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June 19, 2018

Asbestos at federal building was a surprise to electrician

Ottawa electrician Denis Lapointe says he was exposed to asbestos and other toxins at work for 16 years, and only recently learned the full extent of his potential exposure after filing access to information requests.

The 54-year-old licensed electrician and former public servant had a right to know he was working around hazardous substances.

Now he wonders how many other workers at the Canada Revenue Agency buildings at 875 Heron Rd. may have been inadvertently exposed to asbestos.

Lapointe worked for the CRA from 1992 to 2008 and over that time, the Heron Road taxation facility accommodated thousands of workers.

His job involved drilling and pulling wires through walls, floors and ceilings. He says since he didn’t know he could be disturbing asbestos all those years — his fellow workers wouldn’t have known either.

“I was exposed and I wasn’t properly protected, and here I was walking through this place, using air hoses and whatnot and blowing it to other people, so I have a conscience…That eats me up,” says Lapointe.

Lapointe has obtained documents that show the asbestos contamination was and continues to be present on all floors of the building where he worked. Lapointe says he had to get the reports through access to information requests.

Denis St. Jean, the national health and safety officer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says Lapointe should have been informed of the dangers in his workplace.

“Since 1986 the Canada Labour Code applies. There should have been at least some risk assessments on whether or not these buildings have asbestos containing materials … so they can have readily available that information for their workers,” St. Jean says.

A 2014 consultant's report found the CRA building at 875 Heron Rd. would need to remove asbestos containing materials and debris in order to comply with federal regulations. (Julie Ireton/CBC)A 2014 consultant’s report found the CRA building at 875 Heron Rd. would need to remove asbestos containing materials …Poll question

On mobile?Click here to vote on whether employers should have to tell their employees about asbestos or not.

Years of asbestos reports

Decades of asbestos assessment reports for 875 Heron Rd. show contamination in certain areas that would be of concern to tradespeople or maintenance workers.

A consultant’s report from October 2014 reads: “Based on the findings of the reassessment, the facility is not in compliance. In order to bring the subject facility into compliance with applicable regulations, GEC [the consultant] recommends repair and or removal of damaged ACMs [asbestos containing materials] as well as asbestos-containing debris.”

It is not clear what policy or code the building does not comply with.

Public Works and Government Services Canada owns the building.

In a statement, the department says it “proceeds regularly with assessments of all building conditions including asbestos-containing materials. This report pertaining to 875 Heron Rd. is part of our regular due diligence, to ensure that the building conditions comply with all codes and regulations.”

The department says there are only small amounts of asbestos in remote areas of the building. But as a tradesperson, Lapointe assesses it differently.

– DATABASE: 16 carcinogens in Canadian workplaces

“It’s everywhere. It lines all kinds of piping, it lines ventilation piping, it’s in plaster, it’s in grout that finishes the walls, it’s in the cement where you’re chipping, and the tiles. It’s identified everywhere,” he says.

Bob Kingston, a health and safety expert and national president of the Agriculture Union, a component of the country’s biggest public service union, says the federal government is too often allowed to get away with safety breaches.

“In the federal public service they just say we’re working on it and that’s good enough. They come back every year, and as long as they have some report saying they’re working on it everything is fine,” Kingston says.

Lapointe sent for health testing in 1998

For years, Lapointe, a non-smoker, has suffered from poor health and breathing problems, although he has not been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease. He’s been searching for answers from his former employer – CRA – as well as other departments, including Public Works and Health Canada.

He’s trying to figure out what he was exposed to in the workplace and what could be making him sick. He knows the latency for asbestos-related disease can be 10 to 40 years.

During Lapointe’s sleuthing, he says he discovered correspondence showing his employer knew he’d potentially been exposed to asbestos as far back as 1998, when he and three other electricians were sent for chest X-rays and pulmonary tests.

The letter from CRA to Health Canada reads: “There is a possibility that in performing their duties over the past few years that one or all of them could have been inadvertently exposed to asbestos-containing material.”

Lapointe says he wasn’t told about the potential asbestos exposure. He thought he was tested because of chemical exposure in the building.

Denis Lapointe filed access to information requests to try to find out what he might have been exposed to in the workplace, which may have led to health problems. (Julie Ireton/CBC)Denis Lapointe filed access to information requests to try to find out what he might have been exposed to in the …“What other reason would there have been? I can’t say what I thought then because I really didn’t know. Just the fact I wasn’t being provided [the information] is a pretty good start that I wasn’t supposed to know.”

Lapointe says he was never given the results of those medical tests, but documents he’s received show he was diagnosed with pulmonary restrictions on several occasions. The testing stopped in 2004 without explanation, he says.

“They never told me there was any concerns,” he says.

Labour Canada now investigating

Lapointe’s concerns about the building and his health issues have now led to an investigation by the federal Labour Department.

