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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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Dec 22, 2014

The legacy of asbestos mining operations in the Indian State of Jharkhand, in the northeast of the country, persists in the lungs of local people and in the environment. Recent tests showed that up to 14.3% of the soil content in the vicinity of mines was asbestos. Despite the high level of hazard this poses, government officials and industry representatives continue to deny responsibility for the high incidence of disease in the communities near the mine sites. A case is now being brought in the environment court to force the polluters to undertake decontamination work, compensate the injured and establish a fund for future victims. See: Forgotten asbestos mine sickens Indian villagers.

Dec 22, 2014

On December 21, an article in the liberal newspaper Taraf detailed the unregulated demolition of asbestos-containing buildings throughout Istanbul as part of a huge urban regeneration program. According to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, it was not possible to obtain information about the presence of asbestos from the relevant municipalities; in the absence of this knowledge, preventive actions could not be taken. Politician Haluk Eyidogan, representing the Turkish opposition, is confronting the government over this issue; he pointed out that there is no facility in Turkey for the safe disposal or storage of asbestos waste. See: Urban demolitions spread asbestos as precautions forsaken.

Dec 20, 2014

The annals of the International Day for Asbestos Victims has been published by ANDEVA, the French association which organized a series of events in 2012 including this symposium. Chapters of the English and French language texts can be downloaded separately or as one file from the ANDEVA website. The contents cover a wide range of subjects and geographical areas; the authors include grassroots campaigners, politicians, academics, medical professionals and epidemiologists from five continents. See: International Day for Asbestos Victims [Journée international des victims d’amiante].

Dec 22, 2014

On December 19, 2014, prosecutors in Northern Italy asked that thirty-three people be indicted over asbestos deaths at an Olivetti factory. Amongst those being charged of culpable homicide were high-profile businessmen and government ministers including Corrado Passera, Italy’s Minister of Transport and Industry from 2011 to 2013. The case concerns the suspicious deaths of 14 workers who had been employed from the 1960s to the 1990s at the company’s factory in Ivrea, near Turin. In 2012, Turin’s Court of Appeal had convicted executive Ottorino Beltrami of manslaughter under similar circumstances. See: Trial requested for 33 in Olivetti asbestos case.

Dec 20, 2014

In an article in Le Monde this week, journalist Stephane Foucart referenced a “remarkable” new book by Professor Annie Thebaud-Mony entitled “Science Enslaved” (see: La Science asservie) which exposes links between science and industry. Thebaud-Mony highlighted the 2013 controversy over Paolo Boffetta, an Italian scientist who at that time was being considered for one of France’s highest scientific positions. Amongst the issues highlighted was the publication by Boffetta and his co-author of an article which declared “no conflicts of interest” when both authors were consultants to asbestos industrialists. See: Amiante, chapitre II [Asbestos, chapter 2].

Dec 20, 2014

As a result of continuing pressure exerted by Japanese asbestos victims’ groups, the Ministry of Labor disclosed the names of companies where asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) have been recognized as occupationally-caused. This information has been recorded by the victims’ groups on a database which can be consulted by the public. On December 18 and 19, the Japanese network of asbestos victims and their supporters operated a nationwide telephone consultation service for victims and their families. They received 200 calls. Japan has a high incidence of ARDs due to heavy use of asbestos. Asbestos was banned in phases, a full ban was reached in 2012. See: Japan Asbestos Profile.

Dec 19, 2014

Today (December 19), the New South Wales (NSW) Government has announced a crisis program similar to the one set up in Canberra for dealing with the issue of homes contaminated with loose fill “Mr Fluffy” asbestos insulation. A NSW taskforce is being established to implement a buy-back program which will draw on government funds to purchase and demolish contaminated properties. Immediate financial support is being made available to affected households through the “Make Safe” assistance package. It has been estimated that more than 5,000 homes could be affected. See: NSW government endorses asbestos inquiry and announces crisis package.

Dec 19, 2014

Media reports from Hanoi indicate that the status quo regarding the use of chrysotile (asbestos) will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future after a meeting in the capital on December 17 which was addressed by pro-asbestos lobbyists from Latin America and the U.S. Urging the adoption of a national ban, health experts from the Vietnam Government cited data from international agencies substantiating the proven risks of exposure to all types of asbestos. Despite the known hazard, the Vice Minister of Construction Nguyen Tran Nam said there remained a lack of “convincing evidence.” See: Vietnam to stick to white asbestos, despite cancer concern.

