International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Aug 30, 2015

An exposé aired today by Radio Canada details attempts to downgrade occupational asbestos safeguards in the name of greater productivity in Thetford Mines, a former asbestos mining region in Quebec, despite recommendations made in a $140,000 study that concludes guidelines should remain in place to protect at-risk workers from exposure to hazardous fibers in the soil, air and infrastructure. Citing the precautionary principle, experts continue to urge caution in an area where high levels of contamination have been found. See: Les règles de sécurité sur l'amiante critiquées, malgré une étude [Safety regulations on asbestos criticized, despite study].

Aug 30, 2015

Following up on a public pledge made on August 12, 2015 to ban asbestos in 2018, the President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena, yesterday reiterated his commitment to the ban during a ceremony held at President’s House. He recalled that previous plans to enact asbestos prohibitions had been scuppered but “today everybody is supporting that programme. Those decisions will be put into action without bowing down to any private company or institution… for the betterment of the country and the people.” See: Sri Lanka president to ban production of asbestos in 2018.

Aug 30, 2015

To satisfy growing consumer demand in Brazil for asbestos-free goods, Brasilit – part of the French Saint Gobain Group – has announced the opening of a new R$ 55 million (US$15+ million) manufacturing facility in Seropédica, in greater Rio de Janeiro, to produce asbestos-free fiber cement products. Brasilit’s five factories producing asbestos-free goods are located in Esteio, Rio Grande do Sul; Belém, Pará; Recife, Pernambuco; and Capivari and Jacarei, in the State of São Paulo. The new 100,000 m² facility will provide 250 jobs. See: Brasilit inaugura unidade em Seropédica [Brasilit opens unit in Seropédica].

Aug 29, 2015

An essay about the dangers of asbestos has won first prize in a competition of the Asian Scientist Magazine. It details problems faced by one householder in Malaysia who discovered her dream home contained asbestos roofing materials. Despite reassurances from one Malaysian expert, another warned of the deadly health effects of asbestos inhalation. Although few countries in Asia publish data on asbestos exposure or deaths, using patterns observed in industrialized countries, one epidemiologist estimated that between 1994-2008 there were almost 8,000 unreported mesothelioma deaths in China, India and Thailand. See: Once An Industry Wonder, Now A Silent Killer.

Aug 29, 2015

Data released this month (August 2015) by the Office of National Statistics show a steady increase in the number of deaths from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in England and Wales over recent years. Between 2010 and 2014, 11,011 people died from this disease with rates increasing by 13% over this period. The areas with the highest number of mesothelioma deaths in 2014 were: Birmingham (40), Sheffield (30), Leeds (32), Chester East (25) and Cornwall (24) with the highest age-standardised mortality rates recorded in: Barrow-in-Furness (14.3), South Tyneside (11.1), North Tyneside (10.9) and Fareham (10). See: ONS Mesothelioma Data.

Aug 28, 2015

A piece of photojournalism by Matthias Walendy about the former Quebec asbestos mining town called “Asbestos” includes images of the former mine, local businesses, streetscapes and townspeople. Walendy reports that while many of the residents still yearn for the old days, there is a sense of realism that pervades the population. It is incredible that the failure of the town to accept the reality of the asbestos hazard continues – the mine area remains open for quad bike riders to explore despite the fact that the contents of the tailings could be up to 12% raw asbestos fiber. See: A Town Called Asbestos.

Aug 28, 2015

The Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT / the Unified Workers' Central), Brazil’s national trade union center, is fighting attempts by commercial interests to repeal government guidance – Technical Note 141/2014 – protecting workers and their families from hazardous asbestos exposures. In a resolution issued on August 27, 2015 in São Paulo, CUT reiterated its support for a national asbestos ban and reasserted the need for the maximum protection to be provided for at-risk workers. See: CUT repudia a revogação da Nota sobre uso do Amianto [CUT repudiates repeal of technical guidance note on asbestos].

Aug 28, 2015

A commentary published on August 27, 2015 recaps new provisions in a government asbestos circular which mandated heightened workplace protection from asbestos hazards for public workers. The measures included: establishing and updating publicly accessible asbestos audits of public buildings, labelling hazardous products, maintaining tight dust controls, keeping asbestos exposure records for individual workers and providing medical surveillance. See: Amiante: une nouvelle circulaire traite de la prévention du risque d’exposition à l’amiante dans la fonction publique [Asbestos: a new circular deals with preventing the risk of exposure to asbestos in the public service].

