International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Aug 1, 2015

On Friday (July 30) it was announced by a spokesman for Zurich Public Transport (ZPT) that during a general inspection to enhance security, asbestos had been found in the “tram 2000 series” used in the city’s transport network. The 160 contaminated vehicles, which were manufactured between 1976 and 1990, constitute 23% of ZPT’s 700 cars. Having given assurances that workers and passengers were safe, ZPT said that decontamination of the vehicles will begin by the end of the Summer; until then, the affected units will remain in service. See: Zurich: de l'amiante dans des vieux trams [Zurich: asbestos in old trams].

Aug 1, 2015

During a routine maintenance inspection on an industrial blast furnace in the town of Florange in north-eastern France, Laurent Longuez discovered asbestos contamination. Upon identifying the presence of the hazardous material on July 20, he asked for protective equipment; his request was denied and work continued for a further two days. Finally at noon on July 22, the company – Arcelor Mittal, “the world’s leading integrated steel and mining company,” – evacuated the site and began decontamination work. See: Découverte d’amiante sur le site des hauts-fourneaux de Florange [Discovery of asbestos in the blast furnace site Florange].

Jul 31, 2015

As a press conference on July 30, the (Mauritius) Minister of Housing Showkutally Soodhun committed his government to a program for the removal of asbestos from the country’s housing infrastructure. Information the Minister presented quantified the hazard: of 3,113 houses in 59 locations built with asbestos, only 665 (21%) had been remediated. The Government has allocated the sum of $12.5 million for this program. Welcoming the news, opposition politicians called for a schedule for the completion of the works. See: Soodhun: Rs 443 millions pour la réhabilitation des maisons de la NHDC [Soodhun: Rs 443 million for rehabilitation of houses NHDC].

Jul 31, 2015

After the 2012 asbestos scandal involving Chinese cars, Australian consumers are opting for vehicles from other countries according to an article released today. Before asbestos engine components were discovered in Chinese cars exported to Australia by Great Wall Motors, more than 12,000 Chinese cars had been purchased that year. Of the 1.1 million new vehicles bought by Australians in 2014, only 4,200 were made in China. Asbestos and asbestos containing-products have been banned in Australia since 2003. See: Haval stalls as Chinese car sales evaporate in Australia.

Jul 30, 2015

On July 29, a bipartisan bill was introduced to the U.S. Congress called the “Mary Jo Lawyer-Spano Mesothelioma Patient Registry Act of 2015” which would establish the country’s first mesothelioma registry; the data collected would be of use to mesothelioma researchers and clinicians. This draft legislation is the result of lobbying efforts spearheaded by members of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation who met with their Congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. in March 2015. See: ACTION ALERT: Mesothelioma Bill in Congress for Patient Registry.

Jul 30, 2015

As governments in Cardiff and London argue over who is responsible for the deadly asbestos contamination of Welsh schools, children and their teachers continue to experience daily exposures to a known carcinogen. The BBC has today published an article reporting on the repercussions of these exposures and the efforts by campaigners to lobby the Welsh authorities to “take responsibility” for a hazardous situation which appears lost in a devolutionary morass. According to research by the BBC, 1,514 Welsh schools (85%) contain asbestos products. See: Take lead on asbestos in schools, Welsh government told.

Jul 29, 2015

The U.S. capital’s transport agency (Metro) is tackling the fallout from the discovery of asbestos-contamination of 280 passenger cars. The hazard is cited in a Metro tender document dated July 23, 2015 which calls for quotes for the removal of “asbestos from 1000 series railcars.” The asbestos is at the front of each of the cars in “the heater box behind the evaporator.” Railway personnel, union officials and passengers in Washington D.C. are anxious about potential exposures to the asbestos in these 40-year old vehicles. See: Hundreds of Metro Cars Contain Asbestos, Documents Show.

Jul 29, 2015

On July 28, a French industrial tribunal ordered the Alstom company to pay 54 former factory workers the sum of €5,000 each plus €500 in litigation costs for negligently exposing them to asbestos as a result of which they are suffering from a fear of developing serious diseases. In 2000, a former manager of the plant was also fined by a criminal court for exposing employees to asbestos. It is believed that from the 1970s until it closed in 2006, thousands of people had been employed at the factory. See: Amiante: Alstom condamné à verser 5 000 euros à 54 ex-salariés [Asbestos: Alstom ordered to pay 5,000 euros to 54 former employees].

