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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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Jun 23, 2017

On June 21, 2017, Public Health England published health advice regarding toxic exposures caused by the Grenfell Tower conflagration which included a warning about the asbestos fall-out from the disaster. Attempting to minimize public concerns over the asbestos danger, the statement admitted that while asbestos-containing material had been present in the building, the asbestos fibers were “bound” within construction products and so only “very small amounts of asbestos fibres will have been dispersed … any asbestos would present a minimal additional risk to health.” See: Public health advice following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Jun 23, 2017

A study on asbestos latency periods by scientists from Poland’s Nofer Institute compared data from 131 patients with pleural mesothelioma with data from a control group of 655 people in an asbestos health surveillance program. Findings were: the mesothelioma risk increased 40 years after last exposure; dose-response relationships in at-risk occupational cohorts were critical to understanding the hazard of environmental exposures; the “mesothelioma risk increases along with the increasing time since exposure termination.” See: Mesothelioma continues to increase even 40 years after exposure - Evidence from long-term epidemiological observation.

Jun 23, 2017

A video uploaded to youtube on June 16, 2017 documents a dramatic ban asbestos demonstration mounted in Bogota, Colombia by Greenpeace that featured “patients” lying in hospital beds struggling to breathe, attached to oxygen cylinders with the name of the country’s biggest asbestos company “Eternit” written on them. Surrounding the scene taken from a hospital ward were banners with the equation Eternit = asbestos = cancer on them. See: Eternit enferma a Colombia! [Eternit makes Colombia sick!]. (For more on Eternit’s role in the national asbestos debate see: Asbestos in Colombia.)

Jun 22, 2017

Research released by scientists from the Australian National University, based on death registrations and cancer databases over a 30-year period up to 2013, has found a two and a half increased risk of mesothelioma in men who lived in Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos houses in Canberra. Chief health officer Paul Kelly said the findings showed that while mesothelioma remained very rare in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) “there is a higher risk for males living in the houses.” The study also found higher rates of colorectal cancers including bowel cancer among Mr Fluffy residents. See: Mr Fluffy asbestos: Male residents at increased risk of contracting mesothelioma.

Jun 21, 2017

On June 20, 2017, Eternit announced it would accept a March 2017 verdict which said the company had caused the death of Françoise Jonckheere by failing to control hazardous asbestos exposures despite knowing that such exposures could harm human health. Speaking outside the court on the day that ruling was announced her son Eric said: “Ils savaient!” [They knew!] On Tuesday, an Eternit spokesperson said: “Eternit is also of the opinion that the principle of fair compensation as defined in the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Brussels is in conformity to its own policy. For this reason Eternit decided not to appeal.” See: Procès de l’amiante: Eternit n’ira pas en cassation [Asbestos trial: Eternit will not go to Supreme Court].

Jun 21, 2017

Part one of a three-part series investigating the asbestos hazard in schools in the Gauteng Province of South Africa, which was published yesterday, reported that while 29 Gauteng schools are built entirely or predominately of asbestos materials and have been listed for replacement, another 214 partially built with asbestos materials have not. Part two examines the health risks posed to children and staff of the asbestos contamination and part three highlights the inconsistencies in advice provided by the Gauteng education department about the asbestos hazard. See: More than 200 Gauteng schools contain asbestos. Here’s where they are.

Jun 20, 2017

A 48-page report, in English and Russian, published this month by the World Health Organization provides yet more evidence for policy makers looking to ban asbestos use in their countries. The authors conclude: “Overall, the trends show that the global asbestos industry is shrinking… its continued use carries substantial costs, including those related to health, remediation and litigation. Countries that continue to produce and consume asbestos will sustain substantial health costs, and… perhaps even greater remediation and litigation costs.” See: Asbestos: Economic Assessment of Ban and Declining Production and Consumption (for Russian version click here).

Jun 19, 2017

Testimony to a hearing of the Australian Senate confirmed that the Australian Border Force (ABF) had made 40 detections of illegal asbestos imports this year; since it was established 2 years ago, the ABF has imposed only 3 financial penalties for illegal asbestos imports. Commenting on this hazardous situation, Dave Noonan, General National Secretary for the CFMEU, said: “If this soft touch approach to prosecutions continues we’ll have no choice but to consider banning certain building products from certain countries on health & safety grounds until Minister Dutton is willing to take decisive action.” See: Detection of illegal asbestos imports triple, but still no prosecutions.

