International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Apr 26, 2016

Colombian ban asbestos campaigner artist Guillermo Villamizar has been awarded a travel grant by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat to participate at the International Mesothelioma Interest Group conference in Birmingham (May 1-5, 2016). Mr. Villamizar will be making a poster presentation on May 3, 2016 entitled: Art & Science: Relationship with Human Anatomy from Aesthetic and Scientific Perspectives. A stunning piece produced by the artist in 2013 entitled “The Female Face of Britain’s Asbestos Catastrophe” featured victims of occupational and environmental asbestos exposures. See: Photo of Guillermo Villamizer and his 2013 artwork.

Apr 26, 2016

An essay published online on April 23, 2016 by Chemical Engineer Eva Jimenez examines the response, or lack thereof, by municipal and federal authorities to the dumping of asbestos waste in the Ramabujas River and surrounding areas. Since 2004, the paltry levels of fines and the lack of political will to engage with this pressing environmental problem have created a dangerous stalemate which leaves the public at risk of contracting deadly diseases through the inhalation of chrysotile (white) and amosite (brown) asbestos fibers liberated by mounds of toxic waste which are sited in close proximity to residential areas. See: El amianto en el Polígono: la historia interminable [Asbestos in the industrial area: The Neverending Story].

Apr 25, 2016

On the 40th anniversary of the opening of the East German Parliament, the 15,300 square metre Palace of the Republic, a news report speculated that the final cost of Erich Honecker’s imposing seat of government with its gold tinted-windows, two large auditoria, art galleries, a theatre, 13 restaurants, bowling alley, post office, and discothèque could have exceeded a billion Marks. In October 1990 the building was shut down due to asbestos contamination. Investigations revealed that in 1974, 5,000 tonnes of sprayed asbestos fireproofing had been applied to the steelwork. The building was demolished in 2008. See: Gone, but not forgotten. Berlin remembers the Palace of the Republic.

Apr 20, 2016

A report commissioned by Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency predicts there will be 19,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed between 2015 and the end of the century. It is estimated that 8,000 of these will result from non-occupational exposures; the members of this cohort are part of the third wave of disease. Due to the extensive use of asbestos in the construction of Australia’s housing, many of those affected will have been exposed to asbestos directly or indirectly during DIY renovations. The report recognizes the risk to human health of low dose exposures. See: The Third Wave – Australian Mesothelioma Analysis & Projection.

Apr 19, 2016

Russian online media reported on April 18 that two asbestos companies in the Sverdlovsk region could be facing bankruptcy because of actions by the European Union which, say the article, are based on faulty information. Chrysotile asbestos is perfectly safe as company representatives show in footage accompanying this article – local children are filmed building with asbestos products and wearing company tee shirts. The most notable detail about the pro-asbestos rally shown in the video is the small number of people in attendance. See: Камень преткновения: уральцы вышли на митинг в защиту хризотила [The stumbling block: the Urals rally in defense of chrysotile].

Apr 19, 2016

On April 17, a film about the work of French whistleblowers who denounced asbestos and pesticide scandals was premièred in two cities in the department of Tarn, southern France. The film followed the work of an asbestos factory worker, a farmer and scientists: Henri Pézerat and Dr. Annie Thebaud-Mony. The director of the film Peter Pézerat quotes his father Henri’s belief that workers were “the sentinels of the toxicological risk, occupational or environmental.” See: “Les Sentinelles,” un film-hommage aux lanceurs d'alerte sur les grands scandales sanitaires [“The Sentinels,” a film tribute to whistleblowers on major health scandals].

Apr 17, 2016

Des Sayegh, an 81-year old New Zealand carpenter, was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year. His exposure to asbestos in New Zealand was acknowledged with a $100,000 government payout plus other support such as the provision of home help, specialist equipment and taxi chits. Another case he brought in Australia over toxic exposure received during an 11 month period in the late 1970s when he worked in Nyabing, Western Australia has also succeeded; he has received an out-of-court settlement from Australia’s asbestos giant: James Hardie, also known as the killer company. See: Dying Kiwis Win Payouts in Australia for Asbestos Exposure.

