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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Sep 29, 2020

On September 25, 2020 a TV documentary by Liam Carter entitled “Mewta Siekta” [Silent Death] was broadcast in Malta. The film examined the plight of former drydock workers who were occupationally exposed to asbestos and, as a result, are now suffering from life-threatening conditions. Medical experts explained the health hazards posed by these exposures not only to the workers but also to the wives who washed contaminated work clothes. See: Silent death: The Drydock employees who died from asbestos exposure.

Sep 29, 2020

Although the Brazilian Supreme Court banned the commercial exploitation of asbestos in 2017, the Eternit-owned SAMA chrysotile asbestos mine is still operational under Goiás state law permitting mining to continue. The constitutional crisis revealed by this situation is explored in a blog by retired factory inspector Fernanda Giannasi who deplored the double standards of Eternit’s current policy promoting continued asbestos mining for export as “environmental racism.” See: Fernanda Giannasi (ABREA) comenta a entrevista do Presidente da Eternit, Luis Augusto Barbosa, à revista Exame, publicada em 23/9/2020 [Fernanda Giannasi (ABREA) comments on the interview of Eternit's President, Luis Augusto Barbosa, to Exame magazine, published on 9/23/2020].

Sep 29, 2020

On September 24, 2020, an asbestos conference was held in Mallorca, Spain to examine the island’s legacy of widespread and uncontrolled use of toxic products. Experts who addressed the meeting highlighted the importance of a state-of-the-art professional approach to the serious issues of asbestos identification and management, warning that failure to take adequate precautions could result in hazardous exposures not only to workers but also to members of the public. See: El amianto genera problemas graves en la salud y requiere la gestión de profesionales acreditados [Asbestos generates serious health problems and requires the management of accredited professionals].

Sep 28, 2020

On Thursday September 24, 2020, the Court of Appeal of Nancy, France recognized the condition of asbestos anxiety suffered by 264 former employees of the Baccarat crystal glassware factory in Baccarat, France. The claimants, part of the second asbestos class action against the company, were each awarded the sum of €9,000 (US$10,500). A third lawsuit on behalf of 153 more workers is pending. See: [Subscription] Amiante: le préjudice d’anxiété reconnu pour 264 ex-salariés de Baccarat [Asbestos: the prejudice of anxiety recognized for 264 former employees of Baccarat].

Sep 28, 2020

In a press release by Eternit – Brazil’s former “Asbestos Giant” – the company finally admitted, three years after Brazil’s Supreme Court had banned asbestos, that it had no “social license” for the continued use of asbestos in Brazil. The company, which had been a stalwart defender of asbestos and even now continues to mine asbestos for export purposes only at its SAMA chrysotile mine, is publicly repositioning itself as a leader in green technology with its promotion of solar technology and photovoltaic roofing tiles. See: Após deixar o amianto e lançar telha de energia solar, a Eternit quer mais [After leaving asbestos and launching solar energy tiles, Eternit wants to expand].

Sep 28, 2020

A new study by the University of Sheffield has highlighted the repercussions of the asbestos contamination of UK healthcare facilities and recommended that NHS staff and others employed in these premises be provided with training regarding the hazards of asbestos exposures. These actions would prevent avoidable exposures and reduce the incidence of asbestos cancers amongst healthcare workers. Welcoming this publication, Liz Darlison of Mesothelioma UK said: “Mesothelioma UK will ensure that this research raises awareness of the risk of exposure to healthcare staff and hopefully, improve the treatment and care given to them by medical teams and support agencies.” See: Include asbestos risk awareness in NHS staff training, study recommends.

Sep 28, 2020

Last week Quercus, an environmental organization in Portugal, issued an alert over the improper dumping of asbestos in household waste, in the countryside and at abandoned quarries, reiterating warnings that a government ban on non-hazardous waste landfills receiving asbestos cement debris could lead to an increase in hazardous fly-tipping which could impact on both workers and members of the public. Should the situation continue, clean-up costs incurred by the government could be substantial. The lack of capacity for asbestos inspection and training of at-risk workers in Portugal, says Quercus, is a serious problem. See: Illegal asbestos dumping concerns.

