Laurie Kazan-Allen

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January 21, 2022

Déjà vu, All Over Again Down Under?

The news that Gina Rinehart – Australia’s richest person1 – had plans to build an iron ore mine at her family’s Pilbara homestead stopped me in my tracks. From what I had remembered of Australian geography, the Mulga Downs cattle station was not far from the notorious Wittenoom crocidolite (blue) asbestos mine, “the largest contaminated area in the southern hemisphere.”2

Online research confirmed my worst fears; according to one source the northern boundary of Mulga Downs was 31 miles (50 km) north of Wittenoom, according to another, Wittenoom was 7 km southwest of the mine’s development envelope.3 Whichever way you looked at it, the proposed iron mine and the derelict asbestos mine were too close for comfort especially when viewed in the context of government efforts to shut down the toxic town.

It is no coincidence that Mrs Rinehart’s childhood home was located so close to the asbestos mine. In 1935, her father Lang Hancock, aged 26, took over the management of Mulga Downs; some while later, he began mining asbestos fiber at Wittenoom Gorge.

In 2013, Hancock Prospecting, one of Rinehart’s companies, sought approval from the Department of Environment for an iron ore operation about 3.5km (2 miles) from the homestead.4 Earlier this month (January 2022), the company filed a proposal with the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), for the construction of facilities to produce up to 20 million tonnes of iron ore per year for the next 30 years.5

When asked about the proximity of the proposed mine to Wittenoom, Kate Doust, a member of the Legislative Council of Western Australia, raised concerns: “I would be interested to know,” she wrote “what type of testing or research has been done to assess the level of asbestos in the iron ore.”

Legislation proceeding through the Legislative Council of Western Australia for the State to purchase the few properties in Wittenoom remaining in private hands recognized that the bill would not:

“put an end to the contamination issue in the area; it is part of a larger body of work required to mitigate future public health risks and manage the contamination caused by the mining and use of asbestos in and around Wittenoom.”6

The Wittenoom asbestos mine, owned and developed by Lang Hancock and others, was responsible for one of Australia’s worst epidemics with people still dying from exposures to Pilbara asbestos even though mining in Wittenoom ceased in 1966. The news that his daughter, who has never expressed regret over these deaths, plans to build another mine in the same vicinity is cause for disquiet.

It seems ironic that at the same time as the Legislative Council of Western Australia is considering the Wittenoom Closure Bill 2021 which would “facilitate the closure of the former townsite of Wittenoom,”7 the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority has been tasked with signing off on the $US 7.4 billion Mulga Downs “mine, rail and deep-water port development” project.

One can but hope that concerned citizens, politicians and environmental campaigners in Western Australia working in partnership with the traditional owners of the Pilbara will do their utmost to ensure that the daughter does not repeat the misdeeds of the father.

1 Gina Rinehart has an estimated net worth of $31.06 billion (US$22.2 billion); she is also, Australia’s biggest landholder controlling 9.2m hectares which is 1.2% of the entire area of the country.
Meet the Mining Billionaires Ransacking Australia. December 31, 2021.

2 Why are people still travelling to asbestos-riddled Wittenoom? August 12, 2021.

3 Gorgan, S. Rinehart lays plans for Mulga Downs mine. January 14, 2022.

4 Mulga Downs Station. Accessed January 17, 2022.

5 Philipps, M. Rinehart seeks EPA approval for Mulga Downs mine. January 17, 2022.

6 Hansard. Wittenoom Closure Bill 2021. October 21, 2021.$FILE/C41%20S1%2020211027%20p4877c-4878a.pdf

7 EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM. Wittenoom Closure Bill 2021.$File/EM%2B-%2B28.pdf

December 9, 2021

Goodbye and Thank You!

“A Northern rabble rouser, an Aussie medic and a British Lord” sounds like the beginning of the joke which continues “walked into a bar…” Unfortunately, this is no joke, in fact it is the very opposite. The deaths of trade unionist Bill Lawrence,1 Professor Bill Musk2 and Lord Bill McKenzie3 on October 30, 2021, November 3 and December 2 respectively has rent the fabric of many lives. Their sad demise has caused me to reflect on the huge loss to their families, colleagues, patients, constituents and communities.

