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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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Feb 11, 2016

On February 9, 2016, the judge overseeing a pivotal case in Bogota convened the latest proceedings in a class action initiated by Juan Jose Lalinde 10 years ago about the use of asbestos in Colombia. The defendants in this lawsuit are asbestos companies. In 2015, lawyer Ramiro Bejarano, who represents Eternit – the company which dominates the country’s asbestos sector – submitted a “Compliance Agreement” in an attempt to seek a judicially-sanctioned compromise that would allow asbestos use to continue. An observer reported that litigant Lalinde was not in court and that the proceedings were adjourned after one hour. If the Judge finds for the plaintiff, the verdict could end asbestos use in Colombia.

Feb 11, 2016

A report entitled “Transport and Deposition of Asbestos-Rich Sediment in the Sumas River, Whatcom County, Washington” just released by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents high levels of asbestos fiber in water and sediment from the Sumas River in the wake of a large active landslide on the western flank of Sumas Mountain. In 2012 and 2013, 24,000 and 54,000 tons of suspended sediment, respectively were transported by the river; up to 37% of the mass of river sediment samples tested was asbestos. See: New Study Examines Naturally Occurring Asbestos Carried in Sumas River Sediment.

Feb 11, 2016

Even in countries where most mesothelioma cases are accurately diagnosed, the recognition of asbestos-related lung cancers remains problematic. Researchers in the Netherlands using three different modelling methods predicted that the number of Dutch cases that would occur between 2011 and 2030 would be between 6,800 and 17,500. Given the discrepancy in these figures, the authors of this paper concluded that the “accurate estimation of the impact of asbestos exposure on the lung cancer burden remains a challenge.” See: Expected number of asbestos-related lung cancers in the Netherlands in the next two decades: a comparison of methods.

Feb 10, 2016

In a newspaper report issued on February 8, 2016, a city in the Kostanay area in northern Kazakhstan boasted that it was on course to become a global “asbestos” champion with exported chrysotile (white asbestos) fiber being shipped to India, Thailand and elsewhere. While extolling the virtues of asbestos and calling for enterprises to expand their consumption, the company spokesman also bemoaned a drop in output and the economic necessity of reducing production costs. Steps are, he said, being taken to streamline mining and processing operations. See: В Костанайской области асбестовое производство метит в мировые чемпионы [Kostanay region aims to be asbestos production world champions].

Feb 10, 2016

The Autumn-Winter 2015-2016 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The lead article in issue 99 details the implementation of changes in the government regime for compensating former service personnel who have contracted the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. The feature article entitled “Eradicating the Asbestos Hazard” is a detailed analysis of new data, political initiatives and literature that quantify the impact of asbestos-related disease on British citizens and call for measures to protect public and occupational health from hazardous exposures. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, issue 99.

Feb 10, 2016

In a remarkable reversal of policy, Spain’s Supreme Court recognized the responsibility of Uralita, a successor company, to compensate workers exposed to asbestos by their previous employer, a company which Uralita had owned shares in. This decision was affected by a ruling handed down on March 5, 2015 by the European Court of Justice and acknowledged the “absolute connection” between the commercial enterprises. See: El Supremo cambia de opinión: la responsabilidad por la falta de medidas de seguridad se traspasa en la sucesión empresarial [Supreme Court U-turn: responsibility for lack of safety measures was transferred in business succession].

Feb 9, 2016

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry is recommending that no new building permits be issued for northern Nahariya until asbestos remediation work has been completed. Asbestos pollution is a legacy of the Eitanit asbestos-cement factory which closed in 1997. Friable asbestos material sold cheaply to local people was used in gardens, orchards, greenhouses, chicken coops, schools, homes and on dirt path. Although a 5-year, $60 million clean-up program led by the Ministry is nearing completion, a recent tour of hotspots confirmed that pollution remains a public health risk. See: Ministry Says Nahariya Should Not Grow Until Asbestos Is Removed.

Feb 9, 2016

A letter dated February 8, 2016 from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) provides no solace to those left out of a new compensation regime for veterans with mesothelioma (see: Change in Mesothelioma Regime to Benefit Veterans). Service personnel diagnosed before December 16, 2015 remain ineligible for the one-off £140,000 payment. It is unlikely that the “policy of no retrospection” will change although the MoD “continues to review the options to support these claimants in a similar manner and we hope to be in a position to provide an update soon.” See: Letter from Ministry of Defence, February 8, 2016.

