International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Jan 20, 2020

Data on asbestos-related diseases is extremely limited in Indonesia, a country where asbestos-containing products remain a popular choice for consumers. A collaborative study by Indonesian and international researchers investigated the risk of contracting lung cancer from occupational exposure to asbestos and found a “significant association between the duration of asbestos exposure... and the risk of lung cancer.” The co-authors of this paper also found a “positive additive and multiplicative interaction between smoking and asbestos [exposure]...[and] that the chance of getting lung cancer more than doubled among exposed subjects compared with unexposed subjects.” See: Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer: A Hospital-Based Case-Control Study in Indonesia.

Jan 20, 2020

A Russian website has translated and uploaded a Danish article analysing the attraction of living in the Russian town of Asbest (Asbestos). Despite the fact that asbestos is a carcinogen responsible for thousands of deaths every year, local people still have strong ties to the city and a desire to follow family members into the asbestos industry. The reporter quoted spokesmen who said the city was a “victim of the hysterical anti-asbestos lobby… In Asbest, it is widely believed that the asbestos ban is part of an international conspiracy invented in Europe to give an advantage to the production of other materials competing with asbestos.” See: Jyllands-Posten (Дания): здесь люди живут благодаря асбесту [Jyllands-Posten (Denmark): people live here thanks to asbestos].

Jan 20, 2020

Advice from an expert panel convened by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have, according to one legal expert: “shot several of J&J’s (Johnson & Johnson’s) defenses out of the water.” The panel endorsed asbestos testing standards for cosmetics that recommended that small mineral particles found in talc should be counted as potentially harmful, even if they were not asbestos, on the grounds that both were suspected of causing similar pathological reactions. The new recommendations will be discussed in February at the first FDA hearing on analytical methods for testing asbestos in cosmetics and talc since 1971. See: Government experts urge new talc testing standards amid asbestos worries.

Jan 20, 2020

With 40,000 asbestos deaths in Spain to date, people living with these diseases have routinely been denied compensation via a hostile legal climate. Calls by a number of groups representing the victims have highlighted the vacuum which exists and demanded that a national compensation scheme be established to expedite compensation for the injured, many of whom were routinely exposed to asbestos at work by companies such as Uralita, formerly Spain’s largest asbestos-cement manufacturer. It has been estimated that 1,900 people die from asbestos-related diseases in Spain every year. See: Las víctimas del amianto luchan contra la burocracia que frena sus compensaciones [Asbestos victims fight the bureaucracy that stops their compensation].

Jan 17, 2020

An article uploaded to the website of the Moscow Post on January 14, 2020, highlighted the deplorable living and working conditions for the population of the Russian asbestos mining town “Asbestos,” saying: “there are no healthy children in the city… [and], there are a lot of cancer patients.” In 2012, the cancer incidence in the city at 493 cases per 100,000 people was the highest in the Sverdlovsk Region; in 2015, this figure had risen to 572 and there was a mortality rate of 292 cases per 100,000 – the average regional rate was 218. See: “Дорожная карта” Шмотьева в “обход” закона? [“Shmotiev's Roadmap” to “circumvent” the law?].

Jan 17, 2020

A laboratory analysis of eye shadow contained in a children’s make-up kit sold under the brand name Princess Girl’s All-in-One Deluxe Makeup Palette found more than 4 million asbestos fiber structures per gram. The tests were commissioned by the Washington D.C. based non-profit organization: Environmental Working Group (EWG). Commenting on these findings, an EWG spokesperson called on all US retailers including online outlets to recall these products and said: “Taking steps to safeguard children from exposure to one of the deadliest carcinogens in the world should always come before profits.” See: Alert: Tests Find High Levels of Asbestos in Children’s Makeup Kits.

Jan 17, 2020

Tests conducted on 148 workers, former and retired workers from a factory in Bogotá, Colombia which used chrysotile asbestos in the manufacture of friction products, revealed that 19 had changes in their X-rays consistent with exposure to asbestos; in most of those examined, pulmonary function had not altered. Most of the workers who developed disease did so within 20 years of their first exposure. The researchers concluded that asbestos disease was “clearly present among Colombian factory workers…” See: Radiographic Changes in Colombian Asbestos Factory Workers.

