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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Jan 16, 2017

AFeVA, the Italian group representing many asbestos victims from Casale Monferrato and surrounding areas, has welcomed the decision announced this month by the Turin prosecutor to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision which downgraded murder charges against asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny to manslaughter. Acknowledging that no results will be available in the short-term, due to the protracted proceedings ahead, AFeVA has pledged to “use this time period to study, together with its legal advisors, new forms of protection for victims and family members” so that justice can be obtained in a “reasonable time.” See: Comunicato AFeVA [AFeVA Press Release].

Jan 16, 2017

The Office of the President (OTP) was advised on January 12, 2017 of the presence of asbestos in the President’s House in Trinidad and Tobago. Thirty employees who work there were will receive medical evaluations this week. In a January 14 press release, the OTP stated: “What is of grave and critical concern is that it appears that the authorities responsible for renovation of President’s House have been aware of this asbestos contamination for some time but failed to inform and alert the Office of the President of this hazard.” Due to renovations the President does not reside at this building. See: Amid allowance probe, asbestos discovered in President’s House.

Jan 14, 2017

A law banning the use of asbestos-containing materials was published in the Gazette of the Brazilian State of Santa Catarina (SC) on January 13; this act means that the ban adopted by the state legislature has now become official and that no use of asbestos is allowed from now on. SC is the 8th state in Brazil to adopt a unilateral asbestos ban; the others are: Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Pernambuco, São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais and Amazonas. The federal government’s asbestos policy supports the continued use of asbestos in Brazil, an asbestos producing country. See: SC proíbe uso de materiais que contenham Amianto [SC prohibits use of materials containing asbestos].

Jan 13, 2017

On January 12, 2017, public prosecutor Gianfranco Colace and Assistant Attorney General Charles Pellicano appealed to the Supreme Court to reverse the November 29 sentence handed down by Judge Federica Bompieri which allocated the Eternit bis proceedings to four different courts and reduced the charges faced by Stephan Schmidheiny from voluntary murder to manslaughter for more than 200 asbestos deaths. The appellants allege that although Schmidheiny was aware of the asbestos hazard, he did not warn Eternit’s workers. See: Il caso Eternit bis finisce in Cassazione, ricorso contro il manager Schmidheiny [Eternit bis back in the Supreme Court with appeal against Schmidheiny].

Jan 13, 2017

A commentary published in Colombia in the aftermath of the death of ban asbestos campaigner Ana Cecilia Niño has highlighted the failure of the Congress to ban asbestos on three occasions. Ana Cecilia Niño was exposed to asbestos when she was a child; her family lived near a factory manufacturing asbestos-cement tiles. During her campaign, she collected more than 50,000 signatures for her referendum calling for an asbestos ban; campaigners also submitted a ban asbestos petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. See: Salud vs. negocio: el asbesto sigue cobrando vidas, pero su uso no se prohíbe [Health vs. business: asbestos still takes lives, but its use is not prohibited].

Jan 12, 2017

On January 11, 2017, the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) held its fourth ban asbestos protest outside the Seoul embassy of an asbestos-producing country. In previous weeks, demonstrations were held at the embassies of Russia (December 21), China (December 28) and Kazakhstan (January 4). This week it was at the Brazilian embassy. Asbestos victims, environmentalists, medical experts, and occupational health activists displayed colourful banners calling for Brazil to stop mining deadly asbestos, held an outdoor press conference and delivered a letter calling for an end to the mining, consumption and export of asbestos. See: Photo of January 11, 2017 protest.

Jan 12, 2017

This week a newspaper in New Zealand has published an article about the work of asbestos widow Deidre VanGerven who has just published a 280 page book of poems – Asbestos through the Years – about the devastating impact of asbestos-related illness on sufferers and their families. Deidre's husband Thom died in 1997 aged 60 from asbestos cancer as did her father and two siblings. The article by Piers Fuller in the Wairarapa News praises Deidre’s poems as “oddly compelling” and reports the welcome response the book has received from family members of those who have died from asbestos diseases. See: What rhymes with mesothelioma?

Jan 9, 2017

The death has been reported of Ana Cecilia Niño, a mesothelioma sufferer, who led efforts to ban asbestos in Colombia. It is believed that she contracted this cancer after exposure to asbestos liberated from outdoor waste storage facilities at an Eternit asbestos factory in the city of Sibaté. In 2016, Ana Cecilia and her husband sued the Colombian State at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights over its failure to secure fundamental human rights by allowing the use of deadly asbestos. Her husband Daniel José Pineda González relayed news of her death on Sunday January 8 via social media outlets. See: Murió la mujer que buscó una Colombia libre de asbestos [Death of Colombian ban asbestos campaigner].

Jan 8, 2017

A subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway (BH), a company owned by Warren Buffet, will receive $650m to assume $1.5bn of asbestos risk from Hartford Financial Services, a US insurer. In 2006, BH agreed a deal with Equitas, a vehicle set up by Lloyd’s of London, to provide up to £3.7bn ($7bn) in reinsurance cover for asbestos claims. It has done similar deals with US insurers AIG, Liberty Mutual and CNA Financial. Last year an insurance credit rating agency warned that insurers faced $15bn of losses from future asbestos claims. See: Buffett to Get $650 Million From Hartford in Asbestos Deal.

Jan 7, 2017

Two men appeared in a Harare court on January 5, 2017 to face charges related to an alleged asbestos swindle involving Turnall Holdings (Turnall), Zimbabwe’s leading asbestos manufacturer. The court was told that the accused – former Turnall director Kenias Horonga and Sydney Chimberengwa – had convinced Turnall’s Chairperson R. Likukuma of the existence of $116,000 in offshore funds that could be used to buy 90 tonnes of Russian asbestos fiber. To cover up the money transfer, fake applications to purchase foreign currency were submitted by the accused. Last year, three Turnall directors were also prosecuted over allegations of stealing $2 million from the company. See: Ex-Turnall boss Horonga in court over fraud.

Jan 6, 2017

The use of asbestos roofing is commonplace in Cuba, according to a commentary published this week which highlighted the extensive and long-standing knowledge about the dangers of asbestos exposures to human beings and referenced a 2016 Cuban article in The Havana Times. The author details the popularity of asbestos-cement tiles and water tanks, focusing on the situation in his home town of Guantánamo, and asks why the authorities in Cuba have never taken action on the asbestos hazard. Between 2012 and 2014, Cuba used, on average, ~6000 tonnes per year. See: ¿El régimen no lo sabe? [The regime does not know?].

Jan 5, 2017

Members of the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO), having held protests outside the embassies of Russia and China – the biggest global asbestos producers – in December 2016, yesterday mounted a demonstration outside the Kazakhstan embassy in Seoul. The BANKO press conference and protest were filmed by TV crews from Korea and Kazakhstan. The national TV station of Kazakhstan - KHABAR24 – interviewed two Korean asbestos victims. In 2009, Korea banned the use of asbestos. Experts predict that thousands of people will die from asbestos diseases over the next two decades. See: Photos (2) of January 4, 2017 demonstration.

Jan 5, 2017

A 40-minute documentary subtitled in English details the deadly impact of asbestos on people in Taiwan, and contrasts the lack of social activism on this issue with the dynamic role played by victims in the fight for recognition, compensation and prevention in Japan. Although the sale of asbestos tiles was banned in 2013, the use of some toxic products remains legal and environmental contamination is a part of life in Taiwan. The evidence presented by medical, technical and academic experts compliments the personal stories of individuals whose lives have been shattered by asbestos disease. This is an important film and should be watched. See: Asbestos: the InvisibleThreat.

Jan 5, 2017

Experts predict that asbestos cancer deaths will continue to rise in Ireland from 20 cases in 2005 to 68 in 2020, a leap of 340%. While these deaths relate to exposures which took place decades ago, hazardous exposures continue and are predicted to increase as Ireland’s economy recovers and as refurbishment projects get underway on sites where asbestos was used during construction. Mandatory notifications to the Health and Safety Authority of the presence of asbestos prior to the commencement of demolition or renovation works increased from 164 in 2010 to 290 up to mid-December 2016. See: Asbestos deaths set to hit record levels.

Jan 4, 2017

The family of Françoise Jonckheere, who died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in 2000, will have to wait until March 14 for the judgment of the Brussels Appeal Court to be handed down in this ground-breaking case, the first of its kind in Belgium, which seeks to hold the Eternit multinational liable for her death. While the company’s defence team seeks to have the case dismissed as time-barred, lawyers for the Jonckheeres argue that the company allowed toxic exposures to take place despite knowing of the health consequences. See: Procès de l'amiante: la cour d'appel rendra son arrêt le 14 mars [Asbestos trial: the Court of Appeal will deliver its judgment on 14 March].

Jan 4, 2017

An article on a Russian website is predicting that measures under a Trump Presidency will include the downgrading of regulations preventing asbestos use. Referencing statements made both before and during the election, the journalist concludes that the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency will be greatly watered down and asbestos materials will enjoy a new popularity: “The most obvious way to reduce costs in the construction industry is to end the restrictions on the use of chrysotile asbestos.” Trump is quoted as blaming the 2001 collapse of the twin towers on their lack of asbestos fireproofing. See: Асбест возвращает доброе имя [The good name of asbestos returns].

Jan 16, 2017

Calculations undertaken for this article suggest that the global trade in deadly asbestos is still worth billions of dollars. Industry stakeholders in producing and consuming nations remain determined to continue business as usual despite the medical and scientific consensus that the best way to end the global epidemic of asbestos diseases is to stop the use of asbestos. The asbestos industry playbook includes a number of well-honed tactics, some of which are illegal and most amoral and unjust. This text documents how corporate wealth has been weaponized and ban asbestos campaigners have been targeted in the pursuit of ever more profits for this industry of mass destruction. [Read full article]

Dec 15, 2016

Civil society groups from around the world have warmly welcomed the news that the Canadian government is to outlaw the use of asbestos by 2018. The fact that Canada, one-time leader in the production of chrysotile asbestos, has taken this step is the latest victory for the global campaign to ban asbestos. This decisive action by the Canadian government is a harbinger of things to come; in the 21st century, the time is past when a dangerous and discredited technology can be allowed to endanger the lives of innocent populations. In a press release issued today calls are made for justice for the injured and definitive action to eradicate the danger posed by asbestos products within national infrastructures. [Read full article]

Dec 9, 2016

For some years, Australian campaigners have designated November as Asbestos Awareness month. This year was no exception with a slew of formal events, outreach initiatives, public meetings and information sessions held throughout the country by asbestos victims’ support groups, campaigning bodies, academics, trade unionists and others. Activities organized by the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) during November are discussed in this article including the Society’s 21st ecumenical service of remembrance on November 25. The work and motivation of the ADSA is contrasted with that of asbestos industry stakeholders who held a large gathering of vested interests in Moscow on November 14. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2016

Earlier this month (October 2016), a series of events took place in the Brazilian city of Campinas during which medical, legal, social, judicial and environmental challenges posed by the country’s continuing use of chrysotile (white) asbestos were examined by Brazilian and international experts. The fact that these events were paid for by court-awarded penalties against two asbestos manufacturing companies made the medical workshop (October 5), two-day conference: Asbestos: A Socio-Legal Approach (October 6-7) and the First National Meeting of Asbestos Victims and their Families (October 8) truly historic. [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2016

A coalition of Indian and international groups representing asbestos victims, campaigners, environmentalists and health and safety activists from Asia and Europe have today uploaded a devastating report highlighting the toxic environmental legacy left by European asbestos multinationals in rural India. “The dumping of asbestos waste” by Turner & Newall and Etex was, said Barrister Krishnendu Mukherjee, “done in the full knowledge that it would cause serious health problems to the local population. Such behaviour towards mainly poor people, without real access to legal remedies, can only be described as a corporate crime.” [Read full article]

Oct 20, 2016

The toxic legacy left in rural India by European asbestos companies including Britain’s Turner & Newall Ltd. and Belgium’s Etex continues to endanger the lives of thousands of citizens in towns such as Kymore in the state of Madhya Pradesh according to a report uploaded today by civil society groups in India and abroad. Evidence collected by a team of Canadian technical experts documented nearly 600,000 square metres of toxic waste, which would cost up to $88m to make safe. The waste, which is composed of up to 70% asbestos fibers, poses a known public health hazard about which nothing has been done by the polluting enterprises which created it. [Read full article]

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]

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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