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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lka@btinternet.com

 

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Jun 29, 2016

Brazil’s Commission of Environment and Sustainable Development is expected to vote this week on a report by Congressman Edson Duarte regarding the need for national legislation to prohibit asbestos. Currently, federal law supports the “controlled use” policy for chrysotile (white) asbestos, the only type of asbestos being sold. The National Association of Labour Court Judges, the National Association of Labour Attorneys and many civil society groups question the constitutionality of this policy which is responsible for ongoing toxic exposures to workers as well as members of the public. See: A proibição do amianto e a cara de nojinho [The prohibition of asbestos and the face of revulsion].

Jun 29, 2016

Manslaughter charges have been brought in the Massa Court against Pignone company engineer Vincenzo Pizzini who was, it is alleged, negligent during the 1960s of failing to protect workers from occupational asbestos exposures at a factory in the Italian Province of Tuscany. Scores of employees have already died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma; this case is over the death in 2013 of welder Cesare Ricci who was exposed to asbestos on a daily basis and was given no warning of the hazard and no protective equipment or clothing. See: Morte da amianto, ex dirigente del Pignone a processo [Asbestos death; former factory manager charged].

June 28, 2016

An EU regulation signed on June 22, 2016 finally outlawed the use of all asbestos products in Member States by setting a 1 July 2025 deadline for a ban on the sole existing exemption: chrysotile-containing diaphragms for electrolysis operations in two chlor-alkali factories; one in Sweden and one in Germany. Although EU agencies had hoped to end the derogation by 2017, economic arguments were persuasive. Nevertheless, one of the companies has already stopped importing chrysotile and strict regulations exist to ensure workplace safety. See: EU Regulation 22 June 2016 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals as regards chrysotile asbestos fibres.

Jun 28, 2016

According to the Federal Office of Public Health, consultation is progressing in Switzerland over new measures to provide financial benefits and psychological support for Swiss citizens who suffer from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, including those whose exposure occurred outside the workplace. Currently, 75% of the 120 victims diagnosed every year receive compulsory accident insurance benefits; a new fund is being created to dispense financial support to those whose exposures were non-occupational. Between 2016 and 2025, the cost of the new scheme is estimated at $102 million. See: Un soutien rapide pour les victimes de l'amiante [Rapid support for asbestos victims].

Jun 28, 2016

Against fears regarding potential contamination caused by the removal of asbestos waste dumped by the Ibertubo company in Toledo, questions are being asked about the danger posed by the presence of toxic products in Spain’s schools. In Spain as in the UK the authorities rely on false reassurances that asbestos in buildings is safe as long as it remains undisturbed. This is untrue in every case but even more so in buildings which are more than 40 years old and in which deteriorating asbestos-containing material is releasing deadly fibers into the air. See: Operación de retirada de amianto en Toledo: el fiasco de Ibertubo [Asbestos removal operations in Toledo: the Ibertubo fiasco].

Jun 27, 2016

As Canada awaits moves by Prime Minister Trudeau to make good on his promise to ban asbestos, the first ever estimate of the financial impact of Canadian asbestos-related cancers suggests that the annual cost could exceed $1.7-billion with each case costing an average of $818,000 according to calculations by the Institute for Work & Health. Asbestos is the biggest cause of occupational deaths in Canada with workers’ compensation boards having recognized more than 5,700 claims since 1996. Asbestos imports and exports remain legal in Canada, formerly the world’s largest asbestos producer. See: Asbestos-related cancer costs Canadians billions.

Jun 27, 2016

Last Wednesday, June 22, 2016, a revolutionary new “green” pre-school was officially opened at a ceremony attended by government and business officials during which the Ceylon Institute of Builders issued the building with a Green Label certification. The new building, which is located in the small town of Ahangama in Sri Lanka’s Southern Province, was constructed of locally sourced soil stabilized brick blocks; the roof is composed of zinc aluminium sheets which are “100% asbestos free.” Other environmentally sustainable measures used in the pre-school include solar power and rainwater harvesting. See: First green pre-school in Sri Lanka constructed by Holcim Lanka.

Jun 27, 2016

It was announced last week that an agreement had been reached by Multilit and Isdralit, asbestos-using companies in the Brazilian State of Paraná, with the Labor Court stipulating that until asbestos use is ended the companies’ premises will be subject to environmental assessments to ensure that concentrations of asbestos fibers are below 0.1 f/cm3. In addition, compulsory medical examinations will be provided for current and former asbestos-exposed employees. Failure to comply with these regulations, will incur substantial fines. See: Até banir amianto, empresas precisam passar por avaliação periódica [Until asbestos is banned, companies must undergo periodic evaluations].

