Laurie Kazan-Allen

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Laurie Kazan-Allen


July 5, 2024

India Transitioning to Asbestos-Free Technology

Sometimes the information you’ve been looking for crops up in the unlikeliest of places. This is what happened a week ago when I came across a jargon-filled posting on the website of the Financial Express, an English-language Indian business newspaper. The author spoke of PBIT margins, “a CAGR of 3.1 per cent,” nominal gross value-added (GVA) and the ICRA. As the first three sentences of the text spiked my interest – “In FY2023, fibre [asbestos] prices had increased by 25 per cent, amidst the Russia–Ukraine conflict. Russia is the largest exporter of Chrysotile asbestos in the world. Additionally, rupee depreciation and spiking freight costs due to logistical challenges had worsened the price increase” – I persisted.1

Having deciphered the abbreviations – thank you google – I finally got to the bottom of the article where the really good stuff was:

“While the country [India] still permits the import of chrysotile asbestos, many countries have banned all types of asbestos. With this ban on the mining of asbestos across countries may lead to non-availability of raw materials, which can ultimately impact the companies’ operations.

The market share of the top five companies (in revenue terms) in the asbestos fibre cement (FC) sheet segment is in the range of 80-82 per cent, implying an oligopoly market structure… Considering the moderate growth prospects of the asbestos FC industry, there are no major capex [capital expenditure] plans in the pipeline for the top five players in the medium term... The key players are moving towards de-risking their business profiles by entering non-asbestos segments due to regulatory risks associated with the threat of a ban on the usage of these products and on the mining of asbestos in the producing countries.”

India is the world’s biggest asbestos importer. Traditionally, Russia has been the asbestos supplier of choice for Indian importers; however, since the instability caused by the invasion of Ukraine Russia has been replaced by Brazil as the number one asbestos exporter to India.2 On August 14, 2024, the Brazilian Supreme Court will rule on the unconstitutionality of allowing asbestos, a substance banned in Brazil, to be mined and exported.3 If things turn out the way we hope India may, in the short-term, be looking for a new source of asbestos.


Asbestos-cement products and off-cuts are widely used for roofing in India. Photograph reproduced with the permission of Hein du Plessis.

In the medium to long term let’s hope that the trend identified above becomes a reality and that Indian building product manufacturers make the leap to healthier technologies that are not reliant on the use of carcinogens.

1 Asbestos-based roofing players’ PBIT margins likely at 8-9% in FY25 and FY26, margins to slide in FY22-24 on Russia-Ukraine conflict, supply chain disruptions. June 26, 2024.

2 Kazan-Allen, L. Russians Losing Key Asbestos Market. June 5, 2024.
Kazan-Allen, L. Global Asbestos Trade 2023: Spotlight on India. September 28, 2023.

Brazilian Supreme Court Calendar. Accessed July 4, 2024.

June 13, 2024

Canada, Time to Choose Sides!

Once upon a time, you could easily put a face to the crime. Asbestos pushers from Canada would show themselves at public forums like clockwork – they’d even smile for the camera. Nothing to see here folks, please move on.


Canadian delegation at 2006 Geneva meeting of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention where they declared “Canada does not support the listing of chrysotile asbestos.”

The Canadian diplomats, businessmen and scientists tasked with promoting and protecting the asbestos brand were delegates at international meetings, witnesses at judicial and legislative hearings and members of staff at Canadian embassies around the world. 1

That was then. In 2018 Canada, like most other developed countries, banned asbestos. All asbestos mining operations ceased and the use and export of asbestos fiber became illegal. Score one for the good guys.

Canada, however, remains complicit in the global asbestos epidemic not only because of the millions of tonnes of Canadian asbestos already incorporated within the built environment2 but also because of the country’s tacit support for the asbestos lobby.

The mouthpiece for global asbestos vested interests is the International Chrysotile Association (ICA); it is on the Quebec business registry (number 1147070081) with the address: 3900-1 Place Ville-Marie, Montreal.3 This is the same address provided to the Secretariat of the UN Rotterdam Convention (RC) by ICA directors and officials registered to attend the 2023 Conference of the Parties to the RC, none of whom appear to be resident in Canada. ICA personnel using this address were:

  • Tahir Baig Barlas, Director for Pakistan;
  • Prakrit Shrestha, Director for Nepal;
  • Emiliano Alonso Martin, Marketing & Communication Officer/Executive Board Member;
  • Emiliano Alonso Pelegrin, Chairman4;
  • Josep Monraba Bagan, Executive Officer;
  • Patnaree Bhakdikhanasedh, Southeast Coordinator.

As well as sharing the same address in Canada – which turns out to belong to Dentons, the “world's largest global law firm” 5 – all those named above had the same phone number which, according to the area code, is located in Belgium, where the public relations company hired by the ICA – Alonso Associates – is based.6 The phone number listed on the PR firm’s website is the same as that listed by the ICA personnel: 32 2 230 70 42.

The fact that provincial and federal authorities remain willing to aid and abet former allies, despite the sea-change in Canada’s asbestos policy, is disturbing. If asbestos is too dangerous to be used in Canada, why is the ICA – a “completely foreign-funded” pro-asbestos lobbying organization – deemed to be a legitimate enterprise when its declared aim is the promotion of a class 1 carcinogen? 7 Assisting a murderer is a crime; so too is providing sanctuary for those who promote death and destruction. Quantifying and addressing Canada’s lethal role in the global asbestos epidemic will take time but the very least that should be done is for the ICA to be struck off the Quebec business registry. The time is long past due.

1 Kazan-Allen, L. Rotterdam Treaty Killed by Chrysotile Asbestos! October 17, 2006.

2 Between 1900 and 2000, mines in Québec, Newfoundland, British Columbia and the Yukon produced a total of 61 million tons of chrysotile (white asbestos); most of it was exported.
Kazan-Allen, L. Canadian Asbestos: A Global Concern. October 2003.

3 Quebec Registry. Accessed June 8, 2024.

For more on the ICA, see: Ruff, K. Exposé of the International Chrysotile Association. February 18. 2013.
Ruff, K. How Canada Changed from Exporting Asbestos to Banning Asbestos: The Challenges That Had to Be Overcome. October 2017.

4 As of 2020, Emiliano Alonso was also President of the ICA.
Letter to Emiliano Alonso. November 27, 2020.

5 Website of Dentons Law. Accessed June 10, 2024.

6 Website of Alonso Associates. Accessed June 10, 2024.

7 Thibodeau, M. Interdiction de L’amiante au Canada. Le Croisé du Chrysotile [Asbestos Ban in Canada. The Chrysotile Crusader]. December 16, 2016.

