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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

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Aug 16, 2022

In a major reversal of corporate policy on August 11, 2022, Johnson & Johnson – the multinational pharmaceutical – announced it planned to withdraw its iconic talc-based baby powder from all global markets in 2023. The presence of asbestos in the product has led to nearly 40,000 legal claims from cancer victims as a result of which it was withdrawn from sale in North America in 2020. Groups representing asbestos victims, women, consumers and investor-activists had all called for sales of the product to be stopped as a matter of public health in all markets. See: Johnson & Johnson to replace talc-based powder with cornstarch.

Aug 16, 2022

Last week, news was circulated of a decision by Spain’s Supreme Court which concluded that the 2018 asbestos cancer death of national icon José María Iñigo had not been caused by the negligence of his employer, despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary. Whilst the court of the first instance – Social Court Number 2, Madrid – had issued a victim’s verdict in March 2021, in November 2021 the Superior Court of Justice (TSJ) of Madrid over-turned that decision. Rejecting an appeal brought by the family’s legal team, the Supreme Court upheld the TSJ’s decision. See: El Supremo niega que José María Iñigo muriera por exposición al amianto en los platós [The Supreme Court denies that José María Iñigo died from exposure to asbestos on sets].

Aug 16, 2022

The article cited below took an unusual look at the resources of one of Quebec’s former chrysotile asbestos mining towns. Having acknowledged the area’s industrial legacy, the author described the wonders to be found in the Serpentine-de-Coleraine Ecological Reserve. As well as describing the native fauna, the writer recounted the “impressive” view of gigantic asbestos waste tailing dumps and clambering through holes – abandoned open pit asbestos mines. At no point is there any mention of the hazard posed by the presence of so much toxic waste in the mine tailings and on the site of abandoned pits. See: Mines et nature à Thetford Mines [Mines and nature in Thetford Mines].

Aug 16, 2022

In an August 12, 2022 news release by the Environmental Protection Agency, it was announced that an agreement had been reached to remediate asbestos waste piles at the former TechCity site – a location once used by the IBM company to manufacture computers – in Ulster County, New York to preserve public health and turn “formerly contaminated land into a boost for the local economy.” According to the agreement, the developer iPark87, LLC “will remove asbestos from the interior of Building 1, remove three large debris piles containing asbestos… and dispose of the waste off-site at an EPA-approved landfill.” No public funding will be used to decontaminate the site. See: EPA and Senator Schumer Mark Recent Settlement to Remove Asbestos Piles from TechCity Site in Ulster County, New York.

Aug 16, 2022

Following a high profile expose about widespread asbestos contamination at Spain’s Torrejón military air base earlier this month, it has been reported that few of those currently being exposed or who had been exposed at the former American base had been examined for signs of asbestos-related diseases. In an interview last week with the Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo, it was disclosed that of the 154,000 at-risk Ministry of Defense workers, only 117 had been examined. See: Defensa sólo realizó 117 exámenes médicos relacionados con la exposición al amianto en 2021 [Defense only conducted 117 medical exams related to asbestos exposure in 2021].

Aug 16, 2022

A paper recently published in the Central European Journal of Public Health by researchers from the Czech Republic described the nation’s history of asbestos use, discussed measures to minimize hazardous exposures and considered long-term health consequences of toxic exposures for members of the public as well as workers. The co-authors concluded that: data on asbestos-related occupational diseases, especially cancers, was grossly underreported; raising professional awareness of the asbestos hazard was crucial to achieve early diagnoses; deteriorating asbestos material remained in the built environment; “quarrying of asbestos-containing aggregate and its subsequent use” is an ongoing problem. See: Asbestos danger in central Europe is not yet over – the situation in the Czech Republic.

Aug 15, 2022

According to an industrial disease legal specialist, the number of cases being brought for asbestos-related diseases caused by indirect exposure is growing. Expanding on this contention, Solicitor Tony Hood: said: “We’ve definitely noticed a change in the way those diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos. While we continue see many cases of workers from traditional heavy industrial areas, such as shipbuilding, there are an increasing number of clients instructing us who have been exposed in non-traditional ways.” These cases can be quite complex as white-collar claimants often have no knowledge of how and when they were exposed to asbestos. See: News focus: A white-collar wave of mesothelioma claims.

