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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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Aug 15, 2014

On Monday, August 11, 2014, ban asbestos activist Fernanda Giannasi was awarded Brazil’s highest honor – the Order of Judicial Merit for Labor – at a gala ceremony in Brasilia (see: Picture of ceremony). Having received the commendation, Ms. Giannasi explained that it was: “recognition of a struggle that is not only mine, but all asbestos victims and their families. This shows the concern of the Brazilian judiciary with the exploitation of this deadly fiber which caused a health catastrophe of the century.” See: Top Brazilian Award for Fernenda Giannasi and also Fernanda Giannasi é condecorada com a ordem do mérito [Fernanda Giannasi is awarded the Order of Merit].

Aug 14, 2014

As India’s asbestos sector grows rich, vested interests continue to promote the sale of a discredited technology with glitzy pseudo-scientific conferences, imported hired gun scientists and public statements proclaiming the innocuous nature of their product. Despite asbestos bans in industrialized countries and recommendations from international agencies that use should be stopped on health grounds, Indian sales of asbestos-cement construction materials are booming. Public opposition is on the rise with protesters destroying construction on a site earmarked for an asbestos factory in Bihar State. See: Asbestos still pushed in India and business is booming.

Aug 13, 2014

On August 8, 2014, representatives of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network (T-BAN) petitioned the Ministry of Industry (MOI) for an immediate ban on the use of asbestos, support for the use of safer materials, a national fund for victims and implementation of preventative measures and medical protocols. (see: T-BAN Statement). Commenting on the meeting, T-BAN representative Mrs. Somboon Seekamdokkae said “We asked the MOI to think about Thai people’s health and after 70 years, not to give the industry more time to kill citizens from asbestos-related diseases.” Sakda Pankla, the deputy director-general of the Department of Industrial Works, received the T-BAN delegation (see: photo of the meeting).

Aug 12, 2014

On August 5, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) sent a letter to Vietnam authorities urging that action be taken to prohibit the use of asbestos in construction materials. WHO and ILO representatives highlighted the community health, economic and social security benefits of banning asbestos and urged Vietnam to develop a program to eliminate the use of asbestos. WHO and ILO offered to provide technical support for Vietnam to end asbestos-related diseases. See: WHO sends proposal to stop the use of asbestos to the Prime Minister.

Aug 12, 2104

An article published today explores the disconnect between asbestos vested interests and civil society campaigners over whether or not India’s expanding asbestos sector is a good or bad thing for the country. While spokesmen for India's Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association say they are providing a vital public service to the nation, activists say that the commercial exploitation of asbestos endangers not only workers but also members of the public. The opposition by local people to the construction of an asbestos-cement factory in Bihar State and the high-profile media campaign mounted by asbestos lobbyists are discussed. See: Asbestos pushed in Asia as product for the poor.

Aug 10, 2014

The use of asbestos-containing insulation in Canberra has left the capital with a deadly and costly legacy. An exposé which appeared on August 6th detailed the background to this catastrophe and highlighted the missed opportunities which could have prevented the tragedy. At the heart of this story was the commercial exploitation by Australian entrepreneur Dirk Jansen of an insulation product called Asbestosfluf which was made from amphibole asbestos. In the late 1960s, an expert warned the government that installers of this product were being “unnecessarily exposed to a harmful substance” when alternatives existed. See: Revealed: How the scandalous Mr Fluffly legacy lives on.

Aug 9, 2014

On August 5, 2014, a draft bill to ban asbestos was scheduled for debate at the Santa Catarina Legislative Assembly; four previous attempts had been defeated after pressure from asbestos lobbyists. The deputy-reporter, who is responsible for ascertaining the constitutionality of the bill, postponed the vote until September 2 alleging that more time was needed. Supporters of the ban, who were present at the meeting of the Committee of Justice and Constitutionality, said the delay was politically motivated; the deputy-reporter is known to be opposed to the ban. According to the ban supporters, there is overwhelming public support for unilateral action to protect citizens of the State from the asbestos hazard.

Aug 8, 2014

The scandal of asbestos contamination in the Italian Province of Lecce, in the southeast of the country, has led local associations and campaigners to take direct action to protect public health. According to an environmental survey, the situation in the towns of Lecce and Salento is particularly severe “with whole areas of the city affected by the phenomenon and never reclaimed.” Requests for a detailed urban plan to raise asbestos awareness, remediate land and decontaminate affected properties have been made. See: Amianto, petizione di Adoc e Ilse al sindaco Perrone [Asbestos, ADOC and Ilse petition to Mayor Perrone].