Jun 19, 2017

A one-day hearing is being held in Brussels on June 23, 2017 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur Michel Forst on the safety of human rights defenders working in the field of business and human rights. Information received at this hearing as well as input from a public consultation will be part of a report presented to the UN General Assembly in October 2017. Fernanda Giannasi, a retired Brazilian Labor Inspector, will testify on Thursday about the death threats, attacks and intimidation she has faced in Brazil during her campaign for asbestos justice and a national asbestos ban. See: Report on the Situation of human rights defenders working in the field of business and human rights.

Jun 19, 2017

The June 2017 newsletter of the National Centre for Research on Asbestos Diseases (NCARD) has been published; included is news regarding NCARD personnel and progress achieved by Australian victims’ groups. The lead article details awards recently bestowed upon NCARD senior researcher Joost Lesterhuis for his work in identifying new treatments for mesothelioma. On page two is a feature about the stunning fund-raising efforts of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia which has just announced that it will fund a three and a half year PhD scholarship, to be supervised by NCARD’s Professor Nowak, into translational mesothelioma research. See: PDF version of NCARD newsletter, June 2017

Jun 17, 2017

On June 15, 2017, a Milan court cleared 8 former managers of the Breda Termomeccanica-Ansaldo engineering company of charges related to asbestos deaths of 12 workers at its plant in Milan between the 1970s and 1985. Prosecutors, who accused the defendants of being “gravely culpable,” had asked for sentences of up to 4 years and 11 months. Friends and relatives of the Breda dead voiced their disappointment and held up a banner saying: “Remember all the workers killed in the name of profit.” In February and May, Milan courts acquitted ENEL (National Board of Electricity) and Fiat managers of charges related to 18 occupational asbestos deaths. See: Breda-Ansaldo ex-execs cleared in asbestos trial.

Jun 17, 2017

Canadian contractor Don Garrett must certainly rue the day when he won a contract to undertake plumbing work at Kent Institution, a maximum security federal prison in Agazziz, British Columbia. The businessman had no idea that routine work at the facility would expose him and his employees to asbestos nor that the stand he was forced to take over the failure of the authorities to inform him of the known hazard would cast him in the role of whistleblower. Despite nine years of enquiries and discussions with local and federal officials, the situation remains unresolved. See: B.C. contractor exposed to asbestos blows whistle, says government made his life a ‘nightmare’.

Jun 17, 2017

Leading medical experts from Brazil’s National Cancer Institute have condemned the country’s continuing use of asbestos in a commentary published on June 15. Comparing the Brazilian with the United States asbestos legacy, authors Drs. Ubirani Otero and Ana Cristina Pinho suggest that: consumers do not buy asbestos-containing products; unions maintain active surveillance of workers in at-risk trades; and legislators implement national regulations to abolish the use of all forms of asbestos in Brazil. Brazil is currently the world’s third largest producer of chrysotile (white) asbestos. See: Brasil sem Amianto [Brazil without asbestos].

Jun 17, 2017

A program has been announced by the municipalities of Chania and Kissamos, on the northern coast of the Greek island of Crete, to replace asbestos water pipes as part of planned improvements to the water supply network which will reduce leakages and save energy. Announcing the plans last week, the Mayor of Kissamos Thodoris Stathakis said that the new network will be the same length as the old one necessitating the replacement of 4,500 meters of contaminated pipes and that “the aim of the municipal authority is the continuous improvement of the quality of life of our citizens and visitors.” See: Χανιά: Νέο δίκτυο ύδρευσης θα κατασκευαστεί στο δήμο Κισσάμου [Chania: A new water supply network will be built in the municipality of Kissamos].

Jun 16, 2017

A commentary by activist Jagdish Patel, national coordinator of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India, uploaded on June 15 has called into question continuing government support for the country’s asbestos sector by highlighting statistics which document the high toll being taken by dangerous exposures to asbestos, citing a report by the Ministry of Labour and Employment which said: “It is also high time that the government take initiative in formulating a national plan for prevention and control of silicosis and asbestosis in India…” See: Need for urgent action to protect workers from exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos fibers.