Apr 17, 2016

The results of inspections carried out by government agencies in December 2015 at the proposed site of the Skouries gold mine were reported in a letter circulated earlier this month to various ministries; highly toxic varieties of amphibole asbestos were found in deposits on this site in Haldiki, Northern Greece. In multiple submissions and applications, developers had neglected to mention the presence of asbestos and the occupational and public health hazard which would be created by blasting and other extraction methods to access the ore. There has been serious opposition to this project from local people and environmentalists. See: Βρέθηκε αμίαντος στις Σκουριές [Asbestos Found in Slag].

Apr 17, 2016

A study of three Turkish cohorts assessed the efficacy of biomarkers in predicting the presence of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). More than half of the 48 subjects in the asbestos-exposed group had pleural plaques; this group also had higher levels of the mesothelin antigen than the control group. The MPM group of 42 patients had “significantly higher mean EGFR, TRX, SMRP, and fibulin-3 levels... SMRP and TRX levels increased in a graded fashion among the control, asbestos exposure, and MPM groups, respectively.” See: Evaluation of New Biomarkers in the Prediction of Malignant Mesothelioma in Subjects with Environmental Asbestos Exposure.

Apr 16, 2016

Protests on April 14, 2016 by parents whose children attend Woodland Primary School in Pietermaritzburg, the capital of the South African Province of KwaZulu-Natal, highlighted the threat posed by asbestos exposures to pupils and teachers who work in 43-year old “temporary” classrooms made entirely of asbestos. According to a local contractor, the school is “uninhabitable,” and should be condemned due to the serious danger to human health. After inspecting the school last month, he reported: “broken asbestos boards in the bathroom and … black mould growing in the asbestos in the ceilings.” See: Poisonous classrooms.

Apr 15, 2016

State Deputy for São Paulo Marcos Martins, in collaboration with the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, will host a ceremony in the legislative assembly today (April 15, 2016) to mark the beginning of Ban Asbestos Week. Fernanda Giannasi, one of the country’s leading ban asbestos campaigners, will address the meeting. Activities in Osasco – an industrial area formerly the heart of Brazil’s asbestos cement industry – will take place from April 18 to 24 to raise public awareness of the asbestos hazard, with an ecumenical service on April 24. See: Ato solene marca abertura da Semana de Combate ao Amianto [Solemn Ceremony Marks Opening Ban Asbestos Week].

Apr 15, 2016

Nine hundred and sixty-eight asbestos-contaminated gear switch panels made in Malaysia are present at 51 sites belonging to Ausgrid – a state owned electricity infrastructure company. The Australian electricity provider confirms that the items contain both white and brown asbestos and were imported illegally sometime between 2007 and 2014. TAMCO, the Malaysian manufacturer of the panels, also lists as clients Energy Australia, Integral Energy and Optus, other well-known and large Australian utilities. See: ‘This is a death sentence for those workers’: Hundreds of Ausgrid employees exposed to asbestos in substations across Sydney.

Apr 14, 2016

A press release issued on April 12, 2016 by ANDEVA, the French organization representing regional asbestos victims groups, is scathing about an attempt by the asbestos defendant corporation Eternit to pursue legal options to recover court-awarded compensation payouts from government coffers. This case is currently being adjudicated by the Versailles Appeal Court; a decision will be announced in a few weeks. A judgment favouring Eternit’s arguments had been handed down in 2014 by the Administrative Court. See: Amiante: Eternit au Coeur d’un triple scandale judiciare [Asbestos: Eternit at the heart of a triple judicial scandal].

Apr 14, 2016

The Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) – representing 400+ Canadian vehicle recyclers and dismantlers – today endorsed calls for the import and use of asbestos-containing products to be banned in Canada to stop hazardous exposures being experienced by people engaged in the recycling of end-of-life vehicles. Between 2005 and 2015, Canadian imports of asbestos-containing brake pads and linings were valued at $100 million. According to the ARC, “imports of asbestos containing brake pads into Canada continue to increase unabated.” See: Automotive recyclers call for federal action to eliminate import and use of asbestos brake pads in Canada.

