International Ban Asbestos Secretariat Devil’s Dust Awards 2022 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Despite the huge challenges faced last year, there was substantial progress made by the global campaign to eradicate the asbestos hazard. Many of 2021’s notable developments were highlighted on the IBAS website; they included: the first virtual conference of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network,1 the imposition by the European Union of increased restrictions on workplace asbestos exposures;2 plans by the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank to outlaw asbestos use in all its projects;3 guidelines by the World Health Organization recommending the use of asbestos-free pipes for water delivery systems;4 and the exponential growth of support for plans by the Ukraine Government to ban asbestos.5

Some of the groups and organizations which advanced the objectives of the ban asbestos network in 2021 were referenced in the preceding paragraph but what about those that did not? Surely the new year is an appropriate time to assess their contribution to the asbestos discourse. Accordingly, we have studied a list of individuals, corporations and other entities drawn from the ranks of pro-asbestos apologists and come up with candidates for IBAS Devil’s Dust6 Awards – the “Lucifers” (from Latin “bringers of light”; for workers producing Lucifer matches in the nineteenth century bringers of horrific disfigurement and death).


These virtual awards will bring recognition for those whose malign actions today may prolong the occurrence of deadly asbestos diseases – killing people as yet unborn.


First prize in this category goes to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who at a press briefing in Yekaterinburg on September 2, 2021, confirmed his Government’s reassurances that the use of Russian chrysotile (white) asbestos was not harmful to human health. Lavrov’s comments were timed to bolster deals being negotiated between Russian asbestos suppliers and trading partners from India, Vietnam and other Asian countries. To substantiate the scientific bona fides of the Russian Government’s asbestos policy, the Minister stated that the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization also espoused the “controlled use of asbestos;” the WHO and ILO agreed, he reiterated, that asbestos could be used safely. Of course, this was untrue, as Carolyn Vickers, Head of the Chemical Safety and Health Unit of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health for the World Health Organization (WHO), explained in her criticism of the Russian propaganda:

“countries are lobbied with misinformation about the health risks of chrysotile. Chrysotile asbestos causes cancer in humans, specifically, it causes mesothelioma and cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary. The scientific evidence that it causes cancer is conclusive and overwhelming.”7

Vickers was categorical that the WHO’s policy on asbestos remained unchanged:

“the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to the stop the use of all types of asbestos. WHO continues to offer its support to countries to address the problem of chrysotile asbestos and the serious threat it poses to public health.”


There are two prizes being awarded in this category, both well-deserved. Through their hypocritical marketing policies and malfeasant behaviour in 2021, these companies imperilled the lives of innocent human beings on four continents.

Having withdrawn asbestos-containing talc-based baby powder from sale in the US and Canada, the multinational pharmaceutical Johnson & Johnson continued to market this product – which, say its critics, can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and ovarian cancer – throughout the world, thereby exposing users to a known carcinogen.

Eternit S.A., the former Brazilian asbestos giant, shipped ~120,000 tonnes of asbestos fiber from its Brazilian mine in Goiás State to Asia despite the fact that the Supreme Court had banned the production, processing, use and sale of asbestos.8 None of the asbestos produced at the mine was sold or used in Brazil.


The indisputable winner in this category was the Government of Kazakhstan which in 2021 continued to work hand in glove with Kazakh asbestos stakeholders to attack plans by the Ukraine Government to ban asbestos. Kazakh Ministers and Embassy staff took direct action to pressurize Ukraine parliamentarians, issuing veiled threats about the dire consequences for the Ukraine economy and population should asbestos be banned.9


The modus operandi of all those recognized on this year’s Dishonors List is best summed up by the three Ds: denial, distraction and disinformation. Blinded by self-interest and greed, they continue to advance threadbare arguments to bring confusion where there is clarity and distrust where there is consensus. All the international agencies agree that the best way to protect humanity from the asbestos hazard is to stop the use of asbestos.10 Even as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to decimate global populations, national asbestos epidemics claim the lives of untold numbers of citizens. Adding insult to injury is the fact that people whose health has been compromised by asbestos-related injuries are more vulnerable to the ravages of Covid-19.

Political bullies and commercial hypocrites such as those who have received this year’s Lucifers should be urged to reflect on the consequences of their actions. Asbestos-related diseases are avoidable – we simply need to stop using asbestos-containing materials and remove as much as possible from populated environments. There can be no excuse for continuing to poison future generations.

January 18, 2022


1 Kazan-Allen, L. Taking the Asian Battle to Ban Asbestos Online. October 13, 2021.
IBAS. Towards an Asbestos-Free Asia! September 27, 2021.
ABAN. Media Release. Stop Asbestos Deaths in Asia Pacific. September 17, 2021.
ABAN. Joint Resolution ABAN Conference 2021. September 30, 2021.

2 Kazan-Allen, L. Asbestos Developments in Brussels. October 1, 2021.
In the document entitled: Commission Work Programme: Annex 1: New Initiatives, under point 13, preventing occupational exposures to asbestos was cited as one of the initiatives to increase protections for workers.

3 In May, 2021, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank amended its Environmental and Social Framework (pages 77-78) to exclude the use of all asbestos-containing materials from all AIIB-financed projects.

4 WHO. Asbestos in Drinking Water. 2021.

5 Kazan-Allen, L. Ukraine’s Asbestos War. April 15, 2021.

6 Asbestos has had many nicknames; it was known by its proponents as the Magic Miracle and White Gold. It’s detractors, however, called it the Killer Fiber or Deadly Dust. This name of the new IBAS award references the 2012 two-part Australian TV documentary: The Devil’s Dust based on the 2009 book by Matt Peacock entitled: Killer Company: James Hardie Exposed. So, while the Oscars recognize excellence, the Lucifers expose voraciousness and venality.

7 Kazan-Allen, L. Russia’s Autumn Asbestos Offensive. September 9, 2021.

8 Eternit (ETER3) dobra o lucro no balanço do 3T21 [Eternit (ETER3) doubles earnings in the 3Q21 balance sheet]. November 10, 2021.
Nada justifica que o Brasil continue exportando um produto cancerígeno [Nothing justifies Brazil continuing to export a carcinogenic product]. September 28, 2021.

9 Kazan-Allen, L. The Fight for Ukraine Sovereignty over its Asbestos Policy. September 20, 2021.

10 IBAS. Asbestos Policies of Major International Agencies. July 5, 2021.



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