INDIA: THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DISMISSES AN ANTI-ASBESTOS CRUSADER
In a recent decision, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India has rejected an anti-asbestos crusader's complaint and refused to recommend a ban of chrysotile or chrysotile-containing products.
The complaint was made in 2011. To get to the heart of the matter, the NHRC called for reports from all of India's 29 states as well as from every concerned central ministry and key agencies dealing with asbestos-related health issues and with monitoring of work place conditions.
In its decision, the Commission notably quoted a report from the Ministry of Chemicals, which itself included reference to the work of a 2014 Inter Ministerial Committee based on a National Institute of Occupational Health Study (NIOH) Report, "which did not indicate any significant health environment hazards resulting from the use of chrysotile asbestos under proper conditions (...)."
The case is now definitely closed. One can only hope that such a thorough process and its conclusions will set an example for other entities harassed by crusaders around the world.
To read the NHRC's decision, click here.
ASBESTOS BAN IN CANADA
"WHATEVER DECISIONS ARE MADE WILL HAVE CONSEQUENCES FOR ALL OTHER MINERALS AND METALS EXPLOITED IN CANADA" WARNS THE ICA PRESIDENT
In the weeks following the announcement by the Canadian government of a new pan-governmental approach to asbestos management in Canada, ICA president Jean-Marc Leblond wrote to Environment and Climate Change Canada's Chemicals Management Division, mandated to spearhead the implementation of the new policy, to present the views of Canadians directly impacted by this decision, dispel false truths propagated by the anti-asbestos crusaders and plead for a renewed commitment towards the safe and responsible exploitation of serpentine residues in Quebec's former mining regions.
Many of the points raised in his letter are well-known to those familiar with the asbestos file: citing numerous studies, Mr Leblond once more explained the difference between amphiboles and chrysotile, and lamented the confusion created by the government through its indiscriminate use of the term "asbestos". He highlighted the numerous potentially damaging consequences of an ill-thought ban, such as the unknown risks carried by replacement products and abusive, costly lawsuits. He also described the thoughtful process through which the US Environmental Protection Agency will review 10 priority products, including asbestos, which should take 3 to 5 years.
Last but not least, noting that the Canadian government has been sending mixed signals with regard to the valorization of serpentine residues in former asbestos mining regions, the ICA President, who also lives in the area, urgently called upon the government to listen to local communities who support the plans and unequivocally commit itself to allowing the projects to move forward.
Mr. Leblond concluded his letter with a warning. "All precautions must be taken because whatever decision will be made will have consequences for all other minerals and metals that are exploited and used in Canada and that contribute to our collective wealth." Will the voice of reason finally be heard?
To read Mr. Leblond's letter, click here.
To read the French Version of Mr. Leblond’s letter, click here.
THE ICA PRESIDENT SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT
"Chrysotile asbestos can be used safely". This is the message unwaveringly repeated by ICA President Jean-Marc Leblond in the days that preceeded and followed the Canadian government's announcement that it would ban asbestos by 2018.
"Some mushrooms are deadly" he told the Quebec online daily La Presse in an interview published December 16th. "Should we, for that reason, ban them all?" In the interview, Mr Leblond took pains to explain that the health problems currently associated with asbestos are the result of past carelessness. He also reiterated that all ICA positions are based on the most recent scientific findings and pointed that anti-asbestos crusaders systematically distort the facts when they refuse to acknowledge the much lower risks posed by chrysotile asbestos when compared to amphibole fibers.
In the interview, the ICA President detailed the numerous attempts made by the Association to make its voice heard at the World Health Organization (WHO) and its efforts to prevent the classification of chrysotile asbestos as a dangerous product in the Rotterdam Convention. He reiterated the Association's objection to the recent proposal put forward by a group of African countries to review the Convention's consensus-based decision making process.
Mr Leblond repeatedly declared that not only was Canada's decision "wrong" but also warned that it could put at risk the economic recovery of former producing regions who are currently looking at ways to exploit the rich mineral contents of asbestos mining residues.
DETAILED STUDY CONFIRMS THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) BIASES
In 2014 the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an in-house paper entitled Chrysotile Asbestos which, notwithstanding its many methodological flaws and substantial approximations, quickly became the anti-asbestos crusaders' bible. In response to this paper, a detailed review of that document, which clarifies its many policy contradictions and factual errors has been published.
Even before examining its most important theoretical flaws, it is worth noting that while the WHO takes pains to warn its readers that the document "does not imply the expression of any opinion" on the part of the organization, its foreword is nevertheless penned by its Director of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health Department, Dr Maria Neira - well-known for her aggressive anti-asbestos positions.
This review highlights the WHO paper's lack of nuances, and its amalgamation of all type of asbestos fibers in its review. There is no reference to recent scientific evidence to support its "findings". This does not prevent its authors from drawing specifically policy-oriented conclusions, which disregard established biochemical and scientific facts.
Such a publication runs counter to the position formally adopted by the WHO's governing body, the World Health Assembly, who, in 2007, formally confirmed that in the context of eliminating asbestos related diseases, a differentiated approach may be taken by Competent Authorities when regulating various forms of asbestos. But alas, it seems that the voices of largely ignorant crusaders now have greater credit inside the organization than that of its own political masters.
For a complete version of the review, click here
NO LINK FOUND BETWEEN LARYNGEAL CANCER AND ASBESTOS ─ JAMA
A new meta-study1 published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network confirms that there is no scientifically demonstrated link between asbestos exposure and laryngeal cancer.
In order to reach their conclusions, the authors collected a total of 160 studies and 2 articles published around the world between January 1, 2000 and April 30, 2016. Each was reviewed for quality using the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine 2011 Levels of Evidence, which yielded a total of 15 articles comprising 438 376 study participants. Notwithstanding the fact that all types of fibres were included, the authors reached the conclusion that «current evidence is lacking to support a correlation between asbestos exposure and laryngeal cancer». While noting that some of the studies did reach the opposite conclusion, they stressed that those «often did not account for the confounding factors of tobacco and alcohol exposure».
This is the type of information the anti-asbestos lobby, their friends in the litigation business and even respected UN bodies such as the World Health Organizations will do their best to ignore. But how long can they still go against the systematic, rigorous and most recent scientific evidence? For years now, the ICA has demanded that science, not greed nor emotionally tainted judgment be used when it comes to evaluating the real damages and risks associated with the various asbestos fibers. Comforted by such scrupulously researched evidence, we will tirelessly continue to do so.
To read the Study
1 FERSTER, SCHUBART, KIM, GOLDENBERT, "Association Between Laryngeal Cancer and Asbestos Exposure - A Systematic Review", JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Published online December 1, 2016. Online version (http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/article-abstract/2589835) accessed December 8 2016.
WHEN IRRESPONSIBLE POLITICKING WINS THE DAY
Beware those who claim to want what's best for you. In a textbook case of narrow-minded politicking fuelled by ill-thought activism, a hitherto unknown federal member of Parliament who belongs to Canada's second official opposition, representing a region where asbestos has never been mined, has tabled a private bill that would “prohibit the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale or import of all form of fabrication, use, sale or importation of all forms of asbestos" across the country.
Elected officials and business people hailing from the Quebec region where asbestos was traditionally produced have unanimously condemned Bill C-321. Noting the various projects aiming at transforming residues into valuable products such as magnesium that are currently under way and calling the bill "futile and irresponsible", the Thetford Mines Chamber of Commerce and Industry is mobilizing its base. Members of Parliament from the Conservative Party, who represent the region in Ottawa's Parliament, underline the local unparalleled expertise, which has been recognized around the world, in the safe and responsible use of chrysotile.
Of course, anti-asbestos activists who haven't even set foot in the region know better. Unfortunately, they have managed to push this aberrant proposal in the legislature. We can only hope that the Bill's opponents will be heard and that, in due time, their informed view of the reality will prevail.
IS THE ROTTERDAM CONVENTION ENDANGERED?
A new proposal by a number of African states to modify Article 22 of the Rotterdam Convention which governs the listing of substances in Annex III is a cause of great concern to the International Chrysotile Association (ICA), who wrote on October 31th to the Executive Secretary of the Convention's Secretariat to underline both the procedural and the fundamental issues raised by this development.
In its letter, the ICA first highlighted the fact that the proposed amendment was submitted directly to the Secretariat, in complete disregard of a resolution passed at the last Conference of Parties (COP-7), which created an Intersessional Working Group (IWG), specifically mandated with reviewing and developing options concerning the listing of substances in the Convention's Annex III, governed by article 22. Such attitude, condoned by the Secretariat, amounts to a lack of respect vis-à-vis all parties involved in the IWG which, the ICA fears, is thus turned into little more than a smokescreen hiding the real intentions of some Parties and the Secretariat itself.
More fundamentally, the ICA's letter details how the proposed amendment represents a 180 degrees modification of the COP's decision-making process and the end of consensus as the only decision-making process to list a substance in Annex III. It insists on the fact that eliminating article 22.5 would not only breach the status governing the process of listing substances but also go against the letter and the spirit of the Convention itself.
For that reason, the ICA called upon the Secretariat to formally express its disagreement with both the form and the content of the amendment proposed by the African countries, and reiterated its willingness to work towards strengthening the Convention, in an open, fair and transparent process.
AN EUROPEAN UNION LAW AND REGULATIONS CONFIRMS THAT CHRYSOTILE CAN BE USED SAFELY
On June 22 2016, the European Union confirmed that chrysotile fibres will be used in the chlorine industry, at least, until 2025.
Rising above the anti-asbestos lobby's relentless propaganda and the pretenses of a litigation business bent on pretending that a single fibre can be a cause of death, Europe as thus reaffirmed that chrysotile can be used in a safe and responsible manner, in well controlled environments. This decision resoundingly confirms the position the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) has been defending for years.
The Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/1005 namely based its decision on a 2014 opinion adopted by its Committee for Risk Assessment with regard to this industry, which evidentiated, inter alia, that (...) exposure is limited by risk management measures which are effective in controlling potential risks from the use of chrysotile to a risk level of low concern. The opinion further concluded that there is no release of chrysotile to the environment and therefore the health and environment benefits of immediate closure of the two plants would be negligible. Furthermore, the Commission Regulation underlines the fact that Union legislation on the protection of worker's health and safety already provides that employers must reduce workers' exposure to chrysotile fibres to a minimum and in any case below an established limit value.
In clear, the EU has in turn reaffirmed that, on its territory, the safe use of chrysotile is not a pipe dream but a well-documented reality. The ICA and all stakeholders involved in the controlled exploitation and use of chrysotile hope that all the strident anti-chrysotile crusaders will get the message.
Nobody can deny that the responsible, controlled and safe use of chrysotile has proven its worth for years.
