News Item Archive

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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)

Grenfell Tower: Asbestos

Jun 23, 2017

On June 21, 2017, Public Health England published health advice regarding toxic exposures caused by the Grenfell Tower conflagration which included a warning about the asbestos fall-out from the disaster. Attempting to minimize public concerns over the asbestos danger, the statement admitted that while asbestos-containing material had been present in the building, the asbestos fibers were “bound” within construction products and so only “very small amounts of asbestos fibres will have been dispersed … any asbestos would present a minimal additional risk to health.” See: Public health advice following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Mesothelioma: Temporal Patterns

Jun 23, 2017

A study on asbestos latency periods by scientists from Poland’s Nofer Institute compared data from 131 patients with pleural mesothelioma with data from a control group of 655 people in an asbestos health surveillance program. Findings were: the mesothelioma risk increased 40 years after last exposure; dose-response relationships in at-risk occupational cohorts were critical to understanding the hazard of environmental exposures; the “mesothelioma risk increases along with the increasing time since exposure termination.” See: Mesothelioma continues to increase even 40 years after exposure - Evidence from long-term epidemiological observation.

Protest: Ban Asbestos

Jun 23, 2017

A video uploaded to youtube on June 16, 2017 documents a dramatic ban asbestos demonstration mounted in Bogota, Colombia by Greenpeace that featured “patients” lying in hospital beds struggling to breathe, attached to oxygen cylinders with the name of the country’s biggest asbestos company “Eternit” written on them. Surrounding the scene taken from a hospital ward were banners with the equation Eternit = asbestos = cancer on them. See: Eternit enferma a Colombia! [Eternit makes Colombia sick!]. (For more on Eternit’s role in the national asbestos debate see: Asbestos in Colombia.)

Asbestos Shipbreaking Death

Jun 22, 2017

On June 21, 2017, the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) reported the death of asbestosis sufferer Mohammad. Ridwan, aged 55. The former shipbreaking worker had worked for 20 years as a cutterman at the KSRM Steel Yard in Shitalpur, Shitakunda, Chittagong. During that time, he had routinely been exposed to asbestos; he was diagnosed with 80% disability at an asbestos outreach diagnosis camp set up by the OSHE in Chittagong and had been receiving treatment from the OSHE Workers Health Clinic at Shitakunda, Chittagong. He died on June 11, 2017. See: Photo of Mr. Ridwan in 2016.

ACT Asbestos Hazard

Jun 22, 2017

Research released by scientists from the Australian National University, based on death registrations and cancer databases over a 30-year period up to 2013, has found a two and a half increased risk of mesothelioma in men who lived in Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos houses in Canberra. Chief health officer Paul Kelly said the findings showed that while mesothelioma remained very rare in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) “there is a higher risk for males living in the houses.” The study also found higher rates of colorectal cancers including bowel cancer among Mr Fluffy residents. See: Mr Fluffy asbestos: Male residents at increased risk of contracting mesothelioma.

Eternit Defeated!

Jun 21, 2017

On June 20, 2017, Eternit announced it would accept a March 2017 verdict which said the company had caused the death of Françoise Jonckheere by failing to control hazardous asbestos exposures despite knowing that such exposures could harm human health. Speaking outside the court on the day that ruling was announced her son Eric said: “Ils savaient!” [They knew!] On Tuesday, an Eternit spokesperson said: “Eternit is also of the opinion that the principle of fair compensation as defined in the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Brussels is in conformity to its own policy. For this reason Eternit decided not to appeal.” See: Procès de l’amiante: Eternit n’ira pas en cassation [Asbestos trial: Eternit will not go to Supreme Court].

Asbestos in Schools

Jun 21, 2017

Part one of a three-part series investigating the asbestos hazard in schools in the Gauteng Province of South Africa, which was published yesterday, reported that while 29 Gauteng schools are built entirely or predominately of asbestos materials and have been listed for replacement, another 214 partially built with asbestos materials have not. Part two examines the health risks posed to children and staff of the asbestos contamination and part three highlights the inconsistencies in advice provided by the Gauteng education department about the asbestos hazard. See: More than 200 Gauteng schools contain asbestos. Here’s where they are.

WHO: Asbestos Report

Jun 20, 2017

A 48-page report, in English and Russian, published this month by the World Health Organization provides yet more evidence for policy makers looking to ban asbestos use in their countries. The authors conclude: “Overall, the trends show that the global asbestos industry is shrinking… its continued use carries substantial costs, including those related to health, remediation and litigation. Countries that continue to produce and consume asbestos will sustain substantial health costs, and… perhaps even greater remediation and litigation costs.” See: Asbestos: Economic Assessment of Ban and Declining Production and Consumption (for Russian version click here).

