Laurie Kazan-Allen

Blog pages:





July 11, 2023

Breaking Through Russia’s Asbestos Omerta

Once upon a time, an industrial hygienist who specialized in asbestos-related issues recounted to me an exchange he had in Russia. During discussions with his Moscow hosts, he described finding high levels of cancers and respiratory illnesses in UK locations where asbestos had been used; he asked about the incidence of these diseases in Russia. The answer when it came was self-explanatory: “There were,” he was told, “no asbestos-related diseases in the workers’ paradise.” This pretty much sums up the Russian attitude towards asbestos: Russian asbestos was safe to mine, use, sell and export.

According to data collected by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), in 1977 the Soviet Union1 first overtook Canada in the production of asbestos fiber with an output of 1,900,000 tonnes (t) compared to 1,055,667t; due to high levels of domestic consumption in the Soviet Union. Canada, however, remained the world’s largest exporter until 2000 when Russia shipped 332,417t abroad compared to Canada’s 314,706t.

As in Canada, where asbestos was nicknamed “white gold” due to its importance to local, provincial and national economies, criticism of the asbestos mining industry in Russia was not encouraged. Whereas British victims of asbestos poisoning refrained from speaking out about their diseases out of misplaced loyalty to former employers as well as fears over the security of their pensions, in Russia the control exerted by asbestos stakeholders ensured that not even a scintilla of negativity sullied the reputation of chrysotile (white) asbestos. In fact, the whitewash went across the board, including employees, politicians, doctors, medical specialists, epidemiologists, researchers and occupational hygienists.

In light of the above, it is highly significant that in the last couple of weeks items on news portals in the Russian Republic of Udmurt (Volga Federal District), the Republic of Chuvash (European Russia) and the City of Ryazan (Western Russia) about the threat posed by asbestos exposures appeared.2 The articles highlighted the publication of new lung cancer data, the links between exposure to asbestos and the occurrence of lung cancer and the importance of early diagnoses.

As we have seen from the one-sided news about the invasion of Ukraine broadcast on Russian TV every night, he who controls the media, controls the public’s perception of the message. As the warnings about the health hazards of asbestos exposures spread, questions will be asked about why this industry is supported by government agencies and institutions.3 One day, and we hope it won’t be long, Russian citizens will spurn the asbestos industry’s propaganda and reject this deadly and destructive technology.


June 13, 2023

Decades of Deceit

The Brazilian premiere of a Belgian asbestos documentary took place at São Paulo’s Ecofalante Film Festival on June 1, 2023. For the Brazilian screenings, the 90-minute French-language film – Asbestos: Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold – had been subtitled in Portuguese.1 Using footage from the archives of Belgian State TV, the film-makers exposed decades of asbestos crimes and malfeasance. Amongst those attending the film’s June 1 screening was Eliezer João de Souza, President of Brazil’s Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA). Commenting on the film, Eliezer said:

“The blatant disregard for human life which was so clearly shown by the historic footage of asbestos factories owned and operated by the Eternit group in Belgium was familiar to ABREA members who had worked at Eternit factories in Osasco (São Paulo State), Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro State), Simões Filho (Salvador State), Minaçu, Goiânia and Anápolis (Goiás State), and Ponta Grossa and Colombo (Paraná State). We too were tasked with handling raw asbestos in conditions so dusty that you couldn’t see the people working next to you, we too were kept in the dark about the hazard of working with no protection from the deadly fiber and we too took the fibers home on our work clothes, thereby endangering the lives of our wives and children. The exploitation we experienced and the injustices perpetrated by asbestos stakeholders are unforgivable. This documentary is a testament to the damage done by an industry which caused death and destruction wherever it went.”2

Clips of interviews with Eternit officials in the Belgian film were informative as much for the words which were spoken as the bravado with which they were delivered: asbestos was the future, asbestos was a miracle substance, asbestos workers were part of a family which protected its own. Of course, it was all lies but it was delivered with such conviction that it is easy to see how so many generations of workers fell for it.


In Buenos Aires in 2001 I too found myself amazed by the “chutzpah” of the asbestos industry as it continued to peddle dangerous untruths. During a presentation by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, Coordinator of Argentina’s Advisory Commission on Chrysotile Asbestos, the Spanish language speaker denounced myths propagated by his country’s asbestos lobby:

  • Myth 1: Crocidolite asbestos is dangerous, chrysotile (white) asbestos is not.
  • Myth 2: The use of asbestos was dangerous under hazardous working conditions which existed decades ago; under current working conditions, the use of asbestos is safe.
  • Myth 3: There are no new cases of asbestos-related diseases.
  • Myth 4: Asbestos-cement is safe to use because the fibers are encapsulated in an unbreakable cement matrix.

As I listened to the English language translation of Dr. Rodriguez’s talk coming through my headphones, I realized I had heard this propaganda before. It was the same litany of arguments used by industry stakeholders to counter growing calls for an end to the asbestos slaughter that they had used in Europe, North-America, and Australia. Their asbestos gospel had been quoted ad nauseum in glossy publications, at high-profile diplomatic receptions, in newspaper articles and, increasingly, on internet sites.

