Marking the 15th Anniversary of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network  

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Between 2009 – when the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) was founded – and 2023, global asbestos production fell from almost 2 million tonnes/t to 1,300,000t a year, a whopping 35% decline.1 There are many factors which adversely affected the asbestos industry’s bottom line; the work of ABAN was one of them.

ABAN’s Goals

ABAN was formed in the run-up to International Workers Day (April 28) in 2009 at the Hong Kong Asian Asbestos Conference.2 The Hong Kong Declaration towards a Complete Ban on all forms of Asbestos, which was unanimously adopted by delegates at that event, explained that:

“The formation of A-BAN is a landmark in the Asian campaign to obtain justice for the asbestos-injured and to implement a regional asbestos ban. The group which consists mainly of asbestos victims’ organizations, labour unions and environmental justice groups from 16 Asian Pacific countries will work towards strengthening the grassroots Ban Asbestos movement in Asia.” 3

Now marking its 15th anniversary, ABAN has more than fulfilled the objectives set for it by its founders. By giving voice to marginalized victims throughout Asia and standing up to powerful vested interests in and out of government, ABAN has made manifest the devastating human cost of asbestos profits. ABAN members participate in international as well as national and regional asbestos dialogues. Giving a human face to Asia’s asbestos catastrophe, ABAN members have spoken at meetings of the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention and the United Nations Forum for Business and Human Rights.


ABAN member & asbestosis sufferer Sharad Vittnal Sawant from Bombay, India addressing a plenary session of the Rotterdam Convention conference in Geneva. May 13, 2015.4


ABAN member and asbestosis sufferer Nirmala Gurung testified before delegates at the United Nations Forum for Business and Human Rights in Geneva on November 2, 2017.5


ABAN member, Indonesian trade unionist and asbestos victim Mr Subono spoke at a May 8, 2019 plenary session of the Rotterdam Conference. Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth.

Shortly after ABAN was formed, the first ABAN mission was launched: the 2010 Asian Solidarity Delegation to Quebec, Canada. 6


ABAN Members of the Solidarity Mission and Canadian Supporters at a Press Conference at the Quebec National Assembly. December 9, 2010.

According to a statement by members of the delegation, the objective of their mid-winter trip to Canada was to express the feelings of Asian asbestos victims, trade unions and health organizations regarding a proposal to expand asbestos mining operations:

“We are horrified by the plans of the Government of Québec to provide a $58 million loan guarantee to develop new asbestos mine. It has been predicted that if this project goes ahead, the new Jeffrey mine will produce over 5 million tonnes of asbestos in the next quarter century…

Asian countries remain the most important customers for Québec asbestos exporters. We are in no doubt that the owners of the new Jeffrey asbestos mine intend to ship the majority of annual production to Asian destinations: more money for the anonymous international investors, more pollution and environmental exposure for Québec citizens and more asbestos deaths for Asia.

At this critical moment when the asbestos industry wants to launch another generation of asbestos disease, we have come in person to make a direct, human appeal to the citizens of Québec. We are confident that once they are aware of the tragic asbestos reality which exists in Asia, they will put pressure on their Government to STOP THE MINE.”7

Not only was the mine stopped but on October 1, 2018, the Canadian Government banned the commercial exploitation of asbestos.

Despite a national asbestos ban enacted by Brazil’s Supreme Court in 2017, production continues in Minaçu, Goiás State at the Cana Brava chrysotile (white) asbestos mine. In April, 2019 ABAN members once again embarked on a mission to an asbestos-producing country to confront its citizens with the harsh reality of exposure to asbestos exported to their countries.8


ABAN Mission members join colleagues from the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) and trade unionists at the headquarters of the Metalworkers Union in Osasco. April 27, 2019. 9


By opening conduits for the transmission of up-to-date scientific and medical information and developing channels of communication amongst various networks of civil society groups, ABAN has enabled workers, members of the public, consumers and government agencies to make informed decisions about embracing asbestos-free technologies. Even whilst acknowledging that the best way to eradicate the global epidemic of asbestos-related diseases – which is causing hundreds of thousands of deaths every year10 – was to end asbestos use, ABAN members are also encouraged to pursue additional objectives such as: the identification of the asbestos-injured, raising public and professional asbestos awareness; and fostering collaborative relationships with medical, technical, legal and other experts.


Dr Aseni Wickramatillake, who took part in ABAN’s South Asia Strategy Meeting on March 3, 2024 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, summed up the significance of ABAN as follows:

“The Asia Ban Asbestos Network (A-BAN) plays a crucial role in addressing the pervasive threat of asbestos across the Asian region…ABAN provides a platform for professionals and representatives from various countries to come together and share their experiences, expertise, and insights regarding asbestos-related issues. This exchange of knowledge is invaluable in understanding the diverse contexts and challenges faced by different nations in the region.

