International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Apr 24, 2014

Following the introduction of stricter national asbestos regulations, surveyors working for the company Knight Diagnostics have been conducting tests on street and pavement surfaces in the town of Rennes, looking for asbestos-contaminated asphalt which was used by some French companies before the asbestos ban was introduced. As the results of the tests will not be available until the end of June, the city is following the precautionary principle says François Belot, Head of Risk Management for the City of Rennes. See: Chasse à l'amiante sous nos pieds [Hunting asbestos beneath our feet].

Apr 23, 2014

A new book entitled “Amianto: Un Genocidio Impune” documents the existence of a “conspiracy of silence” which prioritized asbestos profits over occupational and public health in Spain. The book’s author Francisco Baez Baquet, a former asbestos industry worker, presented the book at an event held on April 22, 2014 at the Málaga headquarters of the CGT union. A further session is planned for Seville; it will be sponsored by the School of Labor Studies and the Union Comisiones Obreras of Andalusia. The author hopes to visit other asbestos hotspots to highlight the epidemic of asbestos diseases. See: Amianto: Un Genocidio Impune [An Unpunished Genocide].

Apr 22, 2014

It has been announced that thirty workers who could have been exposed to asbestos on board the Irish ship LÉ Ciara will receive health check-ups every two years to screen for asbestos-related diseases. The civilian workers were employed by the Department of Defence to carry out a refit on the ship in March; prior to the commencement of work, no risk assessment had been carried out. The Naval Service was informed on March 28, 2014 that tests showed that chrysotile asbestos was present on this ship. The ship and her sister ship LÉ Orla are locked down at the naval dockyard at Haulbowline. See: Regular Tests for Workers over Asbestos.

Apr 22, 2014

Breaking his long-standing silence, Stephan Schmidheiny has given an interview to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a Swiss daily newspaper known for its coverage of international and business affairs. The Swiss billionaire, who was sentenced in absentia to 18 years in jail by an Italian Appeal Court for asbestos crimes (see: Postscript to Great Asbestos Trial), regards the criminal proceedings as absurd. The Italian Supreme Court is expected to issue a final ruling later this year. Schmidheiny defended his actions claiming that in the 1970s nothing was known about the occupational risk of asbestos exposure. See: Schmidheiny attend le verdict du procès de l'amiante avec sérénit [Schmidheiny calmly awaits asbestos verdict].

Apr 22, 2014

Asbestos is the single largest occupational killer in British Columbia (BC), Canada. Mortality from asbestos-related lung diseases is particularly high amongst BC construction workers. WorkSafeBC – BC’s Workers' Compensation Board, the agency tasked with promoting workplace health and safety – has launched an enforcement initiative to reduce occupational asbestos disease caused by exposure at residential demolition sites. Prevention officers will inspect single-family demolition work sites from March through December 2014 to ensure that all duty holders are complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. See: WorkSafeBC conducting asbestos enforcement blitz.

Apr 22, 2014

A recent snapshot of Indian asbestos shipments obtained from a commercial website is informative about some aspects of the country’s huge trade in this acknowledged carcinogen. Incomplete data for imports over two days this month showed imports of raw chrysotile (white) asbestos fiber from Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Brazil; the majority was from Russia. Asbestos exports shipped on April 10-12 were of fabricated asbestos fibers, concrete asbestos [stet] and compressed asbestos fiber jointing sheets, sent to Sudan, Yemen and Brazil. For samples of Indian asbestos-trade data, see Cybex Import Data and Cybex Export Data.

Apr 16, 2014

The Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos Related Disease Victims and their Families has reported the deaths of people who had worked at recycling sites where asbestos-contaminated hemp bags were processed; family members of these workers and local residents have also died from exposure to the asbestos generated at this site. Ten deaths have been recorded in the city of Sakai from asbestos-related cancers. The situation at similar recycling plants in Tokyo, Fukuoka Prefecture and Saitama Prefecture remains to be clarified. See: 10 people in hemp sack recycling centers reportedly dead from asbestos-related sickness.

Apr 15, 2014

In a landmark decision handed down on April 9 by Santiago’s 2nd District Labor Court, a plaintiff’s verdict was issued to mesothelioma victim Raul Olivares who had previously been employed by the Pizarreño company. Until then Pizarreño had never had damages awarded against it for failure to protect its workforce from the hazards of asbestos exposure. Compensation of US$100,126 was awarded; it is believed that thousands of additional asbestos cases could be brought by workers and/or members of the public. See: Pizarreño deberá indemnizar a trabajador que sufre cáncer por asbesto [Pizarreño must compensate workers suffering asbestos cancer].

