News Item Archive

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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)
 

Asbestos: Chapter 2

Dec 20, 2014

In an article in Le Monde this week, journalist Stephane Foucart referenced a “remarkable” new book by Professor Annie Thebaud-Mony entitled “Science Enslaved” (see: La Science asservie) which exposes links between science and industry. Thebaud-Mony highlighted the 2013 controversy over Paolo Boffetta, an Italian scientist who at that time was being considered for one of France’s highest scientific positions. Amongst the issues highlighted was the publication by Boffetta and his co-author of an article which declared “no conflicts of interest” when both authors were consultants to asbestos industrialists. See: Amiante, chapitre II [Asbestos, chapter 2].
 

Update on Victims’ Mobilization

Dec 20, 2014

As a result of continuing pressure exerted by Japanese asbestos victims’ groups, the Ministry of Labor disclosed the names of companies where asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) have been recognized as occupationally-caused. This information has been recorded by the victims’ groups on a database which can be consulted by the public. On December 18 and 19, the Japanese network of asbestos victims and their supporters operated a nationwide telephone consultation service for victims and their families. They received 200 calls. Japan has a high incidence of ARDs due to heavy use of asbestos. Asbestos was banned in phases, a full ban was reached in 2012. See: Japan Asbestos Profile.
 

Victory in New South Wales

Dec 19, 2014

Today (December 19), the New South Wales (NSW) Government has announced a crisis program similar to the one set up in Canberra for dealing with the issue of homes contaminated with loose fill “Mr Fluffy” asbestos insulation. A NSW taskforce is being established to implement a buy-back program which will draw on government funds to purchase and demolish contaminated properties. Immediate financial support is being made available to affected households through the “Make Safe” assistance package. It has been estimated that more than 5,000 homes could be affected. See: NSW government endorses asbestos inquiry and announces crisis package.
 

Asbestos Use Continues in Vietnam!

Dec 19, 2014

Media reports from Hanoi indicate that the status quo regarding the use of chrysotile (asbestos) will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future after a meeting in the capital on December 17 which was addressed by pro-asbestos lobbyists from Latin America and the U.S. Urging the adoption of a national ban, health experts from the Vietnam Government cited data from international agencies substantiating the proven risks of exposure to all types of asbestos. Despite the known hazard, the Vice Minister of Construction Nguyen Tran Nam said there remained a lack of “convincing evidence.” See: Vietnam to stick to white asbestos, despite cancer concern.
 

Contamination in New South Wales

Dec 17, 2014

A parliamentary inquiry today recommended that the Government of New South Wales (NSW) follow the example of the ACT government and buy back homes contaminated by “Mr. Fluffy” asbestos insulation. The joint parliamentary committee advised that a mandatory testing program be set up for at-risk homes to establish the number of properties affected. Having quantified the problem, a taskforce would develop and implement the buyback program with funding from both the NSW and federal governments. Committee Chair Reverend Fred Nile highlighted the urgency of the situation. See: Mr Fluffy asbestos: Parliamentary inquiry recommends NSW buyback, demolition scheme.
 

Asbestos in the Asia-Pacific Region

Dec 17, 2014

The latest issue of the Asian-Pacific Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety, published by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, is devoted to the subject of asbestos. The articles contained include detailed examinations of national asbestos legacies and discussions of the actions being taken by international agencies to tackle the ensuing public and occupational health crisis that asbestos use has created. Of particular interest is the article: The ticking time-bomb of asbestos consumption in the Asian region by Australian authors Matthew Soeberg and Nico van Zandwijk. See: Asbestos issue of the Asian-Pacific Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety.
 

Levels of Non-occupational Disease

Dec 16, 2014

A study on the incidence of malignant mesothelioma (MM) in an Italian region where an asbestos factory was operational from 1932 to 1993, reports an elevated MM incidence for workers, family members and neighbors. Using data from the Lombardy Mesothelioma Registry, the scientists found 147 MM deaths, but only 38 of the victims had worked at the factory. The largest excess occurred in the towns of Broni and Stradella. The paper concludes that “half of the MM cases were attributable to environmental exposure, a quarter to occupational exposure, and a quarter to familial exposure.” See: Impact of asbestos cement factory on mesothelioma incidence.
 

Canada’s Asbestos Killer

Dec 15, 2014

Annual occupational asbestos deaths in Canada outstrip combined fatalities from highway accidents, fires and chemical exposures, according to figures produced by the federal government. Since 1996, asbestos has claimed 5,000 lives, making it Canada’s biggest occupational killer. Despite the death toll, the use and import of asbestos products remain legal in Canada, and the website of Health Canada plays down the asbestos hazard claiming that chrysotile (white) asbestos is “less potent” than other types and that there “is no significant health risk” if fibers are not inhaled. See: Data reveals asbestos is Canada’s top source of workplace death.
 

