Article Abstracts Archive

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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)

Paris Court Spurns Victims’ Petition

May 24, 2023

The hopes of tens of thousands of French citizens were crushed last week when a Paris Court rejected a direct summons requesting a criminal trial over the national asbestos scandal. On May 19, 2023 the Paris Criminal Court dismissed an action lodged in November, 2021 by 1,800+ plaintiffs seeking to hold to account the decision makers, government officials, executives and doctors who they believed were responsible for the epidemic which had taken so many lives. Rejecting the plaintiffs’ arguments and declaring the procedure “null and void,” the Court said that lack of detail and substance in the filings meant that it was not possible to conclusively link the alleged crimes to the accused. According to leaders of French victims’ groups, the verdict will be appealed. [Read full article]

Mobilizing for Asbestos Justice 2023

May 22, 2023

Around the world, asbestos victims’ groups and campaigners continue to raise the profile of the damage done by asbestos purveyors. Using a multiplicity of methods, which this month included billboards, outreach programs, workshops, negotiations with government officials, petitions and documentaries, they ensure that a formerly invisible epidemic remains at the forefront of national asbestos dialogues. Recent news about asbestos contamination in the British Parliament (London), the Pompidou Center (Paris) and the Canadian Prime Minister’s residence (Ottawa) confirm the potency of the asbestos hazard. The same fibers which make these buildings too dangerous to use are in the lungs of anyone who has ever worked or lived with asbestos and/or asbestos-containing products. [Read full article]

UN Convention Defiled

May 15, 2023

The final spadeful of dirt was dug for the grave of the Rotterdam Convention (RC) on May 12, 2023. After a tumultuous week of negotiations, tantrums and grandstanding, rapacious vested interests – led by Russian asbestos stakeholders – succeeded not only in blocking UN progress on chrysotile (white) asbestos but also in annihilating efforts to reform a treaty which is no longer fit for purpose. After almost 20 years of existence and more than ten years of discussions to enhance the effectiveness of the RC, it could be time to consider whether there is any purpose in continuing life support for a moribund Convention when there is so little hope for recovery. [Read full article]

International Workers Memorial Day 2023

May 10, 2023

In scores of countries around the world, April 28, 2023 was commemorated as International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD). Trade unions, labor federations as well as groups representing victims of workplace illnesses and accidents took action to highlight the price paid by ordinary people for the continued existence of unsafe working practices and use of hazardous substances such as asbestos. IWMD is a valuable conduit for exposing the human toll of corporate cost-cutting, government incompetence and failures of international agencies to protect vulnerable populations. The IWMD slogan – remember the dead, fight for the living – could not be more apt. [Read full article]

Rotterdam Convention Primer 2023

May 9, 2023

The Eleventh Conference of the Parties (COP11) to the Rotterdam Convention (RC) on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade is now taking place in Geneva (May 1-12, 2023). The RC is a UN treaty designed to progress environmental justice by imposing controls on trade in dangerous substances. On eight occasions, recommendations were made that action be taken on chrysotile asbestos; each time a small number of Parties blocked the RC from doing so. At COP11, the RC’s Chemical Review Committee will again recommend adding chrysotile to Annex III, the list of substances subject to prior-informed consent protocols. Russia, which had led opposition to listing chrysotile previously, has already indicated it will do so again. [Read full article]

Not Waving but Drowning: UK vs EU Asbestos Policy 2023

May 2, 2023

As the European Union (EU) progresses efforts to protect citizens from toxic asbestos exposures as part of the “New Wave of EU Renovation,” the UK is going down for the third time with experts warning that as a result of Brexit, by the end of 2023 the country could be without asbestos safeguards for the first time since the 1930s. More than a century after alarm bells began ringing about the asbestos hazard, more than 5,000 Britons are dying every year from diseases which are totally avoidable. The blame for this rests squarely on callous politicians, impotent regulators and penny-pinching employers. God help us all when EU asbestos protections are gone. [Read full article]

Asbestos Hazard at UN Meeting?