Jan 17, 2020

A citizens’ lobbying group – Movimento Escolas Sem Amianto (MESA) [Schools Without Asbestos] – set up in Portugal at the end of 2019 has identified 102 schools contaminated with asbestos. The group is calling for action to protect the health of both students and staff as part of a phased program which (1) prioritizes work on friable or degrading asbestos-containing products and (2) is accomplished through the use of state-of-the-art equipment and according to the highest safety protocols. Complaints made by MESA to the General Directorate of School Establishments have, to date, received no response. See: 102 schools with asbestos structures documented.

Jan 16, 2020

This week Australia’s Master Builders Association (MBA) raised concerns about the threat posed by asbestos liberated by bushfires in New South Wales and Victoria with Prime Minister Scott Morrison during round-table discussions. MBA’s main preoccupation was ensuring that people were provided with appropriate safety information in order to minimize hazardous exposures during clean-up operations. MBA chief executive Denita Wawn said: “Our concern is making sure that if people are doing their own clearing, they are taking appropriate asbestos safety precautions [and]… that people in those locations are made aware of those risks when they start to do their site clearance.” See: Bushfires: communities face asbestos threat as clean-up begins.

Jan 16, 2020

Local authorities in Nakuru – a major city in Kenya, northwest of Nairobi – have begun a remediation program to remove asbestos roofing due to concerns over the hazard it posed to public health. At a recent press conference, County Public Health Officer Samuel King’ori reaffirmed the risk of asbestos exposures and announced that work would be undertaken first on public buildings such as hospitals and afterwards on residential buildings. King’ori confirmed that material removed would be treated as hazardous and be dealt with according to guidelines set by the National Environmental Management Authority. See: Nakuru County Set To Get Rid Of Asbestos Roofs.

Jan 13, 2020

Glasgow City Council has turned down an application from the renowned charity Action on Asbestos – formerly called Clydeside Action on Asbestos – due to an administrative error. Once this mistake was spotted, the charity sent the appropriate document to the Council and resubmitted the application but by then the decision had been made. The £50,000 grant which had been awarded in previous years had been the only source of public funding for this organization which had supported asbestos victims not only in Glasgow but throughout Scotland for over thirty years. See: Glasgow asbestos charity fears for future after council refuses to consider its funding application.

Jan 10, 2020

The Supreme Court of Brazil (STF) has announced that it will issue a decision regarding the constitutionality of a law adopted by the State of Goiás which, contrary to a STF 2017 ruling banning asbestos, allowed asbestos to be mined, processed, sold and exported from the SAMA chrysotile asbestos mine in Goiás. Despite the life and death issues involved, the STF’s Minister Alexandre de Moraes has scheduled proceedings to be virtual with no oral submissions. The decision of the court will not be announced in public but will be available only once the decision is published. See: vai julgar virtualmente lei goiana para proteger indústria [STF will judge Goiás law virtually to protect asbestos industry].

Jan 10, 2020

On January 8, 2020 a workshop entitled “The Environment and Health: Toxicity of Chrysotile (Asbestos) in Fibro Cement Roofing” was held at the Institute of Natural Resources, Environment and Community Development in Hanoi. The objective of this event was to provide updated and independent information regarding the hazard posed by the use of asbestos – a substance not yet banned in Vietnam – to inform the national asbestos dialogue and help progress ongoing efforts to implement a national asbestos ban. Although Vietnam has developed a roadmap to cease asbestos use by 2023, lobbyists are trying to derail efforts to protect the population from avoidable toxic exposures. See: Bàn giải pháp ngừng sử dụng Amiăng trắng ở Việt Nam [Table of solutions to stop using chrysotile in Vietnam].

Jan 10, 2020

An online article describes the decades-long campaign by activist Raghunath Manwar to support workers in India, in particular those injured by occupational exposures to asbestos. Through his work establishing the NGO Occupational Health and Safety Association, the septuagenarian raised awareness regarding exposure to workplace toxins and assisted those affected to claim compensation and access medical care. In this quest for justice, Manwar confronted government bodies, powerful corporations and vested interests pursuing restitution via the courts as well as media outlets. See: Asbestos Poisoning: Raghunath Manwar’s Fight for Safer Work Conditions.