June 20, 2017

On June 8, 2017, an international asbestos conference was held in Bologna, Italy, an area with a high incidence of asbestos mortality due to hazardous exposures in the railway industry, at asbestos-cement production facilities, at a local plant which manufactured waterproofing materials and at power stations. Representatives of asbestos victims’ groups from Italy and Brazil updated delegates on progress achieved and challenges remaining in the struggle for asbestos justice. Trade unionists, scientists, an author, a teacher, a Mayor and campaigners – including Dr Agata Mazzeo whose PhD dissertation focused on the fight for asbestos victims’ rights in Brazil and Italy – also made presentations. [Read full article]

Jun 19, 2017

In the run-up to the UK’s annual Action Mesothelioma Day, this press release by UK and Japanese groups confirms the attendance at events in five cities of members of a Japanese delegation of asbestos victims, relatives and campaigners. Speaking on behalf of the visitors, Sugio Furuya said that: “The members of our delegation are eager to show solidarity with UK victims and to share experiences in order to progress the campaigns for asbestos justice at home and abroad.” See: Japanese version of this press release or for the English version select the “Read full article" link. [Read full article]

May 30, 2017

A seminar entitled “Accountability in Shipbreaking” took place in London this month. Amongst the speakers were six leading experts on the current situation regarding the annual disposal of hundreds of sea-going vessels on tidal beaches in Asia. The contentious disposal of the North Sea Producer – an oil and gas floating production storage and offloading vessel based for many years 250 km north-east of Aberdeen – was discussed. The export of the ship from the UK on May 17, 2016, its arrival in Bangladesh on August 14, 2016 and plans for its demolition at a yard in Chittagong contravened international instruments intended to prevent industrialized countries from dumping toxic ships in developing countries. [Read full article]

May 11, 2017

This report, prepared by the Peoples Training & Research Centre for the Occupational and Environmental Health Network India (OEHNI) and launched at press conferences in Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Delhi on Friday, April 28, 2017 (International Workers’ Memorial Day), delineates the scale of India’s asbestos tragedy. News coverage about the publication of this ground-breaking document (see: Gujarat tops India with 49 percent use in hazardous asbestos, causing occupational disease, cancer: Report ) highlighted the high incidence of disability and disease amongst workers from power plants, asbestos mines, asbestos cement factories and small processing units. [Read full article]

May 10, 2017

The deliberations of hundreds of international delegates in Geneva and the actions of United Nations personnel involved in the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, which drew to a close on May 5, 2017, were closely monitored by the global community of campaigners working to prevent human exposures to dangerous chemicals such as white asbestos. Commenting on the “moral cowardice and corruption” at the Convention, Brian Kohler, from the IndustriALL Global Union, said: “Hundreds of thousands will die as the result of the inaction of the Parties to the Convention, who chose to cave in to fierce lobbying and bullying by financial interests rather than do what they know is right.” [Read full article]

Mar 30, 2017

A historic victory was achieved on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 when the Brussels Court of Appeal upheld a ruling condemning the Belgian asbestos multinational Eternit for environmental asbestos exposure which killed Françoise Vannoorbeek-Jonckheere in 2000. In a 15-page judgment, the three judge panel concluded that Eternit had known asbestos was a carcinogenic substance since the 1970s but had failed to protect workers or local people from hazardous exposures as a result of which Françoise, who lived near the company’s factory in Kapelle-op-den-Bos for decades, contracted the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Eternit asbestos victims around the world will be heartened and inspired by this news. [Read full article]

Mar 20, 2017

In a few weeks, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention (RC) on the Prior Informed Consent Procedures for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade will meet for the eighth time. Pivotal to the success of the meeting and, indeed to the long-term viability of this multinational Convention, will be the decision taken regarding the inclusion of chrysotile (white) asbestos on a list of substances subject to mandatory trade regulations. In light of the intransigence of asbestos lobbyists and the delegations which support them at the RC, a proposal by the African Group of Nations may be the last hope for the Convention’s survival. [Read full article]

Feb 19, 2017

An analysis has been uploaded of a proposed trade deal between India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) which highlights the injustice and deadly consequences of allowing untaxed imports to India of asbestos, an acknowledged human carcinogen, from Russia and Kazakhstan in return for duty-free Indian exports of gherkins, cucumbers and other non carcinogenic produce to the EAEU. The 259-page report on which the contentious treaty is based is also uploaded. It is of relevance to note that while the report has been circulated this month (February 2017) to selected stakeholders, ban asbestos activists in India did not receive copies of this document from government sources. [Read full article]

