|►US: Cancer Class Action for Black Women|
|Japan: Government Settles Asbestos Claim|
|France: No Asbestos Dump in Mont-Saint-Vincent!|
|Philippines: Protecting Asbestos Markets|
|Canada: Addressing Canada’s Toxic Legacy|
|Spain: Hiding Behind Covid-19?|
Jul 29, 2021
At a press conference on July 27, 2021, the high-profile US civil rights attorney Ben Crump announced that a lawsuit had been launched against Johnson & Johnson on behalf of black women who contracted ovarian cancer after having used the company’s iconic talc-based baby which, it was alleged, contained asbestos fibers. The claimants were members of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). Commenting on the case, NCNW’s Executive Director Janice Mathis said: “This company, through its words and images, told Black women that we were offensive in our natural state and needed to use their products to stay fresh… Generations of Black women believed them…” See: Ben Crump files lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson on behalf of Black women.
Jul 29, 2021
The case brought by the wife and two sons of a plasterer from Shizuoka City, Japan who died in 2004 aged 56 of asbestos-related lung cancer was settled on July 26, 2021 in the Tokyo High Court. The Government agreed to pay compensation of more than 16.56 million yen (US$150,000) for having failed to protect construction workers from the asbestos hazard. This is the second settlement reached since the landmark Supreme Court verdict (May 2021) recognizing the responsibility of the Government and building material manufacturers for asbestos disease in construction workers. See: 静岡石綿訴訟で和解成立 肺がんで死亡・左官業男性の遺族が国訴えた裁判 [Settlement in Shizuoka asbestos trial for bereaved family of a plasterer who died of lung cancer].
Jul 29, 2021
A commercial proposal to expand landfill capacity at a quarry near the French town of Mont-Saint-Vincent, which had generated huge opposition amongst local people, has now been cancelled by the developers: the Rougeot company. On Monday, July 26, 2021 this news was disseminated by email to the town’s residents; Mayor Jean Girardon wrote “there will be no burying of asbestos in the Bourgueuil quarry.” Objections to the plans, which had included proposals for the site to receive asbestos waste, had been the source of many public protests and petitions over recent months. See: Le projet d’enfouissement d’amiante est annulé [The asbestos landfill project is cancelled].
Jul 29, 2021
A July 2021 blog by Karuna Vikram drew on an internal corporate memo from 1982 to reveal how the asbestos company Eternit-Manila successfully circumvented a surprise ban on asbestos-cement (A/C) pipes announced by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1982. Although Eternit publicly welcomed the investigation the President called for, in reality the company was were furiously working to have the ban suspended until conclusive evidence was amassed proving the that A/C pipes were a health hazard. Under the section headed “Staff Analysis,” Eternit admitted it was aware of the occupational and public health dangers posed by its A/C pipes. See: What Corporations Know and What They Claim to Know: Eternit and Asbestos Cement Pipes.
Jul 29, 2021
Despite being banned in Canada in 2018, 152,000 Canadians are still being exposed to asbestos in the workplace according to information released by CAREX Canada, a group tasked with reducing the country’s incidence of cancer. An asbestos report recently published by the Canadian Standards Association identified gaps and inconsistencies in the management of the country’s toxic asbestos legacy and recommended that national standards on a range of issues were needed to close loopholes and ensure that all jurisdictions, Government agencies and employers were coordinating action to protect Canadians from future exposures. See: New CSA report urges national standard for managing asbestos.
Jul 29, 2021
At a public rally on July 26, 2021 in front of the headquarters of the National Institute of Social Security (INSS), the Asbestos Victims Association (Asviamie) – in the city of Donostia, also known as San Sebastián – accused the INSS of “taking advantage” of Covid-19 measures to create “an inaccessible bunker” which was hindering the processing of benefits and the recognition of occupational diseases, thereby disadvantaging claimants with asbestos and other workplace-related diseases. Waits of up to six months to get face-to-face or telephone appointments for terminal patients were, said Asviamie spokesperson Jesús Urzkudun, unacceptable. See: Asviamie acusa a la Seguridad Social de constituir un “bunker” [Asviamie accuses Social Security of constituting a “bunker”].
