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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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Sep 18, 2014

A September 15, 2014 article in La República, the Colombian equivalent of the Wall Street Journal, examines moves to develop asbestos markets in emerging economies; the author discusses industry techniques including the use of “mercenary” scientists to produce junk research that “proves” that white (chrysotile) asbestos is safe. In 2012 and 2013 Colombia imported 25,164 and 15,961 tons of asbestos respectively. Available figures for 2014 show a decline in asbestos import levels; this is partially explained by the restarting of asbestos mining operations in Yarumal (Antioquia), Colombia. See: Historias del asbesto, de lo económico a lo legal [Asbestos Stories, from the economic to the legal].

Sep 17, 2014

A scientific paper published in the October 2014 issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health concluded that “a specific brand of talcum powder [Cashmere Bouquet] contained identifiable asbestos fibers [anthophyllite and tremolite asbestos] with the potential to be released into the air and inhaled during normal personal talcum powder application.” Asbestos fibers consistent with those found in the talcum powder were identified in the lungs and lymph node tissues of a woman who used this product and died from mesothelioma. See: Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of mesothelioma in women.

Sep 16, 2014

Despite a government pledge to ban asbestos made more than three years ago, no action has been taken. News is now circulating that the Ministry of Industry has issued a proposal to Minister Chakkamon Pasukwanit to implement a phased ban on asbestos products with the use of the first group – for wall linings, ceilings, doors and floor tiles – to be prohibited in two years while the second group – roof tiles, cement pipes, brake and clutch parts – will be banned in five years. Thai ban asbestos activists have expressed serious criticisms of this plan saying asbestos is a known killer and should be banned immediately. See: Delay in Asbestos Ban.

Sep 16, 2014

A consultation over proposals to extend a derogation allowing the use of asbestos-containing diaphragms is attracting criticism from the European Trade Union Confederation, the Trade Union Congress, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) and others. In its submission, IBAS pointed out: “In July 2014 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that asbestos exposures which took place in Malta contravened the rights of Maltese workers; in 2014, there can be no excuse to allow asbestos use to persist in Europe. Failure to end this derogation will not only lead to more avoidable disease and deaths but may well result in legal action by groups representing European stakeholders.”

Sep 15, 2014

The annual fund-raising walk of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) begins today in Pemberton, Western Australia (WA). Over the next 5 days, participants will cover the 327 kilometres to the state capital making stops along the way to raise awareness of the WA epidemic of asbestos-related diseases. On September 17 the ADSA “Rod Triplett Tribute Breakfast” will take place in Australind to spotlight the price paid by building workers, like Rod, for their exposures to asbestos. Rod died of mesothelioma in March. PLEASE SUPPORT THE ADSA – see ADSA Press Release.

Sep 10, 2014

An Italian steel manufacturer has been condemned in a verdict released this week in a case which found 27 former company executives guilty of failing to protect workers at a Taranto plant from the asbestos hazard. The lives of those who had died from mesothelioma could have been saved had action been taken to prevent hazardous asbestos exposures wrote Judge Simone Orazio in his 268 page judgment. Medical check-ups would have enabled earlier diagnoses of asbestos-related conditions to have been made thus allowing more effective treatment for the injured. The company’s policy of prioritizing profits had led to many deaths. See: Ilva Taranto, condanna per l’amianto [Ilva Taranto, condemned over asbestos].

Sep 9 2014

International building conglomerate James Hardie (JH), a company which began life as an Australian asbestos manufacturer, paid a total of $500+ million in dividends in 2013 and 2014; at the same time its asbestos-related liabilities had risen by 10.4% to $1.9 billion. As a result, the JH asbestos compensation body may need to draw on a taxpayer-backed loan arrangement to pay victims’ claims. Commenting on this news, Australian Senator Nick Xenophon said: “The bottom line is if James Hardie can afford $500 million to give to shareholders it can find the money to give to dying victims of their product.” See: James Hardie asbestos compensation scheme millions short after big dividends.

