Another Victory in Brazil!  

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



On February 12, 2009, a São Paulo regulator upheld a 2008 decision banning an asbestos advertising campaign which contained “abusive and misleading propaganda." The tag line of the discredited media offensive, sponsored by the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute (IBC),1 was "Chrysotile - Helping Brazil Grow!"2 The appeal launched by the industry collapsed in tatters when a unanimous ruling was issued by the Ethical Committee of the independent advisory body (CONAR) that regulates the Brazilian advertising industry.3

During the CONAR hearings, the IBC's lawyer highlighted the economic importance that the chrysotile industry has for Brazil and claimed that the industry had been unfairly victimized by the producers of asbestos-free alternatives. The IBC case rested heavily on the results of “scientific studies” conducted by a Swiss toxicologist which “proved” that Brazilian chrysotile was not harmful. While the IBC spokesman neglected to name the “expert” in question, there is little doubt that he was referring to Dr. David Bernstein, the same David Bernstein who had in a 2007 U. S. deposition admitted being commissioned to undertake research on chrysotile by asbestos defendants and stakeholders such as “Union Carbide, a Brazil chrysotile mining interest, the Asbestos Institute and The Canadian government..."4

During the appeal, lawyer Alexandre Lindoso represented ABREA, the Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, whose complaint about the IBC's asbestos advertisements initiated this process. Lindoso defended ABREA against accusations that it was acting as a spokesperson for the French multinational Saint Gobain; ABREA has never received donations from Saint Gobain either to finance its offices or to pay its legal fees. Lawyers from the firm of Alino & Roberto who acted for ABREA in this forum have done so on a pro bono basis. Presenting his case, Lindoso made the following points:

  1. There is no such thing as the “controlled use” of chrysotile; the consensus that exposure to chrysotile is hazardous is supported by international agencies such as the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization and others.
  2. Brazilian legislation demands that asbestos-containing products are labeled, and that special attention is paid to contaminated waste. Lindoso graphically illustrated ABREA's case by showing photos of damaged asbestos tiles, waste, and doll houses containing asbestos. The lawyer asked why are the Brazilian regulations about handling contaminated waste and labeling asbestos-containing products so rigid and why do employers have to follow up asbestos-exposed workers for 30 years after they retire if chrysotile is not, as the IBC claims, dangerous.
  3. Asbestos has a social cost that is paid by injured human beings.
  4. The industry's assertions that nobody became sick after “safe use” measures were adopted in 1980 are lies. As many asbestos illnesses can take decades to manifest themselves, many of those who received hazardous exposures have not yet become ill. Those who become ill are rarely diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases because of the lack of medical and technical expertise and the high costs involved in such diagnoses. It is likely that many Brazilians diagnosed with other types of cancer have actually contracted asbestos-related cancer.

Dr. Pedro Kassab, spokesperson of CONAR, warned the IBC of the consequences of its actions; on three occasions the IBC's advertising campaigns have been judged unsuitable for broadcasting.5 Eliezer João de Souza, President of ABREA, was delighted that the duplicitous behavior of the industry had been recognized: “It is not possible that after this the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute will again try to deceive the public.” Marina Júlia de Aquino, President of the IBC, is reported as being “very disappointed” and “sufficiently worried” about the adverse decision. The IBC will, he said, wait until it receives a written copy of the decision before deciding whether or not to appeal;6 after receiving CONAR's ruling, the IBC will have 10 days to appeal.


Eliezer João de Souza, President of ABREA at a 2008 demo.

The writing is on the wall for Brazil's asbestos industry with more states and government agencies opting to ban the use of all types of asbestos. In June 2008, the Brazilian Supreme Court upheld the right of individual states to ban asbestos. There are now asbestos bans in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo; bills to ban asbestos, which have been approved in the states of Espirito Santo and Pará, await their Governors' signatures. At the end of January 2009, Minister Carlos Minc banned the use of asbestos within the Brazilian Environment Ministry. It is widely anticipated that a ban will shortly be implemented by the Health Ministry. To add further misery to the industry's plight, news was made public on February 13, 2009 that the State University of Campinas, where “research” commissioned by the chrysotile industry has been conducted over many years, had passed a resolution banning the use and acquisition of asbestos or products containing asbestos to protect the environment and human health.7 The resolution is extremely precise about the need to avoid the new use of asbestos and highlights state of the art techniques for dealing safely with installed asbestos, stressing that the “physical integrity of the worker” must be the priority. There can be little doubt that as Mardi gras approaches it will be the ban asbestos campaigners and not the industry which will have something to celebrate: after so much disease and death, the end is fast approaching for this industry of mass destruction.

February 16, 2009


1 The IBC is the body which represents the interests of Brazilian asbestos stakeholders.

2 Chrysotile, white asbestos, is the only type of asbestos currently produced and used in Brazil.

3 The full Brazilian name for CONAR is: Conselho Nacional de Autorregulamentação Publicitária. On February 12, 2009, all 12 directors of CONAR voted to censure the IBC.

4 Deposition of Dr. David Bernstein in the case of Emma Josephine Maloney Martin et al vs. Quigley Company, Inc., et al. October 16, 2007. Sections from this deposition were quoted in a 2008 article by Conceicão Lemes entitled “Swiss” Asbestos Expert was Paid by the Brazilian Asbestos Industry.

5 CONAR ruled against IBC asbestos advertising in 2004, 2008 & 2009.

6 Conar mantém proibição à veiculação de propaganda sobre amianto. [Conar upholds prohibition of asbestos propaganda campaign.] February 12, 2009.

7 Resolution GR. No. 03 of 16-01-2009.



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