International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Apr 25, 2018

New research by the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) has confirmed the continuing scandal posed by asbestos in schools and colleges: almost 90% of schools are affected and 17 members of the teaching staff are dying every year from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. According to JUAC chair John McClean: “This information confirms that the Government’s policy of managing asbestos in schools has failed. There is absolutely no uniformity in how multi-academy trusts are managing their asbestos, and no standardised procedures followed when schools transfer to academy trusts.” See: Teachers and students at risk of asbestos exposure in schools.

Apr 25, 2018

A report issued on April 12, 2018 by the Labor Inspectorate not only detailed historic occupational asbestos exposures but also revealed ongoing failures to protect workers from toxic exposures by the Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid [EMT/Madrid Municipal Transport Company]. One example given of a “very serious” infraction took place over ten months last year (2017) during which 322 EMT employees and contractors were endangered by the liberation of asbestos fibers through illegal working practices. See: 322 trabajadores afectados por amianto durante las obras de una cochera de la EMT [322 workers affected by asbestos during work at an EMT garage].

Apr 25, 2018

The Milan Public Prosecutor has brought charges against Elio Gambino, former director of the Azienda Trasporti Milanesi – a transport company in Milan, Italy – over the asbestos-related deaths from mesothelioma of six employees [a bus driver, 2 electricians, an underground railway signalman, a mechanic in charge of bus repairs and a carpenter] and injuries sustained by two others which took place between 2009 and 2015. The accused is charged with the crimes of “inadequate security management” and creating “an environmental emergency” that could affect travellers as well as workers. See: Amianto, pm chiede 6 anni per ex manager Atm: “No misure adeguate” [Asbestos, pm asks for 6 years for former Atm manager: “No adequate measures”].

Apr 22, 2018

Most of India’s 8,000 railway stations are built with asbestos-containing products which are used as roofing, partitions and insulation. An asbestos decontamination program begun in 2008 is ongoing and all new railway stations are being constructed with metal sheet roofs and not asbestos-cement roofing. Asbestos manufacturers are alarmed by the phase-out and claim it is unnecessary; a spokesman for the asbestos lobby commented: “as far as we are concerned, health-wise there no problem in the manufacture, sale and distribution of what you call asbestos in India.” See: Railways are phasing out asbestos, a suspected health hazard.

Apr 22, 2018

Australia’s Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA – has been active in the Asian region in progressing ban asbestos initiatives in collaboration with local groups and stakeholders over recent years. Next month (May 2018), APHEDA will be bringing Indonesian activists from the Local Initiative for OHS Network (LION) Indonesia and the SERBUK Union (an Indonesian union representing asbestos factory workers) to Australia to discuss the challenges being faced. Meetings, some of which will be streamed online, will be held in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. See: Indonesian ban asbestos campaigners 2018 Australian tour.

Apr 22, 2018

A federal court has ruled that the asbestos mining company Sama and the multinational Saint Gobain must pay R$62 million (~US$18m) for collective moral damages due to damage caused by their commercial exploitation of asbestos in the Brazilian State of Bahia. The companies were ordered to identify and demolish buildings made with asbestos tailings, monitor environmental contamination and support cultural, social and environmental projects in Bom Jesus da Serra, a city 464 kilometers from Salvador, the state capital. See: Justiça condena mineradoras a pagar R$ 62 milhões por exploração de Amianto [Justice condemns mining companies to pay R $ 62 million for asbestos exploration].

Apr 22, 2018

Canadian architect Ken Hutchinson has died from an asbestos-related disease at the age of 74. Mr. Hutchinson designed some of the most iconic buildings in Western Canada including the Fish Creek Library in Calgary, the Hobbema Healing Lodge in Mâskwâcîs, the Saamis Teepee in Medicine Hat, the Engineered Air Theatre in Calgary, the Calgary Real Estate Board, the Museum of the Regiments and Fort Saskatchewan's DOW Centennial Center as well as many other recreation centers, libraries, fire halls, theatres and schools in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan. See: Architect who designed some of Alberta's most striking buildings dies of asbestos exposure.

Apr 20, 2018

On April 19, 2018, Metro de Madrid informed trade unions that more asbestos had been found in the driver's cabin of two old models of trains. The unwelcome discovery was made in the insulating plate behind a cabinet; the company said this presented no risk to drivers but could pose a hazard to workshop mechanics. To prevent this happening, work has been suspended on these units. Metro de Madrid has embarked on a €5million asbestos decontamination program and has said that suburban trains will be asbestos-free by the end of 2019. See: Metro de Madrid detecta más amianto en la cabina del conductor de dos modelos de trenes antiguos [Madrid Metro detects more asbestos in driver's cab of two old train models].

