News Item Archive
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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)
Top Priority: Asbestos Ban
Jul 23, 2016
Yesterday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a US environmental organization specializing in research and advocacy regarding toxic chemicals, published a list of chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should take action on following the enactment last month of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) that mandated revisions to the country’s 40-year old chemical safety regime. Under TSCA, which as a compromise bill has significant drawbacks, the EPA was given greater authority to regulate hazardous chemicals in consumer products. Top of the EWG’s hit list is a US ban on asbestos. See: EWG Lists the Top 10 Toxic Chemicals EPA Should Review Now.
Controversy over British Asbestos Waste
July 23, 2016
A very public debate has been started by a feature in Phileleftheros, the largest newspaper in Cyprus, which questions the disposal of asbestos waste produced by British bases on Cyprus. According to the July 21 article, permission had been given for the disposal of up to 50 containers of asbestos debris at the Amiantos asbestos mine at a cost of €16 per cubic metre. A spokesman for the British forces said that notwithstanding these enquiries, it had been decided to continue shipping all the asbestos waste to the UK. On May 5, 2016, however, the bases informed the Geological Survey Department that there were 40 containers of toxic waste for disposal. See: Bases deny disposing of asbestos in Cyprus.
Asbestos in Schools Fact Sheet
Jul 23, 2016
The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) has produced a handy 5-page advice sheet pinpointing the asbestos hazards in UK schools and providing guidance for union health and safety representatives. The issues covered in this document include: what asbestos is, where asbestos products are likely to be in schools, legal requirements regarding the management of asbestos-containing products, the hazards posed by refurbishment and repair work, risk communication strategies for keeping parents informed and specific risks such as asbestos in gas marks, helmets and cabinet heaters. Action points are suggested. See: JUAC Health & Safety Rep Advice Sheet.
Constitutional Court Okays Asbestos Trial!
Jul 22, 2016
On July 21, 2016, a long-awaited decision by Italy’s Constitutional Court was handed down which gave the green light for criminal proceedings against Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny to continue despite his legal teams’ assertions that he was protected by the legal principal of double jeopardy from being tried twice for the same crime. In 2014 the Supreme Court had overturned on technical grounds a 2012 conviction which had sentenced him to serve 18 years in jail. Prosecutors will relaunch the legal proceedings against Schmidheiny over the asbestos deaths of 258 individuals; the charges related to some of these deaths were not included in the initial prosecution. See: Constitutional Court OKs fresh trial (2).
Mesothelioma Widow Confronts PM
Jul 22, 2016
Michaela Keyserlingk, whose husband died from asbestos cancer, has issued a formal challenge to Prime Minister Trudeau expressing her “disappointment” with his “lack of action regarding the ban of asbestos in Canada.” (the newly elected PM had committed his party to a national ban). Demanding a prompt response, in her letter to the PM she says: “You and your family rightfully refused to live in asbestos ridden 24 Sussex St, but saving your own skin and ignoring the dangers to others is not the Canadian way.” Trudeau’s failure to act on the deadly hazard makes him “personally responsible for future [asbestos] deaths of Canadians…” See: Letter from M. Keyserlingk to the Prime Minister.
Widespread Usage of Toxic Imports
Jul 21, 2016
Western Australia (WA) has been at the epicentre of a storm over the import of illegal asbestos building materials from China. The scandal over use of these toxic materials at a new WA children’s hospital has led to enquiries which documented similar situations in 170 construction projects around Australia. On July 19, 2016, personnel from the Australian Border Force raided the headquarters of Yuanda, the company which imported this material; new measures have been put in place to hold all Yuanda imports in quarantine until they have been cleared. Up to 10 people a week are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases in WA. See: Asbestos diseases hit home.
Who Foots the Bill for Asbestos Disease?
