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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Nov 5, 2014

At the November 5, 2014 meeting of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group, Laurie Kazan-Allen informed MPs and delegates that the UK had won the bid to host the 2016 meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (IMIG), a premier organization for researchers, clinicians and scientists working on mesothelioma issues. The official announcement said that the “meeting will address the entire patient pathway and look beyond the scientific topics alone.” The feedback received after the House of Commons meeting was positive; there was a great deal of enthusiasm about how stakeholders could take part in the proceedings and encourage participation. See: IMIG 2016 announcement.

Nov 5, 2014

Asbestos contamination in hospitals in the UK, France and Australia has caused asbestos-related disease amongst nurses, doctors and hospital workers. New research by the Seoul-based Asian Citizen's Center for Environment and Health has confirmed that samples of ceiling tiles taken in October 2014 from 16 general hospitals in Korean provincial towns including Busan, Daegu, Gwangju tested positive for contamination with white (chrysotile) and brown (amosite) asbestos. The researchers found that the tiles exceeded permissible levels by up to 70 times. See: Asbestos found in 16 provincial hospitals.

Nov 4, 2014

For decades the asbestos lobby has maintained a stranglehold on Colombia’s debate on asbestos. This week, a series of presentations and discussions will allow new opinions to be voiced detailing the national legacy of asbestos mining, processing and consumption. Experts from Latin America, North America and Europe will present research findings and update delegates on state-of-the-art technologies which are both cost effective and safer. The ethics of using asbestos profits to fund art collections will be considered. This initiative has been organized by ban asbestos campaigners in collaboration with academic institutions, scientific, medical and technical experts. See: Asbestos: Art, Science and Policy.

Nov 4, 2014

The absence of data on asbestos cancers is often used as proof that this carcinogen can be used safely under controlled conditions. Vietnam is a major consuming country which, despite the development of alternative technologies, has not banned asbestos. Research reported at an asbestos cancer conference in October 2014, documented 148 cases of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Vietnam. The authors believe this figure is “likely to underestimate the true number of incident cases…” See: Estimating the incidence of malignant mesothelioma in Vietnam: a pilot descriptive population-based cancer registry study.

Nov 3, 2014

At a Parliamentary event on November 3 a campaign by the Institute of Occupational Health (IOSH) was launched to reduce the incidence of occupational cancers. In the UK, workplace exposures account for 8,000 deaths a year of which half are due to the “biggest work cancer killer, asbestos.” The Health and Safety Executive estimates that 1.8 million Britons remain at risk of occupational exposure to asbestos; although, the majority of those at high risk are construction or maintenance workers or tradespeople, people working in older buildings such as department stores, schools and hospitals are also at risk. See: No Time to Lose.

Nov 3, 2014

It seems that not a day goes by without another asbestos scandal hitting the press in Australia. A program broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation revealed warnings by trade unionists and lawyers about the presence of deteriorating and friable asbestos-containing products in hospitals throughout the country. Commenting on the situation, one expert said: “Wherever there was heat, wherever there was steam, there was asbestos.” Contamination has been identified in two major Sydney hospitals: Westmead and Royal North Shore. See: Hospitals in Australia riddled with asbestos and pose serious health risk, union officials say.

Nov 2, 2014

Following extensive research undertaken in three U.S. laboratories, public health experts have issued warnings about the hazards of using talcum powder products contaminated with asbestos. A year of testing has established that the deadly contaminant can find its way into lung tissue and thereby create a risk of asbestos cancer. The study, which was published online in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health in October, 2014, substantiates the theory that some ovarian cancers are due to exposure to asbestos in talcum-based products. See: Study: Cosmetic talc products carry asbestos peril.

Nov 1, 2014

Another asbestos scandal has made its way into the Australian media. After several secret settlements of asbestos cancer cases, news is emerging of a high incidence of disease amongst people who lived near a former asbestos-cement factory in the Brisbane suburb of Gaythorne. The Wunderlich plant, which operated from 1936 to 1983, spewed contaminated air and dumped asbestos waste in the neighborhood. Queensland’s Minister of Health has announced that investigators will review medical records of asbestos cancer patients linked to local addresses. See: Investigation into links between asbestos-related cancers and Brisbane suburbs near factories.

Nov 1, 2014

In a recently published paper, scientists analyse national asbestos data and conclude that the majority of the global asbestos-related disease burdens is carried by Europe as a result of heavy asbestos consumption during the 20th century. The authors raise concerns about future asbestos mortality in countries still using asbestos and warn that “attempts to reduce exposure without a concurrent reduction in overall use are insufficient to control risk; asbestos bans should be in place in all countries to eliminate asbestos-related disease.” Summaries of this paper are available in five languages. See: Asbestos: use, bans and disease burden in Europe.

Oct 31, 2014

A seven-minute promotional video to raise public awareness of a landmark series of meetings due to take place next week in Bogota is now available for viewing online. The footage includes information about the asbestos hazard as well as interviews with experts from the U.S., Chile and Colombia who are scheduled to take part. Also in this feature are segments from an interview with Dr. Maria Neira of the World Health Organization (WHO) who reasserts the WHO’s position on asbestos. She clearly states that the best way to reduce asbestos-related diseases is to end the consumption of all types of asbestos. See: Promocional Asbesto [Asbestos Promotion].

