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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Mar 19, 2019

On March 15, 2019, it was reported that a craze for unusual photos has driven users of various social media platforms to visit the toxic Western Australian town of Wittenoom, the location of the defunct crocidolite (blue) asbestos mine which has been responsible for thousands of deaths amongst former townspeople as well as mine and mill workers. Photos of visitors posing in the town and nearby gorges show them walking on asbestos waste piles and breaking into mine shafts. Commenting on these activities, local politician Rob Paull “strongly” encouraged people not to go to Wittenoom. See: Fears Insta fame driving tourists to WA’s deadly cancer town.

Mar 19, 2019

After the 2017 asbestos ban adopted by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine was overturned by the Ministry of Justice, action on the human health hazard posed by asbestos has been temporarily forestalled by legal proceedings. In February 2019, the use of asbestos-cement containing pipes for water delivery and sewage was prohibited as per restrictions to state building codes introduced by the Ministry of Regional Development. See: В Украине запретили использование асбестоцементных труб во внешних сетях и канализации [Ukraine has banned the use of asbestos-cement pipes in external networks and sewage].

Mar 19, 2019

In testimony by medical experts and health campaigners given on March 12, 2019 to the US House Oversight and Reform Committee, politicians were warned of the human health hazard posed by asbestos fibers in talc-based cosmetics and personal care products. In light of recent findings of asbestos in cosmetics and make-up sold by the US chain of Claire’s by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urgent calls were made for increased FDA oversight of talc-based goods “to ensure that products are safe and free from dangerous substances like asbestos before putting them on the market.” See: More Oversight needed for Cosmetics with Talc .

Mar 18, 2019

In a press release by the International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile” – a Russian-led mouthpiece for the asbestos industry – the decision by the Eurasian Economic Commission to develop a unified position on the international trade of chrysotile asbestos which could be used to block UN efforts to regulate asbestos exports was warmly welcomed. In 2017, a spokesman for the International Alliance for Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile” supported the objections of representatives from the Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Kazakhstan to the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos on a UN list of hazardous products. See: Eurasian Economic Commission Supports Chrysotile Asbestos.

Mar 18, 2019

On March 14, the Plenary Assembly of Madrid confirmed that the Metro of Madrid had taken decades to address the issue of asbestos contamination. Due to the company’s inaction, hazardous exposures to workers led to two deaths and two ongoing asbestos-related illnesses. The report concluded: “It has taken 27 years to respond to a problem, 27 years in which more than a hundred workers and users have been in contact with asbestos materials at different levels of exposure.” See: El Pleno de este jueves aprueba el dictamen de comisión de amianto que concluye que Metro tardó 27 años en dar solución [Thursday's plenary session approves opinion of asbestos commission that concludes Metro took 27 years to provide a solution].

Mar 18, 2019

Provisional data released in February 2019 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) showed an almost 6% fall in global asbestos production from 1,170,000 tonnes in 2017 to 1,100,000t in 2018 with decreases in China, Russia and Brazil and a ~14% rise in production in Kazakhstan from 193,000t (2017) to 220,000t in 2018. Unfortunately, as “available information is insufficient to make accurate estimates for many countries” figures for national usage have not been made available. See: USGS Asbestos Data.

Mar 18, 2019

Asbestos, a carcinogen feared throughout the world, remains a key resource in former Canadian mining towns where entrepreneurs plan to reclaim minerals from mountains of asbestos waste. Warnings by health experts regarding the public and occupational health hazard posed by disturbing 800 million tonnes of toxic waste have been dismissed by businessmen and politicians such as Marc-Alexandre Brousseau, the Mayor of Thetford Mines; asbestos, he says: “is everywhere … but we won’t die of it … My sandbox was filled with it when I was a kid. We went and played in the mountains of [asbestos] sand. We were always in it and there were never any problems.” See: The asbestos legacy: Can mining residues be repurposed safely?.

Mar 18, 2019

An online interview uploaded to mark International Women’s Day highlighted the leadership role played by pioneering engineer and factory inspector Fernanda Giannasi in the battle to ban asbestos in Brazil. Ms. Giannasi explained the paradox whereby even though the Supreme Court declared the asbestos trade unconstitutional, one of its judges took action to allow the mining of asbestos for export to continue. Despite the Court’s ruling, asbestos production continues at the Cana Brava Mine in Minaçu, a city in the Brazilian state of Goiás. See: Fernanda Giannasi e sua luta para banir o Amianto [Fernanda Giannasi and her fight to ban asbestos].