Jul 21, 2016
A July 2016 commentary for casualty underwriters reflects on the wide-ranging implications of a decision handed down on January 29, 2016 by the District Court of Kyoto which ordered nine manufacturers of asbestos-containing construction materials to pay a total of JPY 112 million (~US$1 million) to 23 workers and their families who died from or are suffering from asbestosis and/or lung cancer. A significant difference of opinion exists amongst courts in Japan over whether manufacturers can be held liable with district courts in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka and Yokohama issuing verdicts which favoured manufacturers. See: Asbestos Court Decision and Implications in Japan.
Conviction for Asbestos Contamination
Jul 20, 2016
A verdict handed down on July 15, 2016 marked the end of a battle over asbestos contamination caused during the reconstruction of primary schools in Budejovice, the provincial capital of southern Bohemia, Czech Republic. A District Court’s ruling held that the company OHL ZS, which was renovating the schools during the summer of 2011, was responsible for the problems caused and remediation required after damaging asbestos-containing panels in the schools’ boiler rooms despite having been alerted to the presence of asbestos. See: Budejovice vítezí v boji o azbest ve školách na Máji. Chtejí miliony [Budejovice wins million euro battle over asbestos in schools].
Prison Sentences for Asbestos Crimes
Jul 19, 2016
A plaintiffs’ verdict in a high-profile manslaughter trial over the asbestos deaths of 14 workers was handed down on July 18, 2016 by Judge Elena Stoppini at a court in Ivrea, Italy. Fifteen ex-managers of the Olivetti electronics firm were found guilty of failing to protect employees from hazardous exposures to asbestos with ex-Olivetti President Franco De Benedetti and his brother Carlo receiving prison sentences of more than five years for corporate manslaughter. Judge Stoppini ruled that the De Benedetti brothers were responsible for 10 of the 14 deaths. Olivetti continued to use asbestos until the middle of the 1990s. See: Ex-Olivetti bosses sentenced over asbestos deaths.
Funds to Fight Fires at Grace Mine
Jul 19, 2016
Federal funding of $2.1 million has been secured by the Environmental Protection Agency to enable firefighters to safely deal with conflagrations in the asbestos-contaminated area of Libby, Montana where mining operations by W.R. Grace & Co created an environmental catastrophe. Tests undertaken on asbestos-infested trees confirm the health hazard posed by this and other toxic deposits in the 47,000-acre area designated Operable Unit 3, or OU3 near the old mine. Should a fire start inside the area, state, local and federal officials would deploy air-monitoring stations to ensure that the air is safe to breathe. See: EPA, USFS Allocate $2.1 Million to Support Firefighting Efforts at Asbestos Mine.
Compensation for Asbestos Worker
Jul 18, 2016
A worker from the Russian town of Asbest has succeeded in a court claim for occupational injury due to hazardous exposures to asbestos at a factory owned by Uralasbest, the world’s largest producer of chrysotile asbestos. Sverdlovsk prosecutors collected evidence from other employees which substantiated allegations of unsafe working conditions. The company was ordered to pay compensation of 30,000 roubles (US$473) for negligence as a result of which the worker became 30% disabled. See: В Асбесте сотрудник завода на треть утратил трудоспособность из-за [Asbestos factory worker one third incapacitated due to hazardous conditions].
Resource for Ban Asbestos Campaign
Jul 18, 2016
The Chrysotile Asbestos Fact Sheet uploaded to the IBAS website earlier this year has now been translated into Bahasa for use by ban asbestos campaigners in Indonesia. This work has been undertaken by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network – Ina-Ban. Commenting on the initiative Ina-Ban’s Coordinator M. Darisman said: “Indonesia is on the frontline of the propaganda campaign by global asbestos lobbyists who spread disinformation and lies regarding the deadly hazards of asbestos use. This new resource will be invaluable in our efforts to achieve an asbestos ban in Indonesia.” See: Chrysotile Asbestos Fact Sheet 2016 – Bahasa Translation.