You might wonder what the three of them had in common except for the fact that their deaths came in such close proximity and that their first name was Bill. Yes, they operated in diverse spheres of life and even in different countries: Bill L.’s habitat was trade union halls, political meetings and ban asbestos demonstrations throughout the UK and Europe while Bill M’s usual haunts were hospital clinics and scientific laboratories in Western Australia and Bill McK’s workplaces included the offices of the accountancy firm Price Waterhouse, Luton Town Hall and the House of Lords.

There was, however, at least one area of convergence and that was the struggle to obtain justice for the asbestos-injured. As a trade unionist Bill Lawrence was well aware of the price paid by ordinary people for their toxic exposures to asbestos. He put his unparalleled skills as a researcher/organizer/consultant to good use helping progress claims for compensation, lobbying for stricter workplace protections, identifying British companies involved in the international asbestos trade and supporting the global campaign to ban asbestos.


Bill Lawrence in back row holding up sign saying “Dying for Profit” at Russian Embassy ban asbestos demonstration in London, 2013.

Professor Musk was at the forefront of work to address the epidemic of asbestos-related disease in Western Australia, home to many of the people who had worked and lived in the toxic Pilbara mining town of Wittenoom. Experimental therapies such as the use of Vitamin A to prevent disease amongst those at high risk and ultra low dose X-rays were amongst the initiatives that he progressed.


From left: Prof. Bruce Robinson, Prof. Bill Musk and Prof. Nick de Klerk. Meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group, Boston. 2012.

His relationship with the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA), also based in Perth, was personal as well as professional. There was no question that should one of the Society’s members present at their offices with a medical problem, then Bill was the first one to be called. More often than not, an appointment was made for the patient to be seen the same day or, at a push, the next. Tributes to Bill called him a “visionary and humanitarian,” and described him as an “outstanding clinician (respiratory physician) who made an enormous contribution to cancer research in WA.” He was all that and more. In his memory, last month (November 2021),the ADSA launched a drive to raise funds for the Professor Bill Musk PhD Scholarship.


Lord McKenzie. Source: Labour Party.

Lord McKenzie had been the Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group for some years and was instrumental in the Group’s many accomplishments including setting up a fund of last resort for mesothelioma claimants which has, to date, paid out more than £231 million to 1,600+ applicants. He took an active role in speaking out on behalf of asbestos victims not least during the 2013 Parliamentary session when he supported the Mesothelioma Bill which established the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme mentioned above.4

Informing colleagues of his death, Chair of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group MP Ian Lavery said:

“Bill had been a dedicated public servant since the 1970s, first in local government where he went on to lead Luton Council, then later in Parliament as a peer. From 2007 to 2010 he held the role of Under-Secretary of State at the DWP with responsibility for health and safety, and his advocacy for workers’ rights continued in opposition. Some of you will know just recently he had challenged the government on the under-reporting of Covid cases to RIDDOR. He had also been in conversations about organising an event to mark 50 years since the Robens Report. We will endeavour to take that work forward in his memory.”5

There is a collective debt we all owe to these men; we can honor their memories by ensuring that their work continues. Farewell Bill, Bill & Bill.

1 Kazan-Allen, L. Remembering Bill Lawrence. November 26, 2021.

2 Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia Inc. Donation request for the ADSA Prof Bill Musk PhD scholarship. November 22, 2021.

3 Labour peer Lord Bill McKenzie dies, aged 74. December 3, 2021.

4 Good, but not yet good enough. July 17, 2013.

5 Email received December 8, 2021.

December 3, 2021

A Walk Through History

Some weeks ago, an old friend and I went for a muddy walk through a local country park. As we wended our way along the squelchy woodland trails, we caught up on weeks of family news. Harriet, who I have known for over 30 years, told me about her friend Tanya’s bereavement. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Tanya’s cousin had died from an aggressive asbestos-related disease. The details Hariet provided about the sudden onset of the illness and its rapid progress made it fairly clear that the cousin had succumbed to mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Harriet said that the family had received a substantial compensation payout from a government scheme which had not only been helpful financially but had also provided some solace to the relatives who viewed it as official recognition of this death.


Hertfordshire Country Park 2021.