Dec 17, 2014

A parliamentary inquiry today recommended that the Government of New South Wales (NSW) follow the example of the ACT government and buy back homes contaminated by “Mr. Fluffy” asbestos insulation. The joint parliamentary committee advised that a mandatory testing program be set up for at-risk homes to establish the number of properties affected. Having quantified the problem, a taskforce would develop and implement the buyback program with funding from both the NSW and federal governments. Committee Chair Reverend Fred Nile highlighted the urgency of the situation. See: Mr Fluffy asbestos: Parliamentary inquiry recommends NSW buyback, demolition scheme.

Dec 17, 2014

The latest issue of the Asian-Pacific Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety, published by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, is devoted to the subject of asbestos. The articles contained include detailed examinations of national asbestos legacies and discussions of the actions being taken by international agencies to tackle the ensuing public and occupational health crisis that asbestos use has created. Of particular interest is the article: The ticking time-bomb of asbestos consumption in the Asian region by Australian authors Matthew Soeberg and Nico van Zandwijk. See: Asbestos issue of the Asian-Pacific Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety.

Dec 16, 2014

A study on the incidence of malignant mesothelioma (MM) in an Italian region where an asbestos factory was operational from 1932 to 1993, reports an elevated MM incidence for workers, family members and neighbors. Using data from the Lombardy Mesothelioma Registry, the scientists found 147 MM deaths, but only 38 of the victims had worked at the factory. The largest excess occurred in the towns of Broni and Stradella. The paper concludes that “half of the MM cases were attributable to environmental exposure, a quarter to occupational exposure, and a quarter to familial exposure.” See: Impact of asbestos cement factory on mesothelioma incidence.

Dec 15, 2014

Annual occupational asbestos deaths in Canada outstrip combined fatalities from highway accidents, fires and chemical exposures, according to figures produced by the federal government. Since 1996, asbestos has claimed 5,000 lives, making it Canada’s biggest occupational killer. Despite the death toll, the use and import of asbestos products remain legal in Canada, and the website of Health Canada plays down the asbestos hazard claiming that chrysotile (white) asbestos is “less potent” than other types and that there “is no significant health risk” if fibers are not inhaled. See: Data reveals asbestos is Canada’s top source of workplace death.

Dec 15, 2014

In the aftermath of the disastrous Supreme Court decision in a historic asbestos case, the Italian Government has announced that funding of €75m has been allocated to rehabilitate contaminated areas and provide support for asbestos victims whose exposure was environmental or para-occupational (from the asbestos on clothes brought home by family members). See: Il Governo assegna 75 milioni di euro per le bonifiche d’amianto a Casale Monferrato e Bagnoli [The Government allocates €75 million for the reclamation of asbestos in Casale Monferrato and Bagnoli].

Dec 14, 2014

On December 11, 2014, a High Court handed down the decision in an asbestos-related lung cancer test case. Under consideration was whether damages awarded for this type of injury were divisible under the rules laid down in the House of Lords’ decision in the Barker case. The deceased was employed by six defendants, all of whom admitted liability. Mr. Justice Jay found that “apportionment is the appropriate outcome in the present case…” An appeal is being pursued. According to one legal expert: “there is a strong possibility that whatever happens in the Court of Appeal the case will end up in the Supreme Court.” See: Heneghan v Manchester Dry Docks and others.

Dec 13, 2014

Malta’s former Prime Minister Alfred Sant has led calls for an evacuation of the European Commission’s (EC) Luxembourg headquarters due to extensive asbestos contamination. Sant, now a Member of the European Parliament, has highlighted the risk posed by exposures to the 1,700 people who work at the EC’s Kirchberg offices in Luxembourg. The Jean Monnet building is owned by the “Fonds d'Urbanisme et d'Aménagement du Plateau du Kirchberg,” a public institution; the EC’s lease on this building runs out in 2014. See: Large amount of asbestos discovered in European Commission’s Luxembourg building.

Dec 13, 2014

Scientists calculate that between 1975 and 2010, 6,037 people died from asbestos-related diseases in Spain. It has been predicted that between 2016 and 2020, 1,000+ Spaniards will die from the signature asbestos cancer, mesothelioma; it is not known how many more deaths will take place due to asbestos-related lung cancer and cancers of the larynx and ovary. Unfortunately, few of the asbestos-injured succeed in getting their diseases recognized; between 2007 and 2011, 6.4% of male and 4.4% of female mesothelioma fatalities were recognized as occupational diseases by the authorities. See: Las víctimas dobles del amianto [Victims twice over].