Aug 27, 2015

Like the showdown at the OK Corral, pro- and anti- asbestos forces were out in force during hearings held in the Bahia State Legislative Assembly on August 20, 2015. Bill 20,985/2014 authored by State Representative Rosemberg Pinto aims to protect occupational health by prohibiting the use of this acknowledged carcinogen. Supporting the bill were campaigner Fernanda Giannasi and asbestos victims; opposing the prohibitions were Brazilian asbestos lobbyists and trade unionists aligned with the industry who alleged that chrysotile asbestos posed no risk to human beings. See: Audiência pública debate a proibição do Amianto [Public hearing debates asbestos ban].

Aug 27, 2015

French scientists have published an analysis of data from a cohort of 2,000+ asbestos workers over three decades. An elevated incidence of peritoneal mesothelioma was found in women; in men, there were higher levels of peritoneal mesothelioma, oesophageal and liver cancer. The researchers noted: “Concerning colorectal cancer, a significant excess of risk was observed for men with exposure duration above 25 years…” An association was suggested between occupational asbestos exposure and cancers of the small intestine and liver. See: Digestive cancers and occupational asbestos exposure: incidence study in a cohort of asbestos plant workers.

Aug 26, 2015

Opening the 2015 Conference of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australasia in Nelson, New Zealand yesterday, Environment Minister Nick Smith said “targeted consultation” on a ban on the imports of asbestos-containing products was due to begin. The Minister projected a positive message about protecting occupational health and alleged that asbestos-containing products were only used in the marine, aviation and electricity generation and supply industries. “An inventory released by the ministry last year indicated that in most of these cases, alternative products were available.” See: Government to halt asbestos and HCFC imports, says Environment Minister.

Aug 24, 2015

On August 14, 2015, a Labor Court in Brazil ordered Saint Gobain Industrial Products and Construction Ltd., owner of Brasilit one of the country’s asbestos giants, to pay the sum of $Reais100,000 (US$28,500) in moral damages plus costs for medical examinations to Antonio Martins Santos who has contracted pleural plaques from negligent occupational asbestos exposure. The court dismissed the company’s argument that an extrajudicial agreement reached with the claimant upon the termination of his employment relieved it of any and all liabilities. See: Brasilit Condenada em Processo de Placas Pleurais por Amianto [Brasilit condemned for Asbestos Exposure in Pleural Plaques Case].

Aug 24, 2015

The northern Italian town of Vigevano regards the removal of asbestos-cement roofs from private residences as a public health priority. On August 11, 2015, Mayor Andrea Sala ordered the removal of toxic roofing from a property near Santa Maria Street whose owners had not abided by a 2014 municipal edict to report and/or remediate contamination; failure to do so can result in large financial penalties. A dozen similar cases are being been dealt with by the town’s Department of Environmental Protection. Steps are also being taken by the town to deal with illegally dumped asbestos debris. See: I privati tolgano l’amianto dai tetti [Individuals remediate asbestos roofs].

Aug 24, 2015

At a seminar held last week in Phnom Penh, hundreds of delegates joined government officials and Cambodian and international experts to consider the occupational and public health hazards posed by the continuing use of asbestos. The event, which was organized by the Cambodian Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and Union Aid Abroad (APEHDA), an overseas humanitarian aid agency of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, provided the opportunity to progress discussions on the formation of a national asbestos profile as recommended by the World Health Organization. See: Picture of Symposium Delegates.

Aug 24, 2015

An academic conference entitled: “Cultural philanthro-capitalism and political art: the paradoxes of contemporary symbolic thinking” took place at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Cali, Colombia on Thursday, August 20, 2015. The event was streamed live on the university’s website and featured a presentation by artist Guillermo Villamizar which discussed issues related to philanthropic capitalism and considered the case of asbestos entrepreneur, billionaire, art collector and “philanthropist” Stephen Schmidheiny, formerly head of the Swiss Eternit Group, one of the largest global asbestos conglomerates. See: Picture of Guillermo Villamizar speaking at the conference.

Aug 21, 2015

With two weeks until children return to school, results of a survey conducted in Belgium confirm widespread asbestos contamination of the educational infrastructure, with 70% of schools in Namur, a Walloon city in southern Belgium, containing a variety of asbestos materials. Although officials at the Albert Jacquard High School have confirmed the presence of asbestos and warned “there is no immediate danger,” a former teacher admitted that he would not send children to the asbestos contaminated schools. See: Notre enquête exclusive: de l'amiante dans 7 écoles sur 10 [Exclusive survey: asbestos in 7 our of 10 schools].

