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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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Mar 28, 2015

Canadian imports of asbestos-containing products, including brake linings and pads, raw asbestos, friction materials and items containing crocidolite (blue) asbestos, continue to rise despite the known health risks of exposure to all forms of asbestos. Between 2004 and 2014, more than $250-million worth of asbestos and asbestos-containing products entered the country. Asbestos is Canada’s top occupational killer, accounting for 5,000 deaths since 1996. Producers of asbestos-free alternatives are complaining about the unfair cost advantage of these products even as calls are being made for a total ban. See: Asbestos imports rising in Canada despite health warnings.

Mar 26, 2015

In the run-up to the seventh meeting of the Rotterdam Convention, due to take place in May 2015, the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) has issued a call to arms to all its affiliates urging them “to contact their government representatives to encourage them to vote for the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the Convention.” BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said: “Chrysotile meets all the criteria for inclusion so it is quite outrageous that this is being blatantly and persistently blocked by other exporting countries. We need all governments to push the exporting nations to behave responsibly.” See: Chrysotile and the Rotterdam Convention - ACT NOW!

Mar 26, 2015

The Indian Bureau of Mines and the Environment Ministry (MoEF) have been ordered to produce a complete updated list of India’s asbestos mines by Justice U D Salvi of the National Green Tribunal. He wrote: “Asbestos mining not only gives rise to asbestos related cancer but also to the asbestosis. Even if the asbestos mining activity has been closed, scientific closure of such mines remains in question. Odisha is directed to answer whether the asbestos mines in the state have been scientifically closed or not, and further answer whether there have been cases of asbestosis.” See: National Green Tribunal asks MoEF to submit list of asbestos mines across country.

Mar 25, 2015

A compensation claim for asbestosis brought by Cassiem Mohammed, employed at the Athlone Power Station in Cape Town for 40 years, has succeeded. For decades, no personal protection was provided and there was little attempt to minimize hazardous exposures. As a result of action taken by the South African Municipal Workers' Union, a medical examination program for insulation workers was implemented; Mr. Mohammed was diagnosed with asbestosis in the mid-1990s. He has now received a payment of R665,000 (US$57,000) from his former employers. See: South Africa: Athlone Asbestos Victim Gets His Money.

Mar 23, 2015

In the last five months, the Italian authorities have seized ten thermos flasks imported from China which contained asbestos insulation; asbestos was banned in Italy in 1992. The most recent confiscations were made during the second week of March 2015. All the contraband articles were marketed under the “Theo” brand and were sold in shops and supermarkets. A sticker on the bottom of the flask says “Made in RPC” which stands for China. See: Thermos cinesi con pasticche di amianto: dieci sequestri dal mese di ottobre 2014 [Chinese thermos with asbestos insulation; ten seizures since October 2014].

Mar 20, 2105

Tropical Cyclone Pam left areas of the Vanuatu archipelago contaminated with asbestos. Australian responders have removed 100+ kilograms of asbestos-contaminated debris from the Port Vila Central Hospital; most of the asbestos had been contained in sheeting and roofing products. The hazardous waste was sprayed with glue and wrapped in plastic for disposal. According to Gary Bailey, members of Australia's Urban Search and Rescue have “been going into various parts of the hospital and some primary schools today and rendering as much asbestos as safe as we can.” See: Tropical Cyclone Pam: Rescue teams remove over 100kg of asbestos from Port Vila's central hospital.

Mar 20, 2015

Data from the Spanish Employment Ministry has been analysed to calculate the number of cases of asbestos-related cancer recognized as occupational in Spain between 1978 and 2011. One hundred and sixty-four cases were recognized between 1978 and 2011. An estimated 93.6% of male and 99.7% of female claimants were unsuccessful in getting official recognition of their cancer. The authors conclude that their “findings provide evidence of gross under-recognition of asbestos-related occupational cancers in Spain.” See: Asbestos-related occupational cancers compensated under the Spanish National Insurance System, 1978–2011.

Mar 20, 2015

The owners of apartments in Rotterdam are in limbo after workmen installing new windows in February disturbed asbestos-containing building materials. Once the contamination was discovered, the residents fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs, to take up residence in alternative accommodation. Last weekend, they returned home after remediation work had been carried out. Unfortunately, it seems that asbestos was still present in the flats. There is no insurance to cover relocation costs and the housing association has exhausted its funds. See: Wie helpt eigenaren van asbest-flat uit de ellende? [Who helps the owners of asbestos-contaminated flats?].