Sep 28, 2020

Investigators in Korea’s Gyeonggi Province who inspected 359 asbestos demolition sites between August 10 and 28, 2020 identified 27 incidents where amounts varying from 40 to 2,000 kilograms of asbestos-containing waste had been illegally collected, transported or dumped according to an announcement made on September 24, 2020 by the Gyeonggi Special Judicial Police Corps. Cases are being brought against all those companies responsible. See: 발암물질 폐석면 불법 처리 업체들 무더기 적발 [Illegal asbestos fly tipping company found].

Sep 25, 2020

At a press conference in Seoul, Korea on September 21, 2020, spokepersons for the non-governmental organizations the Gwangju Environmental Movement Association and the Environmental Health Citizens’ Center announced that as a result of a 3-month investigation they could confirm the presence of tremolite asbestos fibers in cement and mortar products being sold in Korea. The NGOs urged the government to act not only on banning sales of these deadly products but also on identifying and protecting at-risk workers. See: 환경단체 “시판중인 백시멘트·황토모르타르에서 석면 검출” [Environmental organization “Detection of asbestos in commercially available white cement and loose mortar”].

Sep 25, 2020

Multiple whistleblowers, including a former waste inspector, truck drivers and plant operators, have alleged that asbestos-contaminated soil was used to make “turf underlay” at Oran Park site, a development of 25,000 new homes in Sydney, Australia. Commenting on the allegations emeritus associate professor at Murdoch University and lead investigator in the Australian Asbestos Network project Gail Phillips said: “Without wanting to alarm people, this is a very worrying thing if asbestos is ending up in housing estates, because just one fibre being breathed in can cause health problems down the track.” According to media reports, an investigation is ongoing. See: Revealed: asbestos-contaminated waste found in landscaping material at new Sydney housing estate site.

Sep 25, 2020

There has been a last-minute postponement to the handing down of a statement by Investigating Magistrate María Isabel Garaizaba regarding charges of reckless homicide brought against seven defendants responsible for occupational health and safety at the company operating the Madrid Metro. The announcement scheduled for September 23, 2020 will now not be made until October 6 or 7. Hearings in this case over the deaths of two Metro workers have been ongoing for more than a year. The delay has brought condemnation from the Spanish trade union: CCOO. See: La juez del caso amianto suspende las declaraciones de este jueves ¡ [The judge of the asbestos case suspends Thursday’s declarations!]

Sep 25, 2020

On September 21, 2020, High Court of Ireland judge Mr Justice Humphreys ordered mother and son Eileen and Fred Hendy to pay Meath County Council compensation of €6.26 million for contempt of court orders requiring them to deal with two illegal dumps containing 100,000 tonnes of waste, including asbestos debris, on their 253 acre farm in Enfield, County Meath. The Hendys had been given three years to take steps to clean up the site but had failed to do so as a result of which the Council would be tasked with commissioning contractors to undertake the remediation work. See: Mother and son fined €6.2m over failure to clean up illegal farm dumps.

Sep 24, 2020

At a recent meeting with Denis Pasler, Governor of the Orenburg Region – home to one of the world’s largest chrysotile (white) asbestos mines – the Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov pledged the Federal Government’s support for the asbestos industry. Manturov said that the development of this industry is of importance to both regional and national economies. There was no mention in this article about the carcinogenicity of asbestos or the global campaign to ban asbestos use. See: Минпромторг РФ поддержит хризотиловую отрасль в Оренбуржье [The Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation will support the chrysotile industry in the Orenburg region].