Jul 27, 2021
The Australian Government has announced plans to develop a public asbestos database to prevent future exposures to asbestos-containing products within the country’s infrastructure. Details from state and territory sources will be collected and artificial intelligence technology will be used “to allow governments to better plan and manage Australia's harmful asbestos legacy.” The work on the “asbestos heatmap” will be undertaken by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA); commenting on the initiative, ASEA’s CEO Justine Ross said: “In order to prevent exposure, we need to better understand the density and location of asbestos materials, particularly in the residential environment where information is not centralised.” See: National asbestos map being developed by federal government.
Jul 27, 2021
Under regulations now being finalized by the Spanish Government, city councils will have until 2023 to design a plan for the removal of asbestos from their buildings. In order to satisfy the new regulations, the councils must undertake asbestos audits to identify toxic products and assess their condition prior to delineating measures for their removal and disposal. Asbestos-cement (ac) products were widely used throughout the country. The installation of solar panels on properties with ac water tanks is of particular concern and the employment of specialist asbestos removal contractors is essential to prevent toxic exposures. See: La retirada del amianto inicia su cuenta atrás [Asbestos removal countdown starts].
Jul 27, 2021
To protect public health from toxic exposures, the General Directorate of Ankara Water and Sewerage Administration is progressing efforts to replace 40-year old asbestos-containing pipes in the water delivery system of the Turkish capital. Polyethylene pipes are being laid by the Water and Channel Construction Department of Ankara’s mains water line. The current phase of the program will deliver safe water to homes where more than 200,000 people live. The work to eradicate asbestos water pipes in all of Ankara is due to be completed by the end of 2021. See: Başkentte asbestli boruların değiştirilmesi çalışmaları devam ediyor [Work continues in the capital to replace asbestos pipes].
Jul 27, 2021
A paper uploaded on July 22, 2021 to the website of the Journal of Occupational Medicine entitled “Underreporting of mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural plaques in Brazil” examined factors impacting on the reporting of cases of asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) in that country. The authors found that there were widespread and systemic failures which ensured that a significant numbers of ARDs were neither diagnosed nor reported over a number of years. Deploring this dysfunctionality they concluded that: “It is urgent to make victims visible, monitor the exposed and protect their labour rights.” See: Underreporting of mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural plaques in Brazil.
Jul 27, 2021
When Simon Fadden from the Asbestos Division of the Squibb Group uploaded in early July 2021 to Linked In a series of photographs taken at a site his team had recently remediated it set off a flurry of comments all of which expressed surprise that so long after asbestos had been banned in the UK (1999), such a discovery had been made. The photos were of 50 kilogram bales of shrink-wrapped chrysotile asbestos fiber from the Canadian LAB chrysotile (white) asbestos mine. From the pictures it was clear that the toxic fiber had been in situ for some while. Commenting on the surprise, Simon wrote: “It’s not every day you are faced with such vast amounts of asbestos, especially in the product forms it was found.” See: Photograph 1, Photograph 2, Photograph 3.
Jul 27, 2021
People who worked with asbestos in the city of Pedro Leopoldo in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais on July 22 travelled more than 10 hours by bus so they could be examined by Dr. Ubiritan de Paula Santos and his team at the Incor Pneumology outpatient clinic at the Heart Institute of the University of São Paulo. The medical program under which they were examined was established by the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) in collaboration with medical specialists and has, to date, provided care for scores of asbestos-exposed workers from the States of São Paulo and Minas Gerais; medical training and support for professionals in several health centers was provided in cities including Piracicaba, Capivari and others in São Paulo State. See: Photograph.
Jul 22, 2021
At a meeting for members of the youth movement “URA-2021,” in mid-July, in the Russian town of Asbestos, attendees were told of wonderful job opportunities at the local asbestos mine: “There are special programs that allow you to get new skills and knowledge on the job, which means both growth in seniority and the opportunity for increased wages. The plant supports its employees by offering them spa holidays, payments on the occasion of the birth of a child, professional development programs and much more.” No mention was made of the deadly effects of asbestos exposure on human health. See: Профсоюзный лидер «Ураласбеста» выступил на XI слете профсоюзной молодежи Урала «УРА-2021» [The trade union leader of "Uralasbest" spoke at the XI meeting of the Urals youth trade union "URA-2021"].
