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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

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Jun 14, 2019

On June 12, 2019 a jury in Oakland, California awarded mesothelioma sufferer Patricia Schmitz $12 million against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Colgate-Palmolive for their negligence in causing the disease which she contracted through a lifetime’s use of Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby powder and Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet both of which contained asbestos fibers. J&J spokeswoman Kimberly Montagnino has said the company will appeal the verdict due to “serious procedural and evidentiary errors in the proceeding that required us to move for mistrial on multiple occasions…”; Colgate-Palmolive also plans to appeal. See: California Jury Awards $12M in Talcum Powder Case Against J&J, Colgate-Palmolive.

Jun 14, 2019

The current session of the Basque Parliament is once again considering plans to create a compensation fund for asbestos victims; individuals who were exposed to asbestos at work or others who have contracted diseases due to asbestos exposures in Spain would be eligible to bring a claim. Compensation payments, which would be assessed within 6 months of application, would be funded by contributions from public and private sources, including asbestos-using businesses, mutual insurance companies and others as allocated in the State Budget. See: Vuelve al Congreso la ley que exige compensar a las víctimas del Amianto [Congress returns to the law that requires compensating the victims of asbestos].

Jun 14, 2019

According to official figures, 3,700 public buildings in Portugal are still contaminated with asbestos; a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment said that remediation work will be carried out on 416 of these premises during 2019. A budget of €370m has been allocated for decontamination work on 1,600 buildings over the next four years. The situation in schools is far worse than officially recognized, according to an NGO, which said that the asbestos audits undertaken only identified asbestos-cement roofing and not asbestos in materials such as floors, panels or ceilings. See: Ainda há 3.700 edifícios com amianto em Portugal. Mas pode haver mais [There are still 3,700 asbestos buildings in Portugal. But there may be more].

Jun 14, 2019

The failure to remove asbestos from buildings due to be demolished in Turkey is, unfortunately, a common problem. A recent report about the construction of the Pendik National Garden in Istanbul on a derelict 250+ acre industrial site provided a good example of warnings unheeded. On January 17, 2019, Cafer Fidan, President of the Association of Asbestos and Hazardous Wastes, reported that the factory had been demolished without an asbestos inventory having been compiled and without the asbestos being removed. As a result, asbestos fibers were dispersed throughout the area destined to be the national garden and will remain in the soil as well as the environment. See: İstanbul'daki millet bahçesinde kanser tehlikesi! [The danger of cancer in the garden of the nation in Istanbul!].

Jun 14, 2019

In April 2019, as a result of an unanimous vote by the Belgian Parliament: lung and larynx cancers were added to the list of compensable asbestos-related diseases; the National Asbestos Fund increased compensation for mesothelioma victims by €10,000; and the families of environmental asbestos victims were to be paid funeral expenses of €1000. Welcoming this news, asbestos victims’ campaigners pointed out that the scandal of asbestos in the country’s schools remained ongoing and that it was unjust that the right to sue employers or polluters was relinquished as a result of accepting compensation from the Asbestos Fund. See: Une meilleure reconnaissance des victimes de l'amiante [Better recognition of asbestos victims].

Jun 12, 2019

After 12 years and numerous attempts, a bill that banned asbestos mining, processing, use and export by January 1, 2021 was unanimously approved by Colombia’s House of Representatives on June 11, 2019. This is the first time that a Congress of an asbestos-producing country has adopted prohibitions outlawing asbestos. By the end of this session of the Congress (June 20, 2019), the language of the House bill must be reconciled with that of the Senate legislation; both chambers then vote again to confirm the final law which is then sent to the President for signature. These steps are regarded as formalities. See: Congreso prohíbe el uso del asbesto en Colombia [Prohibition of Asbestos in Colombia].

Jun 12, 2019

Efforts to protect Vietnamese citizens from toxic exposure to asbestos remain ongoing. Researchers have concluded that as 95% of asbestos-containing roofing sheets are currently being used by ethnic minority groups in mountainous areas, steps must be taken in these areas to raise awareness of the human health hazard posed by asbestos exposures and the existence of safer alternative products. Such an initiative has been launched by the IRECO Institute in collaboration with community groups in Hoa Binh and Son La Provinces in Northern Vietnam. See: Ngăn ngừa amiăng trắng vì sức khỏe cộng đồng [Preventing (exposure to) chrysotile for public health].