Twenty-two years later, industry’s propaganda remains virtually unchanged with more Asian countries being targeted to make up for markets where asbestos use has been outlawed.3 Slick European public relations companies still present the arguments for a discredited and despised industry which will do anything it deems necessary – such as spying on health and safety campaigners and threatening activists with lawsuits and criminal charges – to protect the status quo.4

What has changed significantly is the public awareness of the methods used by vested interests to preserve global markets. Whether it is bribing government officials, running disinformation campaigns or manipulating international agencies, asbestos stakeholders are swimming against the post-Covid tide. With growing anxiety over the climate crisis, global populations are demanding that corporations and governments embrace environmental sustainability, green technologies and zero pollution. With increasing calls for accountability and for punishment of asbestos stakeholders, the future is asbestos-free.

1 Amianto: Crônica de um Desastre Anunciado [Asbestos: Chronicle of a Disaster foretold].
12th Ecofalante Film Festival.

2 Email from Eliezer João de Souza. June 12, 2023.

3 IBAS. Current Asbestos Bans. Accessed June 6, 2023.

4 Kazan-Allen, L. Corporate Deceit: Asbestos Espionage at Home and Abroad. March 18, 2019.

May 26, 2023

Understanding the Mindset of Westminster Killers

Having read and re-read the Hansard transcript of a May 23, 2023 House of Commons debate on the Safety of School Buildings, I found it difficult to fathom the Tory Government’s continued complacency over the presence of a deadly killer within the country’s educational infrastructure.1

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the children of Tory Ministers are unlikely to be in danger? Let’s investigate. During the debate, the Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb MP and Robert Halfon MP, Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education spoke on behalf of the Government; neither one of them has children. The majority of current cabinet members went to private schools.2 It’s well known that privately-educated Brits tend to provide the same level of education for their kids. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was educated at the £45,936-a-year Winchester College before going to Oxford University, like every other Prime Minister since the second World War except Gordon Brown. Sunak’s 10- and 12-year-old daughters began their education at an elite all-girls school in South Kensington; the elder one is now at a private boarding school. And so it goes…

The motion debated on May 23, 2023 between 4:40 p.m. and 6:56 p.m., which was proposed by the Shadow Secretary of State for Education Bridget Phillipson MP, asked the Government to release a long-delayed report on the state of school buildings – referred to as “the underlying buildings condition survey data” – completed in 2021. Although the key findings of that research were made public in May 2021, the full report has yet to see the light of day. The delay was inexplicable as well as suspicious said Bridget Phillipson MP:

“And here we are in May, two years on from the summary data being published, and there is nothing at once public and specific about the risks and needs of individual schools. What is there to hide? Why will they not come clean with parents and the public?”


In 2000, teacher Gina Lees died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, having been exposed to asbestos at multiple schools. She was 51 years old.3


In 2009, Dorothy Willmore died of mesothelioma; she was 49 years old. Hours before she died, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the asbestos exposure which had caused her cancer had occurred during the 1970s when she was a pupil at the Bowring comprehensive school in Knowsley.4

Labour MPs who highlighted the on-going national scandal over asbestos in schools on Tuesday afternoon included Bridget Phillipson,5 Simon Lightwood and Liz Twist. It was left, however, to Ian Lavery MP, to make the most damning indictment of 13 years of Tory misrule during his impassioned intervention:

“The idea that schools could collapse is terrifying; that they could collapse releasing clouds of asbestos is shudderingly worrying. I want to focus on asbestos for a moment, and the fact that asbestos in schools is still killing teachers. Mesothelioma is the dreaded disease caused by asbestos. The Government are fully aware of the situation with mesothelioma and what is happening in our schools. I could focus on a range of health and safety issues regarding schools, but let us just focus on asbestos.

A staggering 87% of schools are reported to have asbestos in at least one of their buildings. The idea that that stuff is safe in situ, and that it is fine if it is not moved, is a convenient and dangerous lie from a Government that want to wish yet another major issue away.

The Government might be disturbingly surprised to hear that many school teaching professionals are now dying of mesothelioma, at an average of 21 per year up three per year since 1980 yet they persist in burying their head in the sand... I have to tell the Minister that people are dying because of asbestos in schools. Mesothelioma is a disease with a latency period of 10, 20, 30 or 40 years, and there are still people dying as a result of asbestos in schools. He must do something about it. It is not good enough to continue to say that as long as we do not touch it, it will be fine, because peopleteachers and kidsare dying as a result of mesothelioma. We need the data; we need the information. Parents have a right to know if our schools are safe and if their kids are safe when they leave their door in the morning and go into the educational environment.”

The motion was defeated with 296 votes against and 171 in favor.

1 Hansard. The Safety of School Buildings. May 23, 2023.

2 Majority of Rishi Sunak’s new cabinet went to private school. October 26, 2022.

3 Kazan-Allen, L. The Female Face of Britain’s Asbestos Catastrophe. July 2012.

4 Davies, C. School asbestos compensation puts councils under pressure. March 9, 2011.

5 During one of her interventions Bridget Phillipson pointed out that: "The trade union Unison estimates that at current funding rates, it will take hundreds of years to fully remove dangerous asbestos from the schools estate. How on earth is that good enough?"

May 18, 2023

A Tale of Two Cities 2023!

On May 7, 2023 scores of members of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) gathered in Bangkok for the latest ABAN conference; other ABAN members monitored the event online.1 This was the first in-person event organized by ABAN since the Covid pandemic; although a virtual ABAN event in 2021 had allowed hundreds of delegates to take part, the development of relationships, interchange of information and building of trust is best accomplished in person.2 Material was presented on the day by delegates from Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Translation from Thai and English facilitated verbal interactions whilst the generous provision of discussion time allowed key concerns to be addressed.


