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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

News text:

Mar 22, 2017

In a decisive verdict handed down yesterday by a court in Rio de Janeiro, the Eternit company – Brazil’s biggest asbestos manufacturer – was ordered to eliminate asbestos use within the next 18 months. The decision is a result of proceedings by the Public Ministry of Labor which had filed a civil action over hazardous workplace exposures to asbestos at Eternit’s Guadalupe, Rio de Janerio plant. Not only did the court order Eternit to transition to asbestos-free technology, but it also specified that exposure levels be kept to the legal limit and that current and former employees be provided with free medical examinations. See: Eternit do Rio de Janeiro condenada a substituir o Amianto em 18 meses [Eternit in Rio de Janeiro condemned to replace asbestos in 18 months].

Mar 22, 2017

A letter by Jagdish Patel, National Coordinator of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India, addressed to Anil Madhav Dave, India’s Minister of Environment and Forests, has been uploaded to the internet. In this document Mr. Patel reiterates requests that “the Government, as a party to the Rotterdam Convention, … support the amendment to the Rotterdam Convention that a group of twelve African countries have submitted to the Secretariat and that will be discussed at the COP 8.” This letter is signed by groups representing Indian workers, health activists and campaigners. See: Support amendment to Rotterdam Convention for listing of chrysotile asbestos at COP 8.

Mar 22, 2017

On March 20, 2017 a new formula came into effect as a result of amendments to current legislation which lowered the discount rate from 2.5% to minus 0.75%. One of the results of the change made by the Ministry of Justice will be the increase of compensation payments to personal injury claimants including asbestos victims. There is no certainty that this change will be secure from attack by the insurance industry and negligent employers; the Government is consulting on this issue with vested interests such as insurers who are, no doubt, hoping the discount rate will be increased. See: New discount rate for personal injury claims announced.

Mar 21, 2017

A Conduct Adjustment Agreement has been signed by the Public Labor Ministry in Rio de Janeiro with the construction materials company Casalite, based in the city of Duque de Caxias in the state of Rio de Janeiro, to cease using asbestos for the production of roofing tiles and gutters. This agreement is part of a Brazilian program – National Asbestos Banishment Program of the Public Labor Ministry – aimed at eliminating the use of asbestos in Brazil. See: MPT-RJ firma acordo com empresa para substituir o amianto de seus processos de produção [MPT-RJ signs agreement with company to replace asbestos from its production processes].

Mar 20, 2017

According to Giorgio Demezzi, a former Mayor of Casale Monferrato, to date more than €80m has been allocated by the Italian government for asbestos remediation of the town over the last 20 years. Unfortunately, disputes are ongoing over the administrative processing and bureaucratic dispensation of remediation funds by city hall personnel. The municipality aims to make Casale Monferrato asbestos free by 2020. To that end, work is proceeding, says the current Mayor, at new construction sites. See: I conti dell’amianto in 20 anni: ecco le bonifiche. Finora trasferiti dallo Stato 80 milioni [20 years of asbestos land reclamation has, till now, cost the state 80 million].

Mar 17, 2017

In April 2017, a council in the western suburbs of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia is offering a number of free visual inspections to householders to alert them to the presence of asbestos in homes built in the Cumberland local government area before 1990. A scheme operated by the council for the free collection and disposal of up to 10 square meters of bonded asbestos sheeting from homes has proved popular with local people such as Grahame Duerden who had pieces of asbestos fiberboard to dispose of; this material is no longer accepted at the tip and the minimum charge for collection by a specialist company is A$140. See: Free asbestos pick ups.

Mar 16, 2017

A photo-essay depicting the industrial legacy of asbestos processing in India by a company that was part of the Belgian asbestos Eternit-Etex conglomerate has been published in Flemish. The text focuses on the situation in Kymore, a town in central India, which is littered with toxic asbestos waste and built with asbestos cement materials. Personal testimony and evidence has been amassed which document corporate responsibility for widespread environmental contamination. See: Van Kapelle tot Kymore: Etex ook verantwoordelijk voor asbestslachtoffers in India? [From Kapelle to Kymore: Is Etex also responsible for asbestos victims in India?].

Mar 15, 2017

Despite the fact that South Africa banned asbestos in 2008, the government is refusing to back a move by Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia to unblock a logjam at the Rotterdam Convention which is preventing this UN agency from including white asbestos on a list of toxins subject to requirements ensuring prior informed consent of importing countries. The health experts who wrote this blog conclude that: “South Africa's foreign policy is apparently not governed by any substantive health or environmental considerations.” See: South Africa Refuses To Support Initiative To Restrict Deadly Asbestos Trade

Mar 15, 2017

The scandal over the UK government’s failure to protect schoolchildren and staff from dangerous asbestos exposures continues to reverberate. On March 13, 2017, the government gave a pathetic response to a question about this issue in the House of Lords, absolving itself of responsibility for the situation, the deadly reality of which was detailed in an article in the newspaper and website of Schools Week on March 11 in which MP Rachel Reeves was quoted calling the government’s failure to act on asbestos in schools “grossly negligent.” See: Dodgy asbestos surveys costing schools ‘millions’.

Mar 14, 2017

This article details the failure of the French authorities to address the asbestos contamination of the national infrastructure and warns of more asbestos-related deaths in the future because of the uneven protection of workers from building and other products containing asbestos which have not been removed. Several quotes from campaigners highlight the flaws in a regulatory system which fails to adequately police the asbestos removal industry, ensure accurate laboratory analyses of suspect material and diagnose patients with asbestos diseases. See: En France, il reste 20 millions de tonnes d’amiante disséminées dans les bâtiments [In France, there are 20 million tons of asbestos still in buildings].

