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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Sep 23, 2016

On the evening of September 21, 2016, hundreds of local people, provincial representatives and campaigners took part in a vigil to manifest widespread opposition to the construction of a new landfill for asbestos-cement waste in Ferrera, a town in the Italian commune of Sannazzaro de Burgondi, 45 km south-west of Milan. The site will be up and running in June 2017. Having created a large “no” out of candles on the piazza, the silent procession took to the streets after which speeches were given outlining legal, political and judicial strategies for forcing closure of the contentious site. See: Settecento fiaccole contro la discarica di amianto [700 torches against plans for asbestos landfill site].

Sep 23, 2016

An online commentary in the Azerbaijan media has extolled the virtues of chrysotile (white) asbestos-containing products and announced that demand for them remains strong. Recapping facts about the history of the commercial exploitation of asbestos, the commentary cites misleading information as assurances that products containing it are safe to use. The name of the author of this text is not given nor is any data about the country’s levels of asbestos consumption. In 2014 and 2015 usage was reportedly 319 and 410 tonnes, respectively. See: Так ли опасен асбест? Стройматериал возвращается на рынки [Is asbestos dangerous? Building material returns to the markets].

Sep 21, 2016

On September 28, 2016, a criminal trial will begin against the management of the University Hospital of Besançon which is accused of endangering the lives of others by failing to prevent toxic occupational exposures to asbestos from 2010 to 2013. Four trade unions have denounced multiple failures by the management since 2010 to ensure that adequate workplace safeguards to avoid asbestos exposures are in place. This is the first time that such charges have been brought against a health facility in France. See: Procès amiante à l'hôpital Minjoz : les syndicats accusent [Asbestos trial against Minjoz hospital: unions’ accusations].

Sep 21, 2016

A paper published this month in the British Medical Journal examined the efficacy of multidisciplinary teams in providing care for UK mesothelioma patients. The researchers examined evidence relating to the work in 2014 and 2015 of one UK specialist mesothelioma multidisciplinary team and found that more cases were diagnosed more accurately and faster through this collaborative process. The team’s deliberations were also effective in “providing recommendations for further investigations of treatments.” See: What is the role of a specialist regional mesothelioma multidisciplinary team meeting? A service evaluation of one tertiary referral centre in the UK.

Sep 21, 2016

A paper entitled “Airborne asbestos exposures associated with the installation and removal of roofing products” which alleged that asbestos-containing roofing products could be safely used is being retracted by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (see: Journal will retract article denying harm from asbestos roofing). Some of the paper’s authors and the funder Cardno ChemRisk have known ties to the asbestos industry as did the journal’s approving editor. Criticisms of the content included accusations of misinformation and miscategorizations, as well as scientific and ethical improprieties. See: Journal to retract study declaring safety of asbestos roofs: Report.

Sep 20, 2016

Calls for a Pacific-wide ban on asbestos-containing products have been made following a fire at a hospital in Gizo, capital of the the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. The premises had been remediated by the Pacific Community's environmental programme (SPREP) prior to the July fire. Unfortunately, tests undertaken by local inspectors after the conflagration established that the debris was contaminated with asbestos. The topic of a Pacific-wide ban on the import of asbestos products will be raised at a SPREP meeting in Niue, an island country in the South Pacific Ocean, later this month (September 2016). See: Solomon's hospital fire sparks call for Pacific-wide ban on asbestos.

Sep 20, 2016

In 2015, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported that tests on imported crayons had proved positive for asbestos and requested that suppliers stop selling them. The tests on which these actions were based had been undertaken by an asbestos victims’ group in Victoria and a private company. Since the ACCC confirmed the contamination in 2015, no tests have been conducted, a failure which outraged activist Vicki Hamilton who castigated the authorities for relying on victims and unions to do their work: “They are government agencies. They should be able to do their own investigation.” See: ACCC hasn't tested for asbestos in crayons since traces found last year.

Sep 19, 2016

The minority populist political party “New Zealand First” has condemned a decision by KiwiRail to replace its North Island electric-powered trains with 15 Chinese diesel locomotives which are unreliable, of poor quality and contain asbestos products, and has called on Transport Minister Simon Bridges to intervene. The removal of asbestos in 48 similar locomotives imported from China by KiwiRail cost $12 million and more asbestos has been found since the first decontamination efforts were completed. See: Loco decision crippling.

