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Plan to Fully Ban Asbestos in Taiwan Underway

TaiwanThe Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taiwan has published a timeline for the complete ban of asbestos in the country, according to a recent release.

Though most uses of asbestos are already banned in Taiwan, the EPA noted that some uses are still permitted, meaning a total elimination is still necessary. As a result, the EPA has established guidelines for the implementation of specific phases of the asbestos ban.

The schedule adopted by the EPA was reportedly designed to give industry groups a specific deadline to curtail, and ultimately, eliminate the use of the carcinogenic substance. Once the plan is fully adopted, Taiwan would join a growing list of countries that have decided to ban asbestos.

The plan

The deadline for the first phase of the plan has already come and gone, as on August 1, the use of asbestos in manufacturing “extruded cement composite hollow panels and construction sealants” was banned.

The next phase, which will be adopted on February 1, 2013, calls for the prohibition of asbestos in the manufacturing of roof tiles, according to the EPA. Asbestos can be found in roof tiles across the globe, as the material was once prized for its resistance to fire and utility as an insulator.

The final step in the EPA’s plan to fully ban asbestos in Taiwan will be implemented on July 1, 2018, when the carcinogenic substance will no longer be allowed in the manufacturing of brake linings, the administration said in its release.

In setting these deadlines, the EPA noted that the phasing out of asbestos use in the manufacturing of such products will lower the overall amount of the carcinogen in the country and, as a result, reduce the prevalence of asbestos-related illnesses, which include lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.

Asbestos illnesses remain a major concern

Taiwan’s efforts to ban asbestos are crucial, particularly as the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 107,000 people die each year as a result of asbestos-related diseases.

The phase-out plan also sends a strong message to the rest of the world, particularly given the recent news from Canada, where an asbestos mine is scheduled to be revitalized as a result of a government loan.

International Groups Join Forces Against Quebec Asbestos Mine Reopening

Quebec government buildingThough investors in the Jeffrey asbestos mine in Asbestos, Quebec, may be celebrating the Quebec government’s recent decision to offer a $58 million loan to revitalize the mine, their cheers have been somewhat muted as a result of international criticism.

While supporters and asbestos industry lobbyists have hailed the decision, saying it will provide a significant economic boost, scientists and health groups have pointed to the significant dangers the mining of asbestos will bring to the forefront. Quebec has also been blasted for exporting the carcinogenic substance to developing countries while restricting its use at home.

According to Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator for International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), one troubling aspect of the revitalization of the mine is that one key financier, Ulan Marketing Co. Ltd, is an asbestos conglomerate from Thailand. Despite the fact that the Thai government opted to ban asbestos last year, this commitment by Ulan demonstrates the effort of industry groups to reverse the restriction on asbestos.

The Montreal Gazette reports Ulan has provided $14 million to assist the project, while businessman Baljit Chadha and Jeffrey Mine president Bernard Coulombe have put down another $11 million total. That $25 million was required in order for the government to provide a guarantee on the $58 million loan, according to the news provider.

Overseas criticism grows louder

Opposition to the reopening of the Jeffrey mine can be seen across the globe. The British Parliament has denounced the decision by the Quebec government, while publications in Britain, Australia and India have also railed against the actions, according to Kazan-Allen.

In countries like Japan, India and Indonesia, protests have been held in front of Canadian embassies, while officials from other countries – including Korea and the Philippines – have sent letters to Canadian authorities asking them to cease the mining and exportation of asbestos.

Developing countries like these often bear the brunt of such actions by the Canadian government, as they import the asbestos despite the known risks. According to the World Health Organization, asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma – a rare cancer that attacks the tissues surrounding many of the body’s inner organs – kill approximately 107,000 people around the world each year.

International Health Officials Release Statement Calling for Asbestos Ban

Globe importantA new statement released by a number of organizations and supported by more than 150 health groups and scientists in twenty countries is calling on the complete and total ban of asbestos mining, use and exportation.