Mar 15, 2019

After a nine-week trial which began on January 7, a California jury awarded $29 million to Terry Leavitt, a mesothelioma plaintiff who claimed that exposure to asbestos-tainted Johnson & Johnson (J&J) baby powder in the 1960s and 1970s caused her deadly cancer. The company plans to appeal the March 13 verdict, alleging that “serious procedural and evidentiary errors” took place during the proceedings in the superior court in Oakland. J&J is facing more than 13,000 talc-related lawsuits from US claimants. See: Woman awarded $29m in damages in Johnson & Johnson cancer case.

Mar 15, 2019

On March 4, 2019, a judge in Bogotá ordered that an “action plan” be adopted by the Colombian authorities to phase out asbestos use within five years. The Judge ruled that the Ministry of Labor carry out an “inventory of [all] companies that use asbestos in their production processes.” The decision of the Administrative Court was in response to an action lodged in 2006 by Juan José Lalinde who argued that as the safe use of asbestos was not possible, it’s use should be ended. See: Juez ordena a Minsalud y Mintrabajo diseñar plan para eliminar uso de asbesto en Colombia [Judge orders Minsalud and Mintrabajo to design plan to eliminate asbestos use in Colombia].

Mar 14, 2019

As a result of rulings by the First Labor Court of Pedro Leopoldo in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais, three surviving heirs of a former worker from a tile factory will each be awarded the sum of (Reals) R$50,000 (US$13,100) for his death from mesothelioma caused by occupational exposure to asbestos. A second lawsuit regarding this death resulted in a verdict awarding the family a further R$100,000 (US$26,215) in moral damages. See: Empresa indenizará família de ex-trabalhador vítima de câncer por exposição ao Amianto [Company will indemnify former worker's family for cancer from asbestos exposure].

Mar 13, 2019

Even more than a decade after asbestos was banned in Spain, individuals in communities throughout the country are still being exposed to high levels of asbestos contamination from industrial processing, waste disposal and the widespread use of toxic products. People from Toledo, Murcia, Seville and Madrid interviewed for the feature referenced below spoke of lives lost, health endangered and areas blighted by continued asbestos exposures at home, in schools and at work. See: Las zonas de España más contaminadas por la presencia de Amianto [The areas of Spain most contaminated by the presence of asbestos].

Mar 12, 2019

Following a statement issued on March 5, 2019 by the US Food and Drug Administration that the presence of asbestos fibers had been confirmed by independent testing in products sold by Claire’s Accessories – Claire’s Eye Shadows (batch/lot No: 08/17), Claire’s Compact Powder (batch/lot No: 07/15) and Claire’s Contour Palette (batch/lot No: 04/17) – the company withdrew nine talc-based cosmetic products from the market out of “an abundance of caution.” The company’s voluntary withdrawal from sale of these goods was followed by a voluntary product recall on March 13. See: Statement from FDA… on tests confirming a 2017 finding of asbestos contamination in certain cosmetic products….

Mar 11, 2019

In a letter addressed to Quebec’s Minister of Health Danielle McCann published in Le Soleil – the French language newspaper circulated in Quebec City – members of The Asbestos Victims Association of Quebec (AVAQ) expressed “concern about projects to develop tailings in Thetford Mines and Asbestos” and affirmed support for the 2018 warnings given by 18 regional public health directors regarding the potential occupational and public health hazards posed by the uncontrolled processing of asbestos mining waste. See: Il faut protéger la santé de la population [We must protect the health of the population].

Mar 10, 2019

On March 10, it was reported from Karachi that, as a result of charges laid in 2010, the Environmental Protection Tribunal had indicted the top executive of an asbestos-cement pipe factory in Manghopir for causing environmental pollution, and the director general of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) for failing to act. After a complaint had been made regarding pollution arising from the manufacturing operations and the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency had ordered enquiries to be made, no action was taken by the SEPA official. The proceedings were adjourned after the accused pleaded not guilty; the case will go to trial. See: Pipe factory chief, Sepa DG indicted for causing health hazard.

Mar 7, 2019

During February and March discussions were progressed by the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) – a political, military and economic union of countries in central and northern Asia and Eastern Europe, including leading asbestos stakeholders Russia and Kazakhstan – regarding the development of a coordinated policy to combat measures by member states of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention to implement restrictions on the global trade of chrysotile asbestos, an acknowledged carcinogenic substance. See: Строительный «горный лен» попал в осаду Евросоюза [Construction “mountain flax” [asbestos] under siege of the European Union].

