News Item Archive
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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)
Thousands Die in Asbestos Epidemic
Jan 20, 2015
France’s Institute of Health Surveillance has today released details highlighting the national epidemic of asbestos cancer. With 1,700 asbestos fatalities and 2,200 cases of asbestos cancer diagnosed per annum, the banned substance remains a potent hazard to life. The Institute reported a significant rise in the incidence of mesothelioma in the late 1990s and the late 2000s among women, 28% of whom had no known exposure to asbestos. The figures suggest that the French asbestos epidemic has not peaked. See: Amiante: Plus de 2.200 nouveaux cancers et 1.700 décès chaque année [Asbestos: More than 2,200 new cancers and 1,700 deaths each year].
Toronto’s Asbestos Policy
Jan 20, 2104
Asbestos remediation has cost the City of Toronto more than $5 million since 2010, as it has removed or encased asbestos in 185 of its buildings, according to information released under a freedom-of-information request. In 2014, the city spent $1million on asbestos decontamination of 23 buildings. The proactive municipal asbestos policy includes regular asbestos inspections, management protocols and measures to minimize hazardous occupational exposures during renovation, construction, demolition or maintenance work. See: City has dealt with nearly 200 asbestos concerns in public buildings since 2010.
Union Asbestos Campaign
Jan 19 2015
The UK’s Unite union has uploaded a range of resources on the asbestos hazard to raise awareness and prevent dangerous exposures to materials within the UK’s built environment. Union members who have been exposed to asbestos are asked to register with the union to protect their rights should they at some point develop an asbestos-related disease. In a union press release, Unite said: “Raising awareness about how to safely handle this killer substance is equally important. That is why our campaign is also about prevention… to help ensure that employers protect their employees from exposure to asbestos at work.” See: Unite Campaign on Asbestos Awareness.
Asbestos Victims Demand Justice
Jan 19, 2015
Shortly after news was released of the first personal injury asbestos lawsuit, reports are circulating of multiple cases of asbestos-related diseases in people who worked in or lived near asbestos processing factories in Colombia. Asbestos waste was given away for free by the owners of asbestos factories to community members for use in domestic properties. Asbestos has been used in Colombia for over 70 years and is still being used to produce roofing material, brake pads and textiles by various companies including Eternit Colombiana. Asbestos stakeholders deny there is any human risk from exposure to their products. See: Me declaro víctima de Eternit [I declare I am an Eternit victim].
First Case of Mesothelioma in Mongolia
Jan. 19, 2015
A case report has just been published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health that documents the first case of malignant mesothelioma in Mongolia. The forty-seven-year old female patient had worked at a thermal power plant in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for twenty-eight years. Due to the industrial history of asbestos use in Mongolia, the authors “expect additional cases of mesothelioma, as well as other asbestos related diseases, will be identified in the future.” To identify affected patients, the authors are calling for the establishment of an asbestos-related disease registry. See: Mesothelioma in Mongolia: case report.
Malta’s Epidemic of Asbestos Cancer
Jan 19, 2015
The elevated incidence of asbestos cancer which has been documented in a recent publication by the Centre for the Study of Environmental Cancer - Italian League Against Cancer has made headline news in Malta. The media has reported that the age-specific incidence rate of malignant mesothelioma in Maltese men was amongst the highest in the world. According to interviews with asbestos specialists in Malta, a low rate of public awareness about the asbestos hazard continues, as a result of which hazardous exposures continue even though Malta has banned new use of asbestos. See: Malta with one of the world’s highest rates of asbestos-related cancer.
Remediation of Asbestos Town?
Jan 16, 2015
Geotechnical works undertaken by the Government of Western Australia (WA) will begin in a few months in Wittenoom, formerly the center of asbestos mining in WA, to provide vital information “for effective management and securing of the [asbestos] tailings.” The Pilbara ghost town has been designated as “not suitable for any form of human occupation” due to deadly levels of asbestos contamination generated by the operations of the blue asbestos mine from 1943 to 1966. Mine tailings were used in the construction of the town’s sports fields, playgrounds, roads and car parks. See: Wittenoom test pits bring town's fate closer.
Meeting the UK Asbestos Challenge
Jan 16, 2015
As a result of consultations with civil society stakeholders, Stephen Timms, the Shadow Minister of State for Employment, has announced a raft of proposals to address the UK asbestos legacy. In an interview published this week, Timms says a Labour Government will impose a standing levy on insurers to fund life-saving mesothelioma research and will devise a long-term strategy to remove asbestos from the national infrastructure. Highlighting the role played by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), he pledged that Labour would provide more funding to enable the HSE to effectively carry out its duties. See: Banging the health and safety drum.
Europe’s Asbestos Derogation
Jan 16, 2015
Responding to a Parliamentary Question by MEP Glenis Willmott, representing the East Midlands, European Commissioner of Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elzbieta Bienkowska has confirmed that a report by the European Chemicals Agency regarding the asbestos derogation for the use of chrysotile in diaphragms is being considered by two committees which are expected to deliver their opinions in 2015. Their opinions will inform the Commission’s decision about the continuation of the exemption. Votes on future action will be taken by the REACH Committee, the European Parliament and the European Council. See: Answer by Commissioner Bienkowska.