Click here to read EU Law and Regulations
Bogus asbestos-related damage claims
THE SCANDAL CONTINUES
Will there be no end to the greed and appetite of US lawyers, doctors and public officials looking for ways to profit from the lucrative bogus asbestos-related damage claims business? On May 3rd, former New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, 72, was sentenced to 12 years in jail after being found guilty of numerous frauds, but above all for his active participation in a bogus asbestos-related damage claims scheme which netted him more than $5.3 million USD.
In this specific case, an article published by the New York Time in January 2015 detailed how Sheldon Silver used public money to grant 500 000$ in research funds to the director of Columbia University's Mesothelioma Center, Robert N. Taub. In return, dr. Taub, an oncologist, referred dozens of mesothelioma patients ─ so-called « asbestos case s» ─ for legal representation by the law firm Weitz and Luxenberg, to which Sheldon Silver was « of counsel ». Year after year, the law firm paid Silver all those millions of dollars for delivering the clients.
In addition to his 12 years sentence, the court also ordered Sheldon Silver to pay a $1.75 million fine and to forfeit about $5.3 million he made from his criminal schemes. In delivering her sentence, on May 3rd, US judge Valerie Caproni, who was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article, said she hoped the exemplary sentence "would serve as a deterrent", adding that "[P]erhaps the fear of living out one's golden years in an orange jumpsuit will keep them on the straight and narrow".
But will it be enough? Five days later, this time in New Jersey, another lawyer, Arobert C. Tonagbanua was sentenced to 2 years in prison and a $232,000 fine for falsifying names of defendants in more than 100 asbestos lawsuits. An article published by the online journal NJ.com explains how he altered copies of legitimate complaints filed in other courts to add the names of some of his firm's clients, generating more than $1 million in fraudulent fees.
Those recent cases are only the very small tip of a corruption iceberg of enormous proportions. For years, the ICA has been a lonely voice denouncing the systematic and well organized milking by cohorts of doctors, lawyers and elected officials of the more than 40 US trust Funds that have been set to compensate legitimate victims of inappropriate use and manipulation of asbestos. Every time the subject is brought up, rabid anti-asbestos campaigners ─ lobbies, union representatives, scientists, members of international organizations ─ are suddenly nowhere to be found : one can legitimately wonder why they so stubbornly refuse to denounce this ongoing attack on those they pretend to defend.
Bad reputations can be cemented one mistake at a time... and journalists, even with the best of intentions, are not immune to such blunders.
A recent example of this could be found in an article by Forbes magazine contributor Trevor Nace, published online on February 14 and titled "9 Deadliest Rocks and Minerals on Earth". The goal was to help unassuming readers identify dangerous rocks during their treks in the wilderness. "Mineral asbestos" was identified as one of the villains.
Trouble is, there is no such thing as "mineral asbestos". The mistake was spotted by the International Environmental Research Foundation's Robert Nolan. In a letter to the editor, he and his colleague, John Duffus, Edinburgh Centre for Toxicology, patiently explained the differences between the six minerals commercially known as asbestos and the markedly different structure of chrysotile - the only one used commercially. More importantly perhaps, he pointed to the fact that the whole article leaves the readers "with a false impression of the rocks and minerals' toxicological potential". All rocks and minerals have the potential to be deadly...but only if improperly used.
This new case again highlights the importance of the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT), which was passed by the US House of Representatives earlier this month but is facing strong opposition from the Obama Administration.
To read Dr. Nolan and Dr. Duffus' full letter, click here.
US - ANOTHER COMPANY STANDS UP AGAINST LAW FIRM RACKET
Two years after the bankrupted gasket-maker Garlock decided to hold its ground and fight back profit hungry law firms, a second US firm is joining the fray and is asking a judge permission to sue the Simon Greenstone law firm in Dallas and the Shein Law Center in Philadelphia for the use of fraudulent tactics in winning asbestos lawsuits.
In February 2014, the ICA had reported how a judge had allowed discovery and brought to light how exposure evidence had been manipulated by the law firms in 15 cases against Garlock Sealing Technologies. In his decision, the judge had declared the process "infected by the manipulation of exposure evidence".
In a recent article by well known journalist Daniel Fisher, Forbes Magazine reveals that John Crane Inc, which also made industrial gaskets containing asbestos fibers, was victim of similar fraudulent tactics. Its lawsuit details how evidence that could have led jurors to reduce its liability in two asbestos cases was hidden.
This new case again highlights the importance of the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT), which was passed by the US House of Representatives earlier this month but is facing strong opposition from the Obama Administration.
To read the article, click here.
THE DANGER OF MIXING APPLE AND BANANAS
Over time, truth can become buried under the fracas of endless debate. Case to point, more than 5 years ago four eminent professors from Laval University had jointly denounced "the confusion around the very nature of the minerals commercialized under the name of 'asbestos'".
In an article published in the Quebec daily Le Soleil and available in English on the ICA's website below, this group of respected geologists and engineers had clearly explained the difference between chrysotile and amphibole fibers, and outlined the much safer nature of the latter in terms of human exposure. They had deplored the fact that the method used by Quebec National Public Health Institute (Institut national de santé publique du Québec - INSPQ) to evaluate the concentration of fibers in tissues did not allow for any differentiation between chrysotile and any other type of mineral fiber, not even cellulose. The scientists lamented that "[I]t does not constitute reliable data and to use it in the current debate amounts to mixing vegetables, apples, bananas and other fruits: what a salad!"
Those voices that, five years ago, insisted that the INSPQ use a more rigorous scientific approach, as recommended by the US National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, have been lost amid the din created by ideologically biased opponents. More than ever, they should be listened to.
ASBESTOS AND CHRYSOTILE: APPLES AND BANANAS!
(Our translation from French article published in the daily Quebec newspaper Le Soleil)
The debate surrounding the safe use of chrysotile is muddled by the confusion around the very nature of the minerals commercialized under the name of «asbestos». Asbestos is not in itself a mineral, but rather the name used to commercialize a number of products containing mineral fibers endowed with specific mechanical, thermal and chemical properties. In fact, we are referring to six minerals belonging to two different families: serpentine chrysotile, shaped like a rolled-up paper sheet with silky and flexible fibers, and amphibole, a broad family of needle-like fibers. Amphiboles' chemical composition (Fe, Mg, Ca, Na) vary greatly and their physical proprieties are also different. Chrysotile and amphiboles don't develop in similar geological environments: apart from their common fibrous form, they are therefore very different minerals. To amalgamate them amounts to mixing apples and bananas.
In the current public health debate we are especially worried by the fact that the confusion around fibrous minerals, commonly called asbestos, continues to reinforce preconceived ideas. Obviously, many participants are neither sufficiently competent nor expert enough to differentiate the minerals in question. A number of studies have demonstrated that amphiboles remain in the body 10 times longer than chrysotile. Others establish that the quantity of chrysotile fibers must be several hundred times higher for them to induce a risk similar to that of certain amphiboles. Notwithstanding the scientific proofs, which differentiate their health impact, chrysotile and amphiboles are still being wrongly amalgamated under the name of asbestos.
We find particularly regrettable that the Quebec National Public Health Institute (Institut national de santé publique du Québec - INSPQ) doesn't make such distinction. In particular, it uses a method that allows for counting the fibers, but not to differentiate them, not even from other mineral fibers such as cellulose. This means that the concentration of «asbestos fibers» calculated by the INSPQ regroups fibers from all origins. It does not constitute reliable data and to use it in the current debate amounts to mixing vegetables, apples, bananas and other fruits: what a salad!
We therefore think it is essential to call spade a spade in the debate on the safe use of chrysotile. Epidemiological studies that take in consideration the fibers' mineralogical nature must be undertaken in order to clearly establish the risk associated with its different uses. This is what the US National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety has recommended. The method used by the INSPQ must allow to distinguish the proportion of the various minerals. Decision makers must base their choices on complete and reliable information in order to establish criteria that will lead, eventually, to a safe use of chrysotile. We must stop confusing apples and bananas.
Georges Beaudoin, géo., Ph.D., Josée Duchesne, ing., Ph. D., Tomas Feininger, Ph, D., Réjean Hébert, géo., ing., Ph. D.
Professors, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Laval University.
SO-CALLED ALTERNATIVE PRODUCTS ARE NO MATCH FOR CHRYSOTILE CEMENT
The remarkably unique resistance of chrysotile-cement products to corrosion, ultra-violet rays, rot, etc is well known. However, people often forget that the low energy requirements of chrysotile-cement production also make it an environmentally sound and attractive option when compared with products derived from the petrochemical or metallurgical industries.
Quoting a study done in the United Kingdom, a Mineral Commodity Profile from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), available on the ICA website, indicates that manufacturing a square meter of corrugated asbestos cement sheet requires only 16.42 kilowatthours (kWh) of energy, whereas a square meter of corrugated aluminum sheeting and a square meter of plastic coated corrugated steel sheet require 68.92 and 123.5 kWh respectively.
Furthermore, readily available production technologies and well controlled manufacturing processes also reduce environmental risks when compared to technologies based on synthetic chemistry or metallurgy. As well, the performance of the so-called alternative products pales when compared to chrysotile-cement. Aside from its durability (over 50 years), its heat and sound insulation, aerodynamic resistance and coverage efficiency, to name but a few, place chrysotile-cement way ahead of any competition. The complete comparative table of the products is also available on the ICA website.
Last but not least, many combustible construction materials will, in case of fire, release clouds of gases and/or fumes highly toxic to humans and the environment. The extraordinary heat and fire resistance of chrysotile-cement can also prevent or minimize the risk of conflagration.
Whether from an environment or safety point of view, all data confirm that so-called alternative products can't beat the economy, safety and durability of chrysotile-cement.
RELIABLE SCIENTIFIC DATA CONFIRMS NEGLIGIBLE ROLE OF CHRYSOTILE IN UK PATIENTS WITH ASBESTOS-RELATED LUNG DISEASE
A recent scientific study conducted by a group of 10 well-known UK scientists confirms the negligible presence of chrysotile asbestos in lung tissue samples obtained from patients with mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Published by BMJ Publishing Group, an abstract is available on the ICA website. The study's aim was to provide decision-makers with reliable data to estimate the risk of asbestos exposure in people born after 1965 and to predict UK mesothelioma rates over the next 50 years. The sampling process of patients currently affected by the aforementioned lung diseases revealed that amphiboles represented 98 % of all counted fibres and the research confirms « the major contribution of amosite to UK mesothelioma incidence ».
To read the complete version of the study, click here
ACTIVIST USES OLD TRICKS TO JUSTIFY INTENABLE POSITION
When trying to make their point, anti-asbestos activists never tire of using dubious methodology and data amalgamation.
