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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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Feb 27, 2015

The Government of New South Wales (NSW) has announced that extra funding will be provided if needed to cover a projected cash shortfall for James Hardie’s Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund Limited (AICF). An amendment to the terms of a loan facility will make a further $106 million available to the fund so that claims can be paid in one lump sum rather than in instalments. The AICF was set up in 2006 under a deal struck between James Hardie (JH) and the NSW government to compensate individuals injured by exposure to JH asbestos-containing products. See: Taxpayers to cover James Hardie asbestos shortfall.

Feb 26, 2015

KiwiRail has put a multimillion dollar price tag on the remedial efforts imposed upon them by the supply of asbestos-containing trains from China (see: KiwiRail's $12 million asbestos bill). The discovery of sprayed asbestos on metal sheeting in the engine rooms of the freight locomotives necessitated their removal from service and decontamination work. The suppliers of the toxic trains have made a confidential and unspecified settlement with KiwiRail. Unlike other developed countries, New Zealand has no legislation banning the use of asbestos although it is understood that the contract for these vehicles stipulated they be asbestos-free (see: Trains pulled in asbestos shock).

Feb 26, 2015

One quarter of the 120 Swiss citizens who develop mesothelioma every year were exposed to asbestos non-occupationally. These victims include the self-employed and people who lived near asbestos-processing factories; they are not entitled to compensation from Swiss accident insurers. The long latency period of asbestos diseases means that most asbestos personal injury claims are statute-barred. Following a decision by the European Court of Human Rights, an initiative is being progressed to improve support for the injured. See: A round table is to be set up with the aim of stopping victims of asbestos falling into financial hardship when they are ineligible for insurance paid for by an employer.

Feb 24, 2015

Although the Italian Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) issued its contentious ruling in the infamous Italian trial against asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny on November 19, 2014, it was only on February 23, 2015 that the full “motivation,” the legal discourse behind the decision, was released. Schmidheiny had denied failing to provide adequate safety measures at four Italian Eternit plants. The Supreme Court overturned guilty verdicts regarding the deaths of 263 Eternit workers and their relatives on the grounds that even before the trials had started, the statute of limitations on these crimes had expired. See: Prosecution urges new trial for former Eternit owner- update.

Feb 23, 2015

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) has admitted that it is unable to “guarantee that all imported goods will be free from asbestos,” despite the fact that this substance and products containing it are illegal in Australia. The focus of an article published today in The Australian was the tidal wave of imports entering Australia from China, some of which were contaminated. Asbestos has been found in Australian purchases of Chinese plasterboard, gaskets, trains, mining equipment and cars. The ACBPS has said that it is the responsibility of importers to ensure that only asbestos-free goods enter the country. See: Made in China (with asbestos) [subscription website].

Feb 21, 2015

This week saw the highly publicized resignation of Peter Oborne, formerly the Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator, over the newspaper’s failure to report on HSBC, a bank exposed in the Guardian and other newspapers for efforts to help clients evade taxes. Author Richard Wilson documents 42 Telegraph articles by columnist Christopher Booker downplaying the risks of asbestos and asks readers to vote in a poll asking: “Is it right for the Sunday Telegraph to mislead the British public about the health risks of asbestos?” See: Booker’s false claims (42 articles and counting) downplaying the risks of white asbestos.

Feb 21, 2015

During the 20th century, global asbestos markets were controlled and serviced by a handful of companies, many of which were family-owned. Amongst the asbestos dynasties were the Swiss Schmidheinys, the Belgian Cartiers, the Belgian Emsens and the British Turners. While efforts to hold individuals to account for the worldwide asbestos slaughter have been, on the whole unsuccessful, creative public relations initiatives have reinvented at least one asbestos entrepreneur as a high-profile philanthropist and environmentalist. The role of the Avina foundation in the rehabilitation of Stephen Schmidheiny is considered. See: Amianto rojo [Red Asbestos].

Feb 20, 2015

A Madrid Court has found asbestos producer Uralita negligent for causing the deaths of women who contracted asbestos cancer after hazardous exposure while washing their husbands’ or fathers’ contaminated clothing. The company was ordered to pay the families €700,000. Uralita disregarded legislation intended to prevent such exposure. Lawyers predict a wave of future claims for victims who did not have a working relationship with the company. See: Uralita deberá pagar 700.000 euros por la muerte de cuatro mujeres contaminadas con amianto [Uralita must pay €700,000 for the deaths of four women contaminated with asbestos].