Group photo taken at ABAN Conference on May 7, 2023 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Commenting on the conference, ABAN Coordinator Sugio Furuya said:

“It was extremely important for ABAN to provide the opportunity for key voices in the Asian ban asbestos campaign to be heard during conference sessions in Bangkok last week. Whilst in Thailand, ABAN delegates were also able to participate in wider-ranging discussions on occupational health and safety at the annual meeting of the Asian Network for the Rights Of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV).

At the same time as ABAN and ANROEV campaigners were exploring ways to protect workers and members of the public, asbestos stakeholders from Russia and Kazakhstan were blocking United Nations efforts to safeguard humankind from deadly exposures to asbestos at a meeting of the Rotterdam Convention in Geneva. ABAN members were outraged that just a handful of countries had the ability to overrule the vast majority of nations, all of whom agreed that the best way to protect future generations from asbestos-related diseases was to stop the use of asbestos.”

Speaking on behalf of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, Coordinator Laurie Kazan-Allen said:

“I was in Geneva in 2006 and 2013. I witnessed first-hand how loopholes in the Rotterdam Convention were exploited by stakeholders to prioritize their countries’ financial interests as opposed to the welfare of global populations. Despite so much hard work to reform the Convention, unfortunately, history repeated itself this month in Geneva when action on asbestos was vetoed by Russia, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, India, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. Nearly 6,000 miles away in Bangkok, however, plans for high-profile regional campaigns on asbestos and other acknowledged toxins were being progressed by members of the ABAN and ANROEV movements. In the aftermath of a pandemic which ravaged the world, the preservation of life and the environment has become a global priority. The future is asbestos-free.”


1 ABAN 2023 was sponsored by the Solidarity Center (AFL-CIO), the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, ABAN, Asian Network for the Rights Of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV), the Asia Monitor Resource Center, the Building and Wood Workers International, Australia’s Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA) and Work and Environment Related Patients (WEPT), Thailand.

2 Kazan-Allen, L. Taking the Asian Battle to Ban Asbestos Online! October 13, 2021.
Also see: Pacific Island Countries Efforts Toward Asbestos Containing Material Ban Presented at 2023 ABAN Conference. May 17, 2023.

April 18, 2023

Curious or Deliberate Oversight – You Decide!

International Chrysotile Protection Day – a holiday invented by the asbestos lobby to celebrate the bounty provided by massive deposits of chrysotile asbestos – was due to take place on April 16. In years gone by there were April 16 displays of pro-chrysotile fervor by local people as well as industry workers in Russian and Kazakh asbestos mining towns in the Sverdlovsk, Orenburg and Kostanay regions.1 There were meetings, concerts and even sports competitions to share chrysotile propaganda with younger generations. Even when there were no in-person events, there were online articles, blogs and Facebook postings, all of which were used to extol the virtues of “mountain flax” (a Russian nickname for chrysotile) and denounce its critics. This year, April 16 came and went and there were no rallies, articles, celebrations or Facebook postings. Of this one-time calendar fixture, there was just a reverberating silence.


April 16, 2015 Public Rally in Asbest, Russia on Chrysotile Protection Day.

The timing of chrysotile day was deliberate coming weeks before biennial meetings on a United Nations treaty intended to protect global populations from exposures to dangerous chemicals and substances. The next such meeting of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention will take place in Geneva in early May. Once again, the contentious issue of listing chrysotile on Annex III of the treaty is on the agenda. Considering the vehemence with which Russian and Kazakh asbestos stakeholders have acted to block eight prior attempts at listing chrysotile, the failure to rally their asbestos troops on April 16 comes as something of a surprise. 2

Of course, Russia’s war on Ukraine might have gotten in the way of this year’s chrysotile love-in. Despite the approbation felt by civilized countries over the invasion of Ukraine, Russian delegates to last year’s Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention carried on business as usual. Expressing their disapproval of the asbestos refusniks’ behaviour, civil society campaigners said:

“The refusal by certain Parties, led by the Russian Federation, to allow the listing of chrysotile asbestos in the relevant Annex III of the Convention is driven by economic interests and stands in gross violation of the spirit of the Rotterdam Convention and in total contradiction to the decision taken at the International Labour Conference last Friday by all ILO member countries, including those now blocking progress at the Rotterdam Convention COP, to elevate a safe and healthy working environment to a fundamental principle and right to work.”3

I am under no illusion that the inaction on April 16 will carry forward to Geneva but wouldn’t it be nice if it did?

1 Жители Асбеста вышли на манифестацию под лозунгом «У Асбеста есть будущее!» [Residents of Asbest took to the demonstration under the slogan “Asbest has a future!”] April 17, 2015.
На Урале прошли необычные митинги в поддержку асбеста [Unusual rallies in support of asbestos held in the Urals]. April 30, 2016.
Россия и Казахстан на страже минерального хризотила [Russia and Kazakhstan Guard the Mineral Chrysotile]. April 23, 2016.
Асбест — город особенный: сегодня там отмечают международный день защиты хризотила [Asbest is a special city: today they celebrate the international day of protection of chrysotile]. April 16, 2018.
День защиты хризотила: более 40 лет хризотил-асбест находится под давлением внешних сил [Chrysotile Day: For more than 40 years, chrysotile-asbestos has been under pressure from external forces]. April 17, 2021.
Народ за хризотил! [People for chrysotile!] April 16, 2022.