One of the most recent examples of those well-known tactics can be found in a paper signed by Jukka Takala, a consultant to the Singapore government, who intends to teach Europe and the world how to eliminate occupational cancer. To make things easy, he zooms on « asbestos », without even bothering to differentiate between amphibole and chrysotile fibers. A careful reference selection enables him to paint a bleak picture. Blending data on past exposures and implying that they are current ones allows him to state that « asbestos exposure is the biggest killer ». He also attempts to buttress his argument by using a 2012 McCormack et al study to make extrapolation from mesothelioma to lung cancer cases and to state that the lung cancer/mesothelioma ratio is much higher than previously estimated by the WHO.
Of course, he forgets to state a key conclusion of the McCormack paper, which reminds readers that "[F]or Chrysotile, widely consumed today, asbestos related lung cancers cannot be robustly estimated from few mesothelioma deaths and the latter cannot be used to infer no excess risk of lung or other cancers."
The paper was published by the European Trade Union Institute, which receives funding from the European Union. The latter however had the foresight to request the inclusion of a warning, informing readers that "The European Union is not responsible for any use made of the information contained in this publication". Should we feel relieved? A detailed analysis of the bias and approximations contained in the Takala paper is available here.
IARC INDICATED THAT MEAT IS CANCERIGENIS TO HUMANS, SO EXTREMELY DANGEROUS
Alarmist headlines swirled around the world, leaving millions of meat eaters gaping in fear and astonishment. At the end of October, the oh so respectable International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization's source of information about cancer, announced us that meat causes cancer. And it was no Halloween prank, but, as usual, a brutal lack of necessary nuances and information must be noted.
According to the IARC, not only is meat carcinogenic: with its usual aplomb, the Agency went as far as to declare processed meat (hot dogs, corned beef, sliced ham) to be new agents/substances among 117 others to be classified as Group 1 (the highest) as carcinogenic risks to humans where it joins plutonium, tobacco, wood dust, solar radiation, oral contraceptives, X-Rays, polluted air, diesel engine exhaust, arsenic, asbestos (but without any differentiation between fibres types...) among others as indicated in the annexed list of WHO/IARC. (Please see attached annex)
In the following days, bewildered humans were deluged with explanations about what a Canadian columnist called the «byzantine» way the IARC functions and the relative truths of its pronouncements. What about the distinction between hazard identification and risk assessment and the remarkable silence on a responsible approach based on precaution to be taken among other dose and control…! How the IARC, which concentrates on the former, also blatantly ignores key factors such as frequency, potency or dose of any single product. Frankly they could have come to any member of the chrysotile industry for that information.
For years, the ICA has begged for a proper, science-based approach in IARC's evaluation of health risks associated with chrysotile production and utilization as used nowadays but unable to get open and honest answers to such a reasonable request. We warmly welcome the world-wide meat production industry in this fight.
UNITED KINGDOM : THE LETHAL EFFECT OF THE MESOTHELIOMA ACT
The plight of American firms struggling to fend off attacks based on mesothelioma victims' bogus claims driven by large lawyers firms has been known for years. Recently, similar stories have started to unfold in the United Kingdom.
In a concise and eloquent article published earlier this month in The Telegraph, Christopher Booker, a respected columnist, reviews the chain of events now threatening the very survival of a long-established building firm being which risked bankruptcy following a 300 000 £ (461,794 USD) law suit.
In his article, Booker sheds light on the perverse and damaging impacts of a UK Supreme Court's 2011 judgment, the Mesothelioma Act passed in 2014 by the government and the lucrative business it offered on a silver platter to claim lawyers.
Luckily this story also proves that embattled companies can fight back against illegitimate claims. See how this one managed to reverse the tide here.
WHEN THE ANTI-ASBESTOS LOBBY CROSSES THE LINE
On August 9 2015, Right on Canada's website posted a yet another rant penned by Ms Kathleen Ruff which criticised Concordia University and attacked the institution's reputation. This objectionable approach will be familiar to all those accustomed to the anti-asbestos lobby's usual attitude in dealing with those who do not share their anti-asbestos crusaders position, categorical rejection of any possibly safe use of chrysotile, or refusal to recognize the difference between the various types of asbestos fibers.
Concordia's "unforgivable" mistake would consist of a document, or study, which raises serious questions with regard to the anti-asbestos lobby's positions. Right on Canada's entry takes offense and, rather than proposing an open discussion on the issues at hand, maliciously attempts to offer fodder to some headline-hungry journalists. All the while, it is quite obvious that the organization's real objective is to attract publicity for its crusade.
Let's not forget that a while ago, Rights on Canada tried an analogous manoeuvre with McGill University. Anybody attempting to defend a responsible and safe use of chrysotile has been the object of similar disparagement. It's now Concordia's turn.
According to the media, Ms Kathleen Ruff, who seems to be spearheading the current campaign, introduces herself as a senior advisor on human rights with the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute. Anyone who has seriously examined the chrysotile issue and gathered data from well-informed sources, especially recent scientific publications, has come to the conclusion that scientific findings are very different from the sometimes-frivolous arguments made by Ms Ruff. It is also noteworthy that, to our knowledge, the Institute doesn't divulge its donor’s list nor its senior advisor's source of income. Experience has taught us that in this whole, the anti-asbestos legal lobbies, the very lucrative asbestos removal industry and manufacturers of substitute products are never far away and that serious investigations would be necessary. In this regard, the silence observed by many media and, in some cases, their support of these lobbies are also highly questionable
JAPAN AND AMPHIBOLE ASBESTOS
For years, it's been a well-known fact that Japan was for decades an important consumer of various asbestos fibres, namely amphiboles such as amosite and crocidolite. Analysis of publicly available data indicate that between 1963 and 1990, including during the anti-apartheid economic sanctions campaign, Japan imported between 320 000 and 390 000 metric tons of amosite asbestos and between 70 000 and 110 000 metric tons of crocidolite asbestos, mostly from South Africa. For some reasons, these transactions were never officially recorded. Widely used over a number of years, those fibres created considerable risks to human health.
It is also scientifically established that chrysotile fibres, which are the only type commercialized nowadays, entail much lower if not negligible risks. This information is never mentioned by proponents of an indiscriminate, complete ban of all fibres. In the course of the past few years, a number of Japanese nationals linked to the anti-asbestos movement have actively campaigned for a worldwide ban of chrysotile fibres. Among them, prof. Ken Takahashi, whose relations with the Global Ban Asbestos Network (GBAN) are well-known, which, strangely, has not prevented the World Health Organization and the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat from granting him an expert status.
Disgracefully, their biased crusade consistently ignores information on the specific impact of the use of amphibole fibres, notwithstanding the fact that amphiboles are the real source of asbestos-related industrial diseases and associated problems currently affecting Japan.
Yet, a number of scientific studies have established that chrysotile simply cannot be the main cause of mesothelioma and that its controlled use, with exposition levels of no more than 1 fibre per cc., produces risks so minimal that they become practically non-measurable. Japanese scientists, like their international peers, are well aware of these facts. They should also recognize that amphibole fibres are the sole source of Japan's asbestos-related problems.
ICA would like to submit that Japan and its anti-asbestos crusaders should have the honesty to clearly explain to their constituents the difference between the various type of fibres in terms of their chemical composition and associated health risks. Those proven facts should be widely disseminated, rather than useless propaganda that does nothing to correct real, existing problems and implicitly promotes the use of fibres and replacement products whose risks for human health have not been subjected to rigorous examination and remain largely unknown.
Update on the Rotterdam Convention
ICA invites you to read a brief summary on the Conference of the Parties (COP-7) of the Rotterdam Convention held on May 14th, 2015 in Geneva. Comments and observations on how the Convention works and also what should be reviewed and changed for future effectiveness, and, proposals that were presented as a real desire of participants this year. [...]
FOR THE FIFTH TIME CONSENSUS HAS NOT BEEN REACHED AT THE ROTTERDAM CONVENTION AND CHRYSOTILE WILL NOT BE LISTED WITH BANNED AND SEVERELY RESTRICTED CHEMICALS?
Last minute. Geneva, May 14 2015
The International Chrysotile Association salutes the decision of the seventh meeting of the 2015 Rotterdam Convention's Conference of the Parties (COP7), which today did not reached a consensus for the inclusion of chrysotile in the Convention's Annex III.
For the fifth time, inclusion of Chrysotile has not been agreed.
It is historical and without precedent. The policy of controlled use promoted by ICA still is the responsible accepted approach.
Consensus is the respected rule in the decision-taking. More informations pertaining to COP7 (2015) will be given by ICA in the very near future.
Can we put an end to this madness on the part of asbestos fear mongers?
In a judgment issued on April 14, 2015, the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation de Paris) agreed with the decision of the Paris Court of Appeal (Cour d’Appel) whose 54-page well-articulated decision of June 27, 2014 rejected the claims of the Andeva lobby group. This lobby, which calls itself the Association pour la défense des victimes d'amiante en France (association for the defence of asbestos victims), has been conducting an anti-asbestos crusade for a number of years now, and searching desperately for a legal platform it can use to constantly denigrate, ban and bring before the courts.
The Supreme Court has just put an end to proceedings that were commenced in France more than 19 years ago against members of the Comité permanent amiante (CPA) and other individuals, including Martine Aubry, a French politician who was a candidate in the 2011 Socialist primary against the current president of the Republic, François Hollande.
The reasons given by the Court in its June 27, 2014 decision are highly interesting. In fact, the Court largely rejected the accusations of the asbestos lobbies that have been repeated for years almost everywhere in the world. It clearly indicated that being a member of the CPA is not sufficient to create a causal link with the occurrence of occupational diseases due to asbestos. The CPA was involved in activities to promote the controlled use of asbestos, but already at that time, it was seeking only a general ban. The CPA was involved in activities to promote the controlled use of asbestos. It created informational documents for executives and workers in the industry, organized company visits, conducted training and intervened in the context of the policy for controlled use. It should be remembered that already at that time, the anti-asbestos group was crusading against the use of asbestos and against the work of the CPA. Anti-asbestos militants stubbornly refused any reconciliation with the principle of controlled and responsible use. For them, nothing but a ban was acceptable.
To read the entire text click here (french only).
FRANCE'S HIGHEST COURT FINALLY PUTS AN END TO A SENSELESS JUDICIAL SAGA
At long last, once again, common sense has prevailed.
A few days ago, France's highest tribunal, The Court of Cassation, confirmed the annulment of the indictment against Mrs Martine Aubry and seven other persons for their role in a so-called support to the asbestos industry when in fact the were promoting for years at all level of their country a safe and responsible use approach with the asbestos fibres including chrysotile type.
