2018: A Year of Hope!
As 2018 dawns, the outlook for the ban asbestos campaign looks brighter than ever with progress being made in countries around the world. Pro-asbestos initiatives which might formerly have escaped detection are now being exposed and countered in record time. The ongoing saga of Russias strong-arm tactics to force Sri Lanka to rescind its asbestos phase-out has been condemned both at home and internationally with Padmasiri Ranawakaarachchi, Secretary General of Sri Lankas National Trade Union Federation, appealing to the global community to exert pressure on Sri Lankan Government to not to bow under pressure and to restore their earlier decision of banning Asbestos in Sri Lanka (see: NTUF Media Release).1 Reassurances provided on December 31 by Yury B. Materiy, Russias Ambassador to Sri Lanka, that Russian asbestos was not harmful2 which have been discounted by international agencies and numerous independent scientists on multiple occasions were just another failed attempt to camouflage the mercenary motivation behind this example of economic diplomacy.
In mid-December HIL Ltd., a subsidiary of one of Indias leading material conglomerates, announced that production of asbestos-free roofing sheets was due to begin on December 21 at its Kondapalli Plant in Andhra Pradesh as part of its green roofing solution product range.3 The increasing popularity of non-asbestos products in India the worlds largest market for asbestos imports explains the decline in asbestos shipments which reportedly fell by more than 20% from 396,470 tonnes in 2014 to 310,570 tonnes in 2016.4 The formation of the Indian Ban Asbestos Network by organizations representing a wide spectrum of civil society interests on December 16 is confirmation of growing support for the prohibition of asbestos in India.5
On December 28, the Governor of Bahia vetoed an amendment which would have permitted the use of asbestos to continue within the state until 2026 despite a November 29 Supreme Court ruling declaring asbestos use unconstitutional throughout Brazil. The action taken by Governor Rui Costa made Bahia the 12th State to unilaterally ban asbestos and provided 90 days for Dow Chemical Brazil, a major economic and political force in Bahia, to transition to asbestos-free technology.6
As 2017 was ebbing away, news that tremolite asbestos had been found in make-up sold in the US for children was spreading via social media like wildfire. On December 29, Health Canada demanded sight of laboratory tests conducted by Claire's Stores Inc., the company marketing the suspect products.7 Although several items have now been withdrawn from sale in the US and Canada, the situation in the UK and elsewhere remains unclear with a bland statement featuring on the companys website which says:
The initial results of testing by an independent certified laboratory show that the cosmetics tested to date are asbestos free. Out of an abundance of caution, additional testing is underway. We have also confirmed that the talcum ingredient supply is from a certified asbestos free European vendor.
We will continue to honor returns for any customers remaining uncomfortable.8
In former times, asbestos was a subject of marginal interest to the wider public; under those conditions, vested interests were able to spread disinformation and industry propaganda which created a climate in which sales could flourish. Those days are long gone; throughout 2017 the global ban asbestos network, working with its partners in the trade union movement, environmental campaigns, medical associations and other like-minded groups, enjoyed huge successes in multiple jurisdictions. Building on those victories and on the growing mobilization of ban asbestos support around the world, the prospects for 2018 appear very promising!
January 4, 2018
1 Media Release: Economic blackmail by Russia against Sri Lankas asbestos ban decision slammed by international trade unions and health networks. January 3, 2018.
2 Russian Ambassador says: Chrysotile asbestos not harmful. December 31, 2017 http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2017/12/31/russian-ambassador-says-chrysotile-asbestos-not-harmful/
3 HIL commences commercial production of Non Asbestos Roofing Sheets. December 22, 2017.
4 Deadly asbestos imports fall to 310,000 tn in FY17: Minister. December 28, 2017.
5 Indian Ban Asbestos Network (I-BAN) Established. December 16, 2017.
6 Emenda que permitia uso do amianto até 2016 na Bahia é vetada por governador [Amendment permitting the use of asbestos from 2016 in Bahia is vetoed by governor]. December 28, 2017.
7 Health Canada wants Claire's kids' makeup tested for asbestos. December 29, 2017.