Knowing of my interest in all things asbestos, Harriet said, she was sure I was aware of the scheme and of how it came to be. Indeed, I was. I remember the many discussions at the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group about setting up a fund of last resort for people who had been occupationally exposed to asbestos but could not obtain compensation from their employers, many of whom had disappeared in the decades between the time of their toxic exposure and the onset of their disease. I remembered the politicians who were involved, the negotiations with the insurance industry and the bureaucratic wrangling that had taken place before the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (the Scheme) was finally established in 2014.1

This week the Scheme issued its report for the financial year 2020-2021 which noted that since operations began, it had paid out compensation of £231.7 million to 1,650 people with mesothelioma. Payments in 2019 and 2020 averaged £144,000 per applicant. Although this fund came too late for many UK victims, many others have had the benefit of it. As I walked through the park on that windy day, I felt great pride in knowing that the campaigning by the UK community of asbestos victims, trade unionists, medical and technical experts and others had been pivotal in creating this additional support for asbestos victims.

As we approach the year’s end, the news seems pretty bleak. Many of us feel despondent about what the future might hold, but we should take heart from the positive impact we have made and the huge strides that have been achieved in recognizing and treating people with asbestos-related diseases in many countries. Local, national, regional and global collaborations have given a voice to those silenced by the deadly dust and exposed the criminal behaviour of the asbestos companies which consumed human beings as just another raw material. The future is asbestos-free!


1 Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme: annual review 2020 to 2021. November 29, 2021

November 19, 2021

The Eradication of Asbestos in Britain: A Titanic Struggle!

Sometimes, you hear something that is so obvious you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it before. That is what happened yesterday (November 17, 2021) during testimony before the Parliamentary Committee of Work and Pensions’ investigation into whether the Health and Safety Executive’s asbestos policy, which advocates managing asbestos rather than removing it from the built environment, is fit for purpose. 1

Attempting to conceptualize the UK’s staggering loss of life from asbestos exposures, Liz Darlison – CEO of Mesothelioma UK and an NHS Mesothelioma Nurse Consultant – expressed the death toll in terms of the number of people who drowned (1500+) on the RMS Titanic, the famous ocean liner which sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg. In a follow-up interview, Ms. Darlison expounded on her testimony:

“So many asbestos fatalities go unnoticed. It’s a steady drip with an average of almost 100 deaths every week. While each death is mourned, the totality is not often grasped. If, however, I say that the total loss of life is equal to the sinking of more than three Titanics every year, people begin to take notice. It’s ironic that some of those aboard the Titanic survived the voyage; it is rare for someone with mesothelioma to do so. New treatments provide hope, but the government needs to commit to a policy of zero exposures and provide funds for life-saving medical research.”2


Time and again during the session, technical and scientific experts from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK confirmed the huge disconnect between practices on the continent and those in the UK. The sustained failures of the HSE to adequately address the toxic legacy of asbestos contamination of our schools, hospitals and social housing were in stark contrast with action being taken in Europe. With no UK deadline for the eradication of asbestos, no national inventory of asbestos in public buildings and no prioritization for removing asbestos from schools, the evidence was crystal clear: EU 3: UK 0.

Responding to a question from one of the MPs, Joanne Gordon, Chair of the Forum of Asbestos Victim Support Groups, said that the profile of victims her group was seeing had changed over the years to include more and more people who had experienced low levels of asbestos exposures such as teachers and nurses. There was, she said, no safe level of asbestos exposure. Amen to that!

1 Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee. Asbestos Hearing. November 17, 2021.

2 Interview with Liz Darlison. November 17, 2021.

November 2, 2021

Remembering Bill Lawrence

Our friend Bill Lawrence, who died on October 30, 2021 after a long illness, had lived a life in parallel realities, some which were concurrent and some consecutive. He had been a police officer in North East England, a trade union representative, a legal researcher, a health and safety activist, a historian,1 a playwright, a freelance journalist, an international trade analyst,2 an organizer of health and safety conferences, a member of the Construction Safety Campaign and a ban asbestos campaigner. His range of interests included both local and global issues of a social as well as historical nature.

Bill was always off to attend a meeting or an interview to provide support for anyone who found themselves in need. This included British workers injured by industrial diseases, non-English speaking immigrants in difficulties with British bureaucracy or campaigners needing access to the extensive and unique historical database which was Bill Lawrence.