Apr 26, 2023

Asbestos victims and trade unionists from Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America and Australia have today expressed concern over the possible presence of asbestos at the Geneva International Conference Centre where UN delegates will meet next month (May 2023) at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (COP11) to discuss the regulation of the global asbestos trade. Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network Sugio Furuya said: “Delegates to COP11 have a right to know whether the building they will be meeting in contains asbestos.” To date, questions asked to officials at the Conference Center and the Convention Secretariat about the presence of asbestos-containing material in the building remain unanswered. [Read full article]

Monetizing Their Mistakes: Paying for the São Paulo Debacle

Apr 20, 2023

The question of who is to pay for the damage caused by the decision of the Brazilian Navy to sink its former flagship remains unanswered. The filing last week of a public civil action by the Attorney General of the Brazilian State of Pernambuco opened a new stage in this sorry tale of subterfuge and incompetence. Compensation of R$322 million (US$65,582,795) is being sought “for environmental, operational and moral damages” from four companies and their directors who, it was alleged, had abandoned the São Paulo on the high seas. As result of their actions and omissions, the ship was deliberately sunk by the Navy 350 kilometers off the coast of Pernambuco in February 2023 after spending several months adrift, having been unable to find a port willing to offer a safe haven. [Read full article]

The UK’s Grim and Enduring Asbestos Legacy

Apr 17, 2023

The betrayal of UK citizens by yet another incompetent government continues as the numbers of deaths caused by asbestos exposures increases. Whilst countries like Korea and Poland have set deadlines for asbestos eradication from their built environments, the UK’s laissez-faire asbestos policy endures with discredited reassurances from the Health and Safety Executive – “a UK government agency responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare” – that “there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure but that’s not to say it can’t be managed safely.” [Read full article]

Eradicating Asbestos from Korea’s Schools

Apr 3, 3023

The Korean Government has set a deadline of 2027 for the removal of asbestos from the country’s educational infrastructure. Pursuant to this aim, asbestos eradication programs are ongoing throughout the country; in most cases, removal work is conducted during the school holidays to avoid disrupting the education process. Members of the grassroots group Ban Asbestos Korea (BANKO) have worked closely with regional education departments to organize watchdog teams composed of environmental campaigners, parents and technical experts to monitor and, when necessary, intervene in key processes such as project planning, construction of safety facilities and disposal of asbestos debris. [Read full article]

Wartime Asbestos Guidelines

Mar 14, 2023

This 18-page Pragmatic Guidance for Emergency Repairs of Structures That May Contain Asbestos in Ukraine published this month (March 2023) by Miyamoto International was the result of collaboration between Ukrainian and international scientists and global experts in disaster management. These interim guidelines were developed to deal with a complex series of problems in a high risk environment. Amongst the specific challenges facing emergency workers in Ukraine are: the ubiquity of asbestos-containing material, a low level of public awareness about the asbestos hazard, the scarcity of personal protective equipment and laboratory testing capacity, and the lack of registered disposal sites, not to mention the threat posed by the war. [Read full article]

Supreme Courts’ Asbestos Verdicts

Mar 7, 2023

Around the world, Supreme Courts have been deciding issues arising from deadly asbestos legacies including who can be held to account for avoidable diseases contracted by citizens. In Europe, North America and Asia the highest courts in the land weighed in on the side of the victims in landmark verdicts in 2021-23; in Brazil, however, in a unique historical precedent, on February 23, 2023 the Federal Supreme Court upheld its 2017 judgment outlawing the production, processing, use, sale and export of asbestos. Brazilian citizens, French factory workers, US consumers and Japanese construction workers will all benefit from the decisions taken by Supreme Courts in their countries. These landmark rulings demonstrate an increasing disquiet with failures to address national asbestos legacies. [Read full article]

Brazil Asbestos Ban Upheld!