Jul 29, 2015

On July 24, Lord Uist of the Court of Sessions issued judgment in a case brought by David Boyd against three defendants over personal injuries sustained as a result of occupational asbestos exposure. After reaching an extra judicial settlement which allowed Mr. Boyd to return to court should he contract diffuse pleural thickening, lung cancer or mesothelioma, one of the defendants sought the right to demand proof of liability should that occur. The judge ruled that an offer by a defendant to settle a case by way of a payment of provisional damages carried with it an admission of liability. See: Judgment in David Boyd v Gates Ltd., Scottish Agricultural Industries Ltd, National Grid Gas PLC.

Jul 27, 2015

Eliezer John de Souza and Amauri Lima representing the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) met with Osasco Councilman Aluisio Pinheiro to lobby the municipal authorities for support in constructing a memorial to the town’s asbestos victims, many of whom were employed in Osasco by the Lonaflex company to produce brake pads and by Eternit S.A. to manufacture asbestos-cement building products at the largest such plant in Latin Ameria. Speaking to the press, Councilman Pinheiro welcomed the proposal, saying he felt that Mayor Jorge Lapas would embrace this idea. See: Vitímas do Amianto pedem ajuda a vereador [Asbestos Victims Asking for Political Support].

Jul 25, 2015

The publication in Montreal of a contentious report entitled “Lessons from the Quebec Asbestos Industry: Can there be meaningful dialogue and consensus when facts come up against feelings?” by Concordia University has led to calls from eleven doctors and scientists (see: letter to Concordia President Alan Shephard) for the document’s retraction because of “gross inaccuracies and bias and because it promotes the global asbestos trade, which the medical and scientific community have condemned as morally indefensible.” See: Concordia défend l’amiante [Concordia defends asbestos].

Jul 25, 2015

Asbestos victims reacted angrily after a Turin Court deferred judgment in a case against billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny (see: Italian Asbestos Verdict Due on Friday!) A bereaved husband from Casale Monferrato criticized this “farce” as a delaying tactic while Bruno Pesce, from an asbestos victims’ group, said “If the Constitutional Court were to agree with the defense, it would be incomprehensible that one can cancel a murder trial because there has already been a trial for [environmental] disaster.” See: Le dossier de Schmidheiny renvoyé à la Cour constitutionnelle [Schmidheiny Case Sent Back to Constitutional Court].

Jul 25, 2015

At a press conference on July 24, the Minister of Health of Mauritius Anil Gayan gave assurances that there were no plans to allow the import of asbestos products into the country despite a recent decision by the Ministry of Commerce to allow the import of asbestos goods to recommence. That decision had led to a protest in front of the Ministry of Commerce headquarters in Port Louis, the capital of the country, last month by members of a labor confederation. According to news reports, the import of asbestos-containing products had been banned since 1999. See: Anil Gayan – “Aucune possibilité d’importer de l’amiante” [Anil Gayan: “No option to import asbestos”].

Jul 24, 2015

UK asbestos victims have welcomed the majority decision of July 22, 2015 of the Supreme Court in the case of Coventry and Others v Lawrence and Another regarding the recovery of litigation costs such as success fees and after-the-event insurance premiums. The Court agreed that provisions of the Access of Justice Act 1999 did not constitute a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and highlighted the flaws in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) which curtailed access to justice.” See: Supreme Court finds conditional fee agreements in line with human rights treaty.

Jul 21, 2015

Research amongst a cohort of 4,427 asbestos-exposed former shipbreaking workers from Taiwan has documented an elevated incidence of overall cancer, oesophagus cancer, liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer, trachea, bronchus, and lung cancer. The researchers stated that “overall cancer, esophagus cancer, and trachea, bronchus, and lung cancer were seen in a dose-dependent relationship with asbestos exposure” and urged that a surveillance program be set up to monitor the health of asbestos-exposed workers to enable early detection and treatment to take place. See: Cancer Attributable to Asbestos Exposure in Shipbreaking Workers: A Matched-Cohort Study.

