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1 LKA Blog (April 14, 2022)

It is no wonder that the industry is desperate, having suffered a catalogue of defeats throughout 2019 with asbestos bans being achieved in Colombia and upheld in Brazil, government support for asbestos prohibitions being progressed in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and increasing awareness of the asbestos hazard in Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil and even Russia – the world’s largest asbestos producer.

2 Taking the Asian Battle to Ban Asbestos Online! (October 13, 2021)

2 There were multiple delegates from: Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Fiji and Australia; there were also single was participants from Finland, Colombia, Switzerland and the UK.

3 Colombia has a Ban Asbestos Law, in Name but not in Fact (May 5, 2021)

After seven attempts in the Congress of the Republic of Colombia since 2007 to approve a law that would prohibit the use of asbestos, Law 1968 of 2019 was enacted; it was called the “Ana Cecilia Niño” Law in honour of one of the iconic victims in the fight against asbestos.

Strong lobbying in Congress, carried out by industrialists and businessmen supporting the use and commercialization of asbestos, had prevented Colombia from banning asbestos for many years. An action that disregarded both scientific and experimental evidence showing the detrimental effects that exposure to all types of asbestos had on health.

In this way, Colombia, belatedly, joined the 66 countries in the world that have already banned asbestos.

Additionally, it was the responsibility of the Colombian authorities to take measures to identify at-risk workers in the asbestos production chain and generate a transition to a safer technology; a health monitoring plan must be established for former asbestos workers who had been exposed to asbestos for a period of 20 years or more.

Configuration of an economic fund for public management: with resources from various sources, but mainly from those industries and companies, national and international, that now and previously, enjoyed economic benefits from the use of asbestos in Colombia.

Undoubtedly, there are still many challenges facing the anti-asbestos movement in Colombia; the campaigners, who are asbestos victims, family members and ban asbestos activists, will need to draw on all their resolve and skills to ensure that the Ana Cecilia Niño Law is fully implemented.

1 Associate Professor of the Department of Public Health, Member of the Environmental and Occupational Health Research Group, Ph.D. in Public Health, National University of Colombia.

2 Although Colombia’s ban asbestos law was signed in 2019, a conjunct of Decrees is needed to enact the provisions of the law.

4 Colombia Bans Asbestos! (July 12, 2019)

On July 11, 2019, Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez signed into law asbestos prohibitions endorsed by both houses of Congress in a frantic rush to beat the June 20, 2019 adjournment of Congress after which all proposed legislation would have been vacated.1 The ban, which prohibited not only the mining,2 commercialization and distribution of all types of asbestos – including chrysotile (white) asbestos – in Colombia also banned the export of asbestos. This is the first time that asbestos prohibitions have been approved by a legislature in an asbestos mining country; in 2017, the Brazilian Supreme Court, in the face of continuing federal support for the asbestos industry, declared the commercial exploitation of asbestos unconstitutional.3 The new Colombian law will take effect on January 1, 2021 and permits a five year transition period for companies currently using asbestos.4 The fact that this law managed to overcome substantial political as well as legislative hurdles with just days to go before Congress adjourned was testament to the determination of civil society groups, politicians and ban asbestos campaigners who mounted a high-profile nationwide campaign to mobilize support for an asbestos-free future.

Various ban asbestos ban bills had been debated in the Colombian Congress over the last 12 years; the one which succeeded was named after Ana Cecilia Nio, a journalist who died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in 2017 aged 42; as a child she had lived in the city of Sibaté, home to Colombia’s first asbestos-cement factory.5 Although she had never worked with asbestos, she was exposed to deadly fibers liberated by the factory. Despite undergoing major operations and extensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy following her 2014 diagnosis, Ana Cecilia campaigned assiduously for Colombia to ban asbestos. In 2016, she and her husband brought a lawsuit against the Colombian State before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for failing to protect citizens from the asbestos hazard.6 Over the last 50 years, 1,700 people have died from asbestos-related diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, in Colombia.7

The Ana Cecilia Nio Ban Asbestos Law was adopted months after the Administrative Court of Bogotá (March 4, 2019) ordered the State to implement a policy phasing out the use of asbestos within five years. The Court issued orders that the Ministries of Health and Labor implement specific measures to ensure that the switch to safer technologies was progressed including the right to impose criminal and administrative sanctions, such as substantial financial penalties, for non-compliance.

Senator Blel stressed that Ana and other asbestos victims who had fought for a “Colombia without Asbestos,” had done so to protect future generations.

1 Hincapie, L.P. Presidente sanciona Ley que prohíbe el uso del asbesto en Colombia [President sanctions Law that prohibits the use of asbestos in Colombia]. July 11, 2019.

https://www.larepublica.co/economia/presidente-sanciona-ley-que-prohibe-el-uso-del-asbesto-en-colombia-2883938

Also see: Kazan-Allen, L. Asbestos in Colombia. October 2, 2012.

http://www.ibasecretariat.org/lka-asbestos-in-colombia-2012.php

4 Alsema, A. Ahead of most other countries, Colombia bans asbestos. June 12, 2019.

https://colombiareports.com/after-12-year-debate-colombia-bans-asbestos/

5 Ramos-Bonill, JP, Cely-Garcia, MF. An asbestos contaminated town in the vicinity of an asbestos-cement facility: The case study of Sibaté, Colombia. May 6, 2019.

