the Bulletin of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) includes a feature by ban asbestos campaigner Jagdish Patel entitled Government Policy & Action on Highly Hazardous Substance ASBESTOS which discusses the engagement of civil society representatives with government officials in charge of the national asbestos policy. It details rude and intimidatory behaviour by Indian bureaucrat Biswanath Sinha at a UN meeting in Geneva; in 2017 Sinha accosted asbestosis victim Rajendra Pevekar; two years previously he had done the same to Mr. Sharad Vittnal Sawant, an asbestos victim from, Mumbai. See: PUCL Bulletin, June 2017.

Public Asbestos Anxiety

Jun 15, 2017

The free telephone hotline operated on June 13 and 14, 2017 by the Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Disease Victims and their Families received more than 1,000 calls from all over Japan on five telephone lines with long queues of calls building up from concerned citizens. The majority of questions related to the presence of asbestos-containing products in Japanese homes but there were also calls from people concerned about having contracted asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos litigation in Japan is a fairly new concept but lobbying by campaigners to access new public and private sources of support for the injured is ongoing.

Asbestos Workshop

Jun 15, 2017

The Asbestos Interest Group, based in the former asbestos mining area of Kuruman in the Northern Cape, is holding an asbestos workshop on June 16, South Africa’s annual Youth Day, for 120 children from the John Taolo Gaetsewe District who attend schools in asbestos contaminated areas. Subjects which will be covered in an age appropriate manner will include: the dangers of asbestos exposure, the types of asbestos-related diseases and measures for protecting residents from harmful exposures. Last year’s event was a great success as can be seen by the picture below. See: Photo from asbestos activities in Kuruman area on June 16, 2016.

Shipyard Victory

Jun 15, 2017

John Fenech, who died of asbestosis in 2011, had worked at the state-owned Malta Drydocks from age 14 until 57. A claim brought by his widow and children that his fundamental human right to protection of life and health had been violated has been recognized by Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti whose ruling condemned the Chief Government Medical Officer and the Attorney General for failing to act on the asbestos hazard. Concluding that Mr. Fenech’s death resulted from a serious omission by the defendants, the Judge awarded the family €9,000; the claimants are appealing the low level of the judgment. See: Compensation for heirs of worker who died after asbestos exposure.

Russian Asbestos Immunity

Jun 14, 2017

As the injured wait to see whether a criminal trial will proceed against French asbestos businessmen and their conspirators, an article on the website “franceinfo” considers Russia’s thriving asbestos industry. Asbestos mining began in the Urals in 1885 and is now a mega-industry with enormous political and economic influence; so much so that Russian data on the incidence of asbestos disease is unavailable. Disparaging ban asbestos campaigners as part of a Western conspiracy, Russia continues to market asbestos primarily to low-income countries like India or countries in Southeast Asia. See: C'est comment ailleurs? L'amiante en Russie [How is it elsewhere? Asbestos in Russia].

Asbestos Removal Subsidy

Jun 14, 2017

A new scheme has been put in place by the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region in Italy to assist private individuals to remove and dispose of asbestos in residential buildings. A €1,500 grant can be obtained by the owner, co-owner or tenant to enable them to employ a specialist contractor to carry out the work. It is hoped that this scheme will serve as a template for other local governments eager to expurgate asbestos contamination from their infrastructures. See: Friuli Venezia Giulia: aiuti economici ai privati per rimuovere e smaltire l’amianto [Friuli Venezia Giulia: economic aid for private individuals to remove and dispose of asbestos].

Asbestos: Public Housing

Jun 13, 2017

A new survey has revealed that asbestos was used in the construction of 22,000 public housing apartments in Japan. Professor Takehiko Murayama from the Tokyo Institute of Technology has estimated that this contamination could have damaged the health of more than 230,000 people. One former resident, 53-year-old Kazuko Saito, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2015; she had lived in contaminated public housing from 1963 until 1984. On June 13 and 14, The Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Disease Victims and their Families will operate a free hotline for enquiries related to asbestos exposures. See: Former resident develops mesothelioma.

Will the US ban asbestos?

Jun 13, 2017

A commentary just published in The Millbank Quarterly by David Rosen considers the likelihood of the United States following through on plans to ban asbestos under a Trump Presidency. With the evisceration of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the appointment of Scott Pruitt as the new EPA administrator and statements made by Donald Trump that asbestos was “100 percent safe,” and that the “movement against asbestos was led by the mob,” Rosen predicts “that the movement to end the use of this deadly material is itself doomed.” See: Deregulating Safety: The Case of the Effort to Ban Asbestos.

Great New Union Resource

Jun 13, 2017

On June 8, 2017, the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) launched a new website in English, French, Spanish and German – Russian and Arabic versions are also planned – to provide useful information for workers in the construction and other sectors including its 12 million members in 334 trade unions from 130 countries. Since the mid-1980s, the BWI has lobbied for the banning of asbestos, working closely with ban asbestos groups and occupational health and safety campaigners around the world. See: New website of the Building and Woodworkers’ International.

Scandal: Killer Sites!

Jun 13, 2017

A devastating indictment of neglect by local authorities in New South Wales (NSW), Australia has revealed that people in nearly 200 homes in the Sydney area could have unknowingly been living on or near former disposal sites belonging to the James Hardie asbestos company. Furthermore, a new media expose revealed that the government had known about this situation for at least a decade. Reacting to this news John McMillan, acting NSW Ombudsman, said “This situation is unacceptable and must be dealt with as an urgent priority.” See: Asbestos risk: Sydney residents living on James Hardie disposal sites.

Asbestos in Schools

Jun 12, 2017

An investigation by the Sunday Mail newspaper has reported the presence of asbestos in nearly half of Scotland’s schools (1,638 premises) including state nurseries, primaries and secondaries: “Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Aberdeenshire and the Highlands each contained more than 100 affected schools.” Victims, family members and campaigners such as Phyllis Craig, of Clydeside Action on Asbestos, are calling for urgent action. “Councils say the risk is minimal and they put every precautionary measure in place,” says Ms. Craig “but if there’s no asbestos, there’s no risk.” See: Asbestos timebomb for 1600 schools as campaigners claim pupils face classroom cancer risk.

Asbestos Scandal

Jun 12, 2017

A June 9, 2017 exposé in the Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan’s major newspapers, revealed that between September 2012 and April 2016 customs bureaus in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe allowed the import of asbestos-containing products despite prohibitions under the Industrial Safety and Health Act. According to the article, dealers in eight cases were asked to subsequently sanitize import declarations. Details of this scandal were obtained following the submission by staff from the Mainichi of an information disclosure request and an official complaint to the Minister of Finance. See: 3 customs bureaus suspected of asking dealers to cover up asbestos imports.

Calls for Remediation of Asbestos Waste

Jun 12, 2017

On June 9, 2017 the legislature of Castilla-La Mancha (C-LM), an autonomous community of Spain, approved a resolution submitted by the Podemos campaign and the People’s Political Party urging the regional executive to conduct a “comprehensive” environmental asbestos audit with particular attention to the city of Toledo and its environs where local people are calling for the immediate remediation of 90,000 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated waste in and around their neighborhoods. See: Podemos y PP instan a Junta a realizar un plan para retirar residuos de amianto y estudiar su presencia en C-LM [Podemos and PP urge the legislature to make a plan to identify and remove asbestos contamination in C-LM].

Court Victory!

Jun 12, 2017

In a very strongly worded judgment, a São Paulo court awarded a former Eternit worker who has contracted asbestosis, R$1 million (US$303,220) in “moral damages”; he had been employed in an administrative capacity at one of the company’s asbestos-cement factories. During the course of his employment, he had cause to enter areas where asbestos was being processed. See: Sentença de 2ª instância contra Eternit e SAMA em São Paulo condena empresas a pagar 1 milhão de reais por danos morais a ex-empregado com asbestose [Sentence of the 2nd instance against Eternit and SAMA in São Paulo condemns companies to pay 1 million reais for moral damages to ex-employee with asbestosis].

Pro-Asbestos Rally

Jun 12, 2017

Last week, a public rally in Jitikara, a village in the northwest of Kazakhstan, denounced the global campaign to ban asbestos. Kostani Minerals, one of the world’s largest asbestos mining companies, is a major employer in this area. Speakers at this event castigated the efforts of health and safety campaigners, international trade unionists and others who support an end to the slaughter caused by human exposures to asbestos, with threadbare and discredited rhetoric claiming that asbestos is a “natural and cheap material” which is safe to use. See: Работники хризотиловой отрасли в Казахстане встали на защиту асбеста [Chrysotile workers in Kazakhstan support asbestos protection].

Asbestos: Killer Fiber

Jun 12, 2017

The mesothelioma death of Isbelia Buitrago, a 41-year old architect from Colombia diagnosed in November 2015 with cancer, has been reported. In a touching TV interview broadcast on February 2, 2017, she detailed the presence of a variety of asbestos-containing products on construction sites including: tiles, tanks and pipes. Also speaking in that program was a government minister who promised Colombia would ban asbestos within 5 years. Every year, 320 people die in Colombia from asbestos exposures. See: Murió Isbelia Buitrago, la arquitecta a la que el asbesto le asfixió sus sueños [Architect Isbelia Buitrago, killed by asbestos].

Asbestos Mortality Report

Jun 5, 2017

According to a report by the Asian Citizen’s Center for Environment and Health (ACCEH), in the last decade 2,467 cases of asbestos-related diseases were recognized by Korea’s Environment Ministry; 1,006 (~40%), of victims died. Asbestos was widely used in construction materials. Despite a ban, there are still a large number of contaminated buildings which pose an imminent health threat, especially considering the frequency of reconstruction and renovation work. The ACCEH is calling for “an independent investigative body” to consider these matters and take action. See: Almost 10,000 Koreans suffered environmental diseases in 10 yrs: report.

Waste Site Controversy

Jun 5, 2017

Last week, a delegation including political and community representatives met with Professor Alberto Montanari to consider options for closing Poiatica, an inactive site where tonnes of earthquake debris, demolition and asbestos waste have been deposited. A campaign called “Stop the Landfill” is engaged in high-profile efforts to address the hazardous source of toxic exposures from the site. A study is due to be completed by the end of June. See: Comitato furibondo «L’amianto è morte»;«La chiusura è finta, vogliono mandarci 800.000 metri cubi» [Furious Committee says:“Asbestos is Death”; “The closure is false, they want to send us 800,000 cubic meters”].

Suva Center Remediation

Jun 5, 2017

As some businesses stayed shut due to last week’s asbestos alert in the center of Suva, the capital of the South Pacific island country of Fiji, a technical expert was predicting that remediation work could take up to two months. A report on the airborne asbestos levels in the vicinity of the affected building is expected on June 7. The city council has hired a specialist contractor to remove the toxic material. On June 2, a statement from the Ministry of Employment said that the asbestos discovery did “not present any threat to the general public” and that there was no need for the closure of schools, businesses or public buildings. See: Two Months To Clear Asbestos, Says Expert.

Asbestos Legacy of 9/11

Jun 4, 2017

In the aftermath of the 2011 attack on the World Trade Center (WTC), blankets of toxic dust contaminated parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn exposing millions to a multitude of toxins including asbestos. Dr Raja Flores, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the Mount Sinai Hospital, NY, has warned that: “People are already getting sick from the asbestos and they have died from it… in 15-20 years we are going to see a serious health issue here…. We haven't even seen the tip of this iceberg yet.” Almost half a million kilograms of asbestos-containing insulation was sprayed on the first 40 storeys of the WTC. See: September 11: Death toll could rise by millions from ‘toxic’ asbestos dust.

Disposal of Waste

Jun 2, 2017

The presence of shipping containers containing 2,500 tonnes of asbestos waste at the docks in Jersey has been a sticking point for many years. Finally, the authorities have confirmed that at a cost of £1 million, the contents of 290 containers of asbestos have been buried in a specially lined cell at La Collette, a household reuse and recycling centre which opened on January 16, 2017. The empty containers have, so the report cited below says, been broken down for recycling. A spokesperson for Jersey’s Department for Infrastructure said that a full-time asbestos consultant was on site to oversee the work, which began in January 2017. See: 290 containers of asbestos buried at La Collette.

Unwelcome Discovery

Jun 2, 2017

Fijians were warned to steer clear of the Suva Civic Center area on June 1 by the Department of Information and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program after demolition work exposed asbestos at the Suva City Centre. According to Jone Usamate, Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, staff from the National Occupational Health and Safety Service are now overseeing the safe removal of the toxic material. Reminding citizens to keep their distance from the affected site, the Minister said specialists were “sealing off all the building openings and have cordoned off the surrounding areas with immediate effect.” See: Asbestos in Suva; Public urged to stay 500m away.

Mesothelioma mortality in Argentina

Jun 2, 2017

Using data sourced from death certificates obtained from the Vital Statistics System of Argentina’s National Ministry of Health, a new scientific paper revealed that there were 3,259 mesothelioma deaths between 1980 and 2013 and that the average increase in mesothelioma mortality over this period was 84.1%. The incidence rate was higher in men than in women and the authors believe this was due to higher rates of occupational asbestos exposures amongst the former. Argentina banned asbestos in 2001. Recommendations are made regarding suitable actions to reinforce the ban and improve occupational health surveillance for at-risk workers and the public. See: Mesothelioma mortality in Argentina, 1980-2013.

Trump Attack on EPA

Jun 1, 2017

Mesothelioma survivor Heather Von St James has published a scathing indictment of plans by President Trump to slash the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) – the federal body tasked with protecting human health and the environment in the US–by 31%. In a commentary on The Guardian website, she writes: “Our own president has been quoted extolling the virtues of asbestos and even claiming that abatement is a mob conspiracy. The man who was chosen to head the EPA has said he remains unconvinced of the dangers of asbestos.” See: I lost my lung to asbestos. I fear what Trump will do to America’s health.

Asbestos Anxiety

Jun 1, 2017

On May 30, 2017, former employees from the Renault Trucks factory in Vénissieux, Lyon held a rally in front of the Lyons Labor Court to mark the filing of the first 50 of 900 cases regarding asbestos “anxiety prejudice” against Renault Trucks. The litigation is being progressed by APER, the local asbestos victims’ group, which says that many more cases are expected. According to APER official Jean-Paul Carret from 1964 till 1996 “tens of thousands of people worked on the site …” Renault Trucks has refused to negotiate with the claimants. See: Premières plaintes « amiante » à Renault Trucks aux Prud’hommes [First asbestos complaints against Renault Trucks heard by Labor Court].

Asbestos Hazard

Jun 1, 2017

According to a report from the Kadıköy Municipality, since asbestos regulations were introduced in 2016 to prevent the demolition of asbestos-containing buildings in the area – a densely populated district of Istanbul – 498.5 tons of asbestos waste collected from 1,517 building sites have been disposed of. Inspections at the 1,517 Kadıköy sites revealed that 446 (~30%) of them were contaminated with asbestos. Urban regeneration work by commercial firms outside of this one area are, as far as can be ascertained, carried out without public supervision or mandatory requirements regarding the asbestos hazard. See: Kadıköy'de ciddi tehlike: 498 buçuk ton asbest! [Serious danger in Kadıköy: 498 tons of asbestos!].

Setting a Precedent?

May 31, 2017

Deanna Trevarthen died aged 45 from mesothelioma in 2016. As a child, she had inhaled asbestos fibers brought home on her electrician father’s work clothes. Her claim for compensation was refused as she herself had not been occupationally exposed to asbestos; her lawyers are now pursuing the claim as an accident related to the inhalation of a foreign object and not a work-related accident. Proceedings in this case will begin in the Wellington District Court in September. If it succeeds, it should make it possible for other people suffering from second-hand asbestos exposures to obtain justice. See:‘Hug of death’ asbestos case could open up compensation for many cancer sufferers.

Crete’s Asbestos Legacy

May 31, 2017

Deteriorating buildings first owned by Greek Ministries and then passed to the Crete authorities are contaminated with asbestos. One of them, formerly run by the Ministry of Rural Development, now lies abandoned; its asbestos roof constitutes a dangerous source of pollution to people using a nearby school and living in the most densely populated area of the city of Heraklion, the capital of the island. There are plans to house a registration center for Asylum Services in this area as well as to build temporary accommodation for refugees here. See: Στη βουλή το κτίριο του δημοσίου με τον αμίαντο [State building contaminated with asbestos].

Asbestos Lies!

May 31, 2017

An online article in Russian boasts that the Russian Government, in collusion with others, prevented the UN from taking action on regulating the global trade in chrysotile (white) asbestos at a recent meeting in Geneva. Relying on industry misinformation, this article states that “inclusion in Annex III … means the actual prohibition of the use of the substance.” This is completely untrue; listing on Annex III requires that information by exporting countries about potential hazards be provided to potential importers so that they might make informed decisions. See: Правительство РФ заблокировало попытки запретить асбест [The Russian government blocked attempts to ban asbestos].

Asbestos Criminal Trial?

May 30, 2017

On June 7, 2017, authorities in the Paris Court of Appeal will hand down a long-awaited decision regarding a possible criminal trial against individuals charged with causing a national epidemic killing 3,000 people a year. Amongst the accused are senior officials from various Ministries – including Jean-François Girard, former Director-General for Health, and Jean-Luc Pasquier, a senior official of the Ministry of Labor – as well as medical specialists, industrialists and public relations personnel, all of whom promoted the use of asbestos by downplaying the deadly health hazards of human exposures. See: Amiante: une étape décisive pour un éventuel procès [Asbestos: a decisive step for a possible trial].

Mesothelioma “Massacre”

May 30, 2017

An Italian Parliamentary body convened to determine the asbestos hazard to service personnel has received a confidential report by Raffaele Guariniello – the retired public prosecutor who became famous during the Turin trial of foreign asbestos entrepreneurs – which documented a vast underestimate of officially recognized mesothelioma deaths amongst the military. The existence of the “hidden massacre” was due to the practice whereby only deaths of serving personnel are included in mortality statistics and not those of retired personnel. See: Amianto killer, la ‘strage nascosta’ tra i militari [Asbestos killer, the ‘hidden massacre’ among the military].

Ban Asbestos Dialogue

May 30, 2017

On May 8, 2017 an asbestos hearing was held by the Commission of Human Rights at the Federal Senate in Brasília. Amongst those participating were representatives of ABREA (the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed) and the International Federation of Asbestos Workers, a body which alleges that white asbestos – the only asbestos mined in Brazil – can be produced and used safely. Other speakers presented the positions of trade unions, the Public Prosecutor's Office, municipal authorities from Minaçu Goiás and expert witnesses. See: Uso do amianto será debatido na Comissão de Direitos Humanos [Use of asbestos will be discussed at the Commission on Human Rights].

British Asbestos Newsletter

May 29, 2017

The Spring 2017 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is available online. The lead article entitled Asbestos Politics 2017 is both informative and timely as it highlights policies of political parties regarding the asbestos contamination of schools. While the Labour Party promises to resolve this health hazard, cuts by the Conservative Government to council budgets in September 2017 will ensure that dangerous conditions prevail for years to come. Documents issued by relevant authorities including the Health and Safety Executive, the National Audit Office, the Education Funding Agency and the Local Government Association are discussed. See: Issue 103, British Asbestos Newsletter.

Exposé: New South Wales

May 29, 2017

The illegal dumping of toxic waste in New South Wales has become endemic; when criminals are punished for repeatedly flouting environmental laws, fines handed out are minimal – they are described by the removalists’ association as “a joke” – and orders for remediation work unenforceable according to a two-part exposé published on May 28 and 29. The example is cited of the 33,000 tonnes of asbestos-riddled waste dumped on Sydney’s “Misty Mountain” 16 years ago; the toxic site continues to endanger the health of local people. The names and photographs of removalists whose criminal practices are long-standing and well-known are included in the article. See: Toxic State – The Asbestos Game.

Asbestos Alert

May 25, 2017

A new visual resource has been developed by BaliFokus, a member of the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network (INABAN), to raise awareness of the hazard posed to children by the use of asbestos-cement roofing and lead paint at schools. BaliFokus staff in Bali and in Jakarta work closely with partnering organizations in the government and in civil society to educate professionals on the hazardous nature of these products, reach out to at-risk workers and progress the national dialogue on toxic substances. See: Video Stop Penggunaan Cat Bertimbal dan Atap Asbes di Sekolah [Video: Stop the use of asbestos and lead at schools].

Asbestos Documentary

May 25, 2017

A 70-minute documentary, entitled Do Not Breath – Contains Asbestos, exposing Brazil’s asbestos disaster will be screened at the Ecofalante Environmental Film Festival on June 2, 2017 in São Paulo. The film features conclusive proof revealing dangerous occupational practices involving asbestos-containing materials and filmed segments showing industry leaders asserting that the use of asbestos in Brazil is safe. The damage to workers is substantiated through first person interviews with asbestos disease sufferers, family members, scientists and medical experts. See: Não Respire – Contém Amianto (Trailer em português) [Do Not Breath – Contains Asbestos (Trailer in Portuguese)]. For Facebook users see also: Trailer in English.

Mesothelioma: Personalized Care

May 24, 2017

Researchers from the University of Ljubljana and the Institute of Oncology have published findings of a Slovenian study examining the differing responses of individual malignant mesothelioma patients to chemotherapy treatment with gemcitabine/cisplatin or pemetrexed/cisplatin. An algorithm was developed for recommending individual treatment protocols based on genotyping of 189 patients which could, by enabling the choice of the most effective chemotherapy for 85.5% of mesothelioma patients, lead to improved treatment outcome. See: Clinical-pharmacogenetic models for personalized cancer treatment: application to malignant mesothelioma.

Asbestos Protest!

May 23, 2017

A public rally is being held today (Tuesday May 23, 2017), outside the Palace of Fuensalida, the headquarters of the Government of Castile-La Mancha. Members of a local campaign – “My neighborhood without asbestos” – are demanding regional action to resolve long-standing and extensive asbestos contamination of the Polygon area of Toledo. The group has estimated that there is more than 90,000 tons of asbestos throughout the community, most of which came from the former Ibertubo asbestos factory. See: El llamamiento de los vecinos para la retirada “inmediata” del Amianto del barrio del Polígono [Local people demand the “immediate” removal of asbestos in the Polygon neighborhood of Toledo].

Threat to Asbestos Ban

May 23, 2017

The Regulatory Accountability Act, dubbed the “License to Kill Bill” which passed in the House of Representatives is now being considered by the US. Senate. Environmental and scientific experts are worried that the legislation could make regulation of polluting industries more difficult and have dire consequences for the health and safety of American citizens. If the act became law, the implementation of an EPA asbestos ban would face enormous obstacles and additional requirements. Of course, that would suit President Trump who said in his book The Art of the Comeback that asbestos had “got a bad rap.” See: The "License to Kill" Bill Is As Terrifying As It Sounds.

Asbestos Class Action

May 23, 2017

Fifteen claimants have brought an asbestos lawsuit in the Yamaguchi district court for hazardous occupational exposures experienced between 1954 and 2011 at factories belonging to the Ube Board Company (now in liquidation) in Ube City, Osaka City and Fuji City, Japan. Some of the plaintiffs are suffering from asbestos-related diseases including lung cancer and mesothelioma; others have already died from their asbestos injuries. The lawsuit is claiming millions of yen in damages from the Japanese State and the company, which was a building materials manufacturer. See: アスベスト被害で国を提訴 [Suing the State for Asbestos Injuries].

Importing Death

May 22, 2017

Laos now ranks amongst the world’s major importers of asbestos; it has 16 asbestos processing factories, 3 of which are in the province of Luang Prabang, a world heritage city of golden temples. According to Phillip Hazleton, from Australia’s Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA: “In 2013 Laos imported 8000 tonnes of chrysotile but the figure may be closer to 12,000 tonnes. In 2010 it was only 3000 tonnes of raw asbestos. Laos is not known for its scrupulous import records. But what is clear is that while India and China may be greater net importers, Laos imports more per capita than anywhere else.” See: Asbestos: Out of sight but not out of mind in Asia.

Asbestos Class Action

May 22, 2017

On May 20, 2017, asbestos victims’ groups represented by ABREA and Brazil’s main national trade union center CUT (the Central Única dos Trabalhadores/ Unified Workers' Central Federation), agreed to instigate a public civil action lawsuit in Brazil on behalf of former employees of Brasilit/Saint-Gobain for their occupational asbestos exposures in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Similar actions are already ongoing against Brazil’s asbestos giant Eternit S.A. in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Paraná. The use of asbestos remains legal in Brazil under federal legislation; however, several states and cities have taken unilateral action and banned asbestos.

Mass Rally in Tokyo

May 20, 2017

On Friday, May 19, 2017 three thousand construction workers held a mass outdoor meeting in Tokyo to mark the ninth anniversary of the first asbestos class action by construction workers in Japan. To date, there have been six judgments by district courts, five of which held the government responsible and one of which acknowledged the responsibility of the manufacturers of construction materials. The first high court judgment will be handed down in Autumn 2017. In the photograph below, the items held up – traditional paper fans called “uchiwa” – have the Japanese words for “apologize, compensate and eliminate” emblazoned across them. See: Picture of May 19, 2017 Tokyo demonstration.

Ban Asbestos Meeting

May19, 2017

Ban asbestos campaigners from 48 cities and towns took part in a conference in São Paulo this week. Even though the 2007 São Paulo state law 12,684 prohibits asbestos use, contaminated products from other states are still available. The objective of the meeting was to raise awareness of the public health hazard posed by asbestos and consider means by which workers and communities might be better protected from toxic exposures. Officials representing the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, President Eliezer João de Souza and advisor Fernanda Giannasi, addressed the meeting. See: Encontro regional combate o Amianto [Regional meeting against asbestos].

Death of Environment Minister

May 18, 2017

India’s Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave died in Delhi today (May 18) from lung cancer. In 2016, the Minister had expressed support for the phasing out of asbestos use in India, telling a journalist from the Times of India that: “Since the use of asbestos is affecting human health, its use should gradually be minimised and eventually end. As far as I know, its use is declining. But it must end” (see: Will look for alternatives to carcinogenic asbestos: Environment Minister). India remains the world’s biggest asbestos importer and toxic exposures are routine occurrences for millions of workers and members of the public. See: Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave dies of lung cancer.

Asbestos: An Imminent Hazard

May 18, 2017

Investigations by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism have revealed that the presence of asbestos-containing products in small scale premises remains a potent health hazard to workers and members of the public. A report issued on May 17, 2017 found that up to 80,000 small private buildings out of a total of 1.3 million were contaminated, with up to 30,000 having failed to take appropriate measures to neutralize the hazard as a result of which highly hazardous products such as sprayed asbestos remain in place. See: Up to 82,000 small buildings estimated to still use asbestos: gov't survey.

Who is at risk?

May 18, 2017

A commentary about asbestos in Colombia is framed within a global context that highlights efforts made to prevent toxic exposures through banning and/or regulating its use. Three hundred and twenty cases of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma have been diagnosed by Julio César Granada, a chest surgeon at the Santa Fe Foundation; amongst them were: a 50-year old sportsman who had helped lay asbestos on a playing field when he was a child, Ana Cecilia Niño, who had lived near an Eternit asbestos tile factory, and Rafael Alfonso Mayorga Donoso, who worked in the tile factory. See: Asbesto: una sustancia mortal mas cercana de lo que se cree [Asbestos: a deadly substance closer than thought].

No Asbestos Dumps Here!

May 18, 2017

A judgment handed down by Italy’s Council of State upheld local and environmental objections to the construction by the Mosole Group of asbestos landfills in northern Italy, citing EU regulations. The proposal under consideration included the transfer of 460,000 cubic meters of asbestos between two landfills, to be transported by about 45,000 trucks over a period of ten years beginning in 2018. The dumping of over 80,000 cubic meters of asbestos-containing waste in the region between 2005 and 2006, has been deemed an illegal action by the Council of State. See: Paese, stop alla discarica di Amianto [Region stops asbestos dumping].

Asbestos Exposé

May 18, 2017

A TV program shown last week highlighted the repercussions of asbestos exposures in the Catalan municipality of Cerdanyola, considered to be Spain’s asbestos ground zero. For decades, this city was home to a building materials factory operated by Uralita; as a result of exposures at the plant and in the local community, there is a high incidence of asbestos cancers and disease in this area. The ubiquity of asbestos contamination was also discussed with examples shown of toxic products in homes, schools, industrial premises and landfills. See: Falsificaciones y toneladas de amianto repartidas por España, ‘En el punto de mira’ [Falsifications and tons of asbestos distributed in Spain ‘In the Spotlight’].

Asbestos: No thanks!

May 17, 2017

The increasing unpopularity of asbestos products in Brazil has seen the domestic market for asbestos goods shrink. This fall in demand has impacted negatively on the economy of Minaçu, home to Brazil’s only operational asbestos mine. According to new data, Minaçu lost Reais$10m (US$3.3m) in revenue in two years because of the downturn in the asbestos market. Even though the federal policy allows the use of asbestos, consumers are turning away from these products and many companies have introduced asbestos-free alternatives. See: Amianto: Arrecadação diminui R$ 10 milhões e causa apreensão em Minaçu [Fall of R$10m in revenue devastates Minaçu budget].

Asbestos: Election Pledge

May 17, 2017

The Labour Party manifesto published today (May 17, 2017) calls for the “phased removal of asbestos from existing schools” as part of plans to reinvigorate the educational infrastructure and to invest in new school buildings and improve older ones, thereby reversing the “crippling” underfunding which has prevailed under years of Conservative Government rule. The phased removal of asbestos from schools was designated a priority action by the All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group, the Trades Union Congress and campaigning groups, trade unions and other stakeholders. See: Labour Party Manifesto 2017.

Update: Asbestos in Schools

May 16, 2017

On May 16, 2017 it was revealed during a Parliamentary meeting that a pledge by the Australian State of Victoria to remove asbestos from all schools was “farcical.” Minister James Merlino, Deputy Premier of Victoria, told the enquiry that removal efforts would be prioritised with work being undertaken on situations where asbestos contamination “posed a medium and high risk to students and staff.” “We are,” he said “not going to be removing [toxic material from] 30,000 buildings to address asbestos that may be in the foundations, or that may be in the roof cavity.” See: Government abandons ambitious pledge to make schools ‘asbestos free’.

Joining Forces: Spain and Italy

May 16, 2017

Last week, a delegation from Cerdanyola del Valles (Barcelona), where the operations of the Uralita asbestos-cement factory exposed generations of workers and local people to deadly asbestos, were warmly received by Mayor Titti Palazzetti of Casale Monferrato and other dignitaries. Mayor Palazzetti told the visitors: “Casale and its story are unique … We have succeeded, thanks to the cohesion between associations, local and national institutions and citizens, to transform our pain into engagement and struggle.” See: Amianto: a Casale Monferrato dalla Spagna per confronto esperienze [Asbestos: the experiences in Casale Monferrato and Spain].

Award for Naval Workers

May 16, 2017

On May 11, 2017, the French Ministry of Defence was condemned by an administrative court in Caen and ordered to pay a total of €976,000 to 122 former workers of the Shipbuilding Directorate (DCN), since 2007 known as DCNS. Each of the claimants, all of whom were exposed to asbestos at the Cherbourg site where work was done on French nuclear submarines, is to receive €8,000 for “the prejudice of anxiety … [and] fear of discovering suddenly that they are suffering from a serious pathology.” A criminal procedure is under way in this case. See: Amiante: l'Etat doit payer 976.000 euros à 122 ex-salariés de DCN [Asbestos: the State must pay 976,000 euros to 122 former employees of DCN].

Pakistan: Asbestos Ban

May 15, 2017

The processes and drawbacks relating to the commercial exploitation of asbestos in Pakistan are discussed in this commentary which concludes with a reminder that the Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Resource Development has recommended a complete ban on the import and use of asbestos in 22 industries due to the adverse effects of human exposures to asbestos. The author notes that: “unsafe mining methods and handling of asbestos products poses serious threat to human health and environment.” See: Asbestos-caused diseases spreading.

Mesothelioma Protocol

May 15, 2017

Key government departments and agencies in Brazil have opened a public consultation regarding the draft of “Diagnostic Guidelines for Pleura Malignant Mesothelioma” to gather valuable feedback from stakeholders including patients. A survey is being conducted with structured clinical questions and other measures for collecting informed views and input. It is hoped that the publication of the final document will raise medical awareness of mesothelioma and thereby help more accurate diagnoses be made. There is currently a significant under-diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma in Brazil. See: Proposta de elaboracao das diretrizes diagnosticas de mesothelioma de maligno de pleura [Proposal for Diagnostic Guidelines for Pleura Malignant Mesothelioma].

Update: Asbestos Mine

May 15, 2017

Zimbabwe’s Minister for Mines and Mining Development, Walter Chidakwa, has announced that a government injection of $15 million will be made to the Shabanie Mashaba (Chrysotile Asbestos) Mines (SMM) to allow work to commence on rehabilitating the mine so that production of raw chrysotile asbestos fiber, which ceased in 2008, can recommence. Previous attempts to breathe life into this moribund mine have floundered over lack of interest from foreign investors. It is unlikely this attempt will succeed as the sums mentioned seem quite small in comparison to the work which will be needed. See: Govt looks to inject $15m to revive SMM.

Remembering Lou Williams

May 12, 2017

On May 9, 2017 Australian Parliamentarian Lisa Singh paid tribute to mesothelioma sufferer Lou Williams who died in April 2017 from her disease. In her comments, Senator Singh said that Ms. Williams’: “father was killed by mesothelioma at the age of 54. It took eight months. Lou fought her battle against mesothelioma for 14 years.” Recalling Lou’s compassion and commitment, the Senator listed the awards she received and the positions she held in her ongoing struggle to achieve better medical treatment and support for asbestos victims in Australia and abroad. See (on YouTube): Senator Singh’s tribute in the Senate to the late Lou Williams.

Courage and Tenacity

May 11, 2017

Exposing the hazards of asbestos exposure in a country where industry forces prevail is an uphill battle. Last week asbestosis sufferer Siti Kristina from Jakarta took her case to the United Nations when she told a meeting in Geneva of the tragic consequences of her workplace asbestos exposures. Interviews with Siti Kristina, Wira Ginting from Indonesia’s Local Initiative for Occupational Health and Safety Network, Dr Anna Suraya and others inform a new feature which highlighted the multiple injustices faced by those suffering from preventable asbestos-related diseases in Indonesia and the small glimmers of hope that these diseases will be officially recognized. See: Battling asbestos, one step at a time.

Saving lives in Perth

May 11, 2017

The Perth-based Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) has taken delivery of a $10,000 spirometer (for measuring lung capacity and breathing efficiency); the new instrument, a great improvement on the Society’s previous model, will contribute to early diagnoses of disease amongst its members. In an interview published this week, ADSA president Robert Vojakovic said: “Early detection is really important, a lot of people are dying needlessly.” More than 300 society members died in 2016 from asbestos-related diseases and the number of people affected is increasing due to toxic exposures which took place decades ago. The funding for this top-of-the-range equipment came from donations by ADSA members. See: Asbestos Disease Society Australia says new breathing machine a boon for patients.

Protests over UN Debacle

May 11, 2017

A three-minute video uploaded on May 10, 2017 by the IndustriALL Global Union highlighted the demands by trade unions and asbestos victims’ groups for the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention to regulate the global trade in asbestos in order to protect vulnerable populations from deadly cancers and diseases. In their comments, Australian union officials stress the need for immediate action to prevent future tragedies. The footage includes interviews with Indian asbestosis victim Rajendra Pevekar and Indonesian asbestosis sufferer Siti Kristina which make manifest the deadly impact that asbestos exposure has on workers as well as on family members. See: Asbestos Kills!.

Act Now on Asbestos!

May 11, 2017

The Government of Canada’s plan to phase out the use of asbestos by 2018 has been criticized by Canadian Professor Jim Brophy who has said: “The latency here is enormous. Every day we allow these products to come into the country just extends the time frame in which this disease will arrive and be experienced by people in our population.” Highlighting the ongoing hazard posed by the use of asbestos-containing automotive parts, especially to DIY mechanics, Brophy added: “The full extent of the harm that has been caused is so under-reported and so under-recognized that even when you say it’s the leading cause of occupational disease and death in this country, you’re actually underestimating the full extent of it.” See: Expert urges immediate asbestos ban in Canada.

Unionists Call for Asbestos Action

May 11, 2017

At a press conference in Karachi on April 28, 2017, Pakistani trade unionist Nasir Mansoor, Deputy General Secretary of the National Trade Union Federation, urged “the Pakistan Government not to turn a blind eye towards the long-term hazards related to Asbestos usage and exposure" he cautioned.” During this event, which took place on International Workers Memorial Day, Mansoor and other speakers highlighted the importance of the upcoming debate in Geneva of the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention on regulating the global trade in chrysotile (white) asbestos. See: Union workers demand ban on all forms of asbestos at upcoming UN meeting.

Asbestos Disconnect!

May 9, 2017

A text published today (May 9) on the website of a Kazakhstan news source delineated the discrepancy between the pro-asbestos policies of East European vested interests and the stance of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the UN’s Rotterdam Convention, all of whom call for regulations to be imposed on the global trade of chrysotile asbestos. See: Пока ВОЗ предупреждает о риске рака от хризотилового асбеста, Кыргызстан и Казахстан отстаивают право на его использование [While WHO warns of the risk of cancer from chrysotile asbestos, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan defend the right to use it].

Asbestos at College

May 9, 2017

Removal and remediation costs for asbestos contamination found at the Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), situated in the province’s capital city of St. John’s, have been costed at $626,000. Work is now ongoing on a large section of the underground tunnel which connects six buildings serving the education, science and physical education departments. During the renovation work, due to be completed by the Autumn, most of the tunnel has been shut down with just small sections under the education and science buildings remaining open. See: University ‘munnel’ system shut down for asbestos removal.

Asbestos Disease in Shipbreakers

May 9, 2017

The latest issue of the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health & Environment Foundation (OSHE) newsletter carries a feature documenting the findings of an asbestos outreach project conducted amongst shipbreaking workers in Chittagong which revealed high levels of asbestos-related disease. Thirty-three out of the 101 workers examined were diagnosed with asbestosis. Eight of those diagnosed were 60% disabled. The OSHE has recommended the government: establish a facility to diagnose and treat individuals with asbestosis and provide specialist training for medical professionals and support for shipbreaking workers. See: The slow poison killing shipbreaking workers. OSHE Newsletter January – March 2017.

Calls for New Prohibitions

May 8, 2017

After a debacle at the Rotterdam Convention meeting in Geneva last week, which saw industry stakeholders block UN implementation of minimal safeguards in the global asbestos trade, calls are being made for unilateral action to protect Pacific countries in a region where no national bans have been put in place. An information vacuum exists in this area according to Project Manager Stewart Williams of an EU funded project called PacWaste; Williams says that, in addition to legacy issues in old buildings, asbestos-containing building products are still being used. See: Push for Pacific-wide ban on asbestos.

Mesothelioma in Doll Production

May 8, 2017

Italian scientists have published findings based on data from the Province of Brescia Mesothelioma Registry related to 757 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed between 1993 to 2016 that establish that the pleural epithelial mesotheliomas contracted by three women employed by two companies in the doll production industry were caused by occupational exposures to asbestos. Analysis of asbestos lung fiber burden enabled the causation of these patients’ diseases to be altered from “unknown” to workplace asbestos exposures. See: Pleural mesothelioma in doll manufacture: possible asbestos exposure.

HSE: Asbestos Failures

May 7, 2017

The Trades Union Congress has accused the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of “complacency” and being “irresponsible” over plans to downgrade protection for at-risk workers. A new HSE audit of the effectiveness of the 2012 Control of Asbestos Regulations failed to consider the health benefits to workers of an asbestos removal policy which would eliminate toxic workplace exposures. Unsurprisingly, the HSE maintains, “that it is better to keep the regulations” than eliminate the problem in the “estimated half a million [contaminated] workplaces (and around a million homes)…” See: Asbestos – Remove this killer Dust.

Failing Government; Dying Workers

May 6, 2017

Two articles published last week contrasted the Indian government’s pro-asbestos policy with the country’s deadly asbestos reality, where toxic exposures experienced by millions of citizens are routine occurrences. The article India’s contentious stand on Chrysotile asbestos is a cause for concern for environmentalists, and the one cited below signpost the importance of the government’s participation in a UN meeting in Geneva which aims to protect populations from exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides. See: Asbestos harms the health of millions of Indian workers. Will the government finally move to ban it?.

Student Asbestos Protests

May 6, 2017

South African high school students picketed the offices of the Department of Education in Johannesburg on Thursday, May 4, 2017 calling for the fulfilment of overdue promises to remove asbestos from 29 schools in the northern province of Gauteng. According to spokesperson Naadira Munshi “in these schools the walls and roofs made of asbestos are broken, which is resulting in the asbestos being exposed. This means learners, teachers, school staff and the community are inhaling the dangerous fibres ... in the long term this exposure can have negative life consequences for learners.” See: Gauteng learners demand replacement of asbestos buildings.

Asbestos Health Scandal

May 5, 2017

A commentary which appeared on May 5, 2017 on The Equal Times website documented continuing injustices meted out to Brazilian asbestos victims in a country where the use of asbestos remains legal under legislation designed to protect the country’s asbestos mining and processing industry. Between 2000 and 2011, 2,400 asbestos-related deaths were registered by the Health Ministry; there were many other deaths which remain unacknowledged. Even for those whose diseases are recognized, the process of obtaining recognition and compensation is fraught with administrative and legal obstacles. See: Asbestos ban still under debate in Brazil.

Asbestos Dangers in the Outback

May 5, 2017

The asbestos threat to health in remote communities in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland, NSW and Western Australia was highlighted in a study by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency which reported that: “Indigenous corporations and land councils inherited ageing infrastructure that was full of asbestos – structures such as housing, churches and public buildings…” Unfortunately, asbestos remediation in these areas is three times as expensive as elsewhere and limited resources are available for removal and management costs. Strategies to meet the ongoing challenge are delineated in this study. See: New report highlights the impact of Australia’s asbestos legacy on remote Indigenous communities.

Asbestos Lies!

Apr 2, 2017

On March 30, 2017, Zimbabwe’s Deputy labour minister Tapiwa Matangaidze lied about the asbestos hazard at a Harare meeting claiming that use of asbestos produced at the Shabanie and Mashava mines was safe. IndustriALL Global Union’s Atle Hoie, also at the meeting, told journalists that the claims were “lies” saying: “the world called for the ban on asbestos after realizing it is the worst killer in the planet. If a country produces asbestos, it is responsible for the people dying.” The meeting was held in the run up to a pivotal meeting of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention where asbestos remains a hot issue topic. See: Minister lied about asbestos, says IndustriALL Global Union.

Asbestos Ploy

Apr 1, 2017

On the same day this week that a landmark asbestos victory was achieved by a victim’s family in Belgium, the government announced controversial changes to the operation of the national Asbestos Fund. Since it was established a decade ago, the Fund, co-financed by the state and employers, has built up a surplus. Instead of using this to compensate ineligible claimants – such as people suffering from asbestos-related lung cancer – or finance medical research, future contributions will be frozen until there is a zero surplus. See: Fonds amiante: un financement au rabais (OPINION) [Asbestos Fund: Discount Financing (OPINION)].

Asbestos Yes; Antimony No

Mar 27, 2017

Residents of the Russian town of Asbestos – home to a chrysotile (white) asbestos mine “nearly half the size of Manhattan” – are up in arms about plans by the National Antimony Company to build a factory processing antimony in the town. Politicians addressing a rally last week expressed concerns about the “very harmful” impact possible emissions from the plant could have on the health of local people. A petition circulated at the rally collected hundreds of signatures. Plans to build the plant in Degtyarsk were abandoned after protests. See: Тысячи граждан протестовали против нового завода Ротенберга — Асбест [Thousands of citizens protested against the new Rothenberg plant – Asbestos].

Mixed Fortunes of Asbestos Towns

Mar 27, 2017

At a conference last week in Quebec’s former asbestos heartland, Thetford Mines (TM) officials said they felt abandoned by the Quebec government in the aftermath of its withdrawal of support for the asbestos industry. As a result of its decision, the province’s asbestos industry became unsustainable. Despite promises of millions of dollars to help affected communities diversify their economies, according to Mayor Marc-Alexandre Brousseau: “Asbestos (town) has received 50 million to face the same impacts as us. We did not have anything.” See: Amiante: les élus de Thetford Mines se sentent abandonnés [Asbestos: The elected representatives of Thetford Mines feel abandoned].

Northern Territory: Update

Mar 27, 2017

Referencing outrage voiced at last week’s meeting of the Australian Labour Party, the Health Minister of the Northern Territories (NT) Natasha Fyles commented: “The Northern Territory Government takes the asbestos issues seriously and will consider all of the concerns raised at this weekend's Labor conference.” Months after media reports exposed the scandal relating to asbestos contamination of housing in Tennant Creek, the lives of residents and young children were still “being put at risk” according to trade unionist Andrew Ramsay, Vice President of an asbestos victims’ support group. See: Asbestos in NT to become responsibility of Territory Government after ALP pass motion.

The Great Asbestos Trial

Mar 24, 2017

A Spanish translation of an Italian book entitled: “Il grande processo” [The Great Trial] by Rosalba Altopiedi and Sara Panelli has been updated and published online this week. The authors report and analyse legal actions in Italy against Swiss asbestos magnate Stephan Schmidheiny which included criminal as well as civil proceedings for alleged crimes relating to asbestos deaths of thousands of workers and residents in Eternit towns. See: El Gran Proceso de Turín (2009-2014) contra el magnate Stephan Schmidheiny, propietario de Eternit Italia, el negocio del Amianto [The Great Trial of Turin (2009-2014) against the magnate Stephan Schmidheiny, owner of Eternit Italia, the asbestos giant].

Asbestos Victims Abandoned

Mar 24, 2017

Quebec’s Commission on Occupational Standards, Equity, Health and Safety is refusing compensation to many workers dying from asbestos-related diseases according to a documentary broadcast on March 23 entitled: Malades de l’amiante… et laissés pour compte [Workers with asbestos diseases .. abandoned], by Radio-Canada’s award-winning TV program, Enquête. The program detailed numerous examples of legitimate claims being obstructed by negligent employers, including public authorities, intent on minimizing future liabilities. See: Quebec: Asbestos injustice against workers continues.

Supporting DWP Service

Mar 24, 2017

On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, Bob Pointer, Chair of the Cumbria Asbestos Related Disease Support Group, urged Barrow Borough Council to show its support for services provided to asbestos victims in Barrow and throughout England by staff at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) base in Phoenix House (PH), Barrow – scheduled to be shut down as a result of government cutbacks – during a speech he made to a council meeting. Pointer asked that the council write to the Secretary of State to reinforce the importance of the work done by those at PH. The leader of the council and a number of councillors are supportive of calls to safeguard the expertise of PH staff. See: Asbestos campaigner makes plea for Barrow service.

Kymore: Asbestos Hotspot

Mar 23, 2017

This online article highlights the deadly legacy of asbestos use and processing in the Madhya Pradesh industrial town of Kymore, in central India. Citing details from a new report by international experts, the authors state that: “Kymore seems to be built of asbestos. It is incorporated in school, playgrounds, the corrugated iron roofs of the houses of the factory workers. Many of these buildings are in bad shape and crumble. Moreover, the asbestos waste was dumped for years on meadows around the [asbestos] factory and unsafe landfill… during the period of the Belgian Etex, which was later turned into Eternit Everest.” See: Belgian report alleges MNC Etex responsible for asbestos pollution in Madhya Pradesh town Kymore.

Ovarian Cancer: Developments

Mar 23, 2017

On March 16, 2017, Germany’s Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs published recommendations under the accident insurance scheme to recognize asbestos-related ovarian cancer as an occupational disease under certain circumstances: the ovarian carcinoma must be associated with asbestosis or a disease of the pleura caused by asbestos and the claimant must be able to demonstrate an occupational asbestos fiber dose of at least 25 fiber years. See: Eierstockkrebs durch Asbest - Anerkennung “wie eine Berufskrankheit” möglich [Ovarian cancer from asbestos exposure recognized as an occupational disease].

Asbestos Seminar

Mar 23, 2017

On the agenda of a seminar in Hong Kong on March 20, 2017 were issues relating to environmental exposures of people living in asbestos-contaminated housing as well as occupational exposures to at-risk workers such as people in the construction sector. Of particular interest to many of the delegates was information presented by the Secretary General of the Pneumoconiosis Compensation Fund Board which administers the Pneumoconiosis and Mesothelioma (Compensation) Ordinance of Hong Kong. The Fund has, he said, compensated thousands of individuals including both employees and non-employees. The import, transhipment, supply and use of asbestos was banned in Hong Kong as of April 4, 2014.

Victory over Asbestos!

Mar 22, 2017

In a decisive verdict handed down yesterday by a court in Rio de Janeiro, the Eternit company – Brazil’s biggest asbestos manufacturer – was ordered to eliminate asbestos use within the next 18 months. The decision is a result of proceedings by the Public Ministry of Labor which had filed a civil action over hazardous workplace exposures to asbestos at Eternit’s Guadalupe, Rio de Janerio plant. Not only did the court order Eternit to transition to asbestos-free technology, but it also specified that exposure levels be kept to the legal limit and that current and former employees be provided with free medical examinations. See: Eternit do Rio de Janeiro condenada a substituir o Amianto em 18 meses [Eternit in Rio de Janeiro condemned to replace asbestos in 18 months].

Call for Action

Mar 22, 2017

A letter by Jagdish Patel, National Coordinator of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India, addressed to Anil Madhav Dave, India’s Minister of Environment and Forests, has been uploaded to the internet. In this document Mr. Patel reiterates requests that “the Government, as a party to the Rotterdam Convention, … support the amendment to the Rotterdam Convention that a group of twelve African countries have submitted to the Secretariat and that will be discussed at the COP 8.” This letter is signed by groups representing Indian workers, health activists and campaigners. See: Support amendment to Rotterdam Convention for listing of chrysotile asbestos at COP 8.

Increased Compensation Payments

Mar 22, 2017

On March 20, 2017 a new formula came into effect as a result of amendments to current legislation which lowered the discount rate from 2.5% to minus 0.75%. One of the results of the change made by the Ministry of Justice will be the increase of compensation payments to personal injury claimants including asbestos victims. There is no certainty that this change will be secure from attack by the insurance industry and negligent employers; the Government is consulting on this issue with vested interests such as insurers who are, no doubt, hoping the discount rate will be increased. See: New discount rate for personal injury claims announced.

Asbestos Progress Update

Mar 21, 2017

A Conduct Adjustment Agreement has been signed by the Public Labor Ministry in Rio de Janeiro with the construction materials company Casalite, based in the city of Duque de Caxias in the state of Rio de Janeiro, to cease using asbestos for the production of roofing tiles and gutters. This agreement is part of a Brazilian program – National Asbestos Banishment Program of the Public Labor Ministry – aimed at eliminating the use of asbestos in Brazil. See: MPT-RJ firma acordo com empresa para substituir o amianto de seus processos de produção [MPT-RJ signs agreement with company to replace asbestos from its production processes].

Asbestos Remediation: Update

Mar 20, 2017

According to Giorgio Demezzi, a former Mayor of Casale Monferrato, to date more than €80m has been allocated by the Italian government for asbestos remediation of the town over the last 20 years. Unfortunately, disputes are ongoing over the administrative processing and bureaucratic dispensation of remediation funds by city hall personnel. The municipality aims to make Casale Monferrato asbestos free by 2020. To that end, work is proceeding, says the current Mayor, at new construction sites. See: I conti dell’amianto in 20 anni: ecco le bonifiche. Finora trasferiti dallo Stato 80 milioni [20 years of asbestos land reclamation has, till now, cost the state 80 million].

Local Asbestos Initiative

Mar 17, 2017

In April 2017, a council in the western suburbs of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia is offering a number of free visual inspections to householders to alert them to the presence of asbestos in homes built in the Cumberland local government area before 1990. A scheme operated by the council for the free collection and disposal of up to 10 square meters of bonded asbestos sheeting from homes has proved popular with local people such as Grahame Duerden who had pieces of asbestos fiberboard to dispose of; this material is no longer accepted at the tip and the minimum charge for collection by a specialist company is A$140. See: Free asbestos pick ups.

Overseas Asbestos Crimes

Mar 16, 2017

A photo-essay depicting the industrial legacy of asbestos processing in India by a company that was part of the Belgian asbestos Eternit-Etex conglomerate has been published in Flemish. The text focuses on the situation in Kymore, a town in central India, which is littered with toxic asbestos waste and built with asbestos cement materials. Personal testimony and evidence has been amassed which document corporate responsibility for widespread environmental contamination. See: Van Kapelle tot Kymore: Etex ook verantwoordelijk voor asbestslachtoffers in India? [From Kapelle to Kymore: Is Etex also responsible for asbestos victims in India?].

Condemnation of South Africa

Mar 15, 2017

Despite the fact that South Africa banned asbestos in 2008, the government is refusing to back a move by Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia to unblock a logjam at the Rotterdam Convention which is preventing this UN agency from including white asbestos on a list of toxins subject to requirements ensuring prior informed consent of importing countries. The health experts who wrote this blog conclude that: “South Africa's foreign policy is apparently not governed by any substantive health or environmental considerations.” See: South Africa Refuses To Support Initiative To Restrict Deadly Asbestos Trade

Asbestos in Schools

Mar 15, 2017

The scandal over the UK government’s failure to protect schoolchildren and staff from dangerous asbestos exposures continues to reverberate. On March 13, 2017, the government gave a pathetic response to a question about this issue in the House of Lords, absolving itself of responsibility for the situation, the deadly reality of which was detailed in an article in the newspaper and website of Schools Week on March 11 in which MP Rachel Reeves was quoted calling the government’s failure to act on asbestos in schools “grossly negligent.” See: Dodgy asbestos surveys costing schools ‘millions’.

Systemic Failures: France

Mar 14, 2017

This article details the failure of the French authorities to address the asbestos contamination of the national infrastructure and warns of more asbestos-related deaths in the future because of the uneven protection of workers from building and other products containing asbestos which have not been removed. Several quotes from campaigners highlight the flaws in a regulatory system which fails to adequately police the asbestos removal industry, ensure accurate laboratory analyses of suspect material and diagnose patients with asbestos diseases. See: En France, il reste 20 millions de tonnes d’amiante disséminées dans les bâtiments [In France, there are 20 million tons of asbestos still in buildings].

Galicia: Asbestos Justice

Mar 14, 2017

An interview – published this month – with Ramón Tojeiro the head of AGAVIDA, a group representing asbestos victims in Galicia, north western Spain, highlighted the impact of occupational asbestos exposures amongst workers in the shipbuilding yards in Ferrol. The campaigner cited the important roles played by Galician unionist Rafael Pillado and Dr. Carlos Piñeiro in the fight to obtain recognition of the invisible epidemic and medical treatment for the injured; Tojeiro also warned of the hazard posed by asbestos within the infrastructure. See: La realidad del amianto se mantuvo oculta porque era un gran negocio [The reality of asbestos kept hidden because it was a big business].

Push to Ban Asbestos

Mar 10, 2017

Brazilian Senator Paulo Paim has submitted a draft bill (PLS 30/2017) to a committee of the Brazilian Congress delineating a road map to make the transition from a national asbestos policy based on the controlled use of asbestos to one banning mining, manufacture, import, storage and transport of asbestos fiber and products containing asbestos within a strict phased timescale. Citing the global consensus regarding the proven risks posed by asbestos exposures, the proposal will, if approved, prohibit all asbestos use, sales, marketing, storage, import and export within four years. See: Manejo do amianto pode se tornar proibido no país [Transition from asbestos management to asbestos ban].

Workplace Exposure in Australia

Mar 10, 2017

Trade union officials confirmed on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 that work at an Australian factory had been stopped for a week due to the discovery of asbestos contamination at the facility owned by the Orica company in the Kooragang Island area of New South Wales. It is alleged that prior to the shutdown, dozens of workers had been hazardously exposed to asbestos fibers. While not denying the incident took place, the company is disputing details released by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. The exposures allegedly occurred during a $67-million overhaul of the ammonia plant. See: Unions and ORCA in dispute over asbestos.

New Precedent in France

Mar 10, 2017

On March 3, 2017 France’s Council of State – the highest administrative court in the country – handed down a ground-breaking decision when it accepted that employees of the state, in this case a shipbuilding worker for the Ministry of Defence, had a right to compensation for asbestos “anxiety prejudice” after negligent workplace exposures. According to the verdict, “the decision to recognize the right to this compensation amounts to recognition of the link established between exposure to asbestos dust and reduction in life expectancy…” See: Amiante: le préjudice d’anxiété reconnu pour les ouvriers d’Etat par la redaction [Asbestos: anxiety prejudice recognized for state workers].

Asbestos in Schools

Mar 9, 2017

Regional authorities have approved proposals to remove asbestos from 38 schools in Catalonia during 2017-2018. Asbestos was banned in Spain in 2002 but remains widely present throughout the educational infrastructure. The commitment to remediation and replacement of toxic products with asbestos-free materials was brought about after pressure from the socialist party. Under the new rules, asbestos surveys will be carried out to identify contamination, a timetable will be set for removal and an implementation plan will be adopted. See: El Parlament aprueba retirar el amianto de 38 escuelas e institutos [Parliament approves proposal to remove asbestos from 38 schools].

Asbestos Cancer Mortality

Mar 6, 2017

A paper published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted an epidemic of asbestos cancer in the US Between 1999 and 2015, there were 45,221 deaths reported from mesothelioma, the signature cancer related to asbestos exposure. The annual incidence rate increased from 2,479 (1999) to 2,597 (2015). The researchers’ conclusions confirm what asbestos activists have been saying for years: “Contrary to past projections, the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths has been increasing…” despite the introduction of regulatory actions and decreasing consumption. See: Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality – United States, 1999-2015.

Asbestos Leak in Wicklow

Mar 3, 2017

A former municipal landfill is leaking hazardous waste, including fragments of asbestos, into the Irish Sea in Bray, Co. Wicklow. Amongst the waste dumped on this site are broken asbestos tiles and there are “excessive levels of ammoniacal nitrogen, potassium and manganese in the groundwater.” Local people and politicians have been calling for the municipality, the government and European authorities to make remediation of the site a priority issue. An Environmental Risk Assessment is now being considered by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Wicklow County Council and the Environmental Protection Agency. See: Asbestos and other toxic waste leaking into Irish Sea off Bray and Dublin coast.

Asbestos Lobby Machinations

Mar 3, 2017

A new article on the RightonCanada website details efforts by the International Chrysotile Association (ICA), a propaganda instrument financed by global asbestos producers, to manipulate the global consensus regarding the toxicity of all types of asbestos. The paper – Health Risk of Chrysotile Revisited – which cost the ICA $235,000, failed to disclose “the extensive, long-lasting financial ties of [the authors] Bernstein and Dunnigan to the asbestos lobby; and advanced arguments that have been “dismissed as dangerous misinformation by the world scientific community.” See: Asbestos lobby hopes to block asbestos bans with its bought science.

Asbestos Use in Dentistry

Mar 3, 2017

It has been widely acknowledged that asbestos was used in 3,000 products, ranging from building materials to consumer products. A report just uploaded to the website of the American Journal of Industrial medicine documents the occurrence of mesothelioma amongst dental technicians and professionals who used asbestos-containing dental lining tape for making crowns, bridges and other dental prosthetic devices. The paper examines six mesothelioma cases linked to exposures to this material in four dentists, one dental technician and one silversmith. See: Malignant Mesothelioma Due to Asbestos Exposure in Dental Tape.

Environmental Asbestos Threat

Mar 2, 2017

A row has broken out between Ankara city officials and professional organizations over the health hazard of demolition work at a factory believed to contain 350 tonnes of asbestos. Air monitoring conducted close to the factory in the Maltepe neighborhood of Ankara by the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects found dangerously high levels of amphibole asbestos. Calls have been made for schools in the area to be closed as a preventative action. Ankara’s Mayor alleges that safety measures were implemented during the dismantling work. See: Debate over asbestos diffusion heats up in Turkish capital Ankara.

Support for Patients

Mar 2, 2017

As of April 1, 2017, Mesothelioma UK– a national resource center providing specialist information, support and care services for mesothelioma patients – will be supporting travel expenses for mesothelioma patients to obtain specialist diagnoses or treatments from medical centers outside of their local areas. Standard class travel and accommodation will be covered for up to two nights for the patient and carer as well as the cost of car parking. To apply for this assistance, claimants can contact a helpline: 0800 169 2409. See: Patient Travel Expenses Policy (2017).

Victory for Spanish Worker

Mar 2, 2017

An appeal by the Spanish asbestos company Uralita has been dismissed by the High Court of Catalonia which upheld a 2015 award to an asbestos victim of €342,142 for injuries sustained as a result of negligent workplace asbestos exposures. Uralita’s lawyers alleged that at the time of the exposures – between 1969 and 1992 – there had been no asbestos regulations in place regarding occupational exposures. The Judge rejected this argument affirming that the company was legally obliged to protect workers from all dangerous activities and substances. See: Uralita pagará a un empleado con cáncer por exposición al Amianto [Uralita to pay a worker with cancer for asbestos exposure].

Capital’s Asbestos Challenge

Feb 28, 2017

Members of Nairobi’s County Assembly (MCA) are pressing for action from City Hall to remove asbestos roofing from all residential properties. Particular mention has been made of toxic roofing on houses built in the 1950s and 1960s in the Eastlands, an area southeast of Nairobi. MCA Caroline Muga has asked questions in the assembly regarding delays in disposing of toxic roofing removed from houses in Ofafa Jericho, Bahati and Kimathi, old estates in the capital. MCA Muga said that asbestos was banned in 2006 by the government but the order was never implemented. See: Cancer Risk: City MCAs push for removal of asbestos in houses.

Calls for Asbestos Action

Feb 26, 2017

In a letter to India’s Minister of Environment Anil Madhav, who in August 2016 publicly spoke of the need to protect citizens from the risk of contracting asbestos diseases, grassroots activist Jagdish Patel from the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India urged the Minister to work with government colleagues to end toxic exposures and support efforts by the United Nations Rotterdam Convention to include chrysotile (white) asbestos on a list of substances subject to regulatory controls. The next meeting of the Rotterdam Convention will take place from April 24 to May 5, 2017. See: In 2017 at COP 8, India has another opportunity to support the listing of chrysotile asbestos in PIC.

Basque Asbestos Verdict

Feb 26, 2017

For the first time, a Basque city has been condemned for toxic asbestos exposures to a municipal worker. The claimant’s verdict was handed down by a court in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital city of the Basque Autonomous Community, against the City of Llodio. The family of municipal employee Kepa Galdos, who died in 2012 from mesothelioma, was awarded €133,806 (US$141,320) for the municipality’s failure to prevent toxic workplace exposures to asbestos. Welcoming the verdict, the Association of Asbestos Victims of Euskadi condemned the Mayor’s “total contempt and lack of sensitivity to the victims of asbestos.” See: Press Release by Association of Asbestos Victims of Euskadi.

Scandal: Asbestos in Schools

Feb 25, 2017

A report published on February 23, 2017 by the UK government’s Education Funding Agency (EFA) revealed that 20% of schools attended by 1 million children were “not fully compliant” with asbestos procedures “in that they did not have fully documented plans, processes and procedures in place at the time of the data collection, or did not know if asbestos was present.” Chris Keates, general secretary of the teaching union NASUWT said that: “These results seriously call into question the DfE’s fundamental assumption that asbestos can be managed safely left in situ, as clearly this is not happening in too many cases.” See: Asbestos in schools is a ‘serious’ problem, Government report finds.

Ban Asbestos Bill

Feb 24, 2017

A press release issued yesterday (February 23) by Bob Bailey, a Member of Ontario’s Provincial Parliament (MPP) announced that the second reading of the Asbestos Use Prohibition Act was to take place in Ontario’s Legislative Assembly yesterday afternoon. The bill calls for a ban on the use, reuse, import, transport or sale of asbestos in Ontario and requires the province to set up a public registry of buildings which are owned or leased by the province that contain asbestos. An online petition in support of this bill has also been launched by MPP Bailey. See: press release announcing second reading of Bill 88.

Asbestos Lawsuit by Ministry

Feb 24, 2017

Paraná’s Public Ministry of Labor (MPT) has filed a multimillion reals public civil action against Brazil’s Eternit asbestos company for occupational asbestos exposures at its factory in the city of Colombo. The evidence submitted by the MPT includes data collected since 2008 during inspections carried out at the Eternit facility that substantiated the avoidable risks to the workers in light of the availability of safer fibers and technologies for the production of products such as roofing tiles and water tanks. See: Ministério Público pede indenização de R$ 85 milhões contra a empresa Eternit [Attorney General seeks compensation of R$ 85 million against Eternit company].

Carcinogen OK, Poison Not

Feb 23, 2017

People and politicians in the Russian town of Asbest – who defend the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos, a human carcinogen – are calling for a public consultation over whether the construction of a factory processing antimony should be permitted, citing public health concerns regarding the poisonous effects on human beings of antimony exposures. The National Antimony Company’s plans to build in Degtyarsk were abandoned after mass protests by activists and environmentalists. See: «Мы не хотим жертвовать здоровьем»: в Асбесте депутаты готовят протест против нового завода [“We do not want to sacrifice health”: Asbest MPs prepare protest against new plant].

Asbestos Road Map

Feb 23, 2017

Today, the launch of a working group to develop a National Asbestos Profile of Cambodia took place at a meeting convened in Phnom Penh. The event was sponsored by the Cambodian Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training in partnership with Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA and Australian Aid. The action plans resulting from these collaborations are intended to protect public and occupational health from the deadly asbestos hazard. The efforts of the working group – which will be conducted under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training – will be informed by medical experts, representatives of international agencies, civil servants and others. See: Picture.

Andalusia’s Toxic Pipes

Feb 22, 2017

A committee of the Parliament of the autonomous community of Andalusia has approved a ministerial proposal to undertake an audit of pipes used to deliver regional water supplies with a view to the elimination of the asbestos hazard from the network. The committee has called on stakeholders, including council and municipal authorities, to collaborate on the planning and removal of the cancer threat to citizens and has set a deadline for the prohibition of asbestos in water delivery systems. See: El Parliament andaluz aprueba una propuesta de IU para la eliminación de amianto en tuberías de agua [The Andalusian Parliament approves a UI proposal for the elimination of asbestos in water pipes].

Tightening Asbestos Controls

Feb 22, 2017

On February 21, 2017, the Government of South Korea announced tighter regulations for asbestos management to safeguard individuals attending or working at private after-school academies from hazardous exposures; the new regulations will be introduced this week. To improve monitoring efforts, the introduction of a biannual air quality test has been mandated on smaller facilities which, until now, had been exempt from these requirements. Non-compliance with the asbestos regulations can be punished with a fine of up to ten million won (US$8750). See: Gov't tightens asbestos management rules.

Award for British Doctor

Feb 20, 2017

Yesterday (February 19), at the annual general meeting of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia in Perth, Western Australia, Dr Helen Clayson was announced as the recipient of the Society’s Eric Saint Memorial Award 2017. This highly prestigious award is made in recognition of assistance provided to asbestos victims by a medical professional, technical expert, support worker or campaigner. In her introduction to the award ceremony, Rose Marie Vojakovic said that the worthy recipient was a former general practitioner and hospice medical director from the North of England; for a number of years, she had served as chair of the Barrow-in-Furness asbestos victims group and had written a UK Mesothelioma Handbook which had been adapted for use by Australian sufferers.

Asbestos Propaganda War

Feb 20, 2017

SINTICOMEX, a Brazilian union affiliated to the asbestos industry, has denounced the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos Exposed and a legal firm from São Paulo for supporting the family of a worker who died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, casting aspersions on the truth of allegations made that the deceased had been occupationally exposed to asbestos as a result of which he contracted cancer and died. The union says that since the 1990s, there have been no cases of asbestos-related disease in their region; the death of this and another worker are clear proof that they are incorrect. See: Movimento contra Amianto invade Pedro Leopoldo [Anti-asbestos movement invades Pedro Leopoldo].

Paying for Asbestos Healthcare

Feb 20, 2017

A paper published online this month (February 2017), entitled Medical costs of asbestos-related diseases in Spain between 2004 and 2011, estimated that the costs to the National Health System (NHS) between 2004 and 2011 of treating 37,557 patients suffering from asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) was €464 million, with specialist care accounting for 51% of total costs, primary healthcare 10%, and drug prescription 39%. The ARD bill for the NHS was 27.8-fold higher for male patients than for female patients with a €281m bill for treating patients with bronchopulmonary cancers. See: Medical costs of asbestos-related diseases in Spain between 2004 and 2011.

Ambler Deadline Extended

Feb 17, 2017

The date for submitting comments on proposals by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the remediation of two Superfund sites – BoRit Asbestos Superfund Site and Ambler Asbestos Piles Superfund Site in Ambler, Pennsylvania – has been extended until March 3, 2017. For decades this town was the location of the Keasbey & Mattison asbestos factory. Widespread contamination is a fact of life for local people; the multimillion dollar EPA program is designed to tackle asbestos pollution in the soil, reservoir, waterways, dumpsites and environment. See: Environmental Concerns of Communities around Ambler, Pennsylvania.

Chrysotile Risk to Mechanics

Feb 16, 2017

A paper uploaded earlier this year exposed the ubiquity and hazardous nature of workplace exposures to chrysotile asbestos at small workshops in India. The awareness about the danger of asbestos in one small-scale clutch-plate manufacturing unit was abysmal with 14 workers acknowledging they had no “detailed information about asbestos and its ill effects.” Eleven members of this cohort had contracted small airway disease and one of their colleagues had previously died of asbestosis. The authors of this paper conclude: “The usage of chrysotile should be strictly regulated as morbidity and mortality is high.” See: Asbestos-induced lung disease in small-scale clutch manufacturing workers.

Construction Workers Victory

Feb 15, 2017

On February 14, 2017, Judge Toshio Uchino of the Sapporo District Court ordered the government to pay a total of ¥176 million (~US$1.54m) in damages to former construction workers from Hokkaido with asbestos-related diseases and family members of those who have already died from these diseases, saying: “The state should have informed the workers’ employers by 1980 of the need to use dust-proof masks.” This is the fifth district court ruling which has found the government fully or partially responsible for asbestos-related damages at construction sites in Japan. See: Court orders government to pay ¥176 million to asbestos victims.

Executives Face Trial

Feb 15, 2017

Charges are being formalized by the Public Ministry over environmental contamination and asbestos-related deaths from the Bocamina power station in Coronel, Chile now belonging to Enel Generación Chile. Former executives of the predecessor company Empresa Nacional De Electricidad [Endesa] are accused of permitting polluting discharges into the bay of Coronel and negligently allowing hazardous workplace exposures to take place which led to two asbestos deaths and many cases of illness. See: Formalizarán ejecutivos Endesa por contaminación en Bocamina: trabajadores acusan muertes [Endesa executives to be charged over pollution deaths of Bocamina workers].

Keep Asbestos out of Australia!

Feb 15, 2017

Last week Unions NSW (New South Wales) released their program to end the almost continuous flouting of Australia’s asbestos ban by negligent importers and companies. The organization called on federal and state governments to implement a four-prong plan which would: reverse the onus of proof onto the importer, attract an automatic ban from future government contracts, introduce an exhaustive due diligence test and provide specialist training for border staff to ensure they have the skills and tools needed to stop asbestos imports from entering Australia. See: New case shows urgent need to stop asbestos importation.

Veteran Asbestos Litigant on Radio

Feb 14, 2017

Eric Jonckheere, whose family is on the brink of a landmark legal decision by the Brussels Court of Appeal, gave a radio interview on a telephone call-in show detailing the case and underlining the importance of the decision to be handed down on March 28. After the death of his mother, Eric and his brothers began a 17 year campaign to obtain legal recognition and judicial compensation form the Eternit company which operated the deadly asbestos factory near the family’s home. Eric has, he told the interviewer, lost his father, mother and two brothers to the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. See: Radio Rivierenland praat over asbest: “Ik verloor vier mensen aan asbest” [Riverland radio talking about asbestos: “I lost four people to asbestos”].

Government Mesothelioma Payouts

Feb 14, 2017

According to statistics released on January 31, 2017, more than £84 million in compensation has been awarded under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) to sufferers, or the families of those who died from mesothelioma, a cancer which killed 2,515 British people in 2014. Claimants have 3 years from diagnosis to apply for compensation. The DMPS is a scheme of last resort for mesothelioma victims who were negligently exposed to asbestos at work and are unable to trace their employer or their employer's insurer to seek compensation. See: New figures show more than £84 million awarded in compensation through Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme.

Asbestos: Imminent Hazard

Feb 14, 2017

Families living in government housing in the city of Chelghoum Laïd in, Mila Province, Algeria have repeatedly warned the authorities of the threat posed by the deterioration of asbestos-containing products in the thirty-year-old housing units they have occupied. The premises, built in 1987, are full of asbestos insulation, a material which is highly friable. According to local inhabitants, “10 to 12 [local] people died of cancer and asthma in 20 years.” Asbestos was banned in Algeria by Executive Decree No. 09-321 published on October 14, 2009. See: Sous la menace permanente de l’amiante [Living under the permanent asbestos threat].

Asbestos in the Capital’s Schools

Feb 13, 2017

Information obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been used to produce a map showing the location of 200 asbestos-contaminated schools in Ottawa. Considering that Canada was for decades the world’s biggest asbestos supplier, the ubiquity of toxic construction material in the floors, ceilings, walls and pipes of the capital’s schools comes as no surprise. Local school boards face a daunting task keeping children and staff safe from hazardous exposures in buildings which need constant repairs and renewal. Policies used include updated asbestos audits to prevent workmen disturbing contaminated products hidden within the school. See: Ottawa schools rife with asbestos.

Update: Ban Asbestos Campaign

Feb 13, 2017

A 45-page bumper issue of the quarterly Occupational Safety and Health Newsletter of the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Health Victims has now been uploaded which shows the amazing mobilization of ban asbestos support throughout Asia. Articles of special interest detail asbestos events and initiatives mounted by grassroots campaigners in India, Indonesia, Japan Kenya, Korea, Nepal, Taiwan and Sri Lanka. What is clear from the texts in Issue 39 is not only the progress being made by activists but the importance of cross-border and cross discipline collaborations amongst victims, workers, unionists, NGOs and others. See: Occupational Safety and Health Newsletter.

Concern over Barrow Cuts

Feb 12, 2017

The existence of a group working to assist victims of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in the town with the worst incidence of this killer disease in England and Wales is under threat from proposals by the Department for Work and Pensions to relocate an expert industrial injury team now based in Phoenix House, Barrow due to the planned closure of the building. Bob Pointer, a spokesperson for the group Cumbria Asbestos Related Disease Support, told a local journalist that civil servants at Phoenix House provide vital guidance on claimants’ rights including how people can access disability benefits. See: Fears raised over future of Barrow-based support group amid plan to close health assessment centre.

Jail for Asbestos Managers

Feb 11, 2017

Two managers of the Italian asbestos-cement company Fibronit which operated a factory in Broni were found guilty of manslaughter by a court in Pavia for asbestos deaths which occurred after 2002 of 20 factory workers and local people. A four-year sentence was handed down to Cardinal Michele, 74, former chief executive with Lorenzo Mo, 70, former factory director, receiving 3 years and 4 months. Fibronit adviser Alvaro Galvani 68 was acquitted. It has been estimated that 4,000 people worked at the plant before the company went bankrupt in 2011. See: Amianto, condannati due ex manager della Fibronit di Broni per omicidio colposo [Two former managers of Broni, Fibronit convicted of manslaughter].

Eternit’s Toxic Town

Feb 10, 2017

Twenty-seven kilometres from the capital of Colombia, is Sibaté, a town that lives under an asbestos cloud. It was here that the Eternit asbestos company built an enclave for managers of its nearby factory; the residents were exposed to environmental asbestos, many of them have died. Three members of the Bravo family have died from asbestos diseases. Throughout the town, Eternit’s asbestos waste was spread on public spaces and private areas: on the soccer pitch, the skating rink, the school, the bullring. Thirty per cent of the subsoil of Sibaté is asbestos. See: Sibaté: el drama de una comunidad que ha vivido bajo el peligro del asbestos [Sibaté: the drama of a community that has lived with the danger of asbestos].

Asbestos Removal Controversy

Feb 10, 2017

Residents in a Northern Cape South African town are engaged in a case at the Kimberley High Court brought by a mining company seeking to remediate crocidolite asbestos waste from the site of a railway line prior to redevelopment work for the expansion of an iron ore mine. It is alleged that local people prevented removal work being undertaken by operatives wearing “space suits” and using specialist equipment when no attempts had been made to protect the community from airborne asbestos generated by the work. The company is claiming R1.6 million (US$120,000) for costs incurred during the delays. See: Mining company fights Northern Cape community over asbestos.

Supreme Court Travesty

Feb 9, 2017

The Spanish Supreme Court has invalidated all asbestos judgments won by workers, forcing them to repay damages awarded by civil courts and seek redress through the labor courts. Juan Carlos Paúl, President of the Association of Victims (AVIDA), called the ruling: “disappointing and unjust, because the sentence does not address the responsibility of the company, but is based on a procedural flaw.” This verdict will have a seismic effect on the injured who, the Judge admitted, had suffered due to the negligence of their employer. Calls for a national asbestos fund to compensate victims have been made. See: El amianto no es un problema del pasado [Asbestos is not a problem of the past].

Legal Victory for UK Victim

Feb 9, 2017

A January 13, 2017 decision in the High Court has been welcomed by the claimant’s solicitor who says this decision could pave the way for others to bring posthumous claims for the value of services lost due to the death of a loved one. The claimant, former plumber Stelios Andreou, is dying from mesothelioma contracted after occupational asbestos exposure. A claim for his illness had already been compensated but last month’s verdict by Judge Walden-Smith means that his widow will, in due course, be entitled to bring another claim for lost years of services; the defendant argued for the dismissal of this issue. See: High Court rules on ‘lost years’ compensation in mesothelioma cases.

Tribute to Jim McNulty

Feb 8, 2017

Belfast-born public health doctor Jim McNulty has died aged 91 in his adopted home of Perth, Western Australia after decades of service to Australian workers. In 1956, McNulty and his new wife journeyed to the rough and tumble gold mining town of Kalgoorlie where occupational “dust disease” was an accepted fact of life. In 1959 he became involved in the notorious Wittenoom asbestos mining story. Appalled by the conditions at the mine and the use of toxic tailings for public and private spaces, he referred to Wittenoom as “a horrible place.” Subsequently, he fought to implement occupational controls and raise awareness of environmental contamination. See: Led Ban on Asbestos.

Industry Offensive in Vietnam

Feb 8, 2017

A biased pro-asbestos feature was published in the Vietnamese press on January 30, 2017 that revealed the interference of foreign vested interests in the Vietnamese asbestos debate. Using examples provided by the Russian and Brazilian industry, the “infomercial” repeated propaganda claiming that the industrial processing of asbestos could be conducted under “safe and controlled conditions.” As part of an ongoing industry offensive targeting asbestos markets in Asia, Vietnamese national politicians were invited to Brazil by a “yellow union” (one linked to the asbestos industry) on a fact-finding trip. See: Nhà máy sản xuất tấm lợp fibro xi măng [Factory production of fibro cement roofing].

Sicily Fails to Act on Hazard

Feb 8, 2017

A 2014 law passed in Sicily mandated that each of 390 municipal authorities establish an asbestos plan delineating the location of asbestos hotspots. To date, only 16% of municipalities have undertaken work to locate asbestos through information from local people. The law required the identification of buildings containing asbestos products and provided guidelines for preventing hazardous exposures and remediating environmental contamination. A public fund to support asbestos removal work was planned but as few Sicilian authorities complied with the program, these funds have been reallocated. See: Amianto, piano comunale fermo da un anno [Asbestos, a year without a municipal plan].

Asbestos in Schools

Feb 6, 2017

Amongst the problems affecting schools in Kenya is the use of asbestos-containing roofing products. However, it has been announced that the toxic asbestos-containing roofing material on 23 schools in Nakuru East will be replaced with modern iron sheets with funds to be allocated by the government by the end of February 2017. Commenting on this development, MP David Gikaria representing this constituency said: “There is no cause for alarm as all the schools that are affected will each receive Sh500,000 (~US$5000) before the end of this month to upgrade the roofing to eliminate the exposure of asbestos material to our learners.” See: Kenya: Asbestos Roofing on 23 Nakuru Schools to Be Replaced With Iron Sheets.

Asbestosis at the Shipyards

Feb 6, 2017

A study released this week by the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) confirmed the toxic effect of occupational asbestos exposures upon ship-breaking workers in Bangladesh. The results of tests carried out by OSHE medical personnel at diagnosis camps in Chittagong confirmed that 33 workers out of the 101 examined had contracted asbestosis from breathing asbestos during the dismantling of ships. Eight of those diagnosed were 60% disabled. The OSHE study is ongoing with a further 400 workers due to be examined by July 2017. See: Asbestos: The slow poison killing ship-breaking workers.

Spain’s Asbestos Legacy

Feb 6, 2017

Spain imported 2.6 million tons of asbestos between 1970 and 2000, much of which remains hidden within the national infrastructure. In the Getafe community of Madrid during this period up to 15,000 people were non-occupationally exposed to asbestos; epidemiologists predict that by 2030, 5,000 of them could die from asbestos-related diseases. While the heaviest exposures tended to take place at work, the CCOO, Spain’s largest trade union, is also concerned about the public health hazard and has called on central, regional and local administrations to implement specific protocols to minimize harmful exposures. See: Peligroso foco de amianto en Getafe [Dangerous asbestos legacy in Getafe].

Court Victory in Malta

Feb 3, 2017

Twenty-eight years after pipe worker Andrew Psaila died from asbestos cancer, four of his children have been awarded €30,000 for moral damages. The Chief Medical Officer, the Occupational Health and Safety Authority and the Attorney General were ordered to pay compensation for the claimants’ loss of their father whose right to life had been violated by the authorities’ failure to act on the occupational asbestos hazard. Mr Psaila worked at the Drydocks from 1959 up to his death in 1988. During his employment, asbestos was a “staple material” abundantly used with no “effective controls” to minimize exposures. See: Heirs awarded €30,000 in compensation for asbestos related death.

Tribute to Kevin Lynch

Feb 3, 2017

The death has been reported of Kevin Lynch, a former dock worker and founding member of the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims’ Support Group (GMAVSG). In 1994, Kevin took part in a public meeting about asbestos held at the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre. As a result of that meeting, the GMAVSG was set up; for many years, Kevin staffed a helpline, often single-handedly, which provided advice on benefits and compensation; he also gave evidence as an expert witness on the hazardous conditions and working practices on the Manchester Docks where asbestos cargo was unloaded. See: Remembering Kevin Lynch - Dock Worker and Founding Member of GMAVSG.

Asbestos Ban at Risk?

Feb 3, 3017

When President Barack Obama signed an update to the federal Toxic Substances Control Act into law in 2016, he gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to ban asbestos use and importation. The agency designated asbestos as a priority substance and began the process to end asbestos use; so far, so good. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has nominated Scott Pruitt as the new head of the EPA. In a January 18, 2017 response to questions from senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Pruitt refused to affirm that he would push through a comprehensive asbestos ban. See: EPA Nominee Pruitt Refused to Promise Asbestos Ban.

British Asbestos Newsletter

Feb 2, 2017

The Autumn-Winter 2016-17 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The lead article considers the December 2016 announcement that Canada would ban asbestos by 2018 from a British perspective, while a four-page feature entitled “Victims 4, UK PLC 0” details how despite an increasingly hostile political and economic climate, substantial progress has been made over recent months by asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners in improving conditions for the injured, securing £10 million in research funds and securing an official investigation into potential asbestos imports from China. See: Issue 102, British Asbestos Newsletter.

Canada Needs Asbestos!

Feb 2, 2017

The President of the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) Jean-Marc Leblond has called on the Ottawa Government to reverse its decision to ban asbestos. In a desperate 9-page letter sent on January 23, 2017, Leblond points out that: successive national and provincial governments have invested C$55 million in promoting the “safe use of white asbestos,” the ICA is a “reputable, well known organization” and Canadian anti-asbestos lobbyists – working with foreign pressure groups – have engaged in a crusade to ban asbestos using national outlets such as The Globe and Mail to spread their message. See: President of International Chrysotile Association asks Canadian government not to ban asbestos.

Japan Asbestos Mobilization

Feb 1, 2017

An asbestos conference at the Tokyo Institute of Technology on January 28 and 29, 2017 provided the opportunity for asbestos experts from the UK and Japan to provide updated information on technical and regulatory developments pertaining to the analysis, removal, remediation and disposing of asbestos-containing materials. A presentation given by ban asbestos campaigner Laurie Kazan-Allen see: The Global Campaign to Ban Asbestos 2017!) considered the progress being made around the world by those fighting to outlaw asbestos use and provide support for the injured. See: Image from conference discussion session..

Another Asbestos Fatality

Feb 1, 2017

The asbestos legacy of one Australian community continues to haunt townspeople, with the mesothelioma death of Ffloyd Laurie, who was exposed to asbestos as a child playing on mounds of asbestos tailings in the town of Baryulgil, New South Wales. The Australian company James Hardie – nicknamed the “Killer Company” – operated the mine until 1976. Asbestos tailings were used as landfill by local people at homes, farms and in the school playground. Fifty-five year old Mr. Laurie is the first person known to have died from childhood exposure to asbestos contamination from the mine. See: Mesothelioma kills man who played on asbestos tailings left in school yard when he was a child.

Poland’s Toxic Legacy

Jan 24, 2017

With the banning of asbestos in Poland and the lack of registries documenting the presence of toxic roofing, an attempt has been made to estimate the amount of asbestos-cement roofing in the country using aerial imagery and selected statistical features. The authors of a new paper estimate that the total amount of asbestos roofing in Poland is 738,068,000 m2 (8.2m t). This figure will inform government policy on removal objectives as well as “the landfill development programme, financial resources distribution, and application of monitoring policies.” See: Estimation of the amount of asbestos-cement roofing in Poland.

Justice Delayed!

Jan 23, 2017

Twelve years after the demolition of the 18 storey Tripode building in Nantes, hundreds of civil servants who had been employed there still await official recognition that they had received asbestos exposures during their government service. Such recognition would allow them various government benefits including the right to early retirement. Before the building was demolished in 1993, 350 tonnes of asbestos were removed. On November 30, 2016, the Ministry of Civil Service committed to addressing this situation in “early 2017.” See: Amiante: les anciens du Tripode de Nantes ne veulent pas être “les oubliés” [Asbestos: the elders of the Tripode building in Nantes do not want to be “forgotten”].

Asbestos at Car Factory

Jan 23, 2017

Last week a Milan court heard accusations against executives from the Alfa Romeo factory in Arese (Milan) who face charges over asbestos deaths of former employees. Amongst those accused are: Corrado Innocenti, managing director of Alfa Romeo from 1978 to 1985 and Vincent Moro, CEO of Alfa Romeo from 1974 to 1978. The prosecutor told the court that asbestos was “present in the environment and in the machining process” and there had been an “utter lack of caution in the production line even though there was knowledge that asbestos was a dangerous substance…” The case continues. See: Amianto: Alfa, pm “3 anni a ex vertici” [Asbestos: Alfa Romeo, 3 years is the verdict].

Settlement of Montana Claims

Jan 23, 2017

A $25 million agreement was reached on January 20, 2017 between the State of Montana and 100+ claimants from Libby, Montana over asbestos exposures which occurred in Lincoln County during the 20th century due to the operations of the town’s vermiculite mine. In 2012, the State agreed to pay 1,000 other plaintiffs $43 million due to its failure to warn the mine’s employees, local people and communities of the risk of exposures to high levels of asbestos contamination created by the mining. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) began clean-up work in Libby in 1999; EPA personnel are still there. See: Montana asbestos victims to get $25 million from state.

Leadership in Asbestos Research

Jan 19, 2017

Japanese public health expert Professor Ken Takahashi will take the reins as the director of the Sydney-based Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) in February 2017. He will be taking over from Professor Nico van Zandwijk who has led ADRI since 2007. Published papers by Professor Takahashi have shown the correlation between national asbestos consumption and the incidence of mesothelioma deaths. Commenting on his new appointment, Professor Takahashi said: “Asbestos-related diseases are preventable. I want to protect workers around the world.” See: In the News / Ken Takahashi / Expert continues battle against asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos Scandal and the Third Crossing

Jan 19, 2017

The construction of the high speed railway known simply as the Third Crossing, which is due for completion in 2021 and will link the area around Genoa with the main railway lines in northern Italy and the rest of Europe, has been beset by delays and multiple scandals. The recent publication of wiretaps recording conversations with key supervisory personnel on this project reveals a complete disdain for workers’ health and a dismal failure to acknowledge the asbestos hazard. One of the contract managers has been arrested over his negligence in preventing occupational asbestos exposures. See: Terzo Valico, l’intercettazione: “L’amianto? Tanto la malattia arriva fra 30 anni.” [Third passage, the interception: “Asbestos? Both the disease and train arrive in 30 years”].

Towards an Asbestos Free Canada!

Jan 18, 2017

A letter to Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister of Health (January 17), sent by the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the Canadian Association of University Teachers and supported by scores of organizations and individuals, has highlighted the need for a multi-faceted approach to achieve the goal of freeing Canada from the asbestos hazard in the wake of last month’s announcement that the asbestos would be banned by 2018. Welcoming the government’s policy U-turn, the letter calls for a coordinated and considered approach which provides political, economic and social solutions to complex challenges. See: Letter to Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister of Health.

A Trump World?

Jan 17, 2017

A few of so many serious concerns about life under President Trump are expressed in a new article on the website of Right on Canada. Author Kathleen Ruff cites text from an email by Dr. Sergey V. Kashanski, a Russian scientist, with known links to the asbestos industry. In the message dated January 14, Kashanski writes: “Maybe Trump restores order in asbestos. Let’s wait…” In previous statements Trump dismissed the scientific evidence against asbestos claiming that it was “100 percent safe, once applied” and that “the movement against asbestos was led by the mob.” Thousands of people die every year from asbestos diseases in the US. See: Russian scientist hopes that US President-elect Trump will “restore order in asbestos.”

Supporting Supreme Court Appeal

Jan 16, 2017

AFeVA, the Italian group representing many asbestos victims from Casale Monferrato and surrounding areas, has welcomed the decision announced this month by the Turin prosecutor to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision which downgraded murder charges against asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny to manslaughter. Acknowledging that no results will be available in the short-term, due to the protracted proceedings ahead, AFeVA has pledged to “use this time period to study, together with its legal advisors, new forms of protection for victims and family members” so that justice can be obtained in a “reasonable time.” See: Comunicato AFeVA [AFeVA Press Release].

Asbestos at President’s House

Jan 16, 2017

The Office of the President (OTP) was advised on January 12, 2017 of the presence of asbestos in the President’s House in Trinidad and Tobago. Thirty employees who work there were will receive medical evaluations this week. In a January 14 press release, the OTP stated: “What is of grave and critical concern is that it appears that the authorities responsible for renovation of President’s House have been aware of this asbestos contamination for some time but failed to inform and alert the Office of the President of this hazard.” Due to renovations the President does not reside at this building. See: Amid allowance probe, asbestos discovered in President’s House.

Another State Asbestos Ban!

Jan 14, 2017

A law banning the use of asbestos-containing materials was published in the Gazette of the Brazilian State of Santa Catarina (SC) on January 13; this act means that the ban adopted by the state legislature has now become official and that no use of asbestos is allowed from now on. SC is the 8th state in Brazil to adopt a unilateral asbestos ban; the others are: Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Pernambuco, São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais and Amazonas. The federal government’s asbestos policy supports the continued use of asbestos in Brazil, an asbestos producing country. See: SC proíbe uso de materiais que contenham Amianto [SC prohibits use of materials containing asbestos].

Appeal of Schmidheiny Verdict

Jan 13, 2017

On January 12, 2017, public prosecutor Gianfranco Colace and Assistant Attorney General Charles Pellicano appealed to the Supreme Court to reverse the November 29 sentence handed down by Judge Federica Bompieri which allocated the Eternit bis proceedings to four different courts and reduced the charges faced by Stephan Schmidheiny from voluntary murder to manslaughter for more than 200 asbestos deaths. The appellants allege that although Schmidheiny was aware of the asbestos hazard, he did not warn Eternit’s workers. See: Il caso Eternit bis finisce in Cassazione, ricorso contro il manager Schmidheiny [Eternit bis back in the Supreme Court with appeal against Schmidheiny].

Calls to Ban Asbestos!

Jan 13, 2017

A commentary published in Colombia in the aftermath of the death of ban asbestos campaigner Ana Cecilia Niño has highlighted the failure of the Congress to ban asbestos on three occasions. Ana Cecilia Niño was exposed to asbestos when she was a child; her family lived near a factory manufacturing asbestos-cement tiles. During her campaign, she collected more than 50,000 signatures for her referendum calling for an asbestos ban; campaigners also submitted a ban asbestos petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. See: Salud vs. negocio: el asbesto sigue cobrando vidas, pero su uso no se prohíbe [Health vs. business: asbestos still takes lives, but its use is not prohibited].

Asbestos Protest at Brazilian Embassy

Jan 12, 2017

On January 11, 2017, the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) held its fourth ban asbestos protest outside the Seoul embassy of an asbestos-producing country. In previous weeks, demonstrations were held at the embassies of Russia (December 21), China (December 28) and Kazakhstan (January 4). This week it was at the Brazilian embassy. Asbestos victims, environmentalists, medical experts, and occupational health activists displayed colourful banners calling for Brazil to stop mining deadly asbestos, held an outdoor press conference and delivered a letter calling for an end to the mining, consumption and export of asbestos. See: Photo of January 11, 2017 protest.

Asbestos Poetry

Jan 12, 2017

This week a newspaper in New Zealand has published an article about the work of asbestos widow Deidre VanGerven who has just published a 280 page book of poems – Asbestos through the Years – about the devastating impact of asbestos-related illness on sufferers and their families. Deidre's husband Thom died in 1997 aged 60 from asbestos cancer as did her father and two siblings. The article by Piers Fuller in the Wairarapa News praises Deidre’s poems as “oddly compelling” and reports the welcome response the book has received from family members of those who have died from asbestos diseases. See: What rhymes with mesothelioma?

Death of Asbestos Activist

Jan 9, 2017

The death has been reported of Ana Cecilia Niño, a mesothelioma sufferer, who led efforts to ban asbestos in Colombia. It is believed that she contracted this cancer after exposure to asbestos liberated from outdoor waste storage facilities at an Eternit asbestos factory in the city of Sibaté. In 2016, Ana Cecilia and her husband sued the Colombian State at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights over its failure to secure fundamental human rights by allowing the use of deadly asbestos. Her husband Daniel José Pineda González relayed news of her death on Sunday January 8 via social media outlets. See: Murió la mujer que buscó una Colombia libre de asbestos [Death of Colombian ban asbestos campaigner].

Asbestos Reinsurance Deal

Jan 8, 2017

A subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway (BH), a company owned by Warren Buffet, will receive $650m to assume $1.5bn of asbestos risk from Hartford Financial Services, a US insurer. In 2006, BH agreed a deal with Equitas, a vehicle set up by Lloyd’s of London, to provide up to £3.7bn ($7bn) in reinsurance cover for asbestos claims. It has done similar deals with US insurers AIG, Liberty Mutual and CNA Financial. Last year an insurance credit rating agency warned that insurers faced $15bn of losses from future asbestos claims. See: Buffett to Get $650 Million From Hartford in Asbestos Deal.

Asbestos Fraud Case

Jan 7, 2017

Two men appeared in a Harare court on January 5, 2017 to face charges related to an alleged asbestos swindle involving Turnall Holdings (Turnall), Zimbabwe’s leading asbestos manufacturer. The court was told that the accused – former Turnall director Kenias Horonga and Sydney Chimberengwa – had convinced Turnall’s Chairperson R. Likukuma of the existence of $116,000 in offshore funds that could be used to buy 90 tonnes of Russian asbestos fiber. To cover up the money transfer, fake applications to purchase foreign currency were submitted by the accused. Last year, three Turnall directors were also prosecuted over allegations of stealing $2 million from the company. See: Ex-Turnall boss Horonga in court over fraud.

Asbestos in Cuba: A Fact of Life

Jan 6, 2017

The use of asbestos roofing is commonplace in Cuba, according to a commentary published this week which highlighted the extensive and long-standing knowledge about the dangers of asbestos exposures to human beings and referenced a 2016 Cuban article in The Havana Times. The author details the popularity of asbestos-cement tiles and water tanks, focusing on the situation in his home town of Guantánamo, and asks why the authorities in Cuba have never taken action on the asbestos hazard. Between 2012 and 2014, Cuba used, on average, ~6000 tonnes per year. See: ¿El régimen no lo sabe? [The regime does not know?].

Demonstration at Kazakhstan Embassy

Jan 5, 2017

Members of the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO), having held protests outside the embassies of Russia and China – the biggest global asbestos producers – in December 2016, yesterday mounted a demonstration outside the Kazakhstan embassy in Seoul. The BANKO press conference and protest were filmed by TV crews from Korea and Kazakhstan. The national TV station of Kazakhstan - KHABAR24 – interviewed two Korean asbestos victims. In 2009, Korea banned the use of asbestos. Experts predict that thousands of people will die from asbestos diseases over the next two decades. See: Photos (2) of January 4, 2017 demonstration.

Asbestos Legacy in Taiwan

Jan 5, 2017

A 40-minute documentary subtitled in English details the deadly impact of asbestos on people in Taiwan, and contrasts the lack of social activism on this issue with the dynamic role played by victims in the fight for recognition, compensation and prevention in Japan. Although the sale of asbestos tiles was banned in 2013, the use of some toxic products remains legal and environmental contamination is a part of life in Taiwan. The evidence presented by medical, technical and academic experts compliments the personal stories of individuals whose lives have been shattered by asbestos disease. This is an important film and should be watched. See: Asbestos: the InvisibleThreat.

Rise in Asbestos Cancer Mortality

Jan 5, 2017

Experts predict that asbestos cancer deaths will continue to rise in Ireland from 20 cases in 2005 to 68 in 2020, a leap of 340%. While these deaths relate to exposures which took place decades ago, hazardous exposures continue and are predicted to increase as Ireland’s economy recovers and as refurbishment projects get underway on sites where asbestos was used during construction. Mandatory notifications to the Health and Safety Authority of the presence of asbestos prior to the commencement of demolition or renovation works increased from 164 in 2010 to 290 up to mid-December 2016. See: Asbestos deaths set to hit record levels.

70 More Days!

Jan 4, 2017

The family of Françoise Jonckheere, who died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in 2000, will have to wait until March 14 for the judgment of the Brussels Appeal Court to be handed down in this ground-breaking case, the first of its kind in Belgium, which seeks to hold the Eternit multinational liable for her death. While the company’s defence team seeks to have the case dismissed as time-barred, lawyers for the Jonckheeres argue that the company allowed toxic exposures to take place despite knowing of the health consequences. See: Procès de l'amiante: la cour d'appel rendra son arrêt le 14 mars [Asbestos trial: the Court of Appeal will deliver its judgment on 14 March].

Omens for US Asbestos Revival?

Jan 4, 2017

An article on a Russian website is predicting that measures under a Trump Presidency will include the downgrading of regulations preventing asbestos use. Referencing statements made both before and during the election, the journalist concludes that the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency will be greatly watered down and asbestos materials will enjoy a new popularity: “The most obvious way to reduce costs in the construction industry is to end the restrictions on the use of chrysotile asbestos.” Trump is quoted as blaming the 2001 collapse of the twin towers on their lack of asbestos fireproofing. See: Асбест возвращает доброе имя [The good name of asbestos returns].

Defeating the Asbestos Industry

Jan 4, 2017

In the face of powerful political, economic and social forces which had for many decades supported the Canadian asbestos industry, a campaign by ban asbestos activists at home and abroad succeeded in ending “Canada’s destructive role as global propagandist for the asbestos industry” and securing a Canadian ban on asbestos. A new paper by Canadian human rights campaigner Kathleen Ruff details the background to these developments and highlights the importance of key events including the 2010 Asia-Quebec Solidarity Delegation to Quebec. See: How Canada’s Asbestos Industry Was Defeated in Quebec.

Asbestos Prosecutions and Persecutions

Jan 4, 2107

A recently published paper provides a background to the evolution of knowledge regarding the harmful effects of asbestos exposure and considers criminal prosecutions undertaken against those responsible for hazardously exposing workers including the legal proceedings in Italy against the Swiss billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny who was initially sentenced to 16 years for his crimes before the Supreme Court vacated the verdict on a technicality. The author concludes that: “the use of the criminal code to hold people personally responsible for business decisions that gravely endanger public health on such a scale, for profits made by avoiding the costs of prevention and compensation” is essential. See: Criminality and Asbestos in Industry.

Appeal Begins in Landmark Case

Jan 3, 2016

Proceedings begin at 9 a.m. on January 3, 2017 at the Brussels Court of Appeal, Civil Division in the ground-breaking case over the asbestos cancer death in 2000 of Françoise Jonckheere (see: Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial, Chapter 16). In 2011 – in the first asbestos case ever to be heard in a Belgian court – the Belgian multinational Eternit was found liable for Mrs Jonckheere’s death in a verdict which dismissed all the company’s arguments and found it had deliberately downplayed or hid the asbestos danger for years. Eternit was ordered to pay €250,000 in compensation, but the company subsequently lodged an appeal. See: L’amiante se réinvite au tribunal [Asbestos re-invites itself to court].

The Final Insult

Jan 3, 2017

You couldn’t make it up. After 14 years of legal battles, an Italian court has ordered the wife and children of an asbestos victim to return the bulk of the money previously awarded for his death. The verdict supported arguments submitted by The National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work and Occupational Diseases (INAIL) that Mario Barbieri, who had worked from 1966 to 1992 as a crane operator and warehouseman in Carrara at a site where 22 others had died of asbestos cancer, had not been exposed to asbestos at work. The Court had been told that the brakes of the crane were lined with asbestos. See: Morì per amianto, ma l’Inail rivuole i soldi [He died from asbestos, but INAIL wants the money back].

Asbestos Conundrum

Jan 3, 2017

Despite a 2015 statement by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena declaring his intention to ban imports of asbestos roofing by 2018, this material remains the product of choice for poor people. Whilst the government acknowledges asbestos is a carcinogen, asbestos industry propagandists continue to proclaim that “there is no medical evidence to support the claim that white asbestos causes cancer.” An article published by World Is One News (WION) – an international news platform – on January 2 says that “Sri Lanka needs to make a choice, a choice between life and death.” See: Breath of death: Asbestos may be cheap roofing material but it causes cancer.

Ban Asbestos Protests

Jan 2, 2017

On Wednesday, December 21, 2016, the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) embarked on the first of a series of demonstrations outside the embassies of asbestos-producing countries with a well-attended event in front of the Russian Embassy in central Seoul. Signs with slogans such as “Stop RUSSIA! Asbestos Mining!,” “STOP, DEATH Export,” “Asbestos Free Asia” and “Asbestos Free World” were held aloft during the event which was covered by TV crews. A similar protest was mounted in front of the Chinese Embassy on December 28 with two more such actions planned for January. See: Photo from December 21, 2016 demonstration at the Russian Embassy in Seoul.

Plaintiffs’ Verdict by Top Court

Jan 2, 2017

Last month (December 1, 2016), the California Supreme Court issued a 39-page unanimous verdict (see: Johnny Blaine Kesner v. Superior Court of California) upholding the right of Johnny Kesner who had contracted cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers on the work clothes of a family member to sue his uncle’s employer for failing to implement provisions of the California Civil Code which would have prevented the toxic exposure. This ruling also upheld the right of a wife to take action against the owners of the premises where her former husband had worked. See: Kazan Law’s Asbestos Litigation Landmark Decision.

Asbestos Lobby on the Run!

Dec 21, 2016

The International Chrysotile Association (ICA) – the global cheerleader for the asbestos industry – has announced it will leave Canada now that the government has announced a national ban on asbestos, according to its President Jean-Marc Leblond. The ICA, a non-profit organisation, is entirely funded by foreign interests with the bulk of the $1 million annual budget coming, it is believed, from Russia and Kazakhstan, the largest producers of chrysotile asbestos. There is speculation about the new location of the ICA; to save removal and associated costs, why not just shut it down all together? See: International asbestos lobby organisation will leave Quebec.

Asbestos Compensation in Japan

Dec 21, 2016

A press release issued on December 20, 2016 by Japan’s Ministry of Labor disclosed that over a thousand people exposed to asbestos at 918 workplaces throughout Japan were compensated for various asbestos related conditions in 2015 under workers compensation schemes, with cases of mesothelioma (551) and lung cancer (381) accounting for 88% of the claims. As of March 2016 more than 15,000 individuals with asbestos-related diseases had been compensated under workers compensation schemes with a further 9,000 compensated by relief schemes administered by the Ministry of the Environment’ Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency.

Asbestos Fund to be Set Up

Dec 20, 2016

On December 20, 2016 Swiss government ministers announced the creation of a CHF100 million ($97 million) fund for asbestos victims currently unable to gain compensation from accident insurance schemes. Those who would be eligible to make claims against the fund include self-employed workers or people exposed to asbestos non-occupationally, such as housewives who washed contaminated clothing or people who lived near asbestos processing facilities. Payouts will only be made to people not taking court action. The scheme will be funded by voluntary contributions from the construction industry and insurers and will run until 2025. See: Asbestos fund set up to support victims.

National Asbestos Scandal

Dec 20, 2016

A devastating series of stark black and white images by photographer Cinzia Canneri depicting Italy’s ongoing asbestos epidemic illustrates a new article on the website of the New York Times. The work for this photographic essay took two years, during which Ms. Canneri closely observed the daily reality of the victims and their families. Even as these tragedies continue the courts fail to provide justice. On December 19, 2016, to the shouts of “shame,” a Milan court overturned manslaughter convictions against 9 former Pirelli managers who had been found guilty for asbestos deaths of former Pirelli workers. [see: Milan court acquits 9 ex-Pirelli managers in asbestos case]. See: Deadly Remnants of Asbestos in Italy.

Trial Date for Iconic Case

Dec 20, 2016

On January 3, 2017, proceedings will commence at the Brussels Court of Appeal, Civil Division, in an appeals hearing brought by the Belgian asbestos multinational Eternit against a 2011 verdict which found the company culpable for the asbestos deaths of several members of the Jonckheere family and ordered that it pay compensation of €250,000 to the family. The Court ruled that Eternit had minimized or hidden facts about the asbestos hazard despite knowing the potential health effects of asbestos exposures. This set a precedent in Belgium as it was the first court verdict for an asbestos death. See: Le début du procès de l'amiante fixé le 3 janvier prochain [The start of the asbestos trial set for January 3].

Another State Bans Asbestos!

Dec 15, 2016

By a unanimous vote on December 14, 2016, the legislative assembly of Santa Catarina approved bill 179/2008 prohibiting the asbestos chain of production. This step has been the result of 8 years of negotiation and lobbying by asbestos victims, public health advocates and political activists. Santa Catarina is now the 8th Brazilian state to ban asbestos; while the federal government allows the “controlled use of asbestos,” many municipalities, and towns have also banned its use. See: Alesc aprova projeto de lei que proíbe comercialização de amianto em Santa Catarina [Alesc approves bill prohibiting commercialization of asbestos in Santa Catarina].

Ban by End of Year?

Dec 9, 2016

A spokesperson for federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan has confirmed the Canadian government’s commitment towards outlawing future use of asbestos, saying that an announcement regarding the ban will be made by December 20, 2016. The reversal in government policy is rooted in “science and evidence-based decision making.” In recent months, support by civil society groups – including unions, labor federations and politicians – for an asbestos ban has grown in leaps and bounds. Representatives of the asbestos lobby and MPs from Canada’s former asbestos region have criticized “ill-thought activism” behind the prohibitions. See: Canadian government will announce ban on asbestos before December 20, 2016.

Mesothelioma Audit: Good and Bad News

Dec 8, 2016

The National Lung Cancer Audit: pleural mesothelioma report 2016 (for the audit period 2014) was published this week by the Royal College of Physicians, the National Lung Cancer Audit and Mesothelioma UK. The audit reported on data from 2,179 mesothelioma patients diagnosed in England in 2014. The 38-page report details a small increase in one year survival rates with a disparity in rates across different regions. The authors highlighted the “importance of equitable access for all patients to hospitals providing the full range of mesothelioma diagnostic and treatment services…” See: New mesothelioma lung cancer data shows increase in one year survival despite regional variation in treatment.

Mounting Calls for Asbestos Ban

Dec 7, 2016

In light of new data released by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada confirming that asbestos remains Canada’s number 1 workplace killer, prominent Canadian organizations and individuals have ratcheted up the pressure on Prime Minister Trudeau’s government to implement a ban on asbestos use. In an open letter submitted today (December 7, 2016), 68 groups including the Canadian Teachers' Federation, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario and many unions, urged Ottawa to “take the necessary steps to achieve a comprehensive ban on asbestos.” See: Ottawa urged to ban asbestos immediately amid new data.

Markets to Ban Asbestos in Brazil?

Dec 7, 2016

After more than a decade of consideration, Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) is still unable to decide on whether a federal policy allowing the continued use of asbestos is constitutional. According to industry leaders, however, pressure from environmentalists, the community, public agencies, state and municipal laws, has encouraged companies to adopt asbestos-free technologies: “The trend is that more and more companies will leave the mineral.” See: STF analisa proibir amianto há 12 anos, mas é indústria que vai eliminá-lo? [STF began ban asbestos enquiry 12 years ago, but will industry eliminate its use?].

Thousands for Mesothelioma Research

Dec 6, 2016

On Sunday, December 4, 2016, members of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) presented a check for $120,000 to Joost Lesterhuis, a representative of the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases, at the Society’s annual Christmas picnic (see Photo). This money had been raised by the Society’s 2016 Steve Aiberti memorial walk. Steve had been a long-standing and active member of the ADSA and died this year after contracting mesothelioma from occupational exposure sustained during his service in the Australian navy. See: ADSA Update.

Landmark Ban Asbestos Event

Dec 6, 2016

On November 28, 2016 a workshop entitled The National Campaign to Promote Dangers of the Use of Asbestos Products was held in Colombo by the National Trade Union Federation and the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI). This, the first grassroots ban asbestos initiative in Sri Lanka, was attended by representatives of trade unions, civil society organizations, government agencies and the asbestos industry. Amongst the speakers were: the General Secretaries of the National Building Workers Union and the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union, Dr. Alistair Graham Smith from the ILO, Sugio Furuya, from the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, and the BWI’s Anup Srivastva.

Dark Day for Italian Justice

Dec 6, 2016

On November 29, 2016, the hopes of thousands of Italians were crushed when a Turin Court reduced charges against asbestos defendant Stephan Schmidheiny from murder to manslaughter in legal proceedings referred to as Eternit-bis. Commenting on this verdict, AFeVA, a group representing many victims and family members, expressed deep dissatisfaction saying thousands of claims will now be time barred and the handful of cases that go ahead will be relegated to courts around the country. See: Eternit Bis: è omicidio colposo e di nuovo prescrizione per Stephan Schmidheiny [Eternit Bis: Stephan Schmidheiny to face manslaughter not homicide charges].

Post-disaster Contamination

Dec 6, 2016

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry issued health warnings about the dangers of exposure to asbestos liberated as a result of fires which destroyed several buildings in Haifa and Beit Meir, an agricultural community near Jerusalem, last month (November 2016). According to a Ministry spokesman: “During the fire… boards made of asbestos began to come apart, and asbestos fibers were released into the air. Asbestos fibers change their shape only when the temperature reaches above 700 degrees Celsius. It is therefore imperative to work as quickly as possible in order to remove the asbestos from all affected sites." See: Ministry warns: Don't go near asbestos in Beit Meir.

Investigation Results Announced

Oct 31, 2016

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that an investigation sparked off by concerns of UK asbestos action groups (see: Toxic Asbestos Imports from China?) has been completed. Under the enforcement of chemical legislation including the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), samples of imports for use on a project at 1 Blackfriars, London by Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd. were analyzed. The results “indicated that there was no asbestos present in any sample…. Given that no evidence has been found … it has been decided to close the investigation and take no further action.” See: HSE October 21, 2016 communication.

Parliamentary Debate on Mesothelioma

Oct 28, 2016

A one-hour debate on mesothelioma took place in the House of Lords on October 27, 2016 led by Labour peer Lord Wills. The debate was about mesothelioma and featured contributions from Lord Wills, Lord Alton, Lord Giddens, Lord McKenzie and Baroness Couttie, Baroness Finlay and Baroness Warwick, with a response from Lord Prior, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health. The debate covered subjects including research funding for mesothelioma research, the issue of asbestos contamination of schools, NHS drug rationing, clinical trials and improved surgical interventions. See: Mesothelioma debate in House of Lords October 27, 2016.

Asbestos Trade Data 2015

Oct 28, 2016

A new report calculates that the international asbestos trade in 2015 was worth $344 m with Russian exports valued at $191m, 56% of global exports. Between 2007 and 2015, Russia’s percentage of global asbestos markets rose from 41% to 56%. In 2015, the other asbestos producing countries were Brazil, Kazakhstan, China and India; in that year, the leading asbestos markets were in India, Indonesia, China, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Between 2007 and 2015, asbestos imports to Indonesia rose by 14.1% per year. See: Russia Strengthened Its Dominance in The Global Asbestos Exports.

Eradication of Asbestos Pipes

Oct 28, 2016

Provincial authorities have asked the Malaysian Government to finance the replacement of hundreds of thousands of deteriorating asbestos-cement pipes around Kuching, capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The upgrading programme has been budgeted at over $165m and is motivated by the need to deal with water interruptions caused by underground leaks and burst pipes. The worn out asbestos-cement pipes are unable to deal with high pressure water flows and will be replaced under a phased eradication program with either metal or high density polyethylene pipes. See: Asbestos-based cement water pipes to be replaced.

Increasing Rate of Asbestos Disease

Oct 28, 2016

At a press conference in Taipei on October 24, 2016, ban asbestos campaigners from the Taiwan Occupational Safety and Health Link and the Asian Ban Asbestos Network told journalists that the incidence of asbestos mortality is rising in Taiwan amongst people exposed to asbestos at work such as shipyard workers. Interviews undertaken of asbestos disease sufferers by the Taiwan Occupational Safety and Health Link established that most of those affected had been occupationally exposed to asbestos and that few of them had any awareness of the asbestos hazard or had received any warnings from their employers. See: Press Release: Towards an asbestos-free environment.

Swedish Asbestos Expose

Oct 27, 2016

The epidemic of asbestos-related deaths in the Russian town of Asbestos has been revealed by an investigation for a Swedish daily newspaper. While asbestos industry profits remain strong, workers’ pay is low, one fifth of what it would be in Sweden, and cancer rates are high with four cases in one family interviewed by the journalist. Attempting to discredit the content of this expose, a Russian commentator reported that the “cancer incidence in Asbestos is not above average in the Sverdlovsk region” and that quotes from former municipal and regional officials were unreliable. See: Четыре раковых больных в семье — вот это шок! [Four patients with cancer in the family - that's a shock!]

Priority: Asbestos Removal from Schools!

Oct 27, 2016

A draft law has been tabled in Seville’s Congress of Deputies for the complete removal of all asbestos and asbestos-containing products from schools within ten years, to safeguard children from the harmful effects of asbestos exposures. Politicians who progressed the bill’s passage through the Committee on Health and Social Services have called for support from central government for the identification and removal of asbestos in public schools. See: Ciudadanos lleva una iniciativa al Congreso para retirar el amianto de todos los colegios [Citizens Congress takes an initiative to remove asbestos from all schools].

Mexico’s Asbestos Epidemic

Oct 27, 2016

As reports are circulating of increasing mortality from asbestos cancer in Mexico, the Government announced that asbestos products will be used in the “Housing for All” program which provides low income families with bricks and asbestos sheets to construct dwellings. Last month, it was reported that ~1,730 people had died of pleural mesothelioma in Mexico; this number was, said the scientists, a gross underestimate. They believed more than twice that number of people were dying from this asbestos cancer every year (500 deaths/year) with 1,000 more deaths from asbestos lung cancer. See: Aumenta la mesotelioma por asbesto en México [Mesothelioma due to asbestos exposures increasing in Mexico].

Launch of National Asbestos Profile

Oct 21, 2016

At a meeting in Kathmandu today (October 21, 2016), the Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED) launched a new publication – The National Asbestos Profile of Nepal – which is intended to progress work on ensuring safer working and living conditions in a country which has banned the use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products (with one exemption). Attending the session were guests and delegations from the government and private sector, including personnel from the Ministry of Population and Environment, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Ministry of Finance. See: CEPHED Press Release.

Russian Propaganda Onslaught

Oct 21, 2016

Russia’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alexander Karchava publicly challenged plans to outlaw white asbestos at a meeting earlier this month, during which he called on stakeholders including members of the Sri Lanka-Russia Business Council to exert pressure on politicians to safeguard the interests of Russia’s asbestos industry by preserving the status quo. The Ambassador said he had discussed this issue with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in meetings which “bore positive results.” Karchava offered to bring experts to Sri Lanka “to educate the people on the safe use of chrysotile asbestos.” See: Russian experts ready to educate Lankans on safe use of chrysotile asbestos: envoy.

Banned Asbestos Enters UK

Oct 20, 2016

An alert has been raised this week over the import to the UK of thermos flasks manufactured in China. Some batches of model number 0-57024 of the “thermate,” brand of 1.3 litre stainless steel vacuum jug flasks contain asbestos fibers. The importer has recalled these products which contravene EU REACH regulations. Other imports from China are also being investigated by the HSE due to questions regarding their contamination by asbestos; the suspect goods are asbestos-containing building materials for construction projects in London which have been imported by Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd. (See HSE letter). See: Thermate Thermos Flask Recalled as they contain ASBESTOS fibres (which are Carcinogenic).

Asbestos Trade Data

Oct 19, 2016

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which collects data on global asbestos consumption and production, has uploaded provisional figures detailing production in 2015 (which appear very similar to the figures from 2014): Russia 1,100,000t (tonnes), China 400,000t, Brazil 311,000t and Kazakhstan 215,000t. Provisional total global production for 2015 was 2,030,000t. The final 2015 consumption figures should be available from the USGS in early 2017. See: Asbestos Statistics and Information.

Assessing Post-earthquake Asbestos Hazard

Oct 19, 2016

In the aftermath of the earthquake which hit central Italy in August, 2016, investigations have been progressing regarding the public health hazard posed by the liberation of asbestos fibers during the disaster. “The earthquake, at worst, produced a pulverization of asbestos cement, contaminating the environment and water. Fibers may also be dispersed from the debris.” Under orders issued by chief prosecutor Michele Renzo, police in the investigative unit were designated to accumulate evidence about the current situation including the risks to emergency personnel as well as to local people. See: Sotto il terremoto, l’amianto [Under the earthquake, asbestos].

Environmental Asbestos Exposures

Oct 17, 2016

As the number of cases of mesothelioma in Korea continues to rise, research has been undertaken to identify geographical locations with high levels of contamination caused either by naturally occurring materials or the processing and/or the manufacture of asbestos-containing products. Asbestos hotspots were identified in Chungnam, Gyeonggi, Busan, Gyeongnam, Gyeonggi and Daejeon. The information on environmental asbestos exposures will, say the authors of this paper, be useful for establishing individual causal relationships as well as medical treatment plans. See: Environmental asbestos exposure sources in Korea.

Deadly Asbestos Legacy

Oct 17, 2016

In the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people, since 2005 five hundred people have been diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. The number of those affected doubled between the early 1980s and 2005. The majority of patients are males over 65 years old, most of whom die within a year. These and other statistics have been reported in a publication by the Netherlands Institute for Asbestos Victims (Instituut Asbestslachtoffers-IAS). See: Pays-Bas: environ 500 cas de mésothéliome chaque année [Netherlands: 500 cases of mesothelioma each year]. (On this same page see also the referenced link to: L’amiante n’est pas un problème du passé [Asbestos is not a problem of the past].)

Who Pays for Asbestos Contamination?

Oct 17, 2016

A report commissioned by the City Council of Toledo has estimated that the eradication of toxic asbestos waste created by the operations of Ibertubo – a former manufacturer of asbestos building products – in and around the residential area of Santa Maria de Benquerencia could cost nearly €11 million. It has been estimated that the volume of waste to be removed constitutes at least 3,000 truckloads of hazardous material. Any actions taken will need to be approved by principal stakeholders including the authorities at City Hall. See: Tratar las 90.000 toneladas de amianto de Toledo costará más de 10 millones de euros [Remediating 90,000 tons of asbestos in Toledo will cost more than 10 million euros].

Asbestos Alert in Zimbabwe

Oct 13, 2016

Zimbabwe's newly formed Labour Party (ZsLP) has committed itself to taking a proactive approach to the asbestos hazard, according to comments reported in an article uploaded on October 11, 2016. Zimbabwe, previously a major global asbestos producer, has played a crucial role in promoting industry’s “controlled use” argument to international agencies and organizations. Citing evidence which showed the Zimbabwe government knew of the risk asbestos posed to workers and the public, the ZsLP spokesman said a ZsLP government would ban asbestos and provide asbestos medical check-ups. See: Why There Is Need To Rebuild Housing For The African Zimbabwean.

Delays to Asbestos Removal Program

Oct 13, 2016

The fulfilment of a government pledge to remove all asbestos roofing in Rwanda by 2016 has run into delays due to the wide prevalence of toxic roofing and the high cost of removal work. Gisele Ihozo, coordinator of the asbestos eradication project at Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA), told reporters that it is likely the deadline will have to be extended to allow the removal of asbestos roofing on public and private buildings. The RHA is proposing the adoption of a centralized multimillion dollar remediation program to accomplish the eradication of this toxic substance. See: Govt mulls extension of deadline to rid country of asbestos roofing.

Ban Asbestos Now!

Oct 13, 2016

The Globe and Mail, Canada’s most widely read newspaper, published an editorial yesterday condemning the Prime Minister’s failure to make good on a pledge to ban asbestos, claiming that: “no sensible person can argue against making decisions based on the best available scientific evidence…” A plethora of data on the impact of asbestos use was cited in an article published on October 11, 2016 headlined: Liberals under fire for delay on asbestos ban. Calculations show high levels of asbestos cancer, huge healthcare costs and widespread contamination in Canada. See: What happened to Justin Trudeau’s promise to ban asbestos?.

Asbestos Banned in New Zealand!

Oct 1, 2016

Today, October 1, 2016, the New Zealand ban on the import of asbestos-containing materials has come into effect. One hundred and seventy asbestos deaths occur in New Zealand every year and that number is predicted to keeping rising until 2040. New Zealand and Australia are the only two countries in the Pacific region to have banned asbestos; the total number of countries worldwide which have done so now stands at 58. Concerns are high over the toxic effects of asbestos use in other Pacific countries which say they are unable to protect their populations from harmful exposures. See: Concerns over flow of asbestos into Pacific as New Zealand's import ban comes into effect.

Disposal of Jersey’s Asbestos Waste

Sep 30, 2016

Asbestos waste stockpiled in deteriorating containers at a site at La Collette, Jersey has been a problem for several years. A consultation has now been launched on proposals which may finally pave the way for a permanent resolution of this issue by making provisions for the long-term disposal of this toxic material. Submissions regarding proposals should be emailed by October 25, 2016 to Dr T du Feu, Director of Environmental Protection, Department of the Environment ( More information can be found on the Jersey Government website. For report see: La Collette may store asbestos permanently.

Asbestos Protest at School

Sep 30, 2016

On September 29, 2016, dozens of schoolchildren and their parents took part in a protest over asbestos roofing at the Vasco Nunez de Balboa primary school in Benidorm. The dilapidated and leaking asbestos-cement corrugated roof was installed 41 years ago and, say the parents, constitutes a health risk to the schoolchildren and staff. Parents say calls for urgent remediation and repair work to the school have repeatedly been ignored by the authorities including the Ministry of Education and the City Council. See: Clamor contra el amianto en el Vasco [Outcry against asbestos at Vasco school].

Clarification of Import Protocols

Sep 30, 2016

Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection issued a notice on September 16, 2016 clarifying the assurances required from importers and licensed customs brokers by the Australian Border Force (ABF) which prove that imported goods do not contain asbestos. Sampling and testing of goods by an accredited Australian laboratory is preferred as certification of samples tested outside of Australia will only be accepted if the lab is accredited by international accreditation authorities (that are National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) recognised equivalents). See: Assurances that imported goods do not contain asbestos.

Asbestos Contamination of Hospital

Sep 29, 2016

Radio reports regarding the presence of asbestos-containing roofing products at the Prince Wellington Ngu hospital in Tonga have been broadcast. John Lee Taione, the Chief Medical Superintendent, has said there is evidence that children are being affected by exposure to asbestos from the leaking roof after heavy rain. Specialist contractors will remove the roof and other asbestos products in the hospital next month (October 2016). Unless provisions can be made to safeguard patients from toxic exposures during the work, doctors may need to treat patients at their homes. See: Children in Tongan hospital inhaling asbestos.

India’s Asbestos Policy

Sep 29, 2016

An online commentary documents the growth of activism amongst local people and campaigners in India to address hazards posed by exposures to asbestos despite the existence of powerful political and commercial vested interests. The author cites dangerous conditions in shipyards where end-of-life vessels are dismantled: “The condition of the workforce is worse than the worst industrial sector - the mining industry.” There is hope that the draft National Health Policy 2015 may introduce measures to “to prevent preventable but incurable diseases that are more prevalent in certain occupational groups.” See: Asbestos: more than 50 nations have banned it. Why is India refusing?

Asbestos Mobilization in Brazil

Sep 28, 2016

Brazil’s Ministry of Labor and the Inter-Union Department of Studies and Research of Health and Work Environments are hosting a two-day meeting on asbestos in Campinas in October 2016 to explore social and judicial factors related to asbestos use. Shortly after those sessions end, the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed will hold an event to examine global strategies for: ending asbestos use, obtaining justice for the injured and ensuring decontamination of contaminated areas. See: Proibição do amianto no Brasil é foco de Congresso Internacional e Encontro de Vítimas em Campinas [Brazilian asbestos ban is the focus of international congress and victims’ meeting in Campinas].

Calls for Canada to Ban Asbestos

Sep 28, 2016

Citing data detailing the value of Canadian imports of asbestos brake materials, a feature on the website: Automotive News Canada has called for asbestos imports to be banned. The text states that: over the last twenty years, $100m has been spent importing asbestos brake pads and brakes to Canada; this material can contain up to 80% asbestos fiber; US dust measurement in garages found huge levels of asbestos contamination. For all these reasons, the author states, the import and use of all types of asbestos-containing products should be banned in Canada. See: Asbestos kills, but it's still allowed in Canadian brake parts.

Hefty Removal Bill for Landowners

Sep 28, 2016

Twenty property owners who bought land in an area in the Manly suburb of Sydney are facing huge bills for decontamination of bushland plots which are contaminated with asbestos. Fines of up to $250,000 plus $60,000 for each day the land is left contaminated could be imposed by the Environment Protection Authority. According to reports “No one is claiming responsibility for the asbestos dump” found on the property originally owned by the Metropolitan Aboriginal Local Land Council. See: Twenty landowners discover asbestos dumped on their land.

New Delhi Asbestos Workshop

Sep 25, 2016

On September 24-25, 2106 a workshop was held within the framework of the 3rd International Conference on Occupational and Environmental Health (ICOEH 2016) in New Delhi. The title of this workshop was: The Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases in India. This session was organized by grassroots groups from India and Asia in partnership with the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. Key speakers who addressed the event included: Sugio Furuya (Japan), Sanjiv Pandita (Hong Kong) and Yeyong Choi (Korea) from the Asian Ban Asbestos Network and Mohit Gupta from the Occupational and Environmental Network of India. See: Workshop Banner.

Asbestos Cancer Epidemic

Sep 25, 2016

In Mexico, hundreds of people die every year from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Despite this, no asbestos ban has been implemented and the country remains Latin America’s leading manufacturer of asbestos products. Data reported show that the country is paying a high cost for the medical care of mesothelioma patients; in 2005, treatment of 500 mesothelioma patients cost the health sector 45 million pesos. Healthcare experts have repeatedly warned that without a national policy banning the production and use of asbestos, the asbestos cancer epidemic will persevere for decades to come. See: Aumenta Mesotelioma por Asbesto en México [Asbestos Cancer Increases in Mexico].

Rise in Asbestos Mortality despite Ban

Sep 25, 2016

An update on the incidence of mesothelioma in Sweden using data from 1961-2009 and information from a job exposure matrix found “a significantly increased risk of mesothelioma in 24 occupations, as well as a clear sex difference. Among men, increased risks of mesothelioma of the pleura were observed in male-dominated occupations, with the greatest increase among plumbers … Among women, an increased risk was observed in sewing workers, canning workers, packers, cleaners, and postmen.” In all cases, mesothelioma was associated with exposure to asbestos. See: Occupation and mesothelioma in Sweden. Updated incidence for men and women up to 27 years after asbestos ban.

Public Outrage over Asbestos Dumpsite

Sep 23, 2016

On the evening of September 21, 2016, hundreds of local people, provincial representatives and campaigners took part in a vigil to manifest widespread opposition to the construction of a new landfill for asbestos-cement waste in Ferrera, a town in the Italian commune of Sannazzaro de Burgondi, 45 km south-west of Milan. The site will be up and running in June 2017. Having created a large “no” out of candles on the piazza, the silent procession took to the streets after which speeches were given outlining legal, political and judicial strategies for forcing closure of the contentious site. See: Settecento fiaccole contro la discarica di amianto [700 torches against plans for asbestos landfill site].

Pro-asbestos Commentary

Sep 23, 2016

An online commentary in the Azerbaijan media has extolled the virtues of chrysotile (white) asbestos-containing products and announced that demand for them remains strong. Recapping facts about the history of the commercial exploitation of asbestos, the commentary cites misleading information as assurances that products containing it are safe to use. The name of the author of this text is not given nor is any data about the country’s levels of asbestos consumption. In 2014 and 2015 usage was reportedly 319 and 410 tonnes, respectively. See: Так ли опасен асбест? Стройматериал возвращается на рынки [Is asbestos dangerous? Building material returns to the markets].

Criminal Charges against Hospital

Sep 21, 2016

On September 28, 2016, a criminal trial will begin against the management of the University Hospital of Besançon which is accused of endangering the lives of others by failing to prevent toxic occupational exposures to asbestos from 2010 to 2013. Four trade unions have denounced multiple failures by the management since 2010 to ensure that adequate workplace safeguards to avoid asbestos exposures are in place. This is the first time that such charges have been brought against a health facility in France. See: Procès amiante à l'hôpital Minjoz : les syndicats accusent [Asbestos trial against Minjoz hospital: unions’ accusations].

Improving Diagnosis of Mesothelioma

Sep 21, 2016

A paper published this month in the British Medical Journal examined the efficacy of multidisciplinary teams in providing care for UK mesothelioma patients. The researchers examined evidence relating to the work in 2014 and 2015 of one UK specialist mesothelioma multidisciplinary team and found that more cases were diagnosed more accurately and faster through this collaborative process. The team’s deliberations were also effective in “providing recommendations for further investigations of treatments.” See: What is the role of a specialist regional mesothelioma multidisciplinary team meeting? A service evaluation of one tertiary referral centre in the UK.

Retraction of Asbestos-Paper

Sep 21, 2016

A paper entitled “Airborne asbestos exposures associated with the installation and removal of roofing products” which alleged that asbestos-containing roofing products could be safely used is being retracted by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (see: Journal will retract article denying harm from asbestos roofing). Some of the paper’s authors and the funder Cardno ChemRisk have known ties to the asbestos industry as did the journal’s approving editor. Criticisms of the content included accusations of misinformation and miscategorizations, as well as scientific and ethical improprieties. See: Journal to retract study declaring safety of asbestos roofs: Report.

Calls for Regional Asbestos Ban

Sep 20, 2016

Calls for a Pacific-wide ban on asbestos-containing products have been made following a fire at a hospital in Gizo, capital of the the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. The premises had been remediated by the Pacific Community's environmental programme (SPREP) prior to the July fire. Unfortunately, tests undertaken by local inspectors after the conflagration established that the debris was contaminated with asbestos. The topic of a Pacific-wide ban on the import of asbestos products will be raised at a SPREP meeting in Niue, an island country in the South Pacific Ocean, later this month (September 2016). See: Solomon's hospital fire sparks call for Pacific-wide ban on asbestos.

Asbestos Crayons Scandal

Sep 20, 2016

In 2015, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported that tests on imported crayons had proved positive for asbestos and requested that suppliers stop selling them. The tests on which these actions were based had been undertaken by an asbestos victims’ group in Victoria and a private company. Since the ACCC confirmed the contamination in 2015, no tests have been conducted, a failure which outraged activist Vicki Hamilton who castigated the authorities for relying on victims and unions to do their work: “They are government agencies. They should be able to do their own investigation.” See: ACCC hasn't tested for asbestos in crayons since traces found last year.

No More Asbestos Trains!

Sep 19, 2016

The minority populist political party “New Zealand First” has condemned a decision by KiwiRail to replace its North Island electric-powered trains with 15 Chinese diesel locomotives which are unreliable, of poor quality and contain asbestos products, and has called on Transport Minister Simon Bridges to intervene. The removal of asbestos in 48 similar locomotives imported from China by KiwiRail cost $12 million and more asbestos has been found since the first decontamination efforts were completed. See: Loco decision crippling.

British Asbestos Newsletter

Sep 19, 2016

The Summer 2016 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The lead article details recent developments in the UK’s asbestos landscape including the latest data on mesothelioma mortality, recent asbestos publications, an update on the government’s plans for a national mesothelioma center and news of an investigation by the HSE into the possibility of illegal asbestos imports to the UK by Yuanda UK, part of a Chinese-owned conglomerate. The implications for asbestos claimants of long waits for information on employment records held by the HMRC is explored in another feature article. See: British Asbestos Newsletter Issue 101.

Asbestos Lawsuit against Government

Sep 19, 2016

The Japanese Government is being sued by former employees and family members of deceased workers from Nichias, a Japanese building materials manufacturer, in a multimillion yen action in the Gifu district court in central Japan. The case relates to injuries sustained as a result of asbestos exposures at the company’s Hashima factory in Gifu Prefecture. According to the complaint, toxic exposures took place from 1954 as a result of which the claimants contracted lung cancer and asbestosis. See: ニチアス元従業員の遺族、石綿被害で国賠提訴 計4290万円求め [Former Nichias employees and bereaved relatives issue asbestos lawsuit for a total of 42.9 million yen in damages].

Asbestos at British Military Base

Sep 17, 2016

On September 16, 2016, Communications and Works Minister Marios Demetriades (Cyprus) said that the removal of asbestos roofing at the abandoned British military estate of Berengaria in the western suburbs of Limassol is going to start this year; completion is expected in 2019. The work will be undertaken by the government at a cost exceeding €9m. The British government has agreed to transfer the asbestos waste to a landfill abroad. Commenting on the plans, Minister Demetriades said the work “must and should be done.” Local people hope that the remediated 260-acre site will be developed as a university campus and national park. See: Berengaria asbestos to be removed by 2019.

City leads Brazil’s Asbestos Struggle

Sep 16, 2016

An update on the website of the Social News Agency (Brazil) provides information about a series of upcoming asbestos initiatives next month and pays tribute to the ground-breaking Global Asbestos Congress which took place in the industrial town of Osasco, in São Paulo State in 2000. The events mentioned include an International Seminar on Asbestos: A Socio-Legal Approach on October 6-7 and a National Meeting of Family and Asbestos Victims on October 8. They will be held in the Brazilian city of Campinas. See: Campinas será “capital nacional” da luta contra o amianto e seus impactos [Campinas will be “national capital” of the fight against asbestos and its impacts].

Scotland: Action on Asbestos Disease

Sep 16, 2016

At a meeting this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke with staff from Clydeside Action on Asbestos (CAA) about new resources to help GPs spot signs of asbestos-related diseases more quickly. The First Minister said: “This [asbestos] is an important issue for the people of Scotland, and I entirely agree that we have to make sure that there is information and support available for not only those who are living with an asbestos related disease, but also for our GPs.” NHS medical professionals have endorsed this educational resource and have agreed to signpost it on the website: See: Doctors to be given more training to spot the signs of asbestos-related conditions faster.

2018: Deadline for Asbestos Ban

Sep 14, 2016

Last week (September 7, 2016), Mahaweli Development and Environment Ministry Secretary Udaya Senevirathne told delegates at a climate change conference in Colombo that the Sri Lanka government is committed to banning asbestos in 2018 and eradicating asbestos contamination by 2024. A special committee has been tasked to investigate the health hazards posed by asbestos roofing sheets which are very popular in Sri Lanka. According to a government spokesman: “We have already asked the Moratuwa University to work out a report and hope to discuss the issue shortly.” See: Wiping Out Asbestos By 2024?

São Paulo Action on Asbestos

Sep 14, 2016

An action plan is being coordinated by bodies in the State of São Paulo to develop activities to raise public awareness of the trade in deadly products containing asbestos and to increase surveillance on companies which might be selling these products. Although São Paulo law (2007) “prohibits the use… of products, materials or devices containing any type of asbestos or, or other minerals that accidentally have asbestos fibers in its composition,” asbestos use is legal in the neighboring states of Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso do Sul. See: Vigilância alerta sobre comércio ilegal de produtos com Amianto [Surveillance warning about illegal trade of products containing asbestos].

Strasbourg Acquittal of Defendants

Sep 14, 2016

On September 8, 2016, the Criminal Court of Strasbourg acquitted all the defendants at the asbestos trial relating to toxic exposures at the Strasbourg premises of the European Parliament during work carried out in 2013 over a two week period despite the suspected presence of asbestos. It is believed that during that time, 300+ people could have inhaled asbestos fibers. Charges were dropped against the defendants who included: a master builder, a plastering company and the site safety officer. See: Strasbourg: Tous les prévenus relaxés au terme du procès de l'amiante au Parlement européen [Strasbourg: All defendants acquitted at European Parliament asbestos trial].

Asbestos Removal Program

Sep 14, 2016

On September 8, 2016 children went back to school in the Portuguese city of Viseu. Previously the head of the municipality Almeida Henriques had promised that asbestos roofing material would be remediated at all the city’s schools. Work has been carried out so far on three schools: S. João de Lourosa, Abraveses de Varzim and Pinheiro (Evos Santos); safety measures have been implemented at two other schools – Tondelinha and Povolide – to protect children and staff prior to the removal of the toxic roofing material. See: Escolas de Viseu livres de amianto no arranque deste ano letivo [Free Viseu schools of asbestos by the start of this school year].

Asbestos: Action and Reaction

Sep 13, 2016

Australia’s shadow assistant workplace relations minister Lisa Chesters has announced that she will be tabling a private member’s motion condemning multiple failures by the government to prevent imports of illegal asbestos products from China (see: Failing to act on imported asbestos crisis). It seems that almost every day news of another toxic discovery is being reported from construction sites around the country. Against this backdrop, new data has been released which confirms that Australia has one of the world’s highest incidences of the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. See: Mesothelioma in Australia 2015.

Asbestos in Schools

Sep 13, 2016

Dr. Dodic Fikfak, head of Slovenia’s Clinical Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine in Ljubljana, has highlighted the persistent hazard posed by asbestos in schools, many of which are covered with asbestos-cement roofing. The last analysis of asbestos in schools, undertaken in 1999, showed contamination was present in floors, walls, chimneys, ventilation pipes, fire curtains, kitchens and boiler rooms. Dr. Fikfak said that the disinterest of school officials and a lack of Slovenian expertise in asbestos removal continue to endanger the health of building users. See: Pristojni za azbest mnogokrat sploh ne vedo [Those responsible for asbestos often do not know the hazards].

Asbestos Remediation and Replanting

Sep 13, 2016

The completion of work to remove polluted soil and subsoil at a site near domestic properties and a primary school in Pavlos Melas, a Greek city in central Macedonia has been announced. A park will be constructed on this site. Students had lobbied the authorities to remediate the toxic eyesore. Praising their actions, the town’s Mayor D. Demourtzidis said: “The synergy of civil and local government can become a catalyst for the discovery of local problems and solutions.” See: Καθαρίστηκε το υπέδαφος και μεταφέρθηκε στο χώρο νέο χώμα, ενώ το επόμενο χρονικό διάστημα θα γίνουν και οι σχετικές φυτεύσεις [Decontamination and removal of asbestos soil makes way for new park].

Grassroots Support for India Ban

Sep 12, 2016

A letter transmitted today (September 12, 2016) by leading grassroots campaigning groups has been sent to India’s Minister of the Environment Anil Madhav Dave who called for a ban on asbestos in India on the grounds of public health in an interview he gave last month (August, 2016) to the Times of India. The letter, written by the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat commends the Minister’s statement and offers support for and assistance in “developing a road map to free India from the asbestos scourge.” See: Letter to Minister Anil Madhav Dave.

Lost Cases Violate Human Rights

Sep 12, 2016

India’s National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad has been sanctioned by the Rajasthan Human Rights Commission for its failure to follow up on cases of suspected asbestosis. Potential cases of asbestosis diagnosed after tests taken in 2007 and 2011 were never followed up. According to a complaint submitted in 2014 by the Mine Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC), of 164 patients examined by the NIOH in 2007, 93 were suspected to have asbestosis; 22 of them had died by the time the MLPC took the matter to the Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission. See: Rajasthan rights panel raps NIOH, Ahmedabad.

INSS Recognition of Laryngeal Cancer

Sep 9, 2016

As a result of a decision published in the Official Gazette of December 19, 2015, Spain’s National Institute of Social Security (INSS) has recognized former shipyard worker Jose Manuel Mera’s laryngeal cancer as occupationally-caused by asbestos exposure. According to his lawyer Jose Manuel Garcia, the new protocol favors former workers and will expedite their claims for damages. Considering the shipyard history in northwest Spain, there were, he said, likely to be many more such claims in the future. See: El INSS abre una vía de reclamación por cáncer de laringe derivado del Amianto [INSS recognizes laryngeal cancer claim due to occupational asbestos exposure].

Killer Company’s Toxic Legacy

Sep 9, 2016

Fifty-five year old Ffloyd Laurie, a resident from the former asbestos mining town of Baryulgil in New South Wales Australia, has been diagnosed with deadly mesothelioma even though he never worked with asbestos. Like other children in his town, Ffloyd played with toxic tailings from the James Hardie (JH) chrysotile asbestos mine; mine waste was used to construct roads, schools, public areas and racetracks. Due to an agreement reached in 2005 between the NSW government and JH, it is unlikely that Mr. Laurie will be able to sue the company for damages unless it is found to be the “defendant of last resort.” See: James Hardie unlikely to pay compensation for Aboriginal kids exposed to asbestos in NSW town of Baryulgil.

Asbestos on Conference Agenda

Sep 8, 2016

The Public Services International (PSI), a global trade union federation representing 20 million workers in 154 countries many of whom work for local government, is holding its 13th Asia Pacific Regional Conference (APRECON) in Fukuoka, Japan on October 9-12, 2016. Sugio Furuya, Chair of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, will be making the first panel presentation. His talk is entitled: Regional campaign on asbestos use, recognition in our industries and community. The next speaker, Ben Thompson from Australia, will speak about: Asbestos in our community, a trade union issue. See: Announcement by Public Services International.

Expansion of Ban Asbestos Dialogue

Sep 8, 2016

A detailed analysis of the asbestos status quo in Indonesia has been published which contrasts the country’s “controlled use” policy with the global consensus that all use should be prohibited on the grounds of public health. Citing policies held by IARC, the WHO, the EPA (US) and the Collegium Ramazzini, the text documents increasing calls by civil society groups in Indonesia such as WALHI, Balifocus, Indonesia LION (Local Initiative for OSH Network Indonesia), Indonesia Ban Asbestos Network (Ina-BAN) and others for action to be taken. See: Bisnis Debu Perenggut Nyawa [Asbestos Trade: Dangerous Business say academics].

Import of Toxic Products Continues

Sep 7, 2016

Construction material imported by Yuanda Australia from China for use on the Queensland Government's new executive building in Brisbane have tested positive for asbestos. According to a company spokesperson: “This material was already at sea when the issue came to light (in July 2016), and this result was expected due to the fact that the material formed part of the same product order that had already tested positive.” Yuanda has hired a contractor to test around 40 of its construction sites around the country for asbestos. See: Asbestos found in second batch of building materials for Queensland Government tower.

Asbestos Ban Approved!

Sep 7, 2016

A proposal to ban asbestos initially proposed by President Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as the Minister of Mahaweli Development and Environment, has been approved today (September 7, 2016) by Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers. As a result, the use and import of asbestos will be controlled from January 1, 2018 and the production of asbestos-containing materials will be banned as of January 1, 2024 when the use of asbestos-free products will become mandatory. In Sri Lanka asbestos is mostly used in the manufacture of asbestos-containing roofing sheets (in 2013, Sri Lanka imported 22,953 tonnes of asbestos). See: Controls on asbestos: use, import, manufacture.

Asbestos Issues on Conference Agenda

Sep 3, 2016

On September 3, 2016, presentations on asbestos-related issues were made during the 28th Annual Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology which is taking place from September 1 to 4, 2016 in Rome. Amongst the presentations made today were: Asbestos-related diseases in Parana: The Brazil-Italy project; Malignant mesothelioma in Lazio railroad company workers; A pooled cohort analysis on cancer risk among former asbestos-exposed workers: role of asbestos clearance in explaining long-term mortality trend for pleural cancer; Asbestos – from underrecognized hazards to never-ending controversies on health effects. See: 28th Annual Conference of International Society for Environmental Epidemiology.

Mesothelioma Death of Civic Leader

Sep 3, 2016

Fifty-six year old Tashigi Yukio Maxima who had served on the Satte city council died suddenly on August 17, 2016 of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Before being elected to local government, he had been President of the Parent and Teachers Association, a member of the Board of Education, coach of youth softball and soccer teams. Due to his status as a self-employed person, it has not yet ascertained where and when he was exposed to the asbestos which caused his disease. He is survived by his widow and three sons. See: 幸手市議・巻島幸男さん [Satte’s Tashigi Yukio Maxima].

Walk for Research and Awareness

Sep 1, 2016

From September 10 to 16, 2016, supporters of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) will embark on their annual walk to raise lifesaving research funds and spread awareness of the asbestos hazard. The 2016 walk has been named after ADSA Committee Member Steve Aiberti, who died of mesothelioma earlier this year. The walkers will cover 400+ kilometres from Geraldton to Perth, the capital of Western Australia (WA), stopping along the way to meet local supporters and reach out to the media. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the closure of WA’s infamous blue asbestos mine at Wittenoom, the town where Steve grew up. See: ADSA Steve Aiberti Memorial Walk 2016.

Penalty for Illegal Asbestos Exposures

Sep 1, 2016

A regional labor court has upheld a complaint on appeal against Calegari Materials Construction Ltda., a company headquartered in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, a state which allows asbestos manufacture to continue under strict protocols. The Court found that the company did not provide mandatory safeguards for people working with asbestos and demanded the implementation of strict medical, administrative and other procedures to ensure occupational protections. See: Loja de materiais de construção da Grande Florianópolis sofre ação por vender produtos que contem Amianto [Penalty for store selling asbestos-construction materials in Florianópolis].

Murcia’s Asbestos in Schools Scandal

Aug 31, 2016

As children prepare to return for the new school term, politicians from Spain’s Podemos party castigated regional officials for failing to remove asbestos from schools in Murcia, a region in south-eastern Spain, despite a 2015 pledge by the Regional Assembly that decontamination work would be carried out before the Autumn 2016 term began. While asbestos removal from schools in Andalusia and Valencia has been carried out as a priority measure, this has not taken place in the Murcia Region. See: Podemos acusa al Gobierno regional de «mantener el amianto en los centros educativos» [Podemos accuses regional government of “leaving asbestos in schools”].

Post-Disaster Measures, Italy

Aug 29, 2016

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake which hit central Italy last week, news has been circulating of environmental asbestos contamination. One expert said: “Unfortunately, there is, as in all seismic events, a risk [from asbestos] … in homes and industrial buildings built in the second half of the twentieth century.” To protect emergency responders, dust suppression methods must be used and appropriate breathing equipment provided to avoid inhalation of asbestos fibers. See: Terremoto, dopo la morte e il dolore, l'incubo dell'amianto [Earthquake, after the death and pain, the asbestos nightmare].

Ban Asbestos: NOW!

Aug 29, 2016

In a letter sent last week to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California Senator Barbara Boxer urged that action on asbestos be taken as a priority under the tighter chemical regulations enacted this Summer. In her correspondence to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Boxer wrote: “Now that the impediments in the original TSCA [Toxic Substances Control Act] law are gone, completing the job started by EPA in 1989 would send a strong signal that the new law can be effective in addressing the most dangerous chemicals in commerce.” Asbestos consumption in the US remains around 400 tons a year. See: Dem senator pushes EPA on asbestos regulations.

Challenges for Thailand’s Asbestos Policy

Aug 29, 2016

On August 25, 2016 a session entitled: Future Challenges for Asbestos Policy in Thailand took place in Bangkok. This event was organized by The Health Consumer Protection Program from Chulalongkorn University and was attended by academics, government officials and representatives of civil society. The purpose of the meeting was to share information about the asbestos situation in Japan and Thailand with a particular focus on issues relating to the construction and demolition industries and natural disasters. Japanese Professor Kasuhiko Ishihara – co-author of the book “Asbestos Disaster” – made the keynote presentation. See: Conference Agenda and photograph of participants.

Life after Asbestos Mining

Aug 26, 2016

Five years after asbestos mining operations ceased at the infamous Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec, the town is looking to diversify its economy with government funding. In an interview, Mayor H. Grimard was optimistic, saying that: “There are several projects on the table… and others are coming.” From the comments in the article referenced below, it seems that at least some of the town’s 7,000 residents remain in denial about the hazards from environmental contamination caused by the mining with talk of tourist projects and magnesium mining of the deadly asbestos tailings. See: Five years after mine closure, Asbestos, Que., seeking new identity.

Planned Removal of Asbestos from Schools

Aug 26, 2016

On August 25, 2016 officials from the Andalusian educational authority met with parents of children attending the asbestos-containing CEIP José Calderón Campanillas primary school in Malaga to explain an asbestos management and remediation plan under which asbestos will be removed from the premises with minimal risk and disruption to children and staff. An asbestos audit of the school is currently under preparation. A total of €60 million has been allocated to remove asbestos from schools in Andalusia by 2022; in Malaga alone there are 26 schools which contain asbestos. See: La retirada del amianto en el CEIP [Asbestos removal in the CEIP].

Global Asbestos Seminar in São Paulo State

Aug 25, 2016

On October 6 and 7, 2016, Brazil’s Ministry of Labor and the Inter-Union Department of Studies and Research of Health and Work Environments will promote an international seminar entitled “Asbestos: A Socio-Legal Approach.” The event, which is being paid for by penalties levied on São Paulo companies, will highlight the global consensus that asbestos exposures to human beings can cause fatal diseases, in a country which is now the world’s 3rd biggest asbestos supplier. See: Campinas terá seminário internacional sobre amianto, produto banido em 66 países [Campinas will hold international seminar on asbestos, a substance banned in 66 countries].

More Illegal Imports from China?

Aug 24, 2016

Workers have once again been on Australia’s asbestos frontline. SafeWork SA is now investigating their discovery of asbestos in equipment imported from China over the past year. According to the Australian Workers Union (AWU), 8 contaminated heat exchanger tubes, each about the size of a bus, were found at South Australia’s Port Pirie's Nyrstar smelter redevelopment. Commenting on the situation, AMU’s Peter Lamps said: “We really need to understand how and why a contractor is able to land this contaminated product into the state… and it's always workers that seem to identify the contamination.” See; Asbestos found in Chinese-made equipment for SA's Port Pirie smelter redevelopment.

Remediation Program in Trouble

Aug 24, 2016

A new commentary estimates that it could take 200 years for Poland to make good on the government’s pledge to make the country asbestos free, despite a deadline set at 2032. The removal of 6.6% of the country’s asbestos products has taken 43% of the funds allocated for the entire project according to an audit just released. Either this project has been totally mismanaged, says one critic, or the budget allocation was woefully inadequate. Accurate data on the location of and amounts of asbestos-containing material is lacking and confusion exists over who is responsible for asbestos remediation, with disputes between property owners and government authorities. See: Azbest wiecznie żywy [Asbestos eternally alive].

Asbestos and Autoimmune Disorders

Aug 24, 2016

On August 15, 2016, a spokesperson for the Center for Asbestos Related Disease in Libby, Montana announced preliminary data from the six-year-long Libby Epidemiology Research Program on the effects of asbestos exposure on the immune system, which provided substantial evidence of a link between exposures to amphibole asbestos in Libby and an elevated risk of autoimmune diseases and disorders such as lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis. “There may be,” Dusti Thompson said “as much as a 10-fold increase in risk…” See: CARD Clinic study: asbestos exposure linked to autoimmune diseases.

Asbestos in Island’s Schools

Aug 23, 2016

The issue of asbestos in schools is being confronted by municipalities on Tahiti. Although asbestos was banned in France in 1999, its use was only outlawed in French Polynesia in 2011. As a result, there are still many buildings which contain asbestos, including many schools. Some remediation has been undertaken; however, contamination in schools and in the soil on which they are built remain an issue. The school in Papara has been closed for 3 years; specialists have now been hired to remove the asbestos. During the closure, children have been studying at other premises. See: Amiante dans les écoles: des mairies prennent le problème à bras-le-corps [Asbestos in schools: town hall confronts the problem].

Monument to Asbestos Tragedy

Aug 23, 2016

On September 10, 2016, the people of Casale Monferrato will inaugurate a green space on the former site of the notorious Eternit asbestos factory. The park, the name of which is Eternot, symbolizes the battle for justice, reclamation and research for a community which has been devastated by asbestos injuries and deaths for several decades. The ceremony will be attended by Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, and Italian Ministers Gian Luca Galletti and Andrea Orlando. Artwork donated by the local victims’ group which pays tribute to activist Romana Pavesi will also be unveiled. See: Amianto, Casale il 10/9 inaugura Eternot [Asbestos, Casale on 10/9 inaugurates Eternot Park].

Paying the Price for Asbestos Profits

Aug 22, 2016

Canada’s first analysis of the economic burden caused by asbestos exposures revealed that the financial impact of 427 mesothelioma cases and 1,904 lung cancer cases diagnosed in 2011 was C$1.9 billion. This figure was quoted in a recent study by the Institute for Work & Health which examined the costs of occupational asbestos diseases and illnesses caused by secondary exposures to family members: “80% of the costs are attributed to health-related quality-of-life losses. Health care and other direct costs account for 11%; loss of productivity and other indirect costs account for the remaining 9%.” See: New cases of mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer in one year cost $1.9B.

Asbestos Ban Soon?

Aug 21, 2016

Veteran asbestos watcher Kathleen Ruff from RightonCanada reports that Canada’s Minister of Health Jane Philpott is working with cabinet colleagues to implement a new national asbestos policy. Following a conversation this summer with the Minister, Ruff said “an upcoming announcement regarding the asbestos policy of the new Trudeau government” is expected during the next session of Parliament which commences on September 19. Throughout the 20th century, Canada supplied the majority of asbestos consumed around the world and asbestos vested interests in Quebec and elsewhere had powerful support from national agencies and stakeholder groups. See: Encouraging news on Canada and asbestos.

Palliative Care for Mesothelioma Patients

Aug 21, 2016

The need for palliative care for mesothelioma sufferers was highlighted by an analysis of data from patients admitted to a home palliative care program in Italy. Three quarters of the mesothelioma patients had painful symptoms, with 20 reporting moderate and severe pain despite treatment with medium-high doses of opioids. The most frequent symptoms reported were pain, weakness, poor appetite, poor well-being and dyspnea; the principal site of pain was the chest. The study concludes that palliative care should be integrated at an early stage into the care of all these patients. See: Symptom Burden in mesothelioma patients admitted to home palliative care.

Asbestos Hazard in Soil

Aug 21, 2016

Research by US scientists has raised concerns about hazards from asbestos disposed at capped landfill sites. According to lead researcher Associate Professor Jane Willenbring: “Asbestos gets coated with a very common substance that makes it easier to move…If you have water with organic matter next to the asbestos waste piles, such as a stream, you then have a pathway from the waste pile and possibly to human inhalation.” It is the current practice in the US and other countries for asbestos waste piles to be capped with soil to avoid hazardous human exposures; this practice may need rethinking. See: New study challenges assumption of asbestos’ ability to move in soil.

Environmental Asbestos Hazards

Aug 21, 2016

Earlier this month (August 2016), campaigners in Indonesia held a two-day meeting in Denpasar, Bali to discuss efforts by local government to improve the conditions for people living in the island’s slums. On the agenda was the issue of asbestos which is used as roofing material in Indonesia; according to data cited, Indonesia is the world’s 5th largest importer of asbestos. This meeting was organized by BaliFokus, a non-governmental organization, which has been instrumental in a campaign to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard in Indonesia, a country whose constitution guarantees citizens the right to live in a healthy environment. See: Asbestos-free Neighborhoods.

Disposal of NY Subway Cars

Aug 19, 2016

When the authorities in NY were faced with the problem of disposing of thousands of asbestos-contaminated subways cars built between 1959 and 1963 they devised an ingenious plan to dump them in the Atlantic Ocean at spots off the coast of NY, NJ, Georgia and three other states. By burying 2,400 subway carriages at sea, NY’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) saved $12 million. The last batch of 51-foot long Redbird subway cars was dumped by the MTA in 2010. No asbestos removal had been carried out on any of the carriages. See: VIDEO: The MTA Tells All About Dumping Its Subway Cars in the Atlantic Ocean.

Illegal Fly-tipping of Toxic Waste

Aug 19, 2016

An unwelcome discovery was made near the central Adriatic coastal town of Numana, in Ancona Province, by agents of the State Forestry Corps who found 20 tonnes of asbestos sheeting dumped in a drainage ditch in a rural part of the countryside. The officials were making a routine inspection when they found this toxic deposit tangled in amongst some vegetation. Ancona’s public prosecutor has opened an investigation against persons unknown; the penalty for illegally disposing of this toxic waste is up to two years in prison. See: Amianto, 20 tonnellate rifiuti a Numana [Asbestos, 20 tons of waste in Numana].

Death of Giuseppe Manfredi

Aug 17, 2016

The death was announced of Giuseppe Manfredi, the President of the Asbestos Victims Family Association (AFEVA), in Casale Monferrato, Italy. He had become President in November, 2015 upon the retirement of Romana Blasotti Pavesi. Known to all as Beppe, he died aged 66 of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma on August 16, 2016. In the short time he was President, he initiated several projects to progress AFEVA’s fight for asbestos justice, medical research and remediation of the widespread contamination caused by decades of asbestos production, use and disposal in Italy. See: Addio a Giuseppe Manfredi, presidente di Afeva [Goodbye to Giuseppe Manfredi, AFEVA President].

Victim’s Ruling in Quebec

Aug 17, 2016

A verdict for Quebec asbestos victim Maurice Lefrancois, who had worked for the American Biltrite company for 35 years as an inspector and plumber, has upheld the presumption that a worker with lung cancer and asbestosis exposed to asbestos at work has a compensable claim against his employer. Mr. Lefrancois died in December 2013, aged 78, two months after being diagnosed. The family was awarded compensation of $107,000. It is believed that this ruling will facilitate legal action by other workers. See: Jugement favorable pour les travailleurs exposés à l'amiante [Favorable judgment for workers exposed to asbestos].

Mesothelioma Radiotherapy Trial

Aug 16, 2016

A new clinical program for mesothelioma patients is due to commence in Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Medical oncologist Professor Anna Nowak and her team at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital will look at how radiotherapy can improve the quality of life and reduce painful symptoms. Patients will, Professor Nowak explained have “a special type of PET scan, which measures oxygen levels in tumours. What we also hope to get out of this is a better understanding of how oxygen levels in tumours will determine how they respond to treatment.” See: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital hosting mesothelioma trial.

Minister Commits to End Asbestos Use

Aug 15, 2016

In an interview with the Times of India, Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said: “Since the use of asbestos is affecting human health, its use should gradually be minimised and eventually end. As far as I know, its use is declining. But it must end.” The Minister was both right and wrong simultaneously. Yes, the use of asbestos should end but no, consumption in India is not declining. According to preliminary data for 2015, usage last year was estimated at 380,000 tonnes; asbestos exposures are routine occurrences for millions of workers in India. See: Will look for alternatives to carcinogenic asbestos: Environment Minister.

Officials Struggle with Import Tide

Aug 15, 2016

An investigation by La Stampa newspaper documents the struggle of Italy’s customs officials to prevent dangerous materials such as asbestos fiber from illegally entering the country. Stiff competition between European ports means that any delays will encourage shipping companies to use alternative ports with virtually no controls at all. With insufficient staff and resources, only 1.5% of the ten million containers that arrive in Italy every year are inspected. Despite this low figure, the monitoring rate at Italian ports is higher than in the rest of Europe. See: Armi, amianto e droga: la rete colabrodo dei porti italiani [Weapons, asbestos and drugs: the sieve network of Italian ports].

India’s Struggle against Asbestos

Aug 14, 2016

In an interview with Bihar resident and Indian ban asbestos activist Gopal Krisnha, details are provided of how local people confronted and bested powerful industrial interests to prevent the construction of seven asbestos plants in the State. Five years after this struggle began, the Bihar Pollution Control Board has cancelled the requisite permission for all the plants. According to Krishna: “Villagers outwitted the corporate media which has been reluctant to publish anti-asbestos stories by wall writing in the villages adjoining the plant demanding halting of the construction of the plant.” See: Activist Gopal Krishna exposes India’s double speak in environment protection.

Screening for Asbestos Cancer

Aug 13, 2016

Asbestos-related diseases of the lungs and pleura are the leading cause of occupational mortality in Germany despite the fact that asbestos consumption has been banned since 1993. Although no suitable screening methods for early detection of malignant mesothelioma are currently available, a German lung screening trial has shown that the use of low-dose computed tomography for patients who were heavy smokers can significantly reduce lung cancer mortality amongst the at-risk cohort of workers previously exposed to asbestos. See: Early recognition of lung cancer in workers occupationally exposed to asbestos.

Colorectal Cancer and Asbestos Exposure

Aug 13, 2016

An analysis of data from a voluntary screening program conducted in France between 2003 and 2005 and supplementary data on risk factors for colorectal cancer collected in 2011 were the basis for an article published in August 2016 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The researchers conclude that their “findings provide support for an association between occupational exposure to asbestos and colon cancer incidence in men.” There was also some evidence of a relationship between asbestos exposure and elevated levels of rectal cancer. See: Occupational Asbestos Exposure and Incidence of Colon and Rectal Cancers in French Men: The Asbestos-Related Diseases Cohort.

Unachievable Government Target?

Aug 11, 2016

New Zealand’s ban on asbestos, which takes effect as of October 2016, is one of the measures which WorkSafe New Zealand claims will halve the number of asbestos deaths within a decade despite the lack of any new investment in enforcement of health and safety legislation, the existence of a building boom and doubts about the ability of Customs’ officials to stop asbestos imports. At an annual average of 170 deaths, asbestos accounts for the largest number of the estimated 600-900 workplace-related deaths every year. According to WorkSafe chairperson Gregor Coster, Customs will be able to enforce the ban without any extra inspectors. See: Worksafe targets poor asbestos record.

Asbestos Removal Subsidies

Aug 11, 2016

Around US$1 million has been allocated by regional and federal authorities to remove asbestos-cement roofing in 81 towns in Warmia and Mazury, a province in northeast Poland. This year over 5,000 tonnes of toxic material will be remediated. Applications for grants can be submitted by local governments, individuals, farmers, churches, religious communities, associations, housing associations, housing communities as well as civil and commercial companies. Poland has a 2032 deadline for the eradication of asbestos from the national infrastructure. See: Azbest zniknie z dachów 81 gmin z Warmii i Mazur [Asbestos to be removed from the roofs of 81 municipalities in Warmia and Mazury].

Decontamination of School Site

Aug 11, 2016

Experts have estimated that to properly decontaminate the ground under the Villa Corridi in the Italian Province of Livorno, the removal of up to one million tonnes of soil could be required. Thirty years ago 1,000 tonnes of asbestos waste were used as landfill. A school built on this site will be closed for a month for the work to be carried out. At a technical meeting held this month, parents of some of the 900 schoolchildren who attend classes here were informed about the situation. See: Villa Corridi, mille tonnellate di amianto e terra da rimuovere. La scuola rischia un mese di stop [Villa Corridi, a thousand tons of asbestos and earth to be removed; school faces a month of closure].

EPA Consultation over Reform Priorities

Aug 9, 2016

Public meetings in Washington, D.C. on August 9 and 10, 2016 are being held to discuss the way ahead for chemical regulation in light of a major reform to the Toxic Substances Control Act. The discussion of how to determine “whether a chemical substance presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment” takes place on Tuesday (August 9). To register to attend the proceedings or watch them online go to: See also: EPA Press Release.

OSHA Fines for Asbestos Exposures

Aug 9, 2016

On two occasions in February and March 2016, seven workers at U.S. Steel Corporation’s Pittsburgh coke production facility were instructed to carry out work as a result of which they were exposed to asbestos according to a ruling of the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The ruling was issued on June 29, 2016 and ordered the company to pay a $170,000 fine. This is the second time in five years that the company has been cited by OSHA for asbestos exposures. See: OSHA finds US Steel again exposed workers to asbestos hazards at Pittsburgh coke production facility, fines company $170K.

Controversial Project to Go Ahead

Aug 9, 2016

Last week a regional authority gave permission for the Sotravest company to increase capacity for asbestos disposal at a site in Niederbronn-les-Bains, northeastern France. Permission was granted for the storage of material such as roofing, slabs or pipes which lock fibers within an asbestos-cement matrix; disposal of friable material, such as insulation products, was prohibited. The town councils of Reichshoffen and Oberbronn opposed this project as did local communities and the anti-asbestos group. See: Sotravest va pouvoir étendre son stockage d'amiante lié à Niederbronn-lès-Bains [Sotravest will be able to extend its asbestos storage operations at site in Niederbronn-les-Bains].

Lawsuit over Zimbabwe Asbestos Debt

Aug 9, 2016

Swiss-based company Ramatex SA is suing Zimbabwe building material manufacturer Turnall Holdings in the High Court over a $1 million debt for the supply of raw chrysotile (white) asbestos fiber shipments. According to Ramatex, cash payments for the shipments which started in June 2009 were agreed at $200,000/week. Payments were tardy and shipments were soon being supplied on credit. A declaration Ramatex submitted to the Court characterizes the behavior of Turnall as “unethical and uncouth.” Until a few years ago, Zimbabwe was a leading producer and supplier of chrysotile asbestos fiber. See: Swiss firm takes Turnall to court over debt.

Hazards in the Built Environment

Aug 9, 2016

A commentary by an asbestos expert contrasts the current regime in Slovakia with that in other EU countries where property owners must disclose the presence of asbestos in buildings to buyers or renters. Asbestos was widely used in the construction of buildings in Slovakia most commonly in roofing material, interior partitions, sewage pipes, insulation, cladding products and ceiling panels. Renovation work and or demolition can create dangerous releases of asbestos dust unless proper procedures are followed as per laws adopted in 2002. See: Riziko azbestu v starších budovách by sa nemalo podceňova [The asbestos risk in older buildings should not be underestimated].

Minister Blames Union for Imports

Aug 8, 2016

After an independent review was published last week confirming the inability of the Australian Border Force to forestall the inflow of illegal asbestos imports from China, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton hit back at the CFMEU union saying its actions had forced builders to “cut corners” and import cheap Chinese materials. In his response to these allegations, Dave Noonon, head of the CFMEU’s construction division, said Dutton was trying to “cover up his embarrassment” over the Border Force’s incompetence. See: Dutton blames CFMEU for companies importing asbestos products.

Asbestos at Kolkata’s High Court

Aug 8, 2016

On August 5, 2016 Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, responding to a petition from local resident Ashis Mitra demanding the removal of the asbestos roof of the high court’s buildings, commented that she had previously instructed the authorities to remediate the contamination. Whilst pursuing enquiries regarding this matter, she adjourned proceedings for a fortnight. There is asbestos-containing material on the roofs of at least 10 courtrooms, the outside portico, five bar association rooms, the bar association library, the bar association’s study room and the department of the first Assistant Registrar. See: CJ orders removal of asbestos from high court roof.

Outreach Support for Asbestos Victims

Aug 8, 2016

On August 5, 2016 a free telephone hotline was operational in Gunma Prefecture, one of Japan’s asbestos hotspots. From 10 am to 4 pm callers were able to consult with healthcare, benefits and legal advisers at the Gunma Occupational Safety and Health Center about a variety of issues related to the treatment of and support for people with asbestos-related diseases. It is believed that 1,400 people every year are diagnosed in Japan with mesothelioma, one type of deadly asbestos cancer. See: アスベス. 被害の相談会 専門スタッフ対応、電話も無料 あす高崎で /群馬 [Asbestos: free phone line tomorrow in Gunma Prefecture].

Dismal Report on Border Force

Aug 4, 2016

Auditors from Sweden who exposed loopholes in the operations of the Australian Border Force which allowed illegal imports of asbestos goods from China, including building materials, children’s crayons, motor vehicle gaskets and spare parts, highlighted the facts that since 2008 only 3 companies have been prosecuted for breaking Australia’s ban on asbestos imports and that the $180,000 maximum fine for doing so has never been imposed. The review of the Border Force was released on August 4; it was sent to the Immigration Minister in March 2016. The Government maintains (see: Press Release) that this report shows that “overall management of asbestos border control is effective.” See: ‘No time’ to stop imports of asbestos: border guards.

Australian Mining in France?

Aug 4, 2016

Authorities have just a few weeks to decide whether or not to reopen the Salau mine, in the Ariege area, southwestern France; the mine had been operational from 1983 until 1986. There is huge local opposition to the recommencement of tungsten mining due to the hazard posed by the presence of actinolite asbestos in dust produced by mining operations. Several former mine workers have died of asbestos-related diseases. The company applying for the mining license is Variscan Mines Limited, an Australian resource company. See: Près de Toulouse, un village ariégeois s'oppose au projet de réouverture de la mine de Salau [Near Toulouse, a town opposes the reopening of the Salau mine].

Asbestos Disease at an Italian Shipyard

Aug 4, 2016

Researchers have examined data on asbestos-related diseases between 1996 and 2015 amongst workers at an important shipyard in Northern Italy. Tissue samples from lungs were collected during autopsies and fiber levels were quantified using scanning electron and optical microscopy. The authors of this paper concluded that: “The lung burden analysis of asbestos bodies and asbestos fibres, the largest ever performed among ship-building workers, confirms the spread and relevance of asbestos exposure. The best estimate of past exposure intensity was provided by both biological indices.” See: Asbestos-related diseases and biological index of cumulative dose in shipyard workers (1996-2015).

Compensation for Asbestos Death

Aug 3, 2016

Uralita, a Spanish construction materials multinational, has been ordered to pay compensation of €135,612 to the family of a worker who died in 2010 aged 79 of mesothelioma after occupational asbestos exposures at the company’s asbestos-cement factory in Valladolid, north-western Spain. The deceased had worked at the factory from February 1974 to May 7, 1992. He had unloaded trucks carrying shipments of asbestos without any protective measures or equipment. See: Uralita indemniza con casi 140.000 euros a una familia tras la condena por cáncer de Amianto [Uralita indemnifies ~140,000 euros to family following asbestos cancer case].

Asbestos Cancer Epidemic Predicted

Aug 1, 2016

Medical experts have warned of an impending regional surge of cancer due to the escalation of asbestos consumption in industrializing countries in Asia. Citing examples of the wide scale and uncontrolled use of asbestos in Mongolia, Dr. Takumi Kishimoto, said he was speechless at conditions he observed at a power plant in the capital Ulaanbaatar: toxic debris was scattered on the floor with asbestos bags piled up all over the factory. None of the workers in the dusty areas were, he reported, wearing masks. Calls for measures to create a system to provide timely diagnoses and treatment are being made. See: Surging asbestos use in Asia creating slowly ticking health time bomb.

Use of Asbestos-Containing Rock

Aug 1, 2016

An article just published documents months of delays and inaction over the use of asbestos-contaminated rock on construction sites in the Irish Republic. Three thousand tonnes of the toxic material, which originated at the Ballinclare Quarry in south Co Wicklow, were sent to sites in Wicklow and Dublin. Soil tests undertaken at the quarry have proved positive for asbestos. The quarry remains closed and its owners, the Kilsaran Group, have been issued with a notice requiring it to deal with the health and environmental risk resulting from the supply of hazardous material within 40 days. See: Authorities left in dark after toxic mineral exposed at quarry.

Call for Action on Asbestos in Schools

Aug 1, 2016

While Andalusia and Valencia have already begun to remove asbestos from schools, the situation in neighboring Murcia remains as much of a hazard as always, said regional deputy Andres Pedroza at a public meeting this weekend in San Pedro del Pinatar, Murcia. Calling for regional authorities to set a 2020 deadline for the total eradication of asbestos from schools, Pendroza said that asbestos was a major risk for the future health of all school users including pupils, teachers, support staff and custodial workers. See: Podemos describe a Murcia como “una isla” en la erradicación del amianto de colegios [Murcia, “an island” in the eradication of asbestos from schools].

Traditional Huts 1: Asbestos Huts 0

Aug 1, 2016

For generations, villagers in a remote area of the Kerala Province in India lived in eco-friendly traditional structures which were capable not only of withstanding elephant attacks but were also suitable for harsh weather conditions. The replacement of these buildings with concrete and asbestos shelters provided by a non-governmental organization in the Marayur forests has been a dismal failure with complaints regarding the cold and the noisy asbestos tiled roofs. Several of the Muthuvan tribespeople rehoused in the new buildings have returned to their traditional dwellings. See: Warmth Walks out of Muthuvan Huts.

British Toxic Waste for Cyprus Mine

Jul 31, 2016

MP Charalambous Theopemptou is raising concerns over plans to dispose of huge amounts of toxic waste abandoned at former living quarters for British military personnel at the village of Berengaria which in 2010 became the property of the Cyrpus government. The abandoned buildings, which were roofed and insulated with asbestos, constitute a public health threat to local people. Although the burial of this asbestos debris in the defunct Amiantos asbestos mine was authorized in 2009 and permits the disposal of waste generated during 2009-2019, Theopemptou say the site is “unlicensed” and there are no terms and conditions in place for safe disposal. See: Concerns over asbestos removal.

Breakthrough for French Workers?

Jul 31, 2016

On July 11, 2016, the Administrative Court of Grenoble overturned a decision of the former labor minister François Rebsamen not to classify Roussillon petrochemical site as an asbestos site. Such a classification would have allowed former employees to take early retirement. The final decision on this case is expected in Autumn, 2016. According to the CAPER Asbestos Victims’ Association, since 2001, 103 former employees have died from asbestos diseases. See: Amiante: les employés “empoisonnés” de la plate-forme chimique de Roussillon pourraient être indemnisés [Asbestos: the “poisoned” employees of the chemical platform Roussillon could be compensated].

Deadly Asbestos Legacy

Jul 30, 2016

Asbestos-related deaths of 72 workers and members of the public have been linked to the operations of the Ellenit asbestos factory in New Lampsacus near Halkida, Greece. From 1961 until 1990, hundreds of workers produced roofing, panels, pipes, insulation and fireproofing material at this 100-acre industrial site. Since 1985, victims and their relatives have been fighting for recognition and compensation for injuries caused by exposures to the company’s asbestos both inside and outside of the factory. See: Ελλενίτ. Το εργοστάσιο που σκότωσε από καρκίνο 72 εργάτες και αναρίθμητους κατοίκους [Ellenit. The plant that killed with cancer 72 workers and residents].

Unacceptable Delays by HMRC

Jul 30, 2016

Andrew Tyrie, chair of the Treasury select committee, has told the chief executive of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to communicate his strategy to reduce delays in responding to enquiries for work histories from people suffering from deadly diseases such as asbestos cancers. Currently, delays of 14 months are being experienced due to outdated and faulty microfiche machines which are needed to access HMRC records. The inability to find spare parts for these machines and the difficulty in repairing them have, said the HMRC, been responsible for these delays. Claimants such as construction workers were employed by multiple employers. See: HMRC told to get on top of work history delays.

High Asbestos Usage, High Cancer Rates

Jul 30, 2016

Mortality and import data were studied to quantify the incidence of asbestos-related cancer in Iceland, a country which banned asbestos in 1983. While asbestos imports peaked in 1980, the incidence of mesothelioma increased steadily from 1965 to 2014 when it was 22.2 per million amongst men and 4.8 amongst women. The vast majority of those affected were males who contracted pleural mesothelioma. Asbestos-containing products within the national infrastructure remain a potent threat to health. Over the last decade, Iceland’s mesothelioma incidence was higher than those in neighbouring countries. See: Malignant mesothelioma incidence by nation-wide cancer registry: a population-based study.

Ban Asbestos Legislation Tabled

Jul 29, 2016

On Wednesday July 27, 2016, draft ban asbestos legislation was submitted to Colombia’s House of Representatives by Senator Nadia Blel; a previous asbestos ban bill was defeated in the Senate earlier this year. Official sources estimated that there could be 500+ people with asbestos-related diseases in Colombia at the current time. Following discussion in the House of Representatives, the new ban bill will be considered and voted on by the Seventh Plenary Commission, the Senate body which deals with health issues. See: Nuevamente radicado Proyecto [Another draft ban asbestos bill].

Asbestos Remediation Funding

Jul 29, 2016

Over €11 million has been budgeted for work during 2016-2018 on the remediation of asbestos-containing buildings by Italy’s Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti. Priority will be given to work on contaminated properties near kindergartens, schools, playgrounds, shelters, hospitals and sports facilities. Other funds have been allocated for decontamination of schools; a pilot project will be undertaken in Alessandria, Pisa and Salerno to map asbestos in school buildings. See: Edilizia scolastica. Bonifica dall'amianto: stanziati oltre 11 milioni di euro, si parte da Alessandria, Pisa e Salerno [School construction. Asbestos rehabilitation: 11 million Euros allocated for Alexandria, Pisa and Salerno].

China’s Asbestos Boom

Jul 27, 2016

Despite the scientific and medical consensus regarding the deadly effects of asbestos exposures, the asbestos industry continues to flourish in China, according to a spokesman for the China Chrysotile (white asbestos) Association: “our production … can’t keep pace with demand from the construction industry so we have to import (asbestos fiber) from Russia.” According to this association, over the past decade, record quantities of asbestos have been used in China; chrysotile is, they allege, safer than any available substitutes. According to sources in China, in 2015 the country produced 227,000 tonnes of chrysotile, and imported 105,000 tonnes. See: China ignores WHO warnings in asbestos boom.

Asbestos Pension Claims

Jul 26, 2016

In a verdict handed down by Judge Silvia Carpanini, the Ansaldo Energia company was ordered to pay compensation to Italy’s National Institute of Social Security for facilitating false claims that 12 workers had been exposed to asbestos as a result of which they received increased pension payments and privileges collectively totalling one million euros. While some company officers were acquitted of charges related to this fraud, one department head was sentenced to one year and one month in prison. There was no evidence that the employees had been aware of the falsifications submitted. See: Falsi bonus amianto, Ansaldo risarcisca INPS [False asbestos bonus, Ansaldo compensate INPS].

Remembering Steven Kotloane

Jul 26, 2016

Steven Kotloane went to Kuruman, a former South African asbestos mining town in 1973 for work. Once he arrived, he found that many local people were dying of asbestos-related diseases. Working with local people and partnering organizations, a community group was set up to understand the challenges posed and assist people to deal with the environmental hazards posed by widespread contamination. This 26-minute film showcases some of the work of the Asbestos Interest Group and reminds us of how a small group of people can have a big impact. Steven died in 2015. The work continues. See: The Golden Years 2 - Episode 9: Steven Kotloane.

Asbestos Information Vacuum

July 24, 2016

An Economic Times of India commentary contrasts the global consensus over the human health risk posed by asbestos with India’s use of asbestos in friction materials. When asked about India’s asbestos policy, Bishwanath Sinha, joint secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said: “The ministry… has no information on use of asbestos in auto components such as brakes, clutches and heat seals… There are no peer reviewed study reports on the subject … in the government of India, based on which a tangible course of action may be taken on merit.” See: World rings asbestos alarm, India ignorant about cancer-causing agent.

Environmental Dangers of Gold Mining

Jul 24, 2016

A commentary by a Greek mineralogist has highlighted the public health and environmental threats posed by Canadian plans for gold mining operations in the Skouries mine, in the Haldiki Peninsula of northern Greece. Deposits of tremolite-actinolite aggregates and high levels of tremolite are known to be in the rocks along with the gold. Explosions to access the gold will release toxic plumes of asbestos which could endanger not only the workers but also people in large areas near the mines, including the inhabitants of Haldiki, Thessaloniki and other local municipalities. See: Αμίαντος στις Σκουριές, κίνδυνος για τη δημόσια υγεία [Asbestos in Skouries, a risk to public health].

Dangers of Recycling Building Waste

Jul 24, 2016

In light of the extensive presence of asbestos in Australia’s built environment, concerns have been raised in Western Australia over a push by the State to increase the reuse of construction and demolition (C&D) waste in civil projects such as roads, car parks and drains. Commenting on this contamination, identified as “a “critical issue” in managing C&D waste in an official 2011 report, expert Peter Tighe said: “If there is a question over the demolition material from a site and we know it’s a site where there was asbestos, my view is that you wouldn’t even consider beneficial reuse.” See: Asbestos scandal: WA Government scheme to recycle construction waste raised as asbestos risk.

Top Priority: Asbestos Ban

Jul 23, 2016

Yesterday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a US environmental organization specializing in research and advocacy regarding toxic chemicals, published a list of chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should take action on following the enactment last month of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) that mandated revisions to the country’s 40-year old chemical safety regime. Under TSCA, which as a compromise bill has significant drawbacks, the EPA was given greater authority to regulate hazardous chemicals in consumer products. Top of the EWG’s hit list is a US ban on asbestos. See: EWG Lists the Top 10 Toxic Chemicals EPA Should Review Now.

Controversy over British Asbestos Waste

July 23, 2016

A very public debate has been started by a feature in Phileleftheros, the largest newspaper in Cyprus, which questions the disposal of asbestos waste produced by British bases on Cyprus. According to the July 21 article, permission had been given for the disposal of up to 50 containers of asbestos debris at the Amiantos asbestos mine at a cost of €16 per cubic metre. A spokesman for the British forces said that notwithstanding these enquiries, it had been decided to continue shipping all the asbestos waste to the UK. On May 5, 2016, however, the bases informed the Geological Survey Department that there were 40 containers of toxic waste for disposal. See: Bases deny disposing of asbestos in Cyprus.

Asbestos in Schools Fact Sheet

Jul 23, 2016

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) has produced a handy 5-page advice sheet pinpointing the asbestos hazards in UK schools and providing guidance for union health and safety representatives. The issues covered in this document include: what asbestos is, where asbestos products are likely to be in schools, legal requirements regarding the management of asbestos-containing products, the hazards posed by refurbishment and repair work, risk communication strategies for keeping parents informed and specific risks such as asbestos in gas marks, helmets and cabinet heaters. Action points are suggested. See: JUAC Health & Safety Rep Advice Sheet.

Constitutional Court Okays Asbestos Trial!

Jul 22, 2016

On July 21, 2016, a long-awaited decision by Italy’s Constitutional Court was handed down which gave the green light for criminal proceedings against Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny to continue despite his legal teams’ assertions that he was protected by the legal principal of double jeopardy from being tried twice for the same crime. In 2014 the Supreme Court had overturned on technical grounds a 2012 conviction which had sentenced him to serve 18 years in jail. Prosecutors will relaunch the legal proceedings against Schmidheiny over the asbestos deaths of 258 individuals; the charges related to some of these deaths were not included in the initial prosecution. See: Constitutional Court OKs fresh trial (2).

Mesothelioma Widow Confronts PM

Jul 22, 2016

Michaela Keyserlingk, whose husband died from asbestos cancer, has issued a formal challenge to Prime Minister Trudeau expressing her “disappointment” with his “lack of action regarding the ban of asbestos in Canada.” (the newly elected PM had committed his party to a national ban). Demanding a prompt response, in her letter to the PM she says: “You and your family rightfully refused to live in asbestos ridden 24 Sussex St, but saving your own skin and ignoring the dangers to others is not the Canadian way.” Trudeau’s failure to act on the deadly hazard makes him “personally responsible for future [asbestos] deaths of Canadians…” See: Letter from M. Keyserlingk to the Prime Minister.

Widespread Usage of Toxic Imports

Jul 21, 2016

Western Australia (WA) has been at the epicentre of a storm over the import of illegal asbestos building materials from China. The scandal over use of these toxic materials at a new WA children’s hospital has led to enquiries which documented similar situations in 170 construction projects around Australia. On July 19, 2016, personnel from the Australian Border Force raided the headquarters of Yuanda, the company which imported this material; new measures have been put in place to hold all Yuanda imports in quarantine until they have been cleared. Up to 10 people a week are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases in WA. See: Asbestos diseases hit home.

Who Foots the Bill for Asbestos Disease?

Jul 21, 2016

A July 2016 commentary for casualty underwriters reflects on the wide-ranging implications of a decision handed down on January 29, 2016 by the District Court of Kyoto which ordered nine manufacturers of asbestos-containing construction materials to pay a total of JPY 112 million (~US$1 million) to 23 workers and their families who died from or are suffering from asbestosis and/or lung cancer. A significant difference of opinion exists amongst courts in Japan over whether manufacturers can be held liable with district courts in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka and Yokohama issuing verdicts which favoured manufacturers. See: Asbestos Court Decision and Implications in Japan.

Conviction for Asbestos Contamination

Jul 20, 2016

A verdict handed down on July 15, 2016 marked the end of a battle over asbestos contamination caused during the reconstruction of primary schools in Budejovice, the provincial capital of southern Bohemia, Czech Republic. A District Court’s ruling held that the company OHL ZS, which was renovating the schools during the summer of 2011, was responsible for the problems caused and remediation required after damaging asbestos-containing panels in the schools’ boiler rooms despite having been alerted to the presence of asbestos. See: Budejovice vítezí v boji o azbest ve školách na Máji. Chtejí miliony [Budejovice wins million euro battle over asbestos in schools].

Prison Sentences for Asbestos Crimes

Jul 19, 2016

A plaintiffs’ verdict in a high-profile manslaughter trial over the asbestos deaths of 14 workers was handed down on July 18, 2016 by Judge Elena Stoppini at a court in Ivrea, Italy. Fifteen ex-managers of the Olivetti electronics firm were found guilty of failing to protect employees from hazardous exposures to asbestos with ex-Olivetti President Franco De Benedetti and his brother Carlo receiving prison sentences of more than five years for corporate manslaughter. Judge Stoppini ruled that the De Benedetti brothers were responsible for 10 of the 14 deaths. Olivetti continued to use asbestos until the middle of the 1990s. See: Ex-Olivetti bosses sentenced over asbestos deaths.

Funds to Fight Fires at Grace Mine

Jul 19, 2016

Federal funding of $2.1 million has been secured by the Environmental Protection Agency to enable firefighters to safely deal with conflagrations in the asbestos-contaminated area of Libby, Montana where mining operations by W.R. Grace & Co created an environmental catastrophe. Tests undertaken on asbestos-infested trees confirm the health hazard posed by this and other toxic deposits in the 47,000-acre area designated Operable Unit 3, or OU3 near the old mine. Should a fire start inside the area, state, local and federal officials would deploy air-monitoring stations to ensure that the air is safe to breathe. See: EPA, USFS Allocate $2.1 Million to Support Firefighting Efforts at Asbestos Mine.

Compensation for Asbestos Worker

Jul 18, 2016

A worker from the Russian town of Asbest has succeeded in a court claim for occupational injury due to hazardous exposures to asbestos at a factory owned by Uralasbest, the world’s largest producer of chrysotile asbestos. Sverdlovsk prosecutors collected evidence from other employees which substantiated allegations of unsafe working conditions. The company was ordered to pay compensation of 30,000 roubles (US$473) for negligence as a result of which the worker became 30% disabled. See: В Асбесте сотрудник завода на треть утратил трудоспособность из-за [Asbestos factory worker one third incapacitated due to hazardous conditions].

Resource for Ban Asbestos Campaign

Jul 18, 2016

The Chrysotile Asbestos Fact Sheet uploaded to the IBAS website earlier this year has now been translated into Bahasa for use by ban asbestos campaigners in Indonesia. This work has been undertaken by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network – Ina-Ban. Commenting on the initiative Ina-Ban’s Coordinator M. Darisman said: “Indonesia is on the frontline of the propaganda campaign by global asbestos lobbyists who spread disinformation and lies regarding the deadly hazards of asbestos use. This new resource will be invaluable in our efforts to achieve an asbestos ban in Indonesia.” See: Chrysotile Asbestos Fact Sheet 2016 – Bahasa Translation.

Asbestos Hazard in Tanks

Jul 16, 2016

On July 7, 2016, a labor court in the Spanish city of Valladolid ruled that the company Iveco Spain must pay €60,000 to a former worker who has been diagnosed with asbestosis. The claimant had been employed as an electrician from 1973 to 2006; during this time, he worked on the assembly of BMR armored vehicles at the Iveco factory and off-site on repairs. He was neither warned about possible asbestos exposure nor was he provided with protective clothing or equipment. This is the first asbestos ruling against the company. See: Condenan a Iveco a pagar 60.000 euros a un trabajador que enfermó por el Amianto [Convicted Iveco to pay 60,000 euros to asbestos injured worker].

Asbestos Protest in Trinidad

Jul 16, 2016

Casual workers employed by Trinidad and Tobago’s Agriculture Ministry’s Research Division in Centeno downed tools last week over asbestos scares according to a July 11, 2016 newspaper report. Work to replace asbestos rooves on buildings at the Ministry compound caused alarm amongst workers who feared the effects of toxic exposures. Since July 4, they have been reporting to work but standing 100 metres across the road. Despite representation by the National Union of Government and Federated Workers, they will not be paid as management says they have not fulfilled their duties. See: Centeno workers protest health risks from asbestos roof removal.

Asbestos Safety Management Act Revisions

Jul 15, 2016

Concerns over the large amounts of asbestos within the national infrastructure has led the Government to announce measures to strengthen mandatory asbestos management protocols during the dismantling and reconstruction of buildings in Korea. The new safeguards are incorporated within revisions to the Asbestos Safety Management Act and will take effect on August 15, 2016. According to the Incheon Metropolitan City office of Education, up to 130 billion won is needed to remove asbestos from schools in Incheon. The price for the eradication from the Korean built environment is unknown. See: Korea to tighten asbestos controls.

State Assisted Environmental Remediation

Jul 15, 2016

The legacy of the Eitanit asbestos plant which closed in 1997 continues to impact on life in Western Galilee where vast quantities of asbestos waste were used to build roads, gardens and paved areas. For five years, a clean-up of contaminated sites has been progressing, supported by taxpayers’ money and funds sourced from Eitanit under the supervision of the Environmental Protect Ministry. To date, 266 million shekels (US$69m) have been spent on almost 300 sites; completion of the remediation is expected in 2017. After Eitanit remediates its compound, Nahariya will be able to build a boardwalk on the beach. See: Cleaning Up Asbestos in Nahariya Is No Walk on the Beach.

Deadly Asbestos Exposures Routine

Jul 15, 2016

A 14-minute video uploaded to YouTube last month (June 2016) entitled Dangerous Dust: Asbestos Story in Indonesia, produced by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network working in conjunction with the Local Initiative for OSH Network, Developing World Outreach Initiative and the Korea Green Foundation, is an eye-opening expose of the hazard posed by the use of asbestos in a country where up to 8,000 people work in 26 factories using asbestos every day. The risks to workers, consumers and members of the public are highlighted as is the high degree of government complacency regarding the hazard. See: Dangerous Dust: Asbestos Story in Indonesia [Debu Mematikan: Kisah Asbes di Indonesia].

Banned Asbestos in New Hospital

Jul 14, 2016

After an alert by the Australian CFMEU trade union, Western Australia’s Health Minister John Day admitted that tests undertaken showed that chrysotile asbestos was present in four out of seven samples taken from a roof panel which had been supplied by Chinese subcontractor Yuanda to lead contractor John Holland for a new children’s hospital in Perth. This discovery is another example of the flouting of the national ban on asbestos by imports of toxic Chinese products. The CFMEU believes hundreds of workers at the site of the $1.2bn project could have been exposed. See: Asbestos found in $1.2b Perth Children's Hospital, says WA Health Minister.

Delays in Asbestos Remediation

Jul 13, 2016

Despite the stated intention of removing asbestos rooves from municipal buildings in the Portuguese capital by 2017, work has so far only been completed on 5 out of 42 contaminated buildings. Of the 14 schools included on this list, work has been completed in two and is underway in a further six, with two more contracts in preparation. This matter was tabled for discussion at the Municipal Assembly of Lisbon by Fabio Sousa. Councillors concerned at the lack of progress were informed of the reasons for the delays. See: Lisboa só concluiu remoção de amianto em cinco de 42 edifícios municipais [Asbestos removal only completed in Lisbon on five of 42 municipal buildings].

Remediation of Schools in Andalusia

Jul 13, 2016

Schools throughout Andalusia are contaminated with asbestos-containing products. The health hazard posed to children and school staff by toxic exposures has been a political hot potato for several months with increasing pressure being brought by parents’ and community groups. On July 12, 2016 it was announced that a 60 million euro plan to eradicate contamination in community colleges is being authorized by the Andalusian authorities. A removal program prioritizing older material is under consideration. See: El amianto de los colegios llega este martes al Parlamento andaluz [The issue of asbestos at colleges arrives at the Andalusian Parliament on Tuesday].

Replacement of Asbestos-Cement Pipes

Jul 13, 2016

Water delivery was disrupted last week with service restored on July 11, 2016 after employees of the Central Water Authority replaced a 30 meters long, 30 year old defective asbestos-cement water pipe in the north of Mauritius. The repairs took four days and were, said a company spokesman, not easy: “employees had to perform the work of excavation and installation by hand, hence the delay with this direct effect on water supply.” Some 300 families in several neighborhoods were affected. See: Remplacement d’un Tuyau en amiante: 300 Familles sans Eau pendant Quatre Jours [Replacement of Asbestos Pipes: 300 Families without Water for Four Days].

Victims’ Group Calls for Action

Jul 13, 2016

AFeVA, the Italian Association of Asbestos Victims and their Families, is calling on Mayors throughout the Italian province of Ravenna to quantify the health hazard posed by asbestos pollution. Citing as an example of good practice, work undertaken in Rubiera, an AFeVA spokesman said: “with a minimal expenditure, employing a company that uses drones, the city monitored the area in a short time and revealed the magnitude of the problem… [it then moved] on to the next phase of remediation and disposal.” See: AFeVA: “Amianto, si piangono le morti per il lavoro, ma non si fa nulla per prevenirle” [AFeVA: “they mourn those dead from asbestos exposures at work, but nothing is done to prevent further deaths”].

Union Alert over Chinese Gaskets

Jul 12, 2016

An alert has been issued by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) over potential asbestos contamination after reports that asbestos-containing building material, installed by workers for the Chinese company Yuanda, had been discovered on a site in Brisbane’s central business district. CFMEU spokesman Aaron Cartledge said the union was “highly suspicious” that toxic gaskets exported from China could have been used by Yuanda workers during the construction of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. See: Asbestos discovery linked to Brisbane company that worked on new RAH and SAHMRI sites.

Call for Cape Verde Asbestos Ban

Jul 12, 2016

At an event on June 28, 2016 to promote asbestos awareness in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde, the head of a Portuguese environmental non-governmental organization (Quercas) called for action to prevent hazardous asbestos exposures. Highlighting the need for asbestos audits of the built environment, John White called for legislation to ban future use throughout the country’s ten islands. Measures for quantifying the scale of the asbestos problem in the country were urgently needed said environmental campaigner Paulo Ferreira. See: Quercus quer inventário sobre edifícios com amianto em Cabo Verde [Quercus want inventory of buildings containing asbestos in Cape Verde].

Asbestos Ban, the Cheaper Option

Jul 11, 2016

Reports presented at a World Health Organization meeting by 13 asbestos using countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine – highlighted the health, legal, removal, replacement and legal costs of the continued use of asbestos. Failure to end asbestos use will, a WHO statement said, “lead to disease development and substantial medical costs.” See: WHO environment and health meeting on the economic costs of asbestos.

Quarry Shut over Asbestos Find

Jul 10, 2016

A prosecutor on Sardinia is investigating evidence that shows tremolite asbestos contamination of feldspar produced by a quarry in the Orani commune operated by Maffei Sarda Silicati SpA. In the meantime, on July 7, 2016 production and work at this site was officially shut down due to the potential health hazard posed by toxic exposures. Even when the presence of tremolite asbestos in feldspar exported to the US from this quarry was reported, no action had been taken by the company. This issue had never been reported to local or regional authorities. See: Amianto ad Orani, sigilli sulla cava della Maffei Sarda [Asbestos in Orani; Maffei Sarda quarry closed].

On the Move: European Commission

Jul 10, 2016

Although the majority of staff from the European Commission’s asbestos-riddled headquarters in Luxembourg’s Jean Monnet building had already relocated to new premises, 540 people – including personnel from the Commission’s Office for Infrastructure and Logistics – continued to work there. From September, their offices will be in a new temporary structure on Konrad Adenauer boulevard. The original Jean Monnet building will be demolished in 2017; the replacement building is scheduled to open in 2020. See: Le nouveau Jean-Monnet garanti sans amiante [The new Jean-Monnet guaranteed asbestos-free].

Asbestos News from Switzerland

Jul 9, 2016

The latest eight-page French language newsletter (June 2016) of Comité d'aide et d'orientation des victimes de l'amiante (CAOVA), an asbestos victims’ group based in Lausanne, features articles considering the lasting effects of occupational exposures to naturally-occurring asbestos in Switzerland, the story of one family’s asbestos battle, graphs and data detailing asbestos production over the last one hundred years and pictures illustrating the role that women have played in asbestos manufacturing in various countries. See: Comité d'aide et d'orientation des victimes de l'amiante  bulletin N° 3 juin2016 [Swiss Asbestos Victims Group Newsletter June 2016].

Purchase of Toxic Locos from China

Jul 9, 2016

Even after asbestos-containing parts had been discovered in numerous locations on “supposedly” asbestos free locomotives built in China and imported to New Zealand two years ago, KiwiRail has announced it has ordered another 15 DL class locomotives from the same supplier. Of the original 24 trains purchased, at least half still contain asbestos. Asbestos has been found in the locomotives on the metal sheeting of the driver’s compartment, under paint, inside door panels, in roof cavities and in the locomotives’ gaskets. See: More Chinese trains to be bought despite asbestos headache.

Claimant’s Verdict in NJ Supreme Court

Jul 9, 2016

A verdict handed down on July 6, 2016 by the NJ Supreme Court in Schwartz v. Accuratus cited a 2006 precedent – Olivo v. Owens-Illinois – which had found that spouses who became ill after handling their partners’ asbestos-tainted clothing could be awarded damages. NJ Supreme Court Justice Jaynee LaVecchia explained: “Our reasoning in Olivo was not so much that Eleanor was married to a worker at Exxon who brought asbestos-contaminated clothing home from work but that it was foreseeable that she would be handling… asbestos-exposed clothes, which Exxon failed to protect at work and allowed to be taken home by workers.” See: Contaminated-Clothing Doctrine in Asbestos Cases Extended.

Uralita’s Deadly Legacy

Jul 9, 2016

A series of essays on the Spanish website of Rebelión painstakingly details issues related to the operations at and remediation of the Uralita asbestos factory in Bellavista, a neighbourhood of Seville. As a result of 60 years of asbestos processing, workers, relatives and local people have developed debilitating and deadly asbestos diseases. Although the industrial facilities were dismantled between 1998 and 2000, the pollution remains. Uralita waste was dumped locally and was used as hardcore beneath road surfaces. Toxic fibers were disseminated through the area from delivery lorries and processing operations. The contamination remains a potent health hazard. See: Bellavista, tierra preñada de amianto (I) [Ground in Bellavista is impregnated with asbestos (I).

Court Doubles Compensation

Jul 8, 2016

According to a ruling of the Sardinian Court of Cagliari, people dying from asbestos-related diseases after hazardous exposures in the military deserve the same level of compensation as those killed by terrorist incidents. The deceased in this case was a naval captain who died in 2009 from pleural mesothelioma having served his country for 32 years on asbestos-riddled ships. The Ministry of Defence was ordered to pay surviving family members 500 euro/month, the same as is paid to victims of terrorism. This is almost twice what the Ministry had been paying. See: Morire di amianto è come il terrorismo [To die from asbestos is like terrorism].

Asbestos Site now Dumping Ground

Jul 8, 2016

The site of a former asbestos manufacturing unit belonging to the Turner & Newall conglomerate is now being used as a dumping site according to local people who report constant arrivals of tipper lorries filled with waste. There has been no consultation for the rezoning of the area and no consultation about a change of use. Enquires to the council have elicited the response: “The council was unaware of activities on the site. The Environment Agency has been notified and site visits have been made. The Environment Agency enviro crime unit is now undertaking an investigation into the situation.” See: Outrage as former asbestos site becomes unauthorised waste dumping ground.

Australia’s Asbestos Legacy

Jul 7, 2016

A new analysis of Australian asbestos cancer data concludes that while current populations are receiving lower doses of hazardous exposures, the effect of low levels of exposures on large numbers of people will lead to substantial numbers of future mesotheliomas. To minimize the impact of third wave asbestos exposures – and bearing in mind the ubiquity of asbestos in Australian housing – it is recommended that: “Governments, employers, trade unions, regulators, tradesmen, asbestos removalists and households should take reasonable precautions when dealing with asbestos in future to reduce this risk.” See: The third wave.

Asbestos Incident in Tourist Town

Jul 7, 2016

The tranquillity of the picturesque town of Zadar was disturbed on July 1 by the discovery of asbestos contamination in Borak, an exclusive part of this popular Croatian destination. The presence of masked men in white overalls investigating a site twenty meters from the beach caused concern amongst visitors and local people who later learned that asbestos-cement roofing from the building had been illegally handled and disposed. Remediation workers were observed collecting the toxic debris for disposal at a licensed landfill. See: Scene kao iz filmova katastrofe: lovci na azbest šokirali turiste [Scenes from disaster movie, shocks tourists as asbestos is found].

Justice for Mesothelioma Victim

Jul 7, 2016

Yesterday (July 6, 2016), a one year suspended prison sentence was handed down to businessman Fernando Cioffi and compensation of over one million euros was awarded by Judge Enrico Borrelli to the sons of Paolino Tonidandel, a construction worker who died of mesothelioma in 2009, aged 67, just one year after he had been diagnosed with asbestos cancer. Throughout his career, the deceased had been hazardously exposed to asbestos roofing and other toxic materials. Charges against the defendant had been dropped in earlier court proceedings. The family’s victory has taken seven years. See: Amianto: condanna per morte operaio [Asbestos: conviction for worker's death].

Asbestos Legacy of Aboriginal People

Jul 6, 2016

A paper uploaded on July 3, 2016 discussed the incidence of malignant mesothelioma (MM) in Aboriginal people in Western Australia (WA) and considered the main routes of asbestos exposure in this population using data from the WA Mesothelioma Register. Of the 39 cases (77% male) of MM among WA Aboriginal people, 26 (67%) were from exposure during crocidolite mining at Wittenoom and/or environmental contamination. The researchers stated that: “Aboriginals had consistently higher 10-year incidence rates than non-Aboriginals and, when compared to world populations, the highest mortality rate internationally.” See: Incidence of malignant mesothelioma in Aboriginal people in Western Australia.

Canadian Lies, Delays, Treachery

Jul 5, 2016

Despite a high-profile pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ban asbestos in Canada, his government refused to support plans by the UN to regulate the global trade in chrysotile (white) asbestos according to papers submitted to a special workshop of the Rotterdam Convention held in Riga, Latvia on July 3-5, 2016. Asbestos lobbyists from Russia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Mexico, Quebec and Zimbabwe attended the meeting to forestall the designation of chrysotile as an Annex III hazardous substance. See: Asbestos industry fighting to destroy UN Convention that protects populations from asbestos harm.

Dangers Posed by Asbestos Ignorance

Jul 5, 2016

Data from the State Labour Inspectorate shows that public awareness of the asbestos hazard is low in Latvia. As an EU member, Latvia banned asbestos but surveillance of renovations and demolition projects is inadequate and workplace exposures are not infrequent. The disposal of asbestos-containing construction debris is also problematic. In the first nine months of 2015, there were only 14 applications for permits to undertake projects where the presence of asbestos was known. See: В ЕС ежегодно регистрируется до 30 000 случаев заболеваний, вызванных [In the EU, each year there are up to 30,000 cases of diseases caused by asbestos].

Replacing Pipework in the Cyclades

Jul 5, 2016

Tackling issues related to the provision of water to island municipalities in the South Aegean is the objective of a regional initiative. Proposals for water management projects which would improve the collection, distribution, processing and management of drinking water have been received, including a plan to replace deteriorating asbestos pipework on Antiparos, a small island in the heart of the Cyclades. Toxic asbestos water pipes are still being used; they are, says the Mayor, in a serious state of dilapidation. It is proposed to replace the asbestos pipes with a high density polyethylene delivery system. See: Πολύτιμη συμβολή στα ζητήματα ύδρευσης [Improving Water Infrastructure].

Europe’s Asbestos Epidemic

Jul 4, 2016

Dr. Jukka Takala has predicted that the number of asbestos cancer deaths in the EU 28 member states this year (2016) will be just under 60,000. The scale of the asbestos tragedy is confirmed in a new report by Dutch researchers which highlights the impact of workplace asbestos exposures: “asbestos is an important work-related carcinogen. Mesothelioma alone already accounts for approximately 15% of all work-related cancer deaths and some 10% of the new work-related cancer cases... the burden of asbestos-related cancer caused by past work-related exposure is continuing to increase.” See: The significance of work-related cancers in the EU.

National Asbestos Ban under Discussion

Jun 29, 2016

Brazil’s Commission of Environment and Sustainable Development is expected to vote this week on a report by Congressman Edson Duarte regarding the need for national legislation to prohibit asbestos. Currently, federal law supports the “controlled use” policy for chrysotile (white) asbestos, the only type of asbestos being sold. The National Association of Labour Court Judges, the National Association of Labour Attorneys and many civil society groups question the constitutionality of this policy which is responsible for ongoing toxic exposures to workers as well as members of the public. See: A proibição do amianto e a cara de nojinho [The prohibition of asbestos and the face of revulsion].

Trial begins over Asbestos Death

Jun 29, 2016

Manslaughter charges have been brought in the Massa Court against Pignone company engineer Vincenzo Pizzini who was, it is alleged, negligent during the 1960s of failing to protect workers from occupational asbestos exposures at a factory in the Italian Province of Tuscany. Scores of employees have already died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma; this case is over the death in 2013 of welder Cesare Ricci who was exposed to asbestos on a daily basis and was given no warning of the hazard and no protective equipment or clothing. See: Morte da amianto, ex dirigente del Pignone a processo [Asbestos death; former factory manager charged].

No More Asbestos in Europe!

June 28, 2016

An EU regulation signed on June 22, 2016 finally outlawed the use of all asbestos products in Member States by setting a 1 July 2025 deadline for a ban on the sole existing exemption: chrysotile-containing diaphragms for electrolysis operations in two chlor-alkali factories; one in Sweden and one in Germany. Although EU agencies had hoped to end the derogation by 2017, economic arguments were persuasive. Nevertheless, one of the companies has already stopped importing chrysotile and strict regulations exist to ensure workplace safety. See: EU Regulation 22 June 2016 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals as regards chrysotile asbestos fibres.

Support for all Mesothelioma Victims

Jun 28, 2016

According to the Federal Office of Public Health, consultation is progressing in Switzerland over new measures to provide financial benefits and psychological support for Swiss citizens who suffer from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, including those whose exposure occurred outside the workplace. Currently, 75% of the 120 victims diagnosed every year receive compulsory accident insurance benefits; a new fund is being created to dispense financial support to those whose exposures were non-occupational. Between 2016 and 2025, the cost of the new scheme is estimated at $102 million. See: Un soutien rapide pour les victimes de l'amiante [Rapid support for asbestos victims].

Concerns over Asbestos Legacy

Jun 28, 2016

Against fears regarding potential contamination caused by the removal of asbestos waste dumped by the Ibertubo company in Toledo, questions are being asked about the danger posed by the presence of toxic products in Spain’s schools. In Spain as in the UK the authorities rely on false reassurances that asbestos in buildings is safe as long as it remains undisturbed. This is untrue in every case but even more so in buildings which are more than 40 years old and in which deteriorating asbestos-containing material is releasing deadly fibers into the air. See: Operación de retirada de amianto en Toledo: el fiasco de Ibertubo [Asbestos removal operations in Toledo: the Ibertubo fiasco].

The Price of Asbestos Exports

Jun 27, 2016

As Canada awaits moves by Prime Minister Trudeau to make good on his promise to ban asbestos, the first ever estimate of the financial impact of Canadian asbestos-related cancers suggests that the annual cost could exceed $1.7-billion with each case costing an average of $818,000 according to calculations by the Institute for Work & Health. Asbestos is the biggest cause of occupational deaths in Canada with workers’ compensation boards having recognized more than 5,700 claims since 1996. Asbestos imports and exports remain legal in Canada, formerly the world’s largest asbestos producer. See: Asbestos-related cancer costs Canadians billions.

Asbestos-free Pre-School for Sri Lanka

Jun 27, 2016

Last Wednesday, June 22, 2016, a revolutionary new “green” pre-school was officially opened at a ceremony attended by government and business officials during which the Ceylon Institute of Builders issued the building with a Green Label certification. The new building, which is located in the small town of Ahangama in Sri Lanka’s Southern Province, was constructed of locally sourced soil stabilized brick blocks; the roof is composed of zinc aluminium sheets which are “100% asbestos free.” Other environmentally sustainable measures used in the pre-school include solar power and rainwater harvesting. See: First green pre-school in Sri Lanka constructed by Holcim Lanka.