Sep 24, 2020

The process to rename the toxic Quebec mining town of “Asbestos” is not going very smoothly. Public consultations and deliberations were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and now the shortlist of four names selected by municipal officials has been soundly rejected. None of the names chosen – Apalone, Jeffrey, Phenix and Trois-Lacs – has found favor with the public and as a result the town council has delayed the prospective October 2020 vote to consider options which might include expanding the list of potential names. See: Quebec town Asbestos, hits pause on name change process after citizen complaints.

Sep 24, 2020

Mesothelioma UK, a charity supporting victims of asbestos cancer, has been awarded a £10,000 grant by The Burdett Trust for Nursing to develop a Mesothelioma Multi-Disciplinary Team in Wales and support work of clinical nurse specialists in delivering care to mesothelioma patients. Welcoming this donation, Mesothelioma UK’s Head of Nursing Lorraine Creech said: “This funding will help us to establish a better provision of specialist support and expertise for patients in Wales where there is currently no multi-disciplinary team for mesothelioma. The project in Wales will help to us to achieve our aim of ensuring equitable access to first-class treatment and care for all patients in the UK.” See: The Burdett Trust for Nursing awards grant to Mesothelioma UK.

Sep 24, 2020

A decision handed down by the Tokyo District Court on September 4, 2020, against the Japanese Government and asbestos manufacturers, awarding compensation of 1.3 bn yen (US$12.2m) to 121 former workers who had contracted asbestos-related diseases has been appealed by three companies including the Nichias Corporation, a defendant in many Japanese asbestos lawsuits. In the Tokyo verdict, Judge Maezawa had been categorical about the guilt of the defendants: “Since 1975 at the latest, when dealing with asbestos, it has been obligatory to use warning signs and dust masks.” See: ニチアスら2社が控訴 石綿被害訴訟、東京 [Nichias and two other companies appeal asbestos damage lawsuit, Tokyo].

Sep 18, 2020

It is with great sadness that we report the news that Nirmala Gurung passed away on September 9, 2020. Nirmala was a former teacher and headmistress of a secondary school in the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh. Her engagement in the struggle to ban asbestos initially in India and more latterly around the world was the result of a happenstance. Nirmala became a formidable campaigner, working with grassroots activists at home and film-makers from abroad to raise awareness of the price paid by workers and communities for the asbestos industry’s profits. Her passing will be mourned by those fortunate to have known her and those who just knew her from afar. [Read full article]

Aug 21, 2020

A new research paper by a team of scientists from Peru has aired the inconvenient truth about the country’s failure to stem the tide of deaths caused by occupational and environmental exposures to asbestos. The fact that the use of chrysotile (white) asbestos remains legal in Peru and that imports of crocidolite (blue) asbestos were only banned in 2014 are serious grounds for concern according to the authors of this text. Having correlated asbestos import data between 1965 and 2010 with the incidence of mesothelioma mortality between 2005 and 2014 (430 deaths), the scientists reported that the highest incidences of mesothelioma mortality were for the cities of Arequipa, Callao and Huancavelica and that multiple opportunities to eradicate the problem had been wasted. [Read full article]

July 10, 2020

On July 8, 2020, a press release by the US organization Black Women for Wellness (BWW) announced the worldwide mobilization of civil society groups over continuing sales of talc-based Johnson & Johnson (J&J) baby powder which has been found, on multiple occasions by government and independent analysts, to contain asbestos. This initiative came a week after Janette Robinson Flint – BWW’s Executive Director – had sent a letter to J&J’s CEO denouncing the company’s “systemic racism” and aggressive marketing of its toxic talc “to women of color, distributing free samples in Black churches and advertising on Spanish-language radio.” The public outcry over the company’s behaviour and adverse legal developments are discussed in this article. [Read full article]

