News Item Archive
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Displaying first 25 items in reverse date order (default)
Changing Russia’s Asbestos Dialogue
May 29, 2015
Campaigners are increasingly challenging pro-asbestos propaganda distributed in Russia’s asbestos heartland. An online article published this week quotes statements by environmentalist Elena Vasilieva, head of the NGO Volgograd-Ecopress, detailing the human health hazard posed by asbestos exposure not only to factory workers but to members of the public who live or work in properties containing asbestos materials. See: Елена Васильева: «Экологи единодушны: производство асбеста опасно для здоровья» [Elena Vasilieva, “Environmentalists are unanimous: the production of asbestos is hazardous to health”].
The International Asbestos Memorial
May 29, 2015
After more than a decade of planning and fund-raising, a stainless steel memorial will be unveiled tomorrow (May 30, 2015) in memory of 500 hundred Scottish asbestos victims. The artwork entitled “The International Asbestos Memorial – The Known and Unknown” was designed by Glasgow artist Jephson Robb and funded by donations collected by the Clydebank Asbestos Group. Many of the group have lost loved ones to asbestos-related diseases from exposures at the shipyards and factories that provided employment on the Clyde. Clydebank was, at one time, known as Europe’s asbestos capital. See: Town’s tribute to the victims of asbestos.
Asbestos Removal Target in Sight
May 28, 2015
An official at the Rwanda Housing Authority has reported that plans to safely remove 800,000 square meters of asbestos roofing, 60% of the 1,308,259 sq. meters of contaminated material, by 2016 are proceeding according to schedule. The pace of the work has increased by training extra technicians and increasing the number of disposal sites to 15. In 2009 the Cabinet gave instructions for the eradication of asbestos roofs. With limited funds and little expertise progress was slow. In 2013, it was estimated that there was still 1 million square meters of asbestos roofing to be cleared at a cost of Rwf23 billion. See: Asbestos deadline will be met - housing authority.
London Police on Asbestos Alert
May 27, 2015
It has been reported that facilities used by the Metropolitan Police to train armed officers between 1980 and 2007 were contaminated with asbestos. As a precaution, all former and current firearms officers have been contacted. Chief Superintendent Mike Gallagher, from the Specialist Firearms Command, announced that the Met is “offering a full support package which provides detailed information, advice, guidance, links and contacts.” There are, said Scotland Yard, “robust protocols” for training sites and new guidance has been drafted highlighting the risk of hazardous materials. See: Every armed police officer in London may have been exposed to asbestos.
Case Proceeds against Olivetti
May 26, 2015
As a result of preliminary hearings in an asbestos case over the deaths of factory workers, a calendar for the trial of managers from Olivetti (and its successor Telecom) who stand accused of failing to protect workers’ health from the asbestos hazard has been set. The trial will commence on September 23 and finish on October 5, 2015. The standing of parties civiles [civil parties] has been validated; these include the city of Ivrea, the metropolitan area, the victims’ association (AFeVA) and trade unions. See: Amianto all’Olivetti, anche il Comune di Ivrea parte civile contro l’azienda [Olivettit asbestos case, even the city of Ivrea is a civil partie to this action].
Good News for Asbestos Claimants!
May 23, 2015
The judge who is overseeing preliminary hearings in a new case (Eternit bis) against asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny has this week rejected requests from the defendant’s lawyers to transfer the trial from Turin to Ivrea and to exclude partie civiles (civil parties), including the government, region and province, from the proceedings. These decisions are good news for the 258 asbestos victims and their families (see: picture) on behalf of whom this case has been brought. It is hoped that by the end of June a ruling will be made by Judge Bompieri which will allow the case to proceed. See: Eternit bis, lo Stato Italiano è parte civile [Eternit bis, Italian State is a civil party].
Asbestos Issues in Asia
May 22, 2015
The latest issue of the Occupational Safety and Health Rights Newsletter (Number 34), a quarterly publication on occupational Health and safety issues in Asia, has just been published. The bumper edition contains many stories about asbestos developments in Asia, including news of grassroots mobilization in India in the run-up to the May 2015 meeting of the Rotterdam Convention, an update on asbestos public outreach programs from Indonesia and a report of a memorial service for asbestos victims in Japan. Also featured are brief reports from key organizations collaborating in the campaign to halt the use of asbestos in Asia. See: Occupational Safety and Health Rights Newsletter.
James Hardie Cuts Fund Contribution
May 21, 2015
The Australian building materials multinational James Hardie (JH) is significantly reducing contributions to an asbestos victims’ fund despite a 12% rise in profits. In 2014, the former asbestos giant paid Aus$119.9 million to the (Australian) Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund (AICF); this year's payment will be worth US$ 62.8 million which, at current exchange rates, would be around Aus$80 million. In 2014, the AICF paid out Aus$154.3 million to victims. Actuarial predictions show a large rise in the total bill for asbestos-related claims; a record number of 412 mesothelioma claims were received in 2013-14, an 11% increase in one year. See: James Hardie's payment to asbestos fund set to fall even as claims keep rising.
