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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

lkaz@btconnect.com

 

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Aug 19, 2019

Rules introduced in Russia on July 1, 2019 outlawed the submission of construction work tenders which forbid the use of chrysotile and chrysotile-containing products. Extolling the multiplicity of advantages of modern chrysotile products – low cost, high degree of strength and safety, extremely resistant to mechanical stress, etc. – the article referenced below alleged that an international campaign to discredit chrysotile had convinced Russian consumers of the asbestos hazard and depressed national consumption. See: Борьба с суевериями: как скажется изменение правил аукционов на хризотиле? [Fighting superstitions: how will changing the rules of tendering affect chrysotile use?].

Aug 19, 2019

Politicians in Lorca, a city in southeastern Spain, have called on the Murcia Region’s Ministry of Education to take urgent action on the hazard posed by the widespread asbestos contamination of schools. According to Councillor Antonia Pérez there are 6,000 square meters of asbestos roofing and other toxic products such as pipes still present in schools built in or before the 1980s. Lorca’s Mayor is supporting these demands saying all educational centers should be asbestos-free by 2028, at the latest. See: Exigen “celeridad” para retirar el amianto de los centros educativos de Lorca [Demand for “speed” to remove asbestos from schools in Lorca].

Aug 16, 2019

Legislation to deal with the hazard posed by the widespread asbestos contamination of the almost derelict asbestos mining town of Wittenoom, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA), has had its 3rd reading in the WA Legislative Assembly. Bill 120 will allow the State to compulsory purchase the 17 tracts of land belonging to five people in preparation for a final shutdown of the town which remains a bizarre and deadly tourist attraction. According to supporting text of the legislation: “The State may only demolish the remaining buildings, close the townsite and commence managing the risks posed by the area once all of the freehold land in Wittenoom has been revested in the State.” See: Wittenoom Closure Bill 2019.

Aug 16, 2019

The Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), a major Spanish trade union, has condemned exposures to asbestos experienced by members working at the Port of Malaga. Work to remediate asbestos-containing material from the port is ongoing and while asbestos operatives on site have protective clothing, UGT members and other workers have received neither protection nor notification regarding the specifics of the work being conducted in defiance of government regulations. The Labour Inspectorate has been informed of the “serious and imminent safety risk to workers' health.” See: UGT denuncia la exposición al amianto de funcionarios en el puerto de Málaga [UGT denounces the exposure to asbestos of officials in the port of Malaga].

Aug 16, 2019

The answer to a Parliamentary question submitted to the Belgian Minister responsible for the government’s buildings agency revealed that in the last five years, 10% of government buildings had been subject to measures to deal with asbestos-containing material. In some of the 104 buildings affected, asbestos was removed; in others, airborne levels were monitored with no further action taken. Buildings on which asbestos remediation work was carried out included: police stations in Uccle and Etterbeek, the Monnaie theatre, the former justice palace in Antwerp, Ghent prison and a centre for asylum-seekers in Kapellen in Antwerp province. See: Federal government buildings still contain asbestos, says report.

Aug 14, 2019

Liz Darlison MBE from Mesothelioma UK and Tracey Wood from the Glynnis Gale Foundation are on a fact-finding trip this week to South Africa to learn about mesothelioma treatment and care in the Northern Cape Province, the former location of several asbestos mines. In its heyday, the South African asbestos mining sector employed 20,000 miners, many of whom died from hazardous occupational exposures. During the trip, Ms. Darlison and Ms. Wood will meet with clinicians, patients and stakeholders in the Northern Cape to learn first-hand about the treatment available to patients with asbestos cancer. See: UK Cancer Nursing and Charity Team Visit South Africa to See Impact of Asbestos-related Cancer.

Aug 14, 2019

Despite decades of denial, the deadly price paid by workers for the profits of the Brazilian asbestos mining industry is beginning to emerge. A PhD dissertation by Arthur Pires Amaral, which was featured in the article below, revealed the repercussions of occupational exposures to asbestos mine workers and their families at the now closed SAMA chrysotile asbestos mine in the city of Minaçu: “These former SAMA employees died without any medical assistance and financial compensation from the mining company, often being held responsible for the worsening of their poor health conditions,” wrote Amaral. See: Negação do adoecimento pelo Amianto [Denial of Asbestos Disease].

Aug 14, 2019

Russian asbestos propaganda promoting the advantages of using chrysotile (white) asbestos in brake pads cited research findings by asbestos industry-commissioned scientists such as David Bernstein, Rick Rogers and Paul Smith, which discount the human health hazard posed by exposures to chrysotile asbestos; publications by Denis Paustenbach, an expert often used by defendants in US asbestos lawsuits, Craig Poland and Roger Duffin are cited to counter claims regarding the health hazard to mechanics of working with chrysotile brake pads. See: Борьба за хризотил: тормозные колодки на прицеле у ученых [The fight for chrysotile: brake pads - scientific update].