The Andeva, a well known group of activists that are working in very close collaboration with the anti-asbestos lobbies operating in the name of the Association Nationale des Victimes de l'Amiante (The Plaintiffs' National Association for Asbestos Victims), had appealed the decision render by the Paris Court of Appeal when, in June last year, the Court cancelled all the procedures pushed by Andeva. This recent and final Court decision will put an end to this kind of legal harassment. For Andeva activists, it is a real legal rebuff.
This highly expected decision finally puts in fact an end to 19 years of judicial saga which the French magazine Le Point called so rightly “a real judicial monster”. The alleged accusations revolved in fact around legal and responsible activities from people that took place decades before France decided unilaterally to ban the use of asbestos in 1997.
After decades of prevarication by well identified vested interest groups ─ lawyers, medical examiners, insurers ─ in the name of "asbestos victims", signs that the judiciary is finally coming to its senses and taking a hard look at solid, science based arguments are multiplying. While the two remain unrelated, this decision somehow echoes a growing movement in the United States where the Senate is due to push forward the long-awaited Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act strongly objected by the unhealthy litigation business. Last March, the European Commission also reiterated its position and again flatly rejected calls ─ by well-identified lobby groups ─ in favour of a European-wide asbestos removal campaign. All of which confirms the importance of making our collective voices heard, loud and strong.
UK SUPREME COURT OVERRULES WALES ASBESTOS BILL
On February 9th, the UK Supreme Court dealt a major blow to the anti-asbestos lobby a few weeks ago when it overruled a bill put forward in the Welsh Assembly that would have forced employers and their insurers to pay the national health system, NHS Wales, for treatment costs for asbestosis and mesothelioma sufferers. News of this decision were relayed by a number of media, including the daily Telegraph and the BBC.
The bill, put forward by a backbencher, was part of a campaign aiming to force ex employers to pay for private health care for victims of the disease. But the judges ruled that it went beyond the role of the Assembly and that it lacked "any direct or close connection with the provision of Welsh NHS services".
Following the decision, the Association of British insurers noted that the legislation "would have seen increased insurance premiums for Welsh businesses but no extra compensation for mesothelioma sufferers".
THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION REMAINS FIRM AGAINST THE ANTI-ASBESTOS LOBBY
Once again, the European Commission has flatly rejected a suggestion by one of its members, acting on behalf of the ban-asbestos lobby, that it should engage and pay for a Europe-wide campaign of asbestos removal.
For the second time in less than a year, in a written answer to a question submitted by a member from Croatia, the EC strongly reiterated a few weeks ago that "(...) a decision about whether the removal of asbestos from private and public building is the most appropriate risk management measure depends on site specific factors. Therefore, the Commission considers that Member States, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, are better placed to design and implement such initiatives."
One can only applaud the EC's unwavering position in the face of constant pressures by a group driven by dogma and well-identified vested interests rather than by a sound, science-based analysis of local situations.
POWERFUL LOBBIES DOGGEDLY ATTACKING LEGITIMATE BUSINESSSES SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED
A thorough investigation of the interests behind the powerful anti-chrysotile lobby in the UK is the only way to stop vested interest feeding on shoddy science from destroying legitimate businesses and depriving genuine asbestos victims from available compensation.
A recently published article in that country reminded its readers that until 1997, the Government's official policy was to the effect that asbestos cement did no harm to human health. It's about face, 9 months later, was and still is based on information originating from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which has never, as far as we know, provided evidence to sustain its claims that chrysotile cement products have ever been the cause of an asbestos related disease. The HSE also refuses to disclose the name of its experts. Bizarre!
The article also restates that the classification of chrysotile asbestos as a Class 1A carcinogen, is not a measurement or assessment of actual risk to health: alcohol and coins find themselves in the same category, and nobody is calling for their ban. Furthermore, the alternative materials used to replace chrysotile in fibre cement have never been properly tested.
The current situation in the UK has been exacerbated by the recently created £300 million fund for mesothelioma patients that will be contributed by insurance companies for sufferers who can't blame an ex-employer. While its intent can't be disputed, the provision in fact encourages people diagnosed by doctors and represented by lawyers who stand to pocket a large chunk of the awards to use the scheme; every school or business where the sufferer has ever frequented will then be called upon to contribute to the compensation. In America, the experience of that kind of super fund has been disastrous for all people except for the litigation business.
One of the many cases that are due to appear before the courts involves a family building business that risks losing it all because of a claim made by an apprentice it had employed in 1965 who briefly and occasionally handled cement gutters. In this particular case, it has been established that the handling methods used at the time would not have breached the current regulations. Many strong scientific evidence has been brought forward to demonstrate that there is no real proven link between that exposure and the cancer.
It will take a full enquiry to expose the various interests behind the anti-asbestos lobby and prevent them from closing legitimate businesses who fuel the country's economic recovery instead to insuring support to real victims.
FEAR MONGERING IN NEVADA
Every now and then, scientists looking for a cause try to kick up a storm around a well known phenomenon : naturally occurring asbestos in the land.
It recently happened in Nevada. According to an article published by the International New York Times, two geologists «discovered» a few years ago that, in some areas of the US western state, erosion and commercial development where sending naturally occurring asbestos fibers in the wind. They decided the population was at risk and started to alert local residents. Fortunately, the state authorities didn't take the bait. Using their own research, they countered the researchers arguments, pointed that the mesothelioma rates in the state are well within national average and reaffirmed that asbestos' natural occurrence posed no risk to the area's population.
Nevertheless, the controversy delayed the construction of a $490 million highway project, which will run in an asbestos-rich area. In-depth soil analysis were made which concluded that neither workers nor neighbouring residents would be put at risk. To assuage fears, the state's Department of Transport also announced it would continue monitoring the air throughout the building phase and would take special protective measures, such as watering down the roadbed.
«You just don't scare the hell out of people this way» said the state epidemiologist to the NYT journalist. This time again, common sense prevailed. However, one can only wonder how long it will take before such fallacious claims by scientists more preoccupied by their own agendas that by the public good can be definitely put to rest.
BUSINESS, REGIONS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS ASK CANADA'S PM TO UPHOLD ITS POSITION
AGAINST THE INCLUSION OF CHRYSOTILE IN THE ROTTERDAM CONVENTION
Speaking with one voice, some 30 local, municipal and business leaders from the Quebec Chaudières-Appalaches and Estrie regions are asking Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to maintain this country's longstanding position against the inclusion of chrysotile fibre to the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure at the next Rotterdam Convention of Parties (COP-7) which will take place in May.
Still reeling from the brutal closure of chrysotile mines and hobbled by a difficult economic situation, the regions are now looking at ways to exploit the huge potential of mining residues which contain precious metals and minerals such as magnesium, nickel, chrome and cobalt. Stating that "In order to create sustainable development, you first need development", they share their communities' fear that the inclusion of chrysotile fibres in the PIC procedure would make the development of the mining sites and therefore the economic recovery of those regions nearly impossible.
In their letter, the group recalls that no new scientific and medical evidence has been produced in the past years, not even by the WHO itself, which could justify a change in Canada's position. Furthermore, it has been clearly demonstrated that a controlled use of chrysotile that allows for exposure to one fibre or less by cubic centimeter of air represents such a low threshold of risk that it is scientifically immeasurable.
Hoping that the Harper government will create a working group to reinforce Canada's traditional position, the group, called Mouvement ProChrysotile québécois (Quebec's ProChrysotile Movement), sent a copy of its letter to no less than six Cabinet members, including Denis Lebel, Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. The group also wrote to Quebec's Prime Minister, Philippe Couillard, to inform him of their attempt to reach out to the federal government and ask him to actively support their initiative.
One can only hope their voices will be heard.
To read the Letter to PM Harper, click here.
BAD SCIENCE EXPOSED
A new analysis of the scientific documentation used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to substantiate its statements regarding the number of death linked to asbestos exposure reveals that the data doesn't even support the organization's conclusions.
In their paper, published last summer and available on ICA's website, Bernstein, Dunnigan and Hoskins underline the fact that those studies are based on exposure concentration and that occurred 20 to 50 years ago. The authors also quote from a 2004 WHO commissioned study by Ezzati & al., which differentiates the much higher risks linked to exposure to banned amphibole fibres and the very low ones associated to chrysotile before concluding that " little excess lung cancer is expected from low exposure levels".
The analysis also reveals that the WHO ignores its own data in choosing to perpetuate the confusion between the impacts of high risk amphibole fibres, now banned, and much safer chrysotile fibers. The WHO paper do not support far from there it is a confirmation that WHO does not have in its possession scientific data that demonstrate or support its pretention. As used nowadays chrysotile is not and will not be responsible for 107,000 deaths per year.
Among others, the Driscoll's scientific study is crystal clear on this issue. The combined estimate is based on the best estimates of risk of 400 per 100,000/fiber.year per ml for crocidolite, 0.65 per 100,000/fiber.year per ml for amosite and 2 per 100,000/fiber.year per ml for chrysotile.
So one must wonder: if the WHO chooses to ignore its own scientific data, whose interests is it catering to when it continues to propagate false claims about the risks associated with the use of chrysotile fibre?
For years now, producer countries and users of chrysotile fiber have exposed the scandal of the ─ well organized ─ judicial procedures launched against asbestos, especially in the U.S. It's mechanism was eloquently described by Fortune magazine, in an series of lengthy articles authored by journalist Roger Parloff. Reknown dailies such as the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times repeatedly voiced their concerns over these noxious but very lucrative practices.
Many organizations in various countries who promote a safe, responsible and well controlled use of chrysotile fibers often publicly denounced this sham against asbestos, which abusively confuses all types of fibers. They raised their voices and pointed out the fact that the most important beneficiaries of this whole judiciary pursuit operation were powerful lobbies who in turn fully support rabid anti-asbestos and anti-chrysotile organizations such as International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) in London, UK.
ICA did its part by bringing up the issue within international bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) or the heads of the Rotterdam Convention. Alas, it's numerous queries were never properly answered.
The judicial procedures scandal's most damning paradox is that they quite obviously go against the real victims' interests but also contribute to hamper progress and development in faraway developing countries' most destitute communities. They compromise the jobs and livelihood of thousands of workers in desperate need of employment. The international organizations and so called progressive anti-asbestos grassroots movements' voluntary ignorance of such harsh realities must stop. It can't be tolerated any longer.
The litigation scandal exposed, again.
Recent examples of those shameless underhand practices were brought to light a few days ago in a well documented article published in the January 24, 2015 edition of the International New York Times. No less than four journalists collaborated to put together this story of how percentage-hungry lawyers, politicians and doctors eager to collect funds for their research labs prospered by facilitating bogus asbestos-related damage claims. Names are named, shameful procedures are explained and the money trails are fully exposed.