Feb 8, 2016

A collection of email correspondence between US. lawyers and researchers they hired to develop, publish and advance tailor-made “science” confirms that when millions of dollars are at risk anything can be bought. Lawyer Evan Nelson, at that time with the law firm Tucker Ellis & West and now unemployed, paid “rented white coats” working for the Gradient Corporation to produce work that would provide validity to his “revolutionary scientific theory” that mesothelioma was caused by exposure to radiation from tobacco smoke. See: Meet the ‘Rented White Coats’ Who Defend Toxic Chemicals.

Feb 8, 2016

For several years, Brazil has been the world’s third largest supplier of chrysotile (white) asbestos – from a single mine in Minaçu run by the Sama company. In a recent report, Sama has confirmed that a fall in national and global demand led to the cancellation of production on three days in 2015 and the sacking of 119 workers. According to Sama officials, as well as the general economic crisis, the increasing unpopularity and fear of asbestos has impacted negatively on sales. See: Sama fechou turnos e demitiu 119 trabalhadores em 2015. A crise deve se aguçar em 2016 [Sama cancelled shifts and dismissed 119 workers in 2015. The crisis could sharpen in 2016].

Feb 5, 2016

As recent verdicts deemed the Japan Government negligent for failing to act on the asbestos hazard and as manufacturers of building materials have also now been held liable, this editorial urges that guilty parties act urgently to make restitution to all the injured many of whom are suffering from asbestos diseases which can cause death in a very short time. The editorial calls on the government and others to collaborate on establishing an asbestos fund which would compensate various categories of injured people including asbestos mill workers, construction workers and the self-employed. See: Widening asbestos compensation.

Feb 5, 2016

On Tuesday, February 9, 2016 a court hearing will take place in Bogotá, Colombia during which asbestos vested interests will seek to normalize the use of asbestos, an acknowledged carcinogen, contesting growing support in the country for asbestos to be banned on the grounds of protecting public and occupational health. Representing asbestos stakeholders, lawyer Ramiro Bejarano will, it is believed, argue that no one in Colombia has been injured by their exposure to asbestos and that asbestos can be used safely. See: El amor es más fuerte que el cancer [Love is stronger than cancer].

Feb 5, 2016

Six papers (from 20) in the latest issue of an Italian medical journal look at issues relating to malignant mesothelioma, including: causation, treatment, links to asbestos use and national incidences of diseases. Of particular interest were the following: The global health dimensions of asbestos and asbestos-related diseases; Malignant mesotheliomas with unknown exposure to asbestos: a re-examination; Asbestos at the time of the First World War. The last paper reports that from 1912-17, the writer Franz Kafka was co-owner of a small asbestos factory in Prague. I bet you didn’t know that! See: La Medicina del Lavoro [Journal of Labor Medicine].

Feb 5, 2016

Six papers in the latest issue of an Italian medical journal look at issues relating to malignant mesothelioma, including: causation, treatment, links to asbestos use and national incidences of diseases. Of particular interest were the following: Malignant mesotheliomas with unknown exposure to asbestos: a re-examination; Asbestos at the time of the First World War; The global health dimensions of asbestos and asbestos-related diseases. The 2nd paper reports that from 1912-17, the writer Franz Kafka was co-owner of a small asbestos factory in Prague. I bet you didn’t know that! See: La Medicina del Lavoro [Journal of Labor Medicine].

Feb 4, 2016

From April 4, 2016, the Health and Safety at Work Asbestos Regulations will incorporate new rules for New Zealand asbestos removal companies, Certificate of Competence holders, builders and other tradespeople who work with asbestos. Tighter regulations will mandate that licenses be obtained by all those who undertake asbestos removal work including builders, roofers and other non-specialist contractors. Only draft guidelines are currently available; a finalized guidance note will be released in due course. Further restrictions for this work are expected to be implemented in 2018. See: The Regulations around working with asbestos will change from 4 April 2016.

Feb 4, 2016

Of the 150,000 workers “officially” exposed to asbestos in Spain, only 40,000 are registered with the national occupational health surveillance program which is, say the Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras – Spain’s largest trade union – woefully inadequate. There were 2,474 companies that processed asbestos with up to 38,642 employees at any one time in the 15 regions which have so far submitted data. Many thousands more will have been at risk elsewhere before the use of asbestos was banned in 2002. See: Sólo el 2% de los afectados por amianto es reconocido por la Seguridad Social [Only 2% of those affected by asbestos are recognized by Social Security].