A health and safety officer is now looking into asbestos, air quality and other potential safety issues. Lapointe and two other workers filed joint grievances detailing their health concerns and took their issues to the Public Service Labour Relations Board.

Occupational health and safety specialist Laura Lozanski says in her experience there’s a lack of enforcement and political will when it comes to protecting workers.

The former nurse who oversees occupational health for the Canadian Association of University Teachers says this case raises serious issues.

“Workers have the right to go into a workplace and expect their workplace to be safe. That’s the law,” she says.

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Asbestos at federal building was a surprise to electrician

Asbestos NHS costs law overruled

BBC News – Asbestos NHS costs laws overruled by Supreme Court

AM Mick Antoniw says he is ‘absolutely gutted’ by the rejection of the bill


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Firms in Wales whose staff are treated for asbestos-related illnesses will not be ordered to reimburse the NHS.

The Supreme Court agreed with insurers who claimed an assembly law passed in 2013 was outside its competence.

The court said Welsh ministers had no right to impose charges to fund the NHS, and insurers should not be given extra liabilities for asbestos exposure which long predated the bill.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) welcomed the judgement.

“The Welsh Bill would have seen increased insurance premiums for Welsh businesses but no extra compensation for mesothelioma sufferers,” said a spokesperson.

“The insurance industry remains committed to doing all it can to help the victims of this terrible disease and would be happy to work constructively with the Welsh Government on this issue, as it does on other public policy.”

‘Clarity’ call

Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw, who first proposed the bill, said he was “gutted” at the ruling, having predicted the measure could have raised £1m a year for the NHS in Wales.

The bill had been referred to the Supreme Court by the Welsh government’s Counsel General Theodore Huckle following objections from the insurance industry.

Lung scan showing cancerThe law could have raised £1m a year for the health service, Mr Antoniw claimed

The Welsh government said it would give “careful consideration to this judgment”.

Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler called for “greater clarity” so everyone understood what laws the assembly could pass.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled in favour of the assembly on changes to local government by-laws and the re-establishment of the Agricultural Wages Board which had been abolished by the UK government.

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Asbestos NHS costs law overruled

ADAO Announces 11th Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference: Registration Open

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Today, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which combines education, advocacy, and community to help ensure justice for asbestos victims, announced its speakers and honorees for the upcoming 11th Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference, entitled “Where Knowledge and Action Unite.” Registration opens today. ADAO is the only U.S. nonprofit organizing annual conferences dedicated solely to preventing exposure and eliminating asbestos-caused diseases.

The conference will be held April 17-19, 2015, in Washington, DC. More than 30 renowned medical experts and asbestos victims from more than 10 countries will speak on the latest advancements in asbestos disease prevention, treatment for mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases, and global ban asbestos advocacy. The conference will also include an Awards and Recognition Dinner and a Unity and Remembrance Brunch.

“The 2015 ADAO conference is another key milestone for progress in public health that addresses the needs of countless asbestos victims and their families who seek answers,” said Dr. Richard Lemen, retired U.S. Assistant Surgeon General and ADAO Science Advisory Board Co-Chair. “I am honored to again be supporting and participating in this critical event.”

“As our 11th Annual Conference grows closer, I continue to be astounded at what we can accomplish when we come together,” stated Linda Reinstein, President/CEO and Co-Founder of ADAO. “Each year, more than 107,000 people die from preventable asbestos-caused diseases. Most people can’t identify asbestos or manage the risk. Without a ban, imports continue. I am looking forward to again joining together with the dedicated ADAO supporters, experts, volunteers, victims, and their families at this highly collaborative event. As a grassroots organization, we are truly thankful for the dedication and support of our many donors and volunteers who continue to prove that knowledge is power.”

Each year, ADAO’s conference recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations from around the world that serve as a voice for asbestos victims, raising awareness and advocating for a worldwide asbestos ban. ADAO is delighted to announce the 2015 ADAO Honorees which include: The American Public Health Association (APHA), the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig), The Brazilian Labour Public Ministry, Dr. Jorma Rantanen, Troi Atkinson, and Ellen Patton.

To register for ADAO’s 2015 conference, visit the following link: http://www.cvent.com/d/qrqjmy

About Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was founded by asbestos victims and their families in 2004. ADAO seeks to give asbestos victims and concerned citizens a united voice to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure. ADAO is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing asbestos-related diseases through education, advocacy, and community. For more information, visit www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org.

Contact:

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)

Kim Cecchini

Media Relations

202-391-5205


Kim@asbestosdiseaseawareness.org

Link: 

ADAO Announces 11th Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference: Registration Open

Protect yourself from asbestos with the proper training

Updates: The ACT government has recently passed new laws relating to dealing with asbestos.

Updates: The ACT government has recently passed new laws relating to dealing with asbestos. Photo: Virginia Star

The ACT government has recently passed new laws when dealing with asbestos that will take effect from January 1, 2015. The new laws will include new regulations and two codes of practice developed by Safe Work Australia.

