International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Dec 10, 2019

On December 2 and 3, 2019, a workshop on asbestos-related diseases was held in Suva, the capital of Fiji, by the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Fiji National University in collaboration with Australia’s Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) and the Fiji office of the World Health Organization. The objective of this event was to share medical expertise in order to build local capacity to detect, diagnose and treat cases of asbestos-related disease in Fiji. On the agenda were presentations on: clinical treatment, victim support, epidemiology, pathological diagnosis, radiology, medicine, molecular biology, public health and nursing. See: Training Workshop on the Diagnosis of Asbestos-related Diseases (ARD’s) – Suva, Fiji 2-3 December 2019.

Dec 10, 2019

The authorities in the United Arab Emirate of Ras Al Khaumah (RAK) launched a campaign on December 8, 2019 to outlaw and confiscate all tea and coffee flasks in retail outlets and markets that contained asbestos following similar action taken in Dubai by the Department of Economic Development. Commenting on this initiative Dr Abdulrahman Alshayeb Alnaqbi, director-general of the RAK department of economic development, said: “These flasks pose a grave risk to people's health.” Similar steps were taken in RAK in July 2019 when: “Large amounts of such flasks were seized and later destroyed.” See: RAK to seize tea, coffee flasks made of asbestos.

Dec 10, 2019

During the week ending December 6, 2019, two of the eight hearings scheduled by the BAPE Asbestos Inquiry Commission in Quebec were attended by hundreds of local people, politicians and experts from the former asbestos mining towns of Asbestos and Thetford Mines, Quebec. The main issue on the agenda was whether the 800 million tonnes of asbestos waste from decades of mining operations could be commercially exploited without endangering the health of workers and local people. The final report on the consultations is due out in July 2020. See: Despite health and safety risks, many in Asbestos and Thetford Mines want asbestos waste repurposed.

Dec 10, 2019

On November 11, 2019, the Fukuoka High Court ordered the government and 4 construction material manufacturers to pay compensation of ¥350 million (~US$3.22m) to former construction workers and bereaved relatives from the Kyushu region for health problems caused by occupational exposures to asbestos. Judge Noriyuki Yamanouchi ruled that the government and the four companies had negligently failed to implement measures to protect workers’ safety. In addition, the judge upheld actions brought by self-employed contractors and ordered the government to compensate 27 of the 28 claimants and the companies to compensate 26. See: Fukuoka court orders Japan and firms to pay ¥350 million for health problems due to asbestos.

Dec 10, 2019

At the beginning of November, 2019 a landmark ruling was handed down by the Provincial Court of Madrid which recognized the right to receive compensation for injuries caused by exposure to asbestos brought home on the work clothes of family members. The 14 plaintiffs, who were from Cerdanyola del Vallès and Ripollet, Catalonia, or surviving family members were awarded €3.5 million (~US$3.9m) for contracting asbestos diseases due to the negligence of Uralita. This is the largest sum awarded against Uralita by any Spanish court. See: Uralita deberá indemnizar con 3,5 millones a 14 vecinos de Cerdanyola y Ripollet [Uralita must compensate with 3.5 million 14 residents of Cerdanyola and Ripollet].

Dec 9, 2019

A Reuter’s exposé detailed the ties between US officials and executives from talc-using companies. The article focused on an invitation-only 2018 meeting organized by the Federal Drugs Administration (FDA), entitled: “Asbestos in Talc Symposium”, which was addressed by industry experts and attended by industry personnel; requests to attend from non-industry personnel such as medical expert Dr. David Egilman, were rejected. For decades, the FDA – advised by the industry – had refused to test talc-containing products for asbestos. Finally, the FDA acted in 2019 as a result of which 33,000 containers of Johnson & Johnson baby powder were recalled. See: FDA bowed to industry for decades as alarms were sounded over talc.

Dec 9, 2019

On December 4, 2019, a public hearing on asbestos was held by the Health and Environment Commission of the Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul to consider the toxic legacy of asbestos mining and use in Brazil. Experts who gave evidence to the meeting convened by Deputy Valdeci Oliveira included: Dr. Carlos Nunes, Adair da Rocha, President of the Rio Grande do Sul section of the Brazilian Association of Asbestos-exposed (ABREA), Eliezer João de Souza, ABREA President, Fernanda Giannasi, ABREA co-founder and technical advisor, and Aline Brasil from the Public Prosecutor's Office. See: Audiência pública discute danos à saúde ainda causados pelo Amianto [Public hearing discusses asbestos-related health damage].

Dec 9, 2019

An article in an online Russian language newspaper based in Riga, Latvia discussed the causes of lung cancer which was, the author pointed out, the most common malignancy amongst Russian males. According to the text, exposure to asbestos experienced either at work or environmentally could elevate the risk to smokers and warned that protective measures should be taken such as using respirators and wearing specialist clothing and that state-of-the-art protections should be adopted to ensure proper disposal of asbestos-containing waste. See: Важные вопросы о раке легкого [Important questions about lung cancer].

