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International Group Calls for Total Ban of Asbestos to End Asbestos-Related Deaths

asbestos-related deathsAsbestos-related deaths are preventable. That is part of why asbestos-related deaths are especially tragic and inspire the work we do at Kazan Law as asbestos attorneys. But asbestos-related deaths continue to occur because uncaring people place profits before human lives.  My unrelenting concern about this inspired my sister Laurie Kazan-Allen to also become involved in the fight against asbestos in Europe where she lives. I am proud of the fact that she heads the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS).

Just recently she told me about a high level international asbestos conference in Finland. The International Conference on Monitoring and Surveillance of Asbestos-Related Diseases gave rise to a new call on the part of the global health leaders in attendance to end asbestos-related deaths. To achieve this they acknowledged the need for a complete global asbestos ban. They put their unanimous agreement into a formal document called The Helsinki Declaration.

Speaking on behalf of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, as reported by IBAS, the conference organizer, Dr. Panu Oksa said, “There is no safe use of asbestos.” Dr. Ken Takahashi, from Japan’s University of Occupational and Environmental Health, stated, “Asbestos-related deaths are preventable by banning the use of asbestos, as WHO recommends.” An increase in asbestos-related deaths is being observed in developing countries where knowledge is lacking about the hazards of exposure.

The conference consensus report Asbestos, Asbestosis and Cancer: Helsinki Criteria for Diagnosis and Attribution 2014 includes these facts:

  • 2 million tons of asbestos per year is exported for use in products such as cement and insulation
  • 125 million workers are exposed to asbestos every year
  • Asbestos even at low doses is a known human carcinogen
  • There are 107,000 asbestos-related deaths worldwide every year
  • 55 countries have banned the use of new asbestos
  • The financial impact of asbestos use is negative for companies and economies when health costs are considered
  • Asbestos in existing buildings in countries that have banned asbestos and the continued use of asbestos in countries that haven’t banned asbestos, means that asbestos-related deaths and illness will continue into the second half of the 21st century

It is significant that independent world experts and authorities have again reviewed all available evidence and concluded all types of asbestos are deadly, prevention of exposures is crucial, and the world needs a total ban on continued use, mining, manufacture, export/import and sale of raw asbestos and products made with it. Only the asbestos mining industry, concentrated in Russia and its paid supporters disagree.

New Asbestos Report – Where It’s Mined, Where There’s Illness and What’s Being Done About It

12.16.13.KLWhen it comes to asbestos exposure and its dire consequences, sadly it’s a small world after all.  Asbestos is still mined in many countries, exported across borders and incorporated into products that get shipped around the globe. Malignant mesothelioma resulting from asbestos exposure spares no one based on nationality or ethnicity.

That’s why I am sharing with you news of a landmark new report about asbestos just published in Europe and brought to my attention by a prominent anti-asbestos activist in England – my sister Laurie Kazan-Allen.

The report “Asbestos-Related Occupational Diseases in Central and East European Countries” provides as thorough as possible an overview – some countries keep no records – of the status of asbestos and asbestos-related illness throughout Europe.  Easy to read and available online for free, the report is packed with interesting information.

Consider this for example:  World production of asbestos was estimated to be 1.98 million tons in 2012. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS, 2013), Russia was the leading producer of asbestos, followed by China, Brazil, Argentina, Kazakhstan and Canada. These six countries accounted for 99% of world production in 2013.

Or this excellent historical synopsis:  Commercial exploitation (of asbestos), with little thought for environmental controls, increased over the 20th century, particularly in the period of strong economic growth after 1945. The unique technical properties led to a boom in consumption; asbestos was used in huge quantities in buildings or ships, and also for many smaller applications, such as cigarette filters. In the first substitution projects of the 1980s, alternatives for more than 3,000 technical applications had to be found.

Major topics covered include monitoring of asbestos-related diseases, recognition of occupational asbestos-related disease and the problem of underreporting.

This research report was commissioned and coordinated by the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) and its project partners International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), with the financial support of the European Commission

The report was prepared by the Kooperationsstelle Hamburg. This research institute provides national and international services and studies in the field of occupational safety, health and environmental protection.

Asbestos Activist Laurie Kazan-Allen Receives England’s Robert Tressell Award

Laurie Kazan-AllenHelping those exposed to asbestos achieve justice is what we do at Kazan Law. I take great pride in having founded this firm and in our victories in this area.  But I also take great pride in personally introducing a leading asbestos activist to the struggle against asbestos exposure which set her on a path to help protect people around the world from its fatal consequences. She happens to be my sister Laurie Kazan-Allen.

Lest you think that it is only familial pride that prompts me to talk about my sister, I am pleased to tell you that she has just received the United Kingdom’s Construction Safety Campaign’s distinguished Robert Tressell award for her work as an asbestos activist.