Feb 20, 2015

This week, the Portuguese environmental body Associação Nacional de Conservação da Natureza [National Association for Nature Conservation] highlighted the government’s failure to implement measures to identify asbestos contamination in the built environment and called for a national asbestos action plan. These calls were made as a three year deadline set by 2011 legislation which mandated the removal of asbestos-containing materials in public buildings, such as hospitals, schools and libraries, expired. See: Faltam medidas importantes no levantamento dos edifícios com Amianto [Important steps missed out in asbestos audits of buildings].

Feb 19, 2015

Twenty-one new cases of the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma have been diagnosed in a cohort of 69,000 mine workers which has been monitored since the late 1990s. A total of 101 individuals from the state’s iron mining industry have contracted this cancer. According to Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health: “The interval between exposure to the agent that causes the cancer and the time when the cancer appears can be as long as 40 or 50 years, possibly even longer. We have always expected to see additional cases as time went by, in people who were exposed many years ago. We expect to see still more cases going forward.” See: 21 new cases of mesothelioma in Iron Range miners

Feb 18, 2015

For the first time, on Feb 17, 2015 Japan’s Supreme Court upheld a judgment recognizing the negligence and liability of an asbestos-using company for a non-occupational asbestos-related death – that of Kojiro Yamauchi who for 20 years worked 200 meters from the Kuboto Corporation asbestos factory in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture. By a unanimous decision, the five-panel Court, ordered Kubota to pay ¥31.9 million ($267,000) in damages to Mr. Yamauchi’s relatives. Both the Kobe District Court and Osaka High Court had ordered Kubota to pay damages to the Yamauchi family. See: Top court upholds Kubota’s liability in asbestos death case.

Feb 18, 2015

A question (QWA HL4789) asked by Lord Alton on Feb. 9, 2015 about the level of mesothelioma grant funding by the Medical Research Council was answered on Feb 17, 2015 by Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Minister for Intellectual Property. Between 2010 and 2014, there were four successful applications which received a total of £1.727 million with the largest grant of £992,471 going to Prof P. Elliot of Imperial College. Between 2004 and 2014, there were ten unsuccessful applications. See: Parliamentary Written questions and answers.

Feb 18, 2015

Lack of visibility, support and assistance for Spain’s asbestos victims are highlighted in an article which describes an ongoing epidemic of asbestos cancer in Málaga. Cases are described amongst people who were occupationally exposed to asbestos in workshops, factories and in the state railway company. To counter the difficulties in obtaining compensation from negligent corporations, calls are being made for a national asbestos victims’ fund to be set up such as the those in France and Belgium. To minimize hazardous exposures from the removal of asbestos incorporated within the European infrastructure, an EU protocol should be introduced. See: Deadly Asbestos Still Costing Lives.

Feb 17, 2015

A report published by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) and Department for Work and Pensions on Feb 17, 2015 has considered findings regarding the relation between asbestos exposures and the occurrence of cancers of the larynx and ovary. Unfortunately, the IIAC concluded that “evidence of a doubling of risk of laryngeal cancer associated with asbestos exposure remains inconsistent… [and did not recommend] prescription for cancer of the ovary in relation to asbestos exposure.” See: Cancers of the Larynx or Ovary and Work with Asbestos.

Feb 14, 2015

A report by the Australian National Audit Office into The Management of the Disposal of Specialist Military Equipment has revealed significant failings to manage health risks associated with asbestos in the public sale or donation of aircraft, tanks and trucks. In December 2014 the Minister for Defence was advised of a proposal to “undertake a review of a number of past disposal activities to identify those items that contain hazardous substances, in particular asbestos containing material, that may give rise to potential future liabilities.” See: Management of the Disposal of Specialist Military Equipment.

Feb 14, 2015

The Globe and Mail has published an appreciation of the life of Dr. Patricia Martens which highlighted her “passion for understanding and spreading knowledge about health research…” Dr Martens died on January 10, 2015, aged 62, from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Having received her diagnosis in 2013, she went public and joined the campaign for Canada to ban asbestos. A letter she sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper was acknowledged but not acted upon. Commenting on the death of his friend and colleague, David Henry said: “It is surely a tragic irony that someone who was such a proponent for public health would die from this illness.” See: Obituary of Researcher Patricia Martens

Feb 23, 2015

Between May 12 and 15, 2015, members of the Rotterdam Convention (RC), gathered in Geneva at the 7th Conference of the Parties (COP7), will once again consider if chrysotile asbestos should be placed on a list of hazardous chemicals. A technical workshop on chrysotile will be held by the RC secretariat on March 30 and 31, 2015. Amongst the delegates listed are representatives of asbestos industry bodies from India, Ukraine and Zimbabwe. The presence of Vivek Chandra Rao Sripalle, Mr. Oleksandr Sierkin and Shame Chibvongodze will ensure that the concerns of the industry are heard. Once again, the voice of the victims will be missing from the conversation. [Read full article]