Sep 19, 2016

The Summer 2016 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The lead article details recent developments in the UK’s asbestos landscape including the latest data on mesothelioma mortality, recent asbestos publications, an update on the government’s plans for a national mesothelioma center and news of an investigation by the HSE into the possibility of illegal asbestos imports to the UK by Yuanda UK, part of a Chinese-owned conglomerate. The implications for asbestos claimants of long waits for information on employment records held by the HMRC is explored in another feature article. See: British Asbestos Newsletter Issue 101.

Sep 19, 2016

The Japanese Government is being sued by former employees and family members of deceased workers from Nichias, a Japanese building materials manufacturer, in a multimillion yen action in the Gifu district court in central Japan. The case relates to injuries sustained as a result of asbestos exposures at the company’s Hashima factory in Gifu Prefecture. According to the complaint, toxic exposures took place from 1954 as a result of which the claimants contracted lung cancer and asbestosis. See: ニチアス元従業員の遺族、石綿被害で国賠提訴 計4290万円求め [Former Nichias employees and bereaved relatives issue asbestos lawsuit for a total of 42.9 million yen in damages].

Sep 17, 2016

On September 16, 2016, Communications and Works Minister Marios Demetriades (Cyprus) said that the removal of asbestos roofing at the abandoned British military estate of Berengaria in the western suburbs of Limassol is going to start this year; completion is expected in 2019. The work will be undertaken by the government at a cost exceeding €9m. The British government has agreed to transfer the asbestos waste to a landfill abroad. Commenting on the plans, Minister Demetriades said the work “must and should be done.” Local people hope that the remediated 260-acre site will be developed as a university campus and national park. See: Berengaria asbestos to be removed by 2019.

Sep 16, 2016

An update on the website of the Social News Agency (Brazil) provides information about a series of upcoming asbestos initiatives next month and pays tribute to the ground-breaking Global Asbestos Congress which took place in the industrial town of Osasco, in São Paulo State in 2000. The events mentioned include an International Seminar on Asbestos: A Socio-Legal Approach on October 6-7 and a National Meeting of Family and Asbestos Victims on October 8. They will be held in the Brazilian city of Campinas. See: Campinas será “capital nacional” da luta contra o amianto e seus impactos [Campinas will be “national capital” of the fight against asbestos and its impacts].

Sep 16, 2016

At a meeting this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke with staff from Clydeside Action on Asbestos (CAA) about new resources to help GPs spot signs of asbestos-related diseases more quickly. The First Minister said: “This [asbestos] is an important issue for the people of Scotland, and I entirely agree that we have to make sure that there is information and support available for not only those who are living with an asbestos related disease, but also for our GPs.” NHS medical professionals have endorsed this educational resource and have agreed to signpost it on the website: http://www.cpdconnect.nhs.scot See: Doctors to be given more training to spot the signs of asbestos-related conditions faster.

Sep 14, 2016

Last week (September 7, 2016), Mahaweli Development and Environment Ministry Secretary Udaya Senevirathne told delegates at a climate change conference in Colombo that the Sri Lanka government is committed to banning asbestos in 2018 and eradicating asbestos contamination by 2024. A special committee has been tasked to investigate the health hazards posed by asbestos roofing sheets which are very popular in Sri Lanka. According to a government spokesman: “We have already asked the Moratuwa University to work out a report and hope to discuss the issue shortly.” See: Wiping Out Asbestos By 2024?

Sep 14, 2016

An action plan is being coordinated by bodies in the State of São Paulo to develop activities to raise public awareness of the trade in deadly products containing asbestos and to increase surveillance on companies which might be selling these products. Although São Paulo law (2007) “prohibits the use… of products, materials or devices containing any type of asbestos or, or other minerals that accidentally have asbestos fibers in its composition,” asbestos use is legal in the neighboring states of Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso do Sul. See: Vigilância alerta sobre comércio ilegal de produtos com Amianto [Surveillance warning about illegal trade of products containing asbestos].