Aug 15, 2022

In the August 2, 2022 edition of the Official Gazette of Spain’s Ministry of Defense, it was duly noted that the asbestos-related cancer death in 2020 of Admiral Don Francisco Javier González-Huix Fernández – formerly the Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – had occurred as the result of his naval service. Following this ruling, his widow will now receive the full pension to which he was entitled. It did not go unnoticed that the Admiral’s death in the line of duty was recognized with a degree of speed not seen in the processing of similar claims from naval personnel of lower rank. See: Defensa reconoce como “acto de servicio” el fallecimiento de un almirante a causa del amianto en los buques [Defense recognizes as “act of service” the death of an admiral due to asbestos in ships].

Aug 15, 2022

An article on a Ukraine news portal on August 8, 2022 highlighted the role played by Ukrainian politician Serhiy Nagornyak in trying to persuade Parliament to renege on efforts to ban asbestos in Ukraine. According to the text, on July 26 Nagornyak told members of the Parliamentary Committee on Health Issues that unless the ban was rejected, scores of people would face unemployment at the building materials factory in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine in territory now controlled by the Russians. According to an agreement with the EU, Ukraine is obliged to ban asbestos as part of the process of joining the EU. See: "Слуга" намагався загальмувати заборону в Україні небезпечного азбесту [“Servant” tried to stop the ban on dangerous asbestos in Ukraine].

Aug 15, 2022

On August 8, 2022, Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir announced new proposals to strengthen checks on asbestos removal sites in Flanders. Minister Demir wrote a letter to the Federal Minister of Labour Pierre-Yves Dermagne requesting that action be taken to clarify the demarcation between the duties of the Flemish and Federal Governments regarding the supervision of asbestos removal, demolition, laboratory testing and asbestos waste collection. Although the Flanders Government had pledged to make Flanders an asbestos-free region by 2040, there is still, said Minister Demir, insufficient monitoring of many key aspects of the asbestos regime. See: Minister calls for stronger checks on asbestos removal.

Aug 15, 2022

As a result of an agreement reached by asbestos-injured workers and/or surviving family members with the company which runs the Madrid Metro, the Prosecutor’s Office asked the Madrid Court to drop the asbestos case against the company. The investigation into claims of negligence against several high-ranking executives who were in charge of occupational health and safety matters will be dropped in light of the resolution of the case and the payment of compensation. None of the Madrid Metro accused will now be charged. See: El juez archiva el caso del amianto en el Metro de Madrid tras la petición de Fiscalía y los acuerdos de indemnización [The judge files the Madrid Metro asbestos case at the request of the Prosecutor's Office following compensation agreements].

Aug 15, 2022

Many of the key facts and issues regarding the sale of the Brazilian aircraft carrier the Sao Paulo to a Turkish buyer were examined in the article cited below. Legal steps taken to stop the departure of the ship included an August 4, 2022 injunction by the 16th Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro ordering the ship to return to the Port of Rio de Janeiro. This ruling was obtained by the Brazilian Institute of Lawyers (IAB). The ship did not return. A spokesperson for the Brazilian Association of Asbestos Victims said: “In our view, it is a crime against the environment that the Brazilian authorities allowed an asbestos-containing aircraft carrier to sail towards Turkey despite all risks.” See: Asbestli Gemi Brezilya’da da Tartışılıyor [Asbestos Ship Discussed in Brazil].

Aug 11, 2022

On August 5, 2022 during a session at the National Assembly, the Government of Mauritius announced plans to demolish 1,800 asbestos-contaminated social housing units built in the 1960s. New housing will be constructed to replace those destroyed but there was no response to requests by campaigners for access to a work schedule. The use of asbestos was prohibited in Mauritius by the Dangerous Chemicals Control Act 2004. See [subscription site]: A Maurice, des logements sociaux promis à la destruction à cause de l’amiante [In Mauritius, pledge to demolish social housing due to [presence of] asbestos].