Jun 12, 2019

As a result of complaints from trade unions in Argentina, several underground trains on the Buenos Aires (BA) Metro line B have now been withdrawn from service due to the presence of asbestos. Reacting to news of asbestos-related diseases amongst staff working for Madrid Metro, from where the contaminated BA trains were purchased in 2011 at a cost of €4 million, 160 BA Metro workers from line B – mainly mechanics from the Rancagua and Villa Urquiza workshops – are now undergoing health checks. See: Retiran formaciones de la línea B del subte porque se sospecha que tienen Amianto [Trains withdrawn from B line of subway because they are suspected of containing asbestos].

Jun 12, 2019

Saint Gobain, the French multinational which was ordered on June 3, 2019 to pay compensation of €20,000 each to 130 workers from its Thourotte factory who have “asbestos anxiety,” has announced it will appeal the decision of the Compiegne labor court. The company’s Secretary General Antoine Vignial claimed that the decision was “not consistent with the most recent jurisprudence of the Court of Cassation which clearly describes the need to verify the individual exposure of employees.” See: Salariés exposés à l'amiante: Saint-Gobain va faire appel de la condemnation [Employees exposed to asbestos: Saint-Gobain will appeal the conviction].

Jun 10, 2019

Last week it was announced that the Labor Section of Italy’s Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) had confirmed a 2014 Court of Appeal sentence condemning Rete Ferroviaria Italian SPA (RFI) – a state-owned holding company of the Italian railway – for exposures which caused the mesothelioma death of a mechanic who had repaired asbestos-insulated railway carriages. It has been estimated that 3,000 people have died from asbestos-related diseases due to exposures working for the State Railways or living near to RFI premises. See: Amianto, la Cassazione conferma la condanna a Rete Ferroviaria Italiana [Asbestos, the Supreme Court confirms the sentencing of Italian Railway Network].

Jun 10, 2019

Unless the Colombian House of Representatives approves ban asbestos legislation in its fourth and final plenary debate this week, all the efforts made during this session to protect citizens from deadly asbestos exposures will count for nothing as the draft bill will expire at the end of this Congressional session (June 20). Unfortunately, politicians are divided, with some supporters urging a total ban on production, use and exports while others want an exemption which would allow asbestos mining to continue for export purposes only. See: Eliminación de asbesto: debate definitivo será esta semana [Asbestos removal: final debate will be this week].

Jun 10, 2019

On June 6, 2019, the Administrative Court of Appeal of Nantes ordered the State to pay €9,000 in damages for “asbestos anxiety” suffered by an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who had worked in the asbestos-contaminated Tripode building for 21 years. In all, 1,800 civil servants had worked in this building before it was demolished in 2005. In 2016, an epidemiological study was published which revealed that there was an excess of asbestos mortality amongst former Tripode workers. This decisions means that a further 170+ cases will proceed. See: Nantes. Amiante: la Justice valide le préjudice d’anxiété pour une fonctionnaire du Tripode [Nantes. Asbestos: Justice Validates Anxiety Damage for a Tripode Official].

Jun 10, 2019

On June 6, 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the federal agency responsible for protecting public health by ensuring the safety of food, drugs, cosmetics etc. – reported that two US companies had agreed to withdraw from sale cosmetic products which had tested positive for the presence of asbestos. The recalled products, which had been sold by the companies: Beauty Plus Global and Claire’s Stores, Inc., included Contour Effects Palate 2 from the former and JoJo Siwa Makeup Set from the latter. See: FDA Advises Consumers to Stop Using Certain Cosmetic Products.

Jun 7, 2019

On June 5, 2019 it was announced that the former Brazilian asbestos-processing company Brasilit had agreed to pay a fine set by the Public Labor Ministry at R$ 25m (~US$ 6.4m) in order to settle lawsuits in the 8th Labor Court of Campinas over illegal occupational asbestos exposures. The money will be used to build a healthcare clinic in Santa Casa de Capivari (São Paolo), where Brasilit workers can be treated for asbestos-related diseases for the next 30 years. The clinic will also provide medical care for community members. See: Empresa que usava amianto fecha acordo de R$ 25 milhões com MPT [Company that used asbestos closes agreement of R$ 25 million with MPT].