Dec 8, 2019

Draft legislation to ban the use of asbestos in most construction applications was tabled in the Philippines House of Representatives by Rep. Raymond C. Mendoza. The purpose of House Bill No. 2636, which would – if it succeeded – become the Ban Asbestos Act of 2019, was to protect shipbuilders, construction workers, plumbers, electricians, auto workers and others from deadly workplace exposures to asbestos. The bill would authorize the Department of Health and members of an inter-agency council to propose regulations prohibiting asbestos imports, manufacturing, processing, use, or distribution for commercial purposes. See: Party-list legislator proposes asbestos ban in construction.

Dec 8, 2019

Authorities in the former asbestos mining town of Asbestos, Quebec have belatedly accepted that the economic prospects of the town would be brighter once the burden of its name had been lifted. Mayor Hugues Grimard admitted that the town had “lost businesses that don’t want to establish themselves here because of the name.” Exchanges on facebook showed both support for the name change and anger at the idea of abandoning the name due to its adverse connotation to English-speaking Canadians. Public meetings to explore the options and vote on a new course will take place in January 2020. See: Identity crisis: Canadian town of Asbestos pins hopes on name change.

Dec 8, 2019

Lea DiRusso, a Philadelphia teacher, announced plans to initiate a lawsuit over occupational exposure to asbestos which, she alleged, caused her mesothelioma. The 51 year-old was diagnosed with the fatal asbestos cancer in August, 2019; she had worked in the same school district for 30 years. Commenting on the lack of transparency regarding the asbestos contamination of her school, Ms. DiRusso said: “I was completely unaware, as are my colleagues and staff and students, that there even was asbestos present in the school building. I did not know the steam pipes behind me were wrapped in asbestos and I touched them.” See: Asbestos in Schools: Philadelphia teacher plans to sue district after cancer diagnosis….

Dec 8, 2019

A detailed exposé regarding widespread asbestos contamination in Indonesia, which was published by an Australian network in November 2019, pointed out that Indonesia was the world’s second biggest asbestos importer and that up to 10% of the country’s buildings contained asbestos. Citing data from international agencies including the World Health Organization, the piece concluded that the ubiquity and continuing use of asbestos in the country boded ill for future generations who could see deadly epidemics of cancer and respiratory diseases develop due to toxic workplace and environmental exposures. See: White asbestos lines many Indonesian buildings and health experts fear a coming cancer ‘explosion’.

Dec 8, 2019

The Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) 2019 Walk for (asbestos) Research and Awareness took place during November 10-15; dozens of sponsored participants covered the 300+ kilometres from Augusta to Perth during the week with all the monies raised going to fund Dr. Melvin Wee Loong Chin’s ADSA PhD scholarship in mesothelioma. An interim cheque for $60,000 was presented to Dr. Chin at the December 1 ADSA picnic at Whiteman Park, Perth, Western Australia. This was the eighth annual ADSA walk, with treks previously undertaken starting out in Kalgoorlie, Dunsborough, Pemberton, Albany, Geraldton, Merredin and Wave Rock. See: Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia Walk for Research and Awareness.

Oct 23, 2019

For decades, a stranglehold has existed regarding the dangers posed by asbestos exposures in Russia, the world’s largest producer of white asbestos. A Russian article just published quoted a leading Russian health and safety expert as follows: “Three substances from the list of the World Health Organization (WHO), such as asbestos, lead and mercury, should be considered the most dangerous for Russians… According to the WHO, all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. However, asbestos can be found everywhere in Russia.” See: Эксперт назвала самые опасные химические загрязнители для россиян [The expert named the most dangerous chemical pollutants for the Russians].

Oct 23, 2019

It has been reported that the Portuguese cruise ship MV Funchal bought at auction in December 2018 by a UK company called Signature Living (see: Asbestos Vessel Cruising to london?) is now being towed to Liverpool. At the time of the sale, it was believed that the ship contained about 100 tons of asbestos, including products containing chrysotile, amosite and tremolite fibers, in friable condition. It is unknown whether the asbestos has been removed. According to a facebook upload, the company plans to refurbish the ship for use as a hotel in the UK. See: MV Funchal.

Oct 23, 2019

A paper published by Indian medical practitioners highlighted the ongoing epidemic of asbestos-related diseases in India and predicted that in decades to come – because of the current use of 350,000 tonnes of asbestos per year in India – there could be thousands of deaths per year from just one asbestos cancer – mesothelioma – with tens of thousands of additional fatalities from other asbestos-related illnesses. The authors stated: “In the near future, there will be at least 12.5 million ARD [asbestos-related disease] patients and 1.25 million asbestos-related cancer patients worldwide, and half of these will be in India.” See: Current Asbestos Exposure and Future Need for Palliative Care in India.