Aug 11, 2022

The escalating controversy over plans to send an asbestos-laden former Brazilian warship to a Turkish scrapping yard has generated a wider debate about the country’s ongoing failures to address the asbestos hazard despite the fact that Turkey officially banned asbestos in 2010. Asbestos-containing products – such as fireproofing tapes, gloves, wire, gaskets etc. – can still be purchased in Turkey from online shopping sites. According to the Istanbul Chemicals and Chemical Products Exporters' Association, 21 Turkish companies exported asbestos-containing products worth $27,200 dollars in January 2022. These illegal actions are possible due to a lack of government oversight and import/export controls. See: Türkiye’nin asbest tablosu [Turkey's asbestos table].

Aug 11, 2022

Solicitors in Scotland have set a new precedent with a verdict handed down in the case Kelman v Moray Council. This ruling will benefit future asbestos claimants as it supported a more lenient approach to the question of when plaintiffs knew or ought to have known that they suffered from an asbestos-related condition. In 1999, Mr Kelman was diagnosed with pleural plaques; when he developed mesothelioma in 2019, the defendants argued that legal action was time-barred. The Judge disagreed, finding that even though Kelman was aware of his asbestos related diagnosis in 1999, he had not known he could bring a claim and therefore the limitation period had not yet started. See: Recent ruling will have significant impact on asbestos related claims.

Aug 11, 2022

Accounts published on August 5, 2022 by Russia’s second biggest asbestos conglomerate: Uralasbest reported that net profits had fallen dramatically from 544 million rubles for the first half of 2021 to 204 million rubles for the same period in 2022. Uralasbest Director Yakov Remennik blamed the downturn on the depreciation of the US dollar, the stagnation of the construction market and a substantial increase in the rate of taxation levied on asbestos mining enterprises. There was, curiously, no mention made of the impact of Western sanctions imposed due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See: «Ураласбест» сократил чистую прибыль в 2,5 раза [Uralasbest reduced net profit by 2.5 times].

Aug 15, 2022

Within hours of Johnson and Johnson’s August 11, 2022 announcement that it planned to withdraw its iconic talc-based baby powder from sale in all global markets next year, the news had spread around the world. Coverage of this development was published in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Qatar, India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Israel, the Gulf States, Brazil and elsewhere. What was remarkable was not the massive interest in this story but the fact that not one of the articles asked why toxic baby powder which had been withdrawn in North America in 2020 was still being sold in their country in 2022. [Read full article]

Aug 12, 2022

Global campaigners have today condemned the decision of the Spanish Supreme Court which this week ruled against the grieving family of José María Iñigo, a famous TV presenter and personality. Mr. Iñigo died in 2018 from mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. He had worked for years in TV studios in Madrid which were full of asbestos-containing insulation products. Despite the evidence, the Court found that his lawyers had not proved that his death was caused by workplace exposures. In today’s press release, activists from Latin America, Europe and Asia expressed outrage at this decision and condolences with the family’s loss [Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español del artículo completo]. [Read full article]

Aug 9, 2022

According to a ruling by a regional court in Rio de Janeiro State, the São Paulo – the former flagship of the Brazilian Navy – should be on its way back to a Brazilian port having set sail on August 4 on its way to a dismantling yard in Turkey. The court issued an order that the ship return to Guanabara Bay as a “precautionary measure.” It has been reported that on August 5, the Supreme Court of Brazil also ordered the São Paulo to return to base and not leave Brazilian waters. As of now, the location of the vessel remains unknown, with one Brazilian military expert speculating that the ship may have turned off its GPS to mask its current position. With the temporary disappearance of the vessel, media attention is growing not only in Brazil but also in Europe. Where is the São Paulo? [Read full article]

Jul 18, 2022

Developments in July 2022 have corroborated the long-standing consensus regarding the global catastrophe caused by the widespread and unregulated use of asbestos. The month began with an announcement by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that, following a consultation of international experts, it had been confirmed that firefighters were at increased risk of contracting mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Events held by UK asbestos campaigners on July 1 raised awareness of the nationwide epidemic killing 5,000+ Britons every year. A few days later, data published by the Health and Safety Executive confirmed that asbestos mortality had increased by more than 6% in just one year. [Read full article]