The statement comes amid controversy over the Quebec government’s decision to extend a loan to help revitalize the Jeffrey asbestos mine in the town of Asbestos. Critics of the move have pointed to Canada’s seemingly contradictory policies of restricting asbestos use at home while continuing to export the carcinogenic material to developing countries.
“Continued use of asbestos will lead to a public health disaster of asbestos-related illness and premature death for decades to come, repeating the epidemic we are witnessing today in industrialized countries that used asbestos in the past,” Dr. Stanley Weiss, chair of the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology (JPC-SE), said in a statement.

Weiss pointed to the “irrefutable scientific evidence of harm to human health resulting from exposure to all forms of asbestos,” which includes the development of illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.

Dr. Robert Hiatt, a representative of the American College of Epidemiology, added in the statement that the health groups were calling on countries such as Canada, Russia, Brazil and Kazakhstan to stop mining and exporting the dangerous material, and assist their mining communities with this shift.

Evidence of asbestos dangers seen around the world

The statement, which is 25 pages, posits that in addition to dangers posed by the exportation of asbestos to developing countries, mining nations are also endangering their own citizens. One look at the community of Libby, Montana, offers evidence to this assertion, as 400 people in the area have been killed by asbestos-related diseases and another 1,700 have been sickened as a result of the operations of the W.R. Grace and Company vermiculite operations.

In the statement, the health organizations criticize asbestos industry groups over what they believe has been intimidation tactics designed to suppress the thoughts of scientists.

Despite any attempts, however, the evidence is clear. The World Health Organization estimates that asbestos-related diseases claim the lives of approximately 107,000 individuals each year.

ICOH Releases Statement Urging Worldwide Asbestos Ban

asbestos signsJoining a number of other global health groups including the World Health Organization, the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) recently issued a statement condemning the use of asbestos and calling for a global ban.

In the statement, the commission notes that after much discussion about the use of the carcinogenic substance in various industries, it decided to encourage each individual country to totally ban the production and use of asbestos.

ICOH pointed specifically to guidance handed down by the World Health Organization in 2006, which said that the most efficient way to reduce the number of asbestos-related diseases would be to halt the use of all types of the carcinogenic material.

The diseases referred to by WHO and the ICOH include lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that attacks the tissues surrounding the majority of the body’s internal organs. WHO estimates indicate that approximately 107,000 individuals succumb to these illnesses around the world each year.

ICOH emphasizes total ban

In its statement, ICOH examined the various manners in which different countries have dealt with the issue of asbestos. While some countries have adopted universal bans of the material, others have halted production and use of amphibole and crocidolite, but not chrysotile.

Still others, like Canada, have taken seemingly contradictory stances over asbestos, giving the green light to the production and exportation of the carcinogen while restricting its use at home. In the statement, ICOH was extremely critical of such practices.

“Some countries have banned the production and/or use of asbestos-containing industrial products, but have continued to mine, sell and export asbestos,” the commission said. “This is an unacceptable policy and should be reconsidered by those countries. In order to be effective, a total ban on production, use and export of all forms of asbestos should be achieved in every country.”

This type of criticism has been leveled by health and safety groups across Canada, many of which have said the country is “exploiting” developing nations such as India by continually exporting asbestos to them.

Recently, much to the chagrin of these organizations, the Quebec government took another step in the wrong direction when it approved a loan that will reportedly revitalize the Jeffrey asbestos mine in the aptly named town of Asbestos.

Health Organizations, Asbestos Groups Speak Out Against Jeffrey Mine Revival

Asbestos, Quebec

Asbestos, Quebec

The controversial decision of the Quebec government to offer a $58 million loan to investors to revive one of the few remaining asbestos mines in Canada has been heavily scrutinized by asbestos victim support groups and health organizations alike.