May 23, 2024

Two Countries, Two Different Approaches to the Asbestos Hazard

The unwelcomed discovery of asbestos-contaminated mulch in public spaces in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Canberra, combined with an almost laser-like focus on the deadly repercussions of exposures to engineered stone building products, seem to have reenergized the Australian debate on avoidable dangers at the workplace, in the home and in the environment. As a result, in December, 2023 the Australian federal government announced that as of July 1, 2024 the use of engineered stone would be banned nationwide; Australia is the first country in the world to outlaw this material. 1

On May 9, 2024, a joint statement on asbestos was issued by Australian trade unions, asbestos victims’ groups, research institutions and campaigning bodies calling on the Government to prioritize the removal of 6.2 million tonnes of asbestos from Australian workplaces, public buildings and homes, in order to save 28,000+ lives. Every year, 4,000 Australians die from asbestos-related diseases.2

A petition entitled “Eradicate Asbestos” was categorical about the threat asbestos still posed to Australians despite the fact that it was banned over two decades ago:

“There is simply no safe level of asbestos. Modelling shows us that if we are to meander along at the same rate of removal, we will still have more than 1 million tonnes in the built environment in the year 2060 and that by the end of the century, 100 years since the ban, we still will have failed to remove all asbestos containing materials. The asbestos in our built environment can be up to sixty years old and is degrading. This is really dangerous. We need asbestos gone – now.”3

In contrast to the proactive stance in Australia is the approach in the UK, where the discovery of another hazard in asbestos-contaminated buildings has generated a totally different response. The 2023/24 scandal over the presence of deteriorating reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in UK schools and the “national disgrace” of asbestos contamination of the educational infrastructure resulted in the traditional British reaction in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles. After much media coverage and dozens of political promises, some structural engineers are now saying what the Government wants to hear: “We will have to learn to live with Raac as we’ve lived with asbestos…”4

This week the conclusions of the five-year public inquiry into the UK’s contaminated blood scandal were published. Multiple causes for the dangerous treatments given to haemophiliacs and others from the 1970s to early 1990s were cited and blame was laid at the door of successive government as well as the NHS. There was denial, obfuscation and a massive cover-up which prioritized “financial and reputational considerations.” As a result, 3,000 people have died and tens of thousands have been infected by toxic blood transfusions or the use of tainted imported blood plasma products.5

Will it take another fifty years for the UK government to get to grips with the ongoing crisis of deteriorating asbestos not only in our schools but also in other public buildings? How many more people will die before the callous and dangerous position of the Health and Safety Executive and Government changes?

1 Kolovus, B. Australia will become the first country to ban engineered stone bench tops. Will others follow? December 14, 2024.

2 Joint statement. Leading health experts, unions and asbestos victims back national roadmap to remove 6.2m tonnes of asbestos from Australian workplaces, public buildings and homes that will save more than 28,000 lives. May 9, 2024.

3 Eradicate Asbestos. Accessed May 20, 2024.

4 Johnson, T. We will have to learn to live with Raac as we’ve lived with asbestos, say structural engineers. May 14, 2024.

5 Siddique, H., Hall, R. UK infected blood scandal made worse by ‘chilling’ cover-up, inquiry finds. May 20, 2024.

May 8, 2024

Turning Swords into Ploughshares

In the aftermath of this year’s World Earth Day (April 22), several Chinese articles were uploaded detailing the ecological restoration of polluted mining sites located in or near the Giant Panda National Park in the Ya’an Area of China’s Sichuan Province. Amongst the abandoned areas on the 5,936 square kilometer section of the nature preserve which were earmarked for reclamation pursuant to The Ecological Restoration Demonstration Project of Historical Abandoned Mines in the Giant Panda National Park were six derelict asbestos mines, the presence of which posed “a threat to the health of people and wild animals.”1 Additional sub-projects involved remediation work at marble and other mines.

The removal of a large amount of asbestos waste, which was “causing landscape damage, serious soil erosion, encroachment on giant panda habitats, and vegetation destruction” at the Sichuan Xinkang Asbestos Mine in Huilong Town began in 2022; a variety of measures were used for the restoration work, including slope shaping, soil covering, and grass planting. By April 19, 2024, it was reported that the formerly toxic site “had been completely greened, and the grass was verdant and full of life under the sun.”2

According to Li Tianhu, deputy director of the Shimian County Natural Resources and Planning Bureau:

“The implementation of the project has increased the area of suitable habitat for the giant panda, improved the capacity of water conservation and soil and water conservation, improved the ecological environment of the surrounding areas, and improved the ecological environment of the transition zone between the Giant Panda National Park and the human settlement area, so as to better promote the symbiosis and co-protection between man and nature.” 3

More work remains to be done.

For decades, China has been one of the world’s largest asbestos producers and consumers. However, between 1997 (437,000 tonnes/t) and 2017 (125,000t), China’s output of chrysotile (white) asbestos – the only type of asbestos mined in China – fell by over 70%.4 Mines that once produced asbestos fell idle and were abandoned.

From the articles circulated on World Earth Day, it seems that serious work is being done to address the toxic legacy left by the presence of redundant asbestos mines in Sichuan Province. The transformation of scarred landscapes into habitats suitable for Giant Pandas and other animals is amazing in both its scale and vision. Of course, the devil is in the detail but in the absence of any contraindications, it seems that the government of Sichuan – home to the country’s only county named after a stone: Asbestos5 – is now making the natural environment, biodiversity, and the improvement of living conditions for wildlife and humans a serious priority. Long may it continue.

1 廢棄礦山生態修復成效顯著,國家公園重新綠化“重生” [The ecological restoration of abandoned mines has achieved remarkable results, and the national park has been regreened and "reborn" to life]. April 24, 2024. Accessed April 24, 2024; no longer available April 25, 2024.
四川雅安废弃矿山生态修复见闻 [Ecological restoration of abandoned mines in Ya'an, Sichuan]. April 25, 2024.
四川雅安:矿山复绿 守护大熊猫家园 [Ya'an, Sichuan: Mine regreening to protect the giant panda home]. April 23, 2024.
昔日疤痕累累 如今焕发新颜—四川雅安废弃矿山生态修复见闻 [Scarred in the past, now it has a new look – the ecological restoration of abandoned mines in Ya'an, Sichuan]. April 24, 2024.

2一线探访|推进大熊猫国家公园建设,石棉生态修复项目“加速度” [Front-line visits. Promote the construction of the Giant Panda National Park and “accelerate” the asbestos ecological restoration project]. March 17, 2023.

3 寫在人民心裡的“綠色答卷 [The “green answer sheet” written in the hearts of the people]. April 22, 2024.

