Issue 35: Summer 1999
Table of Contents:
1. Europe Bans Asbestos!
2. Canada: Boy Scout Nation or Bully Boy?
3. Asbestos Litigation: European and UK Developments
4. Mesothelioma: Clinical Trials
5. The London Wide Hazardous Waste Collection and Disposal Service
6. News Round-up
1. Europe Bans Asbestos!
It's done! No bells, cymbals or fanfare marked the passage on July 26, 1999 of a written procedure updating Annex 1 of Directive 76/769/EEC on dangerous substances and preparations. Undramatic and virtually unremarked, this legislative adjustment was historic nonetheless, signalling the end to asbestos use throughout all Member States of the European Union (EU). From January 1, 2005, the introduction of new applications of asbestos cement materials, friction products, seals and gaskets will be prohibited. The restrictions will apply to chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite having previously been banned. The directive states: "no threshold level of exposure has yet been identified below which chrysotile asbestos does not pose carcinogenic risks." Highlighting the risks from intermittent exposure, it maintains: "an effective way of protecting human health is to prohibit the use of chrysotile asbestos fibres and products containing them." The removal of asbestos in situ is not required. Procedural rules mean that the amended directive will come into force on the 20th day after publication in the Official Journal; publication will be sooner rather than later according to UK officials. News of the ban was met with threats of further action from at least one Canadian diplomat who told Reuters: "We're very disappointed that the EU didn't wait to see the outcome of the ongoing case in the WTO (World Trade Organisation), as this may have a major bearing on the whole question of the ban."
The final adoption of the directive took place more than two months after it was passed by an eleven to two vote of the Technical Progress Committee. This is the first time that such a vote was not routinely signed off by Commissioners, a process which is usually accomplished within ten days. Rumours abound as to the reasons for the delay. One reliable source said that Sir Leon Brittan, Vice-President of the European Commission, blocked the passage because of intense pressure from Canadian lobbyists who claimed that news of the ban could jeopardise progress at the first EU-Latin America/Caribbean summit (June 28-29) and sour the atmosphere at an EU-Canada conference in Bonn. An EU press spokesman speculated that the sudden departure of Martin Bangemann, caretaker Commissioner of DG III (industry) and DG XIII (telecommunications), stalled the adoption process. Bangemann's acceptance of a lucrative appointment to the Board of Directors of Spanish Telefonica has attracted widespread condemnation from Members of the European Parliament; the case has been referred to the European Court of Justice.
Under the principle of subsidiarity, Member States are free to implement restrictions before the 2005 deadline; bans are already in place in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Sweden. The Labour government has repeatedly declared its intention to bring in domestic prohibitions "as soon as it was legally sound to do so." New draft regulations for a UK ban were agreed by the Health and Safety Commission on May 26. News of their enactment is believed to be imminent. Bill Jordan, General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, expressed the opinion of many when he said: "The EU's action will encourage unions in many other countries to press for similar measures to phase out the use of white asbestos." The domino effect has long been feared by pro-industry forces, with good reason it seems. No sooner was the ink dry on the EU's paperwork, then the Brazilian Environment Minister announced his government's commitment to a similar ban. An article in the July 29, 1999 issue of the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo discusses the new policy and its financial implications; Brazil produces 200,000 tons of chrysotile annually of which 30% is exported. Factory inspector and anti-asbestos exponent Fernanda Giannasi is jubilant at the news saying: "For decades Brazilian workers have been dying from asbestos diseases. Finally, our government has woken up to the reality of their situation. Although these plans will meet with heavy resistance, I am optimistic that we will achieve the goal -- an asbestos free Brazil."
2. Canada: Boy Scout Nation or Bully Boy?
When is a lie, not a lie? When it: suggests a degree of security that is belied by reality, is a mischaracterization, a misstatement of fact, factually inaccurate, substantially inaccurate, misleading, selective, biased, wildly untruthful. These terms have been used by international experts and lawyers to criticize the brief submitted to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on April 26, 1999, Canada's initial salvo in the dispute over the French ban on chrysotile. The diplomatic language obfuscates the obvious; the Canadian submission is "a piece of special pleading by a state industry rather than an independent scientific review." Using smoke and mirrors, omission and exaggeration, the Canadians attack the 1997 ban as "irrational and disproportionate." According to the eighty page briefing, Decree 96-1133, dated December 24, 1996, was a political knee-jerk reaction to scandals such as those over contaminated blood and mad cow disease; "the French Government chose to prohibit chrysotile and all its uses in the hopes of assuaging public opinion which had been badly shaken." No mention is made that France was the eighth European Union (EU) member to impose such sanctions.