Jul 27, 2015

In light of recent revelations by US campaigners of the discovery of asbestos contamination in crayons and fingerprinting kits, UK groups are urging government bodies to prioritize the threat posed by asbestos in imported goods. A spokesman for the Forum of Asbestos Victims’ Support Groups highlights the need for the monitoring of imports while campaigner Laurie Kazan-Allen calls for prison sentences for importers and distributors of toxic products in a media release issued today. Members of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee recommend a national campaign to raise public awareness about the asbestos hazards in schools and homes. [Read full article]

Jul 20, 2015

On July 24, 2015, Judge Federica Bompieri will hand down an eagerly awaited decision to a court in Turin, Italy. She will decide whether or not to comply with a request from Public Prosecutors for a new criminal trial against asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny. Although Schmidheiny had been found guilty by lower courts of causing a permanent environmental disaster as a result of which thousands of Italians died, these verdicts were overturned by the Italian Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) in November 2014 due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. In the new case, the defendant is facing charges of manslaughter, a crime for which there is no statute of limitations. [Read full article]

Jul 9, 2015

As bright sunshine blanketed the UK on July 3, 2015, asbestos victims’ support groups around the country highlighted the consequences of a silent epidemic which is taking up to 5,000 lives every year. During the 21st century, tens of thousands of people have died from mesothelioma, one type of asbestos cancer; unfortunately, the UK has the highest age-adjusted mesothelioma mortality in the world. People representing the asbestos dead took part in public rallies, conferences, information sessions and memorial services on July 3 – Action Mesothelioma Day – to make manifest the nationwide scale of the country’s asbestos catastrophe. [Read full article]

Jul 7, 2015

A consortium of asbestos experts and researchers have published the 30-page Turkey Asbestos Control Strategic Plan Final Report which contains details of the objectives, targets, scope and implementation of measures to assess environmental and occupational asbestos hazards in rural communities where naturally occurring contamination endangers many residents; between 2008 and 2012, 5617 cases of mesothelioma were reported. Asbestos is considered by the researchers as “one of the most important public health problems of Turkey.” The Plan outlines a rehabilitation program which identifies areas of risk and proposes measures to remediate affected locales and eliminate the asbestos risk. [Read full article]

Jul 1, 2015

On South Africa’s Youth Day (June 16, 2015), a community asbestos outreach program in the former asbestos mining town of Kuruman brought together dozens of primary and secondary school children as well as school staff members to take part in an Asbestos Awareness Workshop. The day’s events were organized by the Asbestos Interest Group to: raise asbestos awareness amongst students; alert school managers to the hazards posed by asbestos-containing products and contamination in and around schools; educate participants on the region’s asbestos history, the types of asbestos-related diseases and measures for preventing hazardous exposures. [Read full article]

Jun 28, 2015

Activities this week in the Flemish town of Kapelle-op-den-Bos represented a paradigm shift not only in the capacity of local people to impact on the asbestos disaster which has befallen their town but also on the political attitude of the municipal authorities. Kapelle asbestos victims and family members working with ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims, organized a series of “first-ever” events on June 23 to highlight the ongoing effects of decades of asbestos-cement production at the Eternit factories in their town. The following day, ABEVA President Eric Jonckheere was one of eighteen speakers to address a joint EU asbestos hearing. [Read full article]

Jun 22, 2015

History will be made this week, when asbestos victims from a small Belgian town – Kapelle-op-den-Bos – spearhead the first public protest against Eternit in their home town. The local activists are welcoming a delegation of asbestos victims, trade unionists, campaigners and experts for a series of events on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Representatives from Europe and Australia will join Kapelle residents at a vigil in front of the former Eternit factory before laying a floral tribute at the local cemetery. A meeting with Kapelle’s Mayor Edward DeWitt will provide the opportunity for them to learn more about how the municipality is dealing with its dreadful asbestos legacy. [Read full article]

June 19, 2015

This critique of the 2014 HSE “Beware Asbestos” Web App by independent asbestos consultant and trainer Paul Beaumont reports on the workings of and reaction to a government scheme designed to identify asbestos-related tasks that can be carried out without an HSE Asbestos Licence and provide procedures for such work to be accomplished safely. Aimed at hard-to-reach groups such as sole tradespeople and small contractors, the app has been both welcomed and criticized by asbestos professionals, groups and individuals, some of whom felt it encouraged insufficiently skilled workers to undertake hazardous activities. [Read full article]