Feb 7, 2017

News released last week by organizations nearly 5,000 miles apart confirm the existence and scale of an unfolding disaster in shipbreaking on tidal beaches in South Asia which accounted last year (2016) for 87% of all tonnage dismantled. Research by the Brussels-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform and the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation revealed multiple failures by the shipping industry to safely manage the disposal of end-of-life vessels and the deadly impact of hazardous working practices on the lives of shipbreaking workers. Conditions in Bangladesh’s yards are “known to be the worst;” in 2016, 22 workers died with a further 29 suffering serious injuries. [Read full article]

Feb 1, 2017

A presentation made in Japan at the Tokyo Institute of Technology on January 29 delineated current asbestos consumption and production trends around the world, using graphics, charts and maps to underscore areas at most risk from increasing usage. Efforts and progress made in 2016 and 2017 by grassroots campaigners in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe were highlighted; the important work of asbestos victims’ groups was recognized. Some examples of the fightback by asbestos vested interests were discussed including a 2016 revelation of an asbestos espionage operation run by a UK intelligence agency based in London. [Read full article]

Jan 16, 2017

Calculations undertaken for this article suggest that the global trade in deadly asbestos is still worth billions of dollars. Industry stakeholders in producing and consuming nations remain determined to continue business as usual despite the medical and scientific consensus that the best way to end the global epidemic of asbestos diseases is to stop the use of asbestos. The asbestos industry playbook includes a number of well-honed tactics, some of which are illegal and most amoral and unjust. This text documents how corporate wealth has been weaponized and ban asbestos campaigners have been targeted in the pursuit of ever more profits for this industry of mass destruction. [Read full article]

Dec 15, 2016

Civil society groups from around the world have warmly welcomed the news that the Canadian government is to outlaw the use of asbestos by 2018. The fact that Canada, one-time leader in the production of chrysotile asbestos, has taken this step is the latest victory for the global campaign to ban asbestos. This decisive action by the Canadian government is a harbinger of things to come; in the 21st century, the time is past when a dangerous and discredited technology can be allowed to endanger the lives of innocent populations. In a press release issued today calls are made for justice for the injured and definitive action to eradicate the danger posed by asbestos products within national infrastructures. [Read full article]

Dec 9, 2016

For some years, Australian campaigners have designated November as Asbestos Awareness month. This year was no exception with a slew of formal events, outreach initiatives, public meetings and information sessions held throughout the country by asbestos victims’ support groups, campaigning bodies, academics, trade unionists and others. Activities organized by the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) during November are discussed in this article including the Society’s 21st ecumenical service of remembrance on November 25. The work and motivation of the ADSA is contrasted with that of asbestos industry stakeholders who held a large gathering of vested interests in Moscow on November 14. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2016

Earlier this month (October 2016), a series of events took place in the Brazilian city of Campinas during which medical, legal, social, judicial and environmental challenges posed by the country’s continuing use of chrysotile (white) asbestos were examined by Brazilian and international experts. The fact that these events were paid for by court-awarded penalties against two asbestos manufacturing companies made the medical workshop (October 5), two-day conference: Asbestos: A Socio-Legal Approach (October 6-7) and the First National Meeting of Asbestos Victims and their Families (October 8) truly historic. [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2016

A coalition of Indian and international groups representing asbestos victims, campaigners, environmentalists and health and safety activists from Asia and Europe have today uploaded a devastating report highlighting the toxic environmental legacy left by European asbestos multinationals in rural India. “The dumping of asbestos waste” by Turner & Newall and Etex was, said Barrister Krishnendu Mukherjee, “done in the full knowledge that it would cause serious health problems to the local population. Such behaviour towards mainly poor people, without real access to legal remedies, can only be described as a corporate crime.” [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2016

The toxic legacy left in rural India by European asbestos companies including Britain’s Turner & Newall Ltd. and Belgium’s Etex continues to endanger the lives of thousands of citizens in towns such as Kymore in the state of Madhya Pradesh according to a report uploaded today by civil society groups in India and abroad. Evidence collected by a team of Canadian technical experts documented nearly 600,000 square metres of toxic waste, which would cost up to $88m to make safe. The waste, which is composed of up to 70% asbestos fibers, poses a known public health hazard about which nothing has been done by the polluting enterprises which created it. [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 (2014)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,100,000
   China400,000
   Brazil284,000
   Kazakhstan240,000
   India270
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   Russia608,000
   China507,000
   India379,000
   Brazil154,000
   Kazakhstan68,000