Feb 10, 2016

Global asbestos interests, including groups like the International Chrysotile Association, commission and advance research which purports that chrysotile (white) asbestos can be used safely. A new resource has been developed for use by grassroots campaigners and others which clearly delineates the known scientific facts about the human health hazard posed by exposure to chrysotile. Based on the twenty facts listed, the authors declare their support for the “immediate prohibition of the use of any form of asbestos-containing products including those containing chrysotile, and call for their complete elimination.” [Read full article]

Feb 3, 2016

Reports from the Albanian capital of Tirana have raised concerns about work ongoing in the city center on the demolition of asbestos-cement roofing material during the refurbishment of the central market. According to Professor Romeo Hanxhari the work is “being carried out in an unsafe and unacceptable manner resulting in airborne fibres being inhaled and environmental pollution being dispersed in adjacent areas.” Today, European groups representing asbestos victims, trade unionists and health and safety campaigners have issued a public health warning and communicated their concerns to municipal and national officials. [Read full article]

Feb 1, 2016

From Japan to Brazil via Italy and France, over recent days asbestos victims have secured amazing judicial wins. Workers from Japan’s construction sector, French and Italian factories, Italian warehouses and Brazilian asbestos-cement factories have set precedents and secured sizable compensation payouts for contracting asbestos-related conditions – including psychological complaints – and diseases. Governments, institutions and corporations which allowed toxic exposures to occur have been condemned and punished for their failures. National administrations, civil servants and companies which allow hazardous exposures to continue should be under no illusion: the day of reckoning is nigh! [Read full article]

Jan 25, 2016

In 1898, Lucy Deane, a Lady Inspector of Factories in Great Britain, informed the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops of the “abundant evidence… of the evil effects of dust” writing: “The evil effects of asbestos dust have also attracted my attention, a microscopic examination of this mineral dust which was made by H.M. Medical Inspector clearly revealed the sharp, glass-like, jagged nature of the particles, and where they are allowed to rise and to remain suspended in the air of a room, in any quantity, the effects have been found to be injurious, as might have been expected.” This report is one of the earliest notifications of the occupational asbestos hazard. [Read full article]

Jan 18, 2016

Data collected by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) on the global asbestos trade is widely used. From time to time, however, there have been irregularities which have needed investigating. For several years, the USGS has reported that Argentina, a country which adopted a resolution banning asbestos in 2001, produced small amounts of asbestos every year of the 21st century, ranging from a high of 300 tonnes in 2006 and 2007 to a low of 100 tonnes in 2012-2014. Inquiries have been made with experts at the USGS and in Argentina into the mystery of how a country with an asbestos ban can also be an asbestos producer. [Read full article]

Jan 13, 2016

As of April 11, 2016 changes to the compensation policy for ex-service personnel suffering from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma will allow former members of the armed services diagnosed with this cancer on or after December 16, 2015 to receive a lump sum of £140,000 instead of smaller weekly or monthly payments dispensed under the War Pensions Scheme. The improvements, which will bring government awards for veterans more in line with those for civilians, resulted from campaigning by The Royal British Legion and victims’ groups. The U-turn in government policy was announced in Parliament last month by the Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans, Mark Lancaster MP. [Read full article]

Dec 15, 2015

Asbestos victims’ groups and campaigning bodies from Latin America, Asia and Europe have today published multilingual resources to raise awareness of the public health hazard in the world’s biggest asbestos producing countries. The translations into Russian, Chinese, and Portuguese of a new text confirming the disease risk to people who did not work in the asbestos industry will be an invaluable resource to campaigners in countries where powerful vested interests deny: the hazard of non-occupational asbestos exposures, the impact of cumulative exposures from multiple sources and the dangers of low level exposures. [Read full article]

Dec 15, 2015

Recent events and publications have highlighted the public health hazard posed by current and legacy asbestos exposures. To ensure that campaigners in asbestos stakeholding countries have access to the latest information, a coalition of asbestos victims’ support groups and campaigning bodies from Latin America, Asia and Europe have collaborated on a project to translate a commentary published in November 2015 into the languages of the three largest asbestos producing nations (Russia, China, and Brazil). This article includes links to these translations and also to a translation of the text into Vietnamese. [Read full article]