Apr 14, 2016

Italy’s Ministry of Health has issued alerts over the sale of 0.75 and 0.35 liter thermos flasks with plastic exteriors imported from China by the Galileo company found to be contaminated with asbestos after government agencies undertook scientific analyses of sample goods. The Public Prosecutor in Venice is considering legal action over these illegal sales. This discovery that imported flasks from China contained asbestos is one of many; recently consumers in Pescara were warned of similar products being sold in local supermarkets. See: Allerta: amianto nei thermos cinesi. Il Ministero della Salute li ritira dal mercato [Alert: Asbestos in Chinese thermos. Ministry withdraws them from market].

Apr 12, 2016

The Russian City of Asbestos (Asbest), a formerly prosperous one-industry town, is beset my multiple problems and has, so an online feature suggests descended into urban chaos. Having lived in the town for a few days, the investigating reporter documents a collapse in employment opportunities and multiple failures in the provision of basic amenities, housing and communal services. While the town relies on meagre government subsidies, the asbestos company which dominates municipal life pays its shareholders 900+ million roubles. See: Асбест. Город олимпийских чемпионов и коммунального ада [Asbestos. City of Olympic champions and utilities hell].

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]

Jan 25, 2016

In 1898, Lucy Deane, a Lady Inspector of Factories in Great Britain, informed the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops of the “abundant evidence… of the evil effects of dust” writing: “The evil effects of asbestos dust have also attracted my attention, a microscopic examination of this mineral dust which was made by H.M. Medical Inspector clearly revealed the sharp, glass-like, jagged nature of the particles, and where they are allowed to rise and to remain suspended in the air of a room, in any quantity, the effects have been found to be injurious, as might have been expected.” This report is one of the earliest notifications of the occupational asbestos hazard. [Read full article]

Jan 18, 2016

Data collected by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) on the global asbestos trade is widely used. From time to time, however, there have been irregularities which have needed investigating. For several years, the USGS has reported that Argentina, a country which adopted a resolution banning asbestos in 2001, produced small amounts of asbestos every year of the 21st century, ranging from a high of 300 tonnes in 2006 and 2007 to a low of 100 tonnes in 2012-2014. Inquiries have been made with experts at the USGS and in Argentina into the mystery of how a country with an asbestos ban can also be an asbestos producer. [Read full article]

Jan 13, 2016

As of April 11, 2016 changes to the compensation policy for ex-service personnel suffering from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma will allow former members of the armed services diagnosed with this cancer on or after December 16, 2015 to receive a lump sum of £140,000 instead of smaller weekly or monthly payments dispensed under the War Pensions Scheme. The improvements, which will bring government awards for veterans more in line with those for civilians, resulted from campaigning by The Royal British Legion and victims’ groups. The U-turn in government policy was announced in Parliament last month by the Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans, Mark Lancaster MP. [Read full article]

Dec 15, 2015

Asbestos victims’ groups and campaigning bodies from Latin America, Asia and Europe have today published multilingual resources to raise awareness of the public health hazard in the world’s biggest asbestos producing countries. The translations into Russian, Chinese, and Portuguese of a new text confirming the disease risk to people who did not work in the asbestos industry will be an invaluable resource to campaigners in countries where powerful vested interests deny: the hazard of non-occupational asbestos exposures, the impact of cumulative exposures from multiple sources and the dangers of low level exposures. [Read full article]

Dec 15, 2015

Recent events and publications have highlighted the public health hazard posed by current and legacy asbestos exposures. To ensure that campaigners in asbestos stakeholding countries have access to the latest information, a coalition of asbestos victims’ support groups and campaigning bodies from Latin America, Asia and Europe have collaborated on a project to translate a commentary published in November 2015 into the languages of the three largest asbestos producing nations (Russia, China, and Brazil). This article includes links to these translations and also to a translation of the text into Vietnamese. [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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