May 28, 2020

Under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) issued a statement saying it was withdrawing its iconic talc-based baby powder – which is at the center of thousands of US legal claims over asbestos-caused cancers – from sale in North America. The news about J&J’s desertion of its signature product – which had been in constant production since 1894 and was sold worldwide – was reported not only in the US and Canada but throughout the world. Health and safety campaigners from India, Brazil, Korea and elsewhere have denounced the implied double standards of this action saying lives outside North America are equally at risk from the use of J&J’s asbestos-contaminated talc-based baby powder. [Read full article]

May 25, 2020

Ban asbestos campaigners and representatives of asbestos victims’ groups from around the world have today issued a press release deploring the double standards of the U.S. pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson which has announced it was withdrawing sales of talcum-based baby powder – alleged to contain asbestos fibers – in the U.S. and Canada whilst continuing to sell it elsewhere. “This is,” said grassroots activist Mohit Gupta “one more example of corporations putting profit before the lives of people. Instead of replacing the toxic baby powder with one free of asbestos in India, as they are doing in North America, they are just pushing sales of this hazardous product in a market with weak regulatory mechanisms, few testing guidelines and low consumer awareness.” [Read full article]

Apr 24, 2020

Groups representing asbestos victims and campaigners from Brazil, Europe and Asia have today written to the Governor of Brazil’s former asbestos mining state expressing support for his pro-active stance on COVID-19 and urging him to adopt the same precautionary principle to the human health hazard posed by chrysotile (white) asbestos. The authors of the text represent organizations behind the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil 2019 which called on civil society associations, politicians, civil servants, concerned citizens and members of the judiciary to support the universality of the 2017 Supreme Court decision outlawing the production, sale and use of asbestos in face of plans to recommence asbestos mining in Goiás State (Portuguese version of full article). [Read full article]

Mar 30, 2020

In these unprecedented times, populations the world over have been confronted with a terrifying new reality that has unravelled daily routines, reordered national priorities and thrown into disarray virtually every aspect of human life. In the UK, the country with the world’s worst incidence of asbestos cancer, the treatment of patients with mesothelioma – the signature asbestos cancer – as well as other asbestos-related cancers and respiratory diseases was disrupted as hospitals geared up to prepare for the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. Showing a breath-taking ability to adapt to changing circumstances, UK asbestos victim support groups and charities began devising ways to continue serving their communities, some of which are discussed in this article. [Read full article]

Mar 4, 2020

Recent developments in the US suggest that talcs analyzed with transmission electron microscopy can commonly be found to contain asbestos fibers. If so, the use of these products as baby powders and cosmetic powders should be stopped immediately. The long-time failure of government regulators in the US and Europe to protect the public from asbestos in talc consumer products has led to deadly exposures which could and should have been avoided. The recent finding of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder by the US Food and Drug Administration suggests that analysis of products being sold to the public in all countries urgently needs to be done using the electron microscopy method of analysis. [Read full article]

Feb 14, 2020

Groups representing asbestos victims in Brazil and Asia have joined international campaigners to denounce moves by Eternit S.A., formerly Brazil’s largest asbestos conglomerate, to temporarily restart asbestos processing in Goiás State in order to export 24,000 tonnes of asbestos to Asian countries. Commenting on this matter, President Eliezer João de Souza of the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed said: “It is an abomination that Eternit should try and avoid the Supreme Court ban to inflict more toxic fiber on unsuspecting workers and communities in Asia.” Campaigner Sugio Furuya, representing the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, hopes “common sense will prevail and that all exports will be suspended.” (Portuguese version of full article.) [Read full article]

Feb 10, 2020

As a result of a remarkable partnership of asbestos victims, health professionals and civil servants, an asbestos outreach initiative in São Paulo, Brazil celebrated its second anniversary in December 2019. Funds for this pioneering project were sourced from a court fine imposed on Brazil’s former asbestos giant Eternit, S.A. for non-compliance with a legal agreement made with the Federal Public Ministry of Labor (4th Region). Since 2017, the clinic has identified 143 patients with asbestos-related diseases of which 92% were males; 57% had worked for Eternit (in the Osasco plant), 25% for Brasilit, 7% for Precon and 11% for other companies. [Read full article]

