Advancing the Global Campaign for Asbestos Justice 2022 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



A quote made famous by Vladimir Lenin: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,” sprang to mind when I was reviewing progress made this month (September 2022). Recent news received of developments in Latin America, Europe and Asia made manifest the huge strides being achieved in the struggle for asbestos justice. The September breakthroughs were the result of long-term efforts by grassroots campaigners, politicians, civil servants, asbestos victims’ groups, non-governmental organizations, national associations and others working individually and collaboratively to address asbestos corruption and illegalities.1

On September 6, 2022, the Parliament of Ukraine approved legislation banning the future use of all types of asbestos, despite being on the doorstep of the world’s two biggest producers: Russia and Kazakhstan.2 The adoption of the asbestos prohibitions had taken more than fourteen years and was part of Ukraine’s European Union accession program.

On the same day, 5,000 miles away, the International Labour Organisation’s Project Advisory Committee on enhancing Occupational Safety and Health held a meeting in Cambodia about standards in the construction sector. According to Yan Thy – Secretary-General of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia who was in attendance – subjects on the agenda included procedural matters such as regulations and policies adopted by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training pertaining to the health and safety of construction workers as well as challenges associated with asbestos in products used by construction workers.3

On September 7, 2022, South Africa's biggest food producer Tiger Brands Ltd recalled from sale its Purity Essentials baby powder products, including the 100g, 200g and 400g pack sizes, after traces of asbestos had been detected in test samples. This action was taken, said the company: "in the best interest of consumers and as a precautionary measure.”4


On September 8, 2022, Brazil’s former warship the São Paulo – which had been at the center of an international scandal for many months – changed course. The vessel had been headed towards a dismantling yard in Turkey; in late August, a Turkish Minister revoked authorization for the ship to enter the country5 and authorities in Gibraltar refused permission for its passage through the Straits of Gibraltar. 6 The Brazilian authorities were left with no option but to call the ship back to base.


Lorraine Thomas outside her Wittenoom home in happier days.

Also on September 8, 2022, a milestone was reached in the history of the infamous Australian asbestos mining town of Wittenoom with the eviction of 80-year-old Lorraine Thomas – the toxic town’s last resident. Pursuant to West Australian (WA) legislation, direct action was taken by government officials and bailiffs as Mrs Thomas had missed the August 31, 2022 deadline for evacuating her home. With no one left in residence and no facilities available, the WA Government hopes to draw a line under the thorny problem posed by the blue asbestos fibers which remain in Wittenoom’s air, water and soil after decades of crocidolite (blue asbestos) mining.7

A September 12, 2022 exposé about the history and strategies of the US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) which appeared in the New Yorker magazine, detailed how this national brand had exploited consumers’ trust whilst promoting the company’s iconic baby powder despite the presence of asbestos fibers. The company, said Journalist Casey Cep, had made full use of loopholes in government oversight to avoid regulation and exploited judicial stratagems to freeze claims by US cancer victims.8

On September 13, 2022, Cambodian officials from the General Department of Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Prevention met with representatives of Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency in Phnom Pen to discuss measures to build the country’s technical capacity in the fight for asbestos safety.


September 13, 2022 asbestos meeting in Phnom Penh.

Two days later (September 15), the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training ran a workshop to develop a roadmap for the eradication of asbestos-related diseases in Cambodia.

On September 14, 2022, the 5th Chamber of the Labor Court of Amiens, France issued a victims’ verdict in a case over asbestos anxiety caused by the knowledge of toxic workplace exposures at railway workshops in north-central France operated by the state-owned railway company. The case was launched in 2016; in 2017 seventy workers were each awarded compensation of €60,000 (US$60,100). In 2018, the Reims Court of Appeal overturned the verdict. Since 2016, two claimants have died from asbestos cancer, a third is undergoing chemotherapy and six have been diagnosed with pleural thickening.9

On September 16, 2022, it was announced that WorkSafeBC, the statutory agency in British Columbia tasked with preventing occupational injury and occupational diseases, had imposed a record fine of over $700,000 (US$525,500) on a Toronto-based demolition company that had been contracted to clear fire damage at a commercial site. The company had failed to comply with asbestos regulations as a result of which operatives were working in illegal and toxic conditions.10

The same day, the Food & Drugs Administration of the Indian State of Maharashtra cancelled the manufacturing license of Johnson’s Baby Powder manufactured by Johnson’s & Johnson’s Pvt. Ltd., Mulund, Mumbai after samples of the powder drawn at Pune & Nashik were declared “not of Standard Quality” by government officials.11 Reacting to this unwelcomed news, Johnson & Johnson issued a clarification defending its product and saying it did not contain asbestos.

On September 19, 2022, the French National Health Security Agency confirmed that “some cancers of the larynx and ovaries are indeed linked to exposure to asbestos” and that these two cancers were generally “under-reported and under-recognized.” The Institute for Public Health Surveillance (forerunner of Public Health France) and other international organizations such as the United Nations’ International Center for Research on Cancer had recognized the asbestos link with cancers of the larynx or ovaries several years ago.12

With more countries acting to prevent toxic exposures by banning asbestos and/or imposing ever stricter regulations on its use, new jurisdictions recognizing victims’ compensation claims, greater awareness of the diversity of asbestos contamination – including its presence in baby powder products and liberation as a result of unregulated urban regeneration – and the almost daily revelations about how defendant corporations abused workers and consumers’ trust, the public’s perception of asbestos grows ever more negative. The termination of asbestos demand in Ukraine is a victory for common sense as well as a defeat for an industry of mass destruction. Other countries will, almost certainly, be emboldened to stand up for their citizens’ rights as Ukraine has done. There is no place in the 21st century for the asbestos industry.

September 21, 2022


1 For a full list of current developments, please see the news digest of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat:

2 Kazan-Allen, L. Ukraine Bans Asbestos, Finally! September 9, 2022.

3 ILO holds third meeting on Occupational Safety, Health in Construction. September 7, 2022.

4 Tiger Brands recalls Purity baby powder products on traces of asbestos. September 7, 2022.

5 Suciu, P. 9 Tons Of Asbestos: A Toxic Aircraft Carrier Needs To Be Scrapped (But Where?) August 30, 2022.

6 Kazan-Allen, L. Humiliation for Brazil, Victory for Turkey! September 12, 2022.
Valduga, F. Após ser proibido de entrar na Turquia, porta-aviões São Paulo está voltando ao Brasil [After being banned from entering Turkey, aircraft carrier São Paulo is returning to Brazil]. September 9, 2022.

7 Carr, C, Tyndall, A. Wittenoom's last resident evicted as WA government shuts down asbestos-contaminated town. September 8, 2022.

8 Cep, C. Johnson & Johnson & New War on Consumer Protection. September 12, 2022.

9 Long, C. Procès de l'amiante à la SNCF : les cheminots de Romilly-sur-Seine obtiennent un dédommagement financier [Asbestos trial at the SNCF: the railway workers of Romilly-sur-Seine obtain financial compensation]. September 14, 2022.

10 Matassa-Fung, D. WorkSafeBC imposes record-high single penalty of $710,488 for asbestos violations. September 16, 2022.

11 Johnson & Johnson Issues Clarification After Cancellation of Manufacturing License of Its Baby Powder, Says ‘It Is Safe and Does Not Contain Asbestos That Causes Cancer’. September 17, 2022.

12 Les autorités sanitaires confirment le lien entre l'exposition à l'amiante et certains cancers du larynx et des ovaires [Health authorities confirm link between asbestos exposure and certain laryngeal and ovarian cancers]. September 19, 2022.



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