The Robert Tressell Award is given to an individual who has provided outstanding service and commitment to workers in the UK by campaigning for safe working environments and assisting those who have been harmed or are suffering from occupation-related diseases.

According to official sources, Laurie received her award for “her global campaign against asbestos, her editorship of the British Asbestos Newsletter and her galvanizing of campaigners globally to one day deliver an asbestos-free world for the future generations of mankind.” “I am,” she said “honored by this recognition from construction workers, a group with one of the highest rates of asbestos-related disease. The CSC and its members are fully aware of the ongoing risks posed by occupational asbestos exposure and have played a frontline role in the campaign for asbestos justice in the UK and abroad.”

In addition to publishing the British Asbestos Newsletter, a periodical widely acknowledged as the authoritative resource for the UK campaign for asbestos justice, Laurie has been involved as an asbestos activist for over 20 years on global anti-asbestos initiatives.

She leads The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), which helps coordinate international asbestos conferences and is actively involved in UK and international asbestos issues. The IBAS website reports on current asbestos developments as well as on IBAS initiatives and events. Laurie has also published several books and monographs on asbestos topics.

“It was a complete surprise,” Laurie said in an email telling me about her award, “But nevertheless, it is wonderful to be recognized by the trade unionists for the work I have done.”

Leading Asbestos Scientist Denies Helping Georgia-Pacific Fight Asbestos Claims

asbestos industry fraudBecause the link between malignant mesothelioma and asbestos exposure is so definitive, you would think that by now no scientist would try to prove otherwise. Especially with the loss of life, pain and suffering that malignant mesothelioma causes.

But alas, you’d be thinking incorrectly.

The bigger question to ponder here is can science – and more specifically scientists – be bought?  Can the lure of money influence their research results?  Would a scientist knowingly or unknowingly come up with conclusions that would enhance the bottom line of the business paying for the research?

According to detailed online reports in Hazards, a UK occupational health and safety magazine and the US scientific journal Nature, a leading toxicologist’s work on asbestos is suspected by US courts in California and New York of aiding fraud.

But the toxicologist, Ken Donaldson, an emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh, UK, claims he contributed to academic studies on the effects of asbestos in good faith and was “naïve” not to disclose his separate paid consulting for the company involved, Georgia-Pacific, an Atlanta-based multinational and subsidiary of Koch Industries.

He also declares that he did not know at the time that the research was done under the direction of lawyers for Georgia-Pacific, who planned to use the results to fight asbestos claims.

New York’s Supreme Court Appellate Division in June ordered Georgia-Pacific to turn over the raw data and internal communications related to research that, judges said, were “intended to cast doubt on the capability of chrysotile [white] asbestos to cause cancer”.  The substance is a component in Georgia Pacific’s joint compound used in construction projects.

Donaldson, who was a co-author on some of the research, has been criticized by other environmental health researchers, both for failing to declare his interests on the papers, and later for claiming that he had no links or funding connections to asbestos manufacturers. Some are calling for Edinburgh University to sever ties with Donaldson, a previously well-regarded world expert on lung diseases caused by inhaled particles of various types.

Georgia-Pacific allegedly funded the research in an attempt to prove that many asbestos-exposed cancer sufferers could go uncompensated because they were exposed to the wrong kind of “shorter” chrysotile fibers, were not exposed at high enough levels or, if exposed at a high level, not exposed long enough. Global exports of chrysotile increased by 20 per cent in 2012.

Laurie Kazan Allen of the London-based International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) – my sister – told Hazards: “The lack of transparency is what is appalling on this. Donaldson, like many of his co-authors, clearly had an undeclared relationship with Georgia-Pacific. Professor Donaldson says the conclusions of the papers are ‘indisputable’, conclusions the court determined could be part of a Georgia-Pacific bid to deny the asbestos cancer link.”

Kazan Foundation Supports IBAS Grant for Doctor’s Asbestos Training

mesothelioma research

In order to file an asbestos claim, patients must first show that they’ve experienced irreversible damage to their respiratory system, and that asbestos is truly the cause. This requires the expertise of doctors who are specially trained by groups like the International Labour Organisation, or ILO, to identify asbestos-induced illness.

The 2012 International Ban Asbestos Secretariat grant was awarded to Dr. Abhijeet Jadhav, who used the grant to complete his training for the ILO 2000 International Certification of Radiographs of Pneumoconioses. With this education, Jadhav now has the knowledge needed to read the X-rays of patients who potentially have asbestos claims to file.

What do X-rays tell us?
In addition to causing asbestosis, the inhalation of asbestos fibers can drive other life-threatening illnesses, such as malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer – all of which affect the respiratory system. To the untrained observer, some of the symptoms of these diseases, including chest pain and breathing difficulties, are hard to tell apart from each other. This is where chest X-rays come in handy.