ABAN serves as a catalyst for the development and advocacy of effective policies and actions aimed at banning asbestos and minimizing exposure to this hazardous substance. By pooling resources and expertise, ABAN members can collectively work towards implementing realistic methods for asbestos eradication and ensuring the proper management of asbestos waste… By uniting countries with shared concerns, ABAN amplifies their collective voice and advocacy efforts, ultimately enhancing their capacity to protect people from the harmful effects of asbestos.”11

Campaigner Sanjiv Pandita, one of the midwives who brought ABAN into being in Hong Kong in 2009, voiced his assessment of the significance of this anniversary in an email received last month:

“Since its inception in Hong Kong 15 years back, ABAN has helped to build a unique and wide-reaching alliance of asbestos victims’ groups, trade unions, environmental organizations and other civil society organizations, all aiming to eliminate asbestos-related diseases in Asia. Over the years it has been successful in building awareness, providing critical resources and support to grassroots groups and thereby enhancing their agency. It is not only important but critical for the fight for the elimination of ARDs in Asia to continue.”12

Veteran ban asbestos campaigner Phillip Hazelton from Australia’s Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA echoed Sanjiv’s comments:

“Congratulations to the Asia Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) on 15 years of campaigning to rid the region of this deadly substance. The asbestos disease epidemic that is building in the Asia region is a totally avoidable tragedy. Working collaboratively, ABAN members have forged links with concerned trade unionists, health workers, sufferers of asbestos disease, scientists, journalists and others to courageously fight the lies, misinformation and intimidation spread by the asbestos industry. Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA and the Asbestos Not Here Not Anywhere Campaign we are coordinating, is a proud partner in ABAN’s campaign to achieve asbestos bans throughout the region in order to prevent millions of deaths in coming decades. It is unacceptable that commercial interests knowingly continue to support and promote this deadly substance. We must ensure that they are held to account even as the region transitions to safer alternatives.”13

Concluding Thoughts

Throughout its existence, Sugio Furuya has acted as the ABAN Coordinator. Whilst he is much-appreciated by his colleagues, he is both disliked and feared by asbestos interests in Eastern Europe with some of them referring to him as “The General.” For his work with ABAN, Sugio was targeted by a spy engaged in 2012 to infiltrate the global ban asbestos network.14

In an online interview on April 24, 2024, Sugio reflected on the ups and downs over the last 15 years:

“Since we embarked on the ABAN journey, we have learned many valuable lessons. When it comes to banning asbestos, each country has specific information needs and levels of civil society engagement requiring diverse political, social and economic strategies. Whilst mobilizing ban asbestos activism throughout the region remains an objective, it has become clear that bilateral collaborations between neighboring countries – sub-regional initiatives – can often be economical and time saving.

In the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, we have witnessed an increasing level of activism by younger campaigners, all of whom have been warmly welcomed by the network. As concerns grow over the climate crisis and interest in green technologies skyrockets, it is indisputable that asbestos technology will be consigned to the history books. Our role remains to make that happen sooner rather than later. Reflecting on the last 15 years, I cannot help but remember the colleagues we have lost, many of them to asbestos-related diseases. We honor their memory by continuing the fight.”

April 29, 2024


1 IBAS. Asian Asbestos Conference Report 2009, p. 39.
United States Geological Survey. Mineral Commodity Summaries. Asbestos. Accessed April 21, 2024.

2 Kazan-Allen, L. IBAS Report on the Asian Asbestos Conference 2009. November 2009, p. 39.

3 Hong Kong Declaration towards a Complete Ban on all forms of Asbestos. November 2009, p. 44.

4 Kazan-Allen, L. Report from the Asbestos Frontline: Update from Geneva. May 14, 2015.

5 Kazan-Allen, L. Remembering Nirmala Gurung. September 18, 2020.

6 Asian Solidarity Delegation to Quebec, Canada: Events in Canada. December 18, 2010.

7 The Solidarity Delegation from Asia to Quebec: No to financing the Jeffrey asbestos mine. December, 2010.
A-BAN Report. Asian Solidarity Delegation to Quebec, Canada. January 12, 2011.

8 ABAN. The Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil 2019 No More Asbestos Exports to Asia. April, 2019.

9 Kazan-Allen, L. Report from Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil April, 2019. April 29, 2019.

10 Takala J. et al. Comparative Analysis of the Burden of Injury and Illness at Work in Selected Countries and Regions. Central European Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. June 2017.

11 Email from Dr Aseni Wickramatillake. March 8, 2024.

12 Email from Sanjiv Pandita. March 9, 2024.

13 Email from Phillip Hazelton, April 26, 2024.

14 Kazan-Allen, L. Corporate Deceit: Asbestos Espionage at Home and Abroad. March 18, 2019.



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