2 Kazan-Allen, L. Light at the End of the Tunnel? February 21, 2023.

3 Press Release. Russia violates Fundamental Right to a Safe and Healthy Working Environment. June 15, 2022.

April 6, 2023

Asbestos Specter Stalks the Globe

A cache of recent news reviewed on April 5, 2023 revealed asbestos legacy issues in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. The biggest of the stories detailed the latest attempt by the US pharmaceutical behemoth Johnson & Johnson to resolve tens of thousands of lawsuits by cancer sufferers who claimed their diseases were contracted as a result of using the company’s iconic baby powder which was contaminated with asbestos fibers.1 This story was covered by media outlets in Russia, China, Vietnam, Canada, France, Italy, Greece and elsewhere.

Although I seriously doubt that the Canadian Prime Minister will become homeless as a result of news from Ottawa, the fact that his official residence at 24 Sussex Drive has, in effect, been dubbed a toxic site can be of little solace to him or his country. It seems that the use of asbestos in building the structure means that a plague of rodents now inhabiting the building cannot be dealt with effectively because the walls of the property are full of asbestos. Until this contamination has been remediated, the air in the building will remain too toxic for human habitation of this national landmark.2


Canadian Prime Minister’s Residence, 24 Sussex Drive.

The air in ships belonging to the Spanish Navy was also toxic according to sub-lieutenant Francisco Feal who was quoted in an April 5th, 2023 article entitled Asbestos killed 82 members of Spanish navy in last 20 years: Report. The biggest hazard onboard, he said “was the cloud of worn-out asbestos that circulated everywhere and that we breathed in for months, even years. Hundreds of us got sick, and many died of cancer. We are still paying for it today.”3 Although asbestos use was banned in Spain in 2002, asbestos material remains on naval ships.

In a lesser-known story, survivors of the February 2023 earthquakes in Turkey on April 4, 2023 took to the streets of the Province of Hatay to protest the fact that asbestos-containing building rubble was being dumped in an area near where temporary shelters had been erected.4


Protest in Hatay, Turkey on April 4, 2023. Twenty protesters were arrested by the police.

According to a spokesperson for the protestors:

“People who have not died from the earthquake will die from asbestos...If this practice continues in this way, the people of Samandağ will face new health problems such as lung and pleural cancer.”5

Data in a report released by the Australian Government on April 4, 2023, confirmed that Australia continues to have “one of the highest measured incidence rates of mesothelioma in the world” with up to 800 people dying every year from this asbestos cancer. In the 2019-20 financial year, $32.1 million was spent by the health system on care for Australia’s mesothelioma patients.6 Whilst the majority of male mesothelioma patients reported occupational asbestos exposures, only 6.6% of women patients experienced occupational exposures.

Meanwhile in China, one of the world’s biggest asbestos consuming and producing nations, an article about the national rise in lung cancer cases warned citizens of the serious health risks posed by occupational exposures to a variety of substances including asbestos, arsenic, chromium, formaldehyde, and vinyl chloride. “If you have to work in an environment containing toxic substances such as arsenic and asbestos, you should,” wrote the author “wear a gas mask and protective clothing to reduce your exposure to toxic substances.”7

In countries which have faced up to their tragic asbestos legacies, small steps are being taken to quantify the human and environmental costs of widespread and unregulated asbestos use. In countries where asbestos is still being used, the outlook is grim; continuing toxic exposures will undoubtedly produce higher incidences of cancer and respiratory diseases.

Whilst foreigners may not be able to stop asbestos-producing countries like Russia, Kazakhstan and China exposing their own citizens to asbestos, there is no excuse for allowing them to export their toxic wares. The eleventh meeting of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention – a United Nations protocol designed to progress environmental justice by imposing controls on the international trade in dangerous substances – meets in Geneva in May 2023; are there grounds to be hopeful that this time – the ninth time – something will finally be done to prevent the sale of asbestos to unsuspecting countries?8 One can but hope!


May 10, 2013: Asbestos Victims Groups Protest at 6th Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention.

1 Hsu, T. Johnson & Johnson Reaches Deal for $8.9 Billion Talc Settlement. April 4, 2023.

2 Cecco, L. Canadian PM’s residence shut down over dead mice in walls, documents say. April 4, 2023.

3 Asbestos killed 82 members of Spanish navy in last 20 years: Report. April 5, 2023.

4 Günaydýn, B. O. Earthquake victims in Turkey's Hatay protest dumping of rubble near tent city. April 3, 2023.

5 Footage showing police attacking the protestors was uploaded to a twitter feed:
Protestors detained for trying to prevent uncontrolled rubble dumping in quake zone. April 4, 2023.

6 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Mesothelioma Registry. Mesothelioma in Australia 2021. April 4, 2023.

7 早期没有征兆!预防肺癌靠这些 [There were no early signs! Prevent lung cancer by these steps]. April 4, 2023.

8 Kazan-Allen, L. Light at the End of the Tunnel? February 21, 2023.
Kazan-Allen, L. Rotterdam Convention 2013 – an Activist's Diary. May 21, 2013.

March 1, 2023

Japan: Victims’ Campaign for Asbestos Justice

In just a few weeks, the Japanese Government will be expanding the legal obligations of companies to protect not only their employees but also self-employed workers who may suffer toxic exposures at workplaces. Revised enforcement regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which will come into force on April 1, 2023, reflect a more comprehensive approach by the Government to workers’ rights.1

The change in policy is, one could argue, a result of recent court decisions, many of which have been favorable to asbestos victims.2 The wave of asbestos class actions and personal injury lawsuits achieved a high public profile due to the mobilization and lobbying of groups representing Japanese asbestos victims and trade union members.