Jun 27, 2016

Japanese asbestos victims, campaigners and supporters continue to press for asbestos justice with meetings this past weekend (June 25 & 26, 2016). On Saturday, June 25, scores of delegates took part in an event in Amagasaki City to mark the 11th anniversary of the Kubota Shock, a term signifying the moment when Japan’s epidemic of asbestos disease burst into the public consciousness with news that workers and community members had contracted diseases as a result of the operations of major Japanese corporations (see: Asbestos Profile: Japan). On June 26, the annual meeting of the national network of asbestos victims and their families was held. See: Photo of meeting marking the 11th anniversary of Japan’s Kubota Shock.

Jun 25, 2016

On June 24, 2016, the Court of Appeal in Paris issued a claimants’ ruling in a case brought by 80 employees and former employees from the Bosch factory in Drancy, Seine-Saint-Denis who were seeking compensation for hazardous exposures which occurred during the manufacture of asbestos-containing brake pads. Each claimant will receive €8,000 for “prejudice of anxiety” and a further €300 under Article 700 of the code of civil procedure (for legal fees). The damages will be paid by the current owner of the company, Honeywell. See: Amiante: victoire en appel pour les Bosch de Drancy [Asbestos: Victory on appeal for Bosch workers from Drancy].

Jun 24, 2016

An article circulated by “News-Georgia,” documented the increasing pressure from civil society campaigners in Georgia for a ban on all asbestos-containing products in order to protect public and occupational health. Despite the fact that the International Agency for Research on Cancer acknowledges that exposure to asbestos can cause cancer, popular products – such as asbestos-containing roof tiles and pipes, fireproofing, insulation and brake pads – remain on sale; moreover, the delivery of drinking water is accomplished via asbestos pipes. See: В Грузии требуют запретить ввоз асбеста, вызывающего рак [Demand for ban on carcinogenic asbestos increasing in Georgia].

Jun 24, 2016

This recent (Chinese) commentary discussed calls by Taiwan legislators to advance plans for a total asbestos ban. Although there had been agreement to ban asbestos by 2018, politicians believe the Environmental Protection Agency must act sooner; a timetable to achieve this goal will be announced by the end of 2016 “to safeguard people’s health.” Concern was expressed about hazardous exposures to those in the construction sector who were working with waste materials containing asbestos. See: 立委疑2018年禁用致癌物「石棉」太晚 環保署承諾提前實施 [Legislators concerned about the use of carcinogenic asbestos have called on the EPA to speed up prohibitions].

Jun 23, 2016

Following the asbestos death last year (December 2015) of a police officer who had worked at the scene of the 1984 Brighton bombing, the Sussex police issued a warning on June 22, 2016 to other emergency service personnel who may have also been present at the scene. Alerts have also been sent to Conservative party members who were at the hotel for the Conservative party conference, Brighton and Hove city council, and Sussex University hospital NHS trust, warning that staff and others present at the scene could be affected. See: Brighton 1984 bomb may have exposed rescuers to asbestos.

Jun 23, 2016

Ban Asbestos France and the Henri Pezerat Association have distributed a joint press release welcoming a truly outstanding judicial development in France. A ruling by the Criminal Chamber of France’s Supreme Court of Appeal earlier this month (June 7, 2016) will allow charges for workplace asbestos deaths to proceed against former asbestos manager Claude Chopin. The family of those who have died from the hazardous exposures at the Amisol asbestos textile factory in Clermont-Ferrand have been waiting for justice for over 20 years! See Press release by Ban Asbestos France and Henri Pezerat Association: French, English, Spanish.

Jun 23, 2016

A survey undertaken in 2014 indicated that the Lisbon headquarters of the Education Ministry was free of asbestos. Last year another audit found that there were asbestos building materials, insulation products and fiber cement panels within the premises. Although “the concentration of respirable fibers in the air of the locations analyzed were below the legal limits,” medical screenings will be provided for all employees who worked in affected areas. See: Sede do Ministério da Educação afinal tem amianto [Asbestos at the Headquarters of the Ministry of Education in Lisbon].

Jun 21, 2016

On Monday, June 20, 2016, the Court trying the asbestos case against Olivetti executives heard that compensation being sought against former Olivetti officials by individual claimants and civil parties, including the City of Ivrea and AFEVA, a victims’ group from Casale Monferrato, exceeded €6 million. During the day, legal representatives of defendant Camilla Olivetti, CEO from March 1963 to May 1964, argued that charges against their client should be dropped. See: Sei milioni di risarcimento per le vittime dell’amianto all’Olivetti [Six million compensation for asbestos victims Olivetti].

