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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Nov 21, 2017

On November 27, 2017 Nirmala Gurung will address a United Nations forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland to highlight the ongoing hazard posed to communities living near asbestos factories. Mrs. Gurung, a former headmistress of a secondary school in Kymore, Madhya Pradesh, India is suffering from asbestosis due to environmental asbestos exposures caused by the operations of the British asbestos multinational Turner and Newall PLC and the Belgian ETEX company, both of which dumped asbestos waste on 600,000 square meters of land on which 3,000 people live. See: Environmental Exposure to Asbestos Kills Indian People. Kymore – A Slow-Motion Bhopal.

Nov 21, 2017

In what is seen as an indication that asbestos lobbyists have succeeded in forcing Sri Lanka to reconsider plans to ban asbestos by 2024, last week Science, Technology and Research Minister Susil Premajayantha announced that a team of Sri Lankan experts from various ministries and institutions is being sent to Russia, the world’s biggest asbestos producing nation (and the biggest asbestos supplier to Sri Lanka), to learn more about chrysotile asbestos and its effects on human health. According to the Russians, asbestos can be used safely; independent experts say otherwise. See: Govt. will send experts to Russia to study chrysotile fiber: minister.

Nov 21, 2017

The Autumn 2017 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The lead article entitled “Asbestos Life and Death in Brexit Britain” considers the country’s mounting death toll caused by asbestos-related diseases and statements by some government officials suggesting that occupational asbestos safeguards will be watered down post-Brexit. The feature headlined: “Another Asbestos Debacle?” compares measures instigated in Europe to protect workers from asbestos-contaminated shot-blasting material with the failure to take action in Britain. See: Issue 105, The British Asbestos Newsletter.

Nov 20, 2017

On Saturday, November 18, 2017, a capacity crowd gathered in the town of Bom Jesus da Serra in the Brazilian state of Bahia to consider the way ahead for asbestos victims in light of a court verdict which condemned the former asbestos mining company that owned the Sao Felix do Amianto mine and awarded a total of 500 million Reias (US$153.4m) to workers and families whose lives had been decimated by asbestos exposures. See: Audiência Pública hoje em Bom Jesus da Serra/Bahia com familiares e ex-empregados, vitimados pelo amianto [Public hearing today in Bom Jesus da Serra / Bahia with relatives and former employees, victims of asbestos].

Nov 20, 2017

A Chinese commentary timed to coincide with November’s global action on lung cancer discussed several myths about the disease and its treatment, and listed five causative factors including exposure to asbestos. “Occupational exposure to asbestos, such as [in] construction, asbestos mining, insulation processing, and vehicle brake repair can cause damage to lung tissue if inhaled. Numerous studies have shown that asbestos exposure significantly increases the risk of lung cancer.” See: 11月"全球肺癌关注月" 警惕肺癌的五大高危因素 [November “Global Lung Cancer Concern Month” alert five risk factors for lung cancer].

Nov 20, 2017

Another unwelcome discovery of asbestos in Chinese exports to Australia was reported last week by Worksafe, an Australian Government agency responsible for occupational safety and health, which warned that rail carriage friction wear plates manufactured in China purchased between 2007 and 2014 had tested positive for chrysotile asbestos, a banned substance. Responding to yet another asbestos scare Steve McCartney, WA state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, said mining companies choosing to “save a buck” by importing rail carriages and parts from overseas were putting workers at risk. See: Asbestos found in WA's rail carriages.

Nov 20, 2017

Although the Canadian Government has pledged to ban asbestos by the end of 2018, the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement which came into effect on August 1, 2017 includes on a list of products which will receive preferential treatment: asbestos brake linings, asbestos friction materials, asbestos-cement tiles and asbestos joints. Commenting on this incongruity, a spokesperson for Canada’s Ministry of Environment & Climate Change said “In all free trade agreements, the Canadian government retains the ability to regulate in the public interest, including the area of public health and the environment.” See: Ukraine, Canada, Free Trade and asbestos.

Nov 20, 2017

Illegal dumping of asbestos debris in Wales has hit a 10 year high with 270 cases of asbestos fly-tipping reported in 2016-17, a 57% increase from the previous year with Merthyr Tydfil the worst affected area; the majority of the waste was discarded along highways or on footpaths and usually consisted of amounts that would fill a car boot or a small van. Commenting on the news, Rebecca Favager from Natural Resources Wales said: “Understanding and complying with the duty of care is key to stopping waste getting into the hands of illegal waste operators and can result in public money being saved…” See: Fly-tipping: Asbestos rubbish dumping hits 10-year high.