Asbestos Imports: No Prosecutions

Jun 19, 2017

Testimony to a hearing of the Australian Senate confirmed that the Australian Border Force (ABF) had made 40 detections of illegal asbestos imports this year; since it was established 2 years ago, the ABF has imposed only 3 financial penalties for illegal asbestos imports. Commenting on this hazardous situation, Dave Noonan, General National Secretary for the CFMEU, said: “If this soft touch approach to prosecutions continues we’ll have no choice but to consider banning certain building products from certain countries on health & safety grounds until Minister Dutton is willing to take decisive action.” See: Detection of illegal asbestos imports triple, but still no prosecutions.

Asbestos and Human Rights

Jun 19, 2017

A one-day hearing is being held in Brussels on June 23, 2017 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur Michel Forst on the safety of human rights defenders working in the field of business and human rights. Information received at this hearing as well as input from a public consultation will be part of a report presented to the UN General Assembly in October 2017. Fernanda Giannasi, a retired Brazilian Labor Inspector, will testify on Thursday about the death threats, attacks and intimidation she has faced in Brazil during her campaign for asbestos justice and a national asbestos ban. See: Report on the Situation of human rights defenders working in the field of business and human rights.

Mesothelioma Research

Jun 19, 2017

The June 2017 newsletter of the National Centre for Research on Asbestos Diseases (NCARD) has been published; included is news regarding NCARD personnel and progress achieved by Australian victims’ groups. The lead article details awards recently bestowed upon NCARD senior researcher Joost Lesterhuis for his work in identifying new treatments for mesothelioma. On page two is a feature about the stunning fund-raising efforts of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia which has just announced that it will fund a three and a half year PhD scholarship, to be supervised by NCARD’s Professor Nowak, into translational mesothelioma research. See: PDF version of NCARD newsletter, June 2017

Where is the Justice?

Jun 17, 2017

On June 15, 2017, a Milan court cleared 8 former managers of the Breda Termomeccanica-Ansaldo engineering company of charges related to asbestos deaths of 12 workers at its plant in Milan between the 1970s and 1985. Prosecutors, who accused the defendants of being “gravely culpable,” had asked for sentences of up to 4 years and 11 months. Friends and relatives of the Breda dead voiced their disappointment and held up a banner saying: “Remember all the workers killed in the name of profit.” In February and May, Milan courts acquitted ENEL (National Board of Electricity) and Fiat managers of charges related to 18 occupational asbestos deaths. See: Breda-Ansaldo ex-execs cleared in asbestos trial.

Asbestos in Prison

Jun 17, 2017

Canadian contractor Don Garrett must certainly rue the day when he won a contract to undertake plumbing work at Kent Institution, a maximum security federal prison in Agazziz, British Columbia. The businessman had no idea that routine work at the facility would expose him and his employees to asbestos nor that the stand he was forced to take over the failure of the authorities to inform him of the known hazard would cast him in the role of whistleblower. Despite nine years of enquiries and discussions with local and federal officials, the situation remains unresolved. See: B.C. contractor exposed to asbestos blows whistle, says government made his life a ‘nightmare’.

Support for Ban

Jun 17, 2017

Leading medical experts from Brazil’s National Cancer Institute have condemned the country’s continuing use of asbestos in a commentary published on June 15. Comparing the Brazilian with the United States asbestos legacy, authors Drs. Ubirani Otero and Ana Cristina Pinho suggest that: consumers do not buy asbestos-containing products; unions maintain active surveillance of workers in at-risk trades; and legislators implement national regulations to abolish the use of all forms of asbestos in Brazil. Brazil is currently the world’s third largest producer of chrysotile (white) asbestos. See: Brasil sem Amianto [Brazil without asbestos].

Asbestos-free Water

Jun 17, 2017

A program has been announced by the municipalities of Chania and Kissamos, on the northern coast of the Greek island of Crete, to replace asbestos water pipes as part of planned improvements to the water supply network which will reduce leakages and save energy. Announcing the plans last week, the Mayor of Kissamos Thodoris Stathakis said that the new network will be the same length as the old one necessitating the replacement of 4,500 meters of contaminated pipes and that “the aim of the municipal authority is the continuous improvement of the quality of life of our citizens and visitors.” See: Χανιά: Νέο δίκτυο ύδρευσης θα κατασκευαστεί στο δήμο Κισσάμου [Chania: A new water supply network will be built in the municipality of Kissamos].

Calls for India Ban

Jun 16, 2017

A commentary by activist Jagdish Patel, national coordinator of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India, uploaded on June 15 has called into question continuing government support for the country’s asbestos sector by highlighting statistics which document the high toll being taken by dangerous exposures to asbestos, citing a report by the Ministry of Labour and Employment which said: “It is also high time that the government take initiative in formulating a national plan for prevention and control of silicosis and asbestosis in India…” See: Need for urgent action to protect workers from exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos fibers.

Asbestos: New Technology

Jun 16, 2017

On June 15, 2017, PhD student Matthew Govorko from Western Australia’s Curtin University released a free app for Android and Apple devices to help D-I-Y renovators evaluate the level of asbestos risk in their homes. According to Mr Govorko: “The app guides users through a series of questions, aided by photographs, to identify the potential level of risk in and around their homes before they start to renovate… Once they have completed the questionnaire through the app, they are offered a series of recommendations about what action to take based on the level of risk identified for each product.” See: New app maps the prevalence of asbestos in WA homes.

