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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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May 24, 2019

In a press release disseminated by the International Alliance of Trade Union Organisations “Chrysotile”, erroneous claims are made that “chrysotile asbestos is the safest commercial fibre”; that “banning chrysotile asbestos could have potentially disastrous consequences”; and that “those who oppose chrysotile have no convincing arguments to support banning the mineral.” These falsehoods are being reiterated by asbestos industry stakeholders to justify their veto of United Nations action to protect vulnerable populations from potentially deadly exposures to chrysotile asbestos during the 2019 meeting of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention. See: Rotterdam Convention Meeting Concludes in Favour of Chrysotile Asbestos.

May 24, 2019

A commentary detailing a plot by commercial and political asbestos industry stakeholders to end Brazil’s prohibition on the commercial exploitation of chrysotile asbestos exposes the means being used by right-wing interests to deconstruct the medical and scientific evidence regarding the human health risk posed by asbestos exposures. The text includes interviews with asbestos victims and medical experts who reiterate the proven consequences of workplace and environmental exposures to asbestos: chronic ill health and premature and avoidable deaths. See: A conspiração infame pela volta do Amianto [The infamous conspiracy about the asbestos revolution].

May 22, 2019

A draft bill to prohibit the production, commercialization and distribution of asbestos in Colombia by 2021 was adopted by the 7th Commission of the Colombian House of Representatives on May 21, 2019; it attracted cross-party support. The bill is named in honor of asbestos cancer victim “Ana Cecilia Nino”; in the last fifty years, 1,700 people have died from asbestos-related diseases in Colombia. The draft legislation, which will go to the Senate in June for the final debate, allows asbestos mining for export purposes only. See: Prohibición del asbesto en Colombia, a un paso de ser realidad [Prohibition of asbestos in Colombia, one step away from being a reality].

May 22, 2019

Three American researchers published findings in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine on May 13, 2019 confirming that “statistically significant associations were observed between mortality from all pleural cancer (including mesothelioma) and time since first exposure … to asbestos…” The co-authors concluded that their observations “support with quantitative data the conclusion that chrysotile causes mesothelioma and encourage exposure-response analyses of mesothelioma in other cohorts exposed to chrysotile.” See: Quantitative relationships of exposure to chrysotile asbestos and mesothelioma mortality.

May 20, 2019

Asbestos mining in Brazil ceased on February 1, 2019. Current attempts by right-wing Senators to force a U-turn of the national prohibitions are examined in the article referenced below. In April 2019, a “caravan” of Senators, including Senate President David Samuel Alcolumbre, accompanied the Governor Ronaldo Caiado of Goiás State, to the mining city of Minaçu to support demands for the renewal of asbestos mining. Data from Brazilian medical experts and interviews with asbestos victims explain the deadly consequences of such an action. See: De mineral mágico a poeira assassina: volta do amianto pode causar epidemia de cancer [From magic mineral to killer dust: asbestos revival could cause cancer epidemic].

May 20, 2019

For years, Liverpool has been an asbestos hotspot with a high incidence of asbestos-related disease amongst dockyard workers and people employed in the construction and ship repair sectors. On May 16, 2019, the Liverpool Trade Union Council unanimously approved a motion proposed by the Merseyside Pensioners Association deploring the action of vested interests at the Rotterdam Convention in May 2019 which blocked the listing of chrysotile asbestos; demanding that the Chemical Review Committee’s recommendations be adopted; urging all Parties to support reforms to the Convention; and issuing calls for a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy on or near the 24th November (the 20th anniversary of the 1999 UK asbestos ban).

May 20, 2019

Trade unionists have reacted negatively to findings issued by labor inspectors that airborne asbestos in the Madrid Metro were below permissible levels and to assertions that the presence of asbestos-containing materials in the Metro did not pose a health risk to commuters or workers. The union spokesperson pointed out that the measurements reported were invalid as the tests carried out were analyzed with an optical and not an electron microscope. Metro workers will hold a strike on May 20 and May 24 over the company’s management of asbestos in the transportation system. See: Inspecció de Treball considera vàlida la gestió de TMB en la retirada de l’amiant [Labor Inspection approves management of TMB asbestos removal].