Jan 10, 2020

On January 9, 2020, a public meeting organized by a municipal council took place to consider proposals to change the name of an infamous mining town which has, for decades, been known by the name of the substance it produced: “Asbestos.” According to an article published this week, even Bernard Coulombe – who had worked at the Jeffrey Asbestos Mine for 40+ years and was extremely vocal in the pro-asbestos lobby – has accepted the need to change the town’s name to build a more positive future for residents. See: Asbestos: assemblée publique jeudi soir sur le changement de nom de la ville [Asbestos: public meeting Thursday evening on the name change of the city].

Jan 10, 2020

The text referenced below is a commentary on recent revelations regarding the corruption of medical ethics by people employed by or with links to the Brazilian asbestos mining company SAMA, a subsidiary of the Eternit Group. The author highlights how SAMA doctors discredited reports from independent doctors who had diagnosed SAMA workers with asbestos-related diseases. Controversial practices of SAMA medical board members – physicians Mario Terra Filho, Luiz Eduardo Nery and Ericson Bagatin – were also discussed including the board’s nearly universal failure to accept asbestos exposure as the cause of any occupational illness. See: O que a indústria do amianto tenta esconder [What the asbestos industry tries to hide].

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]

Oct 21, 2019

Decades after it was created, the work entitled Asbestos: The Lungs of Capitalism (1978) was being readied for installation by staff at the Tate. On October 16, 2019, British-born artist Conrad Atkinson was in London to supervise the installation of this piece acquired by the museum in 2007. The fact that the constituent parts included asbestos necessitated both remediation and conservation work; as per health and safety regulations, some of the elements were sealed in Perspex boxes to make the asbestos items safe to handle. This article discussed the impact this work made on the author and urged the Tate – in light of an ongoing asbestos epidemic killing 5,000 Britons every year – to ensure that it be exhibited at the earliest possible opportunity. [Read full article]

Oct 2, 2019

In Minas Gerais, the Brazilian state with the country’s highest incidence of the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma, a remarkable grassroots initiative took place last week. A mobile CT scanner and medical personnel from the Barretos Cancer Hospital, Belo Horizonte State arrived in the city of São José da Lapa on September 22, 2019 to examine former and current employees of the Precon company – formerly a manufacturer of asbestos-cement building products – and other asbestos-using companies. Precon had consistently denied the potential hazard posed to workers by exposures to asbestos and the municipal authorities have turned a blind eye to the town’s high incidence of asbestos cancer. [Read full article]

Sep 27, 2019

A letter to the Brazilian Minister of Defence sent by campaigning groups based in Brazil, Europe and North America called for action to prevent the sale of the aircraft carrier São Paulo to scrap dealers likely to send the ship for dismantling to the unregulated beaches of South Asia; the presence on-board of pollutants including asbestos, heavy metals and oil residues was cited. Under the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movements and Disposal of Hazardous Waste, which Brazil has signed, sending this vessel to another country without first removing the toxic substances is illegal. The São Paulo’s sister ship, the Clemenceau, was sent to India from France for scrapping; after worldwide protests, the ship was returned to France. In 2009, it was safely dismantled in Hartlepool, UK (Portuguese version of full article). [Read full article]

Sep 27, 2019

A shortened version of this paper was presented on September 25, 2019 at a meeting of the British Occupational Health Society’s London, South and South East Region Asbestos Seminar which was held in central London. From her perspective as the former editor of the British Asbestos Newsletter and Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, the author highlighted the changes she had witnessed during the 30 years that she had campaigned for asbestos justice at home and abroad and highlighted the work of four global changemakers: Dr. Irving Selikoff (US), Dr. Nancy Tait (UK), Fernanda Giannasi (Brazil) and Sugio Furuya (Japan). [Read full article]

Aug 22, 2019

In light of a Brazilian Supreme Court decision expected on September 4, 2019 regarding a request for the recommencement of asbestos mining operations to produce fiber for export purposes, representatives of Brazilian and international groups have issued an appeal to Ministers urging that they uphold the historic 2017 decision declaring the commercialization of asbestos unconstitutional throughout the country. The text of the letter – which is supported by groups that were part of the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil 2019 – implored the Supreme Court Justices to “uphold the right of all humanity to live a life free from deadly exposures to asbestos.” [Read full article]