Oct 21, 2019

Decades after it was created, the work entitled Asbestos: The Lungs of Capitalism (1978) was being readied for installation by staff at the Tate. On October 16, 2019, British-born artist Conrad Atkinson was in London to supervise the installation of this piece acquired by the museum in 2007. The fact that the constituent parts included asbestos necessitated both remediation and conservation work; as per health and safety regulations, some of the elements were sealed in Perspex boxes to make the asbestos items safe to handle. This article discussed the impact this work made on the author and urged the Tate – in light of an ongoing asbestos epidemic killing 5,000 Britons every year – to ensure that it be exhibited at the earliest possible opportunity. [Read full article]

Oct 2, 2019

In Minas Gerais, the Brazilian state with the country’s highest incidence of the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma, a remarkable grassroots initiative took place last week. A mobile CT scanner and medical personnel from the Barretos Cancer Hospital, Belo Horizonte State arrived in the city of São José da Lapa on September 22, 2019 to examine former and current employees of the Precon company – formerly a manufacturer of asbestos-cement building products – and other asbestos-using companies. Precon had consistently denied the potential hazard posed to workers by exposures to asbestos and the municipal authorities have turned a blind eye to the town’s high incidence of asbestos cancer. [Read full article]

Sep 27, 2019

A letter to the Brazilian Minister of Defence sent by campaigning groups based in Brazil, Europe and North America called for action to prevent the sale of the aircraft carrier São Paulo to scrap dealers likely to send the ship for dismantling to the unregulated beaches of South Asia; the presence on-board of pollutants including asbestos, heavy metals and oil residues was cited. Under the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movements and Disposal of Hazardous Waste, which Brazil has signed, sending this vessel to another country without first removing the toxic substances is illegal. The São Paulo’s sister ship, the Clemenceau, was sent to India from France for scrapping; after worldwide protests, the ship was returned to France. In 2009, it was safely dismantled in Hartlepool, UK (Portuguese version of full article). [Read full article]

Sep 27, 2019

A shortened version of this paper was presented on September 25, 2019 at a meeting of the British Occupational Health Society’s London, South and South East Region Asbestos Seminar which was held in central London. From her perspective as the former editor of the British Asbestos Newsletter and Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, the author highlighted the changes she had witnessed during the 30 years that she had campaigned for asbestos justice at home and abroad and highlighted the work of four global changemakers: Dr. Irving Selikoff (US), Dr. Nancy Tait (UK), Fernanda Giannasi (Brazil) and Sugio Furuya (Japan). [Read full article]

Aug 22, 2019

In light of a Brazilian Supreme Court decision expected on September 4, 2019 regarding a request for the recommencement of asbestos mining operations to produce fiber for export purposes, representatives of Brazilian and international groups have issued an appeal to Ministers urging that they uphold the historic 2017 decision declaring the commercialization of asbestos unconstitutional throughout the country. The text of the letter – which is supported by groups that were part of the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil 2019 – implored the Supreme Court Justices to “uphold the right of all humanity to live a life free from deadly exposures to asbestos.” [Read full article]

Aug 19, 2019

A Brazilian PhD dissertation by Dr. A.P. Amaral published this year (2019) explored in depth what a Brazilian Commission had reported in 2010 about the dangerous conditions in which asbestos workers toiled with a focus on the situation in the town of Minaçu, home to the country’s sole remaining chrysotile asbestos mine. The brief article about this thesis highlighted the isolation and deprivation experienced by victims and their families who received neither support nor acknowledgement of the occupational nature of the illnesses contracted. In a town where the asbestos discourse was dictated by those with vested interests in the survival of the industry, the injured were marginalized and silenced by the overpowering forces against them. [Read full article]

Aug 16, 2019

On August 13, 2019, a media release was issued at the conclusion of an asbestos workshop in Vientiane, the capital of Laos; the event was hosted by the Lao National Assembly’s Committee of Social Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Health and is a manifestation of the growing concern for public and occupational health caused by high levels of asbestos use in the country (as exemplified in the: Lao National Strategy for Elimination of Asbestos-related Diseases). Presentations by international experts including representatives of the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization, the (Australian) Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and specialists from Vietnam, Korea and Japan were of great interest to delegates. [Read full article]

Aug 2, 2019

A judgment handed down by the Supreme Court on July 29, 2019 is being hailed as a landmark in the British fight for “transparency of the legal process”; while the civil case initiated by Graham Dring in 2017 on behalf of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (the Forum) sought disclosure of documentation to a non-party to asbestos litigation, the precedent it set could almost certainly be used by concerned citizens or journalists to access court documents in other cases. The unanimous verdict of the Court in Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Dring (for and on behalf of Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK) upheld the principle of public access based on the constitutional principle of open justice. [Read full article]

