News Item Archive
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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)
Asbestos, Still a Killer!
Jul 1, 2015
Data released today by the Health and Safety Executive reported that there were 2,538 deaths from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Great Britain in 2013, a slight decrease on the mortality incidence in 2012 (2,548); the figure for 2011 was 2,312. The male:female proportion of deaths in 2013 was 2,123:415; in 2012 the ratio was 2,137:411. It is of interest to note that these figures come just days before asbestos victims groups, cancer charities and campaigning bodies hold events around the country to mark Action Mesothelioma Day. See: HSE releases annual workplace fatalities.
Environmental Asbestos Hazard
Jul 1, 2015
Broken asbestos-cement roofing products are one of a number of toxic substances illegally dumped on municipal land in the middle of a densely populated area in Mpumuza, in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. Experts have warned of the danger posed by the asbestos which is being blown into the environment as a result of fires at the dump and the action of wind currents. According to the local authorities: “The illegal dumping issue will be investigated by both our environmental health and security departments. The waste department has also been asked to attend to the cleaning.” See: Illegal dump a health hazard.
Europe’s Asbestos Crisis
Jul 1, 2015
A press release issued by European Committees which hosted an asbestos conference last week, reported that more than 47,000 Europeans per year die from asbestos-related diseases. According to Enrico Gibellieri: “Member States and the European Institutions need to take action…We are talking about a lot more than traditionally exposed factory workers, now extending our concern to the children in our schools, the people working in our hospitals and public buildings and anyone living in a house, which affects just about everybody.” See: European Committees raise alarm on Europe's silent epidemic. Asbestos related deaths are predicted to double those of road deaths.
Delegation Visits Amagaski City
Jun 29, 2015
Delegates from Belgium and Italy joined Japanese asbestos activists on June 26, 2015 at a meeting with the Mayor of Amagasaki City, a town which has been devastated by asbestos pollution created by the industrial operations of the Kubota company. The international visitors included Bruno Pesce and Alessandro Pugno from AFEVA, one of Italy’s most high-profile and active asbestos victims’ groups, and Eric Jonckheere, President of the Belgian Asbestos Victims Group. The delegation also took part in events to mark the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the Amagasaki Association of Victims and Families of Asbestos Victims. See: Photo of Meeting.
Guilty Verdict for Asbestos Transporter
Jun 28, 2015
An appeal by an asbestos cargo transporter over a one million Real (US$320,000) fine for the illegal shipment of asbestos through São Paulo, a state which banned asbestos, has been rejected by a unanimous court decision. The case was brought in 2009 by the Ministry of Labor which discovered that a truck belonging to the company was hauling 24 tonnes of asbestos in damaged packaging. Some while after that incident, a traffic accident took place which required clean-up crews to remove asbestos disbursed onto the Anhanguera highway by the company. See: Rápido 900: Finalmente Justiça Feita FEITA [Fast 900: Justice Delivered].
Delays Created Environmental Epidemic
Jun 28, 2015
Failure by the Kubota company, one of Japan’s major asbestos manufacturers, to prevent hazardous environmental asbestos contamination near its former Kanzaki plant has produced an epidemic of asbestos-related cancer amongst people in the city of Amagasaki. In 1988, a doctor wrote on the notes of a mesothelioma patient “no history of working with asbestos… If a connection with asbestos were to be made, it would be the fact that this patient's home is located near the Kanzaki plant.” See: Silence over asbestos-related cancer deaths in 1980s draws renewed condemnation.
International Scientists Call for Ban
Jun 26, 2015
On June 24, 2015, the Collegium Ramazzini, a global consortium of 180 scientists, reiterated its call for a worldwide asbestos ban. Commenting on the new position paper, the Collegium’s President Philip Landrigan said: “Given that ARDs [asbestos-related diseases] are 100% preventable, zero new cases of ARDs should be the ultimate goal for both industrializing and industrialized countries. The pandemic of ARDs is an urgent international priority for action by public health workers.” See: The Collegium Ramazzini Releases Official Position on The Global Health Dimensions of Asbestos and Asbestos-related Diseases.
Increased Cancer Risk for Asbestos Workers
Jun 26, 2015
Papers published this week about the impact of asbestos exposures on workers from Belgium and Poland confirm the excess of cancer mortality on people occupationally exposed to asbestos. The first paper highlighted the increase in mesothelioma and oral cancer in a Belgian cohort while the second reported “strong evidence that the lung cancer risk is associated with asbestos exposure and it increases along with the increasing exposure.” See: Enduring health effects of asbestos use in Belgian industries: a record-linked cohort study of cause-specific mortality (2001–2009) and Predictors of Lung Cancer Among Former Asbestos-Exposed Workers.
The Fight for Asbestos Justice
Jun 22, 2015
Asbestos victims are gearing up to play their part this week in crucial EU activities to raise the profile of asbestos issues throughout the continent. On June 23 a landmark event will take place when international activists join local people in the small town of Kapelle-op-den-Bos, formerly the headquarters of Belgium’s largest asbestos multinational. This will be the first international mobilization on asbestos to be held in this iconic town. After a vigil outside the site of the factory, the delegation will place a floral tribute at the cemetery and then visit Kapelle’s Mayor Mr. Edward DeWitt. See ABEVA Press Release.