Aug 19, 2019

A Brazilian PhD dissertation by Dr. A.P. Amaral published this year (2019) explored in depth what a Brazilian Commission had reported in 2010 about the dangerous conditions in which asbestos workers toiled with a focus on the situation in the town of Minaçu, home to the country’s sole remaining chrysotile asbestos mine. The brief article about this thesis highlighted the isolation and deprivation experienced by victims and their families who received neither support nor acknowledgement of the occupational nature of the illnesses contracted. In a town where the asbestos discourse was dictated by those with vested interests in the survival of the industry, the injured were marginalized and silenced by the overpowering forces against them. [Read full article]

Aug 16, 2019

On August 13, 2019, a media release was issued at the conclusion of an asbestos workshop in Vientiane, the capital of Laos; the event was hosted by the Lao National Assembly’s Committee of Social Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Health and is a manifestation of the growing concern for public and occupational health caused by high levels of asbestos use in the country (as exemplified in the: Lao National Strategy for Elimination of Asbestos-related Diseases). Presentations by international experts including representatives of the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization, the (Australian) Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and specialists from Vietnam, Korea and Japan were of great interest to delegates. [Read full article]

Aug 2, 2019

A judgment handed down by the Supreme Court on July 29, 2019 is being hailed as a landmark in the British fight for “transparency of the legal process”; while the civil case initiated by Graham Dring in 2017 on behalf of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (the Forum) sought disclosure of documentation to a non-party to asbestos litigation, the precedent it set could almost certainly be used by concerned citizens or journalists to access court documents in other cases. The unanimous verdict of the Court in Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Dring (for and on behalf of Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK) upheld the principle of public access based on the constitutional principle of open justice. [Read full article]

Jul 25, 2019

The list of participants to the meetings of the United Nations’ Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions 2019 uploaded on July 12, 2019 makes interesting reading. An examination of details provided about attendees at the sessions revealed the names of 12 asbestos lobbyists and others working for organizations known to be involved in protecting sales of chrysotile (white) asbestos. Organizations they represented included: the International Chrysotile Association (Canada), the Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers' Association (India), Confederation of Employers of Kazakhstan, International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile” (Russia) and Vietnam National Roof Sheet Association. [Read full article]

Jul 16, 2019

On Friday, July 5, 2019 events were held on Action Mesothelioma Day (AMD) in England, Scotland and Wales to remember those who had been lost to mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, and other asbestos-related diseases. Under bright blue skies, butterflies and doves were released, poems were read, presentations were made and music was enjoyed as people found solace in the fellowship and camaraderie provided by the events organized by asbestos support groups and asbestos charities in outdoor spaces, town halls, churches and meeting rooms. After more than a decade, the calendar fixture of AMD has become a beacon of hope not just for the asbestos bereaved but for their friends, colleagues and communities. [Read full article]

Jul 12, 2019

On July 11, 2019, the Colombian President signed into law asbestos prohibitions endorsed by Congress in a frantic rush to beat the June 20, 2019 summer adjournment after which all proposed legislation would have been vacated. The ban, which prohibited not only the mining, commercialization and distribution of all types of asbestos also banned the export of asbestos. This is the first time that asbestos prohibitions have been approved by a legislature in an asbestos mining country; in 2017, the Brazilian Supreme Court, in the face of continuing federal support for the asbestos industry, declared the commercial exploitation of asbestos unconstitutional. The new Colombian law will take effect on January 1, 2021 and permits a 5 year transition period for companies currently using asbestos. [Read full article]

Jul 3, 2019

This timely commentary by occupational health, safety and environmental campaigner Mick Holder reflects on news about the economic, social and medical repercussions of decades of asbestos mining in Brazil in light of the trip he made to the town of Minaçu some years ago when an international delegation “met with the workers and union reps at the mine who were incredibly hospitable and very, very friendly, even though they knew I and others in the delegation wanted an end to this global killer industry…” Mick is scathing about government and commercial interests which “had made enough money out of the industry to ensure a just transition from working in a killer industry to being employed in a safer and healthier one with no loss of social benefit.” [Read full article]

Jun 26, 2019

For the sixth year running, the Asbestos Interest Group from Kuruman in the Northern Cape marked South Africa’s Youth Day with an event to raise asbestos awareness amongst primary and middle school students in John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipalities in one of the country’s former asbestos-producing regions. Children from 12 local schools were brought together at Maipeing Primary School to take part in a day of learning and socializing. The culmination of the day’s activities was a presentation by each team of art work demonstrating their understanding of the asbestos hazard at the end of which prizes were awarded. [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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