Jul 22, 2021
At the July 19, 2021 hearing in the asbestos trial of the Swiss billionaire owner of Eternit, the names of the 392 people who died from, allegedly, inhaling Eternit asbestos were read out. The defendant is charged by prosecutors with manslaughter over the deaths of 63 workers and 320 members of the public from the town of Casale Monferrato in the Piedmont region of Italy. Also read out was a list of proposed witnesses – from a 120-page document – included in which was PM Mario Draghi. During the day, discussions over limiting the number of witnesses to be called took place. See: Processo Eternit-Bis, la Corte d'Assise ammette il premier Draghi tra i testimoni [Eternit-Bis trial, the Court of Assizes admits Prime Minister Draghi among the witnesses].
Jul 22, 2021
According to a July 19, 2021 press release issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), three companies – Eastern Coast Management Inc., SRZ Mgmt Holdings LLC and SRZ OP Bentonview LLC – were cited for failing to test for the presence of asbestos, erect protective barriers and provide respiratory and personal protective equipment to staff during refurbishment work in January 2021 to replace flooring at a health facility. As a result, residents of the Bentonview Park Health & Rehabilitation Center in Monett, Missouri as well as specialist technicians were exposed to asbestos. See: U.S. Department of Labor Cites Three Employers at Missouri Residential Care Facility.
Jul 22, 2021
During the 2021 summer holidays, asbestos safety surveys and remediation work are being carried out in 19 elementary, middle, and high schools in Seoul, under the supervision of personnel from the Seoul Institute of Health and Environment and representatives of the Department of Education. Samples taken after the asbestos removal work has been completed will be examined with state-of-the-art laboratory equipment to ensure the work has been carried out correctly and that the premises are fit for purpose. Any adverse findings will be the cause for follow-up cleaning measures and further tests. See: 서울시, 유·초·중·고 석면 안전성 조사 실시[Seoul conducts asbestos safety survey for elementary, middle, and high schools].
Jul 26, 2021
Yuri Kozlov knows it, Yerkin Tatishev knows it, and I know it too. It is only a matter of time until the use of all types of asbestos is banned the world over. But, time is what the asbestos industry is banking on; another month, another year, another decade means more sales and more profits can be extracted from the commercialization of a substance they have readily to hand: chrysotile (white) asbestos fiber. Whilst the word asbestos is reviled throughout most of the world, in the Russian monotown of Asbestos people base their lives around it. The measures with which the Uralasbest asbestos conglomerate secures their loyalty and the company’s expansionist plans are discussed in this feature length article. [Read full article]
Jul 21, 2021
Data released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in July 2021 revealed that the English regions with the highest male mortality rates from malignant mesothelioma over recent years were: the North East, the East, the South East, the North West, the South West, Yorkshire and the Humber. Even as a Parliamentary Committee launched an investigation into the failure by the HSE to take timely and effective action on the asbestos hazard, MEPs in Brussels called for the adoption of a “European strategy for the complete elimination of asbestos…” The fact that each one of the worst affected English regions voted to leave the EU will, inevitably, mean that Brexit supporters will be living with asbestos contamination long after their continental counterparts. [Read full article]
Jul 19, 2021
No system is perfect and the French Asbestos Victims Compensation Scheme (FIVA) is no exception. Despite its shortcomings, however, for over twenty years it has given a visibility to the problem created by decades of widespread and unregulated asbestos use in France as well as provided a fairly straightforward process by which claimants could access compensation without resort to litigation. If the Government has its way, FIVA will soon lose both its identity and independence via a merger with the National Compensation Scheme for Medical Accidents. The contentious proposal has been soundly rejected by stakeholders representing asbestos victims, trade unions, labor federations and their social partners who have pledged to campaign for the retention of FIVA. [Read full article]
Jul 14, 2021