May 20, 2019

Speakers at a conference about “Asbestos and Community Health” which was held in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 16, 2019 highlighted the public health hazard posed by the country’s widespread and largely unregulated use of asbestos-containing products – especially roofing tiles and sheeting. The risk to ethnic minority populations living in remote mountainous areas was discussed. In 2018, the Prime Minister committed his Government to stop using asbestos roofing by 2023 and replace it with safer alternatives, some of which were discussed. See: Sớm loại bỏ amiăng trắng gây hại cho sức khỏe cộng đồng [Unregulated removal of chrysotile is harmful to public health].

May 20, 2019

Decrying the news that asbestos stakeholders are trying to reverse the Supreme Court policy on banning the commercialization of asbestos in Brazil, Fundocentro – a Brazilian institution at the forefront of the campaign to improve occupational health and safety – issued a statement highlighting the wealth of epidemiological evidence and medical information which has been amassed on the adverse health effects of asbestos exposures on Brazilian workers and the work which has been done to train physicians in diagnosing asbestos-related conditions. See: Nota da Fundacentro sobre os impactos do amianto [Fundacentro's note on the impacts of asbestos].

May 16, 2019

An opinion piece which appeared in the Canadian newspaper “The Examiner” on May 9, 2019, by Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, a medical officer for Peterborough Public Health, took as its subject the ongoing hazard posed by occupational asbestos exposures around the world. On the occasion of International Workers Memorial Day 2019, she recalled the role played in Peterborough in raising awareness of the “silent killer” by individuals who prompted Local 524 of the Canadian Auto Workers to screen retired and current workers for asbestos-related diseases at trade union clinics. See: Confronting the harmful legacy of asbestos in Peterborough and area.

May 16, 2019

A workshop “Raising awareness of the harmful effects of chrysotile asbestos and asbestos-related diseases” was recently held in Cao Bang, a mountainous province in northeast Vietnam, home to many ethnic hill tribes; 95% of asbestos-containing roofing sheets are used in regions of Vietnam which are home to ethnic minorities. This event was a joint initiative of the Institute of Natural Resources, Environment and Community Development, the Action for Justice, Environment and Health Group and the Committee for Ethnic Minorities. On January 1, 2018, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc indicated that Vietnam would ban the use of this roofing by 2023. See: Cùng lên tiếng để bảo vệ sức khỏe cộng đồng [Together speak up to protect public health].

May 16, 2019

Councillors of a popular tourist town in Colombia “Villa de Leyva” plan to ban the use of asbestos in public works to protect public health; it will be the fourth city in the region to do so, joining Chivatá, Tibasosa and Samacá all of which adopted unilateral asbestos bans. Supporting the new ban, President of the Town Council Juan Camilo Castellanos said: “asbestos is a carcinogenic mineral that has claimed more than 1,700 lives in the last 5 years in the country… our plan is to eliminate this material in future municipal infrastructure projects…” See: Quieren prohibir el asbesto en Villa de Leyva, Boyacá [They want to ban asbestos in Villa de Leyva, Boyacá].

May 16, 2019

It has been announced in Seoul, Korea that activist Chan Kam Hong, who died in Hong Kong on May 5, 2019, will be posthumously awarded the Rachel Lee Jung-Lim Award 2019 – in memory of a dedicated campaigner and Korean mesothelioma victim – for services to working people and his active engagement as the Executive Director of The Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims and as a founding member of the Asia Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims and the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN). Hong played a vital role in the campaign to ban asbestos in Hong Kong.

