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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Jan 19, 2021

An article uploaded on January 16, 2021 by the State TV and Radio Company of Nizhny Novgorod, a city in Central Russia, sent out mixed messages regarding the health hazard posed by asbestos exposures. On the one hand, the message confirmed that asbestos was “a carcinogen that has caused lung cancer in hundreds of thousands of people. It was widely used until the second half of the last century and undermined the health of builders…” However, on the other hand, the text alleged that “for residents of houses built with asbestos, it does not pose such a danger.” See: Доктор Мясников назвал главную причину рака [Doctor Myasnikov named the main cause of cancer].

Jan 19, 2021

A five-minute rap, featuring Stefania Crivellari, by the Sicilian artist Picciotto was uploaded to YouTube on January 9, 2021. This piece is a remix of a 2016 work which was, said Picciotto, necessary as the “reclamation of the territory has not been completed and no progress has been made regarding treatment therapies for those who fall ill” (see: Background to 2021 upload). Funds raised by this effort will be donated to a research charity for work on asbestos-related cancers. The narrative of the video accompanying the song included newspaper articles, X-rays, footage of medical personnel, snippets of the “Fuck Cancer Choir,” asbestos warning signs, and other images highlighting Italy’s ongoing asbestos cancer epidemic. See: Ancora Sotto Casa Mia Feat. Picciotto [Still under My House. Picciotto].

Jan 19, 2021

Building on a landmark 2019 verdict for 45 Breton officers of the French Navy whose asbestos anxiety was recognized and compensated, on January 7, 2021, a Rennes administrative court recognized 21 additional cases. Over the last four years, 170 cases have been filed with the administrative court. These cases are, said victims’ campaigner Jean-Paul Le Roux, complex, and the Ministry of Armed Forces remained uncooperative, refusing to provide crucial documentation to claimants and their legal advisors. See: Amiante: la faute du ministère des Armées reconnue pour 21 nouveaux dossiers de marins [Asbestos: the fault of the Ministry of the Armed Forces recognized for 21 new cases of sailors].

Jan 19, 2021

On December 17, 2020, by a unanimous decision, the three-member British Colombia (B.C.) Court of Appeal upheld a ruling prohibiting Mike Singh and Seattle Environmental Consulting from working in the asbestos removal industry. Singh had breached workplace safety laws more than 20 times at 11 different worksites – including homes in Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and West Vancouver – between 2013 and 2017 and, as a result, had been banned from the asbestos removal industry in 2019 by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Francesca Marzari. See: B.C. Court of Appeal upholds decision barring Vancouver man from asbestos removal industry.

Jan 18, 2021

Last week (January 14, 2021), it was announced that a settlement had been reached between 48 workers exposed to asbestos during renovation work at the Besançon University Hospital in eastern France between 2009 and 2013 and the legal team representing the health authority. In a landmark decision on April 21, 2020, France’s Court of Cassation (Supreme Court) had ruled that a public authority – the Besançon University Hospital – could be found criminally liable for asbestos exposures experienced by workers. Each member of the class action will receive €10,000 (US$12,080) in damages. See: Amiante au CHU de Besançon: chaque agent exposé recevra 10.000 euros d'indemnisation [Asbestos at Besançon University Hospital: each exposed agent will receive 10,000 euros in compensation].

Jan 18, 2021

An opinion piece in an online Italian newspaper examined the impact of asbestos exposures throughout Italy in interviews with key medical clinicians and researchers, including Drs. Federica Grosso and Stefania Crivellari, and PhD student Simona Martinotti. Dr. Grosso highlighted the ongoing importance of preventing asbestos exposures, stressing the need to remediate contaminated sites. The use of musical therapy for mesothelioma patients and their carers who are part of a specialist cancer choir founded in 2019 has, said Dr. Crivellai, had “positive effects.” See: Saperne di più sull’amianto e il mesotelioma fra ricerca scientifica e musica [Learn more about asbestos and mesothelioma, from scientific research to music].