Using these radiological scans, trained physicians can more closely examine patients’ bones, hearts and lungs. When it comes to the lungs, X-rays can reveal problems such as collapse, abnormal fluid collection, tumors, malformed blood vessels and scarring. The formation of scar tissue is a distinguishing characteristic of asbestosis, along with coughing, sensations of chest tightness, nail abnormalities and clubbing of the fingers.

IBAS grant recipient makes good use of award
The World Health Organization estimates that 125 million people all over the globe deal with asbestos exposure in the workplace. Many of these individuals are from developing countries, such as India. This is where Jadhav decided to put his ILO training, which he paid for with the IBAS grant, to good use.

For his study, Jadhav interviewed 17 individuals – all of whom were former workers in a factory that manufactured asbestos and cement sheets, and all of whom were asbestosis patients. The research team asked the study participants about their work setting, what they knew concerning the health risks of asbestos exposure and how their conditions affected family life.

The interviews revealed that the subjects didn’t see their sicknesses as a big deal, but this may have something to do with the fact that fatal asbestos-related illnesses can take decades to develop.

Here’s what Jadhav had to say about the study, which was published in the Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine:

“It suggests a need of very strong program for prevention of asbestosis with the incorporation of worker awareness and education for safety. The socio-economical status and educational levels of the workers make this floating population more vulnerable for manipulation by the corporates.”

Jadhav said that India also needed a stronger foundation for providing injured workers with rehabilitation and palliative care. Ultimately, though, he concluded that there’s only one real solution for protecting workers: banning the use and production of asbestos around the world.

The partners behind the Kazan, McClain, Abrams, Fernandez, Lyons, Greenwood, Oberman, Satterley & Bosl Foundation couldn’t agree more, and want nothing but the best for our clients and workers everywhere. That’s why we’re proud to support IBAS so that it could help others.

Eternit Seeks to Protect Itself, Shed Asbestos Exposure Blame

Eternit looks to shed asbestos blame in Italy An ongoing trial in Italy is the latest example of an asbestos company looking to skirt the legal system and absolve itself from blame at the expense of exposure victims.

In a recent blog post, Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), noted that the “Great Asbestos Trial” involving asbestos conglomerate Eternit in Italy is beginning to show signs of corruption.

Specifically, Kazan-Allen wrote that lawyers for Stephan Schmidheiny, one of the two former Eternit executives being taken to court, have been engaging in secret negotiations with a number of municipalities that are directly involved in the case. With a three-judge panel expected to announce a verdict on February 13, the lawyers are seeking withdrawal of civic authorities from the case, which would undoubtedly have serious consequences for exposure victims.

Casale Monferrato offered millions by defendant’s lawyers

Casale Monferrato, the site of the recent international meeting dubbed “A World Without Asbestos” which sought to eliminate asbestos-related diseases around the world, is one town that has reportedly been offered a substantial amount of money from Schmidheiny’s attorneys.

According to Kazan-Allen, the town has been offered up to €20 million to settle the claim and withdraw “from this and any future trials (against Eternit) that it might be involved in.”

But Casale Monferrato is not alone, as the Mayor and town council of Cavagnolo agreed to a deal with the lawyers for €2 million for asbestos decontamination. As part of this “tombstone agreement,” the town said it would not bring any more legal action against the former Eternit executive even if more evidence was uncovered, Kazan-Allen explained.

Potential corruption taking focus away from victims

While the Mayor of Casale Monferrato has publicly stated the town would not consider an agreement similar to the one made in Cavagnolo, a source told Kazan-Allen that Casale’s town council is “refusing to show victims and unions the draft of the (proposed) agreement,” leading to more speculation that the municipality could ultimately give in.

Either way, the attention has been shifted away from the plight of the asbestos exposure victims in this case, many of whom are likely suffering from diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis or malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.

Scientific evidence continues to substantiate the claims of these individuals, as the World Health Organization estimates approximately 107,000 people are killed each year around the world as a result of such asbestos illnesses.

A Deadly Reminder: 20th Anniversary of Overturning U.S. Asbestos Ban Marked

Gaval on U.S. flagOn October 18, 1991, vested interests including the federal government of Canada, the province of Quebec and asbestos supporters and stakeholders successfully overturned the U.S. Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule (ABPR).

Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), said in a press conference marking the anniversary in Ottawa that the decision to overturn the EPA’s asbestos ban led to an additional 300,000 tons of the carcinogenic material being used in the U.S.

“The continuing lack of an asbestos ban in the United States has been ruthlessly exploited by industry lobbyists to promote global sales of asbestos,” Kazan-Allen noted in her statement.

U.S. Court of Appeals criticized heavily following overturn

When a three-man panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided to vacate the ABPR, the judges reportedly admitted that asbestos was, in fact, a toxic material that can have devastating consequences when people are exposed to it, including the development of lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.