4 United States Geological Survey. Asbestos Data. Accessed April 22, 2024.

5 The name in Chinese [石棉县] is transliterated as Shimian County; it means Asbestos County.
四川石棉:一个老工业县的新“石”代 [Sichuan asbestos: a new “stone” era in an old industrial county]. January 28, 2021.

April 22, 2024

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

For years, Brazilian industry stakeholders have been ruthless in their pursuit of asbestos profits. Using a variety measures, illegal as well as legal, they suppressed medical evidence, attacked civil society campaigners, lied to decision-makers and deceived consumers, employees and trade unionists.

Although the commercial exploitation of asbestos was banned by a ruling of the Supreme Court in 2017, production continues at the country’s sole remaining chrystoile (white) asbestos mine, operated by Sama S.A. Mineracoes Associadas (Sama S.A. Mining Associates/SAMA), a subsidiary of Eternit S.A.1

SAMA’s annual output accounts for 13% of global asbestos production; domestic usage of asbestos from the Minaçu mine is forbidden.2 Between February 2023 and February 2024 the value of Brazil’s asbestos exports fell by 12.4%.3 With asbestos litigation pending before Indonesia’s Supreme Court4 and high profile ban asbestos mobilization in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,5 three out of four of Brazil’s largest markets are now under threat.

The April 2024 announcement by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of an immediate ban on US asbestos imports will almost certainly also have a negative impact on global demand. In comments made to the EPA Asbestos Ban and Phase-out Legislative Hearings in August 1986, Viviano Ferrantini – at the time the General Manager of the Brazilian Asbestos Association – admitted that:

“…every move [the] USA makes – by a government agency or department – as in this case [with the EPA’s 1986 proposed asbestos ban] has a tremendous influence on us all, especially in Latin America… we all have fear that a measure like this one proposed would provoke similar actions by other Governments…”6

Combined with the doom and gloom generated by the above developments was yet another dose of despondency for asbestos vested interests created by the release on April 12, 2024 of a document by one of Brazil’s leading health institutions: the Center for Studies on Occupational Health and Human Ecology (CESTEH) of the National School of Public Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) in Rio de Janeiro. The eight-page text, headlined “About the continued illegal use of asbestos at Dow Brasil in Candeias, Bahia,” excoriated legal arguments accepted by a Bahia Labor court allowing Dow Brazil – a subsidiary of the US multinational Dow Chemical – to continue using asbestos in diaphragms for chlorine production until October 31, 2024 despite the national asbestos ban.7 The language used by the authors to condemn Dow’s pleas for an extended phase-out period was categorical:

  • the use of asbestos in diaphragms for chlorine production – categorized as a “criminal technology” – was described as an “obsolete and polluting technology [which was] a violation of [the] Rule of Law”;
  • “there is no safe dose [of exposure to asbestos] for humans”;
  • “on its own, asbestos is the main cause of occupational cancers worldwide”;
  • “The abusive use of asbestos in Dow’s chlor-alkali plant in Candeias, Brazil could be an extremely dangerous precedent for Brazilian public health in addition to being dangerous for workers and residents”;
  • “People who inhale any amount of asbestos fibers may become ill from one of the diseases caused by [exposure to] the material”;
  • “today we have documented more than ten thousand cases of diseases caused by asbestos… where there is asbestos, diseases will appear and where mesothelioma exists, asbestos [exposure] exists or existed”;
  • “Lives must be preserved. Asbestos must be banned.”

Asbestos-using companies have had more than enough notice of the need to change their practices; all the other chlor-alkali producers in Brazil have already done so as have former asbestos-using building product manufacturers, friction material producers and others. It is well past time for the judicial authorities to enforce all provisions of the national prohibitions. This means shutting down asbestos production, ending the remaining derogation and stopping asbestos exports. As the authors of the CESTEH paper so eloquently put it: “Lives must be preserved. Asbestos must be banned.”

1 Kazan-Allen, L. Brazil Asbestos Ban Upheld! February 25, 2023.

2 Instituto Brasileiro do Crisotila. SAMA S.A Minerações Associadas. Accessed April 21, 2024.

3 The Observatory of Economic Complexity. Asbestos in Brazil. Accessed April 21, 2024.

4 ANROEV. Asbestos is dangerous for health, LPKSM and LION Indonesia demand state protection from asbestos trafficking. ANROEV OHS Rights Newsletter, Issue 62. April 2024.

5 Experts for banning asbestos in Bangladesh. April 15, 2024.
Kazan-Allen, L. Asian Ban Asbestos Network: 2024 Update. March 12, 2024.

6 Comments by Viviano Ferrantini, Brazilian Asbestos Association at the EPA Asbestos Ban and Phase-out Legislative Hearings. Volume VI. EPA archive document file F1-020e. August 8, 1986.

7 Technical Advice. About the continued illegal use of asbestos at Dow Brasil in Candeias, Bahia. April 12, 2024.

March 5, 2024

Serendipity in Melbourne

Australia has had its fair share of asbestos scandals.1 The names below from each of Australia’s six states and two internal territories strike fear in the hearts of those knowledgeable enough to be afraid: Wittenoom, Western Australia,2 Baryugil, Woodsreef, Jones’ Creek, New South Wales,3 Wunderlich, Queensland,4 Yallourn Power Station & Bendix Brakes, Victoria,5 Goliath Portland Cement & Anderson’s Creek, Tasmania,6 Robertstown-Truro-Lyndoch, South Australia, Mr Fluffy, Canberra,7 and Hurricane Tracy, Darwin.8

At each of the places named above, asbestos was mined, processed, used or liberated in sufficient quantities to cause localized epidemics of asbestos-related disease. Decades later, the repercussions of these exposures are still unfolding at medical clinics, contaminated dump sites and throughout the built environment.

Drawing on the national asbestos tragedy – “Australia has one of the highest measured incidence rates of mesothelioma [asbestos cancer] in the world”9 – advocacy groups, government bodies, trade unions and campaigners have made common cause with groups in neighboring countries to address asbestos issues throughout the region.10

Individuals prominent in this forward-thinking outreach work have included: Kate Lee and Phillip Hazelton of Australia’s Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, Dr. Ken Takahashi, Inaugural Head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases at the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, Peter Tighe, Chair of the Asbestos Diseases Research Foundation, Shane McArdle, International Projects, Asbestos and Dust Diseases Research Institute, Justine Ross, former CEO of the Asbestos Eradication and Safety Agency, and Robert and Rose Marie Vojakovic, Melita Markey and Dr Greg Deleuil, of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia.

This week, the Asbestos 2024 Conference - Sustaining Innovation is taking place at the same time and in the same city (Melbourne) as the 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.11 Of the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – only Brunei has banned asbestos.12 Amongst the others, Indonesia (104,000 tonnes/t), Laos (1,050t), Malaysia (3,830t), the Philippines (2,500t), Thailand (35,300) and Vietnam (26,800t) consumed 173,480t tonnes of asbestos in 2022, accounting for 13% of global usage.


As Australians are daily being reminded – by the unfolding front page asbestos scandal in Sydney, Canberra, Queensland and elsewhere – banning asbestos is just a first step in addressing a country’s asbestos challenges.13 In the absence of mandatory regulations and strict protocols regarding management, removal, transport and disposal of asbestos-containing material, citizens remain hostage to the possibility, and in many cases probability, of being exposed to a deadly carcinogen. There are lessons to be learned not only in the ASEAN countries but also in Australia about the urgent need for a joined up, comprehensive and mature strategy for eradicating asbestos-related diseases. Now would be a good time to learn them.

1 Soeberg, M. et al. Australia’s Ongoing Legacy of Asbestos: Significant Challenges Remain Even after the Complete Banning of Asbestos Almost Fifteen Years Ago. February 2018.

2 Wikipedia. Wittenoom. Accessed March 4, 2024.,_Western_Australia

3 Asbestos at Baryulgil. Accessed March 4, 2024.

4 Wunderlich: Another asbestos scandal hits Australia. Accessed March 4, 2024.

5 Kazan-Allen, L. Loophole for Asbestos Defendants? February 8, 2003.

6 New factory owner managing asbestos tragedy. May 7, 2010.

7 Wikipedia. Mr Fluffy. Accessed March 4, 2024.

8 A Life Devoted to Asbestos Victims. March 29, 2019.

9 Mesothelioma in Australia 2021. April 4, 2023.

10 Asbestos ban in Australia continues to be undermined by use in Southeast Asia. Undated.

11 EAF Editors. Australia engages with the ASEAN it has and works towards the ASEAN the region needs. March 4, 2024.

12 ASEAN website. ASEAN Members. Accessed March 5, 2024.
IBAS. Current Asbestos Bans. October 28, 2022.

13 Rose, T., Cox, L. Clover Moore attacks NSW government and EPA over ‘regulatory failure’ before asbestos crisis. March 4, 2024.

February 28, 2024

A Marriage Made in Heaven (or Hell)?

The news which broke on February 26, 2024 of the takeover of the Australian building products company CSR by the French-owned “worldwide leader in light and sustainable construction” Saint Gobain was full of the usual blandishments and buzz words: “decisive step,” “trusted and iconic brands,” “comprehensive range of products and solutions,” “customer-centric organization,” “enhanced growth and value creation,” “attractive opportunities.” 1 The corporate-speak surrounding this story was reminiscent of the empty promises spouted by world leaders addressing the climate crisis which Greta Thunberg, so accurately, condemned as “blah, blah, blah.”2

For all the talk of shared values and corporate culture, market synergies and greater access to “fast-growing markets,” there was no mention of the slice of corporate history also shared by CSR and Saint Gobain: their asbestos crimes, disregard for human life, and titanic battles to off-load asbestos liabilities. In 2022 and 2023, CSR paid asbestos related claims of $22.9 million and $25.3 million respectively; as of March 31, 2023, the company’s asbestos provision was $193.4 million.3 Saint Gobain’s half-yearly accounts issued on July 26, 2023, revealed ongoing judicial battles in France, the US and Brazil to freeze and/or minimize payouts.4 Despite the best efforts of their no doubt highly paid lawyers, total compensation paid by Saint Gobain to French victims was €32.1 million (US$~35m) as per the 2023 accounts. While the company’s US victims are yet to receive a penny thanks to the successful manipulation of US bankruptcy laws, legal actions by a few Brazilian claimants have succeeded, with the majority of plaintiffs still waiting for their lawsuits to negotiate various judicial hurdles.

Commenting on the news of the takeover Eliezer João de Souza, President of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA), said:

“There are probably hundreds of thousands of skeletons in the locked archives of Saint Gobain and CSR. Innocent workers, relatives, consumers and others who put their trust in these household names to look after their family’s welfare. All the while, these conglomerates were conspiring with industry allies, insurance companies and government agencies to milk the asbestos cash cow, knowing full well that when the bill to pay for their misdeeds came due, they would have the support needed to marginalize the victims and protect the companies’ reputations. It is disheartening to see that amongst all the media coverage of this takeover, no one has mentioned the asbestos-injured. ABREA remains committed to fighting Saint Gobain and others who polluted our lungs as well as our land.”

1 France's Saint-Gobain strikes agreement to buy Australia's CSR. February 26, 2024.
Saint Gobain Press Release. Saint-Gobain signs a definitive agreement to acquire CSR Limited. February 26, 2024.
Gardner, E. Saint-Gobain signs a definitive agreement to acquire CSR Limited. February 26, 2024.

2 Carrington, D. ‘Blah, blah, blah’: Greta Thunberg lambasts leaders over climate crisis. September 28, 2021.,drown%20in%20their%20empty%20promises.%E2%80%9D

3 CSR Annual report 2023.

4 Saint Gobain. Half-year financial report 2023. Pages 30-32.

January 8, 2024

New Year’s News

Activists worldwide are used to the vicissitudes experienced during grassroots campaigns: a change in government, heightened (or depressed) public awareness and the emergence of competing issues can hasten or derail the speed of change. Progress, unfortunately, is rarely, linear.

In December 2023 the first in-person meeting of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group took place at the House of Commons since the Covid pandemic forced gatherings to go online.1 MPs, Members of the House of Lords and scores of civil society stakeholders reported to Committee Room 11 at 2:30 p.m., relocating an hour later to Terrace Meeting Room C, to hear presentations pertinent to the topic: Asbestos: Time to Get Rid of It.

Contributions from Ian Lavery, MP (Labor) and Chair of the Sub-Group, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP (Scottish National Party), Matt Hancock, MP (Conservative), Stephen Timms, MP (Labor), Councillor Stephen McKenna (Green Party), Baroness Donaghy (Labor) and Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (Independent) informed the discussions. The session began with a tribute to Mavis Nye, a much-loved campaigner for mesothelioma sufferers, who died from this asbestos cancer in November, 2023.2

Amongst the subjects discussed were:

  • logjams in processing asbestos claims resulting from the closure of the specialist benefits office in Barrow-in-Furness that processed claims for industrial injuries benefits;
  • the failure of Westminster and Cardiff Governments to accept responsibility for dealing with asbestos contamination of Welsh schools;
  • the importance of evidence-based research to assist decision makers to take action on the unmet needs of asbestos patients;
  • the lack of joined-up care for patients with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases in many parts of the country;
  • the need for a national asbestos register and a phased removal of asbestos-containing material from the built environment;3
  • the ubiquity of asbestos in UK schools and healthcare establishments; the threat posed to building users by the deterioration of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in public buildings also containing asbestos.

