News Item Archive

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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)

European Parliament Asbestos Exposures

May 26, 2016

On May 25, 2016, court proceedings began in the trial over asbestos exposures at the Strasbourg headquarters of the European Parliament in 2013 which endangered the health of more than 300 people many of whom have brought legal actions. The European Parliament has also brought a lawsuit against multiple defendants including an architect, project manager and contractor who were engaged in work at the Winston Churchill building; constructed in the 1970s, it is the oldest part of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. See: Amiante au Parlement européen: première journée du procès à Strasbourg [Asbestos in the European Parliament: first day of trial in Strasbourg].

Environmental Asbestos Hazard

May 26, 2016

Twenty-eight bags containing construction debris marked asbestos were found dumped in a rural area near Mission City in British Columbia, Canada last weekend (May 21-22, 2016). Commenting on the implications of hazardous fly-tipping, policeman Sergeant. Shaun Wright said: “Those materials can also present a significant health risk to the thousands of people who utilize the area for recreation as well as the wildlife which live in the area.” The District of Mission Public Works Department has engaged a specialist disposal company to remove the asbestos. See: Bags of asbestos found dumped in Stave West.

Action on Chemical Hazard – Finally?

May 25, 2016

On May 24, 2016, the Toxic Substances Control Act, a contentious bipartisan bill to overhaul federal regulation of asbestos and other dangerous chemicals in the US, was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives. On May 23, the White House said it would support the much-needed legislation in order to allow the federal government to evaluate and act on the use of hazardous chemicals. While critics, including Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, said the bill was too weak, others like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi felt it would “protect families and communities from toxic substances.” See: White House backs bill to overhaul asbestos regulation.

Implications of Italian Court Ruling

May 24, 2016

A Brazilian blog underlines the significance for asbestos victims in Brazil of a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court expected on May 31, 2016 in Rome. Swiss entrepreneur Stephan Schmidheiny, whose Eternit asbestos group operated in Italy, Brazil and scores of other countries, faces charges related to the asbestos deaths of 258 people between 1989 and 2014; 66 were former Eternit workers, the rest were members of the public. See: Corte Constitucional Italiana Julga em 31/5 mais um processo crime contra o Billardário Suíça do Amianto, Stephen Schmidheiny [Italian Constitutional Court Judgment May 31 on another Criminal Case against Swiss Billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny].

Gold Mining and the Asbestos Hazard

May 24, 2016

Plans by a Canadian gold mining company to commence operations in the town of Ierissos in northern Greece have raised serious objections from local people who calculate that the mine could produce eight million tonnes of asbestos-laden dust every year. Earlier this month (May 2016), the Greek Environment Ministry approved a technical study that allowed development of the mine to resume after work had been suspended in January. According to Reuters: “An official with the Greek energy ministry said in an interview [on May 6] that it had approved an amended technical study for Skouries to ensure that workers are safe from asbestos.” See: Skouries mine an asbestos hazard.

Ruling by Social Security Directorate

May 24, 2016

The Directorate of the National Institute of Social Security in Gipuzkoa, Spain, has acknowledged that the cancer death of an electrician employed by the steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal was due to asbestos exposure. This ruling paves the way for future asbestos lawsuits. The deceased received no warnings about the asbestos hazard; no protective measures were taken by the company. This case was progressed by the Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, the Workers' Commission. See: La viuda de un trabajador de Arcelor Olaberria que falleció por enfermedad derivada de amianto verá incrementada su pension [Pension of asbestos widow to be increased].

California Court Reinstates Plaintiff’s Verdict

May 24, 2016

On May 23, 2016, the California Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling to reinstate a multimillion-dollar jury verdict for the family of a worker who died from mesothelioma after asbestos exposure experienced whilst employed as a warehouseman and truck driver from 1969 to 1979 for a company that sold cement piping containing crocidolite asbestos. Damages of $5 million were awarded against the Special Electric Co., which supplied the asbestos without a warning label, and the pipe manufacturer Johns-Manville Corp. See: State Supreme Court rules for worker who was exposed to asbestos.

Civil Servants Win New Rights

May 24, 2016

Public servants who contract asbestos-related diseases from workplace exposures will be entitled to early retirement, aged 60, when new legislation is adopted according to a statement made on May 23, 2016 by the Minister of Public Service during a plenary session of the Joint Council of Public Service. Through a revision of Article 146 of the Finance Act 2016, the same rights will be given to public sector workers with asbestos-related diseases as are already provided to private sector workers. See: Bientôt de nouveaux droits pour les fonctionnaires victimes de l'amiante [Soon new rights for civil servants with asbestos diseases].