Jul 13, 2022

On July 7, 2022 Judge Craig Whitley from the US Bankruptcy court in Charlotte, North Carolina, issued the latest ruling in the long running saga of the potentially “fraudulent” bankruptcy of the French-owned American company CertainTeed LLC. The fact that he found favor with allegations that the parent company Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA (Saint Gobain) and its CertainTeed materials division had “hindered the rights of asbestos victims,” breathed new life into the fight to reinstate the rights of dying plaintiffs. The process by which Saint Gobain’s lawyers used the “Texas two-step” to off-load the asbestos liabilities of CertainTeed was forensically exposed by whistleblower Amiel Gross, whose 2021 testimony was viewed with favor by the Judge. [Read full article]

Jun 30, 2022

On June 28, 2022, the European Environment Agency uploaded a report, entitled Beating cancer – the role of Europe’s environment, which laid out a multi-pronged EU strategy for reducing the cost of deadly exposures to toxins. In the 27 EU Member States, ~2.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 1.3 million die from it every year. When looking at the high-profile program to tackle Europe’s asbestos legacy, even the most hardened Brexiteer must have pause for thought. No such programs exist in the UK. A 2021/22 Parliamentary enquiry into the Government’s asbestos policy was hampered from the start by its extremely limited scope. The Committee’s April 21, 2022 report identified significant failings by the Health and Safety Executive. The Government has failed to respond to the report. [Read full article]

Jun 20, 2022

In a media release on June 15, 2022, groups campaigning for occupational rights and social justice denounced a Russian-led cabal for blocking United Nations progress on protecting global populations from a class 1 carcinogen: chrysotile (white) asbestos. A veto by 5 countries of a resolution tabled on June 14 to include chrysotile on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention was a “gross violation of the spirit of the Rotterdam Convention and in total contradiction to the decision taken at the International Labour Conference last Friday by all ILO member countries… to elevate a safe and health working environment to a fundamental principle and right to work.” [Read full article]

Jun 13, 2022

The June 2022 issue of the magazine produced by the NGO Solidar Suisse, which is available online in French, German, and English was on the theme of asbestos, with chapters about the impact of ongoing asbestos consumption in Asia and Africa, the legacy of asbestos use in Switzerland and the work of asbestos lobbyists to undermine efforts to address the global asbestos pandemic. This article is the extended version of my contribution to the above issue. [Read full article]

Jun 6, 2022

The bloodthirsty attack by Russia on Ukraine has led to two resolutions by the UN General Assembly condemning the invasion and another resolution suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council. Whilst, at least some UN bodies have acknowledged that the murderous behaviour of Russia disqualifies it from participating as an equal member in UN deliberations, it seems, alas, that the Secretariat of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention (RC) is yet to get this message. Civil society groups representing millions of trade unionists, asbestos victims, medical professionals, technical experts and concerned citizens are questioning the RC Secretariat’s failure to prevent the infiltration of the Conference of the Parties beginning in Geneva on June 6. 2022 by asbestos lobbyists whose actions have been widely censured. [Read full article]

Jun 3, 2022

Our friend Dr Yoshiomi Temmyo died on May 30, 2022 after a long and full life. He was a lodestar for campaigners not only in Japan but throughout Asia and indeed the world. As Chair of the Global Asbestos Congress Organizing Committee 2000, he helped pioneer the world’s first international public event in Asia to highlight the growing crisis caused by asbestos use throughout the region: the Global Asbestos Congress 2004. Dr Temmyo was, said his friend and colleague Sugio Furuya: “a font of knowledge and wisdom for generations of activists...The network of civil society partners who were privileged to work with Dr Temmyo will continue this work; this is his legacy. Dr Temmyo was an inspiration to us all.” [Read full article]