All of the speakers agreed that the UK’s asbestos epidemic was far from over and that delays in the delivery of medical care and asbestos removal were intolerable. Liz Darlison, CEO of Mesothelioma UK – a national charity which provides specialist mesothelioma nurses in hospitals across the country – said that she was energized by the strong cross-party support expressed during the meeting. To say that I was somewhat surprised by the recommendation made by of one of the more high-profile Tory speakers was an understatement; he advised campaigners to enter into discussions with leaders of the Labor Party as they were, within months, to be the ones in charge.

There was a real buzz created by the bringing together of asbestos campaigners, victims’ representatives and supporters, politicians, technical specialists and others who were able to do in person what they couldn’t do during skype calls: engage in one-to-one exchanges before and after the formal session. As always, the enthusiasm generated by the discussion of shared goals was both infectious and galvanizing. It was definitely, great to be back!

Roll on a couple of weeks and a holiday or two and it seemed we were back where we had been almost eighteen months ago with another asbestos-laden French-built ship steaming towards shipbreakers in Aliağa, Turkey.4 The case of the São Paulo, which was eventually sunk in international waters 350 kilometers off the Brazilian coast by the Brazilian Navy in February 2023, became an international scandal that unfolded over a period of more than two years.

And now we have another such vessel – the Raymond Croze, a French cable-laying ship – arriving in Aliağa containing between 50 to 100 tons of asbestos material. Concerns have already been reported in the Turkish media about the environmental and health impact of dismantling a ship whose Hazardous Substance Inventory Report remains confidential. Reassurances given by the Anadolu Ship Dismantling Company that: “The asbestos in question will be disposed of in an environmentally friendly and regulatory manner, as in the standard processes,” have fallen on deaf ears.5 In the words of the famous New York baseball player Yogi Berra, who was known for his malapropisms (“Yogi-isms”): “It's déjà vu all over again.”


Happy New Year to one and all!

Let’s get back to work.

1 This Group operates under the auspices of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety.

2 Kazan-Allen, L. Our Friend Mavis. November 24, 2023.

3 It was estimated that at the current rate of asbestos eradication, it would take 400 years for the national infrastructure to be asbestos-free.

4 NGO Platform on Clean Shipbreaking. Press Release – Toxic warship “Clemenceau II” starts voyage from Brazil to the Mediterranean Sea. August 5, 2022.
Aliağa'da bitmeyen sorun, 'Raymond Croze' asbestli mi? [The never-ending problem in Aliağa: Does 'Raymond Croze' contain asbestos?] January 3, 2024.

5 Raymond Croze ship in Izmir created controversy. December 28, 2023.

November 9, 2023

Hope (And Where to Find It)

Having studied the global asbestos panorama for over thirty years, I can say with certainty that there are no overnight successes. Every legislative landmark, judicial breakthrough and medical discovery is achieved by years of painstaking work. Often, what one would think of as a fait accompli – such as a national asbestos ban – is countered and sometimes even overturned by pressure exerted by vested interests.

Predicting the future can best be achieved by studying the tea leaves – in this case, the small glimmers of hope signalled by recent developments in places such as Ukraine, Cambodia, China, Russia and Belgium.

After years of work by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health, non-governmental organizations and civil society groups, Ukraine’s asbestos ban finally came into force on October 1, 2023. Commenting on this news Welsh Parliamentarian Mick Antoniw, himself of Ukrainian descent, said:

“I am thrilled to know that the efforts of the Ukrainians have succeeded in overcoming the judicial, legal, social and economic hurdles thrown in their way by asbestos profiteers at home and abroad. The fact that this has been achieved during a time when the country has been at war with Russia makes this accomplishment all the more extraordinary.”1

Last week in Phnom Penh, officials from the Cambodian Government confirmed plans to end asbestos use by 2025 at a high-profile workshop attended by representatives of multiple government ministries, employer organizations, trade unions and civil society groups. Addressing the meeting, Dr Huy Hansong, Secretary of State of the Cambodian Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, highlighted the need for a coordinated platform providing clear guidelines to deal with the multifaceted challenges posed by historic asbestos use. “If we do not have regulations, Hansong warned, “we cannot do anything.” 2

The need for mandatory protocols to address the complexity of national asbestos legacies has even been recognized by China – one of the world’s biggest asbestos producers and users – which has, over time, outlawed some practices – such as the use of amosite and crocidolite asbestos – and increased restrictions on others.3 Earlier this month, China’s Ministry of Environment announced the approval of additional methods for dealing with building waste containing asbestos, deemed to be a toxic substance. Previous government guidelines stipulated that this waste be buried according to strict procedures. Following the amendment to the disposal regulations, the use of chemical or heat treatments to detoxify the waste will now be allowed.4

For decades, Russia has been the world’s largest asbestos producer, accounting for more than 60% of all annual global production. With so many billions of roubles at stake, the asbestos lobby has worked assiduously to suppress negative publicity at home and abroad using a variety of measures including punishment as well as persuasion. When in doubt, the knee-jerk reaction of Russians to the thorny question of asbestos mortality is to deny everything. It was therefore something of a surprise to see an article about surgery for peritoneal mesothelioma – a disease caused by exposure to asbestos – on a Russian news portal on November 1. The six-hour procedure performed on a 59-year old patient was undertaken by a medical team at the Surgut District Clinical Hospital in western Siberia.5

Since it was founded in 1974, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has loaned $85+ billion to 36 developing countries in the Asia and Pacific region. In a recent ADB paper, the use of asbestos-containing products was banned in all of the bank’s funded projects. The new restriction appeared on pages 23-24 of the Environmental and Social Framework:

“financing production of, or trade in, or use of asbestos fibers is fully prohibited under the new policy. This is a change from the current SPS [Safeguard Policy Statement], which allows the use of bonded asbestos cement sheeting with asbestos content of less than 20%. This prohibition does not apply to projects involving disposal of existing asbestos, provided a suitable asbestos management plan is adopted for disposal…”6

There is no question that this prohibition will lead to a substantial reduction of asbestos consumption as the vast majority of asbestos used in Asia goes into the production of building materials, the use of which will now be outlawed under the revised ADB rules.