Jun 7, 2019

A Vietnamese e-magazine website featured an article on June 3, 2019 which highlighted the elevated risk of contracting asbestos-related cancers experienced by construction industry and automotive sector workers such as mechanics who were often exposed to asbestos at work. The battle to ban asbestos in Vietnam continues with civil society groups calling for the cessation of imports and use and pro-asbestos lobbyists from Vietnam and abroad opposing any and all changes to the status quo. See: 10 nghề nghiệp có nguy cơ bị ung thư cao [10 careers have a high risk of cancer].

Jun 7, 2019

On June 3, 2019, the Labour Court in Compiegne made history when it awarded compensation for “asbestos anxiety” to 130 workers from the Thourotte factory belonging to the French asbestos multinational Saint-Gobain in the first such case to be decided after an April 2019 Supreme Court ruling widened the category of those eligible to bring such claims to employees at high risk of contracting asbestos diseases due to workplace exposures and not just those from officially recognized worksites. The company was ordered to pay the former and current employees the full amount claimed: €20,000 each. See: Oise:“la grande victoire” des 130 amiantés de Saint-Gobain [Oise: “the great victory” of the 130 Saint-Gobain asbestos claimants].

Jun 7, 2019

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

Jun 6, 2019

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

May 24, 2019

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

May 20, 2019

Key stakeholders from civil society and the Indonesian government made valuable contributions to the proceedings of a national asbestos seminar held in Jakarta on May 9, 2019. The event, which was organized jointly by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Labour Organization, Jakarta, provided the opportunity for reports by civil servants, occupational health and safety specialists, emergency responders, personnel from regional and international agencies and ban asbestos campaigners working on the asbestos frontline in a country which is one of the most disaster-prone in the world; in 2018, Indonesia experienced 2,372 disasters affecting 3.5 million people. [Read full article]

May 8, 2019

This media release circulated by a coalition of UK asbestos victims’ groups and occupational health and safety bodies detailed the occurrence of a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in London on May 8, 2019 calling on Russia to support United Nations measures to regulate the global trade in chrysotile (white) asbestos by implementing a regime which stipulates that importing nations be provided with sufficient information to ensure “prior informed consent” before purchasing substances deemed by the United Nations to be injurious to human health and/or harmful to the environment. [Read full article]

May 10, 2019

This week a delegation representing members and supporters of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) is in Geneva, Switzerland to monitor the proceedings at the United Nations’ 9th meeting (COP9) of The Rotterdam Convention (RC) and voice the demands of global labor and asbestos victims for chrysotile (white) asbestos to be included on Annex III of the Convention as the RC’s Chemical Review Committee had recommended more than a decade ago. This article comprises a short, contemporaneous report on the activities of the ABAN Mission to COP9 on May 7 to 9, 2019. [Read full article]

May 3, 2019

A media release circulated by the Asian Ban Asbestos Network urges United Nations representatives to the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Rotterdam Convention (RC) “to finally list chrysotile (white asbestos) on Annex III of the Convention and immediately reform the Convention so that a small number of states with economic interests can no longer block listings of chemicals.” Multiple recommendations by the RC’s Chemical Review Committee that the international trade in chrysotile be regulated in order to provide importing nations with “prior informed consent” have been blocked by the actions of asbestos stakeholders, led in recent years by Russia. [Read full article]

Apr 29, 2019

Brazil is now at a critical moment in the campaign to ban asbestos. Despite the November 2017 Supreme Court decision declaring the commercial exploitation of asbestos unconstitutional, in January 2019 Eternit, the country’s only asbestos producer, announced its intention to increase asbestos exports to Asia. To challenge the hypocrisy of shipping a substance deemed too hazardous to use at home to other countries, a delegation of five ban asbestos activists from three Asian countries embarked on a mission to mobilize support for an end to Brazilian asbestos exports from politicians, civil servants, prosecutors, asbestos victims, trade unionists and others. This article comprises a short, contemporaneous report on the activities of the “Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil April, 2019.” [Read full article]

Apr 21, 2019

This week, ban asbestos activists from India, Indonesia and Japan will be embarking on a historic mission to Brazil to entreat citizens, politicians, civil servants, decision-makers and corporations to stop sending asbestos to Asia. According to recent data, India and Indonesia absorb the majority of Brazil’s asbestos exports. Despite a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2017 declaring the commercialization of asbestos unconstitutional, mine workers and industry stakeholders are appealing to the Court for an exemption to allow mining and exporting to continue (see also: Versão Portuguesa). [Read full article]