Mar 14, 2017

An interview – published this month – with Ramón Tojeiro the head of AGAVIDA, a group representing asbestos victims in Galicia, north western Spain, highlighted the impact of occupational asbestos exposures amongst workers in the shipbuilding yards in Ferrol. The campaigner cited the important roles played by Galician unionist Rafael Pillado and Dr. Carlos Piñeiro in the fight to obtain recognition of the invisible epidemic and medical treatment for the injured; Tojeiro also warned of the hazard posed by asbestos within the infrastructure. See: La realidad del amianto se mantuvo oculta porque era un gran negocio [The reality of asbestos kept hidden because it was a big business].

Mar 10, 2017

Brazilian Senator Paulo Paim has submitted a draft bill (PLS 30/2017) to a committee of the Brazilian Congress delineating a road map to make the transition from a national asbestos policy based on the controlled use of asbestos to one banning mining, manufacture, import, storage and transport of asbestos fiber and products containing asbestos within a strict phased timescale. Citing the global consensus regarding the proven risks posed by asbestos exposures, the proposal will, if approved, prohibit all asbestos use, sales, marketing, storage, import and export within four years. See: Manejo do amianto pode se tornar proibido no país [Transition from asbestos management to asbestos ban].

Mar 10, 2017

Trade union officials confirmed on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 that work at an Australian factory had been stopped for a week due to the discovery of asbestos contamination at the facility owned by the Orica company in the Kooragang Island area of New South Wales. It is alleged that prior to the shutdown, dozens of workers had been hazardously exposed to asbestos fibers. While not denying the incident took place, the company is disputing details released by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. The exposures allegedly occurred during a $67-million overhaul of the ammonia plant. See: Unions and ORCA in dispute over asbestos.

Mar 10, 2017

On March 3, 2017 France’s Council of State – the highest administrative court in the country – handed down a ground-breaking decision when it accepted that employees of the state, in this case a shipbuilding worker for the Ministry of Defence, had a right to compensation for asbestos “anxiety prejudice” after negligent workplace exposures. According to the verdict, “the decision to recognize the right to this compensation amounts to recognition of the link established between exposure to asbestos dust and reduction in life expectancy…” See: Amiante: le préjudice d’anxiété reconnu pour les ouvriers d’Etat par la redaction [Asbestos: anxiety prejudice recognized for state workers].

Mar 9, 2017

Regional authorities have approved proposals to remove asbestos from 38 schools in Catalonia during 2017-2018. Asbestos was banned in Spain in 2002 but remains widely present throughout the educational infrastructure. The commitment to remediation and replacement of toxic products with asbestos-free materials was brought about after pressure from the socialist party. Under the new rules, asbestos surveys will be carried out to identify contamination, a timetable will be set for removal and an implementation plan will be adopted. See: El Parlament aprueba retirar el amianto de 38 escuelas e institutos [Parliament approves proposal to remove asbestos from 38 schools].

Mar 6, 2017

A paper published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted an epidemic of asbestos cancer in the US Between 1999 and 2015, there were 45,221 deaths reported from mesothelioma, the signature cancer related to asbestos exposure. The annual incidence rate increased from 2,479 (1999) to 2,597 (2015). The researchers’ conclusions confirm what asbestos activists have been saying for years: “Contrary to past projections, the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths has been increasing…” despite the introduction of regulatory actions and decreasing consumption. See: Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality – United States, 1999-2015.

Mar 20, 2017

In a few weeks, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention (RC) on the Prior Informed Consent Procedures for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade will meet for the eighth time. Pivotal to the success of the meeting and, indeed to the long-term viability of this multinational Convention, will be the decision taken regarding the inclusion of chrysotile (white) asbestos on a list of substances subject to mandatory trade regulations. In light of the intransigence of asbestos lobbyists and the delegations which support them at the RC, a proposal by the African Group of Nations may be the last hope for the Convention’s survival. [Read full article]

Feb 19, 2017

An analysis has been uploaded of a proposed trade deal between India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) which highlights the injustice and deadly consequences of allowing untaxed imports to India of asbestos, an acknowledged human carcinogen, from Russia and Kazakhstan in return for duty-free Indian exports of gherkins, cucumbers and other non carcinogenic produce to the EAEU. The 259-page report on which the contentious treaty is based is also uploaded. It is of relevance to note that while the report has been circulated this month (February 2017) to selected stakeholders, ban asbestos activists in India did not receive copies of this document from government sources. [Read full article]

Feb 7, 2017

News released last week by organizations nearly 5,000 miles apart confirm the existence and scale of an unfolding disaster in shipbreaking on tidal beaches in South Asia which accounted last year (2016) for 87% of all tonnage dismantled. Research by the Brussels-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform and the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation revealed multiple failures by the shipping industry to safely manage the disposal of end-of-life vessels and the deadly impact of hazardous working practices on the lives of shipbreaking workers. Conditions in Bangladesh’s yards are “known to be the worst;” in 2016, 22 workers died with a further 29 suffering serious injuries. [Read full article]

Feb 1, 2017

A presentation made in Japan at the Tokyo Institute of Technology on January 29 delineated current asbestos consumption and production trends around the world, using graphics, charts and maps to underscore areas at most risk from increasing usage. Efforts and progress made in 2016 and 2017 by grassroots campaigners in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe were highlighted; the important work of asbestos victims’ groups was recognized. Some examples of the fightback by asbestos vested interests were discussed including a 2016 revelation of an asbestos espionage operation run by a UK intelligence agency based in London. [Read full article]

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]

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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