May 14, 2019

A 10 minute segment shown on prime time TV (May 12) focused on lobbying by asbestos stakeholders to pressurize the Supreme Court into allowing 10 more years of asbestos mining. Accepting that a 2017 ruling by the Court outlawed asbestos sales in Brazil, the industry is pressing for an exemption to allow exports. Medical doctors, victims and prosecutors explained the hazards posed by exposures while a company doctor and engineer described the “safe use process”, described as a fallacy by retired Factory Inspector Fernanda Giannasi. See: Comissão do Senado vai pedir reabertura de mina de amianto, minério que pode provocar cancer [Senate Commission to request reopening of asbestos mine, ore that can cause cancer].

May 14, 2019

Trade unionists from various organizations and chapters will be joining forces on May 24 to make manifest their outrage over the shabby treatment they have received from the Madrid Metro Company over exposure to asbestos on the capital’s underground network. Asbestos-related diseases of 5 Madrid Metro employees, two of whom have died, have been recognized, and the Prosecutor’s Office is investigating workplace exposures. The asbestos political hot potato is being passed back and forth from public companies and employers to regional authorities and central government; the unions allege there is enough negligence for them all. See: Los trabajadores de Metro van a la huelga por la crisis del Amianto [Metro workers go on strike due to the asbestos crisis].

May 14, 2019

In her editorial in Chatelaine, a Canadian women's magazine, Editor-in-Chief Johanne Lauzon detailed damning developments regarding Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-contaminated baby powder, including plaintiffs’ verdicts, the position taken by Health Canada that talc could be harmful and features in the New York Times and Reuters. Lauzon was angry that the medico pharmaceutical industry continued to put profits before health and asserted that consumers “have the right to know the risks we run by using everyday products.” “Our health,” she said “must take priority over the profits of big companies.” See: Poudre pour bébé: les profits des multinationales avant la santé des femmes? [Baby powder: multinational profits before women's health?].

May 24, 2019

Five years after the Italian Supreme Court had vacated murder verdicts against the Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny on technical grounds (2014), the defendant has once again been found guilty of the asbestos deaths of Italian citizens. On May 23, 2019, a Turin Court sentenced Schmidheiny in absentia to four years for the involuntary manslaughter of two individuals from Cavagnolo, both of whom died from asbestos-related diseases. Other trials are proceeding against Schmidheiny who is facing charges of voluntary homicide in hundreds of cases in Naples (8 deaths) and Vercelli (392 deaths including those of 243 individuals who worked at the Eternit factory in Casale Monferrato). [Read full article]

May 20, 2019

Key stakeholders from civil society and the Indonesian government made valuable contributions to the proceedings of a national asbestos seminar held in Jakarta on May 9, 2019. The event, which was organized jointly by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Labour Organization, Jakarta, provided the opportunity for reports by civil servants, occupational health and safety specialists, emergency responders, personnel from regional and international agencies and ban asbestos campaigners working on the asbestos frontline in a country which is one of the most disaster-prone in the world; in 2018, Indonesia experienced 2,372 disasters affecting 3.5 million people. [Read full article]

May 8, 2019

This media release circulated by a coalition of UK asbestos victims’ groups and occupational health and safety bodies detailed the occurrence of a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in London on May 8, 2019 calling on Russia to support United Nations measures to regulate the global trade in chrysotile (white) asbestos by implementing a regime which stipulates that importing nations be provided with sufficient information to ensure “prior informed consent” before purchasing substances deemed by the United Nations to be injurious to human health and/or harmful to the environment. [Read full article]

May 10, 2019

This week a delegation representing members and supporters of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) is in Geneva, Switzerland to monitor the proceedings at the United Nations’ 9th meeting (COP9) of The Rotterdam Convention (RC) and voice the demands of global labor and asbestos victims for chrysotile (white) asbestos to be included on Annex III of the Convention as the RC’s Chemical Review Committee had recommended more than a decade ago. This article comprises a short, contemporaneous report on the activities of the ABAN Mission to COP9 on May 7 to 9, 2019. [Read full article]