Jul 25, 2019

The list of participants to the meetings of the United Nations’ Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions 2019 uploaded on July 12, 2019 makes interesting reading. An examination of details provided about attendees at the sessions revealed the names of 12 asbestos lobbyists and others working for organizations known to be involved in protecting sales of chrysotile (white) asbestos. Organizations they represented included: the International Chrysotile Association (Canada), the Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers' Association (India), Confederation of Employers of Kazakhstan, International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile” (Russia) and Vietnam National Roof Sheet Association. [Read full article]

Jul 16, 2019

On Friday, July 5, 2019 events were held on Action Mesothelioma Day (AMD) in England, Scotland and Wales to remember those who had been lost to mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, and other asbestos-related diseases. Under bright blue skies, butterflies and doves were released, poems were read, presentations were made and music was enjoyed as people found solace in the fellowship and camaraderie provided by the events organized by asbestos support groups and asbestos charities in outdoor spaces, town halls, churches and meeting rooms. After more than a decade, the calendar fixture of AMD has become a beacon of hope not just for the asbestos bereaved but for their friends, colleagues and communities. [Read full article]

Jul 12, 2019

On July 11, 2019, the Colombian President signed into law asbestos prohibitions endorsed by Congress in a frantic rush to beat the June 20, 2019 summer adjournment after which all proposed legislation would have been vacated. The ban, which prohibited not only the mining, commercialization and distribution of all types of asbestos also banned the export of asbestos. This is the first time that asbestos prohibitions have been approved by a legislature in an asbestos mining country; in 2017, the Brazilian Supreme Court, in the face of continuing federal support for the asbestos industry, declared the commercial exploitation of asbestos unconstitutional. The new Colombian law will take effect on January 1, 2021 and permits a 5 year transition period for companies currently using asbestos. [Read full article]

Jul 3, 2019

This timely commentary by occupational health, safety and environmental campaigner Mick Holder reflects on news about the economic, social and medical repercussions of decades of asbestos mining in Brazil in light of the trip he made to the town of Minaçu some years ago when an international delegation “met with the workers and union reps at the mine who were incredibly hospitable and very, very friendly, even though they knew I and others in the delegation wanted an end to this global killer industry…” Mick is scathing about government and commercial interests which “had made enough money out of the industry to ensure a just transition from working in a killer industry to being employed in a safer and healthier one with no loss of social benefit.” [Read full article]

Jun 26, 2019

For the sixth year running, the Asbestos Interest Group from Kuruman in the Northern Cape marked South Africa’s Youth Day with an event to raise asbestos awareness amongst primary and middle school students in John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipalities in one of the country’s former asbestos-producing regions. Children from 12 local schools were brought together at Maipeing Primary School to take part in a day of learning and socializing. The culmination of the day’s activities was a presentation by each team of art work demonstrating their understanding of the asbestos hazard at the end of which prizes were awarded. [Read full article]

Jun 7, 2019

As the end of the Colombian Congress’ deliberations on banning asbestos approaches (the current Congressional session ends on June 20, after which all proposed legislation not yet enacted will become void), an urgent appeal to Colombian citizens entreating their support for the country to ban asbestos exports as well as domestic usage has been sent by Indonesian asbestos victims and activists from the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network – INA-BAN. Indonesia is a prime market for Colombian asbestos exports, where it is mostly used in the production of asbestos roofing; with frequent natural disasters occurring in the country this poses a potent threat to emergency responders, relief workers and affected communities (Para la versión española ver: Llamado Urgente a la Población de Colombia). [Read full article]

Jun 6, 2019

The global asbestos operations of companies belonging to the Swiss and Belgian Eternit asbestos groups have ruined lives and contaminated communities throughout Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Academic papers released in May 2019 documented the toxic repercussions of asbestos processing in Colombia and Lebanon; another paper published contemporaneously examined the difficulties experienced in holding individual executives to account for the consequences of profit-driven decisions made by asbestos corporations which, ultimately, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Italian citizens. [Read full article]

May 24, 2019

Five years after the Italian Supreme Court had vacated murder verdicts against the Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny on technical grounds (2014), the defendant has once again been found guilty of the asbestos deaths of Italian citizens. On May 23, 2019, a Turin Court sentenced Schmidheiny in absentia to four years for the involuntary manslaughter of two individuals from Cavagnolo, both of whom died from asbestos-related diseases. Other trials are proceeding against Schmidheiny who is facing charges of voluntary homicide in hundreds of cases in Naples (8 deaths) and Vercelli (392 deaths including those of 243 individuals who worked at the Eternit factory in Casale Monferrato). [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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