Apr 20, 2018

Between 2016 and 2016, 98% of Portugal’s asbestos-contaminated construction and demolition debris was dumped in landfill for non-hazardous waste. The reason for this is to be found in the ambiguity of Portuguese law: while Administrative Rule No. 40/2014 does not mandate the disposal of demolition and construction waste in landfills for hazardous waste, Decree-Law No. 183/2009 establishes a legal regime for the disposal of hazardous waste in landfill. Although asbestos is classed as hazardous as per the European Waste List, it can therefore go to landfills for hazardous and non-hazardous materials. See: Mais de 66 mil toneladas de amianto enterradas em aterros para resíduos não perigosos [More than 66,000 tons of asbestos buried in landfills for non-hazardous waste].

Apr 20, 2018

An article in The Lancet this month reviewed the global mesothelioma landscape and highlighted the inability of standard protocols to significantly improve outcomes for patients. The authors discussed pioneering therapies including immune checkpoint inhibitors, other immunotherapies, targeted therapies and combinations of novel drugs. They concluded: “New therapeutic strategies, combined with ways to identify those patients most likely to benefit from each therapy, will hopefully allow the prognosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma to be classified as a chronic disease rather than a rapidly fatal cancer, which will hopefully lead to a cure in the future.” See: Novel therapies for malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Apr 19, 2018

Yesterday (April 18) afternoon, 20 Greenpeace protesters hung a 35 meter long sign on the pedestrian bridge over Rojas Avenue with an urgent message addressed to Colombian politicians, “Congresistas: su cobardía la pagamos todos” [Congressmen: we all pay for your cowardice], urging them to approve the “Ana Cecilia Niño” law to ban asbestos in Colombia. The last of the seven times the bill, named after one of Colombia’s most famous asbestos victims, failed to become law was in October, 2016. See: La protesta de Greenpeace en Bogotá contra el asbesto [The protest by Greenpeace in Bogotá against asbestos].

Apr 19, 2018

On April 18, 2018, a Turin appeals court dismissed charges against defendants convicted by a lower court over 12 asbestos deaths amongst Olivetti workers employed between the 1960s and 1990s at the company’s factory in Ivrea, northern Italy. Convictions were reversed for Olivetti executives Carlo De Benedetti and his brother Franco De Benedetti, who had been sentenced to prison for manslaughter and personal injury by the first instance court. There is widespread outrage in the town of Ivrea, with the Mayor saying: “This story is an open wound for the city and the territory…” See: Amianto all'Olivetti di Ivrea, assolti tutti i manager [Asbestos at Olivetti, Ivrea, all managers absolved].

Apr 19, 2018

A national program broadcast this week highlighted the pervasive and deadly scandal of asbestos contamination of UK schools, with interviews with a bereaved daughter, trade union leader and a legal expert, all of whom called for action to address the toxic exposures experienced by teachers, support staff and children on a daily basis. There was, said one interviewee, a “reluctant conspiracy of silence among those who are in a position to point out the dangers.” Failures of the Health and Safety Executive and Department of Education to address the serious issues posed by the presence of asbestos in schools were highlighted. See: Pressure on authorities to do more to remove asbestos from schools.

Apr 19, 2018

The family of construction worker Pietro Macaluso was awarded $60 million in damages by a Manhattan jury for his premature death at the age of 56 in July 2016 from mesothelioma. In the 1970s and 1980s he was occupationally exposed to asbestos when he was employed in demolition work which required the removal of asbestos-covered boilers from family homes in Brooklyn. During a 9-week trial, the family’s attorney told the jury that the defendants had known about the asbestos health risks and taken action to protect employees at their factories but did nothing to warn the public or people like Mr. Macaluso. See: Critics say tort reform necessary after $60M asbestos settlement.

Apr 19, 2018

A paper examining how multiple agencies and authorities collaborated to deal with a 2016 discovery by the Public Health Department of the Government of Aragon that asbestos-containing brake linings imported from China were being sold in Zaragoza and elsewhere in Spain considers the interactions between EU laws and regulations and public administrations throughout Spain, and concludes that the operation of the current system is impacted by the fragmented nature of political authority and the autonomy of the different public administrations. See: Occupational health administrative coordination a propos of a case: brake linings with asbestos in a company.

Apr 17, 2018

A commentary calling for the immediate ban on the import, processing and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in Uganda urges the authorities to adopt a “guided national decommissioning plan purposed to protect the public and the environment” from asbestos exposures, and highlights the health risk to citizens of exposure to asbestos products contained in deteriorating older buildings, stating that: “maintenance workers of old asbestos structures have considerable risks comparable to that of industrial workers due to asbestos dust.” See: Asbestos: What Uganda needs to do about the risky exposure.