Public rally by Construction Workers in Tokyo. May 25, 2022.



Protest by Japan Asbestos Victims in Tokyo. June 7, 2022. Photograph courtesy of JOSHRC.

The Japanese Workers’ Compensation Situation, which evolved piecemeal over decades, is complex. As I understand it, there is:

a)a Workers’ Compensation Insurance Scheme which covers all workers, including the self-employed, who pay premiums;
b)a relief scheme to compensate the injured not covered by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Scheme.

As an example, an asbestos-injured employed construction worker can receive benefits from a); an asbestos-injured self-employed construction worker can receive benefits from (a) or (b) as long as he paid contributions to the national scheme. The amounts of compensation accessible through these routes are the legal minimum. Both the employed and self-employed can seek additional payments from responsible parties such as their employer, the Government, the manufacturers of asbestos-containing building materials, etc.

Following a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court in 2021, the Government set up a scheme under the Construction Asbestos Benefits Law – adopted by the Diet on June 9, 2021– which became operational on January 19, 2022. To date, more than 3,000 claimants have received benefits in addition to those previously obtained under the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Scheme (a) or the relief scheme (b) discussed above.3

Not very long ago, things were different, as I know from personal experience. In November 2007, I took part in an asbestos workshop in Yokohoma with members of the Japanese trade union movement. I was dumbfounded when I learned that there had been no cases brought by asbestos-injured railway workers.4 Participants at the event were equally amazed to learn of the level of compensation payouts routinely received by UK railway workers who had succeeded in lawsuits against their employers.

Commenting on the progress made, Sugio Furuya, General Secretary of The Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Centre (JOSHRC), said:

“As recently as 1995 annual asbestos consumption in Japan was 193,800 tonnes, much more than any other G7 country. Given the accumulation of medical and scientific knowledge about the health hazards posed by asbestos exposures, Japanese politicians must have known about the deadly consequences of their failure to protect the population from the asbestos hazard. Equally guilty were building material manufacturers and many others who prioritized profits over safety. Thankfully, the courts have now recognized the culpability of these defendants. Litigation continues to ensure that all Japan’s asbestos victims are supported and compensated.

The experience in Japan has lessons for other national governments that remain unwilling to end the deadly use of asbestos. They will also be held to account. The most effective way to limit their liabilities is to ban the use of asbestos now.”5

1 Kawai, T. 労働安全衛生法の省令が改正 2023年4月から一人親方にも保護義務. [Ministerial ordinance of the Industrial Safety and Health Act has been revised From April 2023, the obligation to protect even the self-employed]. February 24, 2023
Furuya, S. New Developments in Construction Workers Asbestos Litigation in Japan. June 24, 2021.

2 Kazan-Allen, L. Historic Victory for Japan’s Asbestos Victims. May 20, 2021.

3 建設アスベスト給付金法が1月19日に施行されます [Construction Asbestos Benefits Act will come into effect on January 19]. January 19, 2022.

4 Kazan-Allen, L. UK Rail Trade Unions: Action on Asbestos. Presented at: Japanese Trade Union Asbestos Workshop Yokohoma, Japan, November 2007
Kazan-Allen, L. Report on the International Asbestos Conference for Fair and Equal Compensation for all Asbestos Victims and their Families. November 24, 2007.

5 Email from Sugio Furuya, February 28, 2023.

February 6, 2023

The Sinking of the São Paulo

Environmentalists, campaigners and legal experts around the world were shocked by news that the Brazilian Navy had carried out a series of explosions on February 3, 2023 to sink the São Paulo, its former flagship.1 It was alleged that Brazilian President Lula da Silva signed off on the Navy’s plans despite objections by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Marina Silva, other members of the new administration and supporters of the Workers’ Party. Under Lula’s predecessor, President Bolsonaro, an anti-environmental agenda held sway; Lula had vowed to reverse the environmental destruction. After only a month in office, Brazilians have good reason to question his intentions.

The interest in the São Paulo was not confined to Brazil; media reports on the story were published in Africa, Europe, North America, Asia and Latin America.2 Describing the ship as “a Giant Recycling Problem,” “a toxic package of 30,000 tons” and “one of the biggest pieces of garbage in the ocean,” most of the authors of the articles cited below recapped the inglorious history of the former French aircraft carrier which had drifted aimlessly off the Brazilian coast for months in 2022 before being abandoned in January 2023 by its Turkish owners.

After a less than transparent transfer of ownership from the Brazilian Navy to a Turkish company in 2021, which was called “state-sponsored criminal waste trafficking” by environmental campaigners, plans were made to dismantle the São Paulo in a Turkish shipyard.3 Following, unrest amongst members of the shipbreaking communities, highly vocal dissent expressed by local and federal politicians and public mobilization by campaigners for workers’ rights and the environment, the Turkish Government rescinded the permit for the scrapping of the São Paulo to take place in Aliağa over concerns about its contamination with asbestos and other toxic substances.