Oct 30, 2014

Today (October 30, 2014), an announcement has been made that the Swiss Government does not intend to establish a fund to compensate asbestos victims. Despite campaigns by trade unionists and victims, the Government maintains that the responsibility for compensating the injured remains with negligent corporations and the Swiss insurance system. Following a European Court ruling, the government will, however, increase the statute of limitations for personal injury cases to allow for the long latency periods of asbestos diseases. See: Pas de fonds public pour les victimes de l'amiante [No public funding for asbestos victims].

Oct 29, 2014

An HSE publication released today entitled Health and Safety Statistics Annual Report for Great Britain 2013/2014 highlights the devastating impact of asbestos exposures on the health of British citizens. Amongst key statistics cited are: 2,535 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures occurred in 2012; more than half of all occupational lung cancer deaths are caused by mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer; 2,145 new cases of mesothelioma were assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit in 2013 compared with 2125 in 2012. See: HSE Statistics eBulletin – October 2014.

Oct 29, 2014

On October 24, 2014, the Hong Kong Government issued a revised Code of Practice (CoP) for Safety and Health at Work with Asbestos which was required following the implementation in April 2014 of the Hong Kong asbestos ban. According to an official spokesperson: “The amended Regulation bans (a) asbestos spraying; (b) the use of asbestos-containing insulations; and (c) works with amphibole and chrysotile asbestos, except asbestos removal or disposal works.” The revised CoP can be downloaded from the a government website See: Revised Code of Practice for Safety and Health at Work with Asbestos issued today.

Oct 28, 2014

The Australian Federal Cabinet has announced today that a $1 billion loan is being given to the Canberra government to demolish 1,021 asbestos-contaminated homes in the capital. This news will come as a huge relief to people whose homes are now viewed as death traps due to the presence of “Mr. Fluffy” insulation which was sprayed in these properties 50 years ago. In the 1980s and 1990s the Commonwealth spent $100m on remediation and declared the homes safe; unfortunately, despite their efforts, the hazard persisted. See: Over a thousand homes to be demolished to end “Mr Fluffy” asbestos crisis.

Oct 27, 2014

On October 22, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that lorry driver Percy McDonald was entitled to compensation from the occupiers of Battersea Power Station even though they were not his employer. Whilst Mr. McDonald was collecting loads from Battersea, he would visit the turbine halls; the defendants labelled his exposure as that of “a mere spectator” or “sightseer.” The landmark judgment will allow people exposed to asbestos while working for another employer to claim compensation from the owners of the factory where their exposure took place. See: Supreme Court victory for mesothelioma sufferers: Asbestos cancer victims can apply for compensation.

Oct 25, 2014

A paper published last week detailed a gross under-recognition of asbestos cancers in Spain. When mortality rates of mesothelioma and lung cancer were compared in Spain and the EU, it was discovered that over 93% of cases had not been acknowledged. “In Europe for the year 2000, asbestos-related occupational cancer rates ranged from 0.04 per 105 employees in Spain to 7.32 per 105 employees in Norway.” The authors called on the authorities to take action to investigate cases of these diseases being treated by the Spanish Healthcare System. See: Asbestos-related occupational cancers compensated under the Spanish National Insurance System, 1978-2011.

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]

Aug 1, 2014

The publication today (August 1, 2014) of the Justice Committee’s Mesothelioma Claims Report has been welcomed by asbestos victims groups and trade unionists; in their statements made about the committee's findings, they highlighted the back room deal to minimize the asbestos-related liabilities of insurers to the detriment of dying cancer victims. Today, Sir Alan Beith MP, Chair of the Committee, expressed his surprise and concern about the contents of a previously undisclosed document revealing the existence of an agreement between the Government and the ABI. In comments by an insurance industry spokesperson, claimant lawyers were blamed for increased legal costs. [Read full article]

Jul 30, 2014

Asbestos victims in Latin America have joined with colleagues in Asia to call for the immediate banning of asbestos use following a landmark decision by the European Court of Human Rights which on July 24, 2014 affirmed the right of workers to live a life free of deadly exposures to asbestos. In an open letter published on this website, asbestos consuming companies and governments are asked: “Can You Afford Cheap Asbestos?” “There are,” the letter states “no excuses or defences for guilty parties… inaction on the asbestos threat is no longer an option.” Русская версия, Српска верзија, Srpska verzija; English version: [Read full article]

Jul 24, 2014

On July 22, 2014, a new initiative was mounted in the center of the Korean capital to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard amongst people in the construction sector. The event, which was attended by 30,000 workers, was organized by the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea in collaboration with the School of Public Health of Seoul National University and the national construction union. Construction workers constitute the majority of people diagnosed with asbestos diseases in Korea. Due to an inbuilt unfairness in government protocols, the majority of the injured are grossly undercompensated. Participants heard calls for improved conditions and salary uplifts for those in the construction sector. [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