Dec 8, 2015

Asbestos victims and ban asbestos campaigners in Asia have joined forces with international colleagues to declare their commitment to end asbestos use in a letter published today on this website. Urging asbestos stakeholders to take responsibility for their actions and adopt safer asbestos-free technologies, the activists point out that “if you profit from the sale of asbestos, you will be held liable for the diseases you have caused and the damage you have done, not only to your workers but also to members of the public who have been injured by using your products or breathing the air your factories have poisoned.” [Read full article]

Nov 25, 2015

A workshop entitled “Using Chrysotile Safe (sic) and Under Control” was held in Hanoi, Vietnam on November 18, 2015. The title is a poorly translated adaptation of discredited asbestos industry rhetoric extolling the “safe use of asbestos.” The pro-asbestos stance of the speakers at the event organized by the Roofing Sheet Association was challenged by civil society representatives who have been mobilizing support for a Vietnam asbestos ban over recent years. Commenting on the failure of the lobbyists to convince delegates that asbestos could be used safely in Vietnam or elsewhere, Dr. Tuan Tran said: “the speakers’ motivation and lack of credence were obvious.” [Read full article]

Nov 12, 2015

November is asbestos awareness month in Australia. Personal initiatives taking place this month are complimented by more formal activities such as public outreach projects on the east coast, ecumenical services on the west coast and various activities in between. With the world’s only Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Australia is at the cutting edge of efforts to deal with the industrial and environmental legacy of asbestos use. Despite all that is being done, residents in the toxic town of Baryulgil, New South Wales continue to die prematurely decades after the asbestos mine was closed. Compensation is rarely obtained and medical services are woeful. [Read full article]

Oct 16, 2015

Recognizing that Britain is in the grip of an “asbestos crisis,” a Parliamentary Group has today called for the complete eradication of the asbestos hazard in a report entitled: “The asbestos crisis. Why Britain needs an eradication law.” This move closely follows a demand that the European Commission “create and finance a Europe-wide programme aimed at the removal of all asbestos from public and private buildings.” It is now well past time for the governments in Westminster and Brussels to confront their respective asbestos challenges and heed the demands from civil society for “a safe, phased and planned removal of all the asbestos that still remains in place…” [Read full article]

Oct 5, 2015

A paper presented at Mesothelioma UK’s 10th Patients and Carer Day, which was held in Stratford-upon-Avon on October 2, 2015, was entitled: Asbestos – What Would Shakespeare Say? The presentation examined the history of the global asbestos industry and highlighted explosive new mortality data; the author considered how Britain’s most renowned dramatist might have reacted to the deadly epidemic taking hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Examples of recent grassroots activities undertaken in Colombia, India, Vietnam and South Africa were discussed with the speaker reaffirming the commitment of the global ban asbestos movement to an asbestos-free future. [Read full article]

Sep 29, 2015

European asbestos victims and campaigning groups have issued this press release to highlight statistics presented today at the 2015 conference of the European Trade Union Confederation which document the huge death toll caused by exposure to asbestos in the European Union (EU). According to the new estimates, there are 47,000 EU deaths from just two types of asbestos-related cancer every year. Commenting on the findings of the paper: Eliminating Occupational Cancer in Europe, Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, called on the authorities to “make good on their promise to constitute a European Asbestos Taskforce as a matter of utmost urgency.” [Read full article]

Sep 25, 2015

In a press release issued on September 14, 2015 headlined “The government buries individual access,” the French National Association for the Defense of Asbestos Victims (ANDEVA) denounced a report used by the government to reject calls for wider access to social security benefits, including early retirement, for asbestos-exposed workers. The decision was, ANDEVA said, based on a financial analysis of costs that was “utterly wrong, both morally and technically.” In an attempt to clarify the issues involved, questions were put to Marc Hindry, an ANDEVA spokesman; the dialogue which ensued confirms the Government’s determination to minimize liabilities at the expense of the injured. [Read full article]

Sep 22, 2015

This month we mark the 15th anniversary of the ground-breaking Global Asbestos Congress 2000: Past, Present and Future [Congresso Mundial do Amianto: Passado, Presente e Futuro] (GAC 2000) which took place over four days (September 17-20, 2000) in Osasco, Brazil, a municipality that was for decades the site of Latin America’s largest asbestos-cement complex. In a tribute to the vision of GAC 2000 pioneers, delegates from Asia, Africa, Europe and North America have described the impact the Congress had, not only on campaigns for asbestos victims’ rights in their home countries but also on the global struggle for social and environmental justice. [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