The ship was ordered back to Brazil in August 2022. Once there, provincial and state authorities refused it permission to dock. Day after day, month after month, the condition of the hull deteriorated leading to questions over the ship’s structural integrity. The Navy refused to get involved, heaping blame for the situation on the ship’s Turkish owners Sök Denizcilik, Oceans Prime Offshore, a company under contract to Sök Denizcilik, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and the Turkish environmental agency. 4

In a note released on February 2, 2023, the Turkish owners of the ship robustly challenged the narrative as laid out in a joint official note from Brazil’s Ministry of Defence, the Attorney General's Office and the Navy:

“The [Brazilian] document, far from clarifying the reality of the facts, covers up the waste of public money by the Brazilian taxpayer, literally thrown down the drain, and the inertia of the authorities, who proved to be indifferent over almost six months while the ship wandered aimlessly, burned fuel in the environment and its representatives constantly sought a dialogue with the authorities, as well as alerting society and the press to the current and unresolved problems. A ship that would undergo green and environmentally safe recycling in one of the most respected shipyards in the world and that complied with all legal determinations and impositions will now be sunk in Brazilian waters, with an impact on the environment.”5

In January 2023, the Navy took possession of the vessel following an ultimatum by its owners. The Navy’s preferred solution to the high-profile and complex problem which was the São Paulo involved towing it hundreds of kilometers from mainland Brazil and deliberately scuppering it. Although the Minister of Ecology Marina Silva opposed this “solution,” the new Brazilian Government was anxious not to provoke the military whilst investigations into January’s attacks on Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court were ongoing. Considering the very real frictions which existed within government circles, it was always likely that the Navy would have the final say.

On January 31, 2023, a public civil action to prevent the sinking of the ship was filed by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) at the Federal Court in Pernambuco6; it was rejected.7 Judge Ubiratan de Couto Maurício recognized that sinking the ship would cause environmental damage but that the extent of the damage was unknown; the ship must, he ordered, be sunk at least 350 kilometers off the Brazilian coast, at a depth of approximately 5,000 meters, outside environmentally protected zones or areas with undersea cables. On February 2, 2023, the MPF appealed Mauricio’s verdict to the Federal Regional Court of the 5th Region; this appeal was also rejected.8

Reflecting on the judicial disposition to allow the Navy to make decisions outside the areas of its expertise, Professor Marijane Vieira Lisboa asked:

“If it is for the Navy, Ministry of Defense, Attorney General of the Union (AGU) and Judges without specific training to make environmental policy, why do we have environmental legislation and the Ministry of the Environment?... the Brazilian Constitution expressly states that a prior study of the environmental impact is necessary for any activity potentially causing significant degradation of the environment, in its article IV of chapter VI: On the environment. And it says in Article I that it is up to the Public Power (Attention, AGU!) to preserve and restore essential ecological processes and provide for the ecological management of species and ecosystems.”9

From the very beginning of this debacle, national and international campaigners had urged the Brazilian Navy to respect international protocols, at least three of which were broken by sinking the São Paulo. Under President Jair Bolsonaro – a retired military officer – the authorities had been given carte blanche to ride rough shod over petty inconveniences such as international law. The “cursed” legacy of their dishonorable actions has left President Lula’s administration with a raft of thorny issues to resolve as well as damage to undo. Far from bringing an end to the São Paulo saga, the sinking of the ship will haunt Brazil for decades to come and the bill for defending the country’s actions and reputation at home and abroad will be colossal.10

1 Contrariando ambientalistas, Marinha do Brasil afunda ex-porta-aviões com material tóxico [Contradicting environmentalists, Brazilian Navy sinks ex-aircraft carrier with toxic material]. February 3, 2023.

2 Bharade, A. Brazil wants to abandon a 34,000-ton warship in international waters, and it could become one of the biggest pieces of garbage in the ocean. February 1, 2023.
Dangwal, A. Brazil To Sink Its ‘Toxic’ 34,000-Ton Aircraft Carrier In International Waters As Sao Paulo Finds No Takers. February 2, 2023.
Бразилія планує потопити авіаносець "Сан-Паулу" в Атлантичному океані (фото) [Brazil plans to sink the Sao Paulo aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean (photo)]. February 3, 2023.
Andreoni, M. A Proud Ship Turned Into a Giant Recycling Problem. So Brazil Plans to Sink It. February 2, 2023.
Brazil bỏ rơi tàu sân bay trên biển: Báo động về thảm họa môi trường [Brazil abandons aircraft carrier at sea: Alarm of environmental disaster]. February 2, 2023.

3 Kazan-Allen, L. The São Paulo: International Hot Potato. September 1, 2022.
Kazan-Allen, L. International Mystery – Where is the São Paulo? September 1, 2022.

4 Kazan-Allen, L. São Paulo Blame Game. October 11, 2023.

5 Ex-donos do porta-aviões São Paulo contestam nota do Ministério da Defesa, AGU e Marinha [Former owners of the aircraft carrier São Paulo dispute note from the Ministry of Defense, AGU and Navy]. February 2, 2023.

6 MPF recorre da decisão para afundar porta-aviões [MPF appeals decision to sink aircraft carrier]. February 3, 2023.

7 MPF pede à Justiça que proíba Marinha de afundar porta-aviões aposentado impedido de atracar no Brasil [MPF asks Justice to prohibit Navy from sinking retired aircraft carrier prevented from docking in Brazil]. January 31, 2023.
Marinha confirma plano de afundar navio feito de amianto [Marinha confirma plano de afundar navio feito de amianto]. February 2, 2023.
Enquanto vagou no litoral brasileiro, porta-aviões proibido de atracar poderia ter chegado em qualquer porto do mundo, diz antiga dona do navio [While wandering off the Brazilian coast, an aircraft carrier banned from docking could have arrived at any port in the world, says the ship's former owner]. February 3, 2023.

