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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Mar 31, 2020

As payments to Brazilian asbestos victims remained frozen due to financial machinations by Eternit, S.A. – formerly the country’s biggest asbestos conglomerate – the group reported good results for 2019 due to its embrace of asbestos-free technology. During the year, sales of asbestos-free fiber cement tiles grew by 18% a quarter and 24% for the year. A statement released by the company said: “Eternit keeps its focus on optimizing its fiber cement roofing manufacturing process, maintaining margins that ensure the sustainability of the business.” See: Eternit lucra R$ 6,7 milhões no final de 2019 e avança em reviravolta sem Amianto [Eternit profits R$6.7 million at the end of 2019 and advances in an asbestos-free turnaround].

Mar 31, 2020

CONTRAMIANTO, an Italian association representing asbestos victims in the southern Italian town of Taranto, has issued an alert about the high level of risk posed by the Coronavirus to those suffering from asbestos-related cancers and diseases. In their press release, the association explained that the majority of the injured have respiratory problems or immune deficiencies which compromised their ability to fight the virus: “We believe it is essential that specific health recommendations are issued for the ex-asbestos-exposed patients who are certainly fragile and therefore more attackable by the Coronavirus…” See: Covid-19, malati ex esposti amianto più a rischio [Covid-19, asbestos patients at high risk].

Mar 31, 2020

On March 25, the Montana Supreme Court held that a workers compensation insurer was liable for claims from people who had worked at the Grace vermiculite plant in Libby, Montana. The factory was at the center of an epidemic of asbestos-related disease and death caused by the presence of asbestos fiber in the vermiculite ore. In 2017, a Montana Asbestos Claims Court ruled that Maryland Casualty – which had provided Grace with workers compensation insurance from 1963 to 1973 – was liable for damages for workplace-related asbestos injury to Grace workers. The insurer appealed, and the Montana Supreme Court unanimously upheld that ruling. See: Mine Workers’ Asbestos Suit Against Insurer Advanced by Montana High Court.

Mar 26,2020

On March 24, 2020 – the day before Parliament adjourned – a written answer to a question (HL2312) submitted on March 9, by Lord Alton of Liverpool regarding the UK prohibitions on the use, sale and imports of asbestos and asbestos-containing products was provided by Lord Goldsmith, Minister of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In his response (HL2312), Goldsmith wrote: “The Government has no plans to revise these restrictions [as per the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals Regulation] or alter the way asbestos is regulated in the UK.” See: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 24th March 2020.

Mar 26, 2020

A paper published in Journal of Translational Lung Cancer Research, Vol 9, Supplement 1 (February 2020) calling for national asbestos bans was one of 11 submissions in this special issue dedicated to the subject of mesothelioma. Other papers in the supplement covered topics such as disease causation, chemotherapy innovations, immunotherapy developments, surgical interventions, peritoneal mesothelioma and the implications of chromosomal rearrangements in the development of new treatment protocols. See: Epidemiology of mesothelioma in the 21st century in Europe and the United States, 40 years after restricted/banned asbestos use.

Mar 26, 2020

In a somewhat whimsical article, and mindful of the impact of the deadly global pandemic, Greenpeace Canada discussed several suggestions for a new name for the toxic Quebec town where mining and milling operations had exposed generations of workers and residents to the asbestos hazard. The name search led by the Mayor of Asbestos is ongoing with the deadline for submissions March 20, after which a shortlist would be compiled. The suggestions made by Greenpeace were endangered species of the Eastern Townships region including: Bicknell, Lamproie, Listère, Blongios, Chevalier and Apalone. See: Greenpeace Wants to Help the City of Asbestos Change its Toxic Name.

Mar 26, 2020

In mid-March, several US environmental organizations launched a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its alleged violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The litigants asserted that instead of using changes made in 2016 to TSCA to protect the public, the EPA was using them to streamline approval for the new use of potentially dangerous chemicals. It had been hoped that the changes to TSCA would have seen the EPA finally ban the use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products to protect Americans from hazardous exposures which could cause deadly cancers and respiratory diseases. This did not happen. See: Trump’s EPA is being sued for hiding information about new chemicals.

Mar 23, 3030

Global Justice Now, a UK NGO, has raised concerns about the potential health hazards posed by a UK–US trade deal highlighting the lower safety standards for cosmetic products in the US. Tests by the US Food and Drug (FDA) Administration in 2019 and 2020 revealed asbestos contamination of several cosmetic products, including makeup targeted at children. Most recently, on March 9, 2020, the FDA revealed findings of the presence of asbestos fibers in cosmetics (see FDA report on cosmetics tested for asbestos).
See: US trade deal ‘could flood Britain with toxic cosmetics.