According to Reuters, the decision to allow the investor group – headlined by Quebec-based Balcorp Ltd. – to reopen the Jeffrey asbestos mine in the aptly named town of Asbestos could ultimately extend the site’s life by more than two decades.

Financial issues have plagued the asbestos mine, which is more than 130 years old but has run on-and-off over the past few years, the news source said. Still, Canada remains one of the largest exporters of chrysotile asbestos in the world, according to Reuters.

Public health specialist rails against ‘exploitation’

The Quebec government’s controversial move has sent shock waves through the scientific community, particularly as exposure to asbestos has been proven for decades to lead to the development of serious illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.

Yv Bonnier Viger, the head of Quebec’s association of public health specialists, told The Globe and Mail that Premier Jean Charest “has good reason to be ashamed” after giving the go-ahead for the loan.

“He is relaunching the exploitation of an extremely dangerous material that will cause the suffering and death of thousands of people in poor countries, at only marginal benefit to a desperate community,” Viger noted.

Viger is no doubt alluding to countries such as India, where a large percentage of Canada’s asbestos is exported. These developing countries continue to use asbestos as a building material despite the dangerous risks.

Asbestos no laughing matter

Paul Lapierre, vice president public affairs and cancer control for the Canadian Cancer Society, added that the revitalization of the Jeffrey mine “is in direct conflict with global cancer control.” According to the World Health Organization, asbestos-related illnesses claim the lives of approximately 107,000 people across the globe each year.

Unfortunately, some individuals are not aware of the serious risks posed by asbestos exposure. For instance, Maurice Gilbert, who worked around asbestos mines for 19 years, joked to The Globe and Mail that he had never sneezed in his life. Unfortunately, the symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses typically do not manifest themselves until decades after initial exposure to the material, so the true impact may not be immediately apparent.

Action Mesothelioma Day – Friday 6th July 2012

Action Mesothelioma logoWe support the following press release from the Merseyside Asbestos Victim Support Group (MAVSG)

An Asbestos Tsunami – The Need for a Global Ban

At the end of June the Quebec Government announced that a loan agreement of $58 million to re-open the Jeffrey Asbestos Mine would go ahead and that the mining of chrysotile (white) asbestos would start once again. This is despite the Quebec Government’s own health authority and the Canadian Medical Association calling for an end to the production and use of asbestos. Five million tonnes of asbestos will now be exported from the Jeffrey Asbestos Mine to developing countries, such as India, over the next 20 years.

The Quebec mines were once the world’s biggest producer of asbestos but had been closed for some months due to financial and operational difficulties. Canada no longer uses the asbestos that they mine but export the raw mineral ore to the developing world instead.

There has been international condemnation of this loan agreement, especially from health campaigners in India. John Flanagan of the Merseyside Asbestos Victim Support Group said –

“This decision came just a week before Action Mesothelioma Day when mesothelioma victims are remembered and their lives commemorated. This is truly shocking news. Shame on Quebec for putting profits before the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our world! And shame on Canada for this blatant hypocrisy. Canadian citizens are subject to a de-facto ban on the use of asbestos yet people in developing countries are not given the same protection. This year more than ever we need the support of the community to ensure all necessary steps are taken to eradicate asbestos from the global environment”.

Laurie Kazan-Allen – Editor of the British Asbestos Newsletter & Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat said –

Action Mesothelioma Day 2012 is a time to reflect on developments regarding the rights of UK asbestos victims. Will these rights still be upheld in the face of a major assault by defendants and insurers? Around the world the use of asbestos continues to endanger the health of millions of innocent people.  UK asbestos victims speak with one voice when they call for an international ban on the use of asbestos.”

On June 27, 2012, Barrister Krishnendu Mukherjee in his keynote presentation to the annual asbestos seminar of the All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group revealed that British companies, including banks and financial institutions, are investing in the Indian asbestos industry; his naming of British financial stakeholders stimulated a great degree of concern and discussion amongst seminar delegates who were appalled that this deadly trade was seen as a legitimate investment for British institutions. Asbestos campaigners will be taking this issue to the Government and demanding that this financial support for an industry which is killing workers and members of the public in India is terminated immediately.