Unions Call for Asbestos Eradication Program

May 23, 2016

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has just released a guidance document entitled: “Asbestos – time to get rid of it” which highlights the existence in Britain of an asbestos epidemic – 5,000 Britons die every year from asbestos-related diseases – and categorically states that “so long as this asbestos is in place, workers will continue to be exposed and thousands more will die as a result of exposure.” Casting aspersions on the advice that asbestos-containing products can be “managed,” safely the TUC guidance document calls for “an agreed plan to safely remove and dispose of all asbestos once and for all.” See: Asbestos – time to get rid of it.

Critique of Causation Criteria

May 23, 2016

The Collegium Ramazzini, an international scientific organization which monitors developments in occupational and environmental medicine, has this month (May 2016) published a critique of 2014 criteria for the pathological diagnosis of asbestos-related diseases agreed by a committee convened by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) in Helsinki. Reliance on recommendations made in the FIOH report will, the authors predict, lead to under-diagnosis of legitimate cases, failure to compensate asbestos claims and lost opportunities to identify at-risk groups. See: Collegium Ramazzini: Comments on the 2014 Helsinki Consensus Report on Asbestos.

Rally by Injured Construction Workers

May 25, 2016

Three thousand protesters attended a rally at Tokyo’s Hibiya amphitheater on May 20, 2016 demanding the Japanese government and manufacturers of asbestos-containing building materials compensate them for injuries contracted through workplace exposures. The demonstrators called for the establishment of an asbestos victims’ compensation fund financed by the government and negligent corporations. Union leaders, politicians and victims’ advocates addressed the rally. See: アスベスト被害 3000人決起元労働者や遺族「早期解決を」 [Asbestos protest: 3000 former workers and bereaved families demand “early resolution”].

Italy’s Silent Massacre

May 25, 2016

The presence of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of asbestos-containing material in schools, hospitals, army barracks, homes and industrial sites on Sicily constitutes an ongoing threat to health. There are asbestos hotspots on the island where high incidences of asbestos cancer have been identified in areas with large petrochemical complexes. "Sicily was,” this article explains the “colony of the most dangerous industries that the North did not want.” By 2011, a total of 1,084 cases of asbestos cases had been recorded in Sicily. See: Amianto, in Sicilia un centinaio di morti nel 2015 [Asbestos, in Sicily a hundred deaths in 2015].

Protest by Construction Workers

May 21, 2016

On May 20, 2016, 3,000 construction workers held a public rally in Tokyo in support of the rights of construction workers injured by asbestos exposures. The event was a physical manifestation of the frustration of those marginalized by workplace diseases which defendants refuse to acknowledge despite legal precedents recognizing the negligence of government agencies and commercial organizations which failed to protect workers from the asbestos hazard. After the rally, protesters demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Taiheiyo Cement Corporation, a manufacturer of construction materials. See: Photo of event.

Calls for Asbestos Compensation Fund

May 21, 2016

On Thursday, May 19, cross-party support was expressed by the Basque Parliament for the establishment of a National Asbestos Compensation Fund by the Congress of Deputies in Madrid in recognition of the thousands of asbestos victims poisoned by exposure to the 2.6 million tonnes of asbestos used in Spain during the 20th century. Draft legislation proposed by the Basque politicians deplored the fact that thousands of asbestos victims were forced to fight protracted lawsuits to “claim their rights”; a national no-fault scheme would resolve this situation. See: El Parlamento Vasco pide a Madrid un fondo para víctimas del Amianto [Basque Parliament calls on Madrid to set up asbestos victims’ fund].

Risk from Naturally Occurring Asbestos

May 21, 2016

Questions are being raised about the capacity and desire of government agencies to monitor the liberation of asbestos fibers generated by infrastructure work ongoing near Boulder City, Nevada. There are no state laws or protective standards for naturally occurring asbestos; the only Nevada asbestos laws relate to exposures in buildings or during demolition work. As the construction of the highway bypass is federally-funded, OSHA standards must be provided for workers; these safeguards do not apply to members of the public who live or work in areas where asbestos fibers have been liberated by the construction. See: I-Team: Who's monitoring asbestos levels?

Chrysotile and Lung Cancer Mortality

May 20, 2016

Research undertaken over a number of years regarding the incidence of lung cancer mortality amongst a cohort of workers from a factory in Chongqing, China which used only white (chrysotile) asbestos for 40 years found that “chrysotile workers had a threefold-increased risk of lung cancer death… the high exposure group had a sixfold-increased risk of lung cancer death.” A paper just published confirms that “chrysotile exposure is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer mortality and development of asbestosis …” See: Exposure-Response Estimate for Lung Cancer and Asbestosis in a Predominantly Chrysotile-Exposed Chinese Factory Cohort.

Justice Under Asbestos Roof?

May 19, 2016

A petition was admitted by the Calcutta high court on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 against the presence of asbestos on the roof of the Court. The complainant seeks the removal of this material as it is “carcinogenic to humans.” After this week’s hearing, Justice Datta acknowledged the serious nature of the problem and scheduled a further hearing for June 7. If the situation has not been remedied by then, the Judge promised to follow up as he is a “member of the building committee of the court.” See: Portions of high court roof made of carcinogenic asbestos.