Wishful Thinking by James Hardie?
Jan 15 2015
Eagle-eyed journalists have reported an “oversight” on the New Zealand website of James Hardie (JH), formerly Australia’s biggest producer of asbestos building materials. The website has been sanitized, with mention of JH’s asbestos history and liabilities prominent by their absence from the online company history. When questioned over this omission, a JH spokesperson said: “The updated version of the site is inadvertently missing a link to the above content on our Investor Relations websites, which will be shortly restored.” JM started importing asbestos-cement to New Zealand in 1906 and in 1936 set up a factory in Auckland. See: James Hardie asbestos omission ‘inadvertent.’
Colombian Victims Demand Justice!
Jan 15 2015
Next month, Flor Cecilia Riaño will file a civil lawsuit in Bogotá against the former employer of her husband Luis Alfonso Mayorga, alleging that Eternit Colombiana S.A. was responsible for his death and that of his father from asbestos cancer. Rafael Mayorga worked at the Eternit asbestos factory in Soacha, a city south-west of the capital, between 1971 and 1980. He received no protection from the asbestos hazard and took dust home on his work clothes; he died in 2000. His son Luis Alfonso died in 2013. This is the first such lawsuit against Eternit in Colombia; many more are expected. See: Víctimas de asbesto exigen reparación [Asbestos Victims Demand Compensation].
No Justice for Dying Asbestos Miner
Jan 14, 2015
A technical loophole has prevented a former asbestos miner who is dying of malignant mesothelioma from obtaining compensation of $425,000 from mining giant Rio Tinto, even though a judge was “satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was caused by the negligence of the defendant.” (see: Verdict of Justice Peter Barr in the Supreme Court of NT). Claimant Zorko Zabic removed asbestos pipes when he worked for Rio Tinto at the Nhulunbuy aluminia refinery from 1974 until 1977. Mr. Zabic’s life expectancy is six months. See: Miner dying from asbestos poisoning denied compo.
Asbestos Scare after Fire
Jan 14, 2015
After a fire which destroyed a warehouse in the Dutch town of Wateringen on January 12, local people were told to stay indoors. Civic authorities advised residents of the two hundred houses in the area near the affected site not to go to school or work on January 13 because of the threat posed by asbestos released during the fire. An asbestos removal company was tasked with remediating the area bordering the warehouse, including gardens and streets. The official advice was for people to only use the cleaned areas and to avoid playgrounds until further notice. See: Asbestos fears shut Dutch town after fire.
The Asbestos in Schools Scandal
Jan 12, 2015
Frustrations over a 7-month delay in the release of a government report on asbestos in schools are detailed in a new commentary. In 2013, the Government announced it would review the management of asbestos in schools. A public consultation was held from January to March 2014; a report scheduled to be released in June 2014 has still not seen the light of day. Unanswered calls by trade unions and civil society campaigners for the immediate publication of this report are fuelling speculation about the government’s lack of commitment to remedy the scandal of asbestos in UK schools. See: How the coalition is failing to act on ‘time-bomb’ of asbestos in schools.
Asbestos Removal Bill for Navy
Jan 12, 2015
It has been estimated that the cost for decontaminating submarines belonging to the Royal Dutch fleet will cost many millions of euros. Today, news has been released that the Defence Department has costed the clean-up of the Zeeleeuw submarine at a million euros. According to the media, crew members have been exposed to hazardous asbestos fibers as a result of poorly handled maintenance and removal work. A TV program reported an incident of “incompetent removal” of a heating element which spread asbestos fibers via an air ventilation system. Remediation of three other submarines will be required in the coming years according to the Defence Department. See: Submarine asbestos cleanup could get pricey.
The Ties that Kill
Jan 10 2015
The Bangkok Post today reported the support of Thailand's industry minister Chakramon Phasukavanich for increased financial links with Russia, the country which supplies 80% of all asbestos imports to Thailand. From January to November 2014, Thailand purchased 525 million baht (US$16m) of Russian asbestos. Commenting on this trade, the Minister said: “If the use of asbestos is banned… the burden to replace all products that contain asbestos would fall on the government. This would require a lot of money.” In none of the countries that banned asbestos has this happened. See: Russia keen on closer ties.
Quebec’s Post-Asbestos Era
Jan 10, 2015
On Thursday, January 8, 2015, Laurent Lessard, a Member of Quebec’s National Assembly and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Regions, was presented by the Appalachian Economic Coordination Committee with a plan for the economic diversification of the Thetford area, one of Quebec’s former asbestos mining regions. The document calls for an investment of $120 million in a range of target areas, including education, infrastructure, promotion, food, research, manpower recruitment and health. See: Ère post-amiante dans la région de Thetford: des projets espérés de 120 M$ [Post-asbestos era in Thetford region: $120 million project].