Aug 22, 2015

In the run-up to Canada’s upcoming federal elections, asbestos victims, trade unions, campaigning bodies and newspaper editors have called for a comprehensive and unilateral ban on the mining of asbestos and the use, import and sale of asbestos-containing products. The resurgence of ban asbestos support has attracted media interest with two pro-ban editorials appearing last month (July 2015) in influential daily newspapers. For decades, Canada was at the heart of the global asbestos industry. The time for a reckoning has come. Canada must admit its part in the worldwide asbestos conspiracy and make amends. A national ban is the logical first step. [Read full article]

Aug 13,2015

Over the years, especially since the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, there has been periodic media coverage of the failings of the New Zealand authorities to take action to prevent hazardous asbestos exposures. This insightful article provides details of a situation which is totally out of control – where inexperienced and untrained individuals are allowed to conduct “asbestos surveys” despite a lack of appropriate qualifications and expertise. The author Craig Newsome, who holds a qualification from the British Occupational Hygiene Society in Buildings Surveys and Bulk Sampling for Asbestos, explains what customers should look for when they hire an asbestos surveyor. [Read full article]

Jul 27, 2015

In light of recent revelations by US campaigners of the discovery of asbestos contamination in crayons and fingerprinting kits, UK groups are urging government bodies to prioritize the threat posed by asbestos in imported goods. A spokesman for the Forum of Asbestos Victims’ Support Groups highlights the need for the monitoring of imports while campaigner Laurie Kazan-Allen calls for prison sentences for importers and distributors of toxic products in a media release issued today. Members of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee recommend a national campaign to raise public awareness about the asbestos hazards in schools and homes. [Read full article]

Jul 20, 2015

On July 24, 2015, Judge Federica Bompieri will hand down an eagerly awaited decision to a court in Turin, Italy. She will decide whether or not to comply with a request from Public Prosecutors for a new criminal trial against asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny. Although Schmidheiny had been found guilty by lower courts of causing a permanent environmental disaster as a result of which thousands of Italians died, these verdicts were overturned by the Italian Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) in November 2014 due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. In the new case, the defendant is facing charges of manslaughter, a crime for which there is no statute of limitations. [Read full article]

Jul 9, 2015

As bright sunshine blanketed the UK on July 3, 2015, asbestos victims’ support groups around the country highlighted the consequences of a silent epidemic which is taking up to 5,000 lives every year. During the 21st century, tens of thousands of people have died from mesothelioma, one type of asbestos cancer; unfortunately, the UK has the highest age-adjusted mesothelioma mortality in the world. People representing the asbestos dead took part in public rallies, conferences, information sessions and memorial services on July 3 – Action Mesothelioma Day – to make manifest the nationwide scale of the country’s asbestos catastrophe. [Read full article]

Jul 7, 2015

A consortium of asbestos experts and researchers have published the 30-page Turkey Asbestos Control Strategic Plan Final Report which contains details of the objectives, targets, scope and implementation of measures to assess environmental and occupational asbestos hazards in rural communities where naturally occurring contamination endangers many residents; between 2008 and 2012, 5617 cases of mesothelioma were reported. Asbestos is considered by the researchers as “one of the most important public health problems of Turkey.” The Plan outlines a rehabilitation program which identifies areas of risk and proposes measures to remediate affected locales and eliminate the asbestos risk. [Read full article]

Jul 1, 2015

On South Africa’s Youth Day (June 16, 2015), a community asbestos outreach program in the former asbestos mining town of Kuruman brought together dozens of primary and secondary school children as well as school staff members to take part in an Asbestos Awareness Workshop. The day’s events were organized by the Asbestos Interest Group to: raise asbestos awareness amongst students; alert school managers to the hazards posed by asbestos-containing products and contamination in and around schools; educate participants on the region’s asbestos history, the types of asbestos-related diseases and measures for preventing hazardous exposures. [Read full article]

Jun 28, 2015

Activities this week in the Flemish town of Kapelle-op-den-Bos represented a paradigm shift not only in the capacity of local people to impact on the asbestos disaster which has befallen their town but also on the political attitude of the municipal authorities. Kapelle asbestos victims and family members working with ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims, organized a series of “first-ever” events on June 23 to highlight the ongoing effects of decades of asbestos-cement production at the Eternit factories in their town. The following day, ABEVA President Eric Jonckheere was one of eighteen speakers to address a joint EU asbestos hearing. [Read full article]