Schedule for Turin Asbestos Litigation

May 17, 2016

During court hearings on May 16 in a case against eighteen Olivetti defendants, including high-profile businessmen and politicians, who are facing charges of manslaughter and negligence over twelve asbestos deaths amongst workers, 100+ documents were submitted to the Judge by the prosecutor regarding Olivetti’s corporate structure and purchasing policies. At the end of the day, the Judge announced the schedule of hearings for this case which will continue until July 18. See: Morti da amianto alla Olivetti: la difesa chiede di analizzare nuovi documenti [Olivetti asbestos deaths: the defense asked to analyze new documents].

Mesothelioma: Links to other Cancers

May 17, 2016

Using data from several Swedish registers, researchers studied the familial risk of mesothelioma in offspring. Based on their findings, the scientists concluded that the: “Risk of mesothelioma was significantly increased when parents or siblings were diagnosed with mesothelioma… Mesothelioma was associated with kidney … and bladder cancers… in siblings.” While shared genetic factors and environmental history may have contributed to familial clusterings of mesothelioma, the association with kidney and bladder cancers requires further investigation. See: Incidence and familial risk of pleural mesothelioma in Sweden: a national cohort study.

Asbestos Victims’ Group Elects Board

May 17, 2016

Voting has taken place for board positions for the German umbrella group: Asbestose Selbsthilfergruppe which represents seven regional asbestos victims’ groups. Speaking after the election, the new Chairperson Harald Niemann, from the Hamburg group, said “ we have a lot of work in front of us… the recognition of cases of occupational disease is far too low especially for [people with] asbestos-related lung cancer.” Other successful candidates included: Bernhard Heise, Heinz-Peter Sattler, Peter Sperber and Dr. Evelyn Glensk. See: Pressemitteilung. Bundesverband der Asbestose Selbsthilfegruppen e.V. [News release. Federation of asbestosis support groups e.V.].

Asbestos Legacy at Air Base

May 16, 2016

Thousands of documents covering over twenty years which have been released under the US Freedom of Information Act reveal extensive pollution at Okinawa Island’s Kadena Air Base, the largest US Air Force installation in Asia. Years of neglect and accidents have polluted the infrastructure, land and water with toxins including asbestos, arsenic, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxin. Twenty thousand US service personnel and 3,000 Japanese workers are employed on this 46 square kilometre site. One hundred and eighty-four thousand civilians living in neighboring communities are also at risk from the pollution. See: Contamination: Kadena Air Base’s dirty secret.

Introduction of Stricter Asbestos Regime

May 16, 2016

A new French labor law which came into force on May 12, 2016 mandated the obligation for asbestos audits to be conducted prior to the commencement of any building work to protect workers from hazardous exposures and prevent environmental contamination. The responsibility for the asbestos surveys resides with the owners of buildings or vessels, works’ managers and others overseeing projects which might release or disturb asbestos. See: Amiante: la loi travail crée une obligation de repérage avant travaux [Asbestos: new labor law creates obligation before starting work].

New Tools for Ban Asbestos Struggle

May 16, 2016

Having considered the current global asbestos landscape, the authors of a new paper suggest the implementation of an international collaboration to raise awareness of the public health hazard posed by asbestos consumption. Measures which would be taken include: “new epidemiological studies for assessing the health impact of asbestos in specific contexts; socio-cultural and economic analyses for… identifying stakeholders… [and protocols to increase] public awareness on the health and socio-economic impact of asbestos use and banning.” See: Prevention of Asbestos-Related Disease in Countries Currently Using Asbestos.

Union Alert over Asbestos Hazard

May 16, 2016

The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) has raised an alert over the failure to train workers about the hazard posed by Tasmania’s 1,700 kilometres of asbestos-cement water pipes. Commenting on the situation, CEPU’s Trevor Gauld reported: “We're seeing situations where asbestos is not handled properly, it's not baggaged properly, it's not disposed of properly … I'm still talking to guys in some of those remote or outlying depots where there are no comprehensive asbestos registers in their workplace. Workers have not been trained in the safe identification.” See: Union concerned TasWater workers handling asbestos without proper training.

Minister’s Asbestos Ignorance

May 16, 2016

In a response this week to a question posed by an MP from Rethymno (Crete), Interior Minister Nicholas Tosca admitted that while the condition of the police station in Rethymno was probably the worst in Greece, the deterioration of asbestos-cement building products did not pose a health risk to members of the police or the public. The construction of a new station would be possible only if local authorities could find donors to finance the work. The Minister also denied any risk from the asbestos on the grounds it was incorporated within a cement product. See: ΤΟΣΚΑΣ: Θέλετε Αστυνομικό Μέγαρο; Βρείτε χορηγούς [Tosca: Want Police Department want to find sponsors].