News Item Archive
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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)
Supporting Supreme Court Appeal
Jan 16, 2017
AFeVA, the Italian group representing many asbestos victims from Casale Monferrato and surrounding areas, has welcomed the decision announced this month by the Turin prosecutor to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision which downgraded murder charges against asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny to manslaughter. Acknowledging that no results will be available in the short-term, due to the protracted proceedings ahead, AFeVA has pledged to “use this time period to study, together with its legal advisors, new forms of protection for victims and family members” so that justice can be obtained in a “reasonable time.” See: Comunicato AFeVA [AFeVA Press Release].
Asbestos at President’s House
Jan 16, 2017
The Office of the President (OTP) was advised on January 12, 2017 of the presence of asbestos in the President’s House in Trinidad and Tobago. Thirty employees who work there were will receive medical evaluations this week. In a January 14 press release, the OTP stated: “What is of grave and critical concern is that it appears that the authorities responsible for renovation of President’s House have been aware of this asbestos contamination for some time but failed to inform and alert the Office of the President of this hazard.” Due to renovations the President does not reside at this building. See: Amid allowance probe, asbestos discovered in President’s House.
Another State Asbestos Ban!
Jan 14, 2017
A law banning the use of asbestos-containing materials was published in the Gazette of the Brazilian State of Santa Catarina (SC) on January 13; this act means that the ban adopted by the state legislature has now become official and that no use of asbestos is allowed from now on. SC is the 8th state in Brazil to adopt a unilateral asbestos ban; the others are: Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Pernambuco, São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais and Amazonas. The federal government’s asbestos policy supports the continued use of asbestos in Brazil, an asbestos producing country. See: SC proíbe uso de materiais que contenham Amianto [SC prohibits use of materials containing asbestos].
Appeal of Schmidheiny Verdict
Jan 13, 2017
On January 12, 2017, public prosecutor Gianfranco Colace and Assistant Attorney General Charles Pellicano appealed to the Supreme Court to reverse the November 29 sentence handed down by Judge Federica Bompieri which allocated the Eternit bis proceedings to four different courts and reduced the charges faced by Stephan Schmidheiny from voluntary murder to manslaughter for more than 200 asbestos deaths. The appellants allege that although Schmidheiny was aware of the asbestos hazard, he did not warn Eternit’s workers. See: Il caso Eternit bis finisce in Cassazione, ricorso contro il manager Schmidheiny [Eternit bis back in the Supreme Court with appeal against Schmidheiny].
Calls to Ban Asbestos!
Jan 13, 2017
A commentary published in Colombia in the aftermath of the death of ban asbestos campaigner Ana Cecilia Niño has highlighted the failure of the Congress to ban asbestos on three occasions. Ana Cecilia Niño was exposed to asbestos when she was a child; her family lived near a factory manufacturing asbestos-cement tiles. During her campaign, she collected more than 50,000 signatures for her referendum calling for an asbestos ban; campaigners also submitted a ban asbestos petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. See: Salud vs. negocio: el asbesto sigue cobrando vidas, pero su uso no se prohíbe [Health vs. business: asbestos still takes lives, but its use is not prohibited].
Asbestos Protest at Brazilian Embassy
Jan 12, 2017
On January 11, 2017, the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) held its fourth ban asbestos protest outside the Seoul embassy of an asbestos-producing country. In previous weeks, demonstrations were held at the embassies of Russia (December 21), China (December 28) and Kazakhstan (January 4). This week it was at the Brazilian embassy. Asbestos victims, environmentalists, medical experts, and occupational health activists displayed colourful banners calling for Brazil to stop mining deadly asbestos, held an outdoor press conference and delivered a letter calling for an end to the mining, consumption and export of asbestos. See: Photo of January 11, 2017 protest.
Jan 12, 2017
This week a newspaper in New Zealand has published an article about the work of asbestos widow Deidre VanGerven who has just published a 280 page book of poems – Asbestos through the Years – about the devastating impact of asbestos-related illness on sufferers and their families. Deidre's husband Thom died in 1997 aged 60 from asbestos cancer as did her father and two siblings. The article by Piers Fuller in the Wairarapa News praises Deidre’s poems as “oddly compelling” and reports the welcome response the book has received from family members of those who have died from asbestos diseases. See: What rhymes with mesothelioma?
Death of Asbestos Activist
Jan 9, 2017
The death has been reported of Ana Cecilia Niño, a mesothelioma sufferer, who led efforts to ban asbestos in Colombia. It is believed that she contracted this cancer after exposure to asbestos liberated from outdoor waste storage facilities at an Eternit asbestos factory in the city of Sibaté. In 2016, Ana Cecilia and her husband sued the Colombian State at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights over its failure to secure fundamental human rights by allowing the use of deadly asbestos. Her husband Daniel José Pineda González relayed news of her death on Sunday January 8 via social media outlets. See: Murió la mujer que buscó una Colombia libre de asbestos [Death of Colombian ban asbestos campaigner].