Mar 23, 2020

A Russian language article about modern architecture, green construction and ecological solutions to construction challenges stated that: “The concept of ‘green’ is not limited to a certain landscaping of local territories and building facades. It is also about quality and compliance with environmentally friendly building materials. A striking example is asbestos, which was used in mass construction, and is now completely banned in the construction of buildings.” See: Мегаполисам прописали сертификацию. Города скоро будут генерировать половину выбросов парниковых газов [Prescribed certification for megacities. Cities will soon generate half greenhouse gas emissions].

Mar 23, 2020

Up to 15% of all the cases of lung cancer in Spain are caused by exposure to asbestos contained in products incorporated within the country’s infrastructure, according to a recently issued report by the College of Surveyors, Technical Architects and Building Engineers of Barcelona (Collegi d'Aparelladors, Arquitectes Tècnics i Enginyers d'Edificació de Barcelona). During the 20th century, consumption of asbestos in Spain totalled 2.6 million tonnes. See: El amianto presente en materiales como el fibrocemento causa entre un 10 y un 15% de los cánceres de pulmón [Asbestos present in materials such as fiber cement causes between 10 and 15% of lung cancers].

Mar 23, 2020

A scurrilous article on a Russian website attacked the presidential campaign of Joe Biden claiming his supporters included firms that made billions from lawsuits against defendants including Johnson & Johnson, the administration of New York City and others. The article, which named the firm of Weitz & Luxenberg that “boasts on its website that its lawyers have won about $8.5 billion in asbestos cases,” concluded that: “Biden is supported by people with a very dubious reputation… the Democrats always had connections with the anti-asbestos lobby in the United States, but now the evidence has surfaced ...” See: Джо Байдена в президентской гонке спонсируют юристы, связанные с антиасбестовой кампанией [Joe Biden sponsored by anti-asbestos campaign lawyers in presidential race].

Mar 20, 2020

In the 3rd episode of a BBC series entitled: Beauty Laid Bare, the harmful ingredients found in everyday items used by teenagers taking part in the program were revealed; the presence of asbestos fibers in goods sold by mainstream manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson, Claire’s Accessories and MUA came as a shock to the youngsters. US scientist and whistle blower Sean Fitzgerald explained the test results of products used by the teenagers, who were baffled about the failure of oversight by U.S. government agencies to prevent the marketing and sale of contaminated goods to members of the public. See: Beauty Laid Bare, Series 1: 3: The Ingredients.

Mar 20, 2020

An article by Assoc. Prof. Dr Warren Thomas – who cites his membership of Ireland’s Royal College of Surgeons and is currently working at Malaysia’s Perdana University (see: Professor Warren Thomas’ profile) – downplays the health hazard posed by human exposures to chrysotile (white) asbestos stating: “there remains some uncertainty over the health risks associated with white (chrysotile) asbestos.” As the subjects taught by Thomas are: Cardiovascular Physiology, Endocrinology, Renal Physiology and Neurophysiology, one wonders what motivated him to offer himself as an expert on this subject? See: Asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer years later.

Mar 20, 2020

On March 17, Social Court 1 of Cáceres, in western central Spain ruled that long-term asbestos exposure had caused the pulmonary fibrosis of a retired worker. From 1969 until 1982, he had been employed in a factory owned by Productos Aislantes SA which manufactured bakelite products containing between 7 and 16% asbestos; as a result of workplace exposures, the claimant had contracted pulmonary interstitial fibrosis with fibrosing lung lesions that resulted in alterations in pulmonary diffusion and required portable oxygen therapy. See: Un juzgado falla que la exposición al amianto es la causa de la fibrosis pulmonar de una trabajadora [Court finds that exposure to asbestos is the cause of worker's pulmonary fibrosis].

Mar 18, 2020

A paper uploaded by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine on March 16, 2020 reviewed the cases of 75 people with mesothelioma whose only asbestos exposures were repeated exposures to cosmetic talcum powder. After extensive questioning, pathological testing, medical examinations and other procedures, the authors concluded that: “Mesotheliomas can develop following exposures to cosmetic talcum powders. These appear to be attributable to the presence of anthophyllite and tremolite contaminants in cosmetic talcum powder.” Due to the deadly nature of mesothelioma, it was suggested that: cosmetic talcs be withdrawn from the market as nontoxic alternatives are available. See: Malignant mesothelioma following repeated exposures to cosmetic talc: A case series of 75 patients.

Mar 18, 2020

A pro-asbestos Russian diatribe masquerading as a light-hearted romp through the history of chrysotile (white) asbestos cited uses of the substance in devices for tanks and machine guns, covers for books by Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, protective clothing for firefighters and building material. It refuted anti-asbestos rhetoric as unfounded and unscientific, asserting that: “The most enduring and widespread myth of asbestos is its harm to human health… [and that] chrysotile asbestos mined in Russia is a safe material when used under controlled conditions.” See: Легендарный асбест: мифы, курьезы и правда о «горном льне» [Legendary asbestos: myths, funny things and the truth about “mountain flax”].

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]

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]

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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