6 Murió la mujer que buscó una Colombia libre de asbestos [The woman who sought an asbestos-free Colombia died]. January 8, 2017.

https://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/asbesto-en-colombia-murio-ana-cecilia-nino-mujer-que-demando-a-la-nacion-ante-cidh/511742

7 Colombia’s Congress passes law for complete ban on asbestos. June 12, 2019.

https://thecitypaperbogota.com/news/colombias-congress-passes-law-for-complete-ban-on-asbestos/22306

5 Eternit’s Global Asbestos Crimes (June 6, 2019)

Asbestos-cement manufacturing operations by Eternit Colombiana S.A., a subsidiary of the Swiss Eternit Group, began in Sibaté, Colombia in 1942; nearly 80 years later, elevated levels of malignant pleural mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure, have been recorded and many of the injured were diagnosed at “unusually” young ages.

“The situation they [the people in Sibaté] are unfairly facing could happen to any community living nearby an asbestos cement facility. This situation could have been of lesser magnitude if Colombia had banned asbestos when other countries began this process

more than 30 years ago. We emphasize once again that the best way to prevent asbestos exposure and ARD [asbestos-related diseases] is to stop the use of this material. Although an asbestos ban in Colombia will not solve the adverse health and environmental impacts derived from the legacy of asbestos use, it would halt the use of asbestos and the introduction of new ACM [asbestos-containing material], a preventive measure urgently needed and recommended.”

Generations of workers in Lebanon, Colombia and Italy regarded the Eternit companies as beneficent employers and were proud to serve their employers. Little could they have known how their trust was being betrayed and their lives and those of their family members were being put at risk by occupational and environmental exposures to asbestos.

Will Eternit executives be hauled into a Brazilian court and forced to answer for the crimes they committed in their ruthless pursuit of profits? Will the company decontaminate the mining town and support the community to diversify in the post-asbestos era? Judging by what we have seen in Colombia and the Lebanon, it seems unlikely.

An asbestos contaminated town in the vicinity of an asbestos-cement facility: The case study of Sibaté, Colombia. May 6, 2019.

6 The Rotterdam Convention 2019 (May 10, 2019)

delegations which supported listing chrysotile were: Australia, Colombia, Norway, Canada, Peru, Georgia, Uruguay, Gabon, Nigeria, Bahrain, the EU, Japan, Iraq, Togo, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Moldova, Switzerland, Vanuatu, Congo, Senegal, the Maldives, Kuwait, Benin, Saudi Arabia and Cameroon;

7 2018: From Protest to Progress (December 13, 2018)

December 2018: On December 4, the “Ana Cecilia Nio law,” which would ban asbestos nationwide, was approved by the Colombian Senate; companies will have five years to make the transition to asbestos-free technologies if this legislation is approved by the House of Representatives.26 On December 6, Dr.

26 Senado aprobó ley que elimina el uso de asbesto en Colombia [Senate passes law that eliminates the use of asbestos in Colombia]. December 4, 2018.

https://www.lafm.com.co/politica/senado-aprobo-ley-que-elimina-el-uso-de-asbesto-en-colombia

8 The Fall of the Asbestos Empire (September 17, 2017)

Support for the ban asbestos movement has reached new civil society sectors and geographical locations this summer with important asbestos awareness initiatives held by asbestos victims’ associations, health and safety activists, trade unionists and politicians in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Colombia, Myanmar and Nepal.8 While the repercussions of activities such as these take some while to become manifest, significant media coverage of asbestos issues has already been generated.9

9 LKA Blog (August 15, 2017)

After multiple attempts over twelve years to outlaw the commercialization of asbestos in Colombia, the Ana Cecilia Nio ban asbestos bill was finally green-lighted by the Colombian Congress on June 17, just days before Congress adjourned; once the bill is signed by President Duque, asbestos users will have until January 1, 2021 to make the transition to asbestos-free technologies.4

El presidente Duque sancionará la ley que prohíbe el uso de asbestos en Colombia [President Duque will sanction law that bans asbestos use in Colombia]. July 3, 2019

https://www.asuntoslegales.com.co/actualidad/el-presidente-duque-sancionara-la-ley-que-prohibe-el-uso-de-asbestos-en-colombia-2880736

10 LKA Blog (August 15, 2017)

After multiple attempts over twelve years to outlaw the commercialization of asbestos in Colombia, the Ana Cecilia Nio ban asbestos bill was finally green-lighted by the Colombian Congress on June 17, just days before Congress adjourned; once the bill is signed by President Duque, asbestos users will have until January 1, 2021 to make the transition to asbestos-free technologies.4

El presidente Duque sancionará la ley que prohíbe el uso de asbestos en Colombia [President Duque will sanction law that bans asbestos use in Colombia]. July 3, 2019

https://www.asuntoslegales.com.co/actualidad/el-presidente-duque-sancionara-la-ley-que-prohibe-el-uso-de-asbestos-en-colombia-2880736

 
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