8 Contrariando ambientalistas, Marinha do Brasil afunda ex-porta-aviões com material tóxico [Contradicting environmentalists, Brazilian Navy sinks ex-aircraft carrier with toxic material]. February 3, 2023.

9 Lisboa, M.V. Professora da PUC detona afundamento: Se é para Marinha, Defesa, AGU e juízes fazerem política ambiental, para que temos legislação e Ministério do Meio Ambiente? [PUC professor detonates sinking: If it is for the Navy, Defense, AGU and judges to make environmental policy, why do we have legislation and the Ministry of the Environment?] February 4, 2023.

10 Porta-aviões brasileiro com amianto à deriva em alto mar: Mais uma herança maldita do governo Bolsonaro [Brazilian aircraft carrier with asbestos adrift in the Atlantic Ocean: Another cursed legacy of the Bolsonaro government]. January 24, 2023.

January 11, 2023

New Year’s Woes for Russian Asbestos Sector?

An IBAS blog last year highlighted the dichotomy between the public perception of asbestos in Russia and that elsewhere.1 Where other countries shunned asbestos for causing untold numbers of deaths and ill-health amongst their populations, Russia embraced it. The fact that asbestos fiber produced in Russian mines accounted for nearly 60% of annual global consumption routinely went unmentioned in propaganda disseminated by the asbestos lobby to generate demand for this acknowledged carcinogen.2

For many years, Russian asbestos trade data has proved unreliable. The sanctions imposed in 2022 by Western countries on Russian exports would, one might have expected, have impacted negatively on the financial prospects of asbestos stakeholders. Whilst the making of a public admission to this effect remains unlikely, there is evidence to suggest that Russia’s asbestos sector is not flourishing.

In the beginning of October, 2022 Uralasbest – Russia’s second biggest asbestos producer – began experiencing difficulties sending chrysotile asbestos to China, a major market for Uralasbest asbestos accounting for 20% of the company’s total sales.3 Commenting on the refusal of Sverdlovsk Railway to transport more than 4,500 tonnes of asbestos fiber in October and November 2022, a Uralasbest spokesman said:

“Now we simply have nowhere to store it. What is loaded in the wagons is the so-called warehouse on wheels, we have almost run out of space in covered warehouses. We are negotiating to somehow resolve this situation… [with the] Russian Railways.”4

The block in the supply chain could, Uralasbest feared, force it to temporarily stop mining operations.

Meanwhile a 39% fall in asbestos production by Orenburg Minerals, Russia’s largest asbestos conglomerate, occurred in the period from January to August 2022 compared to the same eight months in 2021 according to statistics released late last year by the authorities in the Orenburg region.5

It would be too much to hope that all asbestos production in Russia would grind to a halt but the fact that the industry is experiencing difficulties is a good note on which to start the new year.

1 Kazan-Allen, L. Whose Asbestos Reality is Real? October 25, 2022.

2 United States Geological Survey. Mineral Commodity Summaries 2022 – Asbestos. Accessed January 6, 2023.

3 Out of 160,000 tons of chrysotile asbestos exported by Uralasbest in 2022, 36,000 tonnes went to China.

4 "Ураласбест" может снизить выпуск хризотила из-за проблем с отправкой грузов в Китай [“Uralasbest” may reduce the production of chrysotile due to problems with sending goods to China]. November 18, 2022.

5 В Оренбургской области в 2022 году сократилась добыча нефти и газа [In the Orenburg region in 2022, oil and gas production decreased]. October 15, 2022.

October 25, 2022

Whose Asbestos Reality is Real?

There’s reality and then there’s Russian reality. The perceptions and experiences of billions of people around the world are in direct contrast to those of 146 million Russians. This comes as no surprise; where Putin sees a war of liberation in Ukraine, the rest of the world sees a blood-thirsty attack on a democratic government.

And so it is with the public perception of asbestos. Around the world, this mineral is feared as the harbinger of cancer and yet in Russia it is embraced as a source of wealth creation and national pride. The divergence of opinion is well illustrated by six articles published simultaneously last week, five of which detailed the deadly repercussions of asbestos use and one which extolled measures being taken to modernize the asbestos industry. Even as cancer epidemics continue to rage in former and current asbestos-consuming countries, Russian asbestos stakeholders adhere to the party line: chrysotile (white) asbestos is good, Russian chrysotile is even better.

According to a recent publication: “An estimated 3.17 million people have died in the last 40 years in EU 28 as a consequence of inhaling asbestos fibres.”1 Each year, more than 100,000 Europeans die from asbestos-related diseases. After decades of heavy asbestos consumption, national infrastructures are riddled with these cancer-causing fibers; this contamination poses an imminent threat to members of the public as well as workers.

In Germany, asbestos products were used in the construction of residential properties between 1965 and 1990. According to Journalist Hildburg Burns, the toxic material is still present in 31,296 apartments in Spandau, Reinickendorf and Neukölln – boroughs of Berlin. Expressing his concern about this news, Green Party politician Andreas Otto said: “the actual number of dangerous apartments could be much higher.” Otto was outraged that the Senate had no information about the size or scale of the asbestos contamination remaining in domestic properties.2

Poland, one of the few countries to commit to a deadline for the eradication of asbestos from the built environment (2032),3 is taking practical steps to ensure that asbestos material is replaced with safer alternatives. One scheme under the National Plan for Reconstruction and Increasing Resilience allows farm owners to access federal subsidies to remove asbestos roofing on agricultural buildings. The maximum area for which funds are available is 500 m2; bursaries are worth PLN 40/m2 .4 The entire roof must be replaced.5

In Didymoteicho, a city in north-eastern Greece, parents raised the alarm over broken asbestos-containing material in a school gymnasium.6 “We asked experts and they told us that if the asbestos [flooring] is scratched and abraded, then things are more dangerous. As you can see in the photos, in the floor where the broken sections are [located] the asbestos is showing through. Our kids are students and they train there and besides the possibility of injury due to the damage, it could be worse. The school maintains that the municipality is responsible for maintenance and solving the problems… So what is the municipality doing about this situation in a place where so many children exercise every day?”