Mar 20, 2015

The preliminary hearing in a murder trial is due to start in May 2015; it concerns the asbestos deaths of 258 Italians. The Turin Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello has announced that the Swiss billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny stands accused of intentional homicide. Charges against Schmidheiny for causing a permanent environmental disaster as a result of which Italians died from asbestos disease were deemed to be statute barred by the Supreme Court in November 2014. See: Eternit Bis, a maggio processo per omicidio all’imprenditore svizzero Stephan Schmidheiny [Eternit Bis, May murder trial of Swiss entrepreneur Stephan Schmidheiny].

Mar 18, 2015

Two weeks ago on March 3, 2015, the French Supreme Court handed down a decision which restricted the ability of claimants who were exposed to asbestos at work to obtain compensation for anxiety caused by exposure to asbestos. Several previous court rulings had supported the right of those with psychological distress to receive awards for the impact hazardous exposures to asbestos had on their mental health. This decision restricts eligibility only to those whose workplace exposures occurred at companies required to provide early retirement for asbestos workers. See: Amiante: la Cour de cassation limite la réparation du préjudice d'anxiété [Asbestos: Supreme Court limits compensation for anxiety].

Mar 18, 2015

A paper published earlier this year in Medicina del Lavoro (Industrial Medicine) provides a fascinating look at the historical uses of asbestos and the almost mythical symbolism it enjoyed in ancient and classical times. The Italian authors of this text feature five fascinating images and cite a multitude of interesting and formerly unknown facts, such as the use of asbestos in the armour of a samurai warrior! They speculate that one reason why asbestos has not been banned worldwide could be because “the fascination with the magic stone is not exhausted.” See: Asbestos between science and myth. A 6,000-year story!

Mar 18, 2015

Asbestos liberated in the wake of natural disasters is a common occurrence. Parts of Western Australia (WA) hit by Severe Tropical Cyclone Olwyn last week have been declared a natural disaster zone. On March 16, the Minister for Water and the Minister for Agriculture described widespread damage throughout the shires of Ashburton, Carnarvon, Exmouth and Shark Bay in northern WA to the Cabinet. WA Premier Colin Barnett has said the presence of asbestos in the area was a major concern and has pledged state funds to facilitate the clean-up. See: Natural disaster zone declared for cyclone-ravaged parts of northern Western Australia.

March 17, 2015

A policy adopted earlier this year by the World Health Organization (WHO) calls for an end to WHO dialogue with the tobacco and arms industries. Now, North American experts have requested that the WHO add the asbestos industry to the list of entities with which the WHO will not engage. The March 9, 2015 letter to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO, highlighted the similarities between the asbestos and tobacco industries both of which put profits before health, thereby endangering the health of millions of people and undermining the efforts of the WHO. See: World Health Organization should not engage with the asbestos industry.

Mar 17, 2015

On March 16, 2015, Milan prosecutors asked for a jail sentence of six years for the asbestos-related deaths of 30 former employees of the Italcementi Group. Giampiero Pesenti, now the group’s President, was an executive at the company’s Tosi turbine factory from 1973 to 1980. He is accused of culpable homicide due to his alleged failure to install adequate safety measures in the 1970s to prevent hazardous exposures despite the fact that the cancer risk of human exposure to asbestos was known and technology was available to minimize the risks. See: Prosecutors want 6 yrs in asbestos deaths.

Mar 17, 2015

The autumn/winter 2015 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The leading article in issue 96, “Update from the Asbestos Battleground,” considers the UK’s elevated mesothelioma incidence and multiple attacks on victims’ rights in light of the May 2015 general election. Other articles cover the substance and ramifications of the McDonald Supreme Court Judgment 2014 and C. Heneghan vs. Manchester Dry Docks Ltd., et al. Trade unionist Richard Morgan reflects on the current state of the UK asbestos removal industry and steps which might be taken to protect operatives. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, issue 96.

Mar 16, 2015

In December 2014, the Steenacker Company received authorization to store the highest classification of hazardous waste, including asbestos, on their premises. This development is problematic for multiple reasons, including the fact that in 2013 the Belgian company was held responsible for soil pollution and that the location of the company’s premises is near nursery schools and a residential area. The news of this situation has created outrage amongst citizens in the area – a Flemish commune in the Belgian capital – and led to calls for Mayor Frédéric Petit to resign. See: Le stockage d’amiante inquiète écoles et riverains [Asbestos storage concerns schools and residents].

