News Item Archive
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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)
Calls for Ban on Asbestos Use
Mar 28, 2015
Canadian imports of asbestos-containing products, including brake linings and pads, raw asbestos, friction materials and items containing crocidolite (blue) asbestos, continue to rise despite the known health risks of exposure to all forms of asbestos. Between 2004 and 2014, more than $250-million worth of asbestos and asbestos-containing products entered the country. Asbestos is Canada’s top occupational killer, accounting for 5,000 deaths since 1996. Producers of asbestos-free alternatives are complaining about the unfair cost advantage of these products even as calls are being made for a total ban. See: Asbestos imports rising in Canada despite health warnings.
Unions call for Asbestos Action!
Mar 26, 2015
In the run-up to the seventh meeting of the Rotterdam Convention, due to take place in May 2015, the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) has issued a call to arms to all its affiliates urging them “to contact their government representatives to encourage them to vote for the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the Convention.” BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said: “Chrysotile meets all the criteria for inclusion so it is quite outrageous that this is being blatantly and persistently blocked by other exporting countries. We need all governments to push the exporting nations to behave responsibly.” See: Chrysotile and the Rotterdam Convention - ACT NOW!
Audit of Asbestos Mines Mandated
Mar 26, 2015
The Indian Bureau of Mines and the Environment Ministry (MoEF) have been ordered to produce a complete updated list of India’s asbestos mines by Justice U D Salvi of the National Green Tribunal. He wrote: “Asbestos mining not only gives rise to asbestos related cancer but also to the asbestosis. Even if the asbestos mining activity has been closed, scientific closure of such mines remains in question. Odisha is directed to answer whether the asbestos mines in the state have been scientifically closed or not, and further answer whether there have been cases of asbestosis.” See: National Green Tribunal asks MoEF to submit list of asbestos mines across country.
Compensation for Power Station Worker
Mar 25, 2015
A compensation claim for asbestosis brought by Cassiem Mohammed, employed at the Athlone Power Station in Cape Town for 40 years, has succeeded. For decades, no personal protection was provided and there was little attempt to minimize hazardous exposures. As a result of action taken by the South African Municipal Workers' Union, a medical examination program for insulation workers was implemented; Mr. Mohammed was diagnosed with asbestosis in the mid-1990s. He has now received a payment of R665,000 (US$57,000) from his former employers. See: South Africa: Athlone Asbestos Victim Gets His Money.
Chinese Imports Contained Asbestos
Mar 23, 2015
In the last five months, the Italian authorities have seized ten thermos flasks imported from China which contained asbestos insulation; asbestos was banned in Italy in 1992. The most recent confiscations were made during the second week of March 2015. All the contraband articles were marketed under the “Theo” brand and were sold in shops and supermarkets. A sticker on the bottom of the flask says “Made in RPC” which stands for China. See: Thermos cinesi con pasticche di amianto: dieci sequestri dal mese di ottobre 2014 [Chinese thermos with asbestos insulation; ten seizures since October 2014].
Asbestos Hazard in Storm Damage
Mar 20, 2105
Tropical Cyclone Pam left areas of the Vanuatu archipelago contaminated with asbestos. Australian responders have removed 100+ kilograms of asbestos-contaminated debris from the Port Vila Central Hospital; most of the asbestos had been contained in sheeting and roofing products. The hazardous waste was sprayed with glue and wrapped in plastic for disposal. According to Gary Bailey, members of Australia's Urban Search and Rescue have “been going into various parts of the hospital and some primary schools today and rendering as much asbestos as safe as we can.” See: Tropical Cyclone Pam: Rescue teams remove over 100kg of asbestos from Port Vila's central hospital.
Under-recognition of Asbestos Disease
Mar 20, 2015
Data from the Spanish Employment Ministry has been analysed to calculate the number of cases of asbestos-related cancer recognized as occupational in Spain between 1978 and 2011. One hundred and sixty-four cases were recognized between 1978 and 2011. An estimated 93.6% of male and 99.7% of female claimants were unsuccessful in getting official recognition of their cancer. The authors conclude that their “findings provide evidence of gross under-recognition of asbestos-related occupational cancers in Spain.” See: Asbestos-related occupational cancers compensated under the Spanish National Insurance System, 1978–2011.
Asbestos Nightmare for Home Owners
Mar 20, 2015
The owners of apartments in Rotterdam are in limbo after workmen installing new windows in February disturbed asbestos-containing building materials. Once the contamination was discovered, the residents fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs, to take up residence in alternative accommodation. Last weekend, they returned home after remediation work had been carried out. Unfortunately, it seems that asbestos was still present in the flats. There is no insurance to cover relocation costs and the housing association has exhausted its funds. See: Wie helpt eigenaren van asbest-flat uit de ellende? [Who helps the owners of asbestos-contaminated flats?].