Sep 14, 2016

On September 8, 2016, the Criminal Court of Strasbourg acquitted all the defendants at the asbestos trial relating to toxic exposures at the Strasbourg premises of the European Parliament during work carried out in 2013 over a two week period despite the suspected presence of asbestos. It is believed that during that time, 300+ people could have inhaled asbestos fibers. Charges were dropped against the defendants who included: a master builder, a plastering company and the site safety officer. See: Strasbourg: Tous les prévenus relaxés au terme du procès de l'amiante au Parlement européen [Strasbourg: All defendants acquitted at European Parliament asbestos trial].

Sep 19, 2016

On September 10, 2016, the world came to Casale Monferrato, a small Piemonte town which has become a symbol of the global struggle against asbestos tyranny. On a day of celebration and remembrance, the community marked a new future with the inauguration of the EterNOT park built on the former site of the notorious Eternit asbestos factory. Separated by distances great and small, campaigners for asbestos justice sent tributes to show their solidarity with their Italian allies. Opening the proceedings, Mayor Concetta Palazzetti referenced the global solidarity on display at the front of the chamber and named the associations from Latin America, Asia, Australia and Europe which had sent messages of support. [Read full article]

Sep 10, 2016

Today, the community of Casale Monferrato, for decades the symbol of the struggle for asbestos justice, will mark a landmark event with the dedication of a park built on the infamous site of the Eternit asbestos cement factory. The Eternot Park is not only a memorial to the asbestos dead but also a symbol of a future which can be free of the deadly dust. Campaigning groups from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia have sent a statement – the English version of which is text of this article – with floral tributes expressing solidarity and support for the victims, the activists and the community. (Click here for Italian version.) [Read full article]

Aug 23, 2016

This article by Canadian ban asbestos campaigner and human rights activist Kathleen Ruff puts into context the news that consultations are ongoing regarding a change in Canada’s asbestos policy which could soon make the use, import and sale of asbestos-containing products illegal. According to an adviser to Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott, members of the Trudeau Government are working on drafting a new asbestos policy for Canada, which, it is expected, will, after more than a 100 years, end the country’s love affair with asbestos. Ruff hopes that measures to ban asbestos and protect Canadians from hazardous exposures will be announced when Parliament reconvenes in September 2016. [Read full article]

Aug 22, 2016

Although asbestos has been banned from ships since July 2002, it is still found in over 90% of ships. It is disturbing to learn, from this article by John Chillingworth, that asbestos has been found in over 80% of new ships, even though the shipbuilders have declared the ships to be asbestos free. Chillingworth’s company has found as much as 15% asbestos in materials that have been declared asbestos free in China. Shipyard declarations, which are accepted by the authorities, are often inaccurate as a result of which hazardous exposures continue to occur aboard vessels. Recommendations are made by the author as to how shipowners might take action to remedy this dangerous situation. [Read full article]

Aug 15, 2016

Responding to concerns raised by a coalition of civil society groups disturbed about the possibility of UK imports of asbestos-containing building materials from China, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has taken preliminary action to ascertain whether or not the products used and practises followed by Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd. are in compliance with national legislation. Welcoming the steps taken by the HSE, which are detailed in an email dated August 11, 2016, asbestos victims, trade unionists and campaigners have reiterated the need for the HSE to act decisively to ensure that British workers and members of the public are not exposed to illegal asbestos imports. [Read full article]

Aug 4, 2016

Shankar Dattaray Jog, a former worker at a factory owned by the British asbestos conglomerate Turner & Newall Ltd. in Mumbai, India, died from asbestos cancer on July 19, 2016. Mr. Jog had been employed at the Hindustan Ferodo brake linings factory for 40 years. By the time he retired in 2001, he had risen to the position of health inspector. While it is believed that others from Hindustan Ferodo could have contracted mesothelioma, their names are not known. Mr. Jog was adamant that the case against his former employer proceed in order to provide support for his family after he was gone and hope for others who succumb to asbestos illnesses after decades of dedicated service. [Read full article]