There must be an end to such collusion. ICA demands that competent authorities and the court of law stop this nauseating scam which has been going on for far too long. Their action must be quick and harsh, even as they look inwards at their own proceedings. The very credibility of our judicial and political institutions is at stake.
ICA invites you to read attentively the International NYT article and to make sure that in your various countries of residence, competent authorities, media representatives and other asbestos-related organizations are aware of what is really going on behind the curtains of this scandalous crusade against chrysotile and who its real beneficiaries are.
US SENATE REPUBLICAN MAJORITY REVIVES HOPE FOR THE FACT ACT
The year 2014 ended on a hopeful note for all those hoping to curb asbestos litigation frauds in the United States.
On December 27th, an article published by the Wall Street Journal reported that House Speaker John Boehner (R) said that asbestos legal reform would be a priority in the New Year. His statement effectively breathes new life in the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT), introduced by the Republicans in March 2013 and voted in November of that year 2013 by the Congress. FACT would require more than 40 US trusts to disclose the name of claimants and payouts, effectively preventing litigation lawyers from filing bogus claims and getting double or multiple payouts (including for themselves) from various trusts.
Until recently, the Democrat controlled Senate was a major obstacle in getting the FACT Act approved by Congress. The November mid-term election of a Republican majority in both Houses represents a very real opportunity to have it voted by the Senate and sent to the President. John Boehner's re-election on January 6th to serve another 2 years as Speaker of the House is yet another step in this long awaited direction.
To read the WSJ’s article, click here.
IS MINERAL WOOL AS SAFE AS THEY SAY IT IS?
Praised for its insulation qualities, mineral wool is used around the world. But is it really safe? Experts disagree.
Some point to the fact that some 15 years ago, research on its toxicity has lead to changes to fiber lengths and their biopersistence, which raises questions about the huge amounts of material installed in countless buildings and homes before that date. A recent article published on the French Agoravox website underlines that fibers less than 3 micrometers long will penetrate the lungs - and that the mineral wool fiber's length are between 2 and 3,5 micrometers long. The toxicity of formaldehyde, which holds mineral wool fibers together, is also well documented.
Once in a while, «new» products are discovered. Their use spreads, and associated risks are ignored as they are touted as a magic replacement for older, better known materials. Recently, basalt fibers have become such darlings, despite high production costs and unproven safety. But experts in substitution fibers point out that while basalt fibers can occasionally be used for products such as gaskets and friction materials, current production processes make them unusable in the production of fiber cement.
In truth, experience shows all insulation and reinforcement material must be handle with care. Risk-free material simply doesn't exist.
IN BRAZIL, ETERNIT S.A. ANNOUNCES EXCELLENT RESULTS FOR 3Q14
Powered by a raise of 7,5% of its fiber-cement sales compared to 3Q13 and a chrysotile mining segment operating at full capacity, Brazilian group Eternit S.A. registered consolidated net revenues of R$ 250.3 million (US$ 98,95 million) for the 3Q14 period, virtually stable compared to 3Q13.
Investments during the period rose by an impressive 59.4% from 3Q13 and totalled R$35 million (US$ 13.8 million). Funds went primarily to the establishment of a new unit for the research, development and production of construction material inputs and to the maintenance and modernization of the Group's industrial facilities. In 2012, Eternit was voted one of the 150 best companies to work for in Brazil, a recognition for its achievements in the areas of governance, workers professional development, career advancement and safe working environment.
A KEY NUANCE NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN
The World Health Organization's policy on chrysotile is based on 3 resolutions passed by the 194 member states of its governing body, the World Health Assembly (WHA). To understand correctly the limits of its position, one must bear in mind the sentence included in the resolution passed at the WHA's XIIth meeting, which is presented in the ICA brochure, Science Must Prevail.
The sentence reads as follow: In implementing the global campaign for elimination of asbestos and related diseases, allowance should be made for a differentiated approach to regulating the various forms of asbestos, as laid down in the Rotterdam Convention, on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (1998).
This important distinction, which aims to fully respect the right of every nation state to make decisions according to the most recent scientific findings, should never be forgotten.
WORLD CHRYSOTILE PRODUCTION INCREASES, PRODUCTION OUTLOOK STEADY
An advance report released by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) indicates that world production of chrysotile increased to 2.02 Mt in 2013, from 2.01 Mt the year before.
Russia, China, Brazil and Kazakhstan continue to be the leading producers, while significant consumption increases have been registered in a number of countries, including India, Indonesia and Uzbekistan. Southeast Asian countries continue to lead in the manufacturing of chrysotile products.
The report estimates that ongoing demand for chrysotile based products will translate into stable world production levels. Product-wise, while the chloralkali industry will likely increase its market share in the United States, fiber cement will retain its overall lead position as the main use for chrysotile fiber. A full copy of the report can be consulted here.
DUBIOUS DECISIONS' STAGGERING CONSEQUENCES: A STUDY DETAILS THE COSTS OF ASBESTOS REMOVING IN POLAND
A detailed study of costs associated with banning and removing chrysotile in Poland reminds us of the staggering economic consequences of such decisions and once again raises questions about the real interests that motivated them.
In a concise, well-documented paper published last June, Prof. Jerzy R.L. Diczek firstly reminds readers that before the government ban in 1999, 80 % of imported asbestos was used to produce fibrocement sheets utilized in roofing or facades of multistoried residential units, in villages and small towns all over the country. Unfortunately, about half of it were autoclaved plates (encapsulated fibres), containing not only chrysotile but also amphibole asbestos.
Linked to people's stress and frustrations, non material costs are always left out of the equation, underlines the author; nevertheless, they are harshly felt in all communities affected. Having restated that important fact, Professor Diczek then details the effects of the asbestos ban and the various type of costs associated with its removal. More than 25 plants used the product up until 1998 and close to 4,000 jobs were lost: a rough calculation of job reductions, special benefits and health care costs alone brings the total to approximately US$500M. In itself, the cost of removing fibrocement sheets from roofs and facades will oscillate between US$4.18 Billions and US$7.17 Billions.
And those are only a few of the enumerated expenses that the country has to face. Professor Diczek's overall estimates are conservative, lower (by approximately US$897M) than the Polish government's own figures. But whether the total amounts to about US$13,5 Billions or US$14,3 Billions, he eloquently demonstrates how the necessity to eliminate old material and use more expensive, asbestos free products is damaging the Polish economy, in the same way it is hampering the economic vitality of all European countries facing similar issues. To read the full report, click here.
INTELLIGENCE PREVAILS IN PERU - REGULATION CONFIRMS APPROVAL OF CHRYSOTILE USE
More than three years after passing the original law, the Government of Peru recently adopted the decree that formally allows and regulates the extraction, importation and use of chrysotile.
Within the next six months, chrysotile use will be permitted as long as production and transformation activities include prevention and control measures, and do not cause any health risks to workers involved in such processes. A permanent Technical Multisectoral Commission will be responsible for ensuring the respect of existing regulation and, if necessary, for elaborating further rules. The decree also confirms the ban of all amphibole fibers.
This long awaited decision further confirms that the safe use of chrysotile is not only possible but also represents a sound option, creating economic benefits without compromising the health of industry workers.
Read the document (In spanish only)
INSURERS AND LAWYERS AT ODDS OVER NEW FUND IN GREAT BRITAIN
Once again, corporate interests are prevailing in a law passed by the British government earlier this year to create a £350M fund to compensate people with mesothelioma who cannot trace their former employer.
The fund was created by the insurance industry and is available for those diagnosed after July 2012: under the new provisions, it is estimated that sufferers will be awarded approximately 80 % of what a Court might have awarded in a «normal» compensation case - approximately £120 000.
Waving any need to substantiate claims ignores the fact that numerous researches and well-known evidences shows that an important percentage of such mesothelioma cases either occur naturally or arise from other causes. Furthermore, it nurtures the confusion deliberately promoted by the anti-asbestos lobby between the genuinely dangerous Blue and Brown forms of asbestos and much commoner chrysotile. Widely used as a bonding agent in cement, the latter's locked in fibres are not airborne and so not responsible for mesothelioma, as the Health and Safety Executive of U.K. readily accepted before it was hijacked by a well selected so-called science of the anti-asbestos lobby for their crusade.
In an article published by The Telegraph, one lawyer representing patients denounced the new program as «a deal written by insurers for insurers», saying the compensation will amount to no more than 25 % of what a procedure in court would have yielded. But considering the fact that in the US 60 % or more of such damages actually go to the lawyers, one can only wonder who sufferers can really turn to in order to get the full compensation they should rightfully receive.
IS IT REALLY ABOUT CHRYSOTILE ?
THE DEAFENING REGULATORY SILENCE SURROUNDING ALTERNATIVE FIBRES
Since the beginning of the century, again and again voices have raised, asking governing bodies of international organizations to seriously examine the risks posed to human health by replacement alternative fibres and products to chrysotile. To this day, their questions haven't been answered.
Are those replacement fibers harmless? The ICA brochure, Science Must Prevail, details the various risks and uncertainties admitted by a number of European and UN specialized bodies and their calls for further research (see p. 14-15). But not only are those bodies turning a deaf ear to those legitimate requests. A judicious and necessary warning about the use of substitute fibres that was included in Recital (2) from Directive 2003/18 of the European Economic Community, suddenly disappeared six years later from Directive 2009/148/EEC.
Considering all the efforts being made to ban chrysotile, wouldn't it be responsible and reasonable to ask that all alternative products and fibres carrying a potential health risk be strictly controlled and subjected to the same regulations as chrysotile?
Evaluation of the scientific basis for the WHO statement on asbestos
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a document entitled "Elimination of asbestos related diseases" which is supposed to provide a "scientific basis" for the statement that there are about 107,000 deaths per year related to asbestos. In particular, the WHO document implies that chrysotile, as used today, is largely responsible for these deaths.
Critical analysis of the basis for such statement has been reviewed by a number of scientists. Briefly put, their conclusion is that the WHO documents stating that "107,000 deaths per year are occurring today" is not supported by actual facts. Specifically, there is a major flaw in the "scientific basis" for the WHO assertions, in that there is no consideration for the vast differences in pathogenicity among asbestos fiber types. The reviewers of the WHO document are appalled by this major omission. The difference in pathogenicity among asbestos fiber types that has been recognized worldwide has been put aside. As a result, the number of deaths is attributed to the collective term "asbestos", including chrysotile, with no appropriate consideration for the current published literature on the subject.
For instance, this difference in risk among asbestos fiber types has been documented by Hodgson ns Darnton's study, which covers from 20-50 years, and concludes that for lung cancer, the relative risks are 50 for crocidolite, 10 for amosite and 1 for chrysotile. For mesothelioma, the risks are 500 for crocidolite, 100 for amosite and 1 for chrysotile. The reviewers have mentioned a number of other studies that are in complete agreement with the above.
