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Laurie Kazan-Allen

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.

Special Interests Looking to Block Asbestos Ban in Russia

Special interests looking to block asbestos ban in Russia The efforts of the Russian Federal State Unitary Enterprise “NAMI” to ban the use of asbestos in automotive friction products in the Eurasian Economic Community are being rebuffed by stakeholders and special interest groups like the Russian Chrysotile Association.

According to Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Russian Chrysotile Association has even appealed to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in order to aid its fight in blocking the ban and keeping the asbestos industry as is in the country.

Such opposition has been apparent for years, as an August 2008 event titled “Chrysotile Asbestos: Problems of Its Production and Application in Russia and Elsewhere,” heard from a number of Chrysotile Association representatives, who claimed that asbestos can absolutely be handled properly in certain conditions.

Additionally, an asbestos company director claimed his workers had not suffered an asbestos-related disease such as asbestosis or malignant mesothelioma in the previous 30 years, while a medical director asserted the risks of such illnesses were, in fact, very real.

Vested Interests Aside, Asbestos Poses Real Danger

While officials from the asbestos industry quite obviously have vested interests in preventing a ban of the carcinogenic material, the fact remains that even low-level exposure to asbestos can have devastating consequences.

Notably, the symptoms of diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, typically do not appear until decades after initial exposure, so reports that workers have not been affected by exposure to the material may be premature at this stage.

Additionally, it is clear that asbestos exposure can be deadly, as the World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 people die each year around the world as a result of asbestos-related illnesses.

President of Collegium Ramazzini Backs Asbestos Ban

With the debate growing between special interests and those looking to ban asbestos use, president of the Collegium Ramazzini Dr. Philip Landrigan recently penned a letter to Dr. Tatiana Golikova, Russia’s Minister of Health and Social Development, saying he was in support of the ban.

“Asbestos exposure from grinding brake pads and cleaning brake assemblies is a widely recognized health hazard,” Dr. Landrigan wrote. “Manufacturers of new cars and trucks all over the world have converted to safer technologies. China and over 50 other countries have banned the use of asbestos in vehicle friction materials.”

As a result, Dr. Landrigan told the health minister that he looked forward to helping in any process that could ultimately “phase-out” the use of asbestos.

Powerful Lobbying Firm Fights for Asbestos

Asbestos is a harmful substance that kills tens of thousands of people each year around the world through diseases such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis. If the dangers posed by the substance weren’t enough, powerful lobbyists and public relation firms have been fighting to preserve the economic interests of those they represent by fighting bans on asbestos around the world.

The most obvious recent example of this was in Canada, where numerous politicians attempted to revitalize an asbestos mine under the guise of job creation despite protests from the medical community around the world about the incredible danger posed by the naturally occurring substance.

However, Canada is not the only country that has been affected by efforts to keep the asbestos industry going, as Malaysia’s Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) said that people from public relations firm APCO Worldwide were at a gathering of the country’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) to try to stop a ban on asbestos.

APCO Worldwide in Malaysia

According to its website, APCO Worldwide has 30 offices around the world and represents a variety of businesses. It has represented a number of large businesses such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dow Chemical, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble, but it now appears that it is working to preserve asbestos interests in Malaysia.

According to CAP, DOSH had reached a consensus to ban chrysotile (or white) asbestos but Representatives of APCO worked to prevent the ban and also planned to meet with Malaysia’s Minister of Human Resources.

According to an article by Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) Laurie Kazan-Allen, APCO had recommended to tobacco companies that rather than have industry spokespeople defend their indefensible product, they hire PR firms to do their dirty work for them. Ms. Kazan-Allen draws the conclusion that companies that profit off asbestos took this advice to heart, and hired APCO to represent their interests.

APCO’s lobbying efforts

According to OpenSecrets.org, APCO took in $3.3 million in lobbying income in 2011, with $810,000 of that coming from Dow Chemical.

Helping APCO to lobby for various interests are not only seasoned PR veterans but at least one former U.S. congressman as well. According to a press release, former member of the House of Representatives Baron Hill, a Democrat from Indiana, recently joined APCO as “a senior vice president in the company’s government relations practice,” which could likely be pared down to “lobbyist.”

With such powerful figures on the side of a company allegedly involved in the promotion of the deadly asbestos industry, it will be up to asbestos attorneys and mesothelioma lawyers to ensure that the blue-collar workers who become ill through their exposure to the mineral fibers on the job receive justice.

Malaysian Asbestos Industry Allegedly Uses PR Firm to Fight Asbestos Ban

Malaysian asbestos industry allegedly uses PR firm to fight asbestos ban Anti-asbestos activists in Malaysia recently revealed that the asbestos industry in the country may be using a public relations firm to fight the banning of the carcinogenic material.

Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) Laurie Kazan-Allen recently wrote about the discoveries of the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), highlighting how those in the country who wish to continue the use of chrysotile asbestos are using a PR firm to do their dirty work.

PR firm meets with government officials

A recent statement issued by CAP revealed that representatives of APCO Worldwide – the PR firm – were at a gathering of Malaysia’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). At that meeting, which occurred in late May, a consensus was reportedly reached that would have banned chrysotile (or white) asbestos.

However, APCO personnel argued that such a ban could have serious consequences on the economy of Malaysia, which imported 11,491 tons of asbestos in 2010, according to the United States Geological Survey.

APCO’s shady past

According to author George Monbiot, APCO, which has offices around the world, has spent time working for the tobacco industry. During this time, the PR firm advised tobacco companies to not have their own representatives argue their case.

“No matter how strong the arguments, industry spokespeople are, in and of themselves, not always credible or appropriate messengers,” someone from APCO allegedly told a Philip Morris executive.

In addition, the Association of Professional Political Consultants – a UK organization that monitors the PR industry – reports that personnel from APCO’s London office represented an organization called “Russian Chrysotile.” Ms. Kazan-Allen surmises that this is a group that supports the use of chrysotile asbestos from Russia.

Asbestos’ serious health risks

Despite arguments from APCO and others (including a number of Canadian politicians) claiming that chrysotile asbestos does not pose health risks if it is used properly, it has been proven that all forms of the naturally occurring mineral can cause a range of serious illnesses.

Lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma – a rare and deadly cancer – are some of the illnesses that can result from exposure to the deadly mineral fibers.

According to the World Health Organization, such diseases claim the lives of 107,000 people each year around the world.

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

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