Asbestos victims and their families will be attending Action Mesothelioma Day at Liverpool Town Hall at 11.00am – 3.00pm. The focus this year this will be on “the need for a worldwide ban on the mining, manufacture, and use of all forms of asbestos”.  At the event in Liverpool, there will several guest speakers giving presentations on the need for an international ban on the use of asbestos, the health effects of mesothelioma and the role of respiratory nurses. At 12pm (noon) there will be a release of sponsored Doves in tribute to all those who have suffered from mesothelioma. Asbestos victims, Civic Dignitaries, MP’s and local children will all take part in this event.


There is also an event being held on Thursday 5th July at John Moore’s University. Several short films including the BBC Horizon Programme “The Killer Dust” are being shown from 6.30pm at 68 Hope Street, Liverpool. Laurie Kazan Allen will also be giving a brief talk afterwards.

International Experts Gather to Discuss Developents in the Global Asbestos Industry

Member of Parliament John Cryer, Barrister Tublu Mukherjee, Canadian Ban Asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff

Member of Parliament John Cryer, Barrister Tublu Mukherjee, Canadian Ban Asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff

The latest developments in the global asbestos industry were discussed during the annual seminar of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group in the House of Commons in London earlier this week.

The meeting featured presentations from a number of UK specialists and international experts, who updated the asbestos victims community, environmental activists, lawyers and campaigners on the dangers of the carcinogenic substance and its continued use around the world.

Keynote speaker Barrister Tublu Mukherjee delivered a presentation on the issues of asbestos in India, noting that consumption of the material has grown due to commercial and political reasons. Specifically, Mukherjee pointed to the role of British institutions, which have helped to keep the industry afloat in India. Mukherjee’s comments sparked discussions among delegates to determine which steps should be taken to reduce Britain’s role.

The presentation that perhaps highlighted the importance of the meeting the most, though, was “The Asbestos Frontline,” delivered by Canadian Ban Asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff.

‘Huge Gains’ in Canadian asbestos industry

Only a few short years ago, the asbestos industry was widely supported in Canada, including by every political party in the Canadian House of Commons and the Quebec National Assembly, Ruff noted. Since that time, though, support for the asbestos trade has dwindled, led by scientists, government health officials and public health organizations. These groups have come out in opposition of plans by the Canadian government to revive the industry and claim that asbestos can be used safely.

Fortunately, the opposition to the asbestos industry has science on their side in this instance. Asbestos, which was once widely used because of its fire-resistant properties and utility as an insulator, has been proven to cause a range of serious diseases since the mid-1960s. Overall, these illnesses – which include asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma – claim the lives of approximately 107,000 people around the world each year, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.

As Ruff notes, Canada is currently at a critical stage in terms of asbestos, as although mines have been closed and opposition has grown, plans remain in place to revitalize the industry. The most important thing anyone can do, Ruff says, is to continue to put pressure on government officials and raise awareness at international meetings.

Read more about the Westminster Asbestos Seminar.

Canada’s Double Standard on Asbestos Seen Internationally

asbestos quebec

Asbestos, Quebec

The international community has long been aware of Canada’s double-standard policies regarding the exportation of asbestos to developing countries. With the recent passing of famous Australian mountain climber Lincoln Hall as a result of malignant mesothelioma, Independent Australia put the focus back on the Canadian government’s refusal to adjust its asbestos stance.

David Donovan, managing editor for Independent Australia, notes that while the carcinogenic material was completely banned in Australia in 1991, Canada still engages in the asbestos trade, with the exports sent to developing countries around the world.