WHO's major failure to account for the recognized differences in risk among asbestos fiber types provides no useful avenues for a correct and scientifically-based management of risk in of the different asbestos fiber types.
RECORD BREAKING SALES FOR CHARMINAR FIBRE CEMENT ROOFING SHEETS IN INDIA
The market for fibre cement roofing show no sign of abating in India where one company alone, HIL Limited, sold a record-breaking 100,000 tons of its Charminar roofing sheets in May 2014.
Charminar is a household name in India, where it has been sold for more than 60 years. HIL Limited, a subsidiary of the CK Birla Group, has 8 manufacturing plants for a total capacity of 1 million tons a year. The company holds about 20% of the national market for fibre cement roofing products, which is valued at US$669M.
In an interview with Global Cement News, HIL's managing director, Abhaya Shankar, attributed its company's success to ongoing brand-building efforts, which include a strong relationship with distributors, a pan-Indian presence and an efficient customer feedback system. .
An environment-friendly product is one which...
Is produced by low energy-consuming technology
Manufacture of some products involve high energy consumption, which means a drain on finite resources (hydroelectricity, fossil fuels, etc.), some of which are non-renewable.
Compared to products coming from the petrochemical or metallurgical industry, asbestos-cement products consume much less energy; in fact, the largest proportion of energy consumption goes into the production of cement.
Has a long useful service life
Short product life means you have to replace more often, create more waste, and needs more energy consumption, etc.
The resistance of asbestos-cement products to corrosion, to ultra-violet rays, to rot etc. is remarkable and unique. In fact, few other products have such a guaranteed long service life.
Is made from simple starting materials
Production of final products may involve complex mixtures of synthetic starting materials, which may be harmful by themselves (ex.: PVC made from vinyl chloride monomers - a known carcinogen), and present a risk not only for plant workers, but for general population as well.
Composition of high density asbestos-cement products is uniquely simple, and technology is readily available to developing countries, without resorting to the use of more complex ingredients, whose safe handling may present difficulties far greater than those required for the controlled manufacture of asbestos-cement products.
Presents a relatively low risk during its manufacture
Use of countless products may cause environmental damage to fauna, flora, rivers, lakes, the sea, underground waters may (does) occur, following explosions, radioactive leakage, acid precipitations, etc., as a result of systems malfunction, equipment failure, human error, carelessness or other unforeseen reasons (ex.: Bohpal, Tchernobyl, Minamata).
With controlled plant operations, chrysotile-cement manufacturing presents a far lesser risk to the environment, compared to many other product manufacturing technologies based on synthetic chemistry or metallurgy.
Presents a relatively low risk when in use
Some products may be consumed by fire, releasing large clouds of toxic and/or corrosive gases.
Whereas many combustible construction materials may, in case of fire, release clouds of gases and/or fumes highly toxic to man and to the environment, asbestos-cement products are by definition resistant to heat and fire; in fact, they may actually prevent or minimize the spread of conflagration.
Presents a relatively low risk when stored or transported, prior to or after use
Transportation and storage of some raw materials or finished products prior to their use, or when discarded after use ( ex.: corrosive liquids, hazardous chemicals, storage of discarded PCBs, spent lead batteries, old tire piles, etc. may pose a hazard to both the environment or the general population.
Transportation and handling of chrysotile-cement products does require appropriate care, but efficient and recognized practices are simple and straightforward. The safe transportation and storage of some other products is far more complex, and mishaps can (and do) occur. Compare the risk of environmental damage of a tanker full of crude oil or other petrochemicals to the risk of a cargo of chrysotile-cement products.
Constitutes a relatively low risk at final disposal site
Some products present a high degree of hazard to the environment (soil and/or water contamination) if not securely contained in specially designed and tightly supervised disposal sites.
Safe disposal of many modern products and waste has become an environmental and economic nightmare, often requiring especially designed and costly disposal sites, which must be monitored constantly to prevent leakage of contaminating substances into the environment. Waste management is often so complex and costly that "easier" solutions are often found... Chrysotile-cement waste disposal is inexpensive, simple and recognized practices are well known. They are made of naturally occuring material which return to the environment after use.
ON ALL COUNTS, CHRYSOTILE-CEMENT PRODUCTS ARE ENVIRONMENTFRIENDLY!
ANOTHER MYTH DEBUNKED
After years of suspicion, ICA's thorough analysis confirms that one of opponents to a responsible use of chrysotile favourite claim, that "an estimated 100,000 workers die every year from exposure to asbestos" is nothing more than a pure extrapolation.
As explained in the recently published ICA brochure, Science Must Prevail, the number was first put forward at a conference in Dresden in 2003 by J. Takala, who extrapolated from statistics in Finland to generate a world-wide estimate. In his communication, the author carefully underlined that the number didn't refer to recorded cases - a caveat quickly and conveniently forgotten by interested parties. One must also note the author didn't make any distinction between the different types of asbestos and their respective pathogenic potential.
Bottom line, the alleged 100,000 death a year claim is certainly not applicable to chrysotile fibres. The most recent scientific published studies have in fact debunked the anti-asbestos lobby propaganda on this pretention.
To read more about the issue, please consult chapter 5 of the ICA brochure.
UKIP SAYS NO TO «HAZARDOUS» CLASSIFICATION FOR CHRYSOTILE
The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), who came in first in that country's European Parliament elections, wants to get rid of the «hazardous» classification of asbestos cement, made with chrysotile. However, crocidolite and amosite would remain strictly controlled.
The information is contained in an overview of UKIP's Agricultural Policy, which was unveiled last March. It was further relayed by Asbestos Watch, a company who offers science-based advice to commercial and residential property owners and calls for common sense approach to handling building material containing asbestos.
This new policy document reiterates UKIP's long standing position on chrysotile. In 2013, the Party played a key role in the decision made by the European Parliament in 2013 to reject the Hughes resolution, supported by the ban asbestos lobby. Among others, the resolution called for the removal of all asbestos containing material in use within Europe. Asbestos Watch estimates that this measure alone would have cost the UK farming industry more than 10 billion dollars in remedial costs.
ZIMBABWE SET TO REOPEN CHRYSOTILE MINES
Zimbabwe's economy stands to benefit from an estimated 180 million dollar boost as the country gets ready to reopen its Shabanie and Mashaba chrysotile mines.
The announcement was made in Harare by the Industry and Commerce Minister, Michael Bimha, during the launch of the government's Zimbabwe Chrysotile Position Paper on May 29th. The document, which represents the national policy on mining, value-addition and handling of chrysotile, follows extensive consultation held by the National Chrysotile Task Force with the private sector, asbestos industry and labour. It is expected to be endorsed shortly. In his declaration, the Minister also reiterated Zimbabwe's determination to fight against the inclusion of chrysotile in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention.
The mines were closed in 2004, after the government took over their ownership. It is estimated that the Zimbabwe industry could produce 180 000 metric tonne of chrysotile yearly, most of which would be exported. At its peak, it employed about 5 000 workers.
THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION WILL NOT GET INVOLVED IN SCREENING AND DECONTAMINATION OF PUBLIC BUILDINGS
For the first time since the approbation of the Hugues Report by the European Parliament in March 2013, the European Commission (EC) has unequivocally stated that the screening and decontamination of public buildings containing asbestos is not of its competence and that it remains the Member States' sole responsibility.
In conformity with the EC's 2009 directive, the strongly worded declaration also reiterated the responsibility of employers in carrying risk assessments and ensuring that exposure is below the EC sanctioned limit value of 0.1 fibres per cm3 as an eight-hour-time-weighted average. It was issued, officially and on behalf of the EC, by the Commissioner for Social Affairs in response to a parliamentary question regarding the implementation of EU legal requirements on asbestos in Portuguese public buildings.
The European Trade Unions and the anti-asbestos campaigners have been insistently arguing, for many years, that EC should promote a pan-European programme to remove asbestos in place in Europe. The leitmotiv of the Hughes Report was, precisely, to have an "institutional weapon" - a resolution of the European Parliament- for the purposes of those groups.
ICA SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON THE SAFE USE OF CHRYSOTILE
A new brochure published by the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) denounces the way World Health Organization (WHO) activists run counter to the World Health Assembly's 2007 decision regarding the safe use of chrysotile. It also brings together an impressive collection of peer-reviewed scientific papers that address all key issues related to biological response to exposure to amphibole and chrysotile fibers, risks associated with the use of substitutes and conditions for a safe, controlled use of chrysotile.
The first part of the brochure exposes the wide chasm between the WHO's Director for Public Health and Environment, Maria Neira, public statements and the official position adopted by the Organization's governing body, the WHA, on chrysotile fibres and the Global Action Plan to eliminate asbestos-related diseases. In the second part, readers will find abstracts summing up essential findings on the complex subset of issues pertaining to the use of chrysotile and useful sources for further reading.
Concerns repeatedly expressed by numerous interested parties with regards to WHO public official's activism have not been answered. With this brochure, the ICA sets the record straight, and clearly indicates the correct way to respect WHA guidelines. It also provides ample, science-based explanations of why this should be the only, reasonable approach to this essential matter.
The brochure can be found on the ICA website by Clicking here.
To receive a paper copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
FROM SERPENTINE TO MAGNESIUM: A CANADIAN COMPANY CREATES
A LUCRATIVE FUTURE FOR ASBESTOS MINING RESIDUES
Alliance Magnesium, a Canadian company, is reinventing the future of asbestos mining residue.
For the automotive and the aerospace industries, reducing the weight of vehicles and equipment covered by mandatory goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is the key to a greener and profitable future. Lightweight magnesium plays a central role in their efforts: most experts predict demand will grow consistently in the foreseeable future.
Decades of chrysotile-asbestos mining in Quebec generated huge tailings of serpentine rock with a 23.3% magnesium metal content. Alliance developed a patent-pending extraction technology, based on an electrolytic clean-tech approach which innovates on current archaic and energy intensive methods used by most magnesium producers, essentially located in China. Its source of raw material is located in Quebec, near existing infrastructure, with relatively inexpensive energy supply.
A few weeks ago, Alliance presented its business model to highly interested representatives of major players of the auto industry and material suppliers at the Global Light Weight Materials event that was held in London. It plans to invest a total of $535 million to build a full-scale magnesium metal production plant with a production capacity of 50,000 tons/year and hopes to become a key global source of magnesium production by 2015-2016.