Sep 5, 2014

On September 3, 2014, a three-judge panel of the Philadelphia appeals court ruled that the world’s biggest chemical maker BASF had engaged in “systematic fraud” to defeat thousands of personal injury lawsuits over asbestos contamination of its talc. In its decision, the Court stated that the state of New Jersey did not accept the right of litigants to engage in “fraud calculated to thwart the judicial process.” The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the families of six workers who had died from asbestos-related diseases allegedly caused by exposure to talc mined by a BASF-owned company in Vermont. See: BASF Must Face Asbestos Coverup Fraud Claims, Court Says.

Sep 3, 2014

On September 1, 2014, Minister Celso de Mello of the Federal Supreme Court rejected an injunction by Eternit, Brazil’s leading manufacturer of asbestos-cement products, which barred a $1 billion lawsuit filed by the Public Attorney’s Office of the São Paulo Labor Court on behalf of former employees at the Eternit factory in Osasco, Sao Paulo. As a result, the public prosecutor can now proceed with the compensation claims for 1,000 injured employees and the surviving families of those who have died. See: STF mantém ação de R$ 1 bi contra Eternit por expor trabalhadores a amianto [STF holds share of R$ 1 billion against Eternit for exposing workers to asbestos ].

Sep 2, 2014

After more than a century of asbestos profits, Quebec politicians have finally rejected asbestos, a natural resource once called “white gold.” The political climate in Quebec has undergone a complete reversal from one in which the asbestos industry was regarded as sacrosanct to one in which the cessation of asbestos mining and the remediation of contaminated sites are regarded as a priority. Bernard Coulombe, the President of Canada’s last asbestos mine (which closed in 2012), and an aggressive asbestos proponent now admits that asbestos contamination is “dangerous.” He and other owners of the mine are demanding compensation for lost profits. See: The end of the Jeffrey asbestos mine in Quebec.

Sep 1, 2014

Twice as many Britons die of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma as die in road traffic accidents. The mesothelioma epidemic is claiming the lives not only of people who worked directly with asbestos but of others exposed to contaminated products incorporated into the national infrastructure. Victims like consultant anesthetist Dr. Andrew Lawson, M&S employee Janice Allen, GP Graham Abbott have contracted the cancer having being exposed to asbestos at their workplaces. “Britain is today,” reports journalist Harry de Quetteville “at the peak of a mesothelioma epidemic.” See: Asbestos: the killer that still surrounds us.

Aug 31, 2014

Pollution from a derelict Korean asbestos mine in Gangjeong Village, South Chunycheong Province has increased since a construction waste disposal company began operations on this site. Even though an epidemic of respiratory diseases and cancers has been reported, local and regional authorities have refused to take action. At a public meeting on August 25, Yeyong Choi from the Asian Citizens’ Center for Environmental Health explained the asbestos health hazard. Residents and civic groups are now demanding the immediate closure of the plant, remediation and closure of the mine and full healthcare provisions for the villagers. See: Village being choked off by reckless asbestos mining.

Aug 31, 2014

A commentary published on August 29, 2014 in The Journal of Goiás, the Brazilian State which is home to the country’s main asbestos mine, reports a gloomy outlook for the asbestos industry. Multiple factors likely to impact on sales of Goiás asbestos are: bans by several Brazilian states and national governments, opposition to asbestos by Brazilian agencies, including the Ministry of Labor, and non-governmental organizations, public prosecutions of asbestos companies, civil lawsuits, a case being adjudicated by the Supreme Court over the unconstitutionality of asbestos use, market forces and the increasingly popularity of asbestos-free products. See: Tesouro em declínio [Profitability in Decline].

Aug 29, 2014

Four months after tests confirmed the presence of asbestos at the headquarters of the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) at the South Quay in Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, decontamination work has begun. Reporters at a press conference on August 28, reported that the two affected buildings were sealed off in decontamination zones and that workers were observed in protective suits and masks. Trade union official Marcus Grannum supported the PTSC’s efforts but said the delay in remediation was to be regretted. See: After protests by workers: PTSC spends $m to remove asbestos.

Aug 27 2014

The Philippines imports $76.32 million worth of asbestos every year, even though this substance is a known carcinogen which is banned in the industrialized world. Parliamentarians in the Philippines are calling for a national ban of the import, manufacture, processing, use and distribution of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. In 2008, the 11th National Occupational Safety and Health Congress adopted a resolution supporting a total ban but no progress has been made on implementation. House Bill 4437 (The Asbestos Ban Act of 2014) has now been filed by Representatives Walden Bello and Ibarro Gutierrez III. See: Congressional Press Release.