It is interesting to note that the original version of the Canadian submission was written in French, the second language of Canada and the first of Quebec province, home to all Canada's chrysotile mines and, coincidentally, most of the country's asbestos experts. Chrysotile production is worth $225 million a year; the chrysotile mining industry provides work for nearly 2,500 Quebec inhabitants. There are a further fifteen hundred jobs in associated sectors: the manufacture and processing of asbestos textiles, composite material and friction products. Ottawa has been generous in its support of the industry. Fifteen million dollars of federal subsidies flowed into the coffers of the Asbestos Institute, a body set up in 1984 to "maximise the use of existing resources in a concerted effort to defend and promote the safe use of asbestos on a global scale." In line with this objective, the Asbestos Institute was one of several industry bodies to submit comments to the UK's Health and Safety Executive during last year's consultation on a proposed asbestos ban; the others included the governments of Canada, Quebec, Brazil, Zimbabwe and the Russian Federation. In 1996, the new Responsible-Use Program received funding of $750,000 from the Canadian government. Agreements on safe use from sixty-five countries was the target; to date, only three agreements have been signed. Why would the boy-scout nation jeopardise its international reputation and poison relations with the third world for a moribund industry? The answer is simple: jobs, votes and the fragility of Quebec's position within the Canadian federation. Cathy Walker, Health and Safety Director of the Canadian Auto Workers' Union (CAW), agrees that the impetus is political: "The Canadian and Quebec governments are competing with one another to show just how prepared they all are to protect Quebec jobs."
As the complainant, Canada's submission was the first to be handed in to the Panel convened on March 29, 1999 by the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body. The workings of the three man tribunal are shrouded in secrecy; the credentials of President Adrian Macey, New Zealand's Ambassador to Thailand, William Ehlers and Ake Linden, a Swedish consultant on trade policy matters, are confidential. Appendix 3 of the WTO Dispute Settlement Procedures states: "The panel shall meet in closed session... The deliberations of the panel and the documents submitted to it shall be kept confidential." The identity of expert witnesses, written and oral testimonies and discussions are also restricted. The EU's defence of France was submitted on May 21, 1999, followed a week later by the United States' third party brief which recommended that "the Panel should find that Canada has failed to meet its burden of proof that the French decree violates any provision of the WTO Agreement." As expected, submissions from asbestos-producing Brazil and Zimbabwe, the other registered third parties, were supportive of Canada. Substantive meetings were held at the WTO's Geneva headquarters on June 1-2 followed by the submission of written rebuttals and a second hearing towards the end of the month. The panellists were originally expected to issue the descriptive section of their report in mid-July, an interim report in August and their findings by the end of October, 1999. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the appointment of a panel of scientific experts will significantly alter the timetable.
The international asbestos industry, spear-headed by Canadian interests, is fighting tooth and nail to protect third world markets such as India where fifteen thousand workers produce asbestos goods at seventy-five sites. Complimentary Canadian junkets for foreign journalists and orchestrated overseas trade missions have attempted to influence public opinion and pressurise foreign governments. In March, 1999, just as UK and EU policymakers were revising proposed asbestos directives, a trade mission arrived in London. Judging by the lack of media interest, this visit of industry spokesmen, scientists, politicians and trade unionists was spectacularly unsuccessful. Access to Vangala Pattahhi of Hyderabad Industries, Edward Chindori-Chininga, Zimbabwe's Deputy Minister of Mines, Environment and Tourism and Bob Pigg, President of the Asbestos Information Association, was restricted to carefully vetted journalists; neither the editor of the British Asbestos Newsletter nor an asbestos specialist from Lloyd's List was granted interviews.
While the Canadians continue to throw money at the problem, international developments suggest they are running out of options. In April, 1999, the Collegium Ramazzini, a society of one hundred and eighty independent occupational and environmental health specialists, called for an international ban on asbestos: "The grave health hazards of asbestos are entirely preventable. The health risks of asbestos exposure are not acceptable in either industrially developed or newly industrializing nations. Moreover, suitable, safer substitutes for asbestos are available. An immediate worldwide ban on the production and use of asbestos is long overdue, fully justified and absolutely necessary." On May 4, an EU ban on chrysotile became inevitable with a majority vote in the Technical Progress Committee. The translation of a press release from the Anti-Asbestos Movement in France was triumphant: "This decision annihilates the efforts of the Canadian Government which, in order to preserve the profits of its mining industry and its asbestos exports, has attacked France through the World Trade Organisation on the ground that the ban on asbestos would be a barrier against free trade." Ripples caused by the impending ban were observed as far away as Brazil where Saint Gobain, a major overseas investor in the domestic asbestos industry, announced that it would be reconsidering its financial holdings in the country's largest chrysotile mine. Jean Claude Breffort, the group's general manager in Brazil, believes that the EU's decision cannot be ignored: "It is no longer a matter of an isolated decision taken by France, but it is a consensus which is not limited to Europe alone. Japan and other countries are also preparing to follow this path." The possibility that Brasilit S.A., Saint Gobain's subsidiary, might sell its 15% share of Eternit S.A. received extensive news coverage. Once again, a damage limitation team of international "experts" was assembled to counter adverse publicity; David Bernstein, Corbett McDonald, Geoffrey Berry and Frederick Pooley were flown to Brazil to uphold the principle of "controlled use" in press interviews and presentations at an asbestos seminar in Sao Paulo.
Through the miasma of strