2018: From Protest to Progress
This has been an extraordinary year for the global ban asbestos campaign with long-awaited prohibitions coming into force and others moving ahead swiftly. The progress achieved this year has almost surpassed expectations with the following developments amongst the most significant:
Throughout the year, work in multiple locations has been ongoing to identify victims via asbestos diagnosis camps, mobilize workers in asbestos factories, build medical capacity, support communities devastated by environmental asbestos contamination and facilitate access to medical treatment and compensation, engage with medical researchers progressing new treatments for mesothelioma, collaborate on the development of resources to raise asbestos awareness and expose the dirty tricks used by asbestos vested interests to forestall efforts to protect public and occupational health endangered by asbestos exposures.
Some specific highlights from this productive year are referenced below:
January 2018: Civil society groups condemned political and economic pressure exerted by Russia to force Sri Lanka to postpone plans to ban asbestos.2 Outreach work in Kolkata, India was undertaken to identify asbestos victims, mobilize workers in the asbestos-cement industry, raise asbestos awareness and mobilize civil society via a series of initiatives.3
April 2018: An asbestos action group in South Africas Northern Cape Province held a community event on April 6 to commemorate Global Asbestos Awareness Week.4 On April 19, 2018, a medical diagnosis camp in India organized by the Workers Initiative was held for employees from a Kolkata asbestos factory. Sixty-four workers and family members were examined; 31 were diagnosed as suffering from asbestos-related conditions.5
May 2018: Details of research which revealed that global asbestos consumption had dramatically declined were published;6 an Open Letter in English, Russian and Portuguese warning asbestos industry stakeholders that The End is Nigh! was uploaded to multiple websites;7 findings were reported showing tremolite contamination of childrens products purchased in London.8
June 2018: On South Africas Youth Day (June 16), a workshop for schoolchildren in a former South African asbestos mining community was heled to raise asbestos awareness.9 The All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Seminar was held in London, England on June 26; the keynote speaker was ban asbestos champion Brazilian engineer Fernanda Giannasi.10
July 2018: On July 10 & 11, participants from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh Nepal, Pakistan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and the Philippines attended the South Asia Asbestos Strategy.11
August 2018: An expose was published based on research in Europe and Latin and North America detailing the economic and political strategies used by the chlorine industry to forestall asbestos prohibitions in various jurisdictions.12 A series of events was held to raise awareness of the deadly epidemic of debilitating disease and premature deaths experienced by workers, family members and the public due to asbestos mining in Wittenoom, Australia13 and to update medical researchers in Perth on global ban asbestos developments.
September 2018: On September 13 & 14, 100+ delegates from Vietnam and 10 other Asian Pacific countries, met at the 2nd annual conference of the Southeast Asia Ban Asbestos Network (SEABAN).14
On September 20, delegates from Taiwan, Korea and Japan gathered in Hong Kong to take part in the East Asia Asbestos Meeting to discuss issues related to the continuing use of asbestos in the region15; on September 23, a new installation entitled The Deadly Legacy of Asbestos was displayed at the 19th World Conference on Lung Cancer in Toronto, Canada;16 on September 26, the Asbestos Interest Group from Kuruman, South Africa convened community members to discuss the environmental legacy posed by asbestos mining waste throughout the area.
October 2018: On October 12, a technical consultation meeting on asbestos took place in Hanoi, Vietnam which was attended by personnel from Vietnams Ministry of Construction and Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Kidong Park, the WHO Representative to Vietnam said: Vietnam as a growing middle-income country should be able to afford providing its people, including the most vulnerable, with safe asbestos-free roofing for houses.17 On October 13, a medical workshop was held in Jakarta, Indonesia to raise awareness of the diagnoses and treatment of asbestos-related diseases18; in Nepal, on October 28, NGO personnel met with civil servants, representatives from government ministries and other stakeholders to improve implementation of the countrys asbestos prohibitions.19
On October 29, 2018, a bill (Assembly, No. 4416) to prohibit the sale or distribution of asbestos-containing products was adopted by the New Jersey Assembly.20
November 2018: In early November, legal proceedings brought by ban asbestos campaigners in the London High Court ended with the campaigners receiving substantial damages and costs from K2 Intelligence Ltd. (K2) whose Executive Managing Director Matteo Bigazzi hired an operative Robert Moore to spy on them for clients representing asbestos interests in Kazakhstan.21 On November 15 & 16, the first international asbestos conference took place in Lisbon, Portugal; during this event, a new asbestos victims group was launched: SOS Amianto.22 On November 19, 2018 ban asbestos billboards went up in Vientiane, Laos warning of the dangers posed by the continuing use of asbestos-containing products. This initiative was backed by the Australian Embassy, the Office of the Embassy of Canada formerly the worlds biggest asbestos producer and Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA), an Australian NGO.23
In Laos, a series of meetings and events during the week beginning November 26 progressed actions by government and civil society stakeholders to protect public health from asbestos cancer following the signing on November 23 of an order by the Minister of Health to ban the import and use of chrysotile asbestos in Laos by 2020.24 As the G20 leaders prepared to meet in Buenos Aires on November 30, ban asbestos campaigners called for global action on the asbestos menace in a letter sent to them in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.25
December 2018: On December 4, the Ana Cecilia Nio law, which would ban asbestos nationwide, was approved by the Colombian Senate; companies will have five years to make the transition to asbestos-free technologies if this legislation is approved by the House of Representatives.26 On December 6, Dr. Gopal Krishna made a presentation at the 14th World Bioethics Congress in New Delhi, India on the subject of: Research on Chrysotile Asbestos: A Failure of Ethics by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Human Rights Commission. The next day (December 7), a new documentary film Breathless, about the global fight for asbestos justice, was screened at the Human Rights festival in Zurich; the film had already been premiered in Belgium and the UK.
In the face of these formidable achievements, the asbestos industry continues to fight back with all the resources and dirty tricks at its disposal. As the espionage lawsuit revealed, there is no low to which asbestos profiteers will not stoop to derail the ban asbestos movement. The industrys propaganda, its spin doctors rhetoric and its economic bullying are rejected and deplored by victims, civil society activists, trade unionists and experts around the world.
Asbestos pushers know that there is no place in the 21st century for their discredited technology. The future is asbestos-free.
December 13, 2018
1 Kazan-Allen, L. Global Asbestos Panorama: 2018 Update. October 2, 2018.
2 Media Release. Economic blackmail by Russia against Sri Lankas asbestos ban decision slammed by international trade unions and health networks. January 3, 2018.
3 Some of the work done with this funding is referenced in this article:
Tewary, K. Everest Industries Ltd, Kolkata India: Victimizing the workers. May 15, 2018.
4 Kotoloane, P. Global Asbestos Awareness Event: Standing together against Asbestos. May 5, 2018
5 Kazan-Allen L. Global Overview: Asbestos Landscape 2018. November 17, 2018.
6 Allen, A. Kazan-Allen L. Dramatic Fall in Asbestos Production. May 3, 2018.
7 Re: Open Letter to the Asbestos Industry - The End is Nigh! May 16, 2018.
8 Press Release: Asbestos in Childrens Products Sold in UK. May 21, 2018.
Test results can be viewed here:
9 Kotoloane, P. Asbestos Youth Awareness Workshop. July 13, 2018.
10 Kazan-Allen, L. Parliamentary Asbestos Seminar 2018. July 2, 2018.
11 George, O. South Asia Asbestos Strategy Meeting, July 12, 2018.
12 Kazan-Allen, L. Asbestos Intransigence. August 6, 2018.
13 Kazan-Allen, L. West Australias Campaign for Asbestos Justice 2018. September 13, 2018.
14 Kazan-Allen L. Southeast Asia Ban Asbestos Conference. September 20, 2018.
15 Banning Asbestos in Asia. September 21, 2018.
16 Kazan-Allen. L. Global Asbestos Panorama: 2018 Update October 2, 2018.
17 Vietnam Takes Big Leap in Fight vs Asbestos. October 12, 2018. http://www.wpro.who.int/vietnam/mediacentre/shortnews/2018/vietnam_takes_big_leap_in_fight_vs_asbestos/en/
18 Darisman, M. Confronting Indonesias Asbestos Challenges. October 17, 2018.
19 Sah, C. Raising Asbestos Awareness in Nepal 2018. October 31, 2018.
20 Banning Asbestos in New Jersey. November 1, 2018.
21 Leigh, Day & Co. Corporate intelligence agency pays substantial damages over claim for spying. November 7, 2018.
22SOS Amianto recebeu 20 denúncias em menos de duas semanas, diz Quercus [SOS Asbestos received 20 complaints in less than two weeks, says Quercus].November 27, 2018.
23 APHEDA. Cancer Prevention message for Laos a new feature on Australian Embassy Billboards from today.
November 19, 2018.
24 Strong support as Lao Government demonstrates action on preventing future cancers in Laos with launch of National Action Plan to Eliminate Asbestos-Related Diseases including a planned ban on chrysotile asbestos 2020. November 28, 2018.
25 Em carta aos líderes do G20, ativistas antiamianto mundiais apelam por ação global para proibir a fibra assassina [In a letter to G20 leaders, global anti-asbestos activists call for global action to ban killer fiber].
26 Senado aprobó ley que elimina el uso de asbesto en Colombia [Senate passes law that eliminates the use of asbestos in Colombia]. December 4, 2018.