Jun 11, 2015

It was announced this week (June 8) that the late Mrs. Carol Klintfalt, a veteran and committed asbestos campaigner, had been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Having been diagnosed with the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma in 2006, Mrs. Klintfalt dedicated the remainder of her life to the campaign to raise awareness of the deadly hazard which is taking so many lives in Australia every year. See (photo) Victoria Keena (ADRI), Carol Klintfalt, Bertil Klintfalt and Professor Nico van Zandwijk (ADRI) at the launch of Betty the ADRI House in 2012. [Read full article]

Jun 9, 2015

The fact that the walls of the Palace of Westminster are “packed with asbestos” is no secret. Despite Parliament’s Asbestos Management Plan, dangerous incidents occur with an alarming frequency. It was reported in The Sunday Times this week that the latest occurred in mid-May 2015 when asbestos fibers contaminated the House of Commons chamber via an “air ventilation system.” Whilst “crisis talks” over the asbestos emergency took place amongst senior officials and parliamentary officials, most MPs, staff members and civil servants were left in the dark. In the country with the world’s highest incidence of asbestos cancer, there is every reason to be concerned about the impact of these exposures. [Read full article]

Jun 1, 2015

Two events which took place last month revealed different aspects of society's struggle with an unfolding tragedy. In the week before UN delegates gathered in Geneva to progress efforts to impose some regulation on the global asbestos trade, asbestos cancer sufferers got together at the monthly meeting of the Papworth Mesothelioma Support Group. As the UK victims know, there is no such thing as safe exposure to asbestos, despite the protestations of the asbestos industry. As a result of the shameful and shameless behaviour by commercial and government asbestos stakeholders in Geneva, the sale of asbestos continues unfettered and unregulated. [Read full article]

May 27, 2015

More than two years of discussions will come to fruition on June 24, 2015, when the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions will host a hearing on asbestos issues in the European Parliament under the title of “Freeing Europe Safely from Asbestos.” Civil society groups representing asbestos victims, trade unions and campaigning bodies have today issued a press release welcoming this initiative and highlighting the subjects to be covered. With 15,000 lives being lost in Europe every year to asbestos-related diseases, urgent coordinated action is required not only in EU member States but in neighboring countries to prevent further deaths and contamination. [Read full article]

May 15, 2015

In this press release, issued by civil society groups at the end of the 2015 meeting of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, “grave alarm” is expressed over the hijacking of the UN process by asbestos industry vested interests. The fact that just four countries were able to override the wish of 150+ delegations which wanted to secure environmental and health protections from the known risk of exposure to chrysotile asbestos was a damning indictment not only of the commercial forces at work but also the Convention’s procedural flaws. [Read full article]

May 13, 2015

Too often at meetings of international organizations, the bureaucratic process takes over and the human impact of decisions taken or not taken is ignored. The presence in Geneva this week of an asbestosis sufferer from Bombay has introduced a much-needed element into the proceedings of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention. The activities of Sharad Vittnal Sawant including his participation in a trade union ban asbestos rally, intervention during a plenary session and presentation to an asbestos side event are considered within a discussion of developments on May 12-13, 2015. [Read full article]

May 12, 2015

The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat calls on delegates to the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention (RC) to ignore spurious objections from vested interests and take action on chrysotile asbestos. National representatives are considering recommendations to list chrysotile asbestos on Annex III; inclusion of chrysotile would ensure that countries are given information about the asbestos hazard prior to importing fiber or products containing it. Failure to list chrysotile will not only endanger millions of people, but will do irreparable harm to the Rotterdam Convention. If the Convention is to fulfil its obligations, all Parties must support the listing of chrysotile. [Read full article]

May 10, 2015

Decades after the Wittenoom asbestos mine in Western Australian (WA) was shut, asbestos cancer continues to pose a threat not only to WA workers but also to members of the public. Efforts are being made to confront the State’s deadly legacy by representatives of Perth-based groups including the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) and the National Centre of Asbestos Related Diseases (NCARD). An update has been compiled highlighting current and future initiatives after attending the ADSA’s annual general meeting and participating in discussions with ADSA and NCARD staff last month (April 2015). [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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