Jun 21, 2016

Children and staff from six local schools took part in an asbestos awareness workshop organized by a local campaigning body, the Asbestos Interest Group (AIG), in collaboration with partnering organizations on South Africa’s Youth Day (June 16). Feedback from participants has been positive with children having enjoyed meeting up with pupils from other schools to learn about the impact of asbestos contamination on their towns. A report written by AIG’s Prudence Kotoloane is informative as well as inspiring containing details of measures undertaken to keep children “awake and energetic.” The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat was proud to be a co-sponsor of this and other events organized by the AIG. [Read full article]

Jun 20, 2016

A high incidence of asbestos-related disease has been recorded amongst military and civilian workforces at shipyards in England, Scotland, Italy, Japan, the U.S. and other countries. In August 1945, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Factories A. W. Garrett was so concerned about the consequences of asbestos use in the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries that he wrote a letter to industry stakeholders in which he stated: “while asbestos dust may not have any apparent effects at first, experience shows that, particularly if the workers are exposed to the dust in substantial concentrations, serious results are apt to develop later.” The contents of Garrett’s letter were shared with vested interests in the UK and abroad. [Read full article]

Jun 13, 2016

A significant landmark has been reached with the distribution this month of the 100th issue of the British Asbestos Newsletter, a publication which has over the last 25 years become a national resource for asbestos victims, campaigners, legal experts, professionals and concerned citizens. The 24 chapters in the commemorative edition, which have been authored by leading stakeholders amongst the UK community of asbestos activists, highlight the efforts that have been made to secure the human and legal rights of asbestos victims and signpost measures for achieving future victories. The image on the cover has been designed by world renowned artist Conrad Atkinson. [Read full article]

May 25, 2016

Nepal is the first country in South Asia to ban the import, sale, distribution and use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing products with the exception of asbestos-containing brake shoes and clutch plates. Although the prohibitions came into force on June 20, 2015, government data shows that the import of banned asbestos and asbestos-containing products continues. Attempts by a civil society organization in Nepal – the Center for Public Health and Environmental Development – to monitor the situation and implement measures to enforce these regulations are discussed in this article. [Read full article]

Apr 30, 2016

On April 28, 2016, the Hartlepool Trades Union Council joined with other labor federations, trade unions and campaigning groups around the world to commemorate International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD). Despite a cold wind blowing in off the North Sea, the activities were informative, productive and reinvigorating. With wreath laying ceremonies for students and the public, a health and safety seminar, a dedication service at Christchurch, the premiere of a film for IWMD 2016 and a buffet lunch, participants had a multitude of opportunities to learn and interact with the experts and each other. During speeches, discussions and tributes, we remembered the dead and pledged to fight for the living. [Read full article]

Apr 26, 2016

A press release issued by groups campaigning to end the use of asbestos in Asia details discussions which took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 23, 2016. The Strategy Meeting on Asbestos 2016 was hosted by the following groups: Bangladesh Ban Asbestos Network (B-BAN), Asian Ban Asbestos Network (A-BAN) and the Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC). The purpose of the gathering was to “have focused discussions on building strategies nationally with the sub-region and work on coordinated activities in South Asia.” B-BAN’s Repon Chowdhury called on the government to ban asbestos straightaway and develop a national roadmap to confront the country’s asbestos legacy. [Read full article]

Apr 26, 2016

On April 20, 2016, the inaugural meeting of the Asbestos Sub-Committee of Japan’s Environment Ministry’s Central Environment Council took place in Tokyo. On the agenda was a review of government relief schemes which, since 2006, have paid compensation to asbestos victims not covered by workers’ compensation schemes. Speakers representing asbestos victims, who described the situation facing people with non-occupational asbestos exposure as inequitable and unjust, called for equal treatment for all those who had been affected. After the session, a press conference took place during which calls were made for political action to remedy the injustices which persisted. [Read full article]

Apr 26, 2016

On April 6, 2016 a community campaigning body – the Asbestos Interest Group – held an information sharing session for local people in the former South African mining town of Kuruman. Amongst the expert speakers were specialists in the fields of occupational health and oncology who focused on issues of particular relevance to this at-risk community, including the effects of environmental asbestos exposure on health, the monitoring of and treatment for asbestos cancer and the importance of family and community support for the injured. The sessions concluded with a candle lighting ceremony to remember those whose lives had been lost to asbestos-related diseases. [Read full article]

Apr 19, 2016

It is disappointing but not surprising that an April 13, 2016 response to parliamentary questions regarding the establishment of a National Mesothelioma Centre was suggestive of yet more secret deals and collusion at the heart of government. The contentious text tabled by Chief Secretary to the Treasury MP Greg Hands contradicted a statement made a few weeks earlier by George Freeman, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences, who had said that the disbursement of a £5 million government grant would be open for discussion. As of April 13 it seems that a London-based consortium, with little mesothelioma research experience, has bagged the lot. Why? [Read full article]

