|►US: Action on Chemical Hazard – Finally?|
|Brazil: Implications of Italian Court Ruling|
|Greece: Gold Mining and the Asbestos Hazard|
|Spain: Ruling by Social Security Directorate|
|US: California Court Reinstates Plaintiff’s Verdict|
|France: Civil Servants Win New Rights|
May 25, 2016
On May 24, 2016, the Toxic Substances Control Act, a contentious bipartisan bill to overhaul federal regulation of asbestos and other dangerous chemicals in the US, was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives. On May 23, the White House said it would support the much-needed legislation in order to allow the federal government to evaluate and act on the use of hazardous chemicals. While critics, including Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, said the bill was too weak, others like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi felt it would “protect families and communities from toxic substances.” See: White House backs bill to overhaul asbestos regulation.
May 24, 2016
A Brazilian blog underlines the significance for asbestos victims in Brazil of a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court expected on May 31, 2016 in Rome. Swiss entrepreneur Stephan Schmidheiny, whose Eternit asbestos group operated in Italy, Brazil and scores of other countries, faces charges related to the asbestos deaths of 258 people between 1989 and 2014; 66 were former Eternit workers, the rest were members of the public. See: Corte Constitucional Italiana Julga em 31/5 mais um processo crime contra o Billardário Suíça do Amianto, Stephen Schmidheiny [Italian Constitutional Court Judgment May 31 on another Criminal Case against Swiss Billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny].
May 24, 2016
Plans by a Canadian gold mining company to commence operations in the town of Ierissos in northern Greece have raised serious objections from local people who calculate that the mine could produce eight million tonnes of asbestos-laden dust every year. Earlier this month (May 2016), the Greek Environment Ministry approved a technical study that allowed development of the mine to resume after work had been suspended in January. According to Reuters: “An official with the Greek energy ministry said in an interview [on May 6] that it had approved an amended technical study for Skouries to ensure that workers are safe from asbestos.” See: Skouries mine an asbestos hazard.
May 24, 2016
The Directorate of the National Institute of Social Security in Gipuzkoa, Spain, has acknowledged that the cancer death of an electrician employed by the steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal was due to asbestos exposure. This ruling paves the way for future asbestos lawsuits. The deceased received no warnings about the asbestos hazard; no protective measures were taken by the company. This case was progressed by the Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, the Workers' Commission. See: La viuda de un trabajador de Arcelor Olaberria que falleció por enfermedad derivada de amianto verá incrementada su pension [Pension of asbestos widow to be increased].
May 24, 2016
On May 23, 2016, the California Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling to reinstate a multimillion-dollar jury verdict for the family of a worker who died from mesothelioma after asbestos exposure experienced whilst employed as a warehouseman and truck driver from 1969 to 1979 for a company that sold cement piping containing crocidolite asbestos. Damages of $5 million were awarded against the Special Electric Co., which supplied the asbestos without a warning label, and the pipe manufacturer Johns-Manville Corp. See: State Supreme Court rules for worker who was exposed to asbestos.
May 24, 2016
Public servants who contract asbestos-related diseases from workplace exposures will be entitled to early retirement, aged 60, when new legislation is adopted according to a statement made on May 23, 2016 by the Minister of Public Service during a plenary session of the Joint Council of Public Service. Through a revision of Article 146 of the Finance Act 2016, the same rights will be given to public sector workers with asbestos-related diseases as are already provided to private sector workers. See: Bientôt de nouveaux droits pour les fonctionnaires victimes de l'amiante [Soon new rights for civil servants with asbestos diseases].
May 23, 2016
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has just released a guidance document entitled: “Asbestos – time to get rid of it” which highlights the existence in Britain of an asbestos epidemic – 5,000 Britons die every year from asbestos-related diseases – and categorically states that “so long as this asbestos is in place, workers will continue to be exposed and thousands more will die as a result of exposure.” Casting aspersions on the advice that asbestos-containing products can be “managed,” safely the TUC guidance document calls for “an agreed plan to safely remove and dispose of all asbestos once and for all.” See: Asbestos – time to get rid of it.
May 23, 2016
The Collegium Ramazzini, an international scientific organization which monitors developments in occupational and environmental medicine, has this month (May 2016) published a critique of 2014 criteria for the pathological diagnosis of asbestos-related diseases agreed by a committee convened by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) in Helsinki. Reliance on recommendations made in the FIOH report will, the authors predict, lead to under-diagnosis of legitimate cases, failure to compensate asbestos claims and lost opportunities to identify at-risk groups. See: Collegium Ramazzini: Comments on the 2014 Helsinki Consensus Report on Asbestos.