The key changes in the regulations remove the old rule where anyone could remove bonded asbestos if the area was less than 10 square metres. After January 1, 2015, the removal of bonded asbestos will now have to be carried out by a licensed asbestos removalist.

The only exemption to the above requirement is when the work is minor or routine maintenance. An example may be if asbestos sheeting is fixed to a wall in a bathroom or laundry and an electrician is putting in a new powerpoint.

I expect the penalties will be significant if you are found working with and removing asbestos. These laws and fines will also apply to home handymen and do-it-yourself builders and renovators.

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Worksafe ACT will be releasing further details to both industry and the public shortly.

The new laws will change the licensing requirements for asbestos assessors and removalists by lifting the qualifications and training required to conduct the above type of work.

Another component of the amended regulations clears up some terminology and clearly replaces old terms such as a ‘competent person’ with ‘licensed asbestos assessor’. Also, some additional signage will be required when renovating a building when asbestos is present.

My message to everyone, especially DIY renovators, is please get some asbestos-awareness training. It is a risk not worth taking for the well-being of you, your family and friends. Once the fibres enter your lungs it can’t be reversed, so eliminate the risk.

The Housing Industry Association runs asbestos awareness training for industry and the public. They only take four hours and are a valuable piece of knowledge for anyone who likes doing their own repairs. Once armed with this training you will have the knowledge to identify where asbestos could be present and then engage a qualified asbestos assessor to carry out an assessment.

If asbestos is present get it removed by a qualified asbestos removalist. Spend the money and have asbestos removed and disposed of properly.

For example, asbestos can be present in many forms. It is often in putty that was used to hold in panes of glass in old timber windows and doors. Just by chiselling out old putty could release asbestos fibres. Get trained.

Neil Evans is the Housing Industry Association’s ACT and southern NSW executive director

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Protect yourself from asbestos with the proper training

Labor vows to remove asbestos from 1200 schools

$50 million would be spent on audits and removing asbestos that poses an immediate risk to students and teachers.

$50 million would be spent on audits and removing asbestos that poses an immediate risk to students and teachers. Photo: Rob Gunstone

Asbestos in 1200 Victorian state schools would be removed by 2020 under an “ambitious” $100 million Labor Party plan.

Again visiting a marginal sand-belt seat, Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews made a pitch to parents, vowing to conduct a full audit of state government schools to identify asbestos and remove it.

The Sunday Age reported this week that teachers and principals had made an election-eve plea for asbestos to be fully removed from all schools after a secret state government audit found some are so plagued with the material that buildings need to be cordoned off or cleaned up immediately.

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Of the 368 audits released, only 30 schools were asbestos-free.

Under Mr Andrews’ plan, $50 million would be spent on audits and removing asbestos that posed an immediate risk to students and teachers.

Another $50 million would be spent to accelerate the retirement and replacement of 250 old portable classrooms which are not part of Labor’s $510 million capital works program already outlined.

Labor conceded it was an “ambitious target” and that $100 million was a down payment for the first stage.

Labor education spokesman James Merlino said the Napthine government had dropped the ball on asbestos in schools over the past four years.

“What kind of message does it send to parents and to school communities that you have stickers across our school buildings, across Victoria, saying there is deadly asbestos and then do nothing about it?” Mr Merlino said.

But the Coalition said the plan was an under-costed hoax and Mr Andrews did not understand the facts.

“If ‘Dodgy Dan’ had proper costings, he would know that the cost of removing asbestos from schools is closer to $1 billion than $100 million,” a Coalition spokesman said.

“If he did his homework he would know that there are hundreds of audits of schools, and under this government funding for asbestos removal has more than doubled.”

The government said schools had asbestos management plans and conducted three-monthly checks, with training provided to key staff.

Victorian Principals Association president Gabrielle Leigh welcomed the announcement, and said principals would be pleased a government would finally take responsibility for asbestos in schools.

“I’m hoping $100 million actually covers it. We’ve been calling on the government about asbestos and asbestos labelling and how schools need support for this,” she said.

Ms Leigh said schools didn’t have the resources to properly deal with the problem.

Oakleigh Primary School and Kindergarten would be one of the beneficiaries of the funding.

Principal Jack Fisher said the asbestos had to be constantly monitored in case of damage.

“This has been an ongoing issue for many decades,” he said.

Mr Fisher said removing asbestos in government schools was just the tip of the iceberg.

“I’m conscious of the fact that asbestos is most likely in a number of public buildings, including early childhood centres, kindergartens, independent schools, community centres and other government buildings,” he said.