Government Acts over Judicial Fiasco

Dec 15, 2014

In the aftermath of the disastrous Supreme Court decision in a historic asbestos case, the Italian Government has announced that funding of €75m has been allocated to rehabilitate contaminated areas and provide support for asbestos victims whose exposure was environmental or para-occupational (from the asbestos on clothes brought home by family members). See: Il Governo assegna 75 milioni di euro per le bonifiche d’amianto a Casale Monferrato e Bagnoli [The Government allocates €75 million for the reclamation of asbestos in Casale Monferrato and Bagnoli].
 

Lung Cancer Test Case Appeal

Dec 14, 2014

On December 11, 2014, a High Court handed down the decision in an asbestos-related lung cancer test case. Under consideration was whether damages awarded for this type of injury were divisible under the rules laid down in the House of Lords’ decision in the Barker case. The deceased was employed by six defendants, all of whom admitted liability. Mr. Justice Jay found that “apportionment is the appropriate outcome in the present case…” An appeal is being pursued. According to one legal expert: “there is a strong possibility that whatever happens in the Court of Appeal the case will end up in the Supreme Court.” See: Heneghan v Manchester Dry Docks and others.
 

Asbestos in European Headquarters

Dec 13, 2014

Malta’s former Prime Minister Alfred Sant has led calls for an evacuation of the European Commission’s (EC) Luxembourg headquarters due to extensive asbestos contamination. Sant, now a Member of the European Parliament, has highlighted the risk posed by exposures to the 1,700 people who work at the EC’s Kirchberg offices in Luxembourg. The Jean Monnet building is owned by the “Fonds d'Urbanisme et d'Aménagement du Plateau du Kirchberg,” a public institution; the EC’s lease on this building runs out in 2014. See: Large amount of asbestos discovered in European Commission’s Luxembourg building.
 

National Asbestos Legacy

Dec 13, 2014

Scientists calculate that between 1975 and 2010, 6,037 people died from asbestos-related diseases in Spain. It has been predicted that between 2016 and 2020, 1,000+ Spaniards will die from the signature asbestos cancer, mesothelioma; it is not known how many more deaths will take place due to asbestos-related lung cancer and cancers of the larynx and ovary. Unfortunately, few of the asbestos-injured succeed in getting their diseases recognized; between 2007 and 2011, 6.4% of male and 4.4% of female mesothelioma fatalities were recognized as occupational diseases by the authorities. See: Las víctimas dobles del amianto [Victims twice over].
 

Debate on Mesothelioma Research Funding

Dec 11, 2014

In another display of ignorance, Lord Faulks this week told the House of Lords: “It is absolutely not the case that there is insufficient funding for [mesothelioma] research. As I have said more than once, the case is that, at the moment, there is not a suitable number of applications for research. The funding is very much there.” The UK is now at the cutting edge of mesothelioma research with a number of clinical trials under way and others being planned. A UK bid to host the world’s premier meeting of mesothelioma researchers was won in October – the 2016 meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group is to take place in Birmingham. See: House of Lords Debate December 9, 2014.
 

Asbestos Cancer Data Unrealistic

Dec 11, 2014

An ecologic study conducted of Brazilian mortality data established that between 1980 and 2010, there were 3,718 deaths from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Annual standardized mortality rate by age reached a maximum of 1.18 per million population in 2002, with the majority of deaths occurring in the Southeast. Considering that Brazil is one of the world’s biggest producers and users of asbestos, there can be little doubt that these figures “do not reflect the true magnitude of the problem.” Specific actions are called for by the authors including improvements in medical training, capacity and diagnostic protocols and better surveillance measures. See: Mesothelioma Mortality Rate in Brazil, 1980 to 2010.
 

Fight to Ban Asbestos Continues

Dec 9, 2014

On December 10, 2014, government officials and civil servants will hear presentations by asbestos apologists sent to Vietnam to reassure decision makers that chrysotile asbestos can be used safely under “controlled conditions.” The industry propaganda they will be parroting was soundly condemned at a workshop (see: workshop photo) held last month in Hanoi the purpose of which was to develop a roadmap to ban asbestos in Vietnam. At the November meeting a spokesman for the Ministry of Health confirmed that asbestos was a health hazard and that cases of asbestos cancer had been diagnosed in Vietnam. See: Ban on asbestos use in Vietnam is urgent.
 

Ministerial Announcement on Mesothelioma

Dec 8, 2014

Following the defeat of draconian moves by the coalition government to marginalize mesothelioma victims earlier this year, Minister Shailesh Vara today confirmed to Parliament (see: Minister's statement) that the status quo will be maintained for mesothelioma claimants; this means that the no-win, no-fee regime will continue pending further review. Vara also told MPs that changes are being introduced to speed up compensation claims which include streamlining the processes for obtaining hospital medical records and information from HM Revenue and Customs needed for legal cases. See: New support for industrial disease victims.
 

Landmark Asbestos Conference

Dec 8, 2014

On November 5-7, 2014, as part of a series of events to raise awareness of asbestos hazards in Columbia, an Asbestos Conference was convened in Bogotá. On the second day of the conference, international speakers addressed a wide range of subjects; amongst them was Dr. Barry Castleman from the United States who spoke about Criminality and the Asbestos Industry. In his remarks, he highlighted the corrupting influence of asbestos industry representatives on the judicial, political and legislative processes in countries all over the world. This talk has been uploaded to YouTube with Spanish subtitles. It is well worth a look! See: Presentation by Dr Barry Castleman.
 