May 25, 2016
Three thousand protesters attended a rally at Tokyo’s Hibiya amphitheater on May 20, 2016 demanding the Japanese government and manufacturers of asbestos-containing building materials compensate them for injuries contracted through workplace exposures. The demonstrators called for the establishment of an asbestos victims’ compensation fund financed by the government and negligent corporations. Union leaders, politicians and victims’ advocates addressed the rally. See: アスベスト被害 ３０００人決起元労働者や遺族「早期解決を」 [Asbestos protest: 3000 former workers and bereaved families demand “early resolution”].
May 25, 2016
The presence of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of asbestos-containing material in schools, hospitals, army barracks, homes and industrial sites on Sicily constitutes an ongoing threat to health. There are asbestos hotspots on the island where high incidences of asbestos cancer have been identified in areas with large petrochemical complexes. "Sicily was,” this article explains the “colony of the most dangerous industries that the North did not want.” By 2011, a total of 1,084 cases of asbestos cases had been recorded in Sicily. See: Amianto, in Sicilia un centinaio di morti nel 2015 [Asbestos, in Sicily a hundred deaths in 2015].
May 21, 2016
On May 20, 2016, 3,000 construction workers held a public rally in Tokyo in support of the rights of construction workers injured by asbestos exposures. The event was a physical manifestation of the frustration of those marginalized by workplace diseases which defendants refuse to acknowledge despite legal precedents recognizing the negligence of government agencies and commercial organizations which failed to protect workers from the asbestos hazard. After the rally, protesters demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Taiheiyo Cement Corporation, a manufacturer of construction materials. See: Photo of event.
May 21, 2016
On Thursday, May 19, cross-party support was expressed by the Basque Parliament for the establishment of a National Asbestos Compensation Fund by the Congress of Deputies in Madrid in recognition of the thousands of asbestos victims poisoned by exposure to the 2.6 million tonnes of asbestos used in Spain during the 20th century. Draft legislation proposed by the Basque politicians deplored the fact that thousands of asbestos victims were forced to fight protracted lawsuits to “claim their rights”; a national no-fault scheme would resolve this situation. See: El Parlamento Vasco pide a Madrid un fondo para víctimas del Amianto [Basque Parliament calls on Madrid to set up asbestos victims’ fund].
May 21, 2016
Questions are being raised about the capacity and desire of government agencies to monitor the liberation of asbestos fibers generated by infrastructure work ongoing near Boulder City, Nevada. There are no state laws or protective standards for naturally occurring asbestos; the only Nevada asbestos laws relate to exposures in buildings or during demolition work. As the construction of the highway bypass is federally-funded, OSHA standards must be provided for workers; these safeguards do not apply to members of the public who live or work in areas where asbestos fibers have been liberated by the construction. See: I-Team: Who's monitoring asbestos levels?
May 20, 2016
Research undertaken over a number of years regarding the incidence of lung cancer mortality amongst a cohort of workers from a factory in Chongqing, China which used only white (chrysotile) asbestos for 40 years found that “chrysotile workers had a threefold-increased risk of lung cancer death… the high exposure group had a sixfold-increased risk of lung cancer death.” A paper just published confirms that “chrysotile exposure is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer mortality and development of asbestosis …” See: Exposure-Response Estimate for Lung Cancer and Asbestosis in a Predominantly Chrysotile-Exposed Chinese Factory Cohort.
May 19, 2016
A petition was admitted by the Calcutta high court on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 against the presence of asbestos on the roof of the Court. The complainant seeks the removal of this material as it is “carcinogenic to humans.” After this week’s hearing, Justice Datta acknowledged the serious nature of the problem and scheduled a further hearing for June 7. If the situation has not been remedied by then, the Judge promised to follow up as he is a “member of the building committee of the court.” See: Portions of high court roof made of carcinogenic asbestos.
May 17, 2016
During court hearings on May 16 in a case against eighteen Olivetti defendants, including high-profile businessmen and politicians, who are facing charges of manslaughter and negligence over twelve asbestos deaths amongst workers, 100+ documents were submitted to the Judge by the prosecutor regarding Olivetti’s corporate structure and purchasing policies. At the end of the day, the Judge announced the schedule of hearings for this case which will continue until July 18. See: Morti da amianto alla Olivetti: la difesa chiede di analizzare nuovi documenti [Olivetti asbestos deaths: the defense asked to analyze new documents].