Asbestos Hazard in Tanks
Jul 16, 2016
On July 7, 2016, a labor court in the Spanish city of Valladolid ruled that the company Iveco Spain must pay €60,000 to a former worker who has been diagnosed with asbestosis. The claimant had been employed as an electrician from 1973 to 2006; during this time, he worked on the assembly of BMR armored vehicles at the Iveco factory and off-site on repairs. He was neither warned about possible asbestos exposure nor was he provided with protective clothing or equipment. This is the first asbestos ruling against the company. See: Condenan a Iveco a pagar 60.000 euros a un trabajador que enfermó por el Amianto [Convicted Iveco to pay 60,000 euros to asbestos injured worker].
Asbestos Protest in Trinidad
Jul 16, 2016
Casual workers employed by Trinidad and Tobago’s Agriculture Ministry’s Research Division in Centeno downed tools last week over asbestos scares according to a July 11, 2016 newspaper report. Work to replace asbestos rooves on buildings at the Ministry compound caused alarm amongst workers who feared the effects of toxic exposures. Since July 4, they have been reporting to work but standing 100 metres across the road. Despite representation by the National Union of Government and Federated Workers, they will not be paid as management says they have not fulfilled their duties. See: Centeno workers protest health risks from asbestos roof removal.
Asbestos Safety Management Act Revisions
Jul 15, 2016
Concerns over the large amounts of asbestos within the national infrastructure has led the Government to announce measures to strengthen mandatory asbestos management protocols during the dismantling and reconstruction of buildings in Korea. The new safeguards are incorporated within revisions to the Asbestos Safety Management Act and will take effect on August 15, 2016. According to the Incheon Metropolitan City office of Education, up to 130 billion won is needed to remove asbestos from schools in Incheon. The price for the eradication from the Korean built environment is unknown. See: Korea to tighten asbestos controls.
State Assisted Environmental Remediation
Jul 15, 2016
The legacy of the Eitanit asbestos plant which closed in 1997 continues to impact on life in Western Galilee where vast quantities of asbestos waste were used to build roads, gardens and paved areas. For five years, a clean-up of contaminated sites has been progressing, supported by taxpayers’ money and funds sourced from Eitanit under the supervision of the Environmental Protect Ministry. To date, 266 million shekels (US$69m) have been spent on almost 300 sites; completion of the remediation is expected in 2017. After Eitanit remediates its compound, Nahariya will be able to build a boardwalk on the beach. See: Cleaning Up Asbestos in Nahariya Is No Walk on the Beach.
Deadly Asbestos Exposures Routine
Jul 15, 2016
A 14-minute video uploaded to YouTube last month (June 2016) entitled Dangerous Dust: Asbestos Story in Indonesia, produced by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network working in conjunction with the Local Initiative for OSH Network, Developing World Outreach Initiative and the Korea Green Foundation, is an eye-opening expose of the hazard posed by the use of asbestos in a country where up to 8,000 people work in 26 factories using asbestos every day. The risks to workers, consumers and members of the public are highlighted as is the high degree of government complacency regarding the hazard. See: Dangerous Dust: Asbestos Story in Indonesia [Debu Mematikan: Kisah Asbes di Indonesia].
Banned Asbestos in New Hospital
Jul 14, 2016
After an alert by the Australian CFMEU trade union, Western Australia’s Health Minister John Day admitted that tests undertaken showed that chrysotile asbestos was present in four out of seven samples taken from a roof panel which had been supplied by Chinese subcontractor Yuanda to lead contractor John Holland for a new children’s hospital in Perth. This discovery is another example of the flouting of the national ban on asbestos by imports of toxic Chinese products. The CFMEU believes hundreds of workers at the site of the $1.2bn project could have been exposed. See: Asbestos found in $1.2b Perth Children's Hospital, says WA Health Minister.