Nov 20, 2017

A one hour film entitled: El amianto asesino [Killer asbestos] which was uploaded to YouTube last week details the deadly human and environmental repercussions of asbestos manufacturing operations over many decades at the Uralita factory in Cerdanyola del Vallès a city in Catalonia, Spain. Using archival photos and personal testimonies, the damaging results of occupational, domestic and environmental exposures to Uralita asbestos are investigated. The factory, which at its inception was seen as a harbinger of modernity, is now viewed as a mass murderer. See: El amianto asesino [Killer asbestos].

Nov 20, 2017

An article in the Autumn 2017 newsletter of the Institute for Work & Health, Toronto updates previous estimates regarding the economic burden of diseases caused by asbestos in Canada in a single year (using the example of 2011) from CA$1.9 billion to CA$2.35 billion – for newly-diagnosed cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer due to occupational and para-occupational (second-hand) exposures in the examined year. The new figures are higher because they include the value of activities in the home. The average costs for mesothelioma and lung cancer cases were estimated as CA$1,130,398 and CA$981,576, respectively. See: Study update: New cases of mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer from one year cost $2.35B.

Nov 17, 2017

A report issued in Helsinki on November 16, 2017 by the European Chemicals Agency documented a high incidence of trade of products contravening EU regulations, including those banning asbestos. Of the 5,625 chemical products checked by inspectors, 13.6% of those which were non-compliant contained asbestos; most of the illegal asbestos was in second-hand goods produced before restrictions came into force. According to EU Directive 1999/77/EC, as of January 1, 2005 the import, production, sale, use and export of all types of asbestos was prohibited. See: Forum for enforcement reviews results of its restriction project and agrees on new actions.

Nov 17, 2017

Expert lung cancer nurse Maria Guerin has been appointed as a mesothelioma clinical nurse specialist to support patients in the asbestos hotspot of Merseyside and Cheshire. “Throughout my career,” she said “I’ve witnessed the devastating impact a mesothelioma diagnosis has on people. There is significant ongoing burden of the disease in this area, partially due to employment in the Docklands and the potential access to hazardous asbestos.” Ms. Guerin will be based at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool; her position is being funded by the national charity Mesothelioma UK. See: Specialist nurse appointed to cover high incidence of mesothelioma in North West.

Nov 17, 2017

A paper uploaded on November 3, 2017 documenting research in the Molise Region highlighted the importance of asbestos awareness amongst Italy’s general practitioners and their role in the surveillance and management of occupational and non-occupational asbestos diseases. The authors concluded that there was a “need to impart… appropriate and standardized information to GPs on environmental and workplace asbestos risks, in order to determine the most suitable support for prevention, early diagnosis and therapy.” See: Asbestos exposures, mesothelioma incidence and mortality, and awareness by general practitioners in the Molise Region, Central Italy.

Nov16, 2017

Today (November 16) from 8 a.m. till noon, a seminar will take place at the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia entitled: Asbesto: ¿Regulación o prohibición? [Asbestos: Regulation or prohibition?]. The event is being hosted by the university’s Environment and Public Health Department and features the participation of Senator Nadia Blel, who on October 11, 2017 submitted the “Ana Cecilia Nino” Ban Asbestos Bill to the Colombian Senate. The legislation, which was approved by the 7th Commission of the Senate, called for an end to asbestos mining, processing, consumption, sale and export. See: Asbesto: ¿Regulación o prohibición? [Asbestos: Regulation or prohibition?].

Nov 16, 2017

On November 13, 2017, a demonstration was held by parents of children at the Woodlands Primary School in Pietermaritzburg, the capital of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province, over the Department of Education’s broken promise to build a new school by 2016/2017 to replace the current one that has asbestos roofing. Voicing the concerns of many parents, one spokesperson said: “This school is actually a hazard to our children because it is made from asbestos, and we want the department to build a new school or our children will get sick.” Ward councillor Shawn Adkins, who was at the protest, said: “The untold harmful effects of asbestos on pupils, teachers and the community is yet to be uncovered.” See: Parents protest, demand new school.

Nov 16, 2017

Asbestos contamination of ships owned by CMA CGM, a French container transportation and shipping company, was exposed in an October 2017 feature in Le Marin, a weekly publication about the maritime economy. CMA CGM owns 180 vessels; of the 22 registered in the French International Register, 9 contain asbestos in parts such as “seals or brake linings of winches.” The company has announced an internal investigation into this matter and aims to have all boats inspected by asbestos specialists by the end of the year prior to removing all toxic material. See: Monde maritime: “le scandale de l'amiante continue” assure la CGT [Maritime world: “asbestos scandal continues” asserts the CGT].