Apr 8, 2016

On Tuesday, April 5, 2016 the Colombian Senate had its first debate on Bill 97 which seeks to introduce a comprehensive ban on the production, marketing, export, import and distribution of all forms of asbestos and products containing it. Evidence from civil society stakeholders including asbestos victims, campaigners and industry spokesmen was given prior to interventions by Senators Nadia Blel, Alvaro Uribe Velez, Dr. Jorge Ivan Ospina, Jesus Castilla and Carlos Enrique Soto. No final decisions were taken but the asbestos ban bill remains under consideration; a Senate subcommittee has been tasked to further explore this legislation. Supporters are optimistic that asbestos prohibitions will be adopted. [Read full article]

Mar 23, 2016

An extraordinary meeting of MPs and invited guests took place on March 22, 2016 in the House of Commons under the auspices of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group. The original objective of the event was to showcase cutting edge work by UK mesothelioma researchers and call for a coordinated and long-term strategy to find treatments and a cure for a cancer killing thousands every year. The agenda which had been planned earlier in the year was changed this week to reflect the March 16 announcement that the government would provide £5 million to establish a National Mesothelioma Centre of Excellence. While this news was greeted enthusiastically, curiosity over details of the allocation was widespread. [Read full article]

Mar 22, 2016

Global revelations over recent weeks have highlighted the deadly measures employed by vested interests to control national asbestos debates and forestall government regulations in order to maximize profits, despite knowledge about the health hazards of exposure to asbestos, “probably the most hazardous industrial material ever unleashed on an unsuspecting world.” Information sourced from lobbying groups and defendant corporations document the key role played by consultant “scientists” in propaganda offensives and legal defence strategies such as the one developed by the Ford Motor Company to defeat legal claims by former auto mechanics. [Read full article]

Feb 15, 2016

On May 31, 2016 the Italian constitutional court will hand down a verdict in a criminal case of immense importance. At issue is whether Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny can be held to account for the asbestos deaths of Italian citizens. Central to the defense is the concept of double jeopardy whereby a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Schmidheiny has been tried three times for Italian asbestos crimes and convicted twice. The guilty verdicts were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2014 due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Schmidheiny is now facing manslaughter charges for hundreds of asbestos deaths; there is no statute of limitation for this crime. [Read full article]

Feb 10, 2016

Global asbestos interests, including groups like the International Chrysotile Association, commission and advance research which purports that chrysotile (white) asbestos can be used safely. A new resource has been developed for use by grassroots campaigners and others which clearly delineates the known scientific facts about the human health hazard posed by exposure to chrysotile. Based on the twenty facts listed, the authors declare their support for the “immediate prohibition of the use of any form of asbestos-containing products including those containing chrysotile, and call for their complete elimination.” [Read full article]

Feb 3, 2016

Reports from the Albanian capital of Tirana have raised concerns about work ongoing in the city center on the demolition of asbestos-cement roofing material during the refurbishment of the central market. According to Professor Romeo Hanxhari the work is “being carried out in an unsafe and unacceptable manner resulting in airborne fibres being inhaled and environmental pollution being dispersed in adjacent areas.” Today, European groups representing asbestos victims, trade unionists and health and safety campaigners have issued a public health warning and communicated their concerns to municipal and national officials. [Read full article]

Feb 1, 2016

From Japan to Brazil via Italy and France, over recent days asbestos victims have secured amazing judicial wins. Workers from Japan’s construction sector, French and Italian factories, Italian warehouses and Brazilian asbestos-cement factories have set precedents and secured sizable compensation payouts for contracting asbestos-related conditions – including psychological complaints – and diseases. Governments, institutions and corporations which allowed toxic exposures to occur have been condemned and punished for their failures. National administrations, civil servants and companies which allow hazardous exposures to continue should be under no illusion: the day of reckoning is nigh! [Read full article]

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Demonstration in Woluwe Park, Brussels, 2006

Under cloudy skies, members of Belgian and French Asbestos Victims' Associations from Dunkirk and Bourgogne marched side-by-side in the third annual demonstration organized by ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims. Erik Jonckheere, ABEVA's Co-chairman, condemned the government which still refuses to recognize the plight of the asbestos injured.

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Asbestos Trade Data (2014)

Top Five Producers (tonnes):
   Russia1,100,000
   China400,000
   Brazil284,000
   Kazakhstan240,000
   India270
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   Russia608,000
   China507,000
   India379,000
   Brazil154,000
   Kazakhstan68,000