Dec 16, 2014

In November 2014, grassroots groups made manifest the disgust of societies still being exploited by the asbestos industry. From Latin America to Asia, the call went out for an end to the slaughter caused by such exploitation. Support for a global ban escalated, with key events taking place in Colombia, Thailand and Vietnam, countries where the asbestos agenda had, until very recently, been dictated by vested interests. The passion and determination of civil society campaigners in Bogotá, Bangkok and Hanoi are testament to the universal resolve to bequeath future generations a world free of asbestos. The struggle continues! [Read full article]

Dec 12, 2014

Asbestos is a hot button subject in Australia. There are front-page newspaper articles, mini-series and folk songs about it and around the country there exist a multiplicity of agencies and dozens of self-help and campaigning groups dedicated to supporting victims and spreading awareness. For a number of years, November has been regarded as the de facto month for outreach and media work to raise awareness. Last month, I was invited to participate in a number of “asbestos” activities in Victoria and Western Australia and to engage with colleagues and journalists in the Australian Capital Territory. This report contains information about these events and the amazing groups of people working with the victims. [Read full article]

Dec 12, 2014

Despite aggressive lobbying by the pro-asbestos lobby, the campaign to outlaw asbestos use is growing in strength and scope. In this paper which was presented at a conference in Melbourne, Australia in November 2014, proactive initiatives, pioneering media campaigns and successful strategies were discussed which illustrated the means by which asbestos victims, non-governmental organizations and campaigning groups have wrested control of the asbestos debate away from vested interests, allowing new voices to be heard. Suggestions were made for strategies to further the goal of eradicating the asbestos hazard throughout the region. [Read full article]

Nov 5, 2014

The latest figures for the global asbestos trade have been released by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Changes from 2012 incude the fact that, for the first time, major asbestos producers and/or consuming countries from the former Soviet Union – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan – have been shifted from the European to the Asian Region in the USGS classification. Global production was up by 2% to 2,019,000 tonnes; there was also an apparent consumption increase of 7% (to 2,104,000 tonnes), due to unusual results from Russia and Kazakhstan. In addition to examining current data we consider trends in asbestos use since 2000. [Read full article]

Oct 29, 2014

The 12th International Conference of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group 2014 (IMIG) took place in Cape Town on October 21-24, 2014. From rather small beginnings, IMIG has grown to be recognized as the premier biennial calendar fixture for mesothelioma experts. The success of the IMIG event was this year underscored by the presence at the meeting of asbestos industry delegates from the US, Switzerland and South Africa. As far as is known, the industry affiliations of these individuals were not known to IMIG delegates, although American toxicologist David Bernstein's poster presentation carried an acknowledgment that it had been funded by “Honeywell International Inc.” [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2014

A remarkable and innovative series of events highlighting the legal, societal and environmental impact of asbestos production and use begins in Bogota on October 28, 2014 and continues over the following week. These activities, featuring a series one-day conferences commencing on November 5, mark a defining moment in the country which is South America’s second biggest asbestos consumer having used an average of more than 20,000 tonnes/year over the last three years. This initiative has been organized by ban asbestos campaigners in collaboration with academic institutions, artists, scientific, medical and technical experts. [Read full article]

Oct 11, 2014

On October 9, 2014, Japan’s Supreme Court issued the final word in two class actions which had been languishing in the lower courts for eight years. In a unanimous verdict, the Supreme Court condemned the Government for failing by 1958 to have legislated that factories be equipped with mechanical measures to remove asbestos dust from the air; guidelines which had been issued were advisory and not mandatory. The Government’s failure to take timely and appropriate action was “extremely unreasonable” as well as “illegal.” As a consequence, the Government was liable for asbestos-related diseases contracted by plaintiffs occupationally exposed to asbestos prior to 1971. [Read full article]

Oct 8, 2014

This article reproduces the text of a paper which formed the basis of the presentation made by Laurie Kazan-Allen at a conference entitled “Occupational Asbestos Exposure, International Experiences” held today (October 8, 2014) in Warsaw, addressing the multiple challenges posed by Europe’s asbestos legacy. Having quantified the impact asbestos had had throughout the continent, the speaker highlighted innovative strategies introduced by asbestos victims’ groups, trade unions, NGOs, health professionals and governments to identify and support the injured and eradicate asbestos contamination in national infrastructures and the environment. [Read full article]