Apr 15, 2014

Following the untimely death of Eternit S.A.’s long-term President Elio Martins, dissension in the boardroom continues for Brazil’s biggest asbestos-cement company. Luiz Barsi, one of Eternit’s biggest shareholders, was put in charge of the company by the administration board. Since he has been in charge he has been highly critical of the former President’s policies. Barsi heads a group of investors who want to change everything including all the top managers and executives. A board meeting scheduled for April 23 could be as explosive as it is decisive. See: Racha no clube do bilhão [Cracks in the billionaire’s club].

Apr 14, 2014

Despite the widespread incidence of asbestos-related diseases in their State, West Australians have fewer rights to compensation than fellow citizens. A private members’ bill – The Asbestos Diseases Compensation Bill 2013 – tabled by Kate Doust is intended to close loopholes which prevent victims from claiming compensation for injuries. The proposed legislation would allow West Australians diagnosed with additional asbestos-related diseases the right to claim further damages as is permitted in other states; despite the fact that there are no financial ramifications for the WA government, Attorney General Michael Mischin continues to block its passage. See: Push to close WA's asbestos compensation loophole.

Apr 14, 2014

A serious public health hazard has been highlighted in an article published on April 12, 2014 which focused on the ramifications of the urban renewal project launched by the Turkish Government in 2013. Under this program, which aims to demolish more than 6 million properties by 2020, no consideration is being given to the risk to workers or members of the public of exposure to asbestos-containing building and insulation products contained within the structures earmarked for demolition. See: Kentsel dönüsümde asbestli malzeme alarmi çaliyor [The Hazard of Asbestos-containing Material during Urban Renewal].

Apr 14, 2014

Claims for anxiety caused by occupational exposures to asbestos were validated by a ruling handed down by the Court of Cassation, France’s Supreme Court on April 2, 2014. Reversing a previous verdict which required proof of medical check-ups, the Court said that for people who had worked in high-risk establishments, as recognized by ministerial decree, psychological disorders caused by fear of asbestos illness were sufficient to warrant compensation even in the absence of any disease or symptoms. See: Amiante: reconnaissance du préjudice d’anxiété [Asbestos: Recognition of Anxiety].

Apr 11, 2014

Peter Tighe, the head of of Australia's Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is calling for radical action on asbestos contaminated homes in the nation’s capital. Despite a massive effort in the 1980s to decontaminate properties in Canberra, over the past two months tests conducted have shown that asbestos contamination persists. The lack of legislation to prevent domestic asbestos exposures, as opposed to safety laws controlling workplace hazards, is another cause for concern says Tighe. See: Homes with Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation should be demolished, says safety chief.

Apr 11, 2014

Highlighting the recent publication of Asbestos in Schools: The Need for Action by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, Lord Alton asked on April 9 when the government will “publish their response to the evidence submitted to their review of policy on asbestos management in schools.” Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, replied that the outcome of the Department for Education’s review is due out by the end of June. See: Lords written answer: Schools Asbestos, April 9, 2014.

Apr 11, 2014

A letter published in the current issue of the Italian journal Medicina del Lavoro confirms the asbestos risk at historical sites such as the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos monastery on Cyprus where white asbestos was incorporated into religious murals to provide an attractive shine to the surface. Considering that asbestos items have been found at Neolithic and Bronze Ages sites, researchers are recommending that “a precautionary approach should be taken in all archaeological investigations regarding prehistoric and historic sites.” See: Byzantine Monks Built Walls With Asbestos, Too.

Apr 11, 2014

Last month, the European Court of Human Rights issued a plaintiff’s verdict in the case of Swiss asbestos victim Howald Moor, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2004; he died the following year. Swiss courts had dismissed claims for damages brought by his family on the grounds they were time-barred. The Strasbourg Court found that given the long latency period of this disease, the Swiss ten-year limitation period deprived claimants of the “chance to assert their rights before the courts.” Switzerland was ordered to pay compensation for non-pecuniary damage, costs and expenses. See: Press Release European Court of Human Rights March 11, 2014.