The title of this article comes from a paper written nearly 25 years ago by American academics. While the demise of the asbestos industry they predicted may have proved to have been overly optimistic in 1997, it is certainly a realistic appraisal of the situation in 2021. Decades of mobilization by ban asbestos campaigners and civil society groups have led to triumphs in recent months that have humbled governments, held guilty industrialists to account and exposed asbestos lobbyists in jurisdictions around the world. The decisions of Supreme Court Judges, the actions of international agencies and the successes of ban asbestos activists have reinforced the global consensus that there is no place in the 21st century for asbestos. [Read full article]
Jun 28, 2021
On June 21, 2021, civil society campaigning groups from Europe, Asia and Latin America released the contents of a letter that had been sent to government authorities in Turkey, Brazil, France and the European Union detailing concerns about the sale of the former Brazilian warship the São Paulo to a Turkish owner for scrapping in an Izmir shipbreaking facility. Amongst the areas of concern raised were: the presence of asbestos, PCBs and other toxins on board the vessel; the existence of a comprehensive inventory of hazardous material; the existence of accurate data regarding the disposal of toxic debris from the Turkish dismantling operations (Bakınız: Türk versiyonu). [Read full article]
Jun 24, 2021
This dossier about developments in the campaign for recognition and compensation for asbestos-injured construction workers in multiple jurisdictions in Japan was prepared by the Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network Sugio Furuya. Taken collectively, the data presented, the reports cited and the photographs included provide an up-to-date synopsis of the outcome of years of protests and litigation. Following a Supreme Court decision on May 17, 2021 vindicating the claimants, the Prime Minister and the Diet acted swiftly to facilitate restitution to many of the injured including the self-employed. Unfortunately, construction workers who worked out of doors remain ineligible for compensation from a new government scheme. [Read full article]
Jun 15, 2021
On the morning of June 9, 2021, asbestos victims, their relatives and supporters again made their way to an Italian courthouse to bear witness: another day, another trial against Stephan Schmidheiny. The former CEO of the Swiss Eternit Group is facing charges of intentional homicide at the Assizes Court of Novara over hundreds of asbestos-related deaths in the town of Casale Monferrato including those of 62 former workers and 330 members of the public killed by exposure to Eternit’s asbestos. In the last decade, the Swiss billionaire has been charged by public prosecutors in various Italian jurisdictions with murder, manslaughter, aggravated culpable homicide, causing permanent environmental damage and failing to comply with safety rules. [Read full article]
Jun 10, 2021
This month Brazilian ban asbestos campaigner Eliezer João de Souza marks a milestone birthday. For nearly 20 years, Eliezer has been the President of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed. In that capacity he was at the forefront of the down and dirty ban asbestos battle in Brazil. Plans to mark his birthday at a gathering in Osasco, Brazil have been shelved temporarily due to the global pandemic. Faced with this set-back, Eliezer’s friends in Asia, Europe and Latin America came up with a way to wish him happy birthday from afar. Indonesian colleague and artist Ajat Sudrajat has translated the universal esteem in which Eliezer is held into a work of art. Happy birthday, Eliezer! (versão em Português) [Read full article]
Jun 4, 2021
In light of a June 1, 2021 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, NGOs from Asia, Latin America and Europe have condemned the double standards of the American multinational Johnson & Johnson which continues to sell asbestos-contaminated talc-based baby powder to consumers around the world despite having withdrawn it from North American markets. This behaviour, said U.S. Attorney Mark Lanier, was “both racist and inhuman.” Agreeing with these sentiments, Indian campaigner Pooja Gupta said: “It seems that as far as the company is concerned, human health is of less import than a healthy balance sheet.” National governments, regional authorities and international agencies have been urged “to take steps to protect populations from exposure to lethal baby powder as a matter of priority.” [Read full article]
Jun 3, 2021
A decision announced on June 1, 2021 by the U.S. Supreme Court is reverberating around the world with media coverage so far in the UK, France, Korea, China and Russia. By rejecting an appeal from the American pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson (J&J), the Supreme Court let stand decisions of the Missouri Court of Appeals (2020) and a St. Louis jury (2018) which had found that J&J’s asbestos-containing talc-based baby powder was a killer. Due to the collapse in North American demand for the toxic baby powder, in 2020 the product was withdrawn from sale in domestic markets. Nevertheless, the J&J’s iconic powder continues to be sold elsewhere with little interest expressed by decision-makers or politicians in this deadly example of double standards. [Read full article]