Jan 30, 2020

A press release issued on January 30, 2020 by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform called on the French Government to ensure that a former French vessel, which was sold to the Brazilian Navy in 2000 and renamed the São Paulo, is disposed of according to the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements and Disposal of Hazardous Waste and not sold to the highest bidder who would, in all likelihood, scrap the vessel on a South Asian ship-breaking beach. The vessel contains a large amount of hazardous substances including 900 tonnes of asbestos and asbestos-containing material. See also press release issued in September 2019 in which these matters were also highlighted. [Read full article]

Jan 28, 2020

A small victory was achieved on January 24, 2020 in the long-standing battle to get justice for thousands of Italian asbestos victims when a Court in Vercelli in northern Italy ordered that Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, former owner of the Swiss Eternit asbestos group, face charges of voluntary murder (“omicidio volontario”) for the asbestos-related deaths of almost 400 people from the town of Casale Monferrato, the site of an Eternit asbestos-cement factory. The trial was scheduled to begin on November 27, 2020. Legal actions against the same defendant are also being pursued in other Italian jurisdictions over asbestos-related deaths of Eternit employees and local residents. [Read full article]

Global

In the decades spanning the occurrence of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and the Australian Bushfire Crisis of 2020, the release of asbestos fibers has been identified as a post-disaster hazard on multiple occasions. In an interview with IBAS this month (January, 2020), Emeritus Professor Ken Takahashi – formerly a Professor and Director at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan and currently the Director of the (Australian) Asbestos Diseases Research Institute – highlighted areas of concern for affected populations, emergency responders, clean-up crews, Ministers, civil servants and government agencies – calling for a coordinated, long-term approach to the potential health consequences of the fallout from the fires. [Read full article]

Jan 17, 2020

As Pakistan’s Supreme Court considers litigation regarding the legality of asbestos use, a 7 page letter (Jan. 13, 2020) by the Collegium Ramazzini – an international society dedicated to protecting human health – highlighted the significance of the Court’s deliberations and reminded the Judges that: “In January 2013, the Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Resource Development recommended that Pakistan ban the import and use of chrysotile asbestos.” That decision was attacked by the International Chrysotile Association, a body representing the interests of asbestos stakeholders. Evidence submitted in the current case detailed the asbestos policies of international agencies, all of which agree that asbestos should be prohibited to protect health. [Read full article]

Dec 19, 2019

A shortened version of this paper was presented at the annual International Asbestos Safety Conference held by Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency on November 12, 2019 at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Center. The presentation by IBAS Coordinator Laurie Kazan-Allen noted progress made throughout the year in the global struggle for asbestos justice, highlighted ongoing challenges faced by campaigners and detailed the dirty tricks, intimidatory tactics and fake news used by asbestos vested interests to forestall national governments from acting on the asbestos hazard. New maps, bar charts, and illustrations were shown emphasizing the threat to Asian populations of increasing asbestos consumption. [Read full article]

Dec 11, 2019

In the 35 years since an Asbestos Awareness Week was first recognized in Australia, it has become a calendar fixture with asbestos victims’ groups, charities, government agencies and institutions around the country holding information sessions, remembrances ceremonies and outreach events to raise the profile of asbestos during November. Due to the widespread usage of asbestos-containing material in Western Australia, the State has the country’s highest incidence of asbestos diseases. Last month (November), a series of events took place in WA to educate citizens, engage stakeholders and support the injured. This article describes some of those events. [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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USGS Asbestos Trade Data

Fiber Producers (2018)
(tonnes):
   Russia710,000
   Kazakhstan203,000
   China125,000
   Brazil110,000
    
 Top Five Users (2016)
(tonnes):
   India308,000
   China288,000
   Russia234,000
   Brazil120,000
   Indonesia114,000