Continue reading: 

Labor vows to remove asbestos from 1200 schools

U of M prof diagnosed with mesothelioma speaks out over asbestos


Beth Macdonell, CTV Winnipeg



Published Friday, October 3, 2014 3:47PM CST



Last Updated Friday, October 3, 2014 6:28PM CST

A University of Manitoba professor with a rare form of cancer often linked with exposure to asbestos has a warning. Patricia Martens wants others to be aware and be safe.

Martens, 62, is a professor of health sciences at the University of Manitoba and is an Order of Canada recipient. She has travelled extensively, researching trends in health and health care.

In February 2013, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Martens was told she had nine to 12 months to live. She tried chemotherapy but stopped after doctors found it wasn’t working. Radiation is not possible because of the way the cancer spreads.

She doesn’t know exactly when she was exposed, but this type of cancer can form as long as 50 years after exposure.

Martens believes the asbestos exposure could have happened while studying or working on the U of M campus, but she can’t say for sure, as the cancer can take up to 50 years to show signs.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers believes at least four cases, including Martens’ one, could possibly be linked to asbestos at the University of Manitoba. The institution has many old buildings that used asbestos, said Brenda Austin Smith from the group.

The university is working to eradicate asbestos, to make the buildings safe and sends out emails to staff about the asbestos abatement project, where crews will be working to remove it and to advise people to steer clear, said Austin Smith.

Martens doesn’t plan to sue the university and isn’t bitter. Instead, she plans to make the most of the time she has left, spending time with family and warning others that asbestos is still out there.

The federal and provincial governments have information on strict rules regarding asbestos and its removal.

Martens would like to see it completely banned in Manitoba.

The University of Manitoba issued a statement Friday afternoon.

“It is very unfortunate that a University of Manitoba professor is ill and we feel for Dr. Martens and her family. It is difficult to trace the exact cause or event in such cases, but the University of Manitoba has and will continue to comply with Manitoba Health and Safety legislation to ensure a healthy and safe work environment,” it said in the statement.

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U of M prof diagnosed with mesothelioma speaks out over asbestos

Winnipeg contractor in botched asbestos job has criminal past

A Winnipeg contractor who was recently sanctioned for a botched asbestos removal job has a long criminal history that includes convictions for fraud and theft, the CBC News I-Team has learned.

Workman Industries owner John Sirenn’s criminal record dates back to 1959 with convictions for cashing thousands of dollars in fake cheques and for stealing copper wire and electronics from other businesses, according to court documents.

The documents also show he once fled from a traffic check stop when he was not licensed to drive. His vehicle crashed into a hydro pole that fell within inches of a woman’s head.

“Absolutely disgusted,” said Jon Cameron, whose family filed a complaint against Workman after crews botched an asbestos remediation job at his parents’ house, sending asbestos into the air.

“I mean, how is it that somebody who is consistently violating laws and regulations, putting people’s well-being at risk, how is he still able to work in this city?”

In August, Sirenn and his crew were caught on video dragging asbestos-covered materials — without wearing protective gear — through Rafaelita and Victor Cameron’s home in Point Douglas.

Manitoba’s Workplace Safety and Health issued stop-work orders against Workman and Sarte Heating and Cooling, as well as ordered Workman to decontaminate the house.

However, that work wasn’t done. The Camerons have been out of their home for nearly two months.

“There’s no way that this man should still be working. There’s no way he should still have a company,” Cameron said of Sirenn.

Sirenn has refused to speak to CBC News. Officials from Sarte Heating and Cooling have not responded to a request for comment.

No protective masks

Cameron’s mother, Rafaelita Cameron, had hired Sarte Heating and Cooling to replace their old boiler system with a new high-efficiency furnace.

However, the company could not carry out the installation until the old boiler — which was covered in asbestos — was removed.

So Sarte arranged for Workman Industries to go to the Point Douglas home on Aug. 7 to do the remediation.

When the Workman crew arrived, the family said they noticed the workers were not wearing protective masks or equipment. As well, they said they were not instructed to stay away.

Rafaelita Cameron said she confronted one of the workers when the family realized there were no barriers created to separate the basement job site from the rest of the home.

Jon Cameron videotaped as Workman crews removed the old asbestos-covered boiler in pieces without wrapping any of it in plastic.

The family has since decided to pay out of pocket to get the house remediated so they can replace the boiler and move back in.

Another company, Associated Environmental Services, has since been hired to carry out the asbestos remediation.

‘It was just deplorable’

AES project manager Jason Driedger said his crews had to vacuum and wipe down every surface in the house — a task that he said took them two weekends.

“I came in and took an initial look at the place and I was shocked,” he said.

“Open bags of materials and, I mean, it was just deplorable — as a homeowner, nothing you would ever want to see and nothing you should see.”

Driedger said the workers that Workman Industries hired may not have even known the dangers of what they were handling.

Undisturbed asbestos-containing materials generally don’t pose a health risk, according to Health Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s only when the asbestos is disturbed, and the dust is emitted into the air, that it poses a risk to human health, the agencies say. In significant quantities, asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis and lung cancer.