In developed countries, progress continues to be made in dealing with asbestos legacies. In Europe, more than 44 million tonnes of asbestos were incorporated within national infrastructures before a European Union asbestos ban was implemented in 2005.7 Europeans have paid a heavy price for the widescale and unregulated use of asbestos; in 2020, 45% of all deaths from the signature asbestos cancer, mesothelioma occurred in Europe.8 To minimize future exposures, new rules were adopted by the European Council last month reducing occupational asbestos exposure limits and mandating the use of improved monitoring methods.

Taken separately, these developments would almost certainly be downplayed by asbestos stakeholders but when viewed as part of a global pattern, it is clear that the asbestos industry is on borrowed time. The sooner this outdated and dangerous technology is banned the better. The future is asbestos-free.

1 Kazan-Allen, L. It’s Official: Asbestos Use Banned in Ukraine! October 25, 2023.

2 Kazan-Allen, L. Cambodia Asbestos Ban by 2025! November 7, 2023.

3 Chronology of Asbestos Bans and Restrictions. Accessed November 8, 2023

4 石绵瓦不只能固化掩埋 环境部增“热处理、化学处理法” [Asbestos tiles can not only be solidified and buried, the Ministry of Environment has added “heat treatment and chemical treatment methods”]. November 1, 2023.

5 Сургутские онкологи провели операцию по удалению редкой опухоли [Oncologists of the Special Clinical Hospital performed a complex operation to remove a rare neoplasm]. November 1, 2023.

6 Asian Development Bank. Working Paper. Environmental and Social Framework. October 2023.

7 Kazan-Allen, L. Conference: Europe's Asbestos Catastrophe. November 9, 2012.

8 Kazan-Allen, L. Global Cancer Increase and the Asbestos Hazard. September 20, 2023.

October 4, 2023

Asbestos Exports Safe say Russians but Chinese Asbestos Radiators Toxic!

Sometimes, it’s just not possible to square the circle. According to asbestos stakeholders in Russia – the world’s leading producer of chrysotile (white) asbestos – the use of asbestos is perfectly safe. This mineral is, says the chrysotile lobby, a vital resource for developing countries; what vested interests leave unsaid is that it is an invaluable source of foreign currency, without which the industry would die.

Since 2016, China’s annual expenditure on Russian asbestos grew by 93% from US$28 to ~54 million.1 In 2022, the import of ~174,000 tonnes of Russian asbestos accounted for nearly 2/3 of all the asbestos consumed in China.2

Considering that markets for Russian asbestos exports are contracting – e.g., in Sri Lanka and Indonesia – and that Western sanctions have created a logistical nightmare for the industry – according to a building products manufacturer in Zimbabwe, shipments of Russian asbestos ceased in 20223 – you would think that measures would have been implemented by industry stakeholders to prioritize the interests of the country which last year purchased nearly 30% of all Russian production.


Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In recent years, Russians have been warned about the health hazards posed by human exposures to asbestos as well as the inadvisability of purchasing materials and equipment containing asbestos, some of which originated in China.4

One alert, deploring the popularity in Russia of cheap radiators made in China, noted that:

“the gaskets of all radiator samples examined from China contained asbestos. In some cases, the concentration of this toxic material reached 42%! Asbestos is extremely dangerous for the respiratory system…”5

If Russian asbestos is safe enough to be exported to China, how is the sale in Russia of Chinese radiators containing asbestos gaskets problematic? There is an English saying: You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Maybe that just doesn’t translate into Russian.

1 China Imports from Russia of Asbestos. Accessed October 1, 2023.

2 Asbestos Price in Russia – 2022. Accessed October 1, 2023.
Monthly value of asbestos exported from Russia from January 2021 to August 2023. Accessed October 1, 2023.
USGS. Asbestos Trade Data. Uploaded August 2023.

3 Turnall Derives Alternatives to Source Asbestos Fibre. October 1, 2023.
Khrustalev, K. Градообразующее предприятие «Оренбургские минералы» в 2022 году показало убыток почти в миллиард рублей [The city-forming enterprise Orenburg Minerals showed a loss of almost a billion rubles in 2022]. August 10, 2023.

4 Что такое асбест, в чем его опасность для здоровья и чем его можно заменить [What is asbestos, what is its health hazard and how can it be replaced?] June 25, 2019.
Почему смертоносная асбестовая промышленность все еще жива и здорова? [Why is the deadly asbestos industry still alive and well?] July 21, 2022.
Настороженность поможет Врач Алексей Сорокин — о профилактике рака легкого [Being alert will help. Doctor Alexei Sorokin - about the prevention of lung cancer]. August 1, 2023.
Почти 1300 случаев рака легких выявили на Южном Урале в прошлом году [Almost 1300 cases of lung cancer were detected in the Southern Urals last year]. August 1, 2023.
Врач рассказала, что курение провоцирует почти 90% случаев развития рака легкого [The doctor said that smoking provokes almost 90% of cases of lung cancer]. August 1, 2023.

5 Китайские радиаторы отопления: характеристики и производители [Chinese heating radiators: characteristics and manufacturers]. September 21, 2022.

September 15, 2023

China’s Asbestos Conundrum

Reports appeared this week on news portals in China confirming the widening dichotomy in the national asbestos discourse. In the world’s second largest asbestos-consuming country and its third largest producer, there is a growing divergence between policies espoused by vested interests supporting asbestos technology and experts and officials seeking to protect the population from exposure to a known carcinogen.1

Until fairly recently there has been little information publicly circulated in China about the human health hazard of working and/or living with asbestos.2 On September 14, 2023, I happened upon two new articles which, when taken together, reveal the ever-growing rift in China’s asbestos dialogue. Whilst an article on lung cancer causation highlighting the danger to people working with asbestos appeared on September 12,3 just hours earlier a report was circulated about the annual meeting of the Chrysotile Asbestos Professional Committee (the Committee), a trade association representing the interests of asbestos stakeholders.4

Judging from the scant information available, it seems that although the Chinese Government accepts that deadly workplace asbestos exposures cannot be allowed to continue, it will not do much about it. A statement on the website of the China Government Network dated August 4, 2023 confirmed plans by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the National Health Commission to:

“strengthen the standardized management of production at chrysotile-using enterprises, implement control measures to prevent occupational diseases, circulate information about recommended dust hazard precautions for use with substances such as chrysotile – paying special attention to the occupational and public health risks posed by the demolition of buildings containing asbestos… awareness and education regarding health protection can reduce the occurrence of occupational diseases and protect the health rights and interests of the public.”5

This is the same rhetoric we have seen in other countries where turning a profit and preserving jobs were higher priorities then protecting lives. There is no knowing how many will die as a result of China’s failure to phase-out the mining, processing and use of chrysotile asbestos.