Aug 7, 2014

Shipbreaking workers, who spend their days dismantling ships on the beaches of Chittagong, work in extremely dangerous conditions and are exposed to a multitude of dangerous substances, including asbestos. The reality as described by the workers is far from that asserted by the yard owners who maintain that the workforce has all the protection required. An article informed by the experience of the Brussels-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform describes a cut-throat industry where both ships and workers are scrapped on a daily basis. See: Visiting the Deadly Shipbreaking Yards of Bangladesh.

Aug 6, 2014

Highlighting the latent health threat of asbestos contamination in war zones, Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz has announced plans to replace asbestos roofs in hundreds of houses on “the front line of the Gaza perimeter communities.” In one farm at Ein Hashlosha, 80 buildings have 7,000 square meters of asbestos-cement roofing; 60 sq.m. per house. While the financing of removal and replacements costs has yet to be finalized, the Minister remained “confident that the program will receive swift government support and financing from partner organizations.” See: State and local council to replace asbestos roofs in the line of fire from Gaza.

Aug 4, 2014

Asbestos contamination at the Valmontorio shooting range in Rome where police personnel have trained has been revealed. More than 3,500 members of staff have used this facility for up to a week at a time, not to mention individuals who worked at the site. Training and use of this building have now been suspended as officials work on plans to monitor the health of those who have been exposed. According to official documents, the presence of asbestos was discovered here two years ago. See: Roma – Poligono di tiro all’amianto 3.500 vigili urbani a rischio [Rome – Asbestos at shooting range; 3,500 policemen at risk].

Aug 4, 2014

Despite the existence of asbestos bans in the Middle East, construction expert Charles Faulkner has concerns about the use of asbestos-containing building products in power stations, office blocks, residential accommodation and schools. He says that prohibitions are “not an effective guarantee that Asbestos won’t make its way into a new construction project” due to lack of enforcement, effective penalties and awareness. Hazardous exposures resulting from unsafe demolition are putting the lives of workers and members of the public at risk. Faulkner calls for a comprehensive and evolved asbestos policy to reduce the incidence of asbestos-related disease. See: Silent killer.

Aug 4, 2014

Anticipating that Malaysia will ban asbestos in 2015, a major manufacturer of asbestos-free cement has established a trading office in the capital. SHERA, a leading non-asbestos fiber-cement maker in Asia, produces a range of lightweight fiber cement roofs that were previously unavailable in Malaysia. The company says they are “not only easy to install, but are also durable and free from asbestos.” SHERA is a subsidiary of the Mahaphant Group, a Thailand-based manufacturer of fiber cement boards, siding and roofing. The multinational has commercial operations throughout Asia, Oceania, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. See: Asbestos-free roofs now available in Malaysia.

Jul 31, 2014

On July 29, 2014, UK lawyers acting on behalf of the Asbestos Victims’ Support Groups Forum (Forum) began a High Court challenge of the decision to make mesothelioma claimants liable for legal and insurance costs incurred by lawsuits. Although a review of the effect that proposed changes would have on mesothelioma claimants had been ordered, no credible review has been undertaken. Forum Chair Tony Whitston said “sufferers and their families will accept a decision if it is based on a ‘fair and credible’ review. The government’s decision to proceed on the basis of such a flawed review will not be accepted by sufferers…” See: Lawyers take mesothelioma fight to High Court.

Jul 31, 2014

The Santa Catarina Legislative Assembly will, for the fifth time, consider draft proposals to prohibit the use, handling and sale of asbestos and asbestos-containing products on August 5, 2014. Previous attempts have been defeated after pressure was exerted on politicians by asbestos lobbyists. The use of asbestos is permitted under federal law although the states of São Paulo, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais have taken unilateral action to ban asbestos. See: Deputados estaduais vão votar projeto que define pelo lucro das empresas ou a vida do trabalhador [State legislators’ vote will either support corporate profits or the workers’ lives].

Jul 31, 2014

A decision on July 31, 2014 by the New South Wales’ Dust Diseases Tribunal (DDT) is the largest pay-out awarded to an asbestos victim in the DDT’s 25-year history. In 2010, Steven Dunning was diagnosed with the fatal cancer mesothelioma, having been exposed as a laborer to asbestos at the Newcastle steelworks in New South Wales operated by BHP Bilton. The judgment which awarded the 54-year old claimant $2.2m was for the first asbestos claim from this facility. Reacting to the development, the company said the verdict could be appealed. See: BHP ordered to make record $2.2m asbestos compensation payment.

Aug 6, 2014

Three years ago the Thai Cabinet approved a ban asbestos resolution. Unfortunately, since that time, domestic asbestos stakeholders, in collaboration with Russian industry lobbyists, have forestalled progress in implementing legislation required to affect this much-needed public safety measure. This article discusses current developments in Bangkok, explaining reasons for the delay, with particular attention being paid to the efforts of Thailand’s asbestos industry, which in July 2014 appealed to the National Council for Peace and Order for “Fairness.” News from members of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network is reported. [Read full article]

Aug 4, 2014

The 2014 International Conference on Asbestos organized by the Building and Woodworkers International, in collaboration with labor and campaigning groups, made a significant contribution to furthering our understanding of the current asbestos landscape. This report on the Vienna event contains descriptions of the speeches, links to the presentations and photographs taken during the two days. Also included is the text of the Vienna Declaration, which was adopted unanimously by over 100 delegates from 40 countries, calling for an end to the use of all asbestos, protection for at-risk workers and justice for all victims. [Read full article]

Aug 1, 2014

The publication today (August 1, 2014) of the Justice Committee’s Mesothelioma Claims Report has been welcomed by asbestos victims groups and trade unionists; in their statements made about the committee's findings, they highlighted the back room deal to minimize the asbestos-related liabilities of insurers to the detriment of dying cancer victims. Today, Sir Alan Beith MP, Chair of the Committee, expressed his surprise and concern about the contents of a previously undisclosed document revealing the existence of an agreement between the Government and the ABI. In comments by an insurance industry spokesperson, claimant lawyers were blamed for increased legal costs. [Read full article]

Jul 30, 2014

Asbestos victims in Latin America have joined with colleagues in Asia to call for the immediate banning of asbestos use following a landmark decision by the European Court of Human Rights which on July 24, 2014 affirmed the right of workers to live a life free of deadly exposures to asbestos. In an open letter (see also: Русская версия) published on this website, asbestos consuming companies and governments are asked: “Can You Afford Cheap Asbestos?” “There are,” the letter states “no excuses or defences for guilty parties… inaction on the asbestos threat is no longer an option.” [Read full article]

Jul 24, 2014

On July 22, 2014, a new initiative was mounted in the center of the Korean capital to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard amongst people in the construction sector. The event, which was attended by 30,000 workers, was organized by the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea in collaboration with the School of Public Health of Seoul National University and the national construction union. Construction workers constitute the majority of people diagnosed with asbestos diseases in Korea. Due to an inbuilt unfairness in government protocols, the majority of the injured are grossly undercompensated. Participants heard calls for improved conditions and salary uplifts for those in the construction sector. [Read full article]

Jul 23, 2014

Cyril Smith, the MP who represented Rochdale from 1972 to 1992, stands condemned as “a predatory paedophile and a prolific offender who would target the most vulnerable boys.” Allegations of sexual abuse and political cover-ups seem to be surfacing on an almost daily basis and prompt questions of how such a high-profile figure was able to escape justice for so long. A less well-known unsavory fact about the MP was his close, some might say intimate, association with the UK asbestos giant: Turner and Newall Ltd. Not only did Smith own 1,300 T&N shares, but he addressed company directors by their first names, had dinners with them and willingly connived to progress the corporate agenda. [Read full article]

Jul 17 2014

The annual seminar of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group took place in London on July 16 hours before a memorial service for MP Paul Goggins, a renowned campaigner for the rights of asbestos victims. The afternoon session featured presentations covering legal, medical and political issues. Coming less than a fortnight after Action Mesothelioma Day had highlighted the devastation caused by the national asbestos catastrophe, the human dimension of the epidemic of avoidable cancers and respiratory diseases was at the forefront of delegates’ minds. As a leading UK medical researcher told delegates, the UK mesothelioma epidemic was a “health emergency.” [Read full article]

Jul 14, 2014

A risk assessment produced by Industrial Hygienist Robin Howie examines the health hazards to residents of the Anderson Tower in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, a large town south east of Glasgow. The block of flats was evacuated on July 3, 2014 by North Lanarkshire Council, after asbestos fibres were liberated during repair work by Scottish Power. The Council believes that “any risk is extremely low. Asbestos generally poses a health risk through exposure over a long period in high concentrations. What we have found is small areas of settled dust.” Mr. Howie, however, has other thoughts on the matter. [Read full article]

Jul 9 2014

Twenty-five years ago this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States signalled its intention to protect American citizens from the deadly workplace hazard posed by asbestos. On July 12, 1989, the EPA issued the final ruling which banned the use of most asbestos-containing products. A fortnight later the U.S. Asbestos Ban and Phase-out Rule (ABPR) was promulgated. Unfortunately, an aggressive assault by Canadian and U.S vested interests put paid to the phase-out; as a result of legal action the ABPR was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on October 18, 1991. [Read full article]

Jul 4, 2014

Throughout the UK, activities took place on July 4, 2014 – Action Mesothelioma Day – to raise public awareness of a disease which is killing more people every year. A report by Hilda Palmer, from the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group, highlighted the participation of asbestos victims, family members, campaigners, and politicians, all of whom demanded that funding be made available for research into the treatment of and possible cures for the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. A dove release, a public rally in the city center and a packed meeting in Manchester Town Hall attracted widespread attention and support and a great deal of press interest. [Read full article]

Jul 4, 2014

On Brazil’s national day of justice (August 11, 2014), retired Labor Inspector and leader of the Brazilian movement to ban asbestos Fernanda Giannasi will be honoured when she is awarded the country’s highest distinction: the Order of Judicial Merit for Labor in Brasilia. The decision to bestow this honor upon her was taken by the Ministers of the Higher Labour Court in recognition of her “tireless work to ban asbestos in Brazil.” It is no exaggeration to say that Fernanda and her colleagues at the asbestos victims’ group ABREA have revolutionized the asbestos debate in Brazil. [Read full article]

Jul 3, 3014

The Rajasthan Majdoor Panchayat Sangh and the Occupational Health and Safety Association, Ahmedabad in collaboration with the Occupational Health and Safety Centre, Mumbai and the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India held a two-day Diagnosis Camp in Rajasthan State in western India on June 19-20, 2014. The medical camp, which was supported by the Global Greengrant Fund, was organized to screen mine and quarry workers for cases of silicosis. Many of the people examined had worked in the stone quarries in and around the village. These quarries produce a soap stone which is contaminated with asbestos. [Read full article]

Jun 24, 2014

The publication of a new resource on the history of the asbestos industry is of import to campaigners engaged in the struggle to ban asbestos. The translation into English of a German book about Switzerland’s industrial legacy “fills an important gap in our knowledge of asbestos.” This review by British historian Geoffrey Tweedale of the English version of The Asbestos Lie commends the new text as well-written, easy to read and excellently translated. It is, he writes, “a significant contribution to our knowledge of the European asbestos industry.” [Read full article]

Jun 17, 2014

When the 2014 Football World Cup was awarded to Brazil, the world’s fourth biggest asbestos producer, ban asbestos campaigners had serious concerns about whether asbestos would be used in the construction of the venues and ancillary buildings. According to a well-informed source, asbestos was not used to build the stadiums. Unfortunately, however, the widespread destruction of asbestos-contaminated buildings on development sites has created an environmental hazard that continues to endanger workers and members of the public. Due to the top secret nature of all World Cup issues, neither the federal nor the football authorities have been willing to discuss these issues. [Read full article]

Jun 4, 2014

Concern has been raised about the possible exposure of schoolchildren in the UK and elsewhere to asbestos contained in World War I and World War II artefacts in the run-up to key anniversaries. After a sustained campaign by activists, the UK government finally issued categorical warnings to British education departments about the danger of handling vintage gas masks and helmets which could contain blue (crocidolite) or white (chrysotile) asbestos. Historical documents about these issues from Porton Down and the Imperial War Museum are cited and uploaded in conjunction with this article. [Read full article]

May 19, 2014

On May 15, 2014 more than 5,000 people took part in a public rally in support of Japanese asbestos-injured construction workers. The date chosen was significant as it was the day when cases were filed with the Tokyo and Yokohama District Courts in the second wave of what has become known as the “metropolitan asbestos litigation.” The 160+ asbestos claimants, who included injured workers and the families of deceased workers, alleged that the Japanese government as well as asbestos product manufacturers were responsible for their injuries. The litigants are seeking recognition, compensation and the establishment of a nationwide asbestos program to prevent hazardous exposures. [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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Asbestos Trade Data (2012)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,000,000
   China420,000
   Brazil306,500
   Kazakhstan241,200
   India20,000
 Top Five Users (tonnes):
   China530,834
   India493,086
   Brazil167,602
   Indonesia161,824
   Russia155,476