Jan 18, 2021

A press release issued on January 14, 2021 by the French Association of Asbestos Victims Groups (ANDEVA) condemned moves by the government to amalgamate the National Asbestos Compensation Fund (FIVA), created under a law passed in 2000, with the National Office for Medical Accidents, as a cost-saving measure. Created to provide a streamlined procedure by which asbestos victims could obtain compensation for their injuries, FIVA has, to date, settled more than 100,000 claims. ANDEVA called on its members, civil society stakeholders and partnering organizations to raise objections with Parliamentarians over this amalgamation. See: Les victimes de l’amiante refusent de voir le FIVA disparaître [Asbestos victims refuse to see FIVA go away].

Jan 18, 2021

Two articles published in December 2020 highlighted the deadly consequences of unregulated and uncontrolled conditions at Bangladesh shipbreaking yards where exposures to toxic substances, including asbestos, on ships sent for scrapping have injured generations of workers. The vessels, many of which are registered under flags of convenience and owned by off-shore companies, flout laws and provide neither warnings nor protection to workers (see: Toxic ships sail in on false papers), with Ministerial officials admitting the complete lack of government supervision and capacity to test ships for the presence of toxic substances.
See: How offshore companies import deadly asbestos into Bangladesh.

Jan 14, 2021

On January 11, 12 & 13, 2021, Madrid Judge María Isabel Garaizaba was due to hear evidence in a criminal case against seven defendants responsible for the management of health and occupational risk at the company operating the Madrid Metro. The start of preliminary proceedings over the asbestos-related deaths of two workers had been delayed multiple times because of the coronavirus pandemic; this week it was delayed once again by snowstorm Filomena which forced the suspension of court proceedings. See: Suspendidas por tercera vez las declaraciones de los investigados del caso amianto por la nevada [Suspended for the third time the statements of those investigated in asbestos case due to snow].

Jan 14, 2021

In a Written answer to a Parliamentary question by MP Stephen Morgan (Dec 30, 2020) to the Ministry of Defence, on Jan 11, 2021 Johnny Mercer MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State affirmed the government’s commitment “to helping forces heroes diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung caused by asbestos.” Although, said Mercer, the government would “support access to compensation for veterans affected by the cancer through either its war pensions scheme or armed forces compensation scheme,” he made no mention of veterans suffering from lung cancer who were exposed to asbestos pre-1987 and continue to be disadvantaged by government policies. See: British veterans left with cancer after military service to be supported, minister says.

Jan 14, 2021

A scheme to provide financial support for homeowners to remove asbestos roofing from 225 properties has been announced by authorities in Yeonggwang-gun, a county in South Korea’s South Jeolla Province. The 2021 allocation for the project made by the county was 90 million won (US$82,000); all applications must be made to the Urban Environment Division between January 12 and February 26, 2021. Priority will be given to applications for remediation work on vacant and dilapidated houses. See: 영광군, 석면 슬레이트지붕 철거 지원사업 추진 [ Yeonggwang-gun, asbestos roof demolition support project].

Jan 14, 2021

A project to remove asbestos roofing from the headquarters of The Center for Occupational Activities of the Portuguese Association of Parents and Friends of the Mentally Handicapped Citizen (APPACDM) in Valença was announced this week. The €270,000 (US$330,000) budget for this work was approved last year under a Regional Operational Program. According to Luiz Costa, APPACDM’s President, the charity has “180 days to proceed with the work. We are working on the process so that we can open the public tender. It should still take between three to four months for the project to start.” See: Amianto vai ser removido do centro da APPACDM de Valença [Asbestos will be removed from APPACDM center in Valença].

Jan 12, 2021

An article on a Russian language website for the Omsk region acknowledged the link between exposure to asbestos – a valued resource mined in Russia – and lung cancer, stating: “Pulmonologists estimate that in about 20 years one in three lung cancers will be caused by exposure to asbestos dust…” The text of this article pointed out that asbestos roofing “constantly emits dust” and that fibers such as those released by weathered asbestos roofing are “responsible for lung and pleural cancers...” See: Рак легких — от чего еще, кроме курения он возникает? [Lung cancer – what else besides smoking causes it?].