Nov 21, 2017

Untold numbers of workers may have been exposed to asbestos-contaminated blast cleaning abrasives supplied by the Netherlands-based Eurogrit Company, a subsidiary of the Belgian company Sibelco, which were sold to companies in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and possibly elsewhere. The Eurogrit product (Eurogrit coal-slag abrasive (aluminium silicate) at the center of this unfolding health and commercial catastrophe is used primarily for removing rust and dirt from steel surfaces. Compared to well-honed protocols put into action by Dutch stakeholders, the UK’s response to this illegal use of a toxic product has been singularly unimpressive. [Read full article]

Nov 9, 2017

Actions taken by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health in June 2017 to protect citizens from exposures to asbestos were officially quashed last month (October 2017) by the Ministry of Justice which excluded the implementing regulations from the State Register. The formalization of this move to undercut the capacity of Ukraine to act in the best interests of its citizens is further proof of the over-reaching influence of asbestos vested interests. Simultaneously, a 2017 free trade deal between Canada and Ukraine – The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement – could provide enhanced opportunities for the commercial exploitation of regional asbestos production. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2017

On the evening of October 27, 2017, the Worker’s Initiative – Kolkata organized a mass meeting in Kolkata, India where 19 workers with asbestosis were presented compensation payments received from the T&N Asbestos Trustee Company (UK) totaling INR 55,08,924.00 (US$ 85,000) by representatives of trade unions and labor organizations. Despite attempts by the asbestos manufacturing company Everest Industries to deter workers from attending the meeting, there were many asbestos workers in the audience as well as workers from other companies. Information leaflets on the asbestos hazard in Hindi and Bengali were distributed during the meeting. [Read full article]

Oct 13, 2017

A press release issued by UK asbestos campaigners declared support for French comrades demonstrating in the streets of Paris today (October 13, 2017) demanding justice for those injured by asbestos and punishment for corporate entities, entrepreneurs, government officials, scientists, public relations professionals and others who promoted sales of deadly asbestos products (voir la version française du communiqué de presse). Highlighting the importance of the French protest, Graham Dring of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum (UK) said: “The ties which bind French and UK asbestos victims are enduring and solid; their battles are our battles. Today, we send them a message of fellowship and solidarity and our wishes for a great day!” [Read full article]

Oct 12, 2017

In mid-September, 2017, an article entitled: Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 84 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2016 was featured in The Lancet. Using data sourced from the GBD Study regarding the 2016 incidences of asbestos-related mortality in 195 countries, IBAS has compiled three tables listing asbestos-related disease mortality and mortality rates, relating (mostly) to occupational asbestos exposures. [Read full article]

Sep 28, 2017

A letter by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India to Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, calls for action according to international guidelines and independent research to protect citizens from the deadly hazard posed by the massive use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in India. The text of the September 12 document cites statements by the Environment Ministry that the “use of asbestos may be phased out” and the Ministry of Labour: “The Government of India is considering the ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos.” [Read full article]

Sep 22, 2017

This paper was submitted by the Government of the Cook Islands to the 28th meeting of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) which took place in Samoa on September 19-21, 2017. This and other documentation submitted under agenda item 13.1 supported the Cook Is. delegation’s call for a Pacific wide ban on asbestos and urged the SPREP to take “action on existing asbestos materials and wastes and address the issue of new asbestos in the Pacific.” The members of the SPREP include: American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. [Read full article]

Sep 17, 2017

The asbestos house of cards built on “denial, distortion and distraction” is collapsing. With more and more evidence documenting the toxic effects of human exposures and action being taken the world over to protect populations, preliminary data for recent years have shown a dramatic fall in consumption and reports from the asbestos frontline have documented a waning of industry influence and power even in home markets. This article draws on recent developments, published material and new data which detail a collapse in political, social and commercial support for the asbestos industry and the growth in support for national and regional action on the asbestos hazard in Asia and Latin America. [Read full article]

Sep 1, 2017

This letter is in response to recent comments made by President Rustam Minnikhanov of Tartarstan, Russia about the toxic nature of chrysotile (white) asbestos during a confrontation with Mr Andrey Holm, the head of Orenburg Minerals JSC – a major Russian producer and exporter of chrysotile asbestos fiber. During a meeting to discuss the state of the roads in the Kazan area, the President queried whether asbestos, a substance extolled by Holm, was a poison. According to a Russian environmental campaigner: “This is the first time an administrator of this high level questioned the safety of asbestos.” [For a Russian version of this letter click here] [Read full article]

