International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



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Jul 22, 2014

A letter faxed on July 21, 2014 to the Thai authorities by representatives of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat is today (July 22) featured in an online article on a Thai website. In the run-up to a crucial meeting in August 2014, the letter, which was translated into Thai (see: English version of letter), urges the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order General Prayut Chanocha to support the April 2011 decision by the Thai Government to ban the import of asbestos on the grounds of public health – to avoid a tsunami of avoidable and deadly disease. See: International Calls for Thai asbestos ban.

Jul 22, 2014

A scandal is unfolding in the Indian State of Maharashtra involving personnel from an asbestos company, private doctors, factory inspectors and state authorities. For 15 years, 34-year old Yogesh Sawant had worked with asbestos in the Ashadeep Frictions Ltd. factory. When he fell ill, he was examined by company doctors who assured him that he was fine. At the end of 2013, he was seen by experts from the Union Ministry of Labour. He and co-worker Manoj Saroj were confirmed to be suffering from asbestosis; they are the first individuals with this condition to be recognized in the State. See: They lied to me for 15 years of my life, says asbestosis-afflicted labourer.

Jul 22, 2014

Basque courts are issuing increasing numbers of victims’ judgments in asbestos cases; more than 208 cases of asbestos death have been recognized in the Basque region. The highest court fine awarded was €410,150 (US$550,000) for the family of a construction worker who died in 2012 from mesothelioma contracted from occupational asbestos exposure. Having highlighted the role higher awards have on improving occupational health and safety, asbestos victims’ groups are calling for the establishment of a compensation fund to speed-up payments to the injured. See: Las sanciones por amianto se disparan en el País Vasco [Penalties for asbestos soar in the Basque Country].

Jul 21, 2014

The core of this July 20th feature in a major Canadian newspaper is the tragic case of mesothelioma victim Dr. Patricia Martens, a senior research scientist at the Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, who was routinely exposed to asbestos as a student. According to Canadian experts, the hazards of accidental exposures to asbestos remain in a national infrastructure riddled with asbestos. While government agencies say that the dangers can be safely managed, trade unionists disagree: “All you have to do is knock a chair into the wall if it’s got asbestos, even though it’s intact [and] it’s never been disturbed … now it’s been disturbed. That’s all it takes.” See: The case against asbestos.

Jul 21, 2014

The discovery by university geologists of naturally occurring asbestos at a site earmarked for development has postponed work on a $490m highway bypass in Boulder City, Colorado. Construction scheduled to begin in Spring 2014 was delayed to allow for asbestos testing and analysis; results are expected in August 2014. In the absence of federal regulations for dealing with naturally occurring asbestos, states are expected to devise rules based on Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines. Nevada does not have any such regulations. See: Asbestos proves to be a microscopic road block near Boulder City.

Jul 21, 2014

A seminar entitled “How Asbestos Affects Health” took place in Hanoi on July 17, 2014; the event was organized by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the World Health Organization (WHO). Having detailed the health consequences of human asbestos exposures, the Vietnamese guidelines to protect occupational health were explained by Ministry of Health officials. Despite WHO advice that the best way to prevent asbestos-related diseases was a total ban on its use, since 2000 Vietnam has imported, on average, 6,000 tons of asbestos per year, most of which is incorporated into asbestos-cement products. See: Asbestos may cause harmful health: WHO.

Jul 18, 2014

Two Swiss companies, which have inherited the asbestos liabilities of Stephan Schmidheiny’s Eternit Asbestos Group, are disputing a $90.5m judgment handed down by a U.S. Court. Anova Holding AG and Becon AG have told journalists that the Swiss legal system will not uphold this judgment as neither company has traded in the U.S. and as such did not mount a defense against the charges brought in the New Jersey Court on behalf of 11 bereaved families. See: Schmidheiny, 90 milioni alle vittime [Schmidheiny, $90 million to victims].

Jul 18, 2014

The Justice Committee will publish its report on Mesothelioma Claims (HC 308) on Friday August 1, 2014. On May 13, 2014 evidence was taken at a Parliamentary hearing, during which three victims’ and three insurers’ representatives spoke (see: British Asbestos Newsletter Issue 94). Following that session, a letter from the Association of British Insurers surfaced which seemed to substantiate claims made by asbestos victims of secret negotiations between Ministers and insurers to cap asbestos liabilities. See: The Justice Committee publishes its report Mesothelioma claims on Friday 1 August 2014.