I was fortunate to get to know Bill during his ban asbestos phase – he had the most amazing recall for detail, inexhaustible energy and a nature which found travelling 14 hours in the back of a bus to a United Nations meeting in Geneva an exciting adventure. He found great satisfaction in getting around Europe on the cheap reaching London, Brussels and Antwerp at rock bottom prices to consult with legal advisors, trade union colleagues and local historians.


Bill Lawrence addressing French, Italian, Swiss, German, Brazil, Canadian, US & UK asbestos victims’ campaigners on May 7, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland

The picture above was taken when Bill was part of our delegation to the 2013 meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Rotterdam Convention.3 Bill was always there to lend a hand: a banner needed to be displayed at our stall in the foyer of the UN building, Bill found some rope and did it; flyers needed handing out, Bill was your man.

Language barriers and political differences were never a hindrance to Bill as he seemed able to communicate across all such boundaries with a working knowledge of several European languages and an infectious joie de vivre that transcended political divides. I remember a story of him striking up a conversation with a Russian general on a train journey from his home in Tyne & Wear to London. In 2019, I witnessed Bill in action during our ban asbestos demonstration at the Russian embassy in London.4 He began chatting with one of the policemen on guard duty about asbestos and transitioned to industrial deafness, another one of Bill’s specialities and a subject of great interest to the officer. It was arranged that Bill would, at a later date, attend a meeting of the policemen’s union to give a presentation on deafness claims.

Bill was part of the fabric of the lives of so many people and he blended into the background to such an extent that it was difficult to find a picture such as the one above showing him center stage. In March 2021, Bill was named this year’s recipient of “the Alan,” the most prestigious prize given to UK health and safety activists, in appreciation of his sustained efforts to support working people and the disadvantaged. Like Alan Dalton, the campaigner in whose name this award was given, Bill was a troublemaker of the highest order, someone who had no compunction about causing trouble for the great and the good in order to safeguard the rights of ordinary people.5

Bill’s beloved wife Faye predeceased him. Bill is survived by his children and grandchildren. Our condolences to them all,

1 The Birtley Belgians and their part in Britain's First World War effort. December 6, 2016.

2 Lawrence, B Asbestos Trading through the European Community. June 13, 2012.

3 Kazan-Allen, L. Rotterdam Convention 2013 – an Activist's Diary. May 8, 2017.

4 Kazan-Allen, L. Activists Challenge Russian Asbestos Stakeholders. April 26, 2013.

5 The Hazards Campaign Alan award: the ‘Alan’. 2010.

October 4, 2021

An Ignominious Anniversary!

October 18, 2021 is a date to remember. In just two weeks, it will be the 30th anniversary of the overturn of the US ban on asbestos.1 Since that time, a further 300,000+ tonnes of asbestos have been consumed and an untold number of citizens have been hazardously exposed to a substance known to cause cancer.2

Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from occupationally contracted asbestos-related diseases;3 the death toll from non-occupational exposures – such as breathing in fibers brought home on work clothes or from living or studying in buildings with asbestos-containing material – remains unknown.

Since the asbestos ban was overturned there have been six Presidents with three Democratic and three Republican administrations. Thirty years of government policies have been implemented, scores of Senators and members of the House of Representatives have come and gone and numerous sessions of Congress have taken place. Although a few attempts to ban asbestos have been made, none has succeeded.

Whilst the amount of asbestos consumption has dwindled, through fear of lawsuits rather than government sanctions, the lack of national prohibitions is a boon to the rapacious asbestos lobby which promotes the US policy as evidence that the use of asbestos is safe. It is also advantageously exploited by defendants in asbestos lawsuits who seek to deny liability for asbestos-related injuries.

In 1974, American author Paul Brodeur hit the nail on the head with his book subtitled: “The incredible story of how tens of thousands of American men and women die each year of preventable industrial disease. The name of that book? Expendable Americans.

There has been an unconscionable and sustained failure of governance in the US as a result of which carcinogenic products remain on sale, children attend school in classrooms riddled with asbestos and citizens have justifiable concerns over contamination of the buildings they use and the air they breathe.

It is long past time for the United States to join the scores of other countries4 which have outlawed asbestos; by doing so, the US will not only protect its citizens, but will also safeguard the lives of vulnerable populations currently being exploited by global asbestos pushers.