Aug 14, 2019

A scheme – the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme – which will be operational from October, 2019, has been announced by the Government of Jersey to compensate Jersey residents who contract mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. Eligible claimants could receive a one-off payment of up to £92,000 but amounts are dependent on the age of the applicant, with older people receiving less; a person aged 70 would be entitled to £17,961, claimants aged 77 or over would receive £14,334. This scheme is a result of campaigning by asbestos victims; a 2018 e-petition attracted over 1,300 signatures. See: Up to £92K for sufferers of asbestos disease in Jersey.

Aug 13, 2019

Between July 2018 and 2019, more than 1,000 schools in Flanders have applied to the Public Waste Agency of Flanders for funding to remove asbestos; to date, all of the applications received have been approved. According to data released, remediation work is being planned or has already been started at 250 educational premises. The Government of Flanders has designated the removal of asbestos from schools a high priority. See: Al meer dan duizend Vlaamse scholen deden aanvraag voor subsidies voor asbestverwijdering [More than a thousand Flemish schools have already applied for asbestos removal subsidies].

Aug 13, 2019

An outreach project entitled Diferentes Formas de Dizer Não – Experiências de  proibição; resistência e restrição a mineração [Different Ways to Say No – Prohibition experiences; mining resistance and restrictions] promoted by the Brazilian Environmental Justice Network in the City of Muriaé in the southeast of the State of Minas Gerais – east of Brazil’s former asbestos mining State (Goiás) – is being carried out between August 13 and 15, 2019 to consider the health, economic and environmental impact of mining operations and examine topical issues, such as demands by vested interests to recommence asbestos mining banned by a 2017 ruling by the Supreme Court. See: Poster for the Workshops.

Aug 13, 2019

For over ten years, the Government of Rwanda has been committed to securing the removal of asbestos roofing from public and private buildings due to the known health hazard. Last week, Claver Gatete – the Minister for Infrastructure – announced that within a year the asbestos roofing on all public buildings would be removed. An asbestos expert predicted that this scheme would cost the government at least US $5,000,000. Because of the government’s positive attitude to the remediation, more asbestos removalists have been trained and more asbestos disposal sets designated. See: Govt. sets fresh deadline for asbestos removal.

Aug 13, 2019

After decades of government denial, the price paid by Canadians for occupational asbestos exposures is emerging: thousands of deaths every year at a cost of billions of dollars for healthcare and lost productivity. The documentary “Town of Widows” was screened on the Canadian Broadcasting Channel on August 8, 2019 and focused on the consequences of asbestos exposures at the General Electric plant in Peterborough, Ontario where 225+ kilograms of asbestos were used every day. Former workers recounted the “snowstorm” of asbestos and the prolonged and complex fight for compensation faced by the injured and their families. See: The Facts about Asbestos Cancer and Compensation in Canada.

Aug 12, 2019

An article on a Russian language website boasted of increasing sales of Russian chrysotile asbestos to countries in Asia, including Laos, China, India, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam, due to its unparalleled chemical, physical and cost advantages. The short infomercial concluded that: “In the region where most of the world's population lives, there is always a high need for cheap, durable and reliable housing. That is why chrysotile is chosen for the construction of affordable and premium housing by both state-owned companies and private construction corporations.” See: Хризотил-асбест: импорт минерала в страны Юго-Восточной Азии неуклонно растет [Chrysotile asbestos: mineral imports by Southeast Asia growing steadily].

Aug 12, 2019

During the 16th National Health Conference this month, a motion circulated by The Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) repudiating efforts by asbestos vested interests to force the Supreme Court to allow asbestos mining for export was strongly supported. The petition condemned Goiás State law 20.512/2019 which permitted chrysotile asbestos mining, processing and transport for export purposes in contravention of the Court’s 2017 ruling outlawing the asbestos industry. See: 16ªCNS: Abrea encaminha menção de repúdio sobre liberação da exportação do amianto ao STF [16th National Health Conference supported ABREA motion rejecting asbestos miners’ appeal to Supreme Court (for export exemption to national ban)].

Aug 12, 2019

With 1,900 people dying every year from asbestos-related diseases in Spain, the hazard posed by toxic products within the national infrastructure is a threat to both occupational and public health. According to government figures, few cases of asbestos disease are recognized and even fewer compensated. The asbestos problem on the Madrid Metro was highlighted; in an industry where asbestos products were widely used, the company operating the capital’s subway denied the existence of this problem until 2018 and even now fails to address the problems caused by asbestos exposures to workers and commuters. See: Amianto en Metro Madrid: ¿cuánto tardará la muerte en ser una rutina? [Asbestos in Metro Madrid: how long will it take to address?].

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]

Jun 7, 2019

As the end of the Colombian Congress’ deliberations on banning asbestos approaches (the current Congressional session ends on June 20, after which all proposed legislation not yet enacted will become void), an urgent appeal to Colombian citizens entreating their support for the country to ban asbestos exports as well as domestic usage has been sent by Indonesian asbestos victims and activists from the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network – INA-BAN. Indonesia is a prime market for Colombian asbestos exports, where it is mostly used in the production of asbestos roofing; with frequent natural disasters occurring in the country this poses a potent threat to emergency responders, relief workers and affected communities (Para la versión española ver: Llamado Urgente a la Población de Colombia). [Read full article]

Jun 6, 2019

The global asbestos operations of companies belonging to the Swiss and Belgian Eternit asbestos groups have ruined lives and contaminated communities throughout Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Academic papers released in May 2019 documented the toxic repercussions of asbestos processing in Colombia and Lebanon; another paper published contemporaneously examined the difficulties experienced in holding individual executives to account for the consequences of profit-driven decisions made by asbestos corporations which, ultimately, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Italian citizens. [Read full article]

May 24, 2019

Five years after the Italian Supreme Court had vacated murder verdicts against the Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny on technical grounds (2014), the defendant has once again been found guilty of the asbestos deaths of Italian citizens. On May 23, 2019, a Turin Court sentenced Schmidheiny in absentia to four years for the involuntary manslaughter of two individuals from Cavagnolo, both of whom died from asbestos-related diseases. Other trials are proceeding against Schmidheiny who is facing charges of voluntary homicide in hundreds of cases in Naples (8 deaths) and Vercelli (392 deaths including those of 243 individuals who worked at the Eternit factory in Casale Monferrato). [Read full article]

May 20, 2019

Key stakeholders from civil society and the Indonesian government made valuable contributions to the proceedings of a national asbestos seminar held in Jakarta on May 9, 2019. The event, which was organized jointly by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Labour Organization, Jakarta, provided the opportunity for reports by civil servants, occupational health and safety specialists, emergency responders, personnel from regional and international agencies and ban asbestos campaigners working on the asbestos frontline in a country which is one of the most disaster-prone in the world; in 2018, Indonesia experienced 2,372 disasters affecting 3.5 million people. [Read full article]

May 8, 2019

This media release circulated by a coalition of UK asbestos victims’ groups and occupational health and safety bodies detailed the occurrence of a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in London on May 8, 2019 calling on Russia to support United Nations measures to regulate the global trade in chrysotile (white) asbestos by implementing a regime which stipulates that importing nations be provided with sufficient information to ensure “prior informed consent” before purchasing substances deemed by the United Nations to be injurious to human health and/or harmful to the environment. [Read full article]

May 10, 2019

This week a delegation representing members and supporters of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) is in Geneva, Switzerland to monitor the proceedings at the United Nations’ 9th meeting (COP9) of The Rotterdam Convention (RC) and voice the demands of global labor and asbestos victims for chrysotile (white) asbestos to be included on Annex III of the Convention as the RC’s Chemical Review Committee had recommended more than a decade ago. This article comprises a short, contemporaneous report on the activities of the ABAN Mission to COP9 on May 7 to 9, 2019. [Read full article]

May 3, 2019

A media release circulated by the Asian Ban Asbestos Network urges United Nations representatives to the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Rotterdam Convention (RC) “to finally list chrysotile (white asbestos) on Annex III of the Convention and immediately reform the Convention so that a small number of states with economic interests can no longer block listings of chemicals.” Multiple recommendations by the RC’s Chemical Review Committee that the international trade in chrysotile be regulated in order to provide importing nations with “prior informed consent” have been blocked by the actions of asbestos stakeholders, led in recent years by Russia. [Read full article]

Apr 29, 2019

Brazil is now at a critical moment in the campaign to ban asbestos. Despite the November 2017 Supreme Court decision declaring the commercial exploitation of asbestos unconstitutional, in January 2019 Eternit, the country’s only asbestos producer, announced its intention to increase asbestos exports to Asia. To challenge the hypocrisy of shipping a substance deemed too hazardous to use at home to other countries, a delegation of five ban asbestos activists from three Asian countries embarked on a mission to mobilize support for an end to Brazilian asbestos exports from politicians, civil servants, prosecutors, asbestos victims, trade unionists and others. This article comprises a short, contemporaneous report on the activities of the “Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil April, 2019.” [Read full article]

Apr 21, 2019

This week, ban asbestos activists from India, Indonesia and Japan will be embarking on a historic mission to Brazil to entreat citizens, politicians, civil servants, decision-makers and corporations to stop sending asbestos to Asia. According to recent data, India and Indonesia absorb the majority of Brazil’s asbestos exports. Despite a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2017 declaring the commercialization of asbestos unconstitutional, mine workers and industry stakeholders are appealing to the Court for an exemption to allow mining and exporting to continue (see also: Versão Portuguesa). [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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Asbestos Trade Data (2015)

Fiber Producers
(tonnes):
   Russia650,000
   Brazil270,000
   China210,000
   Kazakhstan180,000
    
 Top Five Users
(tonnes):
   India370,000
   China287,000
   Brazil163,000
   Russia124,000
   Indonesia120,000