Stricter Asbestos Regulations Agreed

Jun 27, 2016

It was announced last week that an agreement had been reached by Multilit and Isdralit, asbestos-using companies in the Brazilian State of Paraná, with the Labor Court stipulating that until asbestos use is ended the companies’ premises will be subject to environmental assessments to ensure that concentrations of asbestos fibers are below 0.1 f/cm3. In addition, compulsory medical examinations will be provided for current and former asbestos-exposed employees. Failure to comply with these regulations, will incur substantial fines. See: Até banir amianto, empresas precisam passar por avaliação periódica [Until asbestos is banned, companies must undergo periodic evaluations].

Mobilization of Victims Continues

Jun 27, 2016

Japanese asbestos victims, campaigners and supporters continue to press for asbestos justice with meetings this past weekend (June 25 & 26, 2016). On Saturday, June 25, scores of delegates took part in an event in Amagasaki City to mark the 11th anniversary of the Kubota Shock, a term signifying the moment when Japan’s epidemic of asbestos disease burst into the public consciousness with news that workers and community members had contracted diseases as a result of the operations of major Japanese corporations (see: Asbestos Profile: Japan). On June 26, the annual meeting of the national network of asbestos victims and their families was held. See: Photo of meeting marking the 11th anniversary of Japan’s Kubota Shock.

French Workers Win Court Victory

Jun 25, 2016

On June 24, 2016, the Court of Appeal in Paris issued a claimants’ ruling in a case brought by 80 employees and former employees from the Bosch factory in Drancy, Seine-Saint-Denis who were seeking compensation for hazardous exposures which occurred during the manufacture of asbestos-containing brake pads. Each claimant will receive €8,000 for “prejudice of anxiety” and a further €300 under Article 700 of the code of civil procedure (for legal fees). The damages will be paid by the current owner of the company, Honeywell. See: Amiante: victoire en appel pour les Bosch de Drancy [Asbestos: Victory on appeal for Bosch workers from Drancy].

Calls for Asbestos Ban

Jun 24, 2016

An article circulated by “News-Georgia,” documented the increasing pressure from civil society campaigners in Georgia for a ban on all asbestos-containing products in order to protect public and occupational health. Despite the fact that the International Agency for Research on Cancer acknowledges that exposure to asbestos can cause cancer, popular products – such as asbestos-containing roof tiles and pipes, fireproofing, insulation and brake pads – remain on sale; moreover, the delivery of drinking water is accomplished via asbestos pipes. See: В Грузии требуют запретить ввоз асбеста, вызывающего рак [Demand for ban on carcinogenic asbestos increasing in Georgia].

Taiwan Advancing Asbestos Ban

Jun 24, 2016

This recent (Chinese) commentary discussed calls by Taiwan legislators to advance plans for a total asbestos ban. Although there had been agreement to ban asbestos by 2018, politicians believe the Environmental Protection Agency must act sooner; a timetable to achieve this goal will be announced by the end of 2016 “to safeguard people’s health.” Concern was expressed about hazardous exposures to those in the construction sector who were working with waste materials containing asbestos. See: 立委疑2018年禁用致癌物「石棉」太晚 環保署承諾提前實施 [Legislators concerned about the use of carcinogenic asbestos have called on the EPA to speed up prohibitions].

Asbestos and the Brighton Bombing

Jun 23, 2016

Following the asbestos death last year (December 2015) of a police officer who had worked at the scene of the 1984 Brighton bombing, the Sussex police issued a warning on June 22, 2016 to other emergency service personnel who may have also been present at the scene. Alerts have also been sent to Conservative party members who were at the hotel for the Conservative party conference, Brighton and Hove city council, and Sussex University hospital NHS trust, warning that staff and others present at the scene could be affected. See: Brighton 1984 bomb may have exposed rescuers to asbestos.

Huge Judicial Win for Victims

Jun 23, 2016

Ban Asbestos France and the Henri Pezerat Association have distributed a joint press release welcoming a truly outstanding judicial development in France. A ruling by the Criminal Chamber of France’s Supreme Court of Appeal earlier this month (June 7, 2016) will allow charges for workplace asbestos deaths to proceed against former asbestos manager Claude Chopin. The family of those who have died from the hazardous exposures at the Amisol asbestos textile factory in Clermont-Ferrand have been waiting for justice for over 20 years! See Press release by Ban Asbestos France and Henri Pezerat Association: French, English, Spanish.

Asbestos at Ministry of Education

Jun 23, 2016

A survey undertaken in 2014 indicated that the Lisbon headquarters of the Education Ministry was free of asbestos. Last year another audit found that there were asbestos building materials, insulation products and fiber cement panels within the premises. Although “the concentration of respirable fibers in the air of the locations analyzed were below the legal limits,” medical screenings will be provided for all employees who worked in affected areas. See: Sede do Ministério da Educação afinal tem amianto [Asbestos at the Headquarters of the Ministry of Education in Lisbon].

Quantifying the Total Compensation Bill

Jun 21, 2016

On Monday, June 20, 2016, the Court trying the asbestos case against Olivetti executives heard that compensation being sought against former Olivetti officials by individual claimants and civil parties, including the City of Ivrea and AFEVA, a victims’ group from Casale Monferrato, exceeded €6 million. During the day, legal representatives of defendant Camilla Olivetti, CEO from March 1963 to May 1964, argued that charges against their client should be dropped. See: Sei milioni di risarcimento per le vittime dell’amianto all’Olivetti [Six million compensation for asbestos victims Olivetti].

Toxic Clouds Invade Residential Areas

Jun 21, 2016

As asbestos waste removal operations begin in the Toledo neighbourhood of Ibertubo, concern over multiple failures in implementing best practice protocols for protecting occupational and public health has been expressed in a press release issued by the group: Ecologists in Action. According to Spanish regulations “working procedures must be designed so as not to produce asbestos fibers or, if that proves impossible, to avoid the release of asbestos fibers in the air.” The clouds of dust being generated indicate that this is not being accomplished on this site. See: Amianto en Toledo, apoyo a los vecinos ante el fiasco en la retirada de residuos [Asbestos in Toledo, supporting neighbors living near the waste removal fiasco].

Support for Ban Asbestos Campaign

Jun 21, 2016

On June 18, 2016, a video was uploaded to YouTube exposing the devastation being caused in Colombia by the ongoing mining and use of asbestos. The seven-minute clip highlighted the collusion between government official Germán Vargas Lleras and his brother asbestos businessmen Enrique Vargas Lleras over the State’s construction of 100,000 houses roofed with asbestos-cement building material. For years, government bodies have embraced pro-asbestos propaganda disseminated by the industry’s lobbying group Ascolfibras which states that asbestos can be used safely. See: El asesino silencioso en Colombia y el mundo [The silent murderer in Colombia and the world].

Delays Increase Victims’ Despair

Jun 20, 2016

Blaming law firms for increasing the volume of compensation claims and outdated, microfiche machinery for breaking down, H M Revenue and Customs has reacted defensively to claims that victims dying of asbestos diseases are being deprived of their human rights by delays in providing information on tax records. While information is provided to some living mesothelioma victims in 10 days, other enquiries are taking an average of 383 days to be answered. Asbestos widow Marlene Hutchinson has been told it will take 18 months to receive information regarding her late husband’s work history. See: HMRC under fire over 'crazy' compensation cases backlog.

Factions and Forces in Asbestos War

Jun 18, 2016

Brazil’s asbestos policy is on the verge of a complete reversal after commercial organizations, under pressure from actions by the Ministry of Labor, decisions by the Courts and changes in consumer demands, have “voluntarily” agreed to phase out asbestos use and implement safer technologies. The stalwart pro-asbestos faction which continues to utilize asbestos and market toxic products consists of four business groups operating eight factories; amongst these stakeholders, the Eternit Group is the largest. See: Fim do Uso do Amianto no Sector de Fibrocimento esta Proximo [End of the Use of Asbestos Cement Near].

Transition to Non-Asbestos Technology

Jun 18, 2016

On June 16, 2016, one of Brazil’s major asbestos cement conglomerates entered into an agreement with the Labor Court to eliminate asbestos-based production by the end of 2018. The company – Multilit Fiber Cement SA, which has its headquarters in the city of São José dos Pinhais in the State of Paraná – pledged to retain 70% of current jobs using the new technology. The company also agreed to pay US$ ~176,000 (Reals 600,000) compensation to the Parananese Association of Asbestos Victims in twenty instalments. See: Em acordo na Justiça do Trabalho, Multilit se compromete a banir amianto até 2018 [In agreement with the Labor Court, Multilit commits to asbestos ban by 2018].

More Asbestos Deaths to Come

Jun 18, 2016

In the aftermath of the announcement by the New Zealand Government that asbestos imports will be banned by October 1, 2016, questions are being asked about the tragic impact of the country’s complacency on asbestos. It has been estimated that between 1954 and 2011, there were more than 5,000 asbestos-related deaths. It has been predicted that the peak of the country’s asbestos epidemic would be reached between 2030 and 2040. New Zealand did not regulate asbestos use until 1978 and did not ban imports of raw asbestos until 1984, long after other developed countries did so. See: Asbestos toll will climb for decades.

Government Fails to Revive Mines

Jun 17, 2016

The Government of Zimbabwe has been trying for several years to resurrect asbestos mining operations at the derelict Shabanie and Mashaba Mines by securing US$1 billion in foreign investment from Russia or China. Today a report has been published announcing that these efforts have failed “due to unfriendly economic policies… [and] low global demand for asbestos.” The two chrysotile (white) asbestos mines closed in 2008, four years after President Mugabe’s Government seized control of them from Mutumwa Mawere. Prior to that, Zimbabwe had been an asbestos producing country for several decades. See: Zimbabwe: No Suitor for Shabanie and Mashaba Mines.

Asbestos Public Hearing in São Paulo

Jun 17, 2016

On June 9, 2016 at an asbestos hearing in São Paulo (SP) held by the Ministry of Labor, State Representative Marcos Martins, author of the 12.684 / 2007 law banning asbestos in SP, reminded delegates: “There is no safe level for the use of asbestos. Exposure to the fiber can cause cancer, pleural mesothelioma and asbestosis, among many other problems, and even lead to death. We need to increase the supervision of traders, warn of damage to health and the extent of the prohibition law regarding the marketing of the [asbestos] products.” See: Comércio de amianto em SP é alvo do Ministério Público do Trabalho [Labour Prosecutor Targets Asbestos Trade in São Paulo].

Quebec Honors Ban Asbestos Activist

Jun 16, 2016

Details of an astonishing reversal of over a century of support for the deadly asbestos industry by the Canadian Province of Quebec are included in a report just uploaded by Kathleen Ruff, a ban asbestos activist who on June 9, 2016 received a Quebec National Assembly (QNA) medal as well as a standing ovation for her work to protect occupational and public health in Quebec. The unanimous motion passed by the QNA thanked Ms. Ruff: “for her perseverance in the fight to stop the mining of asbestos in Quebec and Canada, and to prohibit its use.” See: In historic turn-around, Quebec National Assembly applauds efforts to ban asbestos.

Protests over Asbestos Schools

Jun 16, 2016

Parents’ concerns over the presence of asbestos in hundreds of schools in Andalusia have been discussed in the Andalusian Parliament this week with little effect. While parents called for comprehensive asbestos audits to be undertaken of all school buildings as a matter of top priority, politicians rejected relevant proposals according to media reports. Francisco Puche, the representative of Platform Zero Asbestos (Málaga), says that a preliminary survey undertaken indicated that 30% of schools in Málaga could contain asbestos. See: Los padres de colegios con amianto recurren a la Fiscalía de Menores [Parents of children at asbestos schools turn to the Office of Children].

Lack of Asbestos Awareness

Jun 16, 2016

A survey undertaken in 14 different Pacific island countries and territories by the Pacific Hazardous Waste Management Project (PacWaste) – a €7.85 million euro project funded by the European Union to improve regional hazardous waste management across the Pacific – revealed that 60% of people, aged under 30 years, had little or no knowledge about the asbestos health hazard. Asbestos contamination is widespread on these islands and the import of asbestos-containing building materials remains legal. To tackle these issues, PacWaste will launch an asbestos education and awareness campaign later this year. See: Survey highlights importance of asbestos awareness.

New Zealand Bans Asbestos!

Jun 15, 2016

Against the backdrop of the unfolding scandal over the presence of asbestos in trains manufactured in China, the New Zealand government has announced plans to outlaw the import of asbestos-containing material as of October 1, 2016. According to Minister Nick Smith, the ban is being implemented to protect public health: “Exposure to asbestos,” he said “poses a risk of respiratory disease and is the single biggest cause of work-related fatalities, at 170 per year.” Import permits can be obtained for a few specialized items – such as old machinery or vintage aircraft – but only in “very select circumstances.” See: Hansards: Health and Safety – Asbestos.

Construction of Asbestos-free Housing

Jun 15, 2016

Estate agents for a “green” building complex due for completion in 2020-2021 in New Zelenograd, 40 miles from central Moscow, are marketing residential units with information about energy efficiency due to specialized window glass, drinkable tap water sourced from a doubly filtered water intake and the use of asbestos-free products. Promotional material acknowledges that asbestos is a carcinogen that has been banned in Europe; in Russia, however, asbestos remains widely used “for facade panels, insulation, bricks, sealants and so on.” This new development will only use asbestos-free materials. See: «Зеленые» технологии в массовом сегменте [“Green” technology for the mass market].

Strike over School Contamination

Jun 15, 2016

Parents citing the precautionary principle have withdrawn their children from a second day of classes at the Reggio de Puerto Real school in the Spanish city of Cadiz, Andalusia. A spokesperson for the parents said that in the absence of assurances that children are safe at this school, steps must be taken to remediate the building before children are allowed to return to classes. Attempts by government and municipal officials to resolve the situation at meetings with the parents were unsuccessful. The parents have threatened legal action and the matter is due to be discussed in Parliament. See: El conflicto del amianto en el Reggio se enquista en el segundo día de huelga [Asbestos conflict in Reggio enters second day of strike].

Youth Day in Asbestos Hotspot

Jun 14, 2016

June 16 is South Africa’s annual day to commemorate the role of the country’s youth in the liberation struggle from apartheid. On this day a community asbestos outreach program, organized by a local campaigning body – the Asbestos Interest Group – and supported by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, will be held for 120 students in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District of the Northern Cape province, a former asbestos mining region. Subjects to be discussed on the day include: the dangers of asbestos and the nature of and treatment for asbestos-related diseases. This initiative has been endorsed by the Department of Education. A report on the activities will be featured on this site in due course.

Asbestos Cancer Victim Calls for Ban

Jun 14, 2016

In the aftermath of a decision by the Colombian Senate not to prohibit asbestos use, one victim told her story to a journalist from Semana, a popular weekly magazine. Ana Cecilia Niño was diagnosed with the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in September 2014. During her childhood, her family had lived close to an Eternit asbestos-cement factory in the city of Sibaté, south of Bogotá. To protect public health it was absolutely essential for politicians to take urgent action to prevent hazardous exposures; the best way to do so was to ban asbestos. See: La mujer que demandó a la Nación por no prohibir el asbestos [The woman who sued the nation for not banning asbestos].

Calls to Jail Olivetti Executives

Jun 14, 2016

During court proceedings in Italy this week, prosecutors Laura Longo and Francesca Traverso asked the judge to hand down prison sentences of up 6 years 7 months for company executives facing charges over the asbestos deaths of Olivetti workers. It is alleged that during the 1980s and 1990s the managers of the Ivrea factory did not take action to prevent hazardous occupational asbestos exposures as a result of which many employees got sick and died. The verdict is expected in mid-July 2016. See: Amianto all'Olivetti, l'accusa chiede la condanna degli ex vertici [Asbestos Olivetti, prosecution seeks prison sentences for former leaders].

Asbestos Finds Delay Building Works

Jun 13, 2016

A major infrastructure project in Paris has been stalled because of the discovery of actinolite asbestos in road surfaces. The delays caused to work on the new tramway is proving expensive and is one example of the problems being caused by such discoveries at a number of sites in Brittany and Bordeaux. Naturally occurring actinolite is present in some aggregates from quarries which, when mixed with bitumen, are used on road surfaces. Building owners, municipal authorities and private contractors are looking to the government for assistance. See: Amiante naturel dans le bitume: la nouvelle menace qui paralyse les travaux publics [Natural asbestos in bitumen: the new threat that paralyzes public works].

Distribution of Contaminated Material

Jun 13, 2016

Twenty building sites (including a new build school) in Co Wicklow and Dublin were supplied with asbestos-contaminated material from the Ballinclare quarry in south Wicklow. The quarry has been closed since the Health and Safety Authority confirmed the presence of naturally occurring asbestos in the stone it produces. Steps are being taken to remediate the situation at the building sites and to return 25,000 tons of material to the quarry where it will be disposed of according to mandatory protocols. See: Twenty building sites sent material containing asbestos.

Catalonia’s Deadly Asbestos Legacy

Jun 11, 2016

The Catalan Government’s Minister of Health Toni Comín told Parliament this week that the number of asbestosis patients admitted to Catalan hospitals has doubled since 2006. Last year (2015), there were 361 hospitalizations of 245 patients with this type of pulmonary fibrosis. An increasing number of deaths from asbestos cancers amongst workers and members of the public has also been recorded in the Catalan region with rising mortality in cities such as Cerdanyola del Vallès, formerly home to one of Uralita’s biggest asbestos factories. See: Els ingressos hospitalaris per l’amiant creixen un 83% en 10 anys [Hospital asbestos admissions rise 83% in 10 years].

Activist Honored in Asbestos Province

Jun 10, 2016

On June 9, 2016, ban asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff was honoured by the National Assembly of Quebec, until 2012 the heartland of Canada’s asbestos mining operations, for her efforts to shut down an industry which caused fatal illnesses and premature death to workers as well as members of the pubic. Member of the National Assembly Dr Amir Khadir presented Ms. Ruff with a National Assembly medal and highlighted her role in preventing the expansion of Quebec’s Jeffrey Asbestos Mine. See: Médaille de l'Assemblée nationale - Amir Khadir souligne le travail d'une militante anti-amiante [Medal of the National Assembly - Amir Khadir highlights the work of anti-asbestos activist].

Hearing Highlights Asbestos Crimes

Jun 10, 2016

Yesterday (June 9, 2016) afternoon, a public hearing on asbestos was held in São Paulo, Brazil convened by the São Paulo’s Ministry of Labor to discuss the illegal trade in asbestos products, which are prohibited in the State, and to remind all stakeholders – including owners of building materials outlets, employers, construction unions and others – of their obligations under São Paulo Law 12.684 of June 26, 2007. State inspectors have identified several commercial premises where asbestos-containing products, especially asbestos-cement roofing tiles, are still being sold. See: Audiência pública discutirá amianto [Asbestos Public Hearing].

The Fight Goes On!

Jun 10, 2016

Determined ban asbestos activists in Colombia have denounced the actions this week of seven Senators who blocked a bill to ban asbestos. The campaigners have named and shamed the following politicians: Carlos Enrique Soto, Sofía Gaviria, Antonio José Correa, Edison Delgado, Mauricio Delgado, Honorio Henríquez and Álvaro Uribe, and have urged supporters to take to social media, email, facebook and other outlets to make their views known about the urgent need to protect citizens from deadly exposures to asbestos. See: Lobby de industria de asbesto hunde proyecto de ley [Asbestos industry lobby sinks bill].

Remediation of Asbestos Contamination

Jun 10, 2016

On June 8, 2016, work began to remove asbestos cement debris from the Toledo Ramabujas stream, in the district of Santa Maria de Benquerencia, Spain. Specialist contractors cordoned off the area and installed a decontamination booth for remediation workers who have been provided with specialist equipment to undertake the task according to safety protocols. The work is expected to take a week during which 41 tons of waste will be removed at a cost of €16,639. The final bill for the work will be passed on to the owners of the land. See: La CHT inicia la retirada de los restos de amianto en Toledo [The CHT begins removing dumped asbestos waste in Toledo].

Improved Compensation Regime

Jun 10, 1016

Changes made this week to the Workers Compensation Act 1951 will ensure that workers in Australia’s capital city with fatal asbestos-related diseases will be able to secure compensation during their lifetimes. The new amendments will allow eligible workers to make a claim with the Default Insurance Fund without first having to exhaust all other avenues of compensation. Eligible workers will also receive a lump sum statutory payment of $140,505 as well as earlier access to essential services such as medical treatment and rehabilitation expenses. See: Quicker, fairer compensation system for Canberra workers affected by asbestos.

Schools: Priority for Asbestos Removal

Jun 9, 2016

At a press conference on Wednesday June 8, 2016 in Arrábida, Portugal’s Minister of Environment John Matos Fernandes confirmed that amongst new legislation on environmental and urban regeneration, the government will address the problem of the asbestos contamination of 2,000 public buildings with resources from a €200 million budget. The Ministry of Education will oversee the removal of asbestos from public schools which is considered a top priority. See: Governo dá prioridade à retirada de amianto das escolas [Government prioritizes asbestos removal from schools].

Killer Company Back in Town

Jun 9, 2016

Australia’s notorious James Hardie Company (JH), which has off-loaded much of its asbestos liabilities on Australian taxpayers, has announced that after “going dark” for a decade amid the asbestos scandal, it will restart marketing its products once again in Australia with a campaign that targets younger customers who would “not so readily associate the company with its asbestos-tainted history.” The company’s Asia Pacific marketing head, George O’Neil said: “We were surprised when we started doing focus groups, there is actually a huge amount of love out there for the [JH] brand and for the products we make.” See: James Hardie markets itself to Australia after a decade in the dark.

Court Reinstates Asbestos Case

Jun 8, 2016

A ruling on June 7, 2016 by France’s Supreme Court revoked the dismissal of charges against former asbestos factory director Claude Chopin. Asbestos victims and lawyers plan to restart proceedings relating to Chopin’s management of the “coffin factory” in Clermont-Ferrand. Chopin had been indicted in 1999; in 2013 and 2015 the Court of Appeal dismissed charges against him. On June 7, the Court said that Chopin “had a duty, in his capacity as chief of establishment and employer… to personally ensure constant compliance with regulations on hygiene and safety of workers.” See: Amiante: non-lieu annulé, le procès Amisol relancé? [Asbestos: no case cancelled, Amisol trial to be revived?].

Defeat for Asbestos Ban

Jun 8, 2016

News has been received that a draft bill to ban asbestos in Colombia has been defeated by a vote of 7 to 4 by the Senate body which deals with health issues. The Senate’s debate on draft bill 97/2015 which prohibited the production, marketing, export, import and distribution of any variety of asbestos in Colombia began in early April 2016. There has been intensive lobbying by commercial vested interests including Eternit Colombiana S.A., Eternit Pacifico S.A., and Eternit Atlántico S.A. The Senate’s debate continued at a hearing on May 24 and the vote was taken on June 7. Despite this setback, asbestos victims and ban asbestos activists remain determined to end the production and use of asbestos in Colombia.

Illegal Imports of Asbestos

Jun 8, 2016

According to an announcement made on June 8, 2016 by Attorney-General John Rau of the State of Southern Australia, an Adelaide company has been caught using banned building products in the production of portable structures and facilities at a local work site. The materials were imported from China and contained asbestos. The discovery was made as a result of investigations conducted by SafeWork SA. “There is,” said Rau, “no current immediate risk of exposure from the asbestos-containing sheeting in portable buildings manufactured by the company.” This is just the latest discovery of asbestos-containing products imported to Australia from China. See: Asbestos found at SA work site.

Ministry Supports Asbestos Deadline

Jun 7, 2016

Attempts by vested interests in the Brazilian municipality of São José dos Pinhais to secure a postponement of a deadline to end asbestos use have been denounced by the Ministry of Labor in Paraná (MPT) which has issued a statement deploring a legislative amendment that seeks to allow a further six year phase-out period during which asbestos production could continue. The MPT, which called this extension a “really absurd postulation,” has advised local councillors not to approve the amendment. See: MPT recomenda que vereadores não aprovem uso do Amianto [MPT recommends that councillors do not approve use of asbestos].

Asbestos Industry: A Criminal Conspiracy

Jun 7, 2016

A blog uploaded today (June 7, 2016) highlights the decades-old work by asbestos vested interests to minimize their asbestos liabilities through fair means and foul. It details steps taken by Bendix (Honeywell), Union Carbide, Ford and George Pacific, among others, to prevent claimants from securing compensation and to manipulate the scientific debate about the causation of asbestos-related diseases. Although the focus of this text is on the damage done to workers in the US, the same companies have caused misery to workers at factories and facilities around the world. See: Asbestos Industry Covered Up Danger for Decades, and Evades Responsibility Today.

Removal of Asbestos Awnings

Jun 7, 2016

On June 6, 2016, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) announced it would replace corrugated roof awnings of most of the 349 terraced houses it manages in Chip Bee Gardens as a safety precaution as it is believed that most of them could contain asbestos. The SLA said that this work would be done even though the health risks posed to occupants remains low. In order to ensure that no asbestos is released into the environment, the removal work will be carried out by an approved contractor under supervision according to guidance issued by the Manpower Ministry which regulates the replacement and removal of asbestos. See: Roof awnings at Chip Bee Gardens to be replaced due to asbestos.

Community Action on Asbestos Hazard

Jun 6, 2016

Under the banner of “My community without asbestos” [Mi barrio sin Amianto], members of the El Tajo Neighborhood Association held an outreach project in Alcáceres, in the heart of the Santa Maria de Benquerencia neighbourhood, to call for zero tolerance of asbestos contamination in their area. According to media reports: “It was a festive day of protest, with workshops and children's games, lectures, a photographic exhibition, bar and paella and musical performances with bands like Humo Sapiens, Lujamen Brothers, Alvaro Gomez, Trifolka and Nifelite.” See: Fiesta contra el amianto en el Polígono [Party against asbestos in the Polygon].

Preventing Asbestos Fly-tipping

Jun 6, 2016

On Saturday, June 4, 2016 two landfills in Auxois, in the Burgundian region of France, accepted deposits of asbestos debris at no charge under a community scheme to stop people from illegally dumping asbestos waste on roadsides, in country areas and in nature reserves. During the day, members of the public were able to bring asbestos-containing roofing material, pipes and other such waste to collection points in Maconge and Mont-Saint-Jean. See: Deux déchetteries de l’Auxois sud ont collecté de l’amiante [Two landfills south of Auxois accept asbestos debris].

Award for Ban Asbestos Campaigner

Jun 4, 2016

Veteran asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff is to receive a medal of honour on Thursday, June 9, 2016 from Quebec’s National Assembly for her work to shut down Canada’s asbestos trade. Having long been regarded by the Quebec industry and political establishment as public enemy number 1, this development marks a sea change in the perception of a substance formerly nicknamed “white gold.” The announcement of this award follows just a few weeks after Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would “move to ban asbestos.” See: Kathleen Ruff: How one single-minded activist helped turn the tide on asbestos.

Victory for Workers in Normandy

Jun 4, 2016

The French State was ordered on Wednesday by an administrative court in Caen, northern France to pay more than a million euros to 127 former asbestos-exposed employees of DCN (Direction des Constructions Navales), a company in which the State was a majority shareholder. Each worker will receive compensation of up to €8,000 for the anxiety of knowing they could, like their fellow workmates, succumb to a “a serious pathology, which could cause death.” See: Amiante: l'Etat doit payer un million d'euros à 127 ex-salariés de DCN [Asbestos: the state must pay one million euros to 127 former employees of DCN].

Alert on Asbestos and other Hazards

Jun 3, 2016

A commentary written in the run up to China’s implementation of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships has contrasted the “passive acceptance” of the on-board presence of asbestos-containing material of Chinese shipowners with the strict regulation and prohibitions demanded by foreign owners. Material inspections, third party audits, strict management controls are just some of the many expensive stipulations required to deal with the asbestos maritime hazard. See: 林洪山:遏制有害物质需要全面动员 [Containment of hazardous substances requires a comprehensive mobilization].

Uralita Charges over more Asbestos Deaths

Jun 2, 2016

On June 1, 2016, the families of 10 deceased workers from Spain’s Uralita asbestos-cement company progressed legal proceedings in a Madrid court over the company’s negligence regarding high levels of occupational workplace exposures to asbestos. The Judge has announced that each case will be tried separately; damages of €300,000 are being sought. A class action over these charges had been suspended 4 years ago; since then 8 of the 10 workers had died from asbestos-related diseases. See: Los trabajadores de Uralita no pudieron ver en vida cómo se hacía justicia [Uralita workers could not see justice done in their lifetime].

Government Asbestos Alert

Jun 1, 2016

On May 31, 2016, Cambodia’s Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng called on employers to take action on the asbestos hazard, a substance which is commonly used in the country. “What is important,” he told delegates to an asbestos conference in Siem Reap “is the health of the employee. So the ministry wants employers and enterprise owners to be aware of the disadvantages of asbestos, which could affect employees’ health.” Reacting to these comments, one observer pointed out that the government has a responsibility to act on the human health risks posed by deadly exposures to asbestos. In August 2015, the Cambodian Government issued a proposal to ban asbestos; no follow up action has been taken. See: Employers warned on asbestos.

Apportioning Blame: Who Pays the Bill

Jun 1, 2016

On May 20, 2016, Judge William Kearns strongly denounced Australia’s “asbestos giant” – James Hardie – for “decades of silence” that left thousands of Newcastle Dockyard workers “dealing with asbestos products needed for ship building.” The Judge found that James Hardie, Newcastle Dockyard and its owner, the State of New South Wales, knew the dangers of asbestos in 1962 and did nothing to protect those at risk of occupational exposures prior to 1977. Judge Kearns held the State responsible for the majority of compensation paid to eight workers with Hardie responsible for up to 40% of compensation in the case of one worker. See|: Eight former Newcastle Dockyard workers are at the centre of a legal case over asbestos liabilities.

Living with a Deadly Legacy

May 31, 2016

Every breath is a struggle for German asbestosis sufferer Ludwig Jovanovic. The seventy-seven year old former fitter and welder was one of thousands who built the country’s infrastructure with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of asbestos. Receiving support and compensation for asbestos-related diseases can be complex and time consuming in Germany and victims have to prove that they were exposed to asbestos to access benefits. According to occupational physician Thomas Kraus from University Hospital, Aachen a global ban on asbestos is needed to prevent other countries from experiencing the same catastrophe as Germany. See: Wie Asbest die Lunge zerstört [How asbestos destroys the lungs].

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, 2016

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