Apr 30, 2016
On April 28, 2016, the Hartlepool Trades Union Council joined with other labor federations, trade unions and campaigning groups around the world to commemorate International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD). Despite a cold wind blowing in off the North Sea, the activities were informative, productive and reinvigorating. With wreath laying ceremonies for students and the public, a health and safety seminar, a dedication service at Christchurch, the premiere of a film for IWMD 2016 and a buffet lunch, participants had a multitude of opportunities to learn and interact with the experts and each other. During speeches, discussions and tributes, we remembered the dead and pledged to fight for the living. [Read full article]
Apr 26, 2016
A press release issued by groups campaigning to end the use of asbestos in Asia details discussions which took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 23, 2016. The Strategy Meeting on Asbestos 2016 was hosted by the following groups: Bangladesh Ban Asbestos Network (B-BAN), Asian Ban Asbestos Network (A-BAN) and the Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC). The purpose of the gathering was to “have focused discussions on building strategies nationally with the sub-region and work on coordinated activities in South Asia.” B-BAN’s Repon Chowdhury called on the government to ban asbestos straightaway and develop a national roadmap to confront the country’s asbestos legacy. [Read full article]
Apr 26, 2016
On April 20, 2016, the inaugural meeting of the Asbestos Sub-Committee of Japan’s Environment Ministry’s Central Environment Council took place in Tokyo. On the agenda was a review of government relief schemes which, since 2006, have paid compensation to asbestos victims not covered by workers’ compensation schemes. Speakers representing asbestos victims, who described the situation facing people with non-occupational asbestos exposure as inequitable and unjust, called for equal treatment for all those who had been affected. After the session, a press conference took place during which calls were made for political action to remedy the injustices which persisted. [Read full article]
Apr 26, 2016
On April 6, 2016 a community campaigning body – the Asbestos Interest Group – held an information sharing session for local people in the former South African mining town of Kuruman. Amongst the expert speakers were specialists in the fields of occupational health and oncology who focused on issues of particular relevance to this at-risk community, including the effects of environmental asbestos exposure on health, the monitoring of and treatment for asbestos cancer and the importance of family and community support for the injured. The sessions concluded with a candle lighting ceremony to remember those whose lives had been lost to asbestos-related diseases. [Read full article]
Apr 19, 2016
It is disappointing but not surprising that an April 13, 2016 response to parliamentary questions regarding the establishment of a National Mesothelioma Centre was suggestive of yet more secret deals and collusion at the heart of government. The contentious text tabled by Chief Secretary to the Treasury MP Greg Hands contradicted a statement made a few weeks earlier by George Freeman, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences, who had said that the disbursement of a £5 million government grant would be open for discussion. As of April 13 it seems that a London-based consortium, with little mesothelioma research experience, has bagged the lot. Why? [Read full article]
Apr 8, 2016
On Tuesday, April 5, 2016 the Colombian Senate had its first debate on Bill 97 which seeks to introduce a comprehensive ban on the production, marketing, export, import and distribution of all forms of asbestos and products containing it. Evidence from civil society stakeholders including asbestos victims, campaigners and industry spokesmen was given prior to interventions by Senators Nadia Blel, Alvaro Uribe Velez, Dr. Jorge Ivan Ospina, Jesus Castilla and Carlos Enrique Soto. No final decisions were taken but the asbestos ban bill remains under consideration; a Senate subcommittee has been tasked to further explore this legislation. Supporters are optimistic that asbestos prohibitions will be adopted. [Read full article]
Mar 23, 2016
An extraordinary meeting of MPs and invited guests took place on March 22, 2016 in the House of Commons under the auspices of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group. The original objective of the event was to showcase cutting edge work by UK mesothelioma researchers and call for a coordinated and long-term strategy to find treatments and a cure for a cancer killing thousands every year. The agenda which had been planned earlier in the year was changed this week to reflect the March 16 announcement that the government would provide £5 million to establish a National Mesothelioma Centre of Excellence. While this news was greeted enthusiastically, curiosity over details of the allocation was widespread. [Read full article]
Mar 22, 2016
Global revelations over recent weeks have highlighted the deadly measures employed by vested interests to control national asbestos debates and forestall government regulations in order to maximize profits, despite knowledge about the health hazards of exposure to asbestos, “probably the most hazardous industrial material ever unleashed on an unsuspecting world.” Information sourced from lobbying groups and defendant corporations document the key role played by consultant “scientists” in propaganda offensives and legal defence strategies such as the one developed by the Ford Motor Company to defeat legal claims by former auto mechanics. [Read full article]