Jul 15, 2014

A cartoon featured in an article published on July 13th depicts fat cat Tory donors side-by-side with David Cameron as a wizened mesothelioma victim fights for breath. This image is an accurate representation of the unholy alliance substantiated by a private document sent in error to the the Commons Justice Committee by the Association of British Insurers. It revealed the existence of an understanding reached by Ministers with insurers – some of whom bankroll the Tory Party – to shortchange mesothelioma victims in what MP Andy McDonald categorized as a “dodgy deal”. See: David Cameron has insured one final insult for workers dying because of their job.

Jul 13, 2014

Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, established on July 1, 2013, could be shut down as a result of budget cuts imposed by the Abbott Government. On July 14, Australia’s Parliamentary Group on Asbestos-Related Diseases (PGARD) hosted a Parliamentary event in support of the Agency. Peter Tighe the Agency’s Chief Executive Officer and mesothelioma sufferer Lou Williams spoke at the session hosted by MP Russell Broadbent and Senator Lisa Singh MP, co-chairs of PGARD, a body set up “to enable Parliamentarians to come together to raise awareness of, and to stop the burden of, asbestos related disease.”

Jul 10, 2014

Fernando Soto, a Spanish political and trade union leader who was imprisoned under the Franco dictatorship for his union activities, died on July 9, 2014 from mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer. Mr. Soto was a metallurgist who had worked with asbestos in the aircraft manufacturing industry. He also worked for a short time at the notorious asbestos-cement factory in Seville belonging to the Uralita Company. Mr. Soto was a Member of Parliament and Senator and was awarded the Medal of Andalusia in 1998 for his union career. See: Fallece el sindicalista Fernando Soto Martín a los 75 años [Unionist Fernando Soto Martin Dies at 75].

Jul 10, 2014

For the second time in less than a month, a lawsuit brought by a Brazilian asbestos victim has succeeded against a major asbestos conglomerate: Brasilit. Last week, a former worker from a Brasilit asbestos-cement factory in Sao Caetano do Sul was awarded the sum of US$200,000 which included punitive damages for pleural plaques contracted after occupational exposure to chrysotile asbestos. See: VITÓRIA A&R: Brasilit é condenada a pagar indenização de R$ 200 mil a vítima de amianto crisotila [Victory A&R: Brasilit condemned to compensate asbestos victim].

Jul 10, 2014

In the Mormal forest in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, asbestos-cement debris is being dumped on a regular basis. Although landfills exist which can safely accept the hazardous material, the high cost of legal disposal deters compliance with regulations which specify strict procedures for disposal of toxic waste. Specialized companies authorized to deal with the removal and disposal of asbestos debris exist, but they are expensive and far from this area. See: Locquignol: les dépôts sauvages d’amiante en forêt, une fatalité? [Locquignol: deadly asbestos deposits in forest].

Jul 9, 2014

Russia has for some years been the world’s largest supplier of asbestos fiber with an annual production figure of around 1m tonnes. The Russian asbestos industry is powerful and well-connected so it is reassuring to know that despite the industry’s best efforts asbestos-free products are being made in Russia. The link below is to an article which cites the landmark Italian case against asbestos criminal Stephan Schmidheiny and the fact that the WHO and IARC declare asbestos to be a human carcinogen. The text highlights the dangers of asbestos and supports the use of safer asbestos-free alternatives. See: Осторожно асбест! [Caution – Asbestos!].

Jul 9, 2014

At a meeting in Brussels on July 8, 2014 work progressed on plans to relocate European Commission personnel currently working in the asbestos-contaminated Jean-Monet building in Luxembourg. Officials pledged to follow the precautionary principle to prevent health repercussions to building users: “even though asbestos does not pose an immediate danger, this is an untenable situation,” said a Commission spokesman. A working group was constituted and as from today (July 9) will be exploring all options to relocate all staff from the Jean Monet building by the end of the year. See: Luxembourg: amiante dans le bâtiment Jean-Monnet [Luxembourg: asbestos in the Jean Monnet Building].