Aug 2, 2016

On July 21, 2016, the news finally came. Italy’s Constitutional Court issued its ruling in the long-running battle to achieve justice for Italy’s asbestos victims. The verdict gave the green light for a second round of legal proceedings (Eternit BIS) against Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, former owner of the Swiss Eternit asbestos group. The case will now be returned to the Turin court where an investigating magistrate will consider the Public Prosecutors’ accusations regarding hundreds of asbestos deaths in Casale Monferrato and other Italian cities. After decades of broken promises and shattered expectations, asbestos victims and the groups representing them have been given hope that justice will be done. [Read full article]

Jul 27, 2016

A review of the 100th issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter (BAN), a quarterly periodical which has for over 25 years chronicled a wide range of UK asbestos developments, has been undertaken by Australian Professor Jock McCulloch, author of key asbestos books including: Defending the Indefensible and Asbestos – It’s Human Cost. Having discussed some of the subjects covered in the 100 issues of the BAN, McCulloch concludes: “The Newsletter has been an important forum for discussion and a reliable source of information… it has also helped to bring together the disparate groups which make up the ban asbestos front.” The commemorative edition should, he said, be celebrated. [Read full article]

Jul 27, 2016

A coalition of UK groups representing asbestos victims, trade unionists, medical professionals and health and safety campaigners have today issued a press release questioning whether Yuanda (UK) Co. Ltd., a Chinese-owned company, is illegally importing asbestos-containing building materials into the UK. Yuanda UK is part of the same industrial conglomerate as Yuanda Australia; the latter company is being investigated over the import and use of asbestos-containing products at construction sites throughout Australia. UK construction workers already face a higher risk of contracting asbestos diseases than most other workers so any increase in exposure to asbestos products would be of particular danger to them. [Read full article]

July 6, 2016

From Glasgow to Portsmouth, from Swansea to Gateshead via the Isle of Man, Sheffield and Birmingham, events were held throughout the UK on July 1, 2016 to observe Action Mesothelioma Day 2016. The extent and diversity of the activities marking the 11th national mesothelioma day underscored the growth in support for those suffering from a supposedly “rare” disease which nevertheless caused 7,398 deaths between 2011 and 2013. With an increasing number of events and extensive media coverage, it is evident that support for this day of action is growing stronger every year as is the determination of advocates to achieve medical progress and substantive breakthroughs for all the injured. [Read full article]

Jun 21, 2016

Children and staff from six local schools took part in an asbestos awareness workshop organized by a local campaigning body, the Asbestos Interest Group (AIG), in collaboration with partnering organizations on South Africa’s Youth Day (June 16). Feedback from participants has been positive with children having enjoyed meeting up with pupils from other schools to learn about the impact of asbestos contamination on their towns. A report written by AIG’s Prudence Kotoloane is informative as well as inspiring containing details of measures undertaken to keep children “awake and energetic.” The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat was proud to be a co-sponsor of this and other events organized by the AIG. [Read full article]

Jun 20, 2016

A high incidence of asbestos-related disease has been recorded amongst military and civilian workforces at shipyards in England, Scotland, Italy, Japan, the U.S. and other countries. In August 1945, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Factories A. W. Garrett was so concerned about the consequences of asbestos use in the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries that he wrote a letter to industry stakeholders in which he stated: “while asbestos dust may not have any apparent effects at first, experience shows that, particularly if the workers are exposed to the dust in substantial concentrations, serious results are apt to develop later.” The contents of Garrett’s letter were shared with vested interests in the UK and abroad. [Read full article]

Jun 13, 2016

A significant landmark has been reached with the distribution this month of the 100th issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter, a publication which has over the last 25 years become a national resource for asbestos victims, campaigners, legal experts, professionals and concerned citizens. The 24 chapters in the commemorative edition, which have been authored by leading stakeholders amongst the UK community of asbestos activists, highlight the efforts that have been made to secure the human and legal rights of asbestos victims and signpost measures for achieving future victories. The image on the cover has been designed by world renowned artist Conrad Atkinson. [Read full article]

May 25, 2016

Nepal is the first country in South Asia to ban the import, sale, distribution and use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing products with the exception of asbestos-containing brake shoes and clutch plates. Although the prohibitions came into force on June 20, 2015, government data shows that the import of banned asbestos and asbestos-containing products continues. Attempts by a civil society organization in Nepal – the Center for Public Health and Environmental Development – to monitor the situation and implement measures to enforce these regulations are discussed in this article. [Read full article]

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]

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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