Aug 26, 2014

After protracted negotiations, the Associated Labor Unions and the Building and Woodworkers International have succeeded today in lowering the country’s threshold limit value for asbestos toxic dust from 0.5 to 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter of air in an 8-hour work period. This change has been implemented in a revision of government guidelines for minimizing hazardous occupational asbestos exposures. Representatives from the Chrysotile Industry Association of the Philippines and the Chrysotile Information Center, Philippines vehemently opposed the revision saying it would adversely impact on the profitability of their businesses.

Sep 11, 2014

More people die in the UK from asbestos-related disease than road traffic accidents. Although asbestos has been banned for over a decade, deadly exposures continue; unsafe and illegal removal practices endanger workers as well as members of the public. This week, the issue has been discussed in the House of Commons by MPs and government officials. Reports by asbestos removal operatives have led to serious concerns being expressed and action being taken by a leading trade union, which has announced plans to work with asbestos removal stakeholders “to oppose any shortcuts regarding health safety and welfare.” [Read full article]

Aug 25, 2014

Government bodies in Germany, including the Social Accident Insurance Institution and the Employer's Liability Insurance Agency, have collaborated not only to deny the claims of asbestos victims but also to deprive them of the right to express their grievances. The methods they have used are well illustrated by the refusal to allow their participation in the XX World Congress for Safety and Health at Work which is being held in Frankfurt on August 23-26, 2014. Despite multiple attempts to engage with the organizers of this high-profile event, no provision has been made for the voice of the asbestos victims to be heard. [Read full article]

Aug 23, 2014

On August 12, 2014, a Brazilian asbestos taskforce arrived to inspect the Eternit asbestos-cement factory in Rio de Janeiro, an industrial facility that exploits a judicial exemption allowing asbestos processing to continue in a state where asbestos is banned. The inspection team spent four days investigating the factory, its documents and processes; subsequently, the prosecutors filed a class action against Eternit which included a petition to force the company to pay $500 million in collective pecuniary and moral damages to cover expenses incurred by the injured as well as for research programs, awareness campaigns, and decontamination work in the factory, on its site and in the surrounding area. [Read full article]

Aug 6, 2014

Three years ago the Thai Cabinet approved a ban asbestos resolution. Unfortunately, since that time, domestic asbestos stakeholders, in collaboration with Russian industry lobbyists, have forestalled progress in implementing legislation required to affect this much-needed public safety measure. This article discusses current developments in Bangkok, explaining reasons for the delay, with particular attention being paid to the efforts of Thailand’s asbestos industry, which in July 2014 appealed to the National Council for Peace and Order for “Fairness.” News from members of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network is reported. [Read full article]

Aug 4, 2014

The 2014 International Conference on Asbestos organized by the Building and Woodworkers International, in collaboration with labor and campaigning groups, made a significant contribution to furthering our understanding of the current asbestos landscape. This report on the Vienna event contains descriptions of the speeches, links to the presentations and photographs taken during the two days. Also included is the text of the Vienna Declaration, which was adopted unanimously by over 100 delegates from 40 countries, calling for an end to the use of all asbestos, protection for at-risk workers and justice for all victims. [Read full article]

Aug 1, 2014

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

Jul 30, 2014

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

Jul 24, 2014

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

Jul 23, 2014

Cyril Smith, the MP who represented Rochdale from 1972 to 1992, stands condemned as “a predatory paedophile and a prolific offender who would target the most vulnerable boys.” Allegations of sexual abuse and political cover-ups seem to be surfacing on an almost daily basis and prompt questions of how such a high-profile figure was able to escape justice for so long. A less well-known unsavory fact about the MP was his close, some might say intimate, association with the UK asbestos giant: Turner and Newall Ltd. Not only did Smith own 1,300 T&N shares, but he addressed company directors by their first names, had dinners with them and willingly connived to progress the corporate agenda. [Read full article]

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]

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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 (2012)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,000,000
   China420,000
   Brazil306,500
   Kazakhstan241,200
   India20,000
 Top Five Users (tonnes):
   China530,834
   India493,086
   Brazil167,602
   Indonesia161,824
   Russia155,476