Asbestos Reinsurance Deal
Jan 8, 2017
A subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway (BH), a company owned by Warren Buffet, will receive $650m to assume $1.5bn of asbestos risk from Hartford Financial Services, a US insurer. In 2006, BH agreed a deal with Equitas, a vehicle set up by Lloyd’s of London, to provide up to £3.7bn ($7bn) in reinsurance cover for asbestos claims. It has done similar deals with US insurers AIG, Liberty Mutual and CNA Financial. Last year an insurance credit rating agency warned that insurers faced $15bn of losses from future asbestos claims. See: Buffett to Get $650 Million From Hartford in Asbestos Deal.
Asbestos Fraud Case
Jan 7, 2017
Two men appeared in a Harare court on January 5, 2017 to face charges related to an alleged asbestos swindle involving Turnall Holdings (Turnall), Zimbabwe’s leading asbestos manufacturer. The court was told that the accused – former Turnall director Kenias Horonga and Sydney Chimberengwa – had convinced Turnall’s Chairperson R. Likukuma of the existence of $116,000 in offshore funds that could be used to buy 90 tonnes of Russian asbestos fiber. To cover up the money transfer, fake applications to purchase foreign currency were submitted by the accused. Last year, three Turnall directors were also prosecuted over allegations of stealing $2 million from the company. See: Ex-Turnall boss Horonga in court over fraud.
Asbestos in Cuba: A Fact of Life
Jan 6, 2017
The use of asbestos roofing is commonplace in Cuba, according to a commentary published this week which highlighted the extensive and long-standing knowledge about the dangers of asbestos exposures to human beings and referenced a 2016 Cuban article in The Havana Times. The author details the popularity of asbestos-cement tiles and water tanks, focusing on the situation in his home town of Guantánamo, and asks why the authorities in Cuba have never taken action on the asbestos hazard. Between 2012 and 2014, Cuba used, on average, ~6000 tonnes per year. See: ¿El régimen no lo sabe? [The regime does not know?].
Demonstration at Kazakhstan Embassy
Jan 5, 2017
Members of the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO), having held protests outside the embassies of Russia and China – the biggest global asbestos producers – in December 2016, yesterday mounted a demonstration outside the Kazakhstan embassy in Seoul. The BANKO press conference and protest were filmed by TV crews from Korea and Kazakhstan. The national TV station of Kazakhstan - KHABAR24 – interviewed two Korean asbestos victims. In 2009, Korea banned the use of asbestos. Experts predict that thousands of people will die from asbestos diseases over the next two decades. See: Photos (2) of January 4, 2017 demonstration.
Asbestos Legacy in Taiwan
Jan 5, 2017
A 40-minute documentary subtitled in English details the deadly impact of asbestos on people in Taiwan, and contrasts the lack of social activism on this issue with the dynamic role played by victims in the fight for recognition, compensation and prevention in Japan. Although the sale of asbestos tiles was banned in 2013, the use of some toxic products remains legal and environmental contamination is a part of life in Taiwan. The evidence presented by medical, technical and academic experts compliments the personal stories of individuals whose lives have been shattered by asbestos disease. This is an important film and should be watched. See: Asbestos: the InvisibleThreat.
Rise in Asbestos Cancer Mortality
Jan 5, 2017
Experts predict that asbestos cancer deaths will continue to rise in Ireland from 20 cases in 2005 to 68 in 2020, a leap of 340%. While these deaths relate to exposures which took place decades ago, hazardous exposures continue and are predicted to increase as Ireland’s economy recovers and as refurbishment projects get underway on sites where asbestos was used during construction. Mandatory notifications to the Health and Safety Authority of the presence of asbestos prior to the commencement of demolition or renovation works increased from 164 in 2010 to 290 up to mid-December 2016. See: Asbestos deaths set to hit record levels.
70 More Days!
Jan 4, 2017
The family of Françoise Jonckheere, who died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in 2000, will have to wait until March 14 for the judgment of the Brussels Appeal Court to be handed down in this ground-breaking case, the first of its kind in Belgium, which seeks to hold the Eternit multinational liable for her death. While the company’s defence team seeks to have the case dismissed as time-barred, lawyers for the Jonckheeres argue that the company allowed toxic exposures to take place despite knowing of the health consequences. See: Procès de l'amiante: la cour d'appel rendra son arrêt le 14 mars [Asbestos trial: the Court of Appeal will deliver its judgment on 14 March].
Omens for US Asbestos Revival?
Jan 4, 2017
An article on a Russian website is predicting that measures under a Trump Presidency will include the downgrading of regulations preventing asbestos use. Referencing statements made both before and during the election, the journalist concludes that the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency will be greatly watered down and asbestos materials will enjoy a new popularity: “The most obvious way to reduce costs in the construction industry is to end the restrictions on the use of chrysotile asbestos.” Trump is quoted as blaming the 2001 collapse of the twin towers on their lack of asbestos fireproofing. See: Асбест возвращает доброе имя [The good name of asbestos returns].
Defeating the Asbestos Industry
Jan 4, 2017
In the face of powerful political, economic and social forces which had for many decades supported the Canadian asbestos industry, a campaign by ban asbestos activists at home and abroad succeeded in ending “Canada’s destructive role as global propagandist for the asbestos industry” and securing a Canadian ban on asbestos. A new paper by Canadian human rights campaigner Kathleen Ruff details the background to these developments and highlights the importance of key events including the 2010 Asia-Quebec Solidarity Delegation to Quebec. See: How Canada’s Asbestos Industry Was Defeated in Quebec.
