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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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Oct 20, 2017

A furore has engulfed hundreds of firms and employers in the Netherlands and Belgium where the use of an asbestos-contaminated industrial cleaning agent for the removal of rust and dirt from steel surfaces was discovered at a site in Rotterdam earlier this month. The contaminated substance was sold by Eurogrit, a company based in the western Netherlands; Eurogrit is being investigated by government agencies and criticized by trade unions which have condemned the failure to prevent the import of toxic goods into the country. The company which says it has never checked for asbestos has recalled all delivered products. See: FNV krijgt inzage in lijst Eurogrit [FNV gets access to Eurogrit list].

Oct 20, 2017

Data released on October 19, 2017 by the UNISON trade union documented an appalling epidemic of occupational mortality caused by exposures to asbestos in schools. Between 1980 and 2015, 335 primary and secondary school teachers, eight school secretaries, eight nursery nurses, 18 school midday assistants and 24 teaching assistants died of the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Commenting on these statistics, UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “The cuts in schools budgets and the fragmentation of the school system have undermined how health and safety risks such as asbestos are managed.” See: Figures reveal toll of asbestos in schools.

Oct 20, 2017

The 30-page document entitled “Mesothelioma in Australia 2016: 6th Annual Report,” reported that as of May 31, 2017 the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) had received 700 notifications of mesothelioma diagnoses made between January 1 and December 21, 2016; the vast majority of new cases were males aged 65 years or over. Data gathered from interviews with hundreds of those affected was informative: 60% reported occupational asbestos exposure, 82% cited non-occupational exposure, 7% had no information on occupational or non-occupational asbestos exposure. See: Mesothelioma in Australia2016: 6th Annual Report.

Oct 19, 2017

The first hearing was held on October 17, 2017 in the 2nd Labor Court of Simões Filho, Bahia, Brazil of charges brought by the Public Labor Ministry of Bahia against Eternit S.A. which is alleged to have illegally exposed workers in its Simões Filho headquarters to high levels of toxic asbestos. If convicted the company could face penalties of R$225 million (US$71m). Eternit has 15 days to submit an agreement to phase out asbestos use in its factory. See: Eternit na BA pode ser condenada a indenizar sociedade em R$ 225 mi por uso de amianto [Eternit in BA may be ordered to indemnify society for R $225 million for use of asbestos].

Oct 19, 2017

A new academic paper details the dynamics and social, economic, and scientific forces which achieved Taiwan’s ban asbestos legislation; as of January, 2018 a total ban will be in place. Amongst the driving forces discussed is the work of “visionary scholars and healthcare professionals,” growing environmental awareness, transnational networking by health activists and the decline of the asbestos industrial sector. To effectively protect Taiwan citizens from the asbestos hazard, the ban must be accompanied, the authors write, by a “thorough long-term healthcare plan for the neglected victims of asbestos-related diseases…” See: Transnational Dynamics Amid Poor Regulations: Taiwan’s Asbestos Ban Actions and Experiences.

Oct 19, 2017

The development of Sri Lanka’s red clay sector is surging with domestic and foreign demand exceeding supply. According to Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathludeen: “Our clay is high quality and is in demand for roof tile making due to the asbestos import ban starting next year (2018)… We sent 30 Sri Lankan red clay industrialists for technological training to Belgium and China.” Some of Sri Lankan asbestos-free red tile production is now being exported to the UK; the Sri Lankan government is supporting initiatives to help cut production costs and improve the quality of output. See: New support for Sri Lanka porcelain, red clay and glass.

Oct 18, 2017

The publication of a commentary regarding the mobilization of ban asbestos support in Colombia highlighted a successful vote by the Congress, after six previous attempts, to prohibit the production, sale and use of asbestos. The “Ana Cecilia Niño” bill was sponsored by Senator Nadia Blel and supported by the executive branch, specifically the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministries of Health and Social Protection, Labor, Environment and Territorial Development. The bill will now be debated in a plenary session of the House of Representatives and committee and plenary sessions of the Senate. See: ¿Será que ahora sí? (Could it be now?)

Oct 18, 2017

A publication entitled “Naturally Occurring Asbestos – Asbestos Management Plan Guide” has been produced by the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) to help people living and working in rural areas of New South Wales (NSW), Australia prevent exposures to naturally occurring asbestos found in the State’s rocks, sediments and soils. According to Peter Dunphy, Executive Director of SafeWork NSW and Chair of HACA: “Under work health and safety laws, property owners, managers, and workers must take appropriate precautions to ensure naturally occurring asbestos is identified and managed safely.” See: New asbestos guide launched.

Oct 18

A book has just been published in Italian by Lino Lava and Giuseppe Pietrobelli, entitled “Navi d’amianto” (Asbestos navy), detailing the fight against the asbestos enemy present in so many naval machine rooms, vessels and premises. Investigations by the Padua magistrate are soon to commence into 600 asbestos deaths amongst service personnel. Despite the fact that asbestos use has been banned in Italy since 1992, asbestos-contaminated naval ships are still operational and Italian sailors and officers continue to succumb to asbestos-related cancers and illnesses due to on-board exposures. See: Navi d’amianto [Asbestos navy].

Oct 18, 2017

Livingston, Montana is a town founded in the 19th century by the Northern Pacific Railway midway between its hubs in Minneapolis and Seattle. Despite the railway’s importance to the local economy, asbestosis sufferer Bill Phillips sums up his former employer’s attitude towards the area as: “Rip, rape and run.” Asbestos debris from the railway was just one of a number of toxic materials cavalierly discarded; an enormous quantity – possibly more than a million gallons – of diesel waste polluted soil and groundwater, chemical degreasers, lead, chlorinated solvents, and a cocktail of other pollutants went down drains directly into groundwater. See: The Railroad Put This Montana Town On The Map. But It Left Behind A Toxic Legacy.