Apr 20, 2019

This Open Letter calls upon delegates to the upcoming meeting of the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention (RC) to progress restrictions on the global trade in chrysotile asbestos by voting to include it on Annex III of the Convention. This is the 7th time that such action has been recommended by the RC’s Chemical Review Committee; previous attempts to list chrysotile were blocked by a handful of stakeholder countries, initially led by Canada and now by Russia. The signatories of this letter include 10 international organizations and associations and individuals from 30 countries on six continents. [Read full article]

Apr 10, 2019

The former asbestos mining town in Wittenoom, Western Australia (WA) has been called “probably the southern hemisphere’s most contaminated site” due to the presence of millions of tonnes of asbestos-containing mining waste. Plans are progressing through the WA Parliament for the compulsory purchase of the few properties remaining in private hands in order for the town to be shut down. Because of the extensive pollution, a WA Minister has acknowledged that the area can never be made fit for human habitation but is urging that attempts be made to remediate areas of cultural significance to the traditional owners of the land: the Banjima people. Consideration is given in this article of whether the Wittenoom “solution” could be the answer for other asbestos mining towns. [Read full article]

Mar 28, 2019

A letter by civil society groups sent recently to leading politicians addressed false statements and misinformation propagated at a 2018 pro-asbestos workshop in Vietnam’s National Assembly. The text accused organizations including the International Chrysotile Association, the Vietnam Roofing Association and others of: spreading “false and incorrect information and data about the harmful effects of white asbestos” and “creating confusion and misunderstanding about the situation and the scientific basis for… [banning] white asbestos”. Asbestos vested interests are desperate to forestall the implementation of a Prime Ministerial Order banning chrysotile asbestos roofing material by 2023 and are marshalling political and economic allies to force a government U-turn. [Read full article]

Mar 25, 2019

According to a 2019 paper entitled Environmental asbestos exposure in childhood and risk of mesothelioma later in life: a long-term follow-up register-based cohort study people who went to one of four schools near an asbestos-cement factory in Aalborg, Denmark have a 7-fold increase in the risk of mesothelioma – the signature cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. This finding, which was supported by earlier research into the causation of mesothelioma amongst women in Aalborg, has been widely circulated throughout the country and has spurred calls for the government to compensate all those suffering from this disease. [Read full article]

Mar 18, 2019

A commentary on the “second major asbestos spying scandal of the 21st century” details the facts of an international effort by asbestos vested interests to infiltrate the ban asbestos network (ban) with a focus on attempts by a British operative commissioned by K2 Intelligence Ltd. to insinuate himself into the network. The covert operation – codenamed “Project Spring” – was conducted over a four-year period during which the spy visited multiple locations in the UK, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Canada and the US. This article first appeared in Issue 108 of the British Asbestos Newsletter (Autumn-Winter 2018-19). [Read full article]

Feb 4, 2019

Throughout Europe, the legacy of widespread asbestos use continues to manifest itself in cancer registries and coroners’ courts. While EU countries have adopted innovative and pro-active measures to address national asbestos legacies, the UK government’s entrenched policy of denial and delay continues to endanger the lives of workers as well as members of the public. Compared to the deadlines for asbestos removal in the Netherlands and Poland, the financial incentives to replace asbestos roofs in Italy and nationwide measures to monitor at-risk individuals in Germany, the UK policy of “safe management of asbestos in schools” is a manifestation of an ostrich mentality which continues to endanger children as well as staff. [Read full article]

Jan 15, 2019

Reacting to news that Eternit S.A. was phasing out asbestos use in Brazil but continuing to mine and export asbestos fiber, there has been a furore of outrage from groups at home and abroad who condemned this policy as a “national disgrace”. Ban asbestos activists in India and Indonesia denounced Eternit’s actions asking the company: “How many more people will you kill?” and stating: “Your hypocritical behaviour is the cause of a humanitarian disaster for Asian countries and we publicly condemn you for your actions.” On behalf of a global federation representing millions of construction workers, Fiona Murie said: “It is simply unacceptable for Eternit Brazil to dump its asbestos on industrializing countries…” See: versão Portuguesa or click following link: [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 (2015)

Fiber Producers
(tonnes):
   Russia650,000
   Brazil270,000
   China210,000
   Kazakhstan180,000
    
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   India370,000
   China287,000
   Brazil163,000
   Russia124,000
   Indonesia120,000