Asbestos Prosecutions and Persecutions
Jan 4, 2107
A recently published paper provides a background to the evolution of knowledge regarding the harmful effects of asbestos exposure and considers criminal prosecutions undertaken against those responsible for hazardously exposing workers including the legal proceedings in Italy against the Swiss billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny who was initially sentenced to 16 years for his crimes before the Supreme Court vacated the verdict on a technicality. The author concludes that: “the use of the criminal code to hold people personally responsible for business decisions that gravely endanger public health on such a scale, for profits made by avoiding the costs of prevention and compensation” is essential. See: Criminality and Asbestos in Industry.
Appeal Begins in Landmark Case
Jan 3, 2016
Proceedings begin at 9 a.m. on January 3, 2017 at the Brussels Court of Appeal, Civil Division in the ground-breaking case over the asbestos cancer death in 2000 of Françoise Jonckheere (see: Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial, Chapter 16). In 2011 – in the first asbestos case ever to be heard in a Belgian court – the Belgian multinational Eternit was found liable for Mrs Jonckheere’s death in a verdict which dismissed all the company’s arguments and found it had deliberately downplayed or hid the asbestos danger for years. Eternit was ordered to pay €250,000 in compensation, but the company subsequently lodged an appeal. See: L’amiante se réinvite au tribunal [Asbestos re-invites itself to court].
The Final Insult
Jan 3, 2017
You couldn’t make it up. After 14 years of legal battles, an Italian court has ordered the wife and children of an asbestos victim to return the bulk of the money previously awarded for his death. The verdict supported arguments submitted by The National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work and Occupational Diseases (INAIL) that Mario Barbieri, who had worked from 1966 to 1992 as a crane operator and warehouseman in Carrara at a site where 22 others had died of asbestos cancer, had not been exposed to asbestos at work. The Court had been told that the brakes of the crane were lined with asbestos. See: Morì per amianto, ma l’Inail rivuole i soldi [He died from asbestos, but INAIL wants the money back].
Jan 3, 2017
Despite a 2015 statement by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena declaring his intention to ban imports of asbestos roofing by 2018, this material remains the product of choice for poor people. Whilst the government acknowledges asbestos is a carcinogen, asbestos industry propagandists continue to proclaim that “there is no medical evidence to support the claim that white asbestos causes cancer.” An article published by World Is One News (WION) – an international news platform – on January 2 says that “Sri Lanka needs to make a choice, a choice between life and death.” See: Breath of death: Asbestos may be cheap roofing material but it causes cancer.
Ban Asbestos Protests
Jan 2, 2017
On Wednesday, December 21, 2016, the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) embarked on the first of a series of demonstrations outside the embassies of asbestos-producing countries with a well-attended event in front of the Russian Embassy in central Seoul. Signs with slogans such as “Stop RUSSIA! Asbestos Mining!,” “STOP, DEATH Export,” “Asbestos Free Asia” and “Asbestos Free World” were held aloft during the event which was covered by TV crews. A similar protest was mounted in front of the Chinese Embassy on December 28 with two more such actions planned for January. See: Photo from December 21, 2016 demonstration at the Russian Embassy in Seoul.
Plaintiffs’ Verdict by Top Court
Jan 2, 2017
Last month (December 1, 2016), the California Supreme Court issued a 39-page unanimous verdict (see: Johnny Blaine Kesner v. Superior Court of California) upholding the right of Johnny Kesner who had contracted cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers on the work clothes of a family member to sue his uncle’s employer for failing to implement provisions of the California Civil Code which would have prevented the toxic exposure. This ruling also upheld the right of a wife to take action against the owners of the premises where her former husband had worked. See: Kazan Law’s Asbestos Litigation Landmark Decision.
Asbestos Lobby on the Run!
Dec 21, 2016
The International Chrysotile Association (ICA) – the global cheerleader for the asbestos industry – has announced it will leave Canada now that the government has announced a national ban on asbestos, according to its President Jean-Marc Leblond. The ICA, a non-profit organisation, is entirely funded by foreign interests with the bulk of the $1 million annual budget coming, it is believed, from Russia and Kazakhstan, the largest producers of chrysotile asbestos. There is speculation about the new location of the ICA; to save removal and associated costs, why not just shut it down all together? See: International asbestos lobby organisation will leave Quebec.
Asbestos Compensation in Japan
Dec 21, 2016
A press release issued on December 20, 2016 by Japan’s Ministry of Labor disclosed that over a thousand people exposed to asbestos at 918 workplaces throughout Japan were compensated for various asbestos related conditions in 2015 under workers compensation schemes, with cases of mesothelioma (551) and lung cancer (381) accounting for 88% of the claims. As of March 2016 more than 15,000 individuals with asbestos-related diseases had been compensated under workers compensation schemes with a further 9,000 compensated by relief schemes administered by the Ministry of the Environment’ Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency.