|►Belgium: Death of Asbestos Defendant|
|Israel: Asbestos Giant Liable for Cleanup Costs|
|S. Africa: Tenth Anniversary of Relief Trust|
|France: Case against Former Minister Dismissed|
|India: Death at Asbestos Factory|
|Canada: Challenge to Ottawa over Asbestos Funds|
May 21, 2013
It has been reported today that Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne, one of two former asbestos executives found guilty by a Turin court for the asbestos deaths of thousands of Italians, has died. Stephan Schmidheiny (Swiss) and Cartier de Marchienne (Belgian) were convicted of causing wilful permanent environmental disaster and failing to comply with safety rules in the 2012 landmark ruling. As a result of this development, claimants can no longer bring legal action against the Belgian or the company (Etex) he represented. An appeal court verdict, which was expected on June 3, 2013, may be delayed by a few days. See: Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial: Appeal Proceedings.
May 20, 2013
In April 2013, Israel's Supreme Court turned down an appeal by Eitanit Construction Products over its liability to pay 50% of the bill for asbestos decontamination work being carried out by the Environmental Protection Ministry in Northern Israel. The company had claimed that it was not the actual polluter and that Israeli law had violated its property rights and its right to equal treatment before the law by retroactively imposing a legal obligation on the company without proof of guilt and exempting other parties. The polluter pays principle was upheld. See: High Court upholds Israeli law placing onus of asbestos clean-up on company.
May 17, 2013
In July, 2003, the Asbestos Relief Trust (ART) began distributing compensation for people suffering from asbestos-related diseases (ARDs). The Trust was established following an out-of-court settlement with former asbestos mining companies. The total compensation for 3,639 claimants who have suffered from occupational or environmental exposure exceeds US$26.6m. Tina da Cruz, who manages the ART, has said that the 10th anniversary will be marked by lectures and discussion groups in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Kuruman, the asbestos hotspots where most ART claimants live. See: Asbestos Relief Trust pays out R250m to 3 600 claimants in ten years.
May 17, 2013
A Paris Court today dismissed a case brought last year against Ministerial official Martine Aubrey for her failure to protect workers against the asbestos hazard in the 1980s. The "involuntary homicide and injuries" charges lodged against the former leader of the Socialist Party and a future contender for the office of Prime Minister were today dropped by a ruling of the Court of Appeal. Aubry told journalists: "The courts have recognized today that there can be no fault nor negligence attributed to me in the asbestos affair." See: Martine Aubry cleared of asbestos manslaughter charges.
May 13, 2013
Ban asbestos activist Gopal Krishna has reported the death of a 35-year-old employee at the Utkal Asbestos Limited factory in the Bhojpur District of Bihar State. Dharmendra Kumar Rawani died as a result of a workplace accident in the early hours of May 10. After a demonstration by the All India Central Council of Trade Unions, the factory was closed; calls are being made for a permanent shutdown of the facility. Elsewhere in Bihar, activists continue efforts to block construction of new asbestos factories by Utkal Asbestos and Ramco Industries, two of India's largest manufacturers of asbestos-cement building products.
May 13, 2013
Federal aid of $50 million promised for the economic diversification of Quebec's former asbestos-producing communities has not materialized. MP Jean Rousseau has openly challenged Minister Christian Paradis, who also represents a former asbestos mining constituency, over the delay, stating that benefits for the former mine workers have now run out. Despite Ottawa's reassurances, the conservatives have, Rousseau said, turned their backs on these communities. See: Fonds de 50 M$: Jean Rousseau interpelle Christian Paradis [Jean Rousseau challenges Christian Paradis over $50m].
May 13, 2013
It has been revealed that some of Wearside's most popular tourist attractions are amongst 37 properties listed on the Council's Asbestos Risk Register. These include: three museums, a market, art center, ski slope, library and tennis center. The majority of schools in Sunderland also contain asbestos. A spokesperson for the local authority told journalists that the Council's asbestos management policy complies with current legislation and that an ongoing inspection programme ensures that the asbestos risk is being carefully controlled. See: Tourist attractions, sports centres and Jacky White Market among dozens of Sunderland buildings on asbestos risk list.
May 13, 2013
An editorial in the May 5, 2013 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives called on public health professionals to "make the effort to make policy content and information of public interest both accessible and usable by the general public." Author Wael K. Al-Delaimy discussed the 2012 Position Statement on Asbestos issued by the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology and highlighted the Russian-led "ethically controversial research collaboration" underway to block UN progress on designating chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance under the rules of the Rotterdam Convention. See: Editorial, Environmental Health Perspectives.
May 3, 2013
Today, the Council of State ruled that Judge Bertella-Geffroy, who pioneered the ground-breaking case against French asbestos criminals, will not be allowed to recommence her work in the healthcare division of the High Court due to the expiration of the allocated ten-year tenure period. Under a decree issued on March 27, 2013, her position as a specialist judge in charge of investigating this case had been terminated. Despite highly vocal protests by asbestos victims groups, the Court has today upheld the original ruling. See: Amiante : la juge Bertella-Geffroy ne peut pas réintégrer ses fonctions.
May 3, 2013
The Mine Labour Protection Campaign has reported the death on May 1, 2013 of Homa Khoma, a former asbestos mine worker from Rajasthan. Homa was examined by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) in 2007. The NIOH denied that he had asbestosis. When U.S. asbestos expert Dr. Arthur Frank reviewed this case, he confirmed on June 1, 2009 that Homa and two other workers had asbestosis. This was the first time that cases of asbestosis had been diagnosed in Rajasthan. The NIOH was forced to review its diagnosis and confirmed Homa had asbestosis in 2012. In February 2013, a compensation case was lodged.
May 3, 2013
On May 2, 2013, a "Toolkit for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases" was uploaded to the website of the University of Occupational and Environmental Health. This resource, which was developed with the support of the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat, the World Health Organization and the International Labour Office, is intended to act as a reference point for people working to eliminate asbestos-related diseases (ARDs). The authors point out that the "most effective means to prevent ARDs is to stop using asbestos." The document references a vast array of useful papers and links. See: Toolkit for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases.
May 3, 2013
An article in the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas confirms that as asbestos production in Canada has decreased, the numbers of asbestos-related deaths have escalated due to the long latency period between exposure and disease onset. Thirty years after Canadian asbestos production peaked, a huge increase was seen in the number of fatalities from mesothelioma, a type of asbestos cancer. An interactive map on this website reveals areas with high incidences of asbestos-related deaths between 1970 and 2005; they include: Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. See: Canadian Environmental Health Atlas.
Apr 30, 2013
News has been released that Brazil will not support UN action to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance at next week's meeting of the Rotterdam Convention (RC). This decision was taken even though there was Ministerial support for including chrysotile on Annex III of the RC. The Ministries of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade and Mines and Energy voted to preserve the status quo so that markets for chrysotile asbestos remain unaffected. Civil society campaigners are bitterly disappointed that Brazil has, once again, acted to advance its interests despite the deadly risks posed by exposure to asbestos. See: País vai se abster em decisão sobre restrição ao amianto.
Apr 29, 2013
Russian strategists are using threats of unofficial economic sanctions against Thailand to press the government to backtrack on a commitment to ban asbestos made more than two years ago. An article in today's Bangkok Post documents the use of discredited asbestos industry propaganda and the slurs being made against ban asbestos campaigners who are accused of fronting for international companies interested in selling asbestos-free products. Russian official Vladimir Romano's comments promoting the continued use of Russian chrysotile state that chrysotile is cheap and ecological. The Russians are calling for bilateral talks on chrysotile. See: Russia presents case for chrysotile.
Apr 27, 2013
On April 26, 2013, Luis Camargo, Brazil's Attorney General of Labor Affairs, signed Ordinance 281which bans the use of asbestos by the Ministry of Labor. The timing of this action was intended to underline the significance of International Workers Memorial Day which is celebrated on April 28 in countries around the world. Other recent positive developments on asbestos in Brazil include a decision in March by the Superior Labor Court which condemned Brasilit, a major asbestos manufacturer, for its failure to provide mandated medical services to workers. See: Banido uso de amianto no Ministério Público do Trabalho.