Apr 24, 2014

Since 2007, the [Australian] National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases (NCARD) has been pioneering research into new treatments, methodologies and a potential cure for the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. A visit to the Center in April 2014 provided the opportunity to interview members of the research team working on the: role of immunotherapy, development of biological markers, new drug combinations, treatments exploiting regulatory T cells and clinical applications for regulatory T cells. For the NCARD team, curing mesothelioma is not an academic pipe-dream; it is a goal which informs the researchers every minute of every day. [Read full article]

Apr 22, 2014

The Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) is one of the most effective asbestos victims’ support groups anywhere in the world. The scope of its activities, the effectiveness of its efforts and the good-natured reception awaiting anyone who enters its premises address the tragic situation which exists in Western Australia. This State, one of the most badly affected regions in Australia with respect to asbestos-related cancer, continues to experience an unprecedented public health crisis due to asbestos exposures at work and at home. During its nearly thirty-five years of public service, the ADSA has developed a unique expertise in community service. [Read full article]

Apr 15, 2014

The Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat Laurie Kazan-Allen has added her voice to that of so many others who are backing calls by an Italian asbestos victims’ group for Yale University to rescind an academic honor bestowed upon convicted asbestos criminal Stephan Schmidheiny. In a letter emailed to college officials Peter Salovey and Kimberly M. Goff-Crews, Ms. Kazan-Allen noted that Schmidheiny had “benefited from the financial operations of an international conglomerate which has injured thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent human beings the world over.” [Read full article]

Mar 6, 2014

The death has been announced of Hyung-Sik Choi who lost his battle against the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Korea earlier this week. It is believed that the hazardous environmental exposures to asbestos which led to Mr. Choi’s death took place during urban reconstruction projects carried out in the 1980s. Since his disease was diagnosed, Mr. Choi had played an active role in the campaign for asbestos justice and worked with other victims in Korea and Japan to lobby for improvements in government support and medical care. Commenting on the sad news, his colleague spoke of his strength, leadership and determination to end the global use of asbestos. [Read full article]

Mar 4, 2014

In late February, German asbestos victims were offered the unique opportunity to hold a symposium entitled The Situation of Asbestos Victims within the framework of the annual German Cancer Congress. The significance of this event was reinforced by other activities which took place including a press conference, an exhibition and a three-hour medical session. Commenting on these developments, one of the organizers highlighted the marginalization of German asbestos victims and soundly criticized the government’s continued failure to address victims’ needs, recognize their human rights and provide justice for the injured. [Read full article]

Feb 24, 2014

Klaas Jasperse, a worker suffering from asbestos-related cancer, has brought a claim against the Dutch State for damages as the company which had employed him has become insolvent. The lawsuit against the State alleges that it was due to its negligence to take timely action to protect workers from the asbestos hazard that the hazardous exposures which resulted in Mr. Jasperse’s fatal disease occurred. According to legal expert Bob Ruers, “the Dutch State had already been fully aware of the cancer-related risks posed by asbestos by 1977.” Had action been taken earlier, it is argued, Mr. Jasperse would not have become ill. [Read full article]

Feb. 19, 2014

A research project by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in conjunction with Russian asbestos-industry linked scientists has been soundly condemned by asbestos victims’ groups, scientists and doctors since it was first announced in 2012. A press conference held in London jointly by the World Health Organization and the IARC in February provided an opportunity for British Journalist Bernard Murphy to ask questions about the agencies’ asbestos policies. Dr Stewart, co-editor of IARC’s new 630-page, five-year update on the state of cancer science, reaffirmed the links between exposure to all types of asbestos and cancer and supported a global ban on its use. [Read full article]

Feb 18, 2014

The second anniversary of the verdict handed down by the Turin Court, in what has become known as the Great Asbestos Trial, was an appropriate time to review the Court’s decision as well as subsequent developments in the litigation. Despite a determined attempt by the defendants in this landmark case to overturn the verdicts, the judicial authorities have twice confirmed the criminal conviction of asbestos defendants who had caused wilful permanent environmental disaster and failed to comply with safety rules as a result of which thousands of Italians died from asbestos-related diseases. [Read full article]