May 26, 2021
For most of the 20th century, asbestos stakeholders in the Canadian Province of Quebec were amongst the most vocal of all the vested interests in lobbying government administrations in Quebec City and Ottawa on behalf of the mineral they called “white gold.” The asbestos lobbyists did everything they could to promote the use of its chrysotile (white) asbestos at home and abroad. It is, therefore, no surprise to learn that there are 1,000 kilometers of asbestos-cement pipes in Quebec and that nearly 20% of all the pipes delivering water to Canadians are made of asbestos-cement. In a startling U-turn, Quebec’s Minister of the Environment Benoit Charette has pledged, as a preventive action, to take steps to evaluate “the presence of asbestos fibers in the water.” [Read full article]
May 20, 2021
After more than a decade, asbestos victims achieved their goal of holding the Japanese Government and building products’ manufacturers to account for injuries and deaths caused by occupational exposures to asbestos. On May 17, 2021 the Supreme Court of Japan issued a plaintiffs’ verdict in its first unified asbestos judgment. The Court accepted arguments advanced by the legal team representing 500 claimants in class action lawsuits brought by asbestos-injured construction workers or family members at courts in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Kyoto. In response, the Prime Minister of Japan met with victims to apologize on behalf of the Government and the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Tamura announced that a reconciliation agreement had been signed. [Read full article]
May 17, 2021
On May 17, 2021, the Japanese Supreme Court issued a unified ruling in four class action lawsuits brought on behalf of construction workers injured by occupational asbestos exposures. The Court upheld earlier verdicts that had recognized the Government’s negligence in failing to take timely action on the asbestos hazard; the liability of building products’ manufacturers was also confirmed. The factual findings as well as complexity and breadth of the ruling set a precedent not only in Japan but around the world; the Court’s condemnation of the Japanese State and manufacturers should be seen as a warning to all those who continue to profit from the deadly asbestos trade: in years to come, you too will be held to account for your crimes. [Read full article]
May 5, 2021
The battle to ban asbestos in Colombia has been protracted and dirty with intensive lobbying by business interests to forestall prohibitions of asbestos mining, processing, use, import and export. In 2019, after seven attempts, the Congress approved the “Ana Cecilia Niño Law” to ban asbestos. To enact the provisions of the law, Decree 402 of 2021 of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism was recently passed. Unfortunately, several challenges posed by the country’s historic asbestos usage remain unaddressed including the eradication of asbestos from the national infrastructure, identification of and financial support for the victims, criminal proceedings to hold defendants to account, etc. [Read full article]
May 3, 2021
On May 3, 2021, it was announced that to mark International Workers' Day 2021, the Construction Safety Campaign UK had recognized the efforts of 3 individuals by awarding them the Robert Tressell Award for Services to Working People. Amongst those recognized was our colleague Eric Jonckheere. On the plaque presented to him in Belgium the inscription read: “For services to working people, particularly in the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims and the international network of asbestos victims.” We congratulate Eric on this recognition of his decades of service and acknowledge the Construction Safety Campaign for its efforts to encourage all those who have fought corporate malfeasance, exposed government ineptitude and progressed safer technologies. [Read full article]
Apr 23, 2021
A proposal by Basque parliamentarians, which was approved almost unanimously on April 13, 2021 by the Spanish Parliament, will establish a national asbestos compensation fund. It is no coincidence that the impetus for this legislation came from Basque Parliamentarians. Amongst the 20 Spanish cities with the highest excesses of pleural cancer mortality, nine (45%) are situated in the Basque Country. Spain’s track record on engaging with the asbestos challenges posed by its use of 2.5 million tonnes of asbestos prior to banning it in 2002 has been poor. One can but hope that the new law is evidence of a political commitment to right the asbestos wrongs that have caused so much heartache in Spain. [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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