Feb 15, 2016
On May 31, 2016 the Italian constitutional court will hand down a verdict in a criminal case of immense importance. At issue is whether Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny can be held to account for the asbestos deaths of Italian citizens. Central to the defense is the concept of double jeopardy whereby a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Schmidheiny has been tried three times for Italian asbestos crimes and convicted twice. The guilty verdicts were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2014 due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Schmidheiny is now facing manslaughter charges for hundreds of asbestos deaths; there is no statute of limitation for this crime. [Read full article]
Feb 10, 2016
Global asbestos interests, including groups like the International Chrysotile Association, commission and advance research which purports that chrysotile (white) asbestos can be used safely. A new resource has been developed for use by grassroots campaigners and others which clearly delineates the known scientific facts about the human health hazard posed by exposure to chrysotile. Based on the twenty facts listed, the authors declare their support for the “immediate prohibition of the use of any form of asbestos-containing products including those containing chrysotile, and call for their complete elimination.” [Read full article]
Feb 3, 2016
Reports from the Albanian capital of Tirana have raised concerns about work ongoing in the city center on the demolition of asbestos-cement roofing material during the refurbishment of the central market. According to Professor Romeo Hanxhari the work is “being carried out in an unsafe and unacceptable manner resulting in airborne fibres being inhaled and environmental pollution being dispersed in adjacent areas.” Today, European groups representing asbestos victims, trade unionists and health and safety campaigners have issued a public health warning and communicated their concerns to municipal and national officials. [Read full article]
Feb 1, 2016
From Japan to Brazil via Italy and France, over recent days asbestos victims have secured amazing judicial wins. Workers from Japan’s construction sector, French and Italian factories, Italian warehouses and Brazilian asbestos-cement factories have set precedents and secured sizable compensation payouts for contracting asbestos-related conditions – including psychological complaints – and diseases. Governments, institutions and corporations which allowed toxic exposures to occur have been condemned and punished for their failures. National administrations, civil servants and companies which allow hazardous exposures to continue should be under no illusion: the day of reckoning is nigh! [Read full article]
Jan 25, 2016
In 1898, Lucy Deane, a Lady Inspector of Factories in Great Britain, informed the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops of the “abundant evidence… of the evil effects of dust” writing: “The evil effects of asbestos dust have also attracted my attention, a microscopic examination of this mineral dust which was made by H.M. Medical Inspector clearly revealed the sharp, glass-like, jagged nature of the particles, and where they are allowed to rise and to remain suspended in the air of a room, in any quantity, the effects have been found to be injurious, as might have been expected.” This report is one of the earliest notifications of the occupational asbestos hazard. [Read full article]
Jan 18, 2016
Data collected by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) on the global asbestos trade is widely used. From time to time, however, there have been irregularities which have needed investigating. For several years, the USGS has reported that Argentina, a country which adopted a resolution banning asbestos in 2001, produced small amounts of asbestos every year of the 21st century, ranging from a high of 300 tonnes in 2006 and 2007 to a low of 100 tonnes in 2012-2014. Inquiries have been made with experts at the USGS and in Argentina into the mystery of how a country with an asbestos ban can also be an asbestos producer. [Read full article]
Jan 13, 2016
As of April 11, 2016 changes to the compensation policy for ex-service personnel suffering from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma will allow former members of the armed services diagnosed with this cancer on or after December 16, 2015 to receive a lump sum of £140,000 instead of smaller weekly or monthly payments dispensed under the War Pensions Scheme. The improvements, which will bring government awards for veterans more in line with those for civilians, resulted from campaigning by The Royal British Legion and victims’ groups. The U-turn in government policy was announced in Parliament last month by the Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans, Mark Lancaster MP. [Read full article]
Dec 15, 2015
Asbestos victims’ groups and campaigning bodies from Latin America, Asia and Europe have today published multilingual resources to raise awareness of the public health hazard in the world’s biggest asbestos producing countries. The translations into Russian, Chinese, and Portuguese of a new text confirming the disease risk to people who did not work in the asbestos industry will be an invaluable resource to campaigners in countries where powerful vested interests deny: the hazard of non-occupational asbestos exposures, the impact of cumulative exposures from multiple sources and the dangers of low level exposures. [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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