Mar 18, 2019

A commentary on the “second major asbestos spying scandal of the 21st century” details the facts of an international effort by asbestos vested interests to infiltrate the ban asbestos network (ban) with a focus on attempts by a British operative commissioned by K2 Intelligence Ltd. to insinuate himself into the network. The covert operation – codenamed “Project Spring” – was conducted over a four-year period during which the spy visited multiple locations in the UK, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Canada and the US. This article first appeared in Issue 108 of the British Asbestos Newsletter (Autumn-Winter 2018-19). [Read full article]

Feb 4, 2019

Throughout Europe, the legacy of widespread asbestos use continues to manifest itself in cancer registries and coroners’ courts. While EU countries have adopted innovative and pro-active measures to address national asbestos legacies, the UK government’s entrenched policy of denial and delay continues to endanger the lives of workers as well as members of the public. Compared to the deadlines for asbestos removal in the Netherlands and Poland, the financial incentives to replace asbestos roofs in Italy and nationwide measures to monitor at-risk individuals in Germany, the UK policy of “safe management of asbestos in schools” is a manifestation of an ostrich mentality which continues to endanger children as well as staff. [Read full article]

Jan 15, 2019

Reacting to news that Eternit S.A. was phasing out asbestos use in Brazil but continuing to mine and export asbestos fiber, there has been a furore of outrage from groups at home and abroad who condemned this policy as a “national disgrace”. Ban asbestos activists in India and Indonesia denounced Eternit’s actions asking the company: “How many more people will you kill?” and stating: “Your hypocritical behaviour is the cause of a humanitarian disaster for Asian countries and we publicly condemn you for your actions.” On behalf of a global federation representing millions of construction workers, Fiona Murie said: “It is simply unacceptable for Eternit Brazil to dump its asbestos on industrializing countries…” [Read full article]

Jan 8, 2019

Permission to translate this October 2018 article by Taras Volya, of Ukraine’s Journalists Against Corruption, was obtained in November 2018 and translated by Mick Antoniw in December. The edited English language text highlights the economic and political pressures brought by foreign asbestos vested interests to continue sales of a class 1 carcinogen to Ukraine despite efforts by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health to ban asbestos, and names institutions and corporations in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan profiting from asbestos sales to Ukraine. Despite Ukraine’s war with Russia, the trade in asbestos persists with Russian and Kazakh asbestos sales to Ukraine valued at $7.2 million in 2016. [Read full article]

Dec 17, 2018

Concerns regarding the purchase by a UK company of an asbestos-laden passenger ship from Portugal were raised at a meeting of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group in the House of Commons on December 12, 2018. The Sub-Group was informed that a Portuguese cruise ship named MV Funchal containing “about 100 tons of asbestos in a friable state, namely composed of the fiber types chrysotile, amosite and tremolite” had been purchased at a December 5, 2018 auction in Lisbon by a UK-based hotel group which plans to berth the vessel in Central London where it will be used to provide hotel accommodation. [Read full article]

Dec 13, 2018

2018 has been an extraordinary year for the global ban asbestos campaign, with long-awaited prohibitions coming into force and others moving ahead swiftly. The progress achieved this year has almost surpassed expectations with many landmark developments and solid progress made in identifying asbestos victims, mobilizing at-risk workers, building medical capacity, supporting communities devastated by environmental contamination, facilitating access to medical treatment and compensation, engaging with medical researchers progressing new treatments for mesothelioma, collaborating on initiatives to raise asbestos awareness and exposing the dirty tricks used to forestall efforts to protect public and occupational health endangered by asbestos exposures. [Read full article]

Nov 22, 2018

The text of this paper formed the basis for a presentation made on November 15, 2018 at the First International Asbestos Conference [in Portugal] held in Lisbon. Having detailed annual asbestos trade data and exhibited a graphic showing national levels of global consumption and national asbestos bans, the speaker contrasted the legacies of asbestos use in the UK and India before highlighting the progress being made in Asian countries working to end asbestos use. A report disclosed by the speaker which had been issued by a Portuguese asbestos-cement lobbying association for a meeting of the Asbestos International Association in London 2001 was of obvious interest to Portuguese delegates. [Read full article]

Nov 1, 2018

On October 29, 2018, a bill prohibiting the sale or distribution of asbestos-containing products was unanimously adopted by the New Jersey Assembly. Sponsors of the bill condemned the federal rollback on asbestos protections and declared their determination to protect people in New Jersey from lethal exposures with the bill’s sponsor Assemblywoman Lisa Swain saying: “There is absolutely no reason why any New Jerseyans should be at risk of asbestos exposure… While the current Administration in Washington may be okay with rolling back environmental health standards that protect so many Americans, here in New Jersey we are not, and this bill ensures we will stay proactive in protecting our residents.” [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2018

On October 28, 2018, personnel from leading environmental NGOs joined with municipal and government representatives in Nepal to assess the current situation regarding the effectiveness of legislation banning the import and use of asbestos-containing goods. Although government data shows a dramatic reduction of asbestos imports, more needs to be done to protect people in Nepal from hazardous exposures both to new products but also to asbestos products incorporated within the national infrastructure. Of particular interest was the input from customs officers who are on the front line in preventing the import of more asbestos goods and from civil servants tasked with developing new protocols for the identification of toxic goods. [Read full article]

Oct 19, 2018

This Media Release by a number of labor federations and civil society associations has been uploaded to the IBAS website with the permission of its authors.
 