Landmark Legal Victory!
Jun 19, 2015
Willem van Soest died of mesothelioma in 2013, a year after winning a $358,000 compensation claim against his former employer. The deceased was exposed to asbestos whilst employed as a painter and docker by BHP Billiton at its Whyalla shipyards in the 1960s. The company accepted that it had exposed him to asbestos but argued the exposure was below acceptable standards and it was not responsible for providing the workforce with protective equipment. The High Court today (June 19) rejected BHP’s petition to appeal; BHP announced that “it does not anticipate any further action on this matter.” See: Asbestos victim's family claims major win against BHP Billiton.
EU Asbestos Conference
Jun 19, 2015
Two European Committees are holding a conference on “Freeing Europe safely from asbestos” in Brussels on June 24, 2015 to quantify Europe’s asbestos epidemic and provide stakeholders the opportunity to discuss actions for tackling the multiple challenges faced. The sessions have been welcomed by asbestos victims groups, trade unions and campaigners. Issues being considered include: the implementation of a safe strategy for asbestos removal, demands for recognition and compensation of victims and measures to protect the public health of EU citizens. See: Freeing Europe safely from Asbestos. More than 300,000 asbestos deaths expected in Europe by 2030.
Union Calls for Asbestos Removal
Jun 19, 2015
The GMB trade union gave its support for plans by the Trades Union Congress to lobby for legislation mandating the removal of asbestos from public buildings at the annual conference of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health which took place in London this week. Speaking on behalf of the GMB, John McClean said that such a law would result in “better control of asbestos, better registry of it and eventually removal of it.” Many of the workers in Parliament are GMB members and are part of a cohort routinely exposed to asbestos contained in deteriorating Parliamentary buildings. See: TUC backs campaign for asbestos removal bill.
Scandal of Asbestos in Schools
Jun 17, 2015
Today, newspaper articles and a TV program highlighted the terrible toll paid by former teachers and pupils for their exposure to asbestos in schools. An 18-minute segment on the Victoria Derbyshire morning show featured the story of Paul Cowley who was diagnosed with asbestos cancer when he was in his mid-30s. Calling for urgent action, the National Union of Teachers says this “scandal” has been caused by the Government’s failure “to address the legacy of asbestos in schools,” 86 % of which contain asbestos. See: Government must ‘tackle the scourge of asbestos in schools’ to prevent ‘unnecessary deaths’ of teachers and pupils, says teachers’ union.
Jun 17, 2015
The devastation caused by asbestos mining in Baryulgil, a remote community in New South Wales, was the subject of a short film premièred at the Sydney Film Festival this month. The film “Under Skin, In Blood” was made by Professor Larissa Behrendt, a prominent activist and Professor of Law who was determined to expose the effects not only on the people who worked at the mine but on an entire community in which people continue to die from asbestos-related diseases. See: Asbestos mine's impact on Baryulgil depicted in new short film.
Basque Report on Asbestos
Jun 16, 2015
The Commission of Employment, Social Policy and Housing of the Basque Parliament issued a paper on June 12, 2015 which considered the feasibility of creating a compensation fund for asbestos victims. Recognizing, the profound health effects of asbestos exposures and the difficulties victims face in obtaining compensation caused by the long time lag between exposure and the manifestation of disease, the Parliament recommended that a state-wide compensation fund be set up. Based on French asbestos mortality, it was estimated that there are 659 mesotheliomas and 357 cases of asbestosis per year in Spain. See: Parliamentary Report on Asbestos.
First Asbestos Verdict Against GM Spain
Jun 15, 2015
For the first time, a Spanish court has held General Motors (GM) Spain guilty of negligence in exposing a worker to asbestos. As a result of GM's failure to protect him, former GM employee Luis Tirado, died in December 2011, three months after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The Court in Zaragoza awarded his widow €99,911.38 (US$112,000), plus interest. GM is appealing this decision on the grounds that there had “been no breach of the legal regulations in relation to the use of asbestos.” See: Una sentencia condena a GM a pagar 99.911,38 € a la viuda del trabajador fallecido por Amianto [A judgment condemns GM to pay €99,911.38 to widow of worker killed by asbestos].
Progress of Municipal Asbestos Audit
Jun 15, 2015
Work is progressing in the municipality of Raciborz, in line with Poland’s plan to remove all asbestos-containing products from the national infrastructure by 2032. An update of the town’s asbestos inventory, produced in 2005-10, will be conducted between June 15 and July 30, 2015 by technicians tasked with completing questionnaires and conducting interviews with residents. The auditors will carry identification and authorization permits and work between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Their findings will inform the town’s asbestos removal program. See: Inwentaryzacja wyrobów azbestowych na terenie Raciborza [Inventory of asbestos products in Raciborz].