Asbestos Murder Trial
Mar 20, 2015
The preliminary hearing in a murder trial is due to start in May 2015; it concerns the asbestos deaths of 258 Italians. The Turin Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello has announced that the Swiss billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny stands accused of intentional homicide. Charges against Schmidheiny for causing a permanent environmental disaster as a result of which Italians died from asbestos disease were deemed to be statute barred by the Supreme Court in November 2014. See: Eternit Bis, a maggio processo per omicidio all’imprenditore svizzero Stephan Schmidheiny [Eternit Bis, May murder trial of Swiss entrepreneur Stephan Schmidheiny].
Court Curtails Compensation Eligibility
Mar 18, 2015
Two weeks ago on March 3, 2015, the French Supreme Court handed down a decision which restricted the ability of claimants who were exposed to asbestos at work to obtain compensation for anxiety caused by exposure to asbestos. Several previous court rulings had supported the right of those with psychological distress to receive awards for the impact hazardous exposures to asbestos had on their mental health. This decision restricts eligibility only to those whose workplace exposures occurred at companies required to provide early retirement for asbestos workers. See: Amiante: la Cour de cassation limite la réparation du préjudice d'anxiété [Asbestos: Supreme Court limits compensation for anxiety].
Asbestos: Symbolism and Fact
Mar 18, 2015
A paper published earlier this year in Medicina del Lavoro (Industrial Medicine) provides a fascinating look at the historical uses of asbestos and the almost mythical symbolism it enjoyed in ancient and classical times. The Italian authors of this text feature five fascinating images and cite a multitude of interesting and formerly unknown facts, such as the use of asbestos in the armour of a samurai warrior! They speculate that one reason why asbestos has not been banned worldwide could be because “the fascination with the magic stone is not exhausted.” See: Asbestos between science and myth. A 6,000-year story!
Contamination after Cyclone
Mar 18, 2015
Asbestos liberated in the wake of natural disasters is a common occurrence. Parts of Western Australia (WA) hit by Severe Tropical Cyclone Olwyn last week have been declared a natural disaster zone. On March 16, the Minister for Water and the Minister for Agriculture described widespread damage throughout the shires of Ashburton, Carnarvon, Exmouth and Shark Bay in northern WA to the Cabinet. WA Premier Colin Barnett has said the presence of asbestos in the area was a major concern and has pledged state funds to facilitate the clean-up. See: Natural disaster zone declared for cyclone-ravaged parts of northern Western Australia.
Lobbyists: Personae non Gratae?
March 17, 2015
A policy adopted earlier this year by the World Health Organization (WHO) calls for an end to WHO dialogue with the tobacco and arms industries. Now, North American experts have requested that the WHO add the asbestos industry to the list of entities with which the WHO will not engage. The March 9, 2015 letter to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO, highlighted the similarities between the asbestos and tobacco industries both of which put profits before health, thereby endangering the health of millions of people and undermining the efforts of the WHO. See: World Health Organization should not engage with the asbestos industry.
Criminal Prosecution for Asbestos Deaths
Mar 17, 2015
On March 16, 2015, Milan prosecutors asked for a jail sentence of six years for the asbestos-related deaths of 30 former employees of the Italcementi Group. Giampiero Pesenti, now the group’s President, was an executive at the company’s Tosi turbine factory from 1973 to 1980. He is accused of culpable homicide due to his alleged failure to install adequate safety measures in the 1970s to prevent hazardous exposures despite the fact that the cancer risk of human exposure to asbestos was known and technology was available to minimize the risks. See: Prosecutors want 6 yrs in asbestos deaths.
British Asbestos Newsletter
Mar 17, 2015
The autumn/winter 2015 issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter is now available online. The leading article in issue 96, “Update from the Asbestos Battleground,” considers the UK’s elevated mesothelioma incidence and multiple attacks on victims’ rights in light of the May 2015 general election. Other articles cover the substance and ramifications of the McDonald Supreme Court Judgment 2014 and C. Heneghan vs. Manchester Dry Docks Ltd., et al. Trade unionist Richard Morgan reflects on the current state of the UK asbestos removal industry and steps which might be taken to protect operatives. See: British Asbestos Newsletter, issue 96.
Asbestos Outrage in Brussels
Mar 16, 2015
In December 2014, the Steenacker Company received authorization to store the highest classification of hazardous waste, including asbestos, on their premises. This development is problematic for multiple reasons, including the fact that in 2013 the Belgian company was held responsible for soil pollution and that the location of the company’s premises is near nursery schools and a residential area. The news of this situation has created outrage amongst citizens in the area – a Flemish commune in the Belgian capital – and led to calls for Mayor Frédéric Petit to resign. See: Le stockage d’amiante inquiète écoles et riverains [Asbestos storage concerns schools and residents].
Gold Medal for Ban Asbestos Crusader
Mar 16, 2015
Officials, guests and 45 honorees gathered on March 12 at the headquarters of the São Paulo 15th region Labor Court for a high-profile ceremony during which retired Labor Inspector Fernanda Giannasi received one of 15 gold medals for her services to the country. Fernanda dedicated the award to “to victims of asbestos, mercury, POPs, nuclear, Shell-Basf, benzene and their families.” (see: photo of Fernanda and colleagues pictured (from the left) are Labor Prosectuor Maria Stela Guimaraes de Martin, Judge Eleonora Bordinii Coca and Fernanda Giannasi). See: 45 personalidades e instituições com a Ordem do Mérito da JT [ 45 people and institutions are awarded the Order of Judicial Merit].