(Other responses to the sea change in Canadian federal policy on asbestos include a statement by President of the Canadian Labour Congress Hassan Yussuff [see: Canada’s unions applaud asbestos ban regulations]: “This is a critical step on the long road to banning asbestos, and will, without a doubt save lives for generations to come.”)
 
 
[Read full article]

Oct 17, 2018

Recent efforts by grassroots groups and medical associations to address Indonesia’s asbestos challenges are discussed in this article with a focus on a medical seminar held in Jakarta on October 13, 2018 to raise awareness of asbestos-related diseases. During that session, medical experts from Indonesia and Korea reviewed the categories and causes of asbestos-related diseases and discussed state-of-the-art protocols for making diagnoses of these diseases. Concluding the seminar, Professor Jeung Sook Kim, a Korea specialist, highlighted the importance of cooperation between NGOs and scientists in the campaign to ban asbestos. [Read full article]

Oct 15, 2018

Former asbestos worker and founding member of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) João Batista Momi died in Sao Paulo on October 14, 2018 from asbestosis, a disease he contracted from toxic exposures at the Eternit factory in Osasco. Mr. Momi’s pioneering lawsuit against Eternit took 12 years at the civil court – at that time the only court which could hear claims for injuries caused by toxic occupational exposures. In 1998 he was awarded more than 150,000 reais (equivalent in 1998 to US$150,000) for his injuries; the company appealed. After a 2004 constitutional amendment allowed Labour Courts to hear these cases, Mr. Momi received his compensation. [Read full article]

Oct 2, 2018

From the northeast of Brazil to the streets of West Java via a community center in the Northern Cape Provence of South Africa, Autumn 2018 has seen a burgeoning of activities to mobilize support for the asbestos-injured and demand the implementation of environmental remediation programs and national asbestos prohibitions. Members of asbestos victims’ groups, ban asbestos activists, health and safety campaigners, trade unionists, legal practitioners and medical professionals raised the asbestos profile at international conferences, strategy sessions, local meetings and outreach projects in Latin America, North America, Europe and Asia. It is no longer a question of “if” but of “when” asbestos will finally be consigned to the history books. [Read full article]

Sep 20, 2018

Just weeks after the South Asia Asbestos Strategy Meeting took place in Sri Lanka, 100+ delegates from Vietnam and ten other countries – eight of which are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – met at the second annual conference of the Southeast Asia Ban Asbestos Network in Hanoi, Vietnam to progress plans for achieving regional asbestos prohibitions. The conference, broadcast live on GTV multimedia channels, took place on September 13 and 14, 2018 and raised the profile of the struggle to ban asbestos in Vietnam via widespread TV coverage, newspaper articles and social media posts. Speakers lambasted the government’s continued failure to ban asbestos, blaming pressure from local and foreign vested interests. [Read full article]

Sep 19, 2018

Media reports of a warning by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that large numbers of military engineers and former military engineers could have been exposed to asbestos whilst servicing Sea King helicopters highlight not only the historic exposure to asbestos our military personnel have faced, but also the ongoing risks that exist from asbestos that remains in situ. The alert also points once again to an arguable failure of government to fully and appropriately address all of the issues asbestos continues to pose including the access to compensation by injured service personnel. [Read full article]

Sep 13, 2018

On August 18, 2018, West Australian (WA) asbestos campaigners gathered at Perth’s Solidarity Park, across the street from the WA Parliament, to remember the thousands of people whose lives had been lost due to occupational and environmental exposures received at the infamous Wittenoom asbestos mine. Nearly a month later, members of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia – co-organizers of the August event – will revisit the memorial plaque unveiled during this earlier gathering when they reach the end of the Society’s annual walk to raise asbestos research funds and heighten public awareness about the asbestos hazard. [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 (2015)

Fiber Producers
(tonnes):
   Russia650,000
   Brazil270,000
   China210,000
   Kazakhstan180,000
    
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   India370,000
   China287,000
   Brazil163,000
   Russia124,000
   Indonesia120,000