“The White Hell”
Jun 14, 2015
In the presence of former workers and local dignitaries, a commemoration was held on June 12, of the 50th anniversary of the closure of the largest chrysotile (white) asbestos mine in France. From the mid-1920s, operations at the Canari mine in Corsica hazardously exposed 1,400 mine workers and their families to asbestos. Survivors who attended the ceremony were: Armand Guerra (82), François Gassmann (84), Dominique Santini (74) and Raymond Roe (83). Rehabilitation work is currently ongoing to decontaminate the site and local area. See: Drame de l'amiante, il y a 50 ans la mine de Canari fermait ses portes [Asbestos drama, 50 years since Canari mine closed).
Asbestos Hazard for U.S. Workers
Jun 11 2015
The continuing asbestos risk to American workers was confirmed by scientists who analysed government air sampling data collected between 1984 and 2011 in the construction, automotive repair, manufacturing, and chemical/petroleum/rubber industries and reported asbestos fiber levels in excess of 10f/cc. Commenting on these findings, Alex Formuzis, Vice President for Strategic Campaigns at EWG Action Fund, said: “Through no fault of their own, millions of Americans went to work each day in order to provide for families — but at the cost of having to inhale dangerous levels of asbestos.” See: Federal Data Show Millions of American Workers Inhaling Asbestos.
Asbestos Victims Initiative
Jun 10, 2015
On June 9, asbestos victims and activists from Spain, Italy and France gathered at the offices of the Barcelona Ronda Collective, an organization that provides legal assistance to Catalonia’s asbestos victims, for preliminary discussions in preparation for a high-profile meeting in Cerdanyola del Valles, the town at the epicenter of Spain’s asbestos crisis. Over three days, a wide range of issues will be considered including the national situation and strategies for joint European actions. See: Barcelona y Cerdanyola acogen encuentro internacional de víctimas del Amianto [Barcelona and Cerdanyola host international meeting of asbestos victims].
The Belgian Asbestos Fund
Jun 10, 2015
Since it was established in 2007, The (Belgian) Asbestos Fund has facilitated compensation payments for 2,161 asbestos victims of whom 1,453 had mesothelioma and 735 had asbestosis (some of the claimants had more than one disease). Just over 50% of the mesothelioma victims were exposed to asbestos at work, 94% of the cases of asbestosis were work-related. In some cases, a lump sum was awarded while in others a monthly pension was paid. Since April 1, 2014, victims of environmental asbestos exposure have been allowed to make claims to the Fund. See: BELGIQUE: 2161 cas indemnisés dans le cadre du fonds amiante depuis 2007 [Belgium: 2161 cases compensated by Asbestos Fund since 2007].
Asbestos Alert at Palaces of Westminster
Jun 9, 2015
On June 7, 2015, The Sunday Times reported that crisis talks had been held after an asbestos incident in May 2015 contaminated the House of Commons chamber with asbestos. A question asked about this situation on June 3 by MP Nic Dakin was answered on June 9. In the reply on behalf of the Government, Sir Paul Beresford downplayed the risk and reassured Commons’ users “that there is no reason to stop using the Chamber, or the adjacent offices and spaces.” There are plans “ to eradicate the asbestos in the trunking by the end of 2015…” See: Asbestos scare may force out Mps.
Union Uncovers Worksite Hazard
Jun 9, 2015
A periodic construction site inspection in Christchurch by officers of the EPMU Construction trade union led to an asbestos alert being issued and the cessation of work. Commenting on the incident, EPMU organizer Hami Martin said: “They were using a jackhammer removing concrete around … an asbestos pipe. The pipe had a few holes in it but it also had a bit that looked like it had been sawn off.” Not only the workers but passers-by were put at risk by the actions of the workers on this site, Martin warned. See: Asbestos risk closes central Christchurch work site.
Risk Assessment of Asbestos Ships
Jun 9, 2015
Dennis Outram of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has said his union opposes the export of two Chinese-built tugboats contaminated with asbestos over fears that foreign seafarers will be exposed to the dangers of asbestos. It was believed that plans had been made to send the Warrunda and Warrego to Singapore. The MUA is demanding a full risk assessment be conducted prior to further action being taken. As of now, none of the MUA members “have been involved in a risk assessment," Outram reported. “If they [the boats] were unsafe some months ago, I'm guessing they're still unsafe.” See: Newcastle tug boat stand off as maritime union insists on asbestos risk assessment.
Latest Asbestos Trade Data
Jun 8, 2015
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has today released estimates for the global asbestos trade in 2014 based on trade data reported to the United Nations (UN) Commodity Trade Statistics Database. While a detailed analysis will take some time, a preliminary look at the figures indicate that in 2014 the top five producing and using countries have remained about the same as in 2013 and that global production and consumption has remained around 2 million tonnes/year. It is important to note that the figures for Russia, which has not yet reported its 2014 data to the UN, are USGS estimates. See: File USGS Asbestos Trade Data 2014.