This, despite the fact that the dangers of asbestos exposure are hardly a secret. Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans it has been observed that people working with asbestos were more susceptible to illnesses. Since the 1960s, it has been clear that the inhalation of the dangerous mineral fibers can lead to the development of lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, diseases that kill approximately 107,000 individuals around the world each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Canada’s exploitation through exportation

A simple examination of the numbers sheds light on Canada’s double standard when it comes to the asbestos trade. Though use of the material, for all intents and purposes, is banned in the country, statistics indicate Canada exported more than 463,000 tons of the material between 2008 and 2010, the vast majority of it being sent to developing countries, according to Donovan.

In India specifically, where 48.5 percent of the asbestos is exported, asbestos cement roofing has been supported by the government as an alternative to safer options including tiles, steel or thatch.

This movement is only furthered by the actions of many Canadian officials who are backed by leaders of the asbestos industry. There is currently a push being made to reopen the Jeffrey Mine in the aptly named town of Asbestos, Quebec, which could triple the country’s production of the carcinogen.

Asbestos contradictions abound

Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), notes the simple fact that Canada has spent millions of dollars to rid public buildings of the dangerous material while still promoting its use to the developing world highlights its contradictory stance.

“For decades, Canada has led the worldwide pro-asbestos lobby and orchestrated a marketing campaign based on industry propaganda and data provided by hired gun “scientists,” Kazan-Allen wrote in a statement provided to Independent Australia. “Even as Canadian authorities assure workers, governments and consumers that asbestos can be used safely in India, Thailand, Indonesia and elsewhere, a de facto ban on asbestos use exists in Canada.”

Canary in the Mine Trailer: Revealing Truths about the Canadian Asbestos Industry

Length: 2:07

“When workers complained they could see the fibers in the air, it was remedied by darkening the windows so the sunlight would not hit the fibers.”

Watch this 2-minute trailer of Canary in the Mine, a short documentary that reveals the personal and political ramifications of one of Canada’s most controversial industries: the mining and exportation of Chrysotile asbestos.

The documentary in its entirety will be released and sent to film festivals soon.

Canada’s Anti-Asbestos Movement Gains Steam

asbestos fibersDespite the fact that Canada is one of the few developed countries to still attempt to be active in the asbestos trade, its citizenry has largely been a vocal opponent of the industry.

A variety of Conservative politicians – including Prime Minister Stephen Harper – and industry executives have been working hard to reinvigorate the flagging industry through loan guarantees and the like. Despite their efforts, there are currently no asbestos mining operations taking place in Canada, and part of this can likely be attributed to the prominent protests of many of the country’s residents.

And the citizens’ outcries are only getting louder, as more and more people join the ranks of people decrying the mining of the substance that has been proven to cause asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma for five decades.

Descendant of prominent asbestos miner joins protests

Vancouver’s Susan Henry is related to Andrew Stuart Johnson, who founded the Johnson Mine Company in Thetford Mines, which was the first operational asbestos mine in Canada, according to the Montreal Gazette.

Henry has now joined people who are trying to end asbestos operations in Canada.

“Although my great-great uncle, Andrew S. Johnson, founded his mine… in good faith, the intervening years have revealed the very dangerous nature of asbestos,” Henry wrote to members of the David Suzuki Foundation recently. “It is deeply disturbing to me that we are now poised to ramp up exports to developing countries, when we are fully aware of how lethal this mineral can be.”

Opposition to asbestos policy growing louder

The David Suzuki Foundation has a goal of sending 10,000 messages to Prime Minister Harper and Quebec Premier Jean Charest to get them to stop trying to reopen the Jeffrey asbestos mine.

Quebec had promised developers that it would guarantee a $58 million loan to Westmount-based Balcorp Ltd. so that the company could expand the mine. The government and asbestos industry backers have argued that such an operation would put people back to work and help revitalize the area’s economy.

However, anti-asbestos advocates, along with the global medical community, have correctly pointed out that the toll that asbestos takes on a population isn’t worth any amount of jobs or money.

Asbestos-related illnesses are responsible for killing 107,000 people each year around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

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