UK

A wait of nearly three months was ended today when Mr. Justice William Davis handed down his verdict in the judicial review sought by UK cancer victims into government plans to increase asbestos victims’ legal costs. The findings of Justice Davis were categorical: “the Lord Chancellor has failed to carry out a review as required by Section 48 [of LASPO].” As a consequence of this ruling, a Ministerial decision announced on December 4, 2013 will be vacated. As there are no plans to appeal the verdict, the government will now have to go back to square one and begin a thorough and timely review, exactly what the victims had been seeking. [Read full article]

Sep 30, 2014

The existence of an asbestos cancer epidemic in Western Australia was known to members of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) long before it was corroborated by epidemiologists. The ADSA is at the cutting edge of the campaign to increase awareness of the asbestos hazard and raise vital research funds in Australia. In September 2014, ADSA members and staff organized major events including The Rod Triplett Walk for Research and Awareness and a fund-raising golfing day. Although the final tally has not yet been made public, judging by previous years, it is hoped it will be in six figures. [Read full article]

Sep 19, 2014

Colombian ban asbestos campaigner, artist Guillermo Villamizar examines moves by global asbestos vested interests to develop asbestos markets in emerging economies with a particular focus on the situation in Colombia. The author discusses industry techniques including the use of “mercenary” scientists to produce junk research that “proves” that white (chrysotile) asbestos is safe. In 2012 and 2013 Colombia imported 25,164 and 15,961 tons of asbestos respectively. Available figures for 2014 show a decline in asbestos import levels; this is partially explained by the restarting of asbestos mining operations in Yarumal (Antioquia), Colombia. [Read full article]

Sep 11, 2014

More people die in the UK from asbestos-related disease than road traffic accidents. Although asbestos has been banned for over a decade, deadly exposures continue; unsafe and illegal removal practices endanger workers as well as members of the public. This week, the issue has been discussed in the House of Commons by MPs and government officials. Reports by asbestos removal operatives have led to serious concerns being expressed and action being taken by a leading trade union, which has announced plans to work with asbestos removal stakeholders “to oppose any shortcuts regarding health safety and welfare.” [Read full article]

Aug 25, 2014

Government bodies in Germany, including the Social Accident Insurance Institution and the Employer's Liability Insurance Agency, have collaborated not only to deny the claims of asbestos victims but also to deprive them of the right to express their grievances. The methods they have used are well illustrated by the refusal to allow their participation in the XX World Congress for Safety and Health at Work which is being held in Frankfurt on August 23-26, 2014. Despite multiple attempts to engage with the organizers of this high-profile event, no provision has been made for the voice of the asbestos victims to be heard. [Read full article]

Aug 23, 2014

On August 12, 2014, a Brazilian asbestos taskforce arrived to inspect the Eternit asbestos-cement factory in Rio de Janeiro, an industrial facility that exploits a judicial exemption allowing asbestos processing to continue in a state where asbestos is banned. The inspection team spent four days investigating the factory, its documents and processes; subsequently, the prosecutors filed a class action against Eternit which included a petition to force the company to pay $500 million in collective pecuniary and moral damages to cover expenses incurred by the injured as well as for research programs, awareness campaigns, and decontamination work in the factory, on its site and in the surrounding area. [Read full article]

Aug 6, 2014

Three years ago the Thai Cabinet approved a ban asbestos resolution. Unfortunately, since that time, domestic asbestos stakeholders, in collaboration with Russian industry lobbyists, have forestalled progress in implementing legislation required to affect this much-needed public safety measure. This article discusses current developments in Bangkok, explaining reasons for the delay, with particular attention being paid to the efforts of Thailand’s asbestos industry, which in July 2014 appealed to the National Council for Peace and Order for “Fairness.” News from members of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network is reported. [Read full article]

Aug 4, 2014

The 2014 International Conference on Asbestos organized by the Building and Woodworkers International, in collaboration with labor and campaigning groups, made a significant contribution to furthering our understanding of the current asbestos landscape. This report on the Vienna event contains descriptions of the speeches, links to the presentations and photographs taken during the two days. Also included is the text of the Vienna Declaration, which was adopted unanimously by over 100 delegates from 40 countries, calling for an end to the use of all asbestos, protection for at-risk workers and justice for all victims. [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 (2013)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,050,000
   China420,000
   Brazil307,000
   Kazakhstan242,000
   India240
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   China570,000
   Russia432,000
   India303,000
   Brazil181,000
   Indonesia156,000