1 Between 2016 and 2020, China used 245,000 tonnes (t) every year, making it the world’s second largest asbestos consumer after India; with an annual asbestos output of ~140,000 tonnes, it’s also the world’s third largest asbestos producer after Russia and Kazakhstan.

2 Kazan-Allen, L. The Demise of the Asbestos Industry: 2023 Update. August 10, 2023.

3 隐藏在工作环境中的肺癌危险因素 [Lung cancer risk factors hidden in the work environment]. September 12, 2023.

4 According to the article cited below, the Committee is tasked with the promotion of asbestos sales; the expansion of the industry; and supporting the industry’s best interests. It is worrying that one of the Committee’s key interests is “the comprehensive utilization of asbestos tailings.” It is a known fact that the waste from asbestos mines contains significant amounts of asbestos fibers.
专家“会诊”为温石棉产业高质量发展献计 [Expert “consultation” provides suggestions for the high-quality development of the chrysotile asbestos industry]. September 11, 2023

5 工业和信息化部答“长期接触石棉建材等制品会致癌?”问题 [The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology answered the question “Can long-term exposure to asbestos building materials and other products cause cancer?”

August 21, 2023

A Day like Any Other


We all have our morning routines. Mine begins with a cup of tea and some internet surfing. I look at a couple of news sites and then google the word asbestos in English and other languages to catch up on developments around the world. When I did this on August 17, I came up with a slew of articles, all of which detailed the repercussions now being manifested of historic asbestos use throughout Britain. The same carcinogenic fibers causing concern over toxic buildings are, even now, incubating in our lungs; whilst asbestos can be removed safely from the built environment using state-of-the-art protocols, the damage to human bodies once fibers are inhaled, can never be eliminated.

Two of the articles google highlighted on August 17 described the tragic plight of pensioners who had contracted mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposures;1 three related to asbestos pollution of the environment;2 and one reported the closure of a public swimming pool and fitness center following the discovery of damaged asbestos. 3

Also on August 17, 2023, articles were uploaded which warned of a British asbestos cancer “time bomb” – “the current ratio of 17 deaths from mesothelioma to every workplace death should be a wake-up call” – as a result of the continued presence of asbestos in 100,000 buildings.4 Optimism expressed in the article cited below by T. Turney was questioned by asbestos victims’ campaigner John Flanagan who said that the apparent decrease in mesothelioma mortality claimed by the Health and Safety Executive in 2021 should be viewed in the context of the Covid pandemic:

“According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 67,350 (11.5%) deaths registered in 2021 in England and Wales due to coronavirus. Although there were some figures collected for deaths of people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, mesothelioma was not one of the pre-existing conditions noted on death certificates. It is therefore, not possible to know how many people who died from Covid also had mesothelioma. We believe that number must have been substantial as mesothelioma patients are vulnerable due to the fact that their lung function is compromised by their disease. Until a closer examination of the statistics is possible, we would advise caution in acting on the belief that the UK’s mesothelioma epidemic has peaked.”5

1 Yandell, C. Southampton: Ex-Woolworths worker ‘exposed to asbestos in Sixties.’ August 17, 2023.
Slough man's death suspected to be from asbestos exposure. August 17, 2023.

2 Brown, H. Asbestos dumped on side of a road as council warns of fines and rogue ‘man with a van.’ August 15, 2023.
Mumby, D. Sinkhole and asbestos cause delay to key Somerset roadworks. August 17, 2023.
Eve, C. Prince Rock playing field closed as hazardous materials left after Traveller encampment. August 16, 2023

3 Briggs, S. Peterborough Regional Pool to close to remove damaged asbestos. August 16, 2023.

4 Smethurst, S. Asbestos-related cancer deaths fall but ‘time bomb’ threatens. August 17, 2023.
Turney, T. Don't get asbestos complacent, warns expert. August 17, 2023.

5 Email received August 18, 2023 from John Flanagan.

August 3, 2023

Question: Asbestos (Russia), Asbestos (Canada) – Compare and Contrast

This month (August 2023), the Russian mining town named Asbestos (асбест) will be celebrating its 90th anniversary.1 The “full program of events” to mark this occasion will start on August 11, with a rock concert by a popular Moscow group on August 13.2


The stone marking the entrance to the city limits of the town of Asbestos, Russia.

The lifeblood of this monotown – a municipality whose economy is dominated by a single industry or company – is the open pit chrysotile (white) asbestos mine, claimed to be the world’s largest.3 At 7 miles long, up to 1.5 miles wide and 1000 feet deep, it’s nearly half the size of Manhattan.

Since privatization, this company town has been owned and run by Uralasbest, Russia’s 2nd biggest asbestos conglomerate, producing ~40% of the asbestos used worldwide every year. The wellbeing of Uralasbest, the world's “oldest and largest manufacturer and supplier of chrysotile,”4 is high priority to commercial and municipal leaders as well as to members of the public, some of whom are employed by the company.

It’s not surprising that local politicians as well as representatives of Uralasbest deny that human exposures to chrysotile asbestos can prove lethal: “It's just a PR campaign when they say that asbestos can kill,” said Uralasbest's Viktor Ivanov in 2007.

This inconvenient truth was also denied by people who lived in the chrysotile (white) asbestos mining town of Asbestos in Quebec. They too were proud of their mine and the life it had given them and their families. As the biggest employer in the region, the owners of the Jeffrey mine were, like their counterparts at Uralasbest, in a strong position to lobby politicians, silence criticism of the industry and counter findings which could negatively impact on the corporate bottom line.


Welcome to Asbestos, Quebec sign.

Eventually, asbestos mining in Quebec came to an end and, with the evaporation of the industry’s stranglehold on the asbestos discourse, residents were anxious for a fresh start. Two years after the Canadian government implemented an asbestos ban (2018), the electorate in Asbestos, Quebec voted to change the town’s toxic name to Val-des-Sources.5 The following year, Asbestos Street (Rue de L’Aminate) was renamed: rue des Bâtisseurs (Builders’ Street].6


Welcome to Val-Des-Sources, Quebec sign.

Despite all the power and political influence of Russian asbestos stakeholders, the news is getting out that exposure to asbestos is hazardous. On World Lung Cancer Day 2023 (August 1, 2023) alerts were issued by medical experts and healthcare authorities around the country advising the population to avoid exposures to asbestos to prevent lung cancer. With dwindling domestic and international demand for chrysotile asbestos, might voters in Russia’s Asbestos be looking to change the name of their town too?7

1 Группа «Корни» выступит на юбилее уральского города [The Korni group will perform at the anniversary of the Ural city]. July 24, 2023.