Jul 8, 2014

The spring issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The leading article in Issue 94, The Westminster Parliament and the Asbestos Tragedy, is an insightful analysis of the troubled asbestos history of the British Parliament. This feature presents a detailed report of the first evidence session held by the Justice Committee on mesothelioma claims on May 13, 2014. Other articles in this issue of the newsletter looked at: the issue of Asbestos in Schools, the establishment of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Tissue Bank and recent developments such as the resurrection of the HSE Hidden Killer Campaign. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, Issue 94.

Jul 17 2014

The annual seminar of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group took place in London on July 16 hours before a memorial service for MP Paul Goggins, a renowned campaigner for the rights of asbestos victims. The afternoon session featured presentations covering legal, medical and political issues. Coming less than a fortnight after Action Mesothelioma Day had highlighted the devastation caused by the national asbestos catastrophe, the human dimension of the epidemic of avoidable cancers and respiratory diseases was at the forefront of delegates’ minds. As a leading UK medical researcher told delegates, the UK mesothelioma epidemic was a “health emergency.” [Read full article]

Jul 14, 2014

A risk assessment produced by Industrial Hygienist Robin Howie examines the health hazards to residents of the Anderson Tower in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, a large town south east of Glasgow. The block of flats was evacuated on July 3, 2014 by North Lanarkshire Council, after asbestos fibres were liberated during repair work by Scottish Power. The Council believes that “any risk is extremely low. Asbestos generally poses a health risk through exposure over a long period in high concentrations. What we have found is small areas of settled dust.” Mr. Howie, however, has other thoughts on the matter. [Read full article]

Jul 9 2014

Twenty-five years ago this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States signalled its intention to protect American citizens from the deadly workplace hazard posed by asbestos. On July 12, 1989, the EPA issued the final ruling which banned the use of most asbestos-containing products. A fortnight later the U.S. Asbestos Ban and Phase-out Rule (ABPR) was promulgated. Unfortunately, an aggressive assault by Canadian and U.S vested interests put paid to the phase-out; as a result of legal action the ABPR was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on October 18, 1991. [Read full article]

Jul 4, 2014

Throughout the UK, activities took place on July 4, 2014 – Action Mesothelioma Day – to raise public awareness of a disease which is killing more people every year. A report by Hilda Palmer, from the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group, highlighted the participation of asbestos victims, family members, campaigners, and politicians, all of whom demanded that funding be made available for research into the treatment of and possible cures for the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. A dove release, a public rally in the city center and a packed meeting in Manchester Town Hall attracted widespread attention and support and a great deal of press interest. [Read full article]

Jul 4, 2014

On Brazil’s national day of justice (August 11, 2014), retired Labor Inspector and leader of the Brazilian movement to ban asbestos Fernanda Giannasi will be honoured when she is awarded the country’s highest distinction: the Order of Judicial Merit for Labor in Brasilia. The decision to bestow this honor upon her was taken by the Ministers of the Higher Labour Court in recognition of her “tireless work to ban asbestos in Brazil.” It is no exaggeration to say that Fernanda and her colleagues at the asbestos victims’ group ABREA have revolutionized the asbestos debate in Brazil. [Read full article]

Jul 3, 3014

The Rajasthan Majdoor Panchayat Sangh and the Occupational Health and Safety Association, Ahmedabad in collaboration with the Occupational Health and Safety Centre, Mumbai and the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India held a two-day Diagnosis Camp in Rajasthan State in western India on June 19-20, 2014. The medical camp, which was supported by the Global Greengrant Fund, was organized to screen mine and quarry workers for cases of silicosis. Many of the people examined had worked in the stone quarries in and around the village. These quarries produce a soap stone which is contaminated with asbestos. [Read full article]

Jun 24, 2014

The publication of a new resource on the history of the asbestos industry is of import to campaigners engaged in the struggle to ban asbestos. The translation into English of a German book about Switzerland’s industrial legacy “fills an important gap in our knowledge of asbestos.” This review by British historian Geoffrey Tweedale of the English version of The Asbestos Lie commends the new text as well-written, easy to read and excellently translated. It is, he writes, “a significant contribution to our knowledge of the European asbestos industry.” [Read full article]

Jun 17, 2014

When the 2014 Football World Cup was awarded to Brazil, the world’s fourth biggest asbestos producer, ban asbestos campaigners had serious concerns about whether asbestos would be used in the construction of the venues and ancillary buildings. According to a well-informed source, asbestos was not used to build the stadiums. Unfortunately, however, the widespread destruction of asbestos-contaminated buildings on development sites has created an environmental hazard that continues to endanger workers and members of the public. Due to the top secret nature of all World Cup issues, neither the federal nor the football authorities have been willing to discuss these issues. [Read full article]