Apr 16, 2018

A historic breakthrough occurred in a US courtroom this month when a New Jersey jury handed down the first mesothelioma claimant’s verdict against Johnson & Johnson to Stephen Lanzo, a 46-year-old investment banker, who contracted the fatal asbestos cancer after decades of exposure to the company’s talc-based baby powder. On Thursday, April 5, 2018, $30 million was awarded to Mr. Lanzo with a further $7 million to his wife Kendra. On April 11, 2018, the jurors decided that the defendants’ “outrageous and egregious” behaviour warranted further censure and ordered that a further $80 million in punitive damages be paid. Pivotal to the outcome of this case was evidence and corporate strategies revealed in confidential corporate documents. [Read full article]

Mar 8, 2018

On January 31, 2018 the latest salvos were fired in the battle by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health (MoH) against the quashing of its decision to ban asbestos to protect citizens from deadly exposures. On that day, Kiev’s District Administrative Court held the first hearing on a case brought by the MoH to reinstate the 2017 prohibition banning the use of all types of asbestos including chrysotile (white asbestos) which had been invalidated in October 2017. If the MoH succeeds, and one must hope it does, Ukraine will be yet another country – like Brazil – which resorted to judicial action in order to overcome vested interests determined to prioritize corporate profits over human health. [Read full article]

Jan 21, 2018

Our friend Jock McCulloch died on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. The grief caused by his passing is shared by so many who have worked with him to reveal the human cost of the global asbestos trade. It is poignant and tragic that Jock, whose compassion and humanity was so great, shared the fate of so many of the people whose plight he documented. Like them, Jock’s death was caused by exposure to asbestos. At this sad time, our thoughts are with his partner Pavla, their family, his friends and colleagues at RMIT University and so many others whose lives were enriched by knowing Jock. While mourning his passing, we will remain forever grateful for the time we had with him and for the impact he had on our lives. [Read full article]

Jan 4, 2018

As 2018 dawns, the outlook for the ban asbestos campaign looks brighter than ever with progress being made in countries around the world. Pro-asbestos initiatives which might formerly have escaped detection are now being exposed and countered in record time. The ongoing saga of Russia’s strong-arm tactics to force Sri Lanka to rescind its asbestos phase-out has been condemned both at home and internationally. Throughout 2017 the global ban asbestos network, working with partnering organizations, enjoyed huge successes in multiple jurisdictions. Building on those victories and on increasing support for an asbestos-free future, the prospects for 2018 appear very promising! [Read full article]

Jan 3, 2018

International trade unions, health networks, asbestos victims’ groups and NGOs have today issued a media release soundly condemning Russian economic pressure on Sri Lanka which has forced a U-turn in the asbestos phase-out scheduled to begin this month. Sharan Burrow of the International Trade Union Confederation summed up the collective outrage over Russia’s bullying: “Imposing chrysotile asbestos on an unwilling nation is not fair trade, it is culpable homicide… Russia must not and will not be allowed to blow a hole in fair trade rules.” [Read full article]

Dec 22, 2017

On December 16, 2017, 16 civil society groups and trade unions established the Indian Ban Asbestos Network (I-BAN) at a meeting in New Delhi, organized by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India and the Building and Woodworkers International, to progress efforts to ban asbestos in India and eradicate the asbestos hazard from workplaces and infrastructure. The formation of I-BAN was the culmination of the conference: “India Beyond Asbestos – Issues and Strategies” which took place on December 15 and 16. India is one of the world’s largest asbestos markets; in 2015, over 370,000 tonnes of asbestos with a value of $239 million were imported. India is Asia’s 2nd biggest asbestos consumer. [Read full article]

Dec 6, 2017

On December 5, 2017, the High Court declared that historical documents detailing corporate knowledge regarding the asbestos hazard due to be destroyed as part of a confidential agreement must be preserved and shared with parties not involved in the original litigation. The ruling marked a positive outcome for a case brought by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum to obtain information that would facilitate claims by asbestos victims and better understand “the close relationship between the Factory Inspectorate, whose function was supposed to be protecting the health and safety of workers, and the asbestos industry that they were supposed to be regulating.” [Read full article]