Workman Industries was issued a cease and desist order to stop using the Certificate of Recognition (COR) Program logo on its website.

The COR certification is obtained through the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba and typically means a company has a safety and health program that meets national standards.

When CBC News contacted the association last month, it said Workman Industries has never been certified by them.

“It really turns my stomach because we’re trying so hard in this industry to make it safe for everybody and to do a proper job, and then you see somebody who just comes in and completely ruins people’s houses,” Driedger said.

“It’s just terrible and it makes the rest of us, the legit companies, look really bad.”

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Winnipeg contractor in botched asbestos job has criminal past

Asbestos found on board third naval vessel

An asbestos clean-up has begun on a third Naval Service vessel after the potentially lethal substance was found on board last Saturday.

The LÉ Eithne was brought into the Naval Service’s headquarters at Haulbowline for routine maintenance when a worker spotted asbestos in the fuel area of the vessel’s former helicopter landing pad. She is the third ship of the eight-vessel fleet on which the substance has been found. Two others had to be put into lock-down as a result.

A Defence Forces spokesman said of the latest discovery: “The compartment [in which the asbestos was discovered] was immediately sealed. The LÉ Eithne is not subject to a lock-down. The hazard has been contained and the vessel is undergoing a full environmental clean by an external licensed contractor concurrent to routine maintenance.”

The LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla have both been out of commission for several months since asbestos was discovered on them.

The clean-up is being undertaken in conjunction with the Health and Safety Association and began on May 28. The Naval Service is unable to say when it will be completed.

It is the second time that asbestos has been identified on the LÉ Eithne, which was built at Verolme Dockyard in 1984.

The vessel used to carry a SA365f Dauphin helicopter on a flight deck. The latest asbestos find was made in this area.

The ship’s helicopter operations stopped a few years ago, due to the purchase of CASA CN235-100MP Persuader Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and the decommissioning of the Dauphin helicopters. Asbestos was also found in a gasket in one of LÉ Aoife’s engines.

A week ago, the Naval Service confirmed it had begun a fleet-wide survey.

While it is not believed that the substance is onboard any of its newer vessels, they will also be surveyed as a precaution.

Inhaling asbestos dust can be potentially lethal and the symptoms can take up to 40 years to manifest themselves. A total of 116 Naval Service personnel and civilian workers are so far understood to have come in contact with asbestos on board the ships or in workshop sheds at the Naval Service’s headquarters on Haulbowline Island. They have been medically screened.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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Asbestos found on board third naval vessel

India's thriving $2B asbestos industry

“These are huge numbers. We’re talking about millions of people,” Shankar said. “So there is a lot of latent demand.”

Yet there are some poor Indians trying to keep asbestos out of their communities, even as the government supports the industry by lowering import duties and using asbestos in construction of subsidized housing.

“People outside of India, they must be wondering what kind of fools we are,” said Ajit Kumar Singh from the Indian Red Cross Society. “They don’t use it. They must wonder why we would.”

In the ancient farming village of Vaishali, in impoverished Bihar state, the first word about the dangers of asbestos came from chemistry and biology textbooks that a boy in a neighboring town brought home from school, according to villagers interviewed by The Associated Press.

A company was proposing an asbestos plant in the village of 1,500 people located about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of New Delhi.

The villagers worried that asbestos fibers could blow from the factory across their wheat, rice and potato fields and into their tiny mud-and-thatch homes. Their children, they said, could contract lung diseases most Indian doctors would never test for, let alone treat. Neither India nor any of its 29 states keep statistics on how many people might be affected by asbestos.

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The people of Vaishali began protesting in January 2011. They objected that the structure would be closer to their homes than the legal limit of 500 meters (1,640 feet). Still, bricks were laid, temporary management offices were built and a hulking skeleton of steel beams went up across the tree-studded landscape.

The villagers circulated a petition demanding the factory be halted. But in December 2012, its permit was renewed, inciting more than 6,000 people from the region to rally on a main road, blocking traffic for 11 hours. They gave speeches and chanted “Asbestos causes cancer.”

Amid the chaos, a few dozen villagers took matters into their own hands, pulling down the partially built factory, brick by brick.

“It was a moment of desperation. No one was listening to us,” said a villager involved in the demolition, a teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the company. “There was no other way for us to express our outrage.”

Within four hours, the factory and offices were demolished: bricks, beams, pipes and asbestos roofing, all torn down. The steel frame was the only remnant left standing.

“Still, we did not feel triumphant,” the teacher said. “We knew it wasn’t over.”

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They were right. The company filed lawsuits, still pending, against several villagers, alleging vandalism and theft.

Durable and heat-resistant, asbestos was long a favorite insulation material in the West, but has also been used in everything from shoes and dental fillings to fireproofing sprays, brake linings and ceiling tiles.

Scientists and medical experts overwhelmingly agree that inhaling any form of asbestos can lead to deadly diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, or the scarring of the lungs. Exposure may also lead to other debilitating ailments, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

About 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos at work each year, the WHO says. Because the disease typically takes 20 to 40 years to manifest, workers can go through their careers without realizing they are getting sick.

Dozens of countries including Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and all European Union nations have banned asbestos entirely. Others including the United States have severely curtailed its use.

Most asbestos on the world market today comes from Russia. Brazil, Kazakhstan and China also export, though some have been reviewing their positions.

Canada’s Quebec province was the world’s biggest asbestos producer for much of the 20th century. It got out of the business in 2012, after a new provincial government questioned why it was mining and exporting a material its own citizens shunned.

Asia is the biggest market. India last year imported $235 million worth of the stuff, or about half of the global trade.

The global asbestos lobby says the mineral has been unfairly maligned by Western nations that used it irresponsibly. It also says one of the six forms of asbestos is safe: chrysotile, or white asbestos, which accounts for more than 95 percent of all asbestos used since 1900, and all of what’s used today.

“Chrysotile you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” said Kanat Kapbayel of Kazakhstan’s United Minerals and a board member of the International Chrysotile Association.

Chrysotile is a serpentine mineral, meaning its fibers are curly and more flexible than the other more jagged and sharp forms called amphiboles. The lobby and its supporters say this distinction makes all the difference.

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A vast majority of experts in science and medicine reject this.

“A rigorous review of the epidemiological evidence confirms that all types of asbestos fiber are causally implicated in the development of various diseases and premature death,” the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology said in a 2012 position statement.

Squeezed out of the industrialized world, the asbestos industry is trying to build up new markets and has created lobbying organizations to help it sell asbestos to poor countries, particularly in Asia, it said.

Developed nations are still reckoning with health and economic consequences from past asbestos use.

American businesses have paid out at least $1.3 billion in the largest and longest-running collection of personal injury lawsuits in U.S. legal history, according to a 2012 report by the California-based Rand research corporation. Two years ago, an Italian court sentenced two businessmen from Swiss building material maker Eternit AG to 16 years in prison for negligence leading to more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths. Billions of dollars have been spent stripping asbestos from buildings in the U.S. and Europe.

Arun Saraf, the Indian asbestos association’s chairman, said India has learned from the West’s mistakes.

He said the lobby’s 15 member companies maintain the strictest safety standards in their factories. That includes limiting airborne dust, properly disposing of waste and insisting employees wear safety masks, gloves and protective clothing.

The vast majority of asbestos used in India is mixed with cement and poured into molds for corrugated roof sheets, wall panels or pipes. Fibers can be released when the sheets are sawed or hammered, and when wear and weather break them down. Scientists say those released fibers are just as dangerous as the raw mineral.

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AP journalists who visited a working factory and a shuttered one in Bihar found both had dumped broken sheets and raw material in fields or uncovered pits within the factory premises. Workers without any safety gear were seen handling the broken sheets at both factories. The working factory was operated by Ramco Industries Ltd., while the other owned by Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd. was supplying materials to UAL Industries Ltd.

Saraf, who is also UAL’s managing director, said the materials left strewn across the factory grounds were meant to be pulverized and recycled into new roofing sheets, and were no more dangerous than the final product as the asbestos had already been mixed with cement.

He said Nibhi was not an association member, but “I have been informed that Nibhi workers are provided with all the personal protective equipment.”

Some employees of Ramco’s working factory said they were satisfied that asbestos was safe, and were delighted by the benefits of steady work. But several former employees of both factories said they were given masks only on inspection days, and rarely if ever had medical checkups. None was aware that going home with asbestos fibers on their clothing or hair could put their families at risk.

Ramco CEO Prem Shanker said all employees working in areas where asbestos was kept unmixed were given safety equipment and regular medical checkups that were reviewed by government authorities. “Ramco has consistently gone the extra mile to ensure a safe working environment,” he said. AP was not given permission to visit these indoor areas.

Indian customers like the asbestos sheets because they’re sturdy, heat resistant and quieter in the rain than tin or fiberglass. But most of all, they’re cheap.

Umesh Kumar, a roadside vendor in Bihar’s capital of Patna, sells precut 3-by-1 meter (10-by-3 foot) asbestos cement sheets for 600 rupees ($10) each. A tin or a fiberglass sheet of similar strength costs 800 rupees.

“I’ve known it’s a health hazard for about 10 years, but what can we do? This is a country of poor people, and for less money they can have a roof over their heads,” Kumar said.

“These people are not aware” of the health risks, he said. But as sellers of asbestos sheets wanting to stay in business, “we’re not able to tell them much.”

The two-day asbestos conference in December was billed as scientific. But organizers said they had no new research.

One could say they’ve gone back in time to defend their products.

The Indian asbestos lobby’s website refers to 1998 WHO guidelines for controlled use of chrysotile, but skips updated WHO advice from 2007 suggesting that all asbestos be banned. The lobby also ignores the ILO’s 2006 recommendation to ban asbestos, and refers only to its 1996 suggestion of strict regulations.

When asked why the association ignored the most recent advice, its executive director, John Nicodemus, waved his hand dismissively. “The WHO is scaremongering,” he said.

Many of the speakers are regulars at asbestos conferences around the world, including in Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia, Ukraine and Indonesia.

American Robert Nolan, who heads a New York-based organization called Environmental Studies International, told the Indian delegates that “a ban is a little like a taboo in a primitive society,” and that those who ban asbestos are “not looking at the facts.”

David Bernstein, an American-born toxicologist based in Geneva, said that although chrysotile can cause disease if inhaled in large quantities or for prolonged periods, so could any tiny particle. He has published dozens of chrysotile-friendly studies and consulted for the Quebec-based Chrysotile Institute, which lost its Canadian government funding and shut down in 2012.

When asked by an audience member about funding for his research, he said some has come from chrysotile interests without elaborating on how much. A short-term study generally costs about $500,000, he said, and a long-term research project can cost up to about $4 million.

Original article:  

India's thriving $2B asbestos industry

India's thriving $2B asbestos industry

“These are huge numbers. We’re talking about millions of people,” Shankar said. “So there is a lot of latent demand.”

Yet there are some poor Indians trying to keep asbestos out of their communities, even as the government supports the industry by lowering import duties and using asbestos in construction of subsidized housing.

“People outside of India, they must be wondering what kind of fools we are,” said Ajit Kumar Singh from the Indian Red Cross Society. “They don’t use it. They must wonder why we would.”

In the ancient farming village of Vaishali, in impoverished Bihar state, the first word about the dangers of asbestos came from chemistry and biology textbooks that a boy in a neighboring town brought home from school, according to villagers interviewed by The Associated Press.

A company was proposing an asbestos plant in the village of 1,500 people located about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of New Delhi.

The villagers worried that asbestos fibers could blow from the factory across their wheat, rice and potato fields and into their tiny mud-and-thatch homes. Their children, they said, could contract lung diseases most Indian doctors would never test for, let alone treat. Neither India nor any of its 29 states keep statistics on how many people might be affected by asbestos.

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The people of Vaishali began protesting in January 2011. They objected that the structure would be closer to their homes than the legal limit of 500 meters (1,640 feet). Still, bricks were laid, temporary management offices were built and a hulking skeleton of steel beams went up across the tree-studded landscape.

The villagers circulated a petition demanding the factory be halted. But in December 2012, its permit was renewed, inciting more than 6,000 people from the region to rally on a main road, blocking traffic for 11 hours. They gave speeches and chanted “Asbestos causes cancer.”

Amid the chaos, a few dozen villagers took matters into their own hands, pulling down the partially built factory, brick by brick.

“It was a moment of desperation. No one was listening to us,” said a villager involved in the demolition, a teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the company. “There was no other way for us to express our outrage.”

Within four hours, the factory and offices were demolished: bricks, beams, pipes and asbestos roofing, all torn down. The steel frame was the only remnant left standing.

“Still, we did not feel triumphant,” the teacher said. “We knew it wasn’t over.”

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They were right. The company filed lawsuits, still pending, against several villagers, alleging vandalism and theft.

Durable and heat-resistant, asbestos was long a favorite insulation material in the West, but has also been used in everything from shoes and dental fillings to fireproofing sprays, brake linings and ceiling tiles.

Scientists and medical experts overwhelmingly agree that inhaling any form of asbestos can lead to deadly diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, or the scarring of the lungs. Exposure may also lead to other debilitating ailments, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

About 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos at work each year, the WHO says. Because the disease typically takes 20 to 40 years to manifest, workers can go through their careers without realizing they are getting sick.

Dozens of countries including Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and all European Union nations have banned asbestos entirely. Others including the United States have severely curtailed its use.

Most asbestos on the world market today comes from Russia. Brazil, Kazakhstan and China also export, though some have been reviewing their positions.

Canada’s Quebec province was the world’s biggest asbestos producer for much of the 20th century. It got out of the business in 2012, after a new provincial government questioned why it was mining and exporting a material its own citizens shunned.

Asia is the biggest market. India last year imported $235 million worth of the stuff, or about half of the global trade.

The global asbestos lobby says the mineral has been unfairly maligned by Western nations that used it irresponsibly. It also says one of the six forms of asbestos is safe: chrysotile, or white asbestos, which accounts for more than 95 percent of all asbestos used since 1900, and all of what’s used today.

“Chrysotile you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” said Kanat Kapbayel of Kazakhstan’s United Minerals and a board member of the International Chrysotile Association.