Jan 12, 2021

In what seems to be a rather bizarre pronouncement, on December 30, 2020 Chinese authorities recognized the Mangya chrysotile (white) asbestos mine as the first national industrial heritage project in Qinghai Province, in the northwest of China. The mine, which was founded in the 1950s, is operated by the country’s largest asbestos mining and processing enterprise and supplies asbestos fiber to 40% of the domestic asbestos market. In the article about this award, there is no mention of the occupational or environmental hazard posed by the commercial exploitation of asbestos. See: 青海茫崖石棉矿成青海首个国家级工业遗产项目 [Qinghai Mangya asbestos mine became the first national industrial heritage project in Qinghai].

Jan 12, 2021

Two podcasts totalling 90 minutes examined the question of whether or not there was a cover-up in the US about the hazards posed by occupational and environmental exposures to asbestos. The content of the broadcasts traced the history of asbestos use and the evolution of medical and scientific knowledge regarding its dangers from the 19th century to the present. The presenters concluded that there was sufficient proof to establish that government stakeholders had supported vested interests to prioritize the needs of the asbestos industry over the welfare of US citizens in a conspiracy which condemned many of those affected to debilitating disease and premature death. See: The Asbestos Cover-Up Pt 1 and The Asbestos Cover-Up Pt 2.

Jan 12, 2021

An interesting briefing on the uses and abuses of asbestos – by a scientific expert – highlighted the hazard asbestos exposures still posed to Brazilians despite a Supreme Court ruling in 2017 which banned the commercial exploitation of asbestos. Asbestos-containing products had been used for decades throughout the country and many toxic products remain hidden within the national infrastructure. The author of this text, Professor Victor Ricardo Ferreira, cited World Health Organization policy which stated that: “there are no safe methods of handling this product and that its risks outweigh the possible benefits.” See: Aminato [Asbestos].

Jan 20, 2021

The 2018 mesothelioma death of Spanish household name José María Íñigo remains unresolved. Court proceedings begin in Madrid this week (January 21) in an attempt by his family to find his employer – the Spanish Radio and Television Company (RTVE) – liable for occupational asbestos exposures experienced whilst the broadcaster was working in the company’s iconic Studio 1. The first step in the litigation is to obtain a finding that the cause of death was due to occupational exposure. Once that has been achieved, the family will progress the personal injury lawsuit for compensation begun by José María Íñigo. A victory in this case with strengthen the rights of all Spanish asbestos victims. [Read full article]

Dec 22, 2020

Developments this year have been unprecedented in living memory: lives lost, families decimated, health systems attacked and economies wrecked. There have been few communities which have been spared the devastation wrought by the coronavirus. Despite this bleak scenario, campaigners and groups working to support victims of asbestos-related diseases continued their efforts, recognizing that amongst those most vulnerable to Covid-19 were people whose lungs had been damaged by asbestos. This snapshot of some of the outstanding initiatives rolled out in 2020 is indicative of the long-term sustained efforts being made to address another global pandemic, one caused by exposures to asbestos, which is claiming up to 250,000 lives a year. [Read full article]

Dec 2, 2020

In a letter dated November 27, 2020, asbestos victims groups from Belgium, Italy, France and the UK called on the President of the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) – a lobbying group representing the interests of international asbestos industry stakeholders – to resign, due to the inherent hypocrisy of an EU citizen promoting sales of a carcinogenic substance abroad whilst it is banned at home. The ICA’s President is Emiliano Alonso, a Spanish lawyer and professional lobbyist, with offices in Madrid and Brussels. The letter called on him “to stop aiding and abetting this discrimination and racism… [and] stop helping the asbestos industry create more asbestos victims in developing countries.” (French version of letter.) (Article is English version.) [Read full article]

Nov 16, 2020

On November 9, 2020, Bruce Dunn, Director of the Asian Development Bank’s Safeguards Division, confirmed their intention to prohibit use of all asbestos-containing products on ABD projects. The ADB had first announced its intention to close an existing loophole – allowing the use of bonded asbestos cement sheeting composed of less than 20% asbestos fiber – at the end of 2019 when an ADB representative confirmed that: “From 2020, ADB will refrain from financing any new projects containing any presence of asbestos; this update will be reflected in the next review of ADB’s Safeguard Policy Statement.” Welcoming the news, Sugio Furuya of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network said: “The Bank’s prohibition of asbestos sends out a signal loud and clear that there is no place in the 21st century for asbestos.” [Read full article]