Feb 25, 2023

On February 23, 2023, Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) upheld a decision banning the commercial exploitation of asbestos. By a vote of 7 to 1, the Judges rejected appeals of the August 2017 STF plenary decision that had prohibited the mining, processing, use, sale and transport of chrysotile (white) asbestos, an acknowledged carcinogen. The majority opinion handed down in Brasilia this week reaffirmed the STF’s position that the Brazilian law under which the asbestos sector had flourished – article 2 of Federal Law 9.055/1995 – was unconstitutional. The two-page verdict marked the end of an industrial sector which had brought pain and death not only to Brazilians but to people in every country to which Brazilian asbestos was sent. [Read full article]

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Feb 21, 2023

A proposal to end an impasse preventing UN action to protect populations and the environment from exposures to hazardous chemicals and pesticides is under consideration. An amendment to the text of the Rotterdam Convention (RC) on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade tabled by the Governments of Switzerland, Australia and Mali, and co-sponsored by Burkina Faso, Colombia, Georgia, Ghana and the Republic of the Maldives would change voting procedures so that a handful of vested interests would no longer be able to frustrate the will of the majority of the Parties to the Convention. [Read full article]

Britain’s Asbestos Legacy: 2023 Update

Feb 8, 2023

Whilst the European Union is progressing measures to better protect workers from asbestos exposures and encourage the eradication of the hazard from Europe’s built environment, little is being done in post-Brexit Britain to address what some campaigners have termed “a national scandal.” Recent investigations have confirmed widespread contamination of NHS buildings – including hospitals, health centres, blood donor clinics and GP surgeries – in London and Scotland and schools in England and Wales. Strike action being taken this week by employees of a social housing company underline the decline in protection being afforded to UK workers as well as members of the public. [Read full article]

Anger Growing in Brazil over Asbestos Crimes

Jan 20, 2023

The last few months of 2022 saw a remarkable series of events which revealed the volte-face in Brazilians’ perception of asbestos. In decisions by the judiciary and provincial governments, TV broadcasts and victories by grassroots’ campaigners, lies told by the asbestos lobby were denounced, the return of an asbestos-laden ship was blocked and the lives sacrificed by asbestos stakeholders were honored. High-profile developments were: verdicts by courts in São Paulo and Pernambuco condemning attacks by the asbestos lobby on a ban asbestos campaigner and supporting a state’s right to bar a toxic ship – the São Paulo – from its waters; the quashing of an injunction by the Superior Civil Court; and mobilization by civil society groups and state agencies to prevent the docking of the São Paulo in their ports. [Read full article]

Conrad Atkinson: Artist, “Infant Terrible,” Activist and Friend: June 15, 1940 – October 8, 2022

Oct 31, 2022

How many people are there who make you smile? I’m betting you can count them on the fingers of one hand. Conrad Atkinson was one of them. I first encountered Conrad some years ago at an international conference in Barrow-in-Furness. He spoke about his landmark piece: Asbestos: The Lungs of Capitalism showing, if memory serves me right, slides of the artwork. I didn’t get it. In 2019, I had the opportunity to see this work at the Tate when museum conservators readied it for installation. I was blown away by its scale, attention to detail, historical content, vivid coloration and vivacity. Here were the lives of people I had read about and worked with spread across a huge museum space. Conrad had studied the daily reality of ordinary people, distilled it through his unique artistic filter and preserved it forever. [Read full article]

São Paulo Blame Game

Oct 11, 2022

Whose responsibility is the floating can of worms which is the São Paulo? At 32,800 tonnes fully loaded, Brazil’s 265 meter long former flagship has now become a symbol of government malfeasance and criminality. The Brazilian Navy, duplicating the actions of its French counterpart (2000), had hoped to off-load the vessel to a new owner. Clearly, the Latin phrase “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) was not part of the lexicon of Sök Denizcilik, the Turkish shipyard which bought the São Paulo in 2021 for BRL 10.5 million (~US$2m) despite the fact that it was likely to contain asbestos, PCBs, lead/cadmium paint as well as traces of radioactive material. The ship which set sail in August 2022 for a dismantling yard is now back in Brazilian waters having been refused entry into Turkey. It’s fate remains uncertain. [Read full article]

European Commission’s Asbestos Action Plan under Attack

Oct 10, 2022

Last month, the European Commission released long-awaited protocols to address the ongoing asbestos epidemic amongst the Member States of the EU. In 2019, there were 70,000 asbestos deaths in the EU; each one was avoidable. The contents of the Commission’s program seemed to generate as much negative as positive coverage with groups representing workers and labor federations condemning the Commission’s prioritization of commercial interests over the lives of workers. In October 2021, the European Parliament had voted for a new asbestos occupational exposure limit of 0.001 f/cm³; however, the Commission’s 2022 proposal will only impose a limit of 0.01 f/cm³. The new level would be “significantly” higher than the 0.002 f/cm³ limit currently in place in some EU member states. [Read full article]