Earthquake Asbestos Hazard Report

Dec 8, 2014

A report just released by WorkSafe New Zealand into the management of the asbestos hazard by the Earthquake Commission (EQC) found significant flaws in the oversight process. An analysis of the work of contractors engaged to undertake home repairs following the 2011 Canterbury earthquake established that there had been: a widespread lack of asbestos awareness, failure to properly assess sites and inappropriate and dangerous working practices. Although the EQC’s safety system and management of the asbestos risk were inadequate, experts are quoted as saying that the risk to workers and the public remained low. See: Asbestos risk 'very low' in quake repairs: Worksafe.
 

Battle to Ban Asbestos

Dec 7, 2014

A feature in the Bangkok Post on November 30, 2014 detailed the country’s ongoing battle over the future of the country’s asbestos industry. Despite a 2011 pledge given by the Cabinet to ban asbestos, no steps have been taken to implement prohibitions. The stakes are high and the opposition of vested interests to a ban remains fierce. Last month’s international asbestos conference in Bangkok was gatecrashed by the managing director of one of Thailand’s biggest asbestos manufacturers. Despite the aggressive stance of the Thai asbestos lobby, the Industry Ministry has introduced a new bill to ban asbestos in order to protect public and occupational health. See: The battle to ban asbestos.
 

On-board Asbestos Hazard

Dec 7, 2014

Despite the fact that the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea declared in 2002 that all new ships should be asbestos-free, maritime experts report that the vast majority of vessels are still being constructed with asbestos. As a result of confusion over documentation required to verify that a ship is free from the asbestos risk, decisions often taken by national authorities and shipowners continue to put maritime workers at risk. Experts recommend that build contracts should include a clause stating that ‘asbestos-free’ means 0% and that an asbestos absence certificate be issued by an independent ISO 17020 accredited asbestos specialist. See: 85% of new ships still contain asbestos.
 

Government Mesothelioma Scheme

Dec 6, 2014

A press release issued by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced that in the first seven months of operations the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme Levy 2014 paid out £15 million. Urging victims to come forward, the DWP predicted that a further £32 million could be disbursed by this insurance industry-funded scheme by March 2015. The average sum of compensation being paid is £125,000. Eligible claimants include sufferers of diffuse mesothelioma diagnosed after July 25, 2012 and surviving families who can’t trace a liable employer or an employers’ insurer. See: £32 million of compensation available for victims of asbestos related cancer.
 

Test Case Lodged in Canberra

Dec 6, 2014

Lawyers representing mesothelioma victim Chris Georgiou are suing the Federal Government in the New South Wales Dust Diseases Tribunal in a landmark legal case. Mr. Georgiou’s team has alleged that the Government was negligent in failing to prevent the installation of highly toxic asbestos insulation in homes and failed to warn residents of the health dangers. Previously to his purchasing the Canberra house in 1978, it had been insulated with loose fill amosite asbestos sold under the trade name of “Mr Fluffy.” See: Mr Fluffy: Homeowner with mesothelioma brings landmark case against Commonwealth over asbestos in his roof.
 

Campaign to Outlaw Killer Fiber

Dec 5

Following the death of her husband Thom, Deidre vanGerven has devoted herself to the campaign to rid New Zealand of asbestos. Thom’s exposure to the deadly fiber took place during his employment as a refractory bricklayer. Seventeen years after his passing, New Zealand has still not banned asbestos imports. This is something that Deidre cannot understand and cannot tolerate. She has reached out to civil society stakeholders at home and abroad to demand that action be taken. Despite an entrenched national policy of denial, Deidre persists in her attempts to have asbestos banned and achieve justice for the injured. See: Gran versus the killer asbestos.
 

National Tribunal Condemns Mining

Dec 5, 2014

Last month, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) castigated India’s Environment Ministry (MoEF) for failing to adequately respond to charges related to the continued mining of asbestos in India. An affidavit filed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) did not address the NGT’s questions about “what steps have been taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forests or any other authority of the State… (regarding whether) any asbestos mining was being carried on in any part of the State or not.” On December 23, further consideration will be given to this matter. See: Asbestos mining: NGT raps MoEF for vague response.
 

Court Upholds Jail Sentences

Dec 1, 2014

On November 21, 2014, Italy’s Supreme Court upheld the manslaughter convictions of Luciano Lemetti, Giuseppe Cortesi and Antonio Cipponeri for the asbestos-related deaths of 37 shipyard workers from Fincantieri. When the former executives were convicted in 2012, they were given prison sentences ranging from thirty-two months to four years. The prison sentences were slightly reduced by the Court of Cassation which upheld compensation payments awarded by the Court to relatives, the metalworkers’ union, the INAIL workmen’s compensation fund and an environmental group. See: Fincantieri asbestos convictions upheld – update.