Jun 22, 2015

History will be made this week, when asbestos victims from a small Belgian town – Kapelle-op-den-Bos – spearhead the first public protest against Eternit in their home town. The local activists are welcoming a delegation of asbestos victims, trade unionists, campaigners and experts for a series of events on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Representatives from Europe and Australia will join Kapelle residents at a vigil in front of the former Eternit factory before laying a floral tribute at the local cemetery. A meeting with Kapelle’s Mayor Edward DeWitt will provide the opportunity for them to learn more about how the municipality is dealing with its dreadful asbestos legacy. [Read full article]

June 19, 2015

This critique of the 2014 HSE “Beware Asbestos” Web App by independent asbestos consultant and trainer Paul Beaumont reports on the workings of and reaction to a government scheme designed to identify asbestos-related tasks that can be carried out without an HSE Asbestos Licence and provide procedures for such work to be accomplished safely. Aimed at hard-to-reach groups such as sole tradespeople and small contractors, the app has been both welcomed and criticized by asbestos professionals, groups and individuals, some of whom felt it encouraged insufficiently skilled workers to undertake hazardous activities. [Read full article]

Jun 11, 2015

It was announced this week (June 8) that the late Mrs. Carol Klintfalt, a veteran and committed asbestos campaigner, had been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Having been diagnosed with the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma in 2006, Mrs. Klintfalt dedicated the remainder of her life to the campaign to raise awareness of the deadly hazard which is taking so many lives in Australia every year. See (photo) Victoria Keena (ADRI), Carol Klintfalt, Bertil Klintfalt and Professor Nico van Zandwijk (ADRI) at the launch of Betty the ADRI House in 2012. [Read full article]

Jun 9, 2015

The fact that the walls of the Palace of Westminster are “packed with asbestos” is no secret. Despite Parliament’s Asbestos Management Plan, dangerous incidents occur with an alarming frequency. It was reported in The Sunday Times this week that the latest occurred in mid-May 2015 when asbestos fibers contaminated the House of Commons chamber via an “air ventilation system.” Whilst “crisis talks” over the asbestos emergency took place amongst senior officials and parliamentary officials, most MPs, staff members and civil servants were left in the dark. In the country with the world’s highest incidence of asbestos cancer, there is every reason to be concerned about the impact of these exposures. [Read full article]

Jun 1, 2015

Two events which took place last month revealed different aspects of society's struggle with an unfolding tragedy. In the week before UN delegates gathered in Geneva to progress efforts to impose some regulation on the global asbestos trade, asbestos cancer sufferers got together at the monthly meeting of the Papworth Mesothelioma Support Group. As the UK victims know, there is no such thing as safe exposure to asbestos, despite the protestations of the asbestos industry. As a result of the shameful and shameless behaviour by commercial and government asbestos stakeholders in Geneva, the sale of asbestos continues unfettered and unregulated. [Read full article]

May 27, 2015

More than two years of discussions will come to fruition on June 24, 2015, when the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions will host a hearing on asbestos issues in the European Parliament under the title of “Freeing Europe Safely from Asbestos.” Civil society groups representing asbestos victims, trade unions and campaigning bodies have today issued a press release welcoming this initiative and highlighting the subjects to be covered. With 15,000 lives being lost in Europe every year to asbestos-related diseases, urgent coordinated action is required not only in EU member States but in neighboring countries to prevent further deaths and contamination. [Read full article]

May 15, 2015

In this press release, issued by civil society groups at the end of the 2015 meeting of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, “grave alarm” is expressed over the hijacking of the UN process by asbestos industry vested interests. The fact that just four countries were able to override the wish of 150+ delegations which wanted to secure environmental and health protections from the known risk of exposure to chrysotile asbestos was a damning indictment not only of the commercial forces at work but also the Convention’s procedural flaws. [Read full article]

May 13, 2015

Too often at meetings of international organizations, the bureaucratic process takes over and the human impact of decisions taken or not taken is ignored. The presence in Geneva this week of an asbestosis sufferer from Bombay has introduced a much-needed element into the proceedings of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention. The activities of Sharad Vittnal Sawant including his participation in a trade union ban asbestos rally, intervention during a plenary session and presentation to an asbestos side event are considered within a discussion of developments on May 12-13, 2015. [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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