Feb 10, 2014

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a clear-cut policy on asbestos: “the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop using all types of asbestos.” In an effort to protect asbestos sales, industry lobbyists have continued to misrepresent the WHO’s message as supporting a “controlled use of asbestos.” In an attempt to reinforce the WHO’s position on asbestos, Dr. Maria Neira, the Director of Public Health and Environment, has given a detailed interview in which she makes the international agency’s position crystal clear. Asbestos is, she says, “a threat to public health... [and] all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans.” [Read full article]

Feb 3, 2014

On Wednesday, January 29, 2014, the Thai Public Health Ministry passed a resolution calling for the immediate prohibition on the use of asbestos. This action was welcomed by members of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network (T-BAN) who had been waiting for nearly three years for the government to honor a pledge to prohibit asbestos use. Commenting on the news, T-BAN member Associate Professor Vithaya Kulsomboon told IBAS: “We are more optimistic now than we have been for three years that the use of asbestos will be ended in Thailand. Banning asbestos is the first step in ridding our country of a deadly hazard; there remains a lot of work to do.” [Read full article]

Jan 29, 2014

It is a rare privilege for IBAS to facilitate access for English-speaking readers to this stunning article by award-winning Brazilian Journalist Eliane Brum. Ms. Brum highlights the efforts of Brazilian asbestos victims to strip asbestos magnate Stephan Schmidheiny of a prestigious award given to him by the Brazilian Government: the Order of the Southern Cross. She explains that the victims’ actions are not motivated by anger but by a desire to ensure that history accurately records the facts despite multiple attempts to whitewash inconvenient details such as Schmidheiny’s conviction by an Italian criminal court for involvement in thousands of asbestos deaths. [Read full article]

Jan 20, 2014

As 2014 dawned, European and Latin American asbestos victims' groups ratcheted up efforts to prevent certain individuals linked to the asbestos industry or perceived to have supported it, from enjoying prestigious awards or gaining high-level positions. Italian victims progressed attempts to have asbestos criminal Stephan Schmidheiny stripped of a U.S. academic honor while their French counterparts contested the candidacy of a controversial scientist as head of a scientific body. In Brazil, the National Association of the Asbestos-Exposed launched a campaign to have the Government rescind the Order of the Southern Cross (an order of chivalry), bestowed upon Schmidheiny in 1996. [Read full article]

Jan 10, 2014

This paper explores controversies created by industry to defend corporations from asbestos lawsuits. The author focuses on the genesis of the debate over the toxicity of short asbestos fibres. The industry's "doubt science," published in scientific journals, has given a legitimacy to an issue long ago agreed upon by independent experts: "the main factor responsible for carcinogenicity of fibres is this physical-chemical mechanism, the so-called 'surface reactivity' of the fibre in a biological setting, the size of the fibres and their biological-persistence in the organism being only the complimentary 'parameters' able to influence the degree of toxicity of the fibres without being determinant of it." [Read full article]

Dec 21, 2013

Today - December 21, 2013 - is the second anniversary of the mesothelioma death of Korean ban asbestos activist Rachel LEE Jung-Lim. As Rachel learned about her disease, contracted from environmental contamination generated by an asbestos-cement factory, she grew incensed about the dangers to which she and others had been exposed. Determined to end the global asbestos epidemic, she took every opportunity she could to spread the ban asbestos message. To commemorate Rachel's campaign, activists have established the annual Rachel LEE Jung-Lim Memorial Award. The winner for 2013 was announced at a ceremony in Seoul held on December 21. [Read full article]

Dec 18 2013

On December 11 & 12, 2013, organizations in Japan engaged in the struggle for asbestos justice operated a phone consultation service for asbestos victims and their relatives. The service provided by the Ban Asbestos Network Japan, Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Center and the National Association of Asbestos-related Disease Victims and their Families received a total of 293 calls. Despite an improved national regime for asbestos compensation, activists are calling on the government to honor its pledge to provide "relief for all asbestos victims without omission." Lobbying for the adoption of specific measures to address outstanding issues is ongoing. [Read full article]

Dec 16, 2013

Last month, Korean and Indonesian activists met in Jakarta to hold a joint workshop on the hazards of asbestos use in Asia. The meeting, which was organized by asbestos victims' groups, ban asbestos activists, academics, safety and health campaigners and environmentalists, addressed the health consequences for workers and people living near asbestos producing or using facilities; the first reports of diagnoses of cases of asbestosis in Indonesian workers were released. In addition, discussions were progressed about measures for raising the public profile of asbestos hazards in Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia. [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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