Death of Mesothelioma Victim
Jan 9 2015
The South African Mail & Guardian has reported the death of mesothelioma victim Charlie Bruwer on Jan. 5, 2015, two weeks after the Occupational Compensation Fund approved his claim. This government fund is notorious for delays in processing claims and its bureaucratic processes; it has been investigated for fiscal irregularities. Although Mr. Bruwer’s claim was submitted in Oct. 2013, it took the involvement of lawyers and a high court judgment for him to obtain recognition of his legal entitlement. Because of the delay in receiving compensation, the victim was unable to access medical care which might have eased his symptoms. See: Asbestos payout came too late.
Proposal to Recoup Asbestos Costs
Jan 9, 2015
On January 7, 2015 a bill was presented by Stuart McMillan MSP to the Scottish Parliament which aims to recoup the costs of diagnosing and treating people with asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) from their former employers. McMillan informed Parliament that currently £20+ million is being spent on treating people with ARDs in Scotland. Commenting on this bill, a spokeswoman for the Glasgow-based campaigning group Clydeside Action on Asbestos predicted the consultation on this proposal, which is open till March 30, will receive negative input from insurers who could face a multi-million pound bill for these charges. See: Plans for NHS to recoup asbestos costs.
Court Voids Extrajudicial Agreement
Jan 9, 2015
A São Paulo court has issued a claimant’s verdict on behalf of the surviving family of a man who had worked for the Brazilian asbestos manufacturer Brasilit. The worker died in 2013 of mesothelioma after exposure at work during the 1970s. An extrajudicial agreement the family had signed with the company which paid them US$57,325 was “illegal,” according to Judge Luiz Felipe Sampaio Briseli who highlighted the company’s failure to provide a safe workplace environment and awarded $R900,000 (US$340,000) to the family. See: Família de ex-empregado vítima do amianto receberá R$ 900 mil de indenização [Family of former employee victim of asbestos will receive £900,000 compensation].
Environmental Contamination in Turkey
Jan 8 2015
The Health Ministry has announced that asbestos contamination is widespread in Turkey’s rural areas. Samples from 379 villages, some of which have populations of 150,000, showed high airborne levels of asbestos. The official response has been one of caution – evacuations are not required but measures should be implemented to minimize hazardous exposures to prevent thousands of future cancer cases. In Istanbul last month reports were circulating about the risk posed by unregulated demolition of asbestos-containing buildings See: Evacuation ruled out after asbestos alert.
Spain’s Asbestos Epidemic
Jan 8, 2015
A piece in today’s issue of the Catalan newspaper “El Punt Avui” (The Point Today) highlights the ongoing regional epidemic of asbestos-related disease. Experts who have litigated thousands of personal injury claims against Spanish asbestos producers report that the cases seen so far are the tip of the iceberg and that the incidence of disease is likely to increase until 2024. Those affected by deadly exposures include workers, relatives and members of the public who inhaled asbestos fibers via environmental exposures. Even though asbestos is banned in Spain, the health risk remains from asbestos-containing products within the national infrastructure. See: Sentenciats per l'amiant [Sentenced by asbestos].
Carcinogens Do Indeed Cause Cancer
Jan 8, 2015
Professor Annie Thebaud-Mony responded on January 7 to an article, published in the journal “Science,” on January 2, which said that, predominantly, bad luck caused cancer. Having analyzed the erroneous logic of authors Christian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein, Thebaud-Mony pointed out that eliminating exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, environment and homes can prevent the occurrence of cancer. The contentious study was partially funded by the Virginia & DK Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research, a fund set up by American billionaire and shipping magnate Daniel Ludwig. See: Non, le cancer n’est pas le fruit du hasard! [No, cancer is not a coincidence!].
Damage from Low Level Exposures
Jan 7, 2015
A paper in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine confirms the health risk posed by exposure to low levels of asbestos. Researchers followed up a cohort of 513 individuals who had been exposed to asbestos whilst working at a vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana: “Of 191 workers with available CT scans, 53 percent had asbestos-related changes of the tissue lining the lungs (pleura), while 13 percent had changes of the lung substance (parenchyma).” Abnormalities were present even in subjects whose exposures had been three to ten times less than today’s permitted standards. See: Low Levels of Libby Asbestos Exposure Linked to Lung Abnormalities.
Court Ordered Asbestos Phase-Out
Jan 6, 2014
On January 5, 2015, a ruling was published in the Brazilian state of Paraná which ordered that Multilit Cement, a company based in the state capital, phase out the use of asbestos in its manufacturing of tiles and water tanks within the next three years. Failure to comply with this directive will be punished by daily fines of R$ 50,000 (US$18,500+); the penalties will be paid to the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA). New checks were mandated until the company is asbestos-free. See: Empresa é condenada a substituir amianto na fabricação de telhas e caixas d’água [Company is ordered to replace asbestos in the manufacture of tiles and water tanks].