Asbestos in Tahiti Schools
Mar 16, 2015
The results of samples taken last year from schools in Tahiti have established that asbestos is present in: Hitimahana elementary and Fareroi infants. The buildings at both premises were constructed 30+ years ago, before France banned the use of asbestos. On March 11, the Mayor of Mahina, the local commune, along with representatives of the education department and technical experts met with teachers and school staff to explain the situation. Steps are being taken to minimize hazardous exposures although the complete removal of all the contamination is not possible due to cost constraints. See: Découverte d’amiante dans deux écoles [Asbestos discovered in two schools].
Asbestos Sales Down by 10%
Mar 13, 2015
Eternit S.A., Brazil’s asbestos giant, has reported a 10.8% decrease in sales of chrysotile asbestos in the 4th quarter of 2014 compared to the same time of year in 2013. The decreased sales of 66,700 tons in 2014 were partially offset by an increase in exports according to a company press statement released on March 12. According to Eternit, the 4.1% rise in consolidated net revenue in 4Q14 was due to increased fiber-cement and chrysotile fiber exports. Although the Brazilian government has not banned asbestos, several states have acted unilaterally and done so. See: Eternit: Operating income grows 9.0% and adjusted EBITDA reaches R$ 54.7 million in 4Q14.
Proposals to Update Chemical Safety
Mar 13, 2015
This week two bills have been introduced to the U.S. Senate which are intended to improve the country’s chemical safety regime. The Boxer-Markey Toxic Chemical Protection Act, introduced on March 12, mandates a “rapid review of asbestos and toxic chemicals that are known to be persistent and build up in the human body.” The Udall-Vitter proposal, which is industry-backed, would introduce weaker standards and provide a 7-year phase-in period in some cases and unspecified time limits in others. These bills would reform the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. See: Chemical Safety Bills Face off in Senate.
Supreme Court Asbestos Ruling
Mar 13, 2015
Today, Chief Justice Riley of Australia’s Supreme Court overturned a decision which had barred compensation for a mesothelioma victim who had been negligently exposed to asbestos at the Gove alumina refinery in the 1970s. Seventy-four year old Zorko Zabic was diagnosed in 2014 with asbestos cancer; the company which he had worked for, Alcan Gove, is now owned by the global mining conglomerate Rio Tinto. Commenting on this decision, Mr. Zabic’s lawyer said: “The ruling will bring laws in the Northern Territory in line with other Australian states and will enable victims to right the wrongs of the past.” See: Compensation win for former Gove refinery worker dying of asbestos-related illness the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
Asbestos Contamination in Paradise?
Mar 13, 2015
Many tourists find the peace and quiet they seek on the Spanish island of La Gomera. Now community activists have filed a lawsuit to force the authorities to instigate an environmental asbestos audit and clean-up program. According to the campaigners, there is widespread dumping of asbestos-contaminated debris on the island which is both unsightly and hazardous to health. Asbestos was banned in Spain in 2002. See: Sí se puede presenta moción para la realización de inventario de amianto en Valle Gran Rey [Yes, you can present motion for conducting inventory of asbestos in Valle Gran Rey].
From China, with Asbestos
Mar 11, 2015
Australia’s customs authority has admitted it is unable to prevent asbestos-contaminated goods from China from entering the country. Of 2 million containers arriving in the country by sea every year, only 100,000 are inspected. Cases have been brought (two since 2008) concerning the import of asbestos-contaminated gaskets and machinery from China. But though asbestos-contamination has been found in trains and cars of Chinese origin there have been no prosecutions arising from their importation. The Chief Executive of the customs service told a Senate hearing in February 2015 that the onus was on importers of Chinese cars and not on customs officials. See: 5pc of imports get asbestos check, estimates hearing.
Congress Considers New Asbestos Bill
Mar 10, 2015
Today (March 10, 2015), The Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database Act was introduced to the Senate. The purpose of this legislation is to mandate measures to prevent hazardous asbestos exposures by providing prior warning of the location of asbestos-containing products (ACPs). Stakeholders would be required to report information about ACPs to the EPA annually; this would be fed into a publicly accessible database to “increase the transparency and accessibility of data informing the public about where asbestos is known to be present. This information will increase awareness, reduce exposure, and help save lives.” See: Durbin bill creates asbestos reporting requirements.
Asbestos in Westminster
Mar 10, 2015
It seems that the Palaces of Westminster are falling down. Politicians were reminded of the need for much-needed and long-delayed building work by the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow when he addressed a meeting of the Hansard society on March 9, 2015. Refurbishment of the 19th century building is long overdue and the building work could cost around £3bn. As well as crumbling stonework, dodgy electrics, flooding issues, rodent infestation and a leaking cast iron roof, the walls are “packed with asbestos.” See: Parliament is falling down. So what can be done about it?