Anger Growing in Brazil over Asbestos Crimes
The last few months of 2022 saw a remarkable series of events which, taken as a whole, revealed the true scale of the volte-face in Brazilians perception of asbestos. In decisions by the judiciary and provincial governments, broadcasts on TV channels and victories achieved by grassroots campaigners, lies told by the asbestos lobby were denounced, the return of an asbestos-laden ship was blocked and the lives sacrificed by asbestos stakeholders were honored.
On October 31, 2022, a São Paulo Court handed down a long-awaited verdict in a case brought by ban asbestos campaigner Fernanda Giannasi against asbestos lobbyists1 who had attacked her reputation in online posts, TV programs, and newspapers, categorizing her work to achieve justice for Brazilian asbestos victims as illegal, irresponsible, authoritarian, dishonest, and scarcely credible and comparing the means by which she worked to raise asbestos awareness to the methods used by the chief propagandist for the Nazi Party Joseph Gobbels.2
In his 13-page judgment Judge Celso Lourenço Morgado upheld as valid Ms. Giannasis claims and ordered each of the defendants to pay damages of BRL 20,000.00 (US ~$5,800) and allow the plaintiff a right of reply in their blog (Blog do Bordoni)3 or on their website (Instituto Brasileiro de Crisotila [Brazilian Chrysotile Institute (BCI)]).4 In addition, the defendants were instructed to take down all offensive articles from the internet, refrain from further attacks on Ms. Giannasi and pay the legal costs of the case. As expected, the BCI rejected the verdict; in mid-November 2022, an appeal by the BCI was dismissed by the Court of Justice of the State of São Paulo. In mid-December the BCI appealed to the Civil Court of the 2nd Level for a reduction in the financial penalty imposed arguing that it had only reproduced the text written by journalist Bordoni in his blog. The Courts final decision is pending.
On November 16, 2022, news was released that the Superior Civil Court had issued a verdict overruling an injunction which had allowed asbestos mining operations by the Sama Mineração S/A, company to resume despite the 2017 Supreme Court verdict banning the production, commercialization and transport of asbestos in Brazil.5 The text of the November decision was categorical: the extraction, exploration, processing, marketing, transport and export of asbestos in Brazil are illegal.6
Ever since permission for the Brazilian Navys flagship the São Paulo to be dismantled in a Turkish shipyard was rescinded (August 2022), the vessel has been on a journey to nowhere. Brazilian TV programs7 and multiple newspaper articles highlighted the plight of the sailors on board and the unwillingness of provincial governments in Brazil to allow the ship to berth. On October 5, 2022 the Pernambuco Environment Agency refused permission for the São Paulo to dock at the Port of Suape citing environmental concerns.8 On November 20th a petition was sent to the Governor of Bahia State by the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) together with environmental and civil society groups, warning of the potential consequences should the ship be allowed to dock in Bahia.9 In December, the city of Angra in the southwest of Rio de Janeiro State issued a ban on the docking of all vessels containing asbestos or radioactive material. At the end of the month, the Federal Regional Court of the 5th Region denied a request from the ships owners to authorize the São Paulo to dock at the Port of Suape.10 Less than a fortnight later, (January 11, 2023) the company representing the Turkish owner of the vessel said that if the Brazilian authorities did not secure the ship a place to berth, it would be abandoned. As of the date of writing, the unwanted vessel remains in a state of limbo off the Brazilian coast.11
On December 10, 2022, a twenty-year-old dream became a reality with the unveiling of the Lung-Tree memorial to Brazils asbestos victims in the city of Osasco, formerly the heart of the countrys asbestos-cement industry.12
The Lung Tree created by artist Wagner Hermusche (photograph courtesy of ABREA; photographer Wendell Cristiano).
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the memorial, the co-founder of the Brazilian Association of Asbestos Victims (ABREA) Fernanda Giannasi said the Lung-Tree was:
majestic and full of meaning. In addition to honoring our dead friends, it celebrates life, which our heroes sought so much in their daily struggles against the asbestos-related diseases they contracted these heroes who fell poisoned by the cursed fiber that is asbestos were murdered by unscrupulous companies that, when they settled in our country, were already aware of the harmfulness of asbestos
The place chosen to plant this Lung-Tree was in front of the site where the largest factory outside of Europe of the Swiss-Belgian Eternit group was built. It was the goose that laid the golden egg! In an area of 150 thousand square meters, exploiting our abundant natural resources, they settled in 1939 and stayed for 54 years, leaving us a cursed legacy of diseases and waste from the production of asbestos-cement
We remind you that today's date was not chosen by chance; International Human Rights Day is celebrated all over the world and there is nothing better to mark such an important day as the inauguration of this monument, which from today forms part of the landscape of Osasco This is the fifth memorial to asbestos victims around the world; the names of our heroes will be eternalized on the plaque inaugurated here today, where they will definitely cease to be mere numbers or anonymous statistics.13
Marcia Gamba, ABREA Secretary in Londrina, Paraná State; Marcia is pointing to the name of her father on the ABREA honor roll (photograph courtesy of ABREA; photographer Wendell Cristiano).
With the election of President Lula, one can but hope that the groundswell of anger over the asbestos crimes which have killed Brazilians, polluted the environment and contaminated the national infrastructure will be acknowledged, and that steps will be taken to address the harm done by this industry of mass destruction.
January 20, 2023
1 The defendants in this case were: the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute (BCI), Journalist Luiz Carlos Bordoni and the Mining Workers Union from the city of Minaçu in the Brazilian State of Goiás.
2 Judge Celso Lourenço Morgado, Court of Justice of the State of São Paulo. Case Number: 0161487-53.2012.8.26.0100. Fernanda Giannasi vs Luiz Carlos Bordoni & others. October 31. 2022.
4 Website of the Instituto Brasileiro de Crisotila (Brazilian Chrysotile Institute).
5 In 2021, output for Sama, the only asbestos producer in Brazil, was 120,000 tonnes, all of which was exported.
6 Oliveira D. STJ ordena que Sama pare de extrair amianto em Minaçu [STJ orders Sama to stop extracting asbestos in Minaçu]. November 22, 2022.
7 A segment on the situation of the São Paulo was shown on Domingo Espetacular (Spectacular Sunday), a variety program on Channel 7, on November 27, 2022.
8 Kazan-Allen, L. São Paulo Blame Game. October 11, 2022.
9 Vilasboas, Z. Ambientalistas alertam governador da Bahia contra sucata perigosa de navio [Environmentalists warn governor of Bahia against dangerous ship scrap]. December 14, 2022.
10 Empresa quer abandonar no mar navio porta-aviões impedido de atracar em PE desde outubro por conter substância tóxica [Company wants to abandon at sea aircraft carrier prevented from docking in PE since October for containing toxic substance]. January 11, 2023.
11 Vilasboas, Z. Ambientalistas alertam governador da Bahia contra sucata perigosa de navio [Environmentalists warn governor of Bahia against dangerous ship scrap]. December 14, 2022.
12 ABREA virtual album of December 10, 2022 unveiling:
13 Speech by Fernanda Giannasi at December 12, 2022 unveiling received by email. December 14, 2022.