May 3, 2019

A media release circulated by the Asian Ban Asbestos Network urges United Nations representatives to the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Rotterdam Convention (RC) “to finally list chrysotile (white asbestos) on Annex III of the Convention and immediately reform the Convention so that a small number of states with economic interests can no longer block listings of chemicals.” Multiple recommendations by the RC’s Chemical Review Committee that the international trade in chrysotile be regulated in order to provide importing nations with “prior informed consent” have been blocked by the actions of asbestos stakeholders, led in recent years by Russia. [Read full article]

Apr 29, 2019

Brazil is now at a critical moment in the campaign to ban asbestos. Despite the November 2017 Supreme Court decision declaring the commercial exploitation of asbestos unconstitutional, in January 2019 Eternit, the country’s only asbestos producer, announced its intention to increase asbestos exports to Asia. To challenge the hypocrisy of shipping a substance deemed too hazardous to use at home to other countries, a delegation of five ban asbestos activists from three Asian countries embarked on a mission to mobilize support for an end to Brazilian asbestos exports from politicians, civil servants, prosecutors, asbestos victims, trade unionists and others. This article comprises a short, contemporaneous report on the activities of the “Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil April, 2019.” [Read full article]

Apr 21, 2019

This week, ban asbestos activists from India, Indonesia and Japan will be embarking on a historic mission to Brazil to entreat citizens, politicians, civil servants, decision-makers and corporations to stop sending asbestos to Asia. According to recent data, India and Indonesia absorb the majority of Brazil’s asbestos exports. Despite a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2017 declaring the commercialization of asbestos unconstitutional, mine workers and industry stakeholders are appealing to the Court for an exemption to allow mining and exporting to continue (see also: Versão Portuguesa). [Read full article]

Apr 20, 2019

This Open Letter calls upon delegates to the upcoming meeting of the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention (RC) to progress restrictions on the global trade in chrysotile asbestos by voting to include it on Annex III of the Convention. This is the 7th time that such action has been recommended by the RC’s Chemical Review Committee; previous attempts to list chrysotile were blocked by a handful of stakeholder countries, initially led by Canada and now by Russia. The signatories of this letter include 10 international organizations and associations and individuals from 30 countries on six continents. [Read full article]

Apr 10, 2019

The former asbestos mining town in Wittenoom, Western Australia (WA) has been called “probably the southern hemisphere’s most contaminated site” due to the presence of millions of tonnes of asbestos-containing mining waste. Plans are progressing through the WA Parliament for the compulsory purchase of the few properties remaining in private hands in order for the town to be shut down. Because of the extensive pollution, a WA Minister has acknowledged that the area can never be made fit for human habitation but is urging that attempts be made to remediate areas of cultural significance to the traditional owners of the land: the Banjima people. Consideration is given in this article of whether the Wittenoom “solution” could be the answer for other asbestos mining towns. [Read full article]

Mar 28, 2019

A letter by civil society groups sent recently to leading politicians addressed false statements and misinformation propagated at a 2018 pro-asbestos workshop in Vietnam’s National Assembly. The text accused organizations including the International Chrysotile Association, the Vietnam Roofing Association and others of: spreading “false and incorrect information and data about the harmful effects of white asbestos” and “creating confusion and misunderstanding about the situation and the scientific basis for… [banning] white asbestos”. Asbestos vested interests are desperate to forestall the implementation of a Prime Ministerial Order banning chrysotile asbestos roofing material by 2023 and are marshalling political and economic allies to force a government U-turn. [Read full article]

Mar 25, 2019

According to a 2019 paper entitled Environmental asbestos exposure in childhood and risk of mesothelioma later in life: a long-term follow-up register-based cohort study people who went to one of four schools near an asbestos-cement factory in Aalborg, Denmark have a 7-fold increase in the risk of mesothelioma – the signature cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. This finding, which was supported by earlier research into the causation of mesothelioma amongst women in Aalborg, has been widely circulated throughout the country and has spurred calls for the government to compensate all those suffering from this disease. [Read full article]