Nov 13, 2020

Events scheduled to take place this month (November 2020) mark the continuation of a 50-year battle to obtain justice for Italy’s asbestos victims. On November 27th yet another trial against Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny will commence. In the last decade, public prosecutors have launched legal actions against the defendant charging him, in various jurisdictions and at different times, with murder, manslaughter, aggravated culpable homicide, voluntary homicide causing permanent environmental damage and failing to comply with safety rules. Although guilty verdicts against Schmidheiny were vacated by Italy’s Supreme Court in 2014, asbestos claimants remain optimistic that the defendant will finally be held to account for the damage done and heartache caused to so many Italian families. [Read full article]

Nov 2, 2020

Grassroots Literacy and the Written Record tells the story of the Asbestos Interest Group (AIG), a village-based network of asbestos activists in post-apartheid South Africa. The book is set in the Kuruman district, a former mining center on the Cape Asbestos Belt, now a landscape of retrenched mines and mills and derelict tailing dumps, where the presence of asbestos continues to cause deadly diseases long after the mines closed in the 1990s and the new democratic government banned asbestos in 2008. The book follows the AIG from its inception, documenting its efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos; its grassroots research project to map sites of secondary asbestos contamination; its participation in a historic legal case; and its work helping ex-mineworkers access compensation. [Read full article]

Oct 27, 2020

UK sufferers of asbestos-related diseases are at increased risk from Covid-19 as their lungs are already scarred by the toxic fibers previously ingested. As well as fearing for their lives during these turbulent times, they face a Herculean task to access compensation to which they are entitled. According to information provided by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK, 272 asbestos claims for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit have yet to be processed and 16 victims have died whilst waiting to receive these benefits. The Tories are responding to Covid-19 as they do to every crisis: with a ruthless venality that prioritizes their interests at all costs. Almost nine months into the UK epidemic, the needs of asbestos victims remain unaddressed. [Read full article]

Oct 21, 2020

An injection of funds this year is enabling a ground-breaking asbestos surveillance and treatment collaboration created in 2018 by medical experts at the Heart Institute of the University of São Paulo and the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed to expand its support network to patients in additional Brazilian cities. The pilot project provided care, free of charge, for local people with asbestos-related diseases at a medical outpatient clinic at the São Paulo Heart Institute. With the 2020 grants, first class medical training is being provided to doctors in the cities of Campinas, Piracicaba and Rio Claro to build capacity to diagnose and care for asbestos patients, most of whom are unskilled workers without resources to pay healthcare or treatment costs. [Read full article]

Oct 21, 2020

On October 19, 2020, the Mayor of the former Canadian mining town called “Asbestos” announced that the third round of a referendum to change the town’s name had resulted in a majority for the name Val-des-Sources (in English, Valley of Sources or Valley of Springs), a reference to the town’s location at the confluence of three lakes. During a livestreamed extraordinary meeting of the town council broadcast at 5:30 p.m. via Facebook on October 19, the new name was adopted by the council and was, said Mayor Hughes Grimard, now being submitted for approval to Quebec’s toponymy commission and then to Quebec’s Department of Municipal Affairs. The Mayor is optimistic that the change could be official by Christmas. [Read full article]

Oct 16, 2020

The 20th anniversary of the Global Asbestos Congress 2000: Past Present and Future (GAC 2000) last month was a time of mixed emotions. Plans to mark this eventful occasion at the original venue in Osasco, Brazil were derailed by unforeseen developments: Covid-19. The disappointment of the cancellation of the anniversary event in Brazil spurred us to revisit plans to host the GAC 2000 annals on the IBAS website, a task which proved more complex than we had anticipated. Nevertheless, this resource – which includes Congress presentations, extra-Congress submissions, documentation, photographic exhibitions and photos of the GAC 2000 activities – and an introductory article have now been uploaded. [Read full article]

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]

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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