Apr 26, 2013
An editorial in yesterday's Bangkok Post condemned the Public Health Ministry's refusal "to recognise that asbestos, a known human carcinogen used in construction materials, is dangerous to health." Earlier this month, a Ministry official said that the evidence regarding the human health hazard of asbestos remains inconclusive despite the fact that the Thai Cabinet had accepted this fact more than two years ago. Increasing pressure by asbestos lobbyists is responsible for the Thai Government's continued inaction. The editorial says that the Ministry must accept "asbestos as a health hazard, which has long been acknowledged worldwide." See: Asbestos kills, that's for sure.
May 10, 2013
In preventing the listing of chrysotile as a hazardous substance, Russia and Zimbabwe, with the active support of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Vietnam and India have smashed through procedures and ignored rules to progress the financial interests of national asbestos stakeholders. Calls are now being made for the United Nations Environment Programme to create a new forum within which this issue can be resolved, along the lines of instruments such as the Mercury Convention or the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. There is also a growing resolve among developing countries to take unilateral action to deal with the asbestos hazard. [Read full article]
May 9, 2013
During the morning plenary session, the President of the Convention asked the Parties which opposed listing of chrysotile to confirm their final positions following discussions that had taken place during the week. Russia, Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, India and Kazakhstan confirmed their vetoes on including chrysotile in Annex III. A few well-resourced stakeholders had succeeded in trashing the basic premise of a UN protocol intended to protect at-risk populations. But wide support for a statement from the Australian delegation, highlighting the untenability of the arguments against listing, showed the overwhelming desire of most Parties to designate chrysotile a hazardous substance. [Read full article]
May 8, 2013
Delegates arriving for the second day of the conference were greeted by a pile of glossy asbestos industry propaganda magazines which had been translated into English. Entitled "People For Chrysotile" they extolled the health-giving benefits of all things chrysotile. By contrast, an asbestos side-event in the afternoon provided anti-asbestos campaigners with an opportunity to inform delegates of the asbestos reality in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Discussions amongst activists and delegates revealed a palpable loss of patience; not only with the seven parties which are holding the Convention to ransom but also with the Convention itself, which is looking increasingly discredited. [Read full article]
May 7, 2013
Today the asbestos tribes gathered in the plenary room at the International Conference Centre in Geneva. The representatives of the asbestos industry were out en masse; some were included in official government delegations, others present as observers. Representing civil society was a coalition of groups and interests gathered under the umbrella of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA). ROCA delegates came from all parts of the world and had a wide range of languages and experience of high-level international gatherings. All of them were determined to see chrysotile asbestos listed on Annex III of the Convention. [Read full article]
May 7, 2013
Fund-raising efforts by the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) yielded more than $100,000 for Australian researchers in 2012. These donations were generated by the Society's inaugural Charity Walk for Wittenoom Children in May and a golfing competition in October. This year the ADSA community aims to raise even more research dollars for projects targeting deadly asbestos diseases such as malignant pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. On May 12, dozens of ADSA volunteers will gather in Dunsborough to prepare for the Monday start to this year's walk. Public support at home and abroad is urgently requested. [Read full article]
May 3, 2013
From all corners of the globe, requests are arriving on the desk of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. They come from people with first-hand experience of the humanitarian catastrophe caused by exposure to asbestos. Although the contents of these messages are in different languages, their request is the same: Brazil should support UN action to regulate the global trade in asbestos. Brazil has announced it will abstain during a crucial vote at the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention next week. Civil society at home and abroad is urging President Rousseff to prioritize human health over Brazilian exports. [Read full article]
May 2, 2013
April 28, 2013 was the occasion for Turkish activists and victims to mark International Workers Memorial Day. A public demonstration, street rally and workshop were held to highlight the price paid by Turkish workers for their employers' negligence. As part of the activities, the first public workshop on asbestos took place at the Turkish Medical Association. Speakers at this session highlighted the lack of government engagement with the asbestos issue; this is revealed by a total lack of information on the incidence of asbestos disease, the presence of asbestos products within the built environment and the location of asbestos dump sites. [Read full article]
Apr 26, 2013
