January 23, 2019

>ANSA-ANALISI Fresh hope for families of Eternit asbestos victi

>ANSA-ANALISI Fresh hope for families of Eternit asbestos victi

Former company owner could face charges over 263 asbestos deaths

(ANSA) – Rome, November 20 – Families of victims of deadly
asbestos poisoning took hope Thursday after prosecutors in Turin
completed a homicide probe into former Eternit owner Stephan
Schmidheiny that could see him face charges over 263 deaths,
said ANSA sources.
That came one day after Italy’s highest appeals body, the
Court of Cassation, overturned an 18-year prison sentence
against the Swiss tycoon, whose now-defunct Eternit ran several
asbestos cement plants blamed for more than 2,000 deaths.
Grieving families of victims, outraged over Wednesday’s
supreme court decision, took hope from the Turin case as well as
from government pledges on Thursday to change the statute of
limitations law that led to the annulment of the sole conviction
in the asbestos environmental disaster.
Schmidheiny had been charged with failing to provide
adequate safety measures at the plants, but the high court said
the case had timed out.
Schmidheiny has denied the charges.
In a statement Thursday, the Cassation Court added its
remit was to deal only with the issue of an asbestos
environmental disaster from 1986, the year an Eternit factory
closed, rather than with individual cases of illnesses and
The objective “was to ascertain whether or not the disaster
occurred,” the Court said in a note.
Turin prosecutors opened three separate cases related to
the Eternit factories, including one involving murder
allegations against Schmidheiny.
The second case refers to
Italians who died after working in Eternit plants in Switzerland
and Brazil, and the third concerns a major quarry near Turin
that produced asbestos and was connected to Eternit.
Premier Matteo Renzi meanwhile said he would change Italy’s
statute of limitations, a promise supported by leaders of the
Lower House and Senate who said they reached an agreement on the
procedure for moving Renzi’s bill through parliament.
“If a case like Eternit is a timed-out crime, then we have
to change the rules of the game on the statute of limitations,”
Renzi told RTL radio station.
“We can’t have the nightmare of the statute of limitations
(in these cases).
You cannot deprive people of the demand for
justice,” Renzi said.
“I was struck, as an ordinary citizen, by the interviews
with the families (of the victims).
They made me shudder a
About 150 people belonging to an Eternit victims group
protested Wednesday outside the Cassation Court including many
from Casale Monferrato in Piedmont, and others from different
regions of northern Italy as well as people from Switzerland and
Their leader Romana Blasotti, 85, lost five family members
to asbestos-related diseases, which can often take many years to
One of the most common diseases, mesothelioma, can take
decades after contamination to make itself known, making
liability hard to prove.
“We want justice, and we believe that we will have it,
after 35 years of struggle,” said Blasotti, whose husband died
in 1983, followed by a sister, a niece, a cousin and a daughter.
“When we started our battle, we knew we had to do it for
our young people…but we did not succeed.
The death rate in
Casale continues at a rate of 50 to 60 deaths per year,” she
Paolo Liedholm of Casale Monferrato, who lost his mother to
asbestos-related illness, was bitter about Wednesday’s decision,
saying people continue to die with no recourse.
“Now we have clearly established this: if you want to kill
someone in Italy the best means is asbestos because it is
legal,” he said.
He added that victims believe the peak in asbestos-related
deaths has not yet occurred because of the time it takes for the
disease to appear.
Asbestos-linked tumours have been reported among Eternit
staff, their families and people living near the factories who
were affected by asbestos dust in the air, while hundreds more
fell ill.
Employees and their families have long claimed that Eternit
did little or nothing to protect its workers and residents
living around its factories from the dangers of asbestos.
The Italian National Magistrates Association (ANM) said
Thursday that it has been calling for Italy’s statute of
limitations laws to be changed for years.
“Magistrates have been raising the problem of the statute
of limitations for years”, Rodolfo Sabelli, president of the ANM

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>ANSA-ANALISI Fresh hope for families of Eternit asbestos victi

India's big hurdle in the fight against cancer

India has become the world’s second largest market of asbestos as the government backed by powerful corporate lobby turns a blind eye to diseases related to the use of the hazardous chemical

Banned or restricted in more than 50 countries, white chrysotile asbestos is used in India widely. Though it is listed as a hazardous chemical not much has been done to check its use, despite awareness about deaths from asbestos-related cancers. If anything the supply has only gone up.

The figures are shocking. In India, import of asbestos rose from 253,382 tonnes in 2006 to 473,240 in 2012, a steep increase of 186 per cent in six years.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the global asbestos industry is holding a conference in New Delhi co-organised by the International Chrysotile Association and Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association, India. The presence of Indian government dignitaries will demonstrate which officials act as impediment to ban white chrysotile asbestos in India to safeguard public health.

Their presence will illustrate who compelled the Indian delegation to take a ridiculous stand at the United Nations Rotterdam Convention.

India opposed the listing of chrysotile asbestos under Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention at the sixth meeting of Conference of Parties on May 8 in Geneva. Substances listed under Annex III of the Convention — a global treaty to promote shared responsibilities in relation to import of hazardous chemicals — require exporting countries to advise importing countries about the toxicity of the substances so that importers can give their prior informed consent for trade. The convention does not ban or limit trade in such hazardous substances.

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade is aimed at helping developing countries in managing potentially hazardous chemicals imported by them.

During the fifth Conference of Parties in June 2011, the Indian delegation had agreed to the listing of chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list, but later took a U-turn.

The Indian delegation at the UN meeting belittled India’s stature by citing an admittedly tainted and grossly conflict of interest ridden scientific study that was finalised after discussions with vested corporate interests.

A letter from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests reveals that the Indian delegation led by of Ajay Tyagi currently chairman, Central Pollution Control Board was misguided by a note of the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers to misrepresent Government of India’s position on hazardous substance chrysotile asbestos at the Sixth Conference of Parties of UN’s Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade held in Switzerland.

Indian delegation’s position was inconsistent with domestic laws, which lists asbestos as a hazardous substance. Notably, ACPMA which accompanied the delegation is facing a probe by Competition Commission of India after a reference from the serious fraud investigation office

In keeping with Indian laws when the UN’s Chemical Review Committee of Rotterdam Convention recommended listing of white chrysotile asbestos as hazardous substance, it is incomprehensible as to why Indian delegation opposed its inclusion in the UN list. The only explanation appears to be the fact that the Indian delegation did not have a position independent of the asbestos industry’s position, which has covered up and denied the scientific evidence that all asbestos can cause disease and death.

Image: A view shows the operations in a mine producing white asbestos in Brazil

Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

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India's big hurdle in the fight against cancer