Oct 17, 2017

After several setbacks, a judge has given the approval for the Public Prosecutor of Milan to proceed with investigations regarding the 2015 mesothelioma death of Mrs. Paola Corda, a tenant in the Via Rimini Milan apartment complex which was riddled with asbestos. One avenue of enquiry will be asbestos removal work in 2001 which may have liberated fibers into the atmosphere; during the work, tenants were not evacuated. Defendants could face charges of unintentional homicide for failing to protect the residents from asbestos exposures. See: Ona, case popolari di Milano: inquilina muore per mesothelioma [Popular homes in Milan: tenant dies from mesothelioma].

Oct 17, 2017

At an October 16, 2017 press conference of the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Yokohama, Japan, Australian research was unveiled which questioned the effectiveness of early and regular palliative care on quality of life for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. According to Professor Fraser Brims of Perth’s Curtin University: “While the results were surprising, as intuitively many of us felt that the intervention was likely to help, they highlight why we need high quality studies like this.” See: Early Palliative Care Provides No Additional Quality of Life Benefits for Recently Diagnosed Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (MPM) Patients.

Oct 17, 2017

According to the Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia, a statutory agency tasked with protecting occupational injury and disease, asbestos is currently the biggest occupational killer in the province. Between 2007 and 2016, 605 workers died in BC from asbestos-related exposure. Despite the widespread prevalence of asbestos-containing products in BC homes – in vinyl tiles, linoleum sheet flooring, roofing felts and shingles etc. – just 36% of homeowners who renovated pre-1990 homes in the last five years tested for asbestos before commencing renovations. See: BC home owners warned about asbestos danger: WorkSafe BC.

Oct 16, 2017

The treachery of a former ally abandoning the chrysotile (asbestos) camp to embrace an asbestos-free future has incensed the International Chrysotile Association (ICA), a lobbying group representing asbestos vested interests, which has launched a last-ditch attempt to force the Canadian government to reconsider its “unjustified hurry” to ban asbestos. A poorly translated, 30-page ICA text entitled: ASBESTOS Amphiboles MUST BE BANNED, Chrysotile MUST BE CONTROLLED is now being circulated to support the industry’s position. See: Asbestos lobby attacks Canada’s decision to ban asbestos.

Oct 16, 2017

WorkSafe New Zealand, the country’s occupational health and safety regulator, has suspended serpentine mining operations at three quarries over fears that serpentine rock containing asbestos is being used at scores of farms in Southland and central North Island as an ingredient in farm fertiliser to get magnesium into the soil. WorkSafe’s Jo Pugh said that regular testing had revealed the presence of low levels of asbestos in the rock being crushed. To ensure workers’ safety, prohibition notices on the quarries had been issued. Before mining can be re-started stringent requirements will have to be met. See: Quarries closed over fertiliser asbestos scare. Serpentine mining halted by WorkSafe over asbestos fears.

Oct 16, 2017

The mesothelioma death in December 2010 of a bus driver employed by the Nishitetsu company has been certified as occupationally caused due to workplace exposures to asbestos present in the charcoal gas generating furnaces used in buses during and after World War II. As of May 1948, there were 5,000 "charcoal buses"; they were phased out in the early 1950s. The deceased, who started work at Nishitetsu in 1947 in Omuta City, Japan inspected his vehicle every morning before starting work. Prior to this case, the asbestos hazard to bus drivers had not been recognized by the authorities. See: 石綿 西鉄バス元車掌も労災認定 木炭バスで吸引 [Asbestos: Nishitetsu bus conductor died from occupational exposure].

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]

Jun 26, 2017

At a press conference held today in Kiev, Ukraine, the Ministry of Health announced that the use of all types of asbestos, including chrysotile (white) asbestos is being banned in Ukraine. The new regulations were achieved in the face of fierce opposition from domestic and foreign asbestos lobbyists. This is no surprise given that amongst Ukraine’s neighbors are two countries which account for around 65% of global asbestos output. Between 2009 and 2015, Ukraine imported an average of ~42,200 tonnes of asbestos a year. This ban will adversely impact on the financial prospects of Russian and Kazakhstan asbestos mining companies, however, perhaps of even greater import is the strategic significance of Ukraine’s action. [Read full article]

June 20, 2017

On June 8, 2017, an international asbestos conference was held in Bologna, Italy, an area with a high incidence of asbestos mortality due to hazardous exposures in the railway industry, at asbestos-cement production facilities, at a local plant which manufactured waterproofing materials and at power stations. Representatives of asbestos victims’ groups from Italy and Brazil updated delegates on progress achieved and challenges remaining in the struggle for asbestos justice. Trade unionists, scientists, an author, a teacher, a Mayor and campaigners – including Dr Agata Mazzeo whose PhD dissertation focused on the fight for asbestos victims’ rights in Brazil and Italy – also made presentations. [Read full article]

Jun 19, 2017

In the run-up to the UK’s annual Action Mesothelioma Day, this press release by UK and Japanese groups confirms the attendance at events in five cities of members of a Japanese delegation of asbestos victims, relatives and campaigners. Speaking on behalf of the visitors, Sugio Furuya said that: “The members of our delegation are eager to show solidarity with UK victims and to share experiences in order to progress the campaigns for asbestos justice at home and abroad.” See: Japanese version of this press release or for the English version select the “Read full article" link. [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