1 Kazan-Allen, L. October 18, 2021: A Bloody Anniversary. October, 2011.

2 According to the International Agency for Research on Asbestos (2012): “Asbestos causes mesothelioma and cancer of the lung, larynx, and ovary. Also positive associations have been observed between exposure to all forms of asbestos and cancer of the pharynx, stomach, and colorectum.”

3 In his presentation on September 28, 2021 to the virtual conference of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network 2021 Professor Jukka Takala, President of the International Commission on Occupational Health, reported that in 2019 there were 40,765 deaths in the U.S. from occupational asbestos exposures.

4 Current Asbestos Bans. Accessed October 3, 2021.

September 1, 2021

Johnson & Johnson: Reality Check 2021!

It is a well-known fact that when people reach a certain age they can experience short-term memory loss. I had not realized that such a condition could also afflict multinational conglomerates until a few days ago! Imagine my surprise when I happened to discover that a search for the words “asbestos,” “mesothelioma,” and “talc” on the website of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) UK showed no results.1 Considering that the UK company is a subsidiary of a multinational pharmaceutical giant which is currently facing 34,600 lawsuits over asbestos contamination of its talc-based baby powder, this is an oversight of monstrous proportions.

Those of us of a suspicious bent of mind might be inclined to believe that the absence of any references to “asbestos” on the site of its overseas subsidiary indicates that Johnson & Johnson is intent on hiding inconvenient truths that are emerging in U.S. litigation regarding the toxicity of its talc products – that, far from being an oversight, this omission is a deliberate attempt to cover-up the truth in order to preserve sales outside of North America of a product which remains, to this day, the market leader in many countries.

A growing mountain of information detrimental to J&J’s credibility is accumulating with the rapidly escalating pace of litigation in the U.S. over asbestos contamination of its iconic baby powder; recently reported have been class actions and personal injury lawsuits at the U.S. Supreme Court, New Jersey’s Atlantic County Superior Court, a Delaware Bankruptcy Court, the Appellate Court and Alameda County Superior Court in California, a Missouri District Court and an Illinois Circuit Court. With tens of thousands of lawsuits pending, there will, of course, be thousands of actions in other U.S. jurisdictions.

Let’s consider the nature of the disconnect between the U.S. reality and J&J’s global cover-up. Corporations are not organic beings: they don’t breathe, eat or excrete. They do not suffer from the physical ailments that impact human health and therefore cannot suffer from dementia.

Predatory capitalism, however, which promotes the “cultural acceptance of domination and exploitation as normal economic practice” is a more viable explanation. When we consider that J&J is still marketing toxic baby powder around the globe, having withdrawn it from sale in North America, then I believe we have found the correct terminology for this behaviour.

In its four paragraph “Credo” J&J highlights the need to “reduce our costs,” generate “fair profit” and “sound profit,” and produce a “fair return” for stockholders. Despite having subsidiaries and customers throughout the globe, there is no mention of equitable sales policies or non-discriminatory marketing.2

North Americans injured by J&J’s products have access to high-powered lawyers who are, in their droves, bringing lawsuits on behalf of J&J customers who contracted mesothelioma – the signature cancer caused by exposure to asbestos – and/or ovarian cancer. A lawsuit brought by human rights attorney Ben Crump on behalf of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) in July, 2021 asserted that use of the toxic powder had caused NCNW members to contract ovarian cancer.3 Explaining the rationale for this action, the complaint asserted that previous legal challenges had:

“not remedied the specific harm that J&J has caused to the Black community – and to Black women in particular – by targeting their advertisements for this dangerous product at them.”

U.S. Attorney Mark Lanier, lead lawyer in a successful $2 billion+ class action against J&J on behalf of 20 ovarian cancer claimants that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,4 summed up the ruthless and destructive behavior of the company and its subsidiary saying they had:

“knowingly manufactured and sold dangerous, life-threatening products. Since the verdict, J&J has finally quit selling this asbestos-laced talc product in the U.S. and Canada…Asbestos kills people. Asbestos does so without regard to where the people live, the language they speak, or the color of their skin. Why then, does J&J stop selling its asbestos-laced talcum powders only in the US and Canada? That is both racist, and inhuman.”5

What could be worse than exposing newborn babies to a carcinogenic substance? Is it really okay, as J&J seems to think, to protect American newborns whilst sacrificing those of other nationalities? All in the name of profit?