Dec 1, 2017

A majority verdict of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) handed down on November 29, 2017, prohibited the mining, processing, marketing and distribution of chrysotile (white) asbestos in Brazil – currently the world’s third largest producer of chrysotile. The judgment was binding on all jurisdictions and on the national congress which is, said the STF, barred from enacting new legislation authorizing the use of asbestos. Commenting on this ruling Fernanda Giannasi, who was been at the forefront of the campaign to ban asbestos in Brazil for 30 years, said: “If an asbestos producer country like Brazil is able to make such a decision, why wouldn’t consumer countries do the same?” Why indeed! [Read full article]

Nov 21, 2017

Untold numbers of workers may have been exposed to asbestos-contaminated blast cleaning abrasives supplied by the Netherlands-based Eurogrit Company, a subsidiary of the Belgian company Sibelco, which were sold to companies in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and possibly elsewhere. The Eurogrit product (Eurogrit coal-slag abrasive (aluminium silicate) at the center of this unfolding health and commercial catastrophe is used primarily for removing rust and dirt from steel surfaces. Compared to well-honed protocols put into action by Dutch stakeholders, the UK’s response to this illegal use of a toxic product has been singularly unimpressive. [Read full article]

Nov 9, 2017

Actions taken by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health in June 2017 to protect citizens from exposures to asbestos were officially quashed last month (October 2017) by the Ministry of Justice which excluded the implementing regulations from the State Register. The formalization of this move to undercut the capacity of Ukraine to act in the best interests of its citizens is further proof of the over-reaching influence of asbestos vested interests. Simultaneously, a 2017 free trade deal between Canada and Ukraine – The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement – could provide enhanced opportunities for the commercial exploitation of regional asbestos production. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2017

On the evening of October 27, 2017, the Worker’s Initiative – Kolkata organized a mass meeting in Kolkata, India where 19 workers with asbestosis were presented compensation payments received from the T&N Asbestos Trustee Company (UK) totaling INR 55,08,924.00 (US$ 85,000) by representatives of trade unions and labor organizations. Despite attempts by the asbestos manufacturing company Everest Industries to deter workers from attending the meeting, there were many asbestos workers in the audience as well as workers from other companies. Information leaflets on the asbestos hazard in Hindi and Bengali were distributed during the meeting. [Read full article]

Oct 13, 2017

A press release issued by UK asbestos campaigners declared support for French comrades demonstrating in the streets of Paris today (October 13, 2017) demanding justice for those injured by asbestos and punishment for corporate entities, entrepreneurs, government officials, scientists, public relations professionals and others who promoted sales of deadly asbestos products (voir la version française du communiqué de presse). Highlighting the importance of the French protest, Graham Dring of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum (UK) said: “The ties which bind French and UK asbestos victims are enduring and solid; their battles are our battles. Today, we send them a message of fellowship and solidarity and our wishes for a great day!” [Read full article]

Oct 12, 2017

In mid-September, 2017, an article entitled: Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 84 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2016 was featured in The Lancet. Using data sourced from the GBD Study regarding the 2016 incidences of asbestos-related mortality in 195 countries, IBAS has compiled three tables listing asbestos-related disease mortality and mortality rates, relating (mostly) to occupational asbestos exposures. [Read full article]

Sep 28, 2017

A letter by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India to Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, calls for action according to international guidelines and independent research to protect citizens from the deadly hazard posed by the massive use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in India. The text of the September 12 document cites statements by the Environment Ministry that the “use of asbestos may be phased out” and the Ministry of Labour: “The Government of India is considering the ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos.” [Read full article]

Sep 22, 2017

This paper was submitted by the Government of the Cook Islands to the 28th meeting of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) which took place in Samoa on September 19-21, 2017. This and other documentation submitted under agenda item 13.1 supported the Cook Is. delegation’s call for a Pacific wide ban on asbestos and urged the SPREP to take “action on existing asbestos materials and wastes and address the issue of new asbestos in the Pacific.” The members of the SPREP include: American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. [Read full article]

Sep 17, 2017

The asbestos house of cards built on “denial, distortion and distraction” is collapsing. With more and more evidence documenting the toxic effects of human exposures and action being taken the world over to protect populations, preliminary data for recent years have shown a dramatic fall in consumption and reports from the asbestos frontline have documented a waning of industry influence and power even in home markets. This article draws on recent developments, published material and new data which detail a collapse in political, social and commercial support for the asbestos industry and the growth in support for national and regional action on the asbestos hazard in Asia and Latin America. [Read full article]

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Demonstration in Woluwe Park, Brussels, 2006

Under cloudy skies, members of Belgian and French Asbestos Victims' Associations from Dunkirk and Bourgogne marched side-by-side in the third annual demonstration organized by ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims. Erik Jonckheere, ABEVA's Co-chairman, condemned the government which still refuses to recognize the plight of the asbestos injured.

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