Advancing the Global Campaign for Asbestos Justice 2022

Sep 21, 2022

A quote made famous by Vladimir Lenin: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,” sprang to mind when I was reviewing progress made this month (September 2022). Recent news received of developments in Latin America, Europe and Asia made manifest the huge strides being achieved in the struggle for asbestos justice. The September breakthroughs were the result of long-term efforts by grassroots campaigners, politicians, civil servants, asbestos victims’ groups, non-governmental organizations, national associations and others working individually and collaboratively to address asbestos corruption and illegalities. [Read full article]

Ukraine Bans Asbestos, Finally!

Sep 9, 2022

On September 6, 2022 Parliamentary bill No. 4142, which prohibited the use of all types of asbestos and products containing it in Ukraine, was enacted. As a result, said Ukrainian politician Olena Shulyak: “Finally, we will get rid of the health-threatening Soviet construction legacy and replace it with modern building materials that will preserve the health of both builders and residents of new buildings.” The road to achieving this ban was not straightforward due to aggressive lobbying by Ukrainian and foreign pro-asbestos stakeholders. Judicial as well as legislative actions were blocked on multiple occasions, testing both the stamina and conviction of campaigners in Parliament and civil society organizations. [Read full article]

Kazakh Producers Chasing Russian Asbestos Markets

Sep 6, 2022

With the imposition of trade sanctions on Russian businesses, traditional transport routes were blocked not just for the aggressor but for others who used their ports. A case in point was the situation faced by Kostanay Minerals JSC, Kazakhstan’s sole chrysotile (white) asbestos conglomerate, which had until the outbreak of the 2022 war sent its exports via the Russian ports of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea and St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea. After initial logistical difficulties which forced Kostanay to cease mining operations, new channels of transportation were developed to allow the export of asbestos fiber to resume. An assessment of Russian asbestos exports is not possible at this time due to the lack of reliable data. [Read full article]

The São Paulo: International Hot Potato

Sep 1, 2022

Bowing to the inevitable, on Tuesday August 30, 2022 the Brazilian Agency which had authorized the export of the Navy’s former flagship – the São Paulo – to Turkey called for its immediate return to Brazil following the Turkish Government’s cancellation of its import permit. The international furore caused by the ship’s journey to an Izmir dismantling yard has been colossal with widespread unrest in Turkey over the continued desecration of the environment under the Erdoğan Government. As of August 31, 2022, the São Paulo was off the coast of Morocco. The Basel Action Network which is monitoring the transit of the Dutch tug pulling the aircraft carrier says that the speed has remained consistent and the vessel is on course towards Turkey. [Read full article]

Reflections on Ukraine’s Independence Day

Aug 24, 2022

Today (August 24, 2022), is Independence Day in Ukraine. Under current circumstances, Ukrainians could be forgiven for exuberant displays of nationalism as they celebrate their 31st year of freedom. And yet, even after more than three decades of independence, the country is still under attack. Fighting against the Russians and their collaborators is now a fact of life not only in the streets but also in the Parliament in Kyiv where work to ban asbestos is under a constant bombardment from asbestos industry propagandists determined to quash the sovereign right of Ukraine to act in the best interests of its citizens and outlaw the use of an acknowledged carcinogen as other civilized countries have done. [Read full article]

Johnson and Johnson U-Turn – Finally!

Aug 15, 2022

Within hours of Johnson and Johnson’s August 11, 2022 announcement that it planned to withdraw its iconic talc-based baby powder from sale in all global markets next year, the news had spread around the world. Coverage of this development was published in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Qatar, India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Israel, the Gulf States, Brazil and elsewhere. What was remarkable was not the massive interest in this story but the fact that not one of the articles asked why toxic baby powder which had been withdrawn in North America in 2020 was still being sold in their country in 2022. [Read full article]