May 31, 2022

At a press conference in Seoul on May 25, 2022, researchers from the Korean Citizens’ Center for Environmental Health, the National School Parents’ Network to Ban Asbestos in Schools and the Korean Ban Asbestos Network informed journalists that “4-5 out of 10 elementary, middle and high schools nationwide are still ‘asbestos schools’.” The campaigners called on the government to prioritize the removal of asbestos from schools as a matter of urgency, saying that the two-year delay caused by Covid-19 in addressing this life-and-death issue was unacceptable. The data released and information provided at the press conference were widely reported by the media. [Read full article]

May 24, 2022

The headline above was the concluding sentence in a May 10, 2022 article on a Kazakhstani news portal. According to the text, Kostanay Minerals – Kazakhstan’s only chrysotile asbestos company – had declared a moratorium on mining from May 1-10, 2022 because its warehouses were full. As the vast majority of Kazakh asbestos production is exported, sanctions imposed on shipments from Russian ports as a result of the war on Ukraine have adversely impacted Kostanay’s operations. In Russia, which provides over two thirds of all global asbestos output, mining companies have also acknowledged “the unsettled economic situation.” On May 21, 2022, Russian Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev admitted that: “The sanctions imposed on Russia today have virtually broken all logistics in our country.” [Read full article]

May 18, 2022

In May 2022, hope is in short supply. With Russian troops still killing innocent Ukrainians, extreme temperatures baking populations in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, devastating wildfires decimating US western states and the Covid-19 pandemic far from conquered, a rational person could be forgiven for seeing gloom and disaster on every front. And yet, if you look closely, there are glimmers of hope to be found. This month (May 2022), events mounted by coalitions of civil society stakeholders in Asia, Latin America, Europe and Australia, addressed toxic national asbestos legacies and progressed efforts to outlaw asbestos use. With medical breakthroughs on the horizon and the rejection of pro-asbestos rhetoric, the future truly is asbestos-free! [Read full article]

May 16, 2022

Russia’s blood-thirsty attack on Ukraine, has left tens of thousands dead and injured, destroyed huge swathes of the built environment and displaced over seven million Ukrainians. A report circulated on a Ukraine news portal earlier this month expressed the concern of the UN Global Compact in Ukraine that cities destroyed by the Russian army could be rebuilt with toxic Russian asbestos. Russia is the world’s biggest asbestos producer and exporter. Although Ukrainian politicians and civil servants had been working to ban asbestos in recent years, in 2005 Ukraine used 183,271 tonnes (t) of asbestos, making it Europe’s second biggest consumer after Russia (314,828t), ahead of Kazakhstan (153,050t). There is every reason to believe that Ukrainian buildings destroyed by Russian attacks will contain asbestos fibers. [Read full article]

May 9, 2022

Health and safety campaigners are outraged at the news that 85% of the shareholders of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) supported the continued sale of toxic talc-based baby powder containing asbestos fibers in countries outside North America. A vote on resolution 10 at the company’s virtual AGM on April 28, 2022 gave the pharmaceutical giant the green light to continue the racist and duplicitous marketing strategy which protected North Americans but allowed everyone else to be exposed to a known carcinogen. “This is no longer a political or legal or consumer problem, this is a shareholder problem,” said Antoine Argouges, founder of the activist-investor platform which submitted resolution 10. [Read full article]

May 4, 2022

Despite the fact that the Brazilian Supreme Court banned the commercial exploitation of asbestos in 2017, mining continues in the State of Goiás under a state law which countermanded the Court’s ruling and authorized production to resume for export purposes only. For decades, asbestos stakeholders in Brazil have argued that the safe use of asbestos is possible under “controlled conditions.” Epidemiological data and medical evidence have, time and again, exposed the vacuousness of this argument. A fatal road traffic accident on a public highway in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais on April 24, 2022 reinforced the inconvenient truth that there is, in fact, no such thing as the “controlled use” of asbestos. [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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USGS Asbestos Trade Data

Fiber Producers (2020)
(tonnes):
   Russia720,000
   Kazakhstan227,000
   China120,000
   Brazil71,200
   Zimbabwe8,000
    
 Top Five Users (2020)
(tonnes):
   India310,000
   China243,000
   Russia126,000
   Uzbekistan117,000
   Indonesia86,200