Supreme Court Protects Victims
May 20, 2015
In a judgment handed down today (May 20, 2015) by the UK Supreme Court in the case between Zurich Insurance PLC UK Branch and others, by a decision of 4 to 3, the Court favoured a solution which ensured the full recovery of compensation for mesothelioma victims. Lords Mance, Clarke, Carnwath and Hodge agreed that each insurer on risk for any period of tortious exposure must meet the liability in full. The Association of British Insurers and the Asbestos Victim Support Groups’ Forum UK were both interveners in this case. Their responses to this decision are expected in press releases on May 21. The Supreme Court’s ruling is contained in a 94-page judgment.
Action on Asbestos
May 20, 2105
“Asbestos: the lungs of capitalism,” is the title of an art installation by the Colombian artist Guillermo Villamizar which is being exhibited in the town of Bucaramanga, as part of a series of actions taking place this month to highlight the country’s asbestos scandal. On May 19, a seminar on malignant mesothelioma was held, during which the artist and other speakers made presentations. In 2012 and 2013 Colombia imported 25,164 and 15,961 tons of asbestos, respectively. Available figures for 2014 show a decline in asbestos import levels; this could partially be explained by the restarting of asbestos mining operations in Yarumal (Antioquia), Colombia.
New State Asbestos Ban in Brazil!
May 20, 2015
On April 30, 2015, the Legislative Assembly of the State of Amazonas enacted law 258/15 prohibiting the use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Asbestos use in Brazil is permitted under federal law although the states of São Paulo, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais have taken unilateral action to ban asbestos. In 2013, Brazil produced 307,000 tonnes of chrysotile (white) asbestos and consumed 181,168 tonnes. At last week’s meeting of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention, the delegation from Brazil acknowledged the asbestos hazard. See: Uso do amianto é banido por lei no Estado do Amazonas [Asbestos use banned by law in Amazon State].
Asbestos in Schools
May 19, 2015
Nearly all the 14,000 UK schools built between 1945 and 1975 contain asbestos as do schools refurbished during that period. Decontamination work is being delayed, says the Local Government Association, because of conflicts over who is responsible for removal costs. As many of the schools are coming to the end of their useful life, the issue of asbestos can no longer be avoided – it is illegal to demolish a building without first removing the asbestos it contains. The Department for Education’s latest audit of the condition of school buildings excluded asbestos, an “oversight” which is indicative of the government’s failure to engage with the “asbestos timbebomb.” See: Schools are facing an asbestos timebomb
The Asbestos Paradox
May 18, 2015
A recent issue of the World Health Organization Bulletin asks “What will it take to eradicate this [mesothelioma] highly preventable cancer?” The commentary contrasts health risks with assertions that asbestos can “improve quality of life.” The 2-page text details major gaps in the impact of scientific evidence on global disease prevention policy including: using doubt science to justify lack of action, casting aspersions on the safety of asbestos-free products and prioritizing economic development over public health. In some countries, “scientific knowledge of asbestos toxicity seems to have been lost in translation.” See: The asbestos paradox: global gaps in the translational science of disease prevention.
Industry Vetoes Listing of Chrysotile!
May 14, 2015
At the end of the today’s meetings of the Rotterdam Convention, the motion to include chrysotile asbestos on the Prior Informed Consent list was blocked by Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Zimbabwe. Activists present during the discussion spoke of open frustration by delegates and disappointment in the leadership of the Secretariat in failing yet again to make progress on this issue. The background to this decision is discussed in an article on this website. More information will be forthcoming on today’s events. See: Report from the Asbestos Frontline: Update from Geneva!
Activists Condemn Government Position
May 14, 2015
A press release issued today by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India (OEHNI) exposes the duplicitous position taken by the government of India during this week’s discussions at the Rotterdam Convention. India was one of a handful of parties to the Convention to block the listing of chrysotile (white) asbestos on the prior informed consent list using “bogus science” and advocating “controlled use.” The OEHNI spokesman urges the Prime Minister to reverse this position and support action needed to protect occupational and public health. See: OEHNI Press Release.
New Phase in Asbestos Struggle
May 14, 2015
Articles in the Italian media this week covered the new legal proceedings against asbestos entrepreneur Stephen Schmidheiny. Turin public prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello is asking that charges for the murder or manslaughter of 258 Italian citizens be brought. The defense allege that as the accused already stood trial on similar charges, this case should be dismissed on the grounds of double jeopardy. Preliminary objections were heard today (May 14). There will be two hearings a week; the preliminary hearings should be completed by mid-July 2015. See: Eternit, “stavolta speriamo nella giustizia” [Eternit, “this time we hope for justice”].
NASA: Asbestos-free Breakthrough!