WHEN CAREFUL ANALYSIS AND EVIDENCE-BASED DECISIONS PREVAIL :
ECHA EXTENDS PROVISION ON THE USE OF CHRYSOTILE IN EUROPE UNTIL THE END OF 2025
In a remarkable decision made public earlier this week, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has proposed to extend its authorization for the use of chrysotile in the production of diaphragms used in the electrolysis process by European chlorine industry firms until December 31 2025.
This measure confirms what the ICA and its members have been constantly saying: safe, controlled use of chrysotile is indeed possible. For some businesses, it represents the best possible option.
While all asbestos fibers have been banned in the 28 countries of the EU, the chlorine industry still holds an exemption which allows the use of diaphragms containing chrysotile for existing electrolysis installations until they reach the end of their service life or until suitable asbestos-free substitutes become available. Currently, two EU companies, AarhusKarlslamn Sweden AB (AAK) and Dow Deutschland Anlagengesellschaft mbH (Dow), with two different electrolysis processes, are using chrysotile. The first was granted a company specific exemption by the Swedish government while in Germany, the exemption is national.
In January 2013, the European Commission (EC) requested the ECHA to prepare a dossier with a view of prohibiting the marketing and use of diaphragms containing chrysotile. ECHA chose instead to propose an extension of the exemption until the end of 2025.
The ECHA Report is based on extensive consultations with the two companies and scrupulous examination of their processes. It confirms that the design processes and personal protective equipment used by AAK and Dow minimize the risk of worker exposure to almost inexistent levels. In doing so, it also validates ICA's long-standing arguments that hazards associated with chrysotile use in industrial processes can be managed to a point of negligible risk.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION FINALLY SEES THE REAL DANGER : AIR POLLUTION
At long last, the World Health Organization (WHO) is turning the spotlight on one of the real problems threatening our collective future. A few days ago, it revealed that its estimates suggest that 7 million people died prematurely due to air pollution in 2012 alone.
In comparison, the WHO's Director for Public Health and Environment had mentioned in an interview aired last February that slightly more than 100 000 deaths worldwide could be linked to asbestos exposure, over an unspecified number of years.
Already in 1986 WHO had stated that The risk of mesothelioma and lung cancer, attributable to asbestos exposure in the general population, is undetectably low; the risk for asbestosis is practically nil" . ( Environ. Health Criteria #53, 1986, WHO, Geneva).
In the face of its own evidence, one can only hope the WHO will stop bowing to pressure from strident lobby groups and devote its energies to addressing the real issues affecting millions of people around the world.
THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION CONSIDERS IT IS DOING ENOUGH ON ASBESTOS-RELATED ISSUES
Despite the anti-asbestos lobby that will never stop its crusade against asbestos, the European Commission has announced no plan to promote additional health management models for areas where people have an increased risk of being exposed to hazardous substances.
Following a question raised in February by a member of the European Parliament, the EC also reiterated in a non-equivocal, written answer, that member States are responsible for ensuring correct implementation of European legislation and directives concerning the monitoring and use of potentially hazardous substances such as asbestos. In its answer, the Commission also listed the numerous and detailed actions it has undertaken over the past 25 years in order to clarify requirements for the protection of workers potentially
DECELERATING CANCER RATES IN EUROPE PROVE MEASURES' EFFECTIVENESS
The results of a meta study on rare thoracic cancers, supported by the European Commission and published in 2012 in the European Journal of Cancer, show that while mesothelioma cancer incidence rates are still expected to be high in the upcoming decades, the magnitude of recent trends in younger men is generally lower than those estimated for older men. Even more important, the study, drawing data from other research published in the past decade, confirms that a deceleration has started in some countries, notably in France and Great Britain.
This important information validates the impact of the ban many years ago of amphibole fibers and asbestos flocking practices as well as the efficiency of the various rules and regulations that currently signpost the many uses of chrysotile. It also confirms the important role national and regional cancer registries can play in monitoring the positive impact of those regulatory frameworks.
A DOCTOR WORKING WITH THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) SUPPORTS THE CRUSADE OF POWERFUL LOBBIES
Dr. Maria Neira, director of WHO's Public Health and Environment was interviewed recently (February 2, 2014) and the interview was posted on YouTube.
What have we learned exactly from this 55-minute interview?
In fact, Dr. Neira restated the WHO's position on the need to eliminate asbestos-related diseases, a goal no one should be against. She insisted that in order to reach that goal, there is only one solution: the ban of all varieties of asbestos, including chrysotile. During the interview, Dr. Neira stated that this position and recommendations (ban all future uses of all varieties) was based on a review of evidence gathered by the IARC last analysis, which concluded that all types of asbestos can induce cancers, in particular lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Questioned on what was the “evidence-basis” to support WHO’s position, she indicated that WHO had some evidence that all fiber types were carcinogenic, and that this “evidence” was mainly from the IARC recent review.
On the WHO’S Global Action Plan, she was questioned also to explain the meaning of the phrase “… bearing in mind a differentiated approach to regulating its various forms”, she replied that this differentiated approach was “legalistic”, i.e. to be used at the country level, but for the WHO’s point of view, all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic, period.
The rest of this 55-minute interview was the usual and expected propaganda of the WHO in its efforts to reach a global ban of the use of all types of asbestos.
Dr. Neira’s simplistic appreciation of the need for a differentiated approach to regulate its various forms as “legalistic” was an admission that the scientific consensus on the vast difference in health risk from the amphibole forms (crocidolite and amosite) and chrysotile should be discarded in the face of evidence provided by IARC that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic.
First, the evidence that there is an enormous difference in risk between the amphiboles and chrysotile was illustrated in a publication in 2000 by Hodgson and Darnton (Hodgson JT and Darnton A. The Quantitative Risks of Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer in Relation to Asbestos. Ann. Occup. Hyg. 2000, 44(8): 565-601). From their meta-analysis, Hodgson and Darnton estimated the specific risk for lung cancer and mesothelioma as follows :
For lung cancer : 1 :10 :50 respectively for chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite.
For mesothelioma : 1: 100: 300 respectively for chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite.
There is thus a science-based evidence for differentiating between chrysotile and the amphiboles. It is not “legalistic” as Dr. Neira would have it.
The second point (all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic) is equally important: What is important is to fully understand the true meaning of the IARC classification of human carcinogens. It should be understood, as the IARC mentions in the “Preamble” to its classification, that the classification is about “hazard”, not about “risk”. A hazard is about the possibility of adverse health effects when exposure intensity and duration reach high enough levels to induce harm. Risk is determined by the intensity above which harm will be manifest.
In the IARC classification of carcinogens, there are presently some hundred substances, mixtures and activities listed as “human carcinogens”. Surely, IARC has never indicated that all these substances, mixtures and activities should be banned globally. IARC’s classification of these “hazards” must be controlled in order for the “risk” to be undetectably low, and practically inexistent.
While the end of the use of amphiboles over the last decade is certainly welcome in terms of risk to workers and the general population, the safe use of chrysotile has been shown to be a reality when mandated maximum exposure levels are observed. Here are a few examples showing that the safe use of chrysotile is not only possible, but a reality:
Weill, H., Hughes, J. and Waggenspack, C. (1979). Influence of dose and fibre type on respiratory malignancy risk in asbestos cement manufacturing. American Review of Respiratory Disease 120(2): 345-354.
An investigation on 5,645 asbestos-cement manufacturing workers, showing no raised mortality resulting from exposure for 20 years to chrysotile asbestos at exposure levels equal to or less than 100 MPPCF.years (corresponding to approximately 15 fibres/ml.years).
The authors state:"...However, the demonstration that low cumulative and short-term exposures did not produce a detectable excess risk for respiratory malignancy may be of assistance in the development of regulatory policy, because a scientifically defensible position based on these data is that there are low degrees of exposure not associated with a demonstrable excess risk".
Thomas, H.F., Benjamin, I.T., Elwood, P.C. and Sweetnam, P.M. (1982). Further follow-up study of workers from an asbestos cement factory. British Journal of Industrial Medicine 39(3):273-276.
In an asbestos-cement factory using chrysotile only, 1,970 workers were traced, and their mortality experience was examined. There was no appreciably raised standardised mortality ratio (SMR) for the causes of death investigated, including all causes, all neoplasms, cancer of the lung and pleura, and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. The authors indicate: "Thus the general results of this mortality survey suggest that the population of the chrysotile asbestos-cement factory studied are not at any excess risk in terms of total mortality, all cancer mortality, cancers of the lung and bronchus, or gastrointestinal cancers".
Gardner, M.J., Winter, P.D., Pannett, B. and Powell, C.A. (1986). Follow up study of workers manufacturing chrysotile asbestos cement products. British Journal of Industrial Medicine 43:726-732.
A cohort study carried out on 2,167 subjects employed between 1941 and 1983. No excess of lung cancers or other asbestos-related excess death is reported, at mean fibre concentrations below 1 f/ml, although higher levels had probably occurred in certain areas of the asbestos-cement factory.
Ohlson, C.-G. and Hogstedt, C. (1985). Lung cancer among asbestos cement workers. A Swedish cohort study and a review. British Journal of Industrial Medicine 42(6):397-402.
A cohort study of 1,176 A/C workers in a Swedish plant using chrysotile asbestos showing no excess related mortality at exposures of about 10-20 fibres/ml.years.
L. Sichletidis D. Chloros D. Spyratos A.-B. Haidich I. Fourkiotou M. Kakoura, D. Patakas (2008) Mortality from occupational Exposure to Relatively Pure Chrysotile : A 39-Year Study. Respiration, Published Online: October 9, 2008. http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=AcceptedPapers&ProduktNr=224278
An investigation covering a span of almost 40 years on the mortality rate among workers exposed to relatively pure chrysotile in an asbestos cement factory that opened in 1968 in Greece. The factory used approximately 2,000 tonnes of chrysotile annualy until 2005. Fiber concentration was measured regularly, and was always below permissible levels. Date and cause of death were recorded among all active and retired workers.
No case of mesothelioma was reported. Overall mortality rate was significantly lower than that of the Greek general population. Conclusions of the authors : “Occupational exposure to relatively pure chrysotile within permissible levels was not associated with a significant increase in lung cancer or with mesothelioma.”
Berry, G. and Newhouse, M.L. (1983). Mortality of workers manufacturing friction materials using asbestos. British Journal of Industrial Medicine 40(1): 1-7.
A mortality (1942-1980) study carried out in a factory producing friction materials, using almost exclusively chrysotile. Compared with national death rates, there were no detectable excess of deaths due to lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, or other cancers. The exposure levels were low, with only 5% of men accumulating 100 fibre-years/ml. The authors state: “The experience at this factory over a 40-year period showed that chrysotile asbestos was processed with no detectable excess mortality.”