Parents in Italy are also mobilizing over asbestos contamination in the town of Santhià, in the Piedmont region where a derelict warehouse covered with deteriorating asbestos-cement roofing poses a serious danger to the local community. Despite protests and petitions over the failure to address environmental fallout from this municipal eyesore, neither the owner of the property nor the local authorities has taken action to eradicate the hazard.7

With one of the world’s worst incidences of asbestos-related mortality, asbestos is a hot button topic in Italy.8 An October 17, 2022 press release by the Italian Association of Asbestos Families and Victims of Emilia Romagna [L'Associazione Familiari e Vittime (AFeVA)] announced the mesothelioma death of Nino Dall'Olio, a former worker at the Bologna railway workshop. Nino, like many of his workmates, died from a cancer contracted due to occupational asbestos exposures.

There are dozens of articles every week detailing the terrible price paid by populations around the world for their country’s use of asbestos. Ending asbestos use is the official policy of the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization and other agencies tasked with protecting global health.9 Asbestos use has been outlawed by the United Nations Commission for Refugees, the Asia Development Bank, the World Bank, the a14Asia Infrastructure Investment Banka14, the European Union and others; its use has also been banned by 69 national governments.10

Despite the almost unanimous blacklisting of asbestos, Russian commercial and government stakeholders blithely continue down the asbestos road. Why? The answer is obvious: during the 21st century, Russia has been the world’s largest producer of chrysotile (white) asbestos. Output from Russian mines accounted for nearly 60% of all the asbestos used in 2021.11 The industry has friends and allies at the highest echelons of government.

A Russian language article uploaded on October 17, 2022 considered the Russian chrysotile asbestos sector as a legitimate and intrinsic part of the national wartime economy.12 Crediting the diversification of the product range to heighten consumer appeal as well as targeted marketing at home and in CIS countries for the expansion of use “in capital repair programs and repair of the country's infrastructure,” the author predicted an “increasingly important role” for the Russian chrysotile cement industry:

“By 2022, we can say that the chrysotile cement industry began to confidently capture the market. And the point here is the restrictions on the part of the West in imports, rising prices and logistical difficulties… Today, chrysotile cement products are actively used in the construction of modern residential complexes throughout the country, in private housing construction and the design of office buildings... It is no secret that in recent years there has been more and more talk about the comprehensive modernization of the housing and communal services system in Russia, and contractors choose chrysotile for these purposes.”

As more and more countries transition to asbestos-free technologies, markets for chrysotile will continue to contract; a dwindling number of customers will be left in countries with governments aligned with Russia. As we have learned from the Kremlin’s treatment of Ukraine, this is a government not to be trusted; believe their political and/or commercial propaganda at your peril. The future is asbestos-free.

1 European Public Service Union. European workers demand Parliament to Stop Asbestos Death. September 23, 2021.

2 Burns, H. Asbest-Gefahr in 31.000 Berliner Wohnungen! [Asbestos danger in 31,000 Berlin apartments!]. October 18, 2022.
В берлинских квартирах нашли асбест: он вызывает рак [Asbestos found in Berlin apartments: it causes cancer]. October 19, 2022.

3Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘Freeing the EU from asbestos.’ 2015.

4PLN 40 is worth about US$8.00.

5 Nabory z KPO – pierwszy dzieñ i wnioski na blisko 96 mln zł [KPO recruitment - the first day and applications for nearly PLN 96 million]. October 17, 2022.

6 Διδυμότειχο: Σε άσχημη κατάσταση και δάπεδο από αμίαντο το Κλειστό Γυμναστήριο δίπλα στο Δημαρχείο [Double wall: The Indoor Gym next to the Town Hall is in a bad condition and has an asbestos floor]. October 17, 2022.

7 «Santhià continua a vivere nel pericolo del crisotilo di amianto» [“Santhià continues to live in the danger of asbestos chrysotile”]. October 17, 2022.

8 AMIANTO OGR BOLOGNA. E deceduto Nino Dall’Olio per mesotelioma. Le condoglianze di AFeVA Emilia Romagna aps. [AMIANTO OGR BOLOGNA: Nino Dall'Olio died of mesothelioma. The condolences of AFeVA Emilia Romagna aps.] October 17, 2022.

9 IBAS. Asbestos Policies of Major International Agencies. Last updated August 20, 2022.

10 IBAS. Current Asbestos Bans. Accessed October 25, 2022.
In addition to the countries listed, the Parliament of Ukraine banned asbestos use on September 6, 2022.
Kazan-Allen, L. Ukraine Bans Asbestos, Finally. September 9, 2022.

11 United States Geological Survey (USGS). Minerals Commodity Summaries – Asbestos 2022.

12 Хризотилцементная промышленность: трансформация ради будущего [Chrysotile cement industry: transformation for the future]. October 17. 2022.

Blog pages:





       Home   |    Site Info   |    Site Map   |    About   |    Top↑