New Mesothelioma Trial

Jun 15, 2017

An article uploaded to the Mesothelioma Circle website on June 14, 2017 discussed a new collaboration by two pharmaceutical companies, which are commercial competitors, to progress the search for an effective immunotherapy treatment for mesothelioma. Thirty-five mesothelioma patients who have unsuccessfully tried one or two other types of treatment will be administered Keytruda (Merck), and CRS-207 (Aduro Biotech) in 3-week cycles. If there are no safety issues and there is evidence of clinical benefit for the participants, treatment cycles could continue for up to two years. See: New Mesothelioma Clinical Trial Combines Keytruda, CRS-207.

Update: Asbestos Dialogue

Jun 15, 2017

The June 2017 issue of the Bulletin of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) includes a feature by ban asbestos campaigner Jagdish Patel entitled Government Policy & Action on Highly Hazardous Substance ASBESTOS which discusses the engagement of civil society representatives with government officials in charge of the national asbestos policy. It details rude and intimidatory behaviour by Indian bureaucrat Biswanath Sinha at a UN meeting in Geneva; in 2017 Sinha accosted asbestosis victim Rajendra Pevekar; two years previously he had done the same to Mr. Sharad Vittnal Sawant, an asbestos victim from, Mumbai. See: PUCL Bulletin, June 2017.

Public Asbestos Anxiety

Jun 15, 2017

The free telephone hotline operated on June 13 and 14, 2017 by the Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Disease Victims and their Families received more than 1,000 calls from all over Japan on five telephone lines with long queues of calls building up from concerned citizens. The majority of questions related to the presence of asbestos-containing products in Japanese homes but there were also calls from people concerned about having contracted asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos litigation in Japan is a fairly new concept but lobbying by campaigners to access new public and private sources of support for the injured is ongoing.

Asbestos Workshop

Jun 15, 2017

The Asbestos Interest Group, based in the former asbestos mining area of Kuruman in the Northern Cape, is holding an asbestos workshop on June 16, South Africa’s annual Youth Day, for 120 children from the John Taolo Gaetsewe District who attend schools in asbestos contaminated areas. Subjects which will be covered in an age appropriate manner will include: the dangers of asbestos exposure, the types of asbestos-related diseases and measures for protecting residents from harmful exposures. Last year’s event was a great success as can be seen by the picture below. See: Photo from asbestos activities in Kuruman area on June 16, 2016.

Shipyard Victory

Jun 15, 2017

John Fenech, who died of asbestosis in 2011, had worked at the state-owned Malta Drydocks from age 14 until 57. A claim brought by his widow and children that his fundamental human right to protection of life and health had been violated has been recognized by Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti whose ruling condemned the Chief Government Medical Officer and the Attorney General for failing to act on the asbestos hazard. Concluding that Mr. Fenech’s death resulted from a serious omission by the defendants, the Judge awarded the family €9,000; the claimants are appealing the low level of the judgment. See: Compensation for heirs of worker who died after asbestos exposure.

Russian Asbestos Immunity

Jun 14, 2017

As the injured wait to see whether a criminal trial will proceed against French asbestos businessmen and their conspirators, an article on the website “franceinfo” considers Russia’s thriving asbestos industry. Asbestos mining began in the Urals in 1885 and is now a mega-industry with enormous political and economic influence; so much so that Russian data on the incidence of asbestos disease is unavailable. Disparaging ban asbestos campaigners as part of a Western conspiracy, Russia continues to market asbestos primarily to low-income countries like India or countries in Southeast Asia. See: C'est comment ailleurs? L'amiante en Russie [How is it elsewhere? Asbestos in Russia].

Asbestos Removal Subsidy

Jun 14, 2017

A new scheme has been put in place by the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region in Italy to assist private individuals to remove and dispose of asbestos in residential buildings. A €1,500 grant can be obtained by the owner, co-owner or tenant to enable them to employ a specialist contractor to carry out the work. It is hoped that this scheme will serve as a template for other local governments eager to expurgate asbestos contamination from their infrastructures. See: Friuli Venezia Giulia: aiuti economici ai privati per rimuovere e smaltire l’amianto [Friuli Venezia Giulia: economic aid for private individuals to remove and dispose of asbestos].

Asbestos: Public Housing

Jun 13, 2017

A new survey has revealed that asbestos was used in the construction of 22,000 public housing apartments in Japan. Professor Takehiko Murayama from the Tokyo Institute of Technology has estimated that this contamination could have damaged the health of more than 230,000 people. One former resident, 53-year-old Kazuko Saito, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2015; she had lived in contaminated public housing from 1963 until 1984. On June 13 and 14, The Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Disease Victims and their Families will operate a free hotline for enquiries related to asbestos exposures. See: Former resident develops mesothelioma.