Chrysotile is a serpentine mineral, meaning its fibers are curly and more flexible than the other more jagged and sharp forms called amphiboles. The lobby and its supporters say this distinction makes all the difference.

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A vast majority of experts in science and medicine reject this.

“A rigorous review of the epidemiological evidence confirms that all types of asbestos fiber are causally implicated in the development of various diseases and premature death,” the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology said in a 2012 position statement.

Squeezed out of the industrialized world, the asbestos industry is trying to build up new markets and has created lobbying organizations to help it sell asbestos to poor countries, particularly in Asia, it said.

Developed nations are still reckoning with health and economic consequences from past asbestos use.

American businesses have paid out at least $1.3 billion in the largest and longest-running collection of personal injury lawsuits in U.S. legal history, according to a 2012 report by the California-based Rand research corporation. Two years ago, an Italian court sentenced two businessmen from Swiss building material maker Eternit AG to 16 years in prison for negligence leading to more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths. Billions of dollars have been spent stripping asbestos from buildings in the U.S. and Europe.

Arun Saraf, the Indian asbestos association’s chairman, said India has learned from the West’s mistakes.

He said the lobby’s 15 member companies maintain the strictest safety standards in their factories. That includes limiting airborne dust, properly disposing of waste and insisting employees wear safety masks, gloves and protective clothing.

The vast majority of asbestos used in India is mixed with cement and poured into molds for corrugated roof sheets, wall panels or pipes. Fibers can be released when the sheets are sawed or hammered, and when wear and weather break them down. Scientists say those released fibers are just as dangerous as the raw mineral.

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AP journalists who visited a working factory and a shuttered one in Bihar found both had dumped broken sheets and raw material in fields or uncovered pits within the factory premises. Workers without any safety gear were seen handling the broken sheets at both factories. The working factory was operated by Ramco Industries Ltd., while the other owned by Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd. was supplying materials to UAL Industries Ltd.

Saraf, who is also UAL’s managing director, said the materials left strewn across the factory grounds were meant to be pulverized and recycled into new roofing sheets, and were no more dangerous than the final product as the asbestos had already been mixed with cement.

He said Nibhi was not an association member, but “I have been informed that Nibhi workers are provided with all the personal protective equipment.”

Some employees of Ramco’s working factory said they were satisfied that asbestos was safe, and were delighted by the benefits of steady work. But several former employees of both factories said they were given masks only on inspection days, and rarely if ever had medical checkups. None was aware that going home with asbestos fibers on their clothing or hair could put their families at risk.

Ramco CEO Prem Shanker said all employees working in areas where asbestos was kept unmixed were given safety equipment and regular medical checkups that were reviewed by government authorities. “Ramco has consistently gone the extra mile to ensure a safe working environment,” he said. AP was not given permission to visit these indoor areas.

Indian customers like the asbestos sheets because they’re sturdy, heat resistant and quieter in the rain than tin or fiberglass. But most of all, they’re cheap.

Umesh Kumar, a roadside vendor in Bihar’s capital of Patna, sells precut 3-by-1 meter (10-by-3 foot) asbestos cement sheets for 600 rupees ($10) each. A tin or a fiberglass sheet of similar strength costs 800 rupees.

“I’ve known it’s a health hazard for about 10 years, but what can we do? This is a country of poor people, and for less money they can have a roof over their heads,” Kumar said.

“These people are not aware” of the health risks, he said. But as sellers of asbestos sheets wanting to stay in business, “we’re not able to tell them much.”

The two-day asbestos conference in December was billed as scientific. But organizers said they had no new research.

One could say they’ve gone back in time to defend their products.

The Indian asbestos lobby’s website refers to 1998 WHO guidelines for controlled use of chrysotile, but skips updated WHO advice from 2007 suggesting that all asbestos be banned. The lobby also ignores the ILO’s 2006 recommendation to ban asbestos, and refers only to its 1996 suggestion of strict regulations.

When asked why the association ignored the most recent advice, its executive director, John Nicodemus, waved his hand dismissively. “The WHO is scaremongering,” he said.

Many of the speakers are regulars at asbestos conferences around the world, including in Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia, Ukraine and Indonesia.

American Robert Nolan, who heads a New York-based organization called Environmental Studies International, told the Indian delegates that “a ban is a little like a taboo in a primitive society,” and that those who ban asbestos are “not looking at the facts.”

David Bernstein, an American-born toxicologist based in Geneva, said that although chrysotile can cause disease if inhaled in large quantities or for prolonged periods, so could any tiny particle. He has published dozens of chrysotile-friendly studies and consulted for the Quebec-based Chrysotile Institute, which lost its Canadian government funding and shut down in 2012.

When asked by an audience member about funding for his research, he said some has come from chrysotile interests without elaborating on how much. A short-term study generally costs about $500,000, he said, and a long-term research project can cost up to about $4 million.

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India's thriving $2B asbestos industry