Feb 12, 2015

According to the asbestos section in the Mineral Commodity Summaries 2015 of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which was published on January 30, 2015, 5% of the asbestos imported and used in the United States in 2014 was chrysotile (white) asbestos sourced from Australia, a country which banned the use of asbestos in 2003 and the export of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. “Imports from Australia were,” explained the USGS “either from stocks or transshipments because Australia no longer mines asbestos.” Attempting to clarify this mystery, enquiries have been initiated with the Australian authorities as well as the USGS. [Read full article]

Feb 11, 2015

A report commissioned by the New Zealand Government entitled “Inventory of New Zealand Imports and Exports of Asbestos-Containing Products” has been categorized this week as fatally flawed by Ban Asbestos Campaigner Mrs. Deidre VanGerven who has given stern warnings about the possible repercussions of her country’s lack of asbestos controls. Mrs. VanGerven has warned that Australia might even reconsider its policy on trade with New Zealand in light of the possibility that its products might contain asbestos. “It remains a mystery to me,” she says “how New Zealand politicians can downplay the threat asbestos poses when so many people continue to die every year from their exposures.” [Read full article]

Feb 2, 2015

When Colombia finally prohibits the use of asbestos, 2014 will be remembered as the year that marked the turning point in the perception of this dangerous mineral by industry, government and civil society stakeholders. Discussions, meetings, initiatives and media coverage progressed public and professional awareness of the asbestos hazard. The input of eminent international experts at high-level multilateral events in February and November was of great significance. A unique feature of this ban asbestos campaign is the involvement of artists who have taken asbestos issues as themes for their work. Colombian artists have also initiated asbestos projects with US, French and British colleagues. [Read full article]

Jan 21, 2015

The manufacture, marketing and use of asbestos were banned in Europe as of January 1, 2005. There was an exemption to the EU prohibitions which allowed the import of asbestos-containing diaphragms for existing electrolysis cells. A decade later, under pressure from Dow Chemical, the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency, is considering the continuation of the exemption until and possibly after 2025. The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat is strongly opposed to the extension of this exemption and calls on the EU Commission and EU Member States to take action to end this sole use of asbestos in the EU. [Read full article]

Jan 14, 2015

Italian Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guaraniello, who was at the center of the historic criminal prosecutions of former asbestos businessmen for the deaths of thousands of Italian citizens, is now investigating reports of asbestos imports into Italy in 2012 despite the fact that the country banned asbestos a decade previously. The existence of this illicit trade was unearthed by Mohit Gupta from the New Delhi-based Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India. In 2012, India exported 1,296 tonnes (t) of asbestos, 1,040t (80%) to Italy. Other importers of Indian asbestos-cement products include five countries which have also banned asbestos. [Read full article]

Jan 11, 2015

Comments made by Thailand’s Minister of Industry Chakramon Phasukavanich which were quoted in the Bangkok Post yesterday (Jan 10) included the statement that: “If the use of asbestos is banned by law… the burden to replace all products that contain asbestos would fall on the government.” In none of the 55 countries which have banned asbestos has this been the case. The IBAS Coordinator has written an open letter to the Minister asking for confirmation that his statements were accurately reported. In the IBAS letter, the Minister was informed of legal actions against governments which had failed to take timely and appropriate action to protect citizens from the asbestos hazard. [Read full article]

Jan 5, 2015

In December 2014, Indonesia’s Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Korean Environment Corporation (KECO) conducted a workshop entitled: “Seoul Initiative Indonesia Workshop: Improving Health Officers’ Competencies on Measuring Workplace Environmental Ambient Level and Diagnosing Asbestos Related Diseases in Indonesia.” The objective of this initiative was to improve the knowledge of health officers and other stakeholders about diagnosing asbestos-related diseases and workplace environmental monitoring. Resulting from the workshop, an asbestos research project has been set up with the KECO; data collected will inform the national asbestos policy and regulatory regime. [Read full article]

Jan 1, 2015

On December 22, 2014, the Government of Nepal banned the import, sale, distribution and use of all asbestos and asbestos-containing materials on the grounds of public health. According to a government notice published in the Nepal Gazette by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, the prohibition will take effect on June 20, 2015, 181 days from the date of publication; the sole exemption is for automotive brake shoes and clutch plates. These prohibitions will drastically reduce national consumption as the vast majority of asbestos used in Nepal goes into construction materials such as roofing sheets. [Read full article]

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]

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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