Despite this clear admission that asbestos is a deadly material, the circuit judges took issue with “the manner in which the EPA conducted some of its analysis,” as well as the agency’s “explicit failure to consider the toxicity of likely substitutes,” court documents indicate.

After the ruling was handed down, American asbestos expert Dr. Barry Castleman explained that the EPA asked the Department of Justice to take on an appeal to the Supreme Court, but was rebuffed.

“EPA had to settle for issuing a statement criticizing the court for ‘significant legal errors’ in interpreting the law and substituting its judgment for that of EPA in balancing the costs and benefits of asbestos products banned under the rule,” Castleman said in a 2006 article of the European Journal of Oncology.

Effects of overturn still apparent, time to act is now

The influence of vested interests within the asbestos industry did not stop 20 years ago, as the greed of industry backers and lobbyists continues to be seen around the world, particularly in Canada.

As Kazan-Allen notes in her statement marking the “bloody anniversary,” such behavior was seen as recently as June 2011 during the Rotterdam Convention. During the convention, businessman Baljit Chadha, who is working to secure a $58 million loan guarantee for an asbestos mining project from the Quebec government, stated that there were safe levels of exposure.

While Chadha may have 58 million reasons to support such an outlandish theory, scientists continue to shake their heads, as the World Health Organization reports the age-adjusted mortality rate from mesothelioma more than doubled from 1994 to 2008.

5 Calls for Sanctions on Canada for Derailing United Nations Protocol

United Nations flag

Flag of the United Nations

A United Nations treaty commonly known as the Rotterdam Convention was signed in September 1998 to promote shared responsibilities to safeguard human health and the environment from harmful effects of hazardous chemicals. Under the Rotterdam Convention, countries nominate chemicals for inclusion in the PIC (prior informed consent) list.

Meaning of Rotterdam Convention List

The PIC listing is not a ban. The chemicals included on the list are subject to extensive information exchange and obligations related to international trade. Exporting nations are required to provide documentation on the nature of the substance so that importers can make informed decision as to whether or not they are capable of using it safely.

Recent Developments

At the Rotterdam Convention meeting in Geneva last week, the Canadian delegation single-handedly derailed a long-standing attempt to include chrysotile asbestos on the Convention’s prior informed consent list. Despite support from 142 out of 143 Parties to the Convention, the listing was blocked due to a 100% unanimity requirement.

Rotterdam Convention Alliance member Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) has been campaigning since 1999 to achieve justice for all asbestos victims and a global ban on asbestos. Commenting on recent developments, Ms. Kazan-Allen said,

“What we saw last week in Geneva…was pure evil. Canada is now a rogue state and should be dealt with in the same way as other administrations which have breached the acceptable level of behavior expected of civilized societies.”

Calls for Action

At a seminar in Belgium yesterday organized by the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament in collaboration with trade unions and non-governmental organizations, Ms. Kazan-Allen made these requests of the Members of the European Parliament:

1.  Issue a denunciation of the obstructive behavior of the Canadian delegation at the Rotterdam Convention meeting. Measures should be considered such as sanctions and trade boycotts which would translate outrage into action.

2.  Challenge the $58 million loan guarantee that the Quebec government offered the international consortium that plans to open a new asbestos mine in Quebec.

3.  Lobby the European Commission and Directorate General (DG) for Health and Consumers, DG Environment, DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion, and DG Justice to explore all possible options for effecting a change in Canada’s asbestos policy.

4.  Raise concerns about Canada’s reckless endangerment of human life, especially the lives of vulnerable people in asbestos-consuming countries, at all possible forums.

5.  Place on record support for a WHO Framework Convention on Asbestos Control and to work with their WHO and ILO partners to progress this initiative.

Kazan Law strongly supports these calls and suggests that all organizations and individuals join with us in supporting the United Nations protocol to protect vulnerable populations from the hazards of asbestos.

Fighting Back Against the Brazilian Asbestos Industry

Laurie Kazan-Allen

Laurie Kazan-Allen

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat’s Laurie Kazan-Allen has written an article on the effort spear-headed by Labor Inspector Fernanda Giannasi. Despite statewide bans on asbestos, the industry thrives amid condemnation of their dangerous and illegal actions. Ms. Giannasi is a vocal advocate for workers’ rights who seeks to stop them.

Read the full article at IBAS

IBAS: A Righteous Decision for UK Mesothelioma Victims

Exciting news from England where a unanimous high court today affirmed industry liability for low dose bystander and take-home asbestos exposure as a cause of mesothelioma despite industry arguments that there is a safe level of asbestos exposure for which they should not be held accountable.

Here in California and in many other states the law has long protected such victims of asbestos industry lies and misconduct and we are pleased that England’s courts now agree. For more details see the full account at International Ban Asbestos Secretariat.

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