Jun 4, 2014

Concern has been raised about the possible exposure of schoolchildren in the UK and elsewhere to asbestos contained in World War I and World War II artefacts in the run-up to key anniversaries. After a sustained campaign by activists, the UK government finally issued categorical warnings to British education departments about the danger of handling vintage gas masks and helmets which could contain blue (crocidolite) or white (chrysotile) asbestos. Historical documents about these issues from Porton Down and the Imperial War Museum are cited and uploaded in conjunction with this article. [Read full article]

May 19, 2014

On May 15, 2014 more than 5,000 people took part in a public rally in support of Japanese asbestos-injured construction workers. The date chosen was significant as it was the day when cases were filed with the Tokyo and Yokohama District Courts in the second wave of what has become known as the “metropolitan asbestos litigation.” The 160+ asbestos claimants, who included injured workers and the families of deceased workers, alleged that the Japanese government as well as asbestos product manufacturers were responsible for their injuries. The litigants are seeking recognition, compensation and the establishment of a nationwide asbestos program to prevent hazardous exposures. [Read full article]

May 15, 2014

On May 7, 2014 at a prestigious ceremony in an iconic Brazilian museum in São Paulo, the work of veteran ban asbestos activist and former labor inspector Fernanda Giannasi was publicly commemorated when she was presented with an award for excellence by the editors of CIPA Magazine, a widely read publication focusing on issues related to occupational health and safety. The choice of venue for this celebration was ironic given that when the museum was due to reopen after extensive refurbishment some years ago, an art installation was interdicted by Ms. Giannasi as it contained corrugated asbestos sheeting. [Read full article]

May 12, 2014

Last week, 100 delegates from 41 countries took part in an International Asbestos Conference organized by the Building and Woodworkers International in collaboration with the Industriall Global Union, the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. The agenda of the two-day conference reflected the international dichotomy whereby asbestos use is banned throughout the developed world but remains legal in industrializing economies. A range of topics was covered by frontline activists and world-class experts; delegates participated in productive discussion and strategy sessions. A detailed report on this event will follow in due course. [Read full article]

May 7, 2014

The text of this paper formed the basis for a presentation made on May 6, 2014 at the International Trade Union Conference on Asbestos in Vienna, Austria organized by the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI), the Industriall Global Union, the Austrian trade Union GBH and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). In her comments, IBAS Coordinator Laurie Kazan-Allen considered progress made since the BWI announced its support for a global asbestos ban in 1989. Having described successful strategies and initiatives pioneered in ban and non-ban countries, she proposed specific measures which could achieve an end to the needless asbestos slaughter. [Read full article]

Apr 24, 2014

Since 2007, the [Australian] National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases (NCARD) has been pioneering research into new treatments, methodologies and a potential cure for the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. A visit to the Center in April 2014 provided the opportunity to interview members of the research team working on the: role of immunotherapy, development of biological markers, new drug combinations, treatments exploiting regulatory T cells and clinical applications for regulatory T cells. For the NCARD team, curing mesothelioma is not an academic pipe-dream; it is a goal which informs the researchers every minute of every day. [Read full article]

Apr 22, 2014

The Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) is one of the most effective asbestos victims’ support groups anywhere in the world. The scope of its activities, the effectiveness of its efforts and the good-natured reception awaiting anyone who enters its premises address the tragic situation which exists in Western Australia. This State, one of the most badly affected regions in Australia with respect to asbestos-related cancer, continues to experience an unprecedented public health crisis due to asbestos exposures at work and at home. During its nearly thirty-five years of public service, the ADSA has developed a unique expertise in community service. [Read full article]

Apr 15, 2014

The Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat Laurie Kazan-Allen has added her voice to that of so many others who are backing calls by an Italian asbestos victims’ group for Yale University to rescind an academic honor bestowed upon convicted asbestos criminal Stephan Schmidheiny. In a letter emailed to college officials Peter Salovey and Kimberly M. Goff-Crews, Ms. Kazan-Allen noted that Schmidheiny had “benefited from the financial operations of an international conglomerate which has injured thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent human beings the world over.” [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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