The J&J Credo states that “mistakes [be] paid for.” It is well past time for J&J to acknowledge its predatory behavior and to withdraw its talc-based baby powder from sale worldwide. The company must acknowledge its misdeeds by updating websites and other information portals and make restitution to the injured. There is no long-term future for a company that exploits legislative loopholes and national vulnerabilities to make profit for the few at the expense of the many.

1 When the term asbestos was inserted in the search bar of the J&J UK website, the reply was: “There are no results for the search term ‘asbestos’.” There were no results for the search terms “mesothelioma” and "talc;" the search for “baby powder” had just two results neither of which referred to the controversy over asbestos contamination whilst the search for “ovarian cancer” had one unrelated result. August 26, 2021.

2 Johnson and Johnson. Our Credo. August 30, 2021.

3 Brooks, K.J. Black women's organization sues Johnson & Johnson over talcum-based powder. July 27, 2021.

4 Kazan-Allen, L. Victory for U.S. Ovarian Cancer Victims. June 3, 2021.

5 Press Release. Killer Powder, Toxic Corporation. June 4, 2021.

August 9, 2021

The Future is Asbestos-Free!

A new graph by Yeyong Choi from the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) perfectly illustrates the collapse in global asbestos production over recent decades. Production levels are at the lowest they have been for seventy years as more and more countries have restricted and even banned the use of asbestos.1 This trend has been accelerated by the repudiation of asbestos by national governments, regional authorities, international agencies and development banks with the latest prohibition announced by the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank in May 2021.2


 Global Asbestos Production 1900-2020

 Reproduced with permission of Yeyong Choi, Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (Enlarge image)
 [Data sourced from the United States Geological Survey].

To mark this landmark news, IBAS commissioned the Indonesian artist Ajat Sudrajat to produce an image portraying our hopes for the future. We think you will agree that this image is not only a work of art but also an accurate depiction of the dream we all share!


1 Current Asbestos Bans.
Chronology of Asbestos Bans and Restrictions.

2 Asbestos Policies of Major International Agencies.

July 1, 2021

Action Mesothelioma Day 2021!

As an active participant in the global campaign to ban asbestos, I have seen how creative and effective grassroots campaigners have been in the fight to end the asbestos slaughter and support the injured. Successful outreach projects and multinational collaborations have empowered our struggle and maximized our efforts. This month (July 2021) provides excellent examples in Europe and Asia of the adaptability and resourcefulness of activists working with those affected by deadly asbestos cancers and their families.

On July 2, 2021, UK asbestos victim support groups, mesothelioma charities and campaigning groups will be marking the 16th national Action Mesothelioma Day (AMD).1 Over the years, AMD has grown to become a national day of activity and remembrance in asbestos hotspots all over the country. It was a day when the injured, their relatives, and those who had lost someone to mesothelioma – the signature asbestos cancer – gathered together to raise awareness of Britain’s tragic asbestos legacy. They met in church halls, on village greens, in civic centers, conference rooms and elsewhere to learn, commune and provide support. At some meetings, the emphasis was on the spiritual at others it was on raising money for research. Although each meeting was different, they all shared the same motivation and objective: remember the dead and fight for the living.2

Then came the coronavirus and in-person meetings became – temporarily, we hope – a thing of the past. In 2020, for the first time Action Mesothelioma Day became a virtual event. An online national event, which will be held on July 2, 2021, will feature presentations from leading medical experts as well as mesothelioma patients and a carer. Other online AMD activities will take place this week as well as the launch of fund-raising initiatives.

AMD has always been an inclusive event and over the years guest speakers from the US, Canada, Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan and elsewhere have been welcomed at AMD events throughout the UK. On AMD 2017, members of a Japanese delegation of asbestos victims and family members took part in AMD activities in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Derby and Sheffield. 3 Their experiences, which were shared when they returned home, inspired asbestos activists in Japan to declare July 2021 as the country’s first mesothelioma awareness month to raise “awareness of mesothelioma and of the current situation of patients of this disease and their families, and to improve patients' treatment and living environments.”4

It is gratifying to see how Japanese groups, including the Mesothelioma Support Caravan, the National Cancer Center Rare Cancer Center and the National Association of Asbestos-related Disease Victims and Their Families have collaborated on this landmark initiative. The UK experience has shown that the biggest impact of AMD is achieved by coordinated action backed by a spectrum of civil society groups and associations. Speaking on behalf of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (the Forum), Chair Joanne Gordon said:

“We are delighted to know that Japanese colleagues will also be marking Action Mesothelioma Day in July 2021. The experiences shared by Japanese victims and campaigners at AMD 2017, made a lasting impact on patients and others who were present during their presentations. Although this year, we will again be marking AMD with online activities, we remain optimistic that in 2022 we will be able to meet in person. Whether in-person or online, the fellowship, support and visibility achieved by AMD remains crucial to the well-being of those affected and to the family members who support them. I know that just as AMD participants in the UK will be thinking of their comrades in Japan on AMD, so Japanese victims will take solace in the knowledge of the solidarity of all those affected by the deadly dust at home and abroad.”5

1 Action Mesothelioma Day 2021
ACTION MESOTHELIOMA DAY EDM (Early Day Motion) 1696: tabled on 27 February 2006.

2 The diversity of AMD events pre-2020 can be seen in the photos illustrating these articles:
Action Mesothelioma Day 2019! July 16, 2019.
Action Mesothelioma Day 2018! July 18, 2018.
Action Mesothelioma Day 2016! July 6, 2016.

3 Ban Asbestos Campaign: Update Summer 2017. July 20, 2017

4 中皮腫啓発月間 Mesothelioma awareness month 2021.

5 Email received from Joanne Gordon on June 28, 2021.

June 8, 2021

Asbestos Psychosis

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again-expecting different results.”1 And yet decade after decade that is what asbestos vested interests do in the hope that yet another revenue stream can be generated by the commercial exploitation of asbestos.

A Russian language article uploaded to a Kazakhstan website on June 7, 2021 reviewed the financial gains made by the country’s chrysotile (white) asbestos industry during the global pandemic, noting that “the [asbestos] company has always shown growth in crisis years (2008 and 2015).”2 For decades Kazakhstan has been amongst the world’s top five chrysotile fiber producers and in 2008 the industry received government backing.3

The behaviour of the industry described in the article is suggestive of a type of commercial schizophrenia; at the same time as ecological protocols were being adopted to reduce consumption of water and electricity in the production and processing of chrysotile fiber, research was being progressed to find new ways to use raw chrysotile including, would you believe, in fertilizers.

Given the collapse in the domestic market for chrysotile,4 it was no surprise that the Kazakh asbestos industry was desperate to diversify but the prospect of polluting agricultural land and fresh produce with deadly fibers is a step that, one would have thought, was too far even for these voracious capitalists.

The ruthless pursuit of asbestos profits will not stop until international agencies take decisive steps to ban the global trade in chrysotile. UN efforts to impose even minimal regulations on the asbestos industry via the Rotterdam Convention (RC) have been blocked on multiple occasions by government and commercial stakeholders initially led by the Canadian delegation and latterly by the Russian delegation.5 In February 2021, it was announced that the next in-person meeting of the Convention would not take place until June 2022 because of the global pandemic.6 Based on available data, that delay would allow a further 230,000 tonnes of Kazakh asbestos to be mined, processed and sold. Considering past failures will the RC Conference of the Parties 2022 succeed where others have failed?

1 Psychosis is defined as “a condition that affects the way your brain processes information. It causes you to lose touch with reality. You might see, hear, or believe things that aren't real. Psychosis is a symptom, not an illness. A mental or physical illness, substance abuse, or extreme stress or trauma can cause it.” In this case, the author suggests that the psychosis is caused by an overwhelming and irrational thirst for monetary gain.

2 According to the data cited in the June 7 article about the Kazakh asbestos company Kostanay Minerals JSC, during the first quarter of 2021, chrysotile fiber production rose by ~20% and exports by ~40%.

3 Спрос на хризотил-асбест будет устойчивым в период коронакризиса [Chrysotile Asbestos Demand Will Be Sustainable During The Corona Crisis].

4 Житикаринское градообразующее предприятие на волне ковидного кризиса показало рост по всем показателям.Подробнее. [In the wake of the crisis, the Zhitikarinsk city-forming enterprise showed growth in all respects]. May 6, 2021.

5 George, O. & Kazan-Allen, L. The Rotterdam Convention 2019. May 10, 2021.

6 Basel Convention COP15, Rotterdam Convention COP10 and Stockholm Convention COP10. February, 2021.

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