Delays in Asbestos Remediation
Jul 13, 2016
Despite the stated intention of removing asbestos rooves from municipal buildings in the Portuguese capital by 2017, work has so far only been completed on 5 out of 42 contaminated buildings. Of the 14 schools included on this list, work has been completed in two and is underway in a further six, with two more contracts in preparation. This matter was tabled for discussion at the Municipal Assembly of Lisbon by Fabio Sousa. Councillors concerned at the lack of progress were informed of the reasons for the delays. See: Lisboa só concluiu remoção de amianto em cinco de 42 edifícios municipais [Asbestos removal only completed in Lisbon on five of 42 municipal buildings].
Remediation of Schools in Andalusia
Jul 13, 2016
Schools throughout Andalusia are contaminated with asbestos-containing products. The health hazard posed to children and school staff by toxic exposures has been a political hot potato for several months with increasing pressure being brought by parents’ and community groups. On July 12, 2016 it was announced that a 60 million euro plan to eradicate contamination in community colleges is being authorized by the Andalusian authorities. A removal program prioritizing older material is under consideration. See: El amianto de los colegios llega este martes al Parlamento andaluz [The issue of asbestos at colleges arrives at the Andalusian Parliament on Tuesday].
Replacement of Asbestos-Cement Pipes
Jul 13, 2016
Water delivery was disrupted last week with service restored on July 11, 2016 after employees of the Central Water Authority replaced a 30 meters long, 30 year old defective asbestos-cement water pipe in the north of Mauritius. The repairs took four days and were, said a company spokesman, not easy: “employees had to perform the work of excavation and installation by hand, hence the delay with this direct effect on water supply.” Some 300 families in several neighborhoods were affected. See: Remplacement d’un Tuyau en amiante: 300 Familles sans Eau pendant Quatre Jours [Replacement of Asbestos Pipes: 300 Families without Water for Four Days].
Victims’ Group Calls for Action
Jul 13, 2016
AFeVA, the Italian Association of Asbestos Victims and their Families, is calling on Mayors throughout the Italian province of Ravenna to quantify the health hazard posed by asbestos pollution. Citing as an example of good practice, work undertaken in Rubiera, an AFeVA spokesman said: “with a minimal expenditure, employing a company that uses drones, the city monitored the area in a short time and revealed the magnitude of the problem… [it then moved] on to the next phase of remediation and disposal.” See: AFeVA: “Amianto, si piangono le morti per il lavoro, ma non si fa nulla per prevenirle” [AFeVA: “they mourn those dead from asbestos exposures at work, but nothing is done to prevent further deaths”].
Union Alert over Chinese Gaskets
Jul 12, 2016
An alert has been issued by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) over potential asbestos contamination after reports that asbestos-containing building material, installed by workers for the Chinese company Yuanda, had been discovered on a site in Brisbane’s central business district. CFMEU spokesman Aaron Cartledge said the union was “highly suspicious” that toxic gaskets exported from China could have been used by Yuanda workers during the construction of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. See: Asbestos discovery linked to Brisbane company that worked on new RAH and SAHMRI sites.
Call for Cape Verde Asbestos Ban
Jul 12, 2016
At an event on June 28, 2016 to promote asbestos awareness in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde, the head of a Portuguese environmental non-governmental organization (Quercas) called for action to prevent hazardous asbestos exposures. Highlighting the need for asbestos audits of the built environment, John White called for legislation to ban future use throughout the country’s ten islands. Measures for quantifying the scale of the asbestos problem in the country were urgently needed said environmental campaigner Paulo Ferreira. See: Quercus quer inventário sobre edifícios com amianto em Cabo Verde [Quercus want inventory of buildings containing asbestos in Cape Verde].
Asbestos Ban, the Cheaper Option
Jul 11, 2016
Reports presented at a World Health Organization meeting by 13 asbestos using countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine – highlighted the health, legal, removal, replacement and legal costs of the continued use of asbestos. Failure to end asbestos use will, a WHO statement said, “lead to disease development and substantial medical costs.” See: WHO environment and health meeting on the economic costs of asbestos.