2 Мэр раскрыла имена звезд, которые выступят на Дне свердловского города [The mayor revealed the names of the stars who will perform at the Day of the Sverdlovsk city]. July 23, 2023.

3 Wikipedia. Asbest, Russia. Accessed August 1,2 023.

4 This boast was found on the website of Uralasbest, the Ural Asbestos Mining & Ore Dressing Company, said journalist Melody Kemp in her article: The Other Deadly White Dust: Russia, China, India and the Campaign to Ban Asbestos. March 29, 2010. Asia-Pacific Journal.

5 Kazan-Allen, L. Behind the Asbestos Curtain: Uralasbest 2021. July 21, 2021.

6 Kazan-Allen, L April Fools’ Day Reflections 2021. April 1, 2021.

7 Настороженность поможет Врач Алексей Сорокин — о профилактике рака легкого [Being alert will help. Doctor Alexei Sorokin - about the prevention of lung cancer]. August 1, 2023.
Воронежцам напомнили о способах избежать рака лёгкого [Voronezh residents were reminded of ways to avoid lung cancer]. July 31, 2023.
Почти 1300 случаев рака легких выявили на Южном Урале в прошлом году [Almost 1300 cases of lung cancer were detected in the Southern Urals last year]. August 1, 2023
Врач рассказала, что курение провоцирует почти 90% случаев развития рака легкого [The doctor said that smoking provokes almost 90% of cases of lung cancer]. August 1, 2023.

July 17, 2023

From Consumer Icon to Grim Reaper: The Sorry Tale of J&J Baby Powder

Do you remember the scene in the 1984 movie Ghostbusters when the three protagonists confronted by a violent supernatural force were trying to think of something benign and came up with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? Almost at once, the evil incarnation of Gozer transformed into a gigantic and malign version of this gooey childhood treat and set off on its mission of destruction.

The scandal which has engulfed Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) iconic baby powder – due to allegations that the talc used may contain asbestos – continues to unfold day by day under the watchful eye of the global media. With so much personal tragedy, tens of thousands of court cases, legal machinations in multiple jurisdictions and heightened government interest, the once saintly image of this consumer classic was so badly damaged that the company had no choice but to withdraw it from worldwide markets. A once revered product which, just like Stay Puft Marshmallows was a staple of so many childhoods, has vanished from our lives, you might think.

Last week, I read two articles with news of recent J&J developments in the US and India. The July 13th Reuters story reported that LTL Management – a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary – had launched a lawsuit earlier this month in a New Jersey federal court against researchers who had published a paper about studies showing that the use of talc-based personal products could cause cancer. J&J denied these findings. The lawsuit targeted Drs Richard Kradin, Theresa Emory and John Maddox, all of whom were requested to “retract and/or issue a correction” of the study which stated that the use of asbestos-contaminated talc-based consumer products could cause mesothelioma.1

The next day an article in The Times of India announced that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) had “surrendered its licence to manufacture baby powder in its Mumbai plant” on June 22, 2023. The decision to stop manufacturing baby powder in India was, said the company “part of a global move to switch from talc-based to cornstarch-based baby powders.” The author of the article pointed out that J&J had stopped producing its talc-based baby powder in the US and Canada three years ago and described the outrage of former Commissioner of the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration Mahesh Zagade who deplored the time lag between the action taken in North America and India. “J&J could sell it in India,” Zagade said for three additional years only because we don't have a strong drug regulator.”2

Even now the disgraced baby powder is on sale at retail outlets in many countries with a colleague in Brazil reporting seeing it in her local drugstore on her latest visit.


Picture taken at São Paulo Drugstore (Drogaria São Paulo) July 14, 2023. Picture courtesy of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA).

As can be seen from the above picture, the Sao Paulo store sold cornstarch-based J&J baby powder (yellow label) as well as talc-based baby powder (purple and pink labels) with the safer alternative costing nearly 38% more.

It is beyond comprehension that, national governments remain passive in the face of this worrying situation. As far as I am aware, no action has ever been taken in the UK regarding the sale of J&J’s talc-based baby powder which can, even now, be purchased online3 and most probably in shops around the country.4


Picture from Boots website July 14, 2023. We are told baby powder is free from parabens, dyes & phthalates; only on the back of containers of the type pictured is talc mentioned.

The reassurances given regarding the product sold online by Boots, Chemist4U and Amazon include phrases such as: “Made with purified talc, fully evaluated by scientific and medical experts;”5 “Clinically proven to be safe, gentle and mild;”6 and “Free of parabens, dyes and phthalates. Made of purified talc, fully evaluated by scientific and medical experts.”7

On Sunday morning (July 16, 2023), I strolled down to the local shops to see whether they still stocked Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder. Imagine my surprise when I found it on sale at one of the 400 shops owned by Savers UK and at Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second largest chain of supermarkets.


Picture taken at Savers discount drugstore in Northwest London on July 16, 2023. On the back of the container, the ingredients were listed as: Talc, Parfum. Both this product and the one bought at Sainsbury’s were made in Thailand.


Picture taken at Sainsbury’s supermarket in Northwest London on July 16, 2023. On the back of the container, it said: “made with purified talc, fully evaluated by scientific and medical experts.”

It was surprising that at neither Savers nor Sainsbury’s was there any cornstarch-based J&J baby powder on sale when I visited, though this can be bought online and no doubt from other outlets in the UK.

On a day when Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, slammed Ministers for failing to address the “national scandal” caused by asbestos in schools on the front page of The Sunday Times, it might be opportune to draw politicians’ attention to another avoidable danger.8 It makes no sense that J&J’s talc-based baby powder, abandoned by its manufacturer and censured by multiple national authorities, is even now being sold in the UK.

1 Knauth, D. Johnson & Johnson sues researchers who linked talc to cancer. July 13, 2023.

2 Debroy, S. J&J stops manufacture of baby powder in country [India]. July 14, 2023.

3 Boots website: Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Powder. July 14, 2023.
Superdrug Website: Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Powder. July 14, 2023.
Sainsbury’s Website: Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Powder. July 14, 2023.

4 Alas, a Parliamentary alert raised by concerned MPs in Early Day Motion (EDM) 1718 on April 12, 2021 entitled: Talcum powder, asbestos contaminants and cancer led to no government sanctions. The EDM was only signed by 20 MPs, none of whom were from the Conservative Party.

5 Boots website. July 15, 2023.

6 Chemist4U website. July 14, 2023.

7 Amazon website. July 15, 2023.

8 Yorke, H & Spencer, B. Failure to remove asbestos is a ‘national scandal.’ July 16, 2023.
Hancock, M. Acting on asbestos will save lives – and millions for the NHS. July 16, 2023.

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