Mar 18, 2019

A commentary on the “second major asbestos spying scandal of the 21st century” details the facts of an international effort by asbestos vested interests to infiltrate the ban asbestos network (ban) with a focus on attempts by a British operative commissioned by K2 Intelligence Ltd. to insinuate himself into the network. The covert operation – codenamed “Project Spring” – was conducted over a four-year period during which the spy visited multiple locations in the UK, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Canada and the US. This article first appeared in Issue 108 of the British Asbestos Newsletter (Autumn-Winter 2018-19). [Read full article]

Feb 4, 2019

Throughout Europe, the legacy of widespread asbestos use continues to manifest itself in cancer registries and coroners’ courts. While EU countries have adopted innovative and pro-active measures to address national asbestos legacies, the UK government’s entrenched policy of denial and delay continues to endanger the lives of workers as well as members of the public. Compared to the deadlines for asbestos removal in the Netherlands and Poland, the financial incentives to replace asbestos roofs in Italy and nationwide measures to monitor at-risk individuals in Germany, the UK policy of “safe management of asbestos in schools” is a manifestation of an ostrich mentality which continues to endanger children as well as staff. [Read full article]

Jan 15, 2019

Reacting to news that Eternit S.A. was phasing out asbestos use in Brazil but continuing to mine and export asbestos fiber, there has been a furore of outrage from groups at home and abroad who condemned this policy as a “national disgrace”. Ban asbestos activists in India and Indonesia denounced Eternit’s actions asking the company: “How many more people will you kill?” and stating: “Your hypocritical behaviour is the cause of a humanitarian disaster for Asian countries and we publicly condemn you for your actions.” On behalf of a global federation representing millions of construction workers, Fiona Murie said: “It is simply unacceptable for Eternit Brazil to dump its asbestos on industrializing countries…” See: versão Portuguesa or click following link: [Read full article]

Jan 8, 2019

Permission to translate this October 2018 article by Taras Volya, of Ukraine’s Journalists Against Corruption, was obtained in November 2018 and translated by Mick Antoniw in December. The edited English language text highlights the economic and political pressures brought by foreign asbestos vested interests to continue sales of a class 1 carcinogen to Ukraine despite efforts by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health to ban asbestos, and names institutions and corporations in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan profiting from asbestos sales to Ukraine. Despite Ukraine’s war with Russia, the trade in asbestos persists with Russian and Kazakh asbestos sales to Ukraine valued at $7.2 million in 2016. [Read full article]

Dec 17, 2018

Concerns regarding the purchase by a UK company of an asbestos-laden passenger ship from Portugal were raised at a meeting of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group in the House of Commons on December 12, 2018. The Sub-Group was informed that a Portuguese cruise ship named MV Funchal containing “about 100 tons of asbestos in a friable state, namely composed of the fiber types chrysotile, amosite and tremolite” had been purchased at a December 5, 2018 auction in Lisbon by a UK-based hotel group which plans to berth the vessel in Central London where it will be used to provide hotel accommodation. [Read full article]

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Demonstration in Woluwe Park, Brussels, 2006

Under cloudy skies, members of Belgian and French Asbestos Victims' Associations from Dunkirk and Bourgogne marched side-by-side in the third annual demonstration organized by ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims. Erik Jonckheere, ABEVA's Co-chairman, condemned the government which still refuses to recognize the plight of the asbestos injured.

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Asbestos Trade Data (2015)

Fiber Producers
(tonnes):
   Russia650,000
   Brazil270,000
   China210,000
   Kazakhstan180,000
    
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   India370,000
   China287,000
   Brazil163,000
   Russia124,000
   Indonesia120,000