The world's first demonstration denouncing Russia's asbestos policy took place in London earlier today in the run-up to International Workers' Memorial Day. With bells, whistles, a megaphone, masks, hazmat suits and banners the protest was a colourful and vibrant affair. The good-natured event drew attention to the global impact of Russia's asbestos industry. "Selling deadly asbestos to people in developing countries is," one speaker said, "an abomination." Russia, the world' biggest supplier of chrysotile asbestos, is now the focus of activities by ban asbestos activists determined to outlaw the production, use and sale of asbestos. [Read full article]
Apr 18, 2013
From April 28 to May 10, 2013, the Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade will take place in Geneva. For the fourth time, a recommendation will be tabled that chrysotile asbestos be included in a designated list of hazardous chemicals (Annex III) which are subject to a legally enforceable right-to-know regime. The background to this recommendation, the forces which are engaged by this debate and the possible outcome of the upcoming meeting are examined in this article. [Read full article]
Apr 15, 2013
A series of events transpired last month which highlighted the asbestos tragedy unfolding in Australia, a country which embraced the use of asbestos for over 50 years. As news was released in Perth of the asbestos cancer contracted by Ernie Bridge, a much-loved political figure, in Canberra, the formation of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency was being announced. The Agency will coordinate a National Strategic Plan designed to "minimise exposure to asbestos fibres, in order to eliminate asbestos-related disease in Australia." A deadline of 2030 has been set for the removal of asbestos from all government and public buildings. [Read full article]
Apr 10, 2013
With more than 100,000 occupational deaths from asbestos-related diseases every year, it is little wonder that the call to ban asbestos has featured prominently in global activities on International Workers' Memorial Day (IWMD), April 28. Two years ago, the Manila-based Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development's Asbestos Street Fighters Street Art Competition generated a high degree of public awareness of the asbestos hazard. This year an Italian coalition of campaigning groups is poised to launch a striking series of images for IWMD to ensure that the asbestos hazard remains a priority issue on the political agenda. [Read full article]
Apr 10, 2013
In response to a public health emergency, the Italian Government has launched a National Asbestos Plan. Tens of millions of euros have been provided for medical, epidemiological, clinical, environmental and technical research to address the consequences of asbestos contamination. Work is proceeding on new diagnostic and treatment protocols for patients with malignant mesothelioma. Experts from the University of Alexandria and the University of Turin are collaborating on plans to create an organizational model to provide a continuum of care for the injured. Research on risk assessment, health surveillance, genetic susceptibility and the efficacy of biomarkers is also being progressed. [Read full article]
Apr 8, 2013
Snow flurries did not deter supporters of the Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group (MAVSG) from turning out on March 22, 2013 to commemorate the Group's 20th anniversary in the presence of local dignitaries at Liverpool Town Hall. The MAVSG started life as the Liverpool and District Victims of Asbestos Support Group in March 1993 when a small group of local campaigners met to formulate a response to Liverpool's growing asbestos tragedy. Since then, the Group has worked with UK and international colleagues to improve conditions for victims and to campaign for an end to asbestos use around the world. [Read full article]
Mar 9, 2013
Ever since the commercial exploitation of asbestos began, the disastrous impact of hazardous exposures on female health has led to an epidemic of asbestos-related disease and death. On Women's Day 2013, the consequences of these exposures for female workers, relatives and members of the public in the UK and abroad are explored. Mentioned in the context of this discussion are British women whose names have become synonymous with the national asbestos scandal including Nellie Kershaw, Nora Dockerty, June Hancock and Gina Lees. The fate of female victims from Brazil, Korea and Japan is also considered. [Read full article]
Mar 7, 2013
According to the most recently released data on global asbestos trends, in 2011 national asbestos consumption was highest in: China (637,735 tonnes), India (321,803 tonnes), Russia (251,427 tonnes), Brazil (185,332 tonnes) and Kazakhstan (155,166 tonnes). Nothing extraordinary about this, is there? Well, yes there is. Taking a more in-depth look at the figures for Kazakhstan, a startling situation is revealed: per capita, Kazakhstan uses twice as much asbestos as Sri Lanka and Russia, the second and third highest per capita asbestos users in the world. The implications of this finding are discussed in this article. [Read full article]
Mar 7, 2013
The 20th anniversary of the Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group (MAVSG), formerly known as the Liverpool and District Victims of Asbestos Support Group, has been commemorated by a feature in the current issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter. The article quotes long-time health and safety campaigner Rory O'Neill who says: "MAVSG has been crucial in supporting the local community and in securing improved rights and treatment for asbestos victims nationwide." Other commentators describe how MAVSG works locally, nationally and globally to support asbestos victims and lobbies for improved medical treatments and access to financial support for the injured. [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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