Aug 26, 2017

Legislation regarding the use of asbestos in Brazil – the world’s third largest producer of white asbestos – was the subject of a split decision on August 24, 2017 by the Supreme Court which upheld the right of São Paulo State to ban asbestos but failed to declare the federal law allowing asbestos use unconstitutional by one vote, despite majority support for a national ban from the nine Justices eligible to vote. This is a great victory for the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, for its legal advisors and for the associations which invested their expertise, time and resources to challenge a dangerous law and a status quo that prioritized corporate profits over public health. There is no place in the 21st century for asbestos. [Read full article]

Jul 30, 2017

A press release issued in the aftermath of an international ban asbestos mission to Indonesia held between July 25 and 28, 2017, highlighted the “Urgent need for banning asbestos in Indonesia to avoid large increases in lung cancer rates and other asbestos related diseases in coming decades.” In meetings and workshops with trade unionists, asbestos sufferers, medical professionals, academics, and government officials, Canadian Prof. Yv Bonnier Viger detailed the tragic asbestos legacy in consuming countries and issued dire warnings of the price to be paid for Indonesia’s asbestos use. “Only 7 countries use more than 50,000 tonnes [of asbestos] per year – including Indonesia.” [Read full article]

Jul 25, 2017

In a press release dated July 21, 2017, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour declared support for prohibitions on the use of asbestos by 2020. This position was adopted in the wake of a Hanoi meeting which provided the opportunity for Australian, Canadian, Japanese and Vietnamese experts to discuss the multi-faceted hazards posed by the continuing use of asbestos in Vietnam with national stakeholders, including representatives of the asbestos-cement roofing industry. Unfortunately, the participation of industry delegates was obstructive as they claimed there was “no proof chrysotile asbestos causes cancer…,” a claim which has been rejected by global experts and independent scientists. [Read full article]

Jul 20, 2017

The number of cross-border ban asbestos initiatives is escalating on an almost weekly basis with victims, family members as well as academic and technical experts travelling far afield to collaborate with like-minded colleagues. This month alone, we have seen groups of Japanese delegates visit the UK on an asbestos solidarity mission, while UK, Australian, Indian and Indonesian campaigners have taken part in activities to mark the 30th anniversary of the Ban Asbestos Network of Japan. Throughout the Mekong region, a ban asbestos roadshow has visited Cambodia, Laos and other countries to generate support for asbestos bans through the provision of up-to-date data and independent research. [Read full article]

Jul 17, 2017

A press release dated July 14, 2017 details efforts made by representatives of 13 Cambodian Ministries and trade unions to build capacity regarding the asbestos hazard, during a 5-day training initiative which took place in Siem Reap from July 10 to July14, 2017. Amongst the featured speakers were Canadian expert Professor Yv Bonnier-Viger, Dr. Rokho Kim (WHO), Mr. Jungho Choi (ILO), and Peter Tighe, Nick Miller and Phillip Hazelton (Australia). The initiative was organised by Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA) in collaboration with multiple partners including the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. As a result of these meetings, work will begin on a Cambodian Asbestos Profile as the first step towards a national ban. [Read full article]

Jul 9, 2017

On June 16, 2017, South Africa’s Youth Day, scores of schoolchildren, teaching staff and school governors were brought together by the non-governmental organization Asbestos Interest Group to take part in an asbestos outreach activity in Kuruman, a former asbestos mining area in the Northern Cape Province. Participants from nine local schools received information about the area’s environmental asbestos hazard, took part in a candle lighting ceremony and created artwork depicting the region’s asbestos legacy. Trophies were presented to primary and intermediate level pupils whose entries won prizes in the art competition. [Read full article]

Jul 7, 2017

At the conclusion of an international asbestos seminar held in Manchester on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 asbestos victims’ groups from Europe, Asia and Australia issued a solidarity statement in the run-up to Action Mesothelioma Day (July 7) condemning the behaviour of asbestos companies in their home countries and the continuing activities of those seeking to profit from “this industry of mass destruction.” “The existence of the global asbestos trade,” is they wrote “an anathema and an abomination.” Paying tribute to the asbestos dead, they expressed their determination to continue the campaign to shut down the global asbestos trade and progress justice for all those who have been injured. [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