Newhouse, M.L. and Sullivan, K.R. (1989). A mortality study of workers manufacturing friction materials: 1941-86. British Journal of Industrial Medicine 46(3):176-179.
The study referred to in the preceding slide has been extended by seven years. The authors confirm that there was no excess of deaths from lung cancer or other asbestos related tumours, or from chronic respiratory disease. After 1950, hygienic control was progressively improved at this factory, and from 1970, levels of asbestos have not exceeded 0.5-1.0 f/ml. The authors conclude: “It is concluded that with good environmental control, chrysotile asbestos may be used in manufacture without causing excess mortality.”
Liddell FDK, McDonald JC and McDonald A. Ann. Occup. Hyg. 41:13-35 (1997)
This study is undoubtedly the largest cohort of asbestos workers ever studied and followed for the longest period is that of the miners and millers of the chrysotile mines in Québec. The cohort, which was established in 1966, comprises some 11,000 workers born between 1891-1920 and has been followed ever since. The authors have updated their study several times, with a total of 9,780 men traced into 1992. Results from exposures below 300 mpcf x years, roughly equivalent to 900 fibres/ml x years - or, say, 45 fibres/ml for 20 years - lead the authors to conclude: “Thus it is concluded from the point of view of mortality that exposure in this industry to less than 300 mpcf.years has been essentially innocuous.”
Paustenbach D.J., Finley B.L., Lu E.T., Brorby G.P., and Sheehan P.J. (2004). Environmental and occupational health hazards associated with the presence of asbestos in brake linings and pads (1900 to present): A ‘state-of-the-art review’. J Toxicol Environ Health, Part B 7 : 33-110
This publication is a “state-of-the-art” review of the risk associated with the use of asbestos in the manufacture of friction materials and their use in the general automotive service industries. This review, covering studies and observations published over several decades, demonstrate that in general, exposures have been minimal and did not show any demonstrable risk when chrysotile was used, and that the relatively few instances of increased health risks were always associated with the use of amphiboles.
Yarborough C.M. (2006). Chrysotile as a Cause of Mesothelioma : An Assessment Based on Epidemiology. Critical Reviews in Toxicology 36: 165-187
This is an extensive review of the epidemiological cohort studies undertaken to evaluate the extent of the evidence related to free chrysotile fibers, with particular attention to confounding by other fiber types, job exposure concentrations, and consistency of findings. This review of 71 asbestos cohorts exposed to free asbestos fibers does not support the hypothesis that chrysotile, uncontaminated by amphibolic substances, causes mesothelioma.
DJ Paustenbach, BL Finley, ET Lu, GP Brorby, PJ Sheehan (2004)
Environmental and occupational health hazards associated with the presence of asbestos in brake linings and pads (1900 to present): A "state-of-the-art" review
Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part B - Critical Reviews,
2004, Vol 7, Iss 1, pp 33-110
In this review, the authors covered the post-1974 time period, when most of the information on exposure of brake mechanics to airborne asbestos during brake repair was gathered, primarily from a series of sampling surveys conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in the United States. These surveys indicated that the time-weighted average asbestos concentrations (about 1-6 h in duration) during brake servicing were between 0.004 and 0.28 fibers per cubic centimeter, and the mean time-weighted average concentration was about 0.05 fibers per cubic centimeter. The data also showed that brake mechanics were not exposed to time-weighted average concentrations above workplace exposure limits in effect at the time of the study.
From 1975 to 2002, more than 25 epidemiology studies were conducted examining the risks of asbestos-related diseases in brake mechanics. These studies clearly indicated that brake mechanics were not at increased risk of adverse health effects due to exposure to asbestos. Specifically, the studies found no increased risk of mesothelioma or asbestosis in brake mechanics, and no evidence that lung cancer in this occupational group can be attributed to exposure to asbestos during brake repair.
Finally, with regard to the risk for the general population, the following quote is of interest :
"The risk of mesothelioma and lung cancer, attributable to asbestos exposure in the general population, is undetectably low; the risk for asbestosis is practically nil" .
( Environ. Health Criteria #53, 1986, WHO, Geneva)
DUBIOUS PRACTICES : ASBESTOS LITIGATION RACKET EXPOSED, AGAIN
(disponible en anglais seulement)
After years of abuse, some light is finally being shed on the irregularities that allow litigation lawyers representing alleged asbestos victims to win their day in court.
In its February 8-9 2014 edition, the Wall Street Journal drew the attention on very troubling facts. New to asbestos cases, a suspicious US North Carolina judge allowed discovery in 15 cases Garlock Sealing Technologies, a gasket maker forced into bankruptcy in 2010, had already settled. He found that exposure evidence had been withheld in all of them.
Failing to disclose is a weapon of choice for lawyers who milk trusts by hiding their clients' exposure to other sources of asbestos, filing parallel claims based on contradictory evidence and misrepresenting evidence. No wonder asbestos-related claims continue to rise even though the number mesothelioma cases is waning: according to the National Cancer Institute the incidence of mesothelioma cancer in the US fell 22% between 1992 and 2009, to 0.96 new cases per 100 000.
Will this deluge of bogus claims ever end? As journalistic investigations and judicial enquiries uncover an ever-growing number of frauds, one can only hope the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT) passed last year by the Congress will also be adopted by the Senate in 2014. Requiring the more than 40 trusts currently active in the US to publish quarterly reports disclosing the name of claimants and payouts would go a long way towards reducing - if not eliminating altogether - litigation lawyers' greedy take on money put aside for the real victims of asbestos.
Busting the asbestos racket should be a goal shared by all who claim to have those victim's best interests at heart. Similar shameful scams have been publicly denounced before. These new revelations make the anti-asbestos lobby and the powerful litigation business' stubborn silence on these matter even more remarkable.
FRAUDULENT CLAIMS IN THE US: HOW LAWYERS PLAY THE GAME AND HOW THEY COULD BE STOPPED
(disponible en anglais seulement)
Twenty years after establishing bankruptcy trusts to help asbestos victims, the American Congress is now trying to stop the plaintiffs bar from bilking the trusts with fraudulent claims.
Two weeks ago, the Congress passed the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT), which would require asbestos trusts in the United States to file quarterly reports about the payouts they make and who receives them.
Since the early 2000's, the overwhelming majority of claims have been filed on behalf of plaintiffs who were completely asymptomatic. These claimants may have had some marker of exposure, but are not now and never will be afflicted by disease.
Companies sued into bankruptcy often created trusts to fund compensations for current and future asbestos victims. Trusts don't share claims data with each other or with the courts, which means that the plaintiffs bar can file claims with many trusts on behalf of the same client.
In an article published on Wednesday, November 13, the Wall Street Journal exposed how the approximately 60 asbestos trusts established in the United States, which together manage some $36 billion dollars, are being looted. In particular, it highlights the role played by prominent law firms who take advantage of a weak legislative environment.
The Journal explains how «trial lawyers get contingency fee payouts from litigation while also taking cuts on the thousand of claims they simultaneously run through trusts». It describes how in 2006, an Ohio judge had discovered a law firm had filed claims to trusts arguing that asbestos caused its client's mesothelioma, while suing a cigarette company for causing the same cancer. The firm was subsequently barred from practicing in Ohio. In March, the Journal had reported that the Johns Manville trust had paid $26,250 to a claimant invented by a law-firm employee. It also found that more than 2,000 applicants to the Manville trust claimed to have been exposed to asbestos working in industrial jobs before they were 12 years old. According to the Journal, Manville, who went bankrupt more than 30 years ago, still receives some 85 claims a day.
The FACT act is the first federal asbestos reform since 1994. By requiring trusts to file quarterly reports with bankruptcy courts that give the names of claimants and their payouts, it will help all parties involved to sort legitimate and fraudulent claims. Opponents argue it will discourage legitimate claims. In truth, the legislation prohibits the release of confidential medical details, Social Security numbers or other sensitive information protected in the normal course of bankruptcy.
Introduced last March, the FACT will now go to the Senate for consideration. While it could still be blocked, its vote by the House sends an important signal that Congress wants to stop the legal fraud its trusts made possible, whose intention was to compensate legitimate victims, not enrich lawyers.
Critical Reviews in Toxicology
This review provides a basis for substantiating both kinetically and pathologically the differences between chrysotile and amphibole asbestos. Chrysotile, which is rapidly attacked by the acid environment of the macrophage, falls apart in the lung into short fibers and particles, while the amphibole asbestos persist creating a response to the fibrous structure of this mineral. [...]
(disponible en anglais seulement)
Télécharger le document [.pdf]
Convention de Rotterdam
After three frustated attempts, where consensus has not been reached (2006, 2008 and 2011), the 150 Parties of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, will again deal with the inclusion of chrysotile in the Prior Informed Consent List (PIC List), during this Conference of the Parties (COP6) in Geneva (April 28 – May 11, 2013). There is no new scientific evidence justifying a change in the position taken before.
(disponible en anglais seulement)
Télécharger le document [.pdf]
Bulletin de L'Institut du Chrysotile
Pour l'utilisation sécuritaire et responsable du chrysotile.
Volume 10, Numéro 1, Novembre 2011.
Télécharger le document [.pdf]
Bulletin de L'Institut du Chrysotile
Pour l'utilisation sécuritaire et responsable du chrysotile.
Volume 9, Numéro 2, Novembre 2010.
Télécharger le document [.pdf]
Décision historique de la Cour suprême de l'Inde
Dans une décision d’une grande importance rendue le 21 janvier dernier, la Cour
suprême de l’Inde a refusé la demande de bannir l’amiante, comme le lui
demandait une ONG liée au mouvement anti-amiante. La Cour a plutôt ordonné
au gouvernement du pays et à ceux des États de mieux réglementer l’utilisation
Télécharger le document [.pdf]
Communiqués de presse
Objet: Regroupement de partenaires en faveur de la fibre chrysotile.
Pour l'usage sécuritaire, responsable et contrôlé de la fibre chrysotile. (PDF)
Nous vous invitons de lire le dernier Bulletin de l’Institut pour le suivi et conclusions des réunions de la Convention de Rotterdam, tenues en octobre 2008, à Rome, Italie.
Lire le bulletin >>
Convention de Rotterdam COP IV – Rome, Italie (27-31 octobre 2008)
La quatrième conférence des parties (COP 4) à la Convention de Rotterdam sur la procédure de consentement préalable en connaissance de cause (PIC) applicable dans le cas de certains produits chimiques et pesticides dangereux qui font l'objet du commerce international se tiendra à Rome, en Italie, du 27 au 31 octobre 2008. Le secrétariat de la Convention a publié tous les renseignements pertinents au cours des dernières semaines.
Non-malignant consequences of decreasing asbestos exposure in the Brazil chrysotile mines and mills - Occupational Environmental Medicine, June 2005