May 14, 2015
Research to replace chrysotile asbestos-filled rubber as an insulator in Shuttle booster technology has succeeded in producing safer parts using “new processes, new repair techniques, and new inspection techniques that help ensure this is the safest booster ever built.” An additional thin sheet of rubber insulation – the “wallpaper butt-joint lay-up process” – was installed on top of an adhesive layer to add strength to the barrier. This asbestos-free component is “the most defect-free segment ever produced, showing not only a solution to the void issue, but also an improvement to the quality of the segments.” See: QM-1 examinations boost as QM-2 prepares for casting.
Victims Deplore Industry Veto
May 13, 2015
A press release issued by an umbrella organization representing French asbestos victims group – ANDEVA – has called “for the voice of reason and true consensus” to prevail in the face of an aggressive campaign by cynical “merchants of asbestos and death” to stop UN progress being made in the regulation of the global trade in chrysotile asbestos, the only type of asbestos still being sold. The text of the ANDEVA press release explains that the purpose of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention, now meeting in Geneva, is to “regulate information on hazards of exported products… to ensure ‘prior informed consent…’” See: ANDEVA Press Release.
UN Convention Undermined
May 12, 2015
In Geneva, deliberations began today on the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in a list of dangerous substances subject to regulation under the terms of the Rotterdam Convention. More than twenty industry lobbyists opposing inclusion have turned up, hoping to adversely influence delegates and impede progress on this important issue. Their booth in the exhibition area is distributing glossy multilingual disinformation extolling the virtues of “chrysotile.” It is of interest to note that the word “asbestos” is missing from their posters (see poster 1 and poster 2) as is any indication that this substance is carcinogenic (see: industry booth and propaganda).
Asbestos Trial Begins May 12
May 9, 2015
The first preliminary hearing in the proceedings against Stephen Schmidheiny, charged with the murder of 258 former Eternit workers and members of the public, will take place on May 12. The preliminary hearing judge may decide to indict the defendants and accept all or some of the cases or deny the prosecution’s request. If the action is allowed to proceed to trial, the court must decide whether the charge is murder or manslaughter. AFeVA, the Association of Families and Victims of Asbestos, trade unions and municipal authorities will petition the court for permission to be accepted as parties to the case. See: AFeVA Press Release (Italiano); also available in English and Français.
Risk from Environmental Pollution
May 9, 2015
Almost all of Cyprus is supplied with water from the Kouris reservoir, located in the foothills of the Troodos Mountain. The area’s geological composition includes a low percentage of asbestos. According to the authorities, tests carried out on drinking water were negative for the presence of asbestos. Irrigation water, however, was not tested and there are concerns about the effects of contaminated water in cultivated areas. Government services are carrying out studies to determine whether there is high concentration of asbestos fibers in the water. They will also measure environmental levels around the reservoir and the wider Limassol area. See: Call for asbestos study for Kouris water.
Asbestos Cancer Rate Increasing
May 9, 2015
Data collected by trade unions documents an increasing mortality rate from asbestos cancer three decades after Denmark banned the use of asbestos. Currently up to 130 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive type of asbestos cancer, every year; a decade ago that figure was 100. Four thousand Danish citizens have died from mesothelioma since 1943. Currently, 300+ Danes die from asbestos diseases every year; asbestos causes more deaths per year than road traffic accidents and workplace disasters. See: More Danes dying from asbestos exposure despite 1980s ban.
Commentary Calls for Asbestos Action
May 9, 2015
An article appeared on May 8, 2015 which questioned the Indian government’s policy regarding the inclusion of white asbestos on a list of hazardous substances under a UN protocol. This issue will be debated in Geneva in the week beginning May 12. India has changed its position on listing chrysotile in the past but there is no indication that the Indian delegate will support listing this time around. Data quoted in this article substantiates the risk to Indian workers and the deadly health consequences of asbestos usage for the general population. See: Millions of lives at stake as India makes up its mind whether white asbestos is deadly.
Industry Indicted by UN Rapporteur
May 6, 2015
Addressing UN delegates today (May 6, 2015), Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council to the Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, said that he was “deeply troubled” by the behaviour of vested interests who “continue to obstruct the listing of asbestos and paraquat under the Rotterdam Convention…” The right to access information is,” he said, “a right in and of itself and one of the rights upon which free and democratic societies depend.” See: Statement by Mr. Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur to the Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.
Improving Occupational Safety
May 6, 2015
Canada’s first online asbestos registry was launched on Monday, May 5, 2015 by the Province of Saskatchewan. Commenting on the initiative Don Morgan, the labor relations and workplace safety minister, said: “This new database is another step toward ensuring the health and safety of workers across our province.” Registry users will not only be able to search for information detailing the presence of asbestos and types of products on sites but will also be able to update registry information. The site, which has geo-locating capabilities, is mobile friendly. See: Saskatchewan launches online asbestos registry.