Mar 26 2015

On March 30 and 31, 2015, asbestos lobbyists will be hosted in Geneva at the expense of European taxpayers. The European Union is underwriting the costs of bringing nineteen asbestos industry and government stakeholders to Europe to take part in yet another talking shop on chrysotile (white) asbestos under the umbrella of the Rotterdam Convention. Given the unproductive outcome of so many previous encounters, it belies belief that yet more money is being thrown at people who represent an industry which peddles death and pollution around the globe. The Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention should be ashamed of its collusion with these asbestos deniers. [Read full article]

Mar 12, 2015

Throughout the 20th century, British multinationals invested in, operated and developed asbestos-producing and processing facilities in Southern Africa. When they walked away from their African asbestos liabilities, they abandoned asbestos-exposed workers and asbestos-contaminated communities to their fate; as a consequence of their actions, tens of thousands of individuals are even now being exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos on a daily basis. A communiqué sent last month (February 2015) by the British Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health to South Africa’s Minister of Labour expressed solidarity for those working to alleviate suffering caused by British asbestos corporations. [Read full article]

Mar 9, 2015

As the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are on the brink of burying a long-awaited report on asbestos in UK schools, UKIP promises to “get rid of unnecessary (asbestos) regulations.” Unlike the politicians who wish to either hide or deny the asbestos hazard, the Labour Party has a specific program to address the challenges it poses. At the beginning of 2015, Shadow Minister of State for Employment Stephen Timms announced plans for a joined-up long-term national asbestos strategy which would support the injured and pursue the ultimate goal of decontaminating the national infrastructure and environment. [Read full article]

Mar 3, 2015

Cancer researchers have reaffirmed that the UK still has the world’s highest age-standardized mesothelioma incidence. The ubiquity of this asbestos cancer in Britain is not news; neither is the failure by successive governments to engage with this deadly industrial legacy. Under the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition, the rights of asbestos victims have been attacked by insurers, their lawyers and the Government. The Labour Party has plans for a long-term national asbestos strategy to support the injured and decontaminate our infrastructure and environment. With the General Election looming, the asbestos policies of prospective candidates should be carefully scrutinized. [Read full article]

Feb 23, 2015

Between May 12 and 15, 2015, members of the Rotterdam Convention (RC), gathered in Geneva at the 7th Conference of the Parties (COP7), will once again consider if chrysotile asbestos should be placed on a list of hazardous chemicals. A technical workshop on chrysotile will be held by the RC secretariat on March 30 and 31, 2015. Amongst the delegates listed are representatives of asbestos industry bodies from India, Ukraine and Zimbabwe. The presence of Vivek Chandra Rao Sripalle, Mr. Oleksandr Sierkin and Shame Chibvongodze will ensure that the concerns of the industry are heard. Once again, the voice of the victims will be missing from the conversation. [Read full article]

Feb 12, 2015

According to the asbestos section in the Mineral Commodity Summaries 2015 of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which was published on January 30, 2015, 5% of the asbestos imported and used in the United States in 2014 was chrysotile (white) asbestos sourced from Australia, a country which banned the use of asbestos in 2003 and the export of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. “Imports from Australia were,” explained the USGS “either from stocks or transshipments because Australia no longer mines asbestos.” Attempting to clarify this mystery, enquiries have been initiated with the Australian authorities as well as the USGS. [Read full article]

Feb 11, 2015

A report commissioned by the New Zealand Government entitled “Inventory of New Zealand Imports and Exports of Asbestos-Containing Products” has been categorized this week as fatally flawed by Ban Asbestos Campaigner Mrs. Deidre VanGerven who has given stern warnings about the possible repercussions of her country’s lack of asbestos controls. Mrs. VanGerven has warned that Australia might even reconsider its policy on trade with New Zealand in light of the possibility that its products might contain asbestos. “It remains a mystery to me,” she says “how New Zealand politicians can downplay the threat asbestos poses when so many people continue to die every year from their exposures.” [Read full article]

Feb 2, 2015

When Colombia finally prohibits the use of asbestos, 2014 will be remembered as the year that marked the turning point in the perception of this dangerous mineral by industry, government and civil society stakeholders. Discussions, meetings, initiatives and media coverage progressed public and professional awareness of the asbestos hazard. The input of eminent international experts at high-level multilateral events in February and November was of great significance. A unique feature of this ban asbestos campaign is the involvement of artists who have taken asbestos issues as themes for their work. Colombian artists have also initiated asbestos projects with US, French and British colleagues. [Read full article]

Jan 21, 2015

The manufacture, marketing and use of asbestos were banned in Europe as of January 1, 2005. There was an exemption to the EU prohibitions which allowed the import of asbestos-containing diaphragms for existing electrolysis cells. A decade later, under pressure from Dow Chemical, the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency, is considering the continuation of the exemption until and possibly after 2025. The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat is strongly opposed to the extension of this exemption and calls on the EU Commission and EU Member States to take action to end this sole use of asbestos in the EU. [Read full article]

Jan 14, 2015

Italian Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guaraniello, who was at the center of the historic criminal prosecutions of former asbestos businessmen for the deaths of thousands of Italian citizens, is now investigating reports of asbestos imports into Italy in 2012 despite the fact that the country banned asbestos a decade previously. The existence of this illicit trade was unearthed by Mohit Gupta from the New Delhi-based Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India. In 2012, India exported 1,296 tonnes (t) of asbestos, 1,040t (80%) to Italy. Other importers of Indian asbestos-cement products include five countries which have also banned asbestos. [Read full article]

Jan 11, 2015

Comments made by Thailand’s Minister of Industry Chakramon Phasukavanich which were quoted in the Bangkok Post yesterday (Jan 10) included the statement that: “If the use of asbestos is banned by law… the burden to replace all products that contain asbestos would fall on the government.” In none of the 55 countries which have banned asbestos has this been the case. The IBAS Coordinator has written an open letter to the Minister asking for confirmation that his statements were accurately reported. In the IBAS letter, the Minister was informed of legal actions against governments which had failed to take timely and appropriate action to protect citizens from the asbestos hazard. [Read full article]

Jan 5, 2015

In December 2014, Indonesia’s Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Korean Environment Corporation (KECO) conducted a workshop entitled: “Seoul Initiative Indonesia Workshop: Improving Health Officers’ Competencies on Measuring Workplace Environmental Ambient Level and Diagnosing Asbestos Related Diseases in Indonesia.” The objective of this initiative was to improve the knowledge of health officers and other stakeholders about diagnosing asbestos-related diseases and workplace environmental monitoring. Resulting from the workshop, an asbestos research project has been set up with the KECO; data collected will inform the national asbestos policy and regulatory regime. [Read full article]

Jan 1, 2015

On December 22, 2014, the Government of Nepal banned the import, sale, distribution and use of all asbestos and asbestos-containing materials on the grounds of public health. According to a government notice published in the Nepal Gazette by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, the prohibition will take effect on June 20, 2015, 181 days from the date of publication; the sole exemption is for automotive brake shoes and clutch plates. These prohibitions will drastically reduce national consumption as the vast majority of asbestos used in Nepal goes into construction materials such as roofing sheets. [Read full article]

Dec 16, 2014

In November 2014, grassroots groups made manifest the disgust of societies still being exploited by the asbestos industry. From Latin America to Asia, the call went out for an end to the slaughter caused by such exploitation. Support for a global ban escalated, with key events taking place in Colombia, Thailand and Vietnam, countries where the asbestos agenda had, until very recently, been dictated by vested interests. The passion and determination of civil society campaigners in Bogotá, Bangkok and Hanoi are testament to the universal resolve to bequeath future generations a world free of asbestos. The struggle continues! [Read full article]

Dec 12, 2014

Asbestos is a hot button subject in Australia. There are front-page newspaper articles, mini-series and folk songs about it and around the country there exist a multiplicity of agencies and dozens of self-help and campaigning groups dedicated to supporting victims and spreading awareness. For a number of years, November has been regarded as the de facto month for outreach and media work to raise awareness. Last month, I was invited to participate in a number of “asbestos” activities in Victoria and Western Australia and to engage with colleagues and journalists in the Australian Capital Territory. This report contains information about these events and the amazing groups of people working with the victims. [Read full article]

Dec 12, 2014

Despite aggressive lobbying by the pro-asbestos lobby, the campaign to outlaw asbestos use is growing in strength and scope. In this paper which was presented at a conference in Melbourne, Australia in November 2014, proactive initiatives, pioneering media campaigns and successful strategies were discussed which illustrated the means by which asbestos victims, non-governmental organizations and campaigning groups have wrested control of the asbestos debate away from vested interests, allowing new voices to be heard. Suggestions were made for strategies to further the goal of eradicating the asbestos hazard throughout the region. [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 (2013)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,050,000
   China420,000
   Brazil307,000
   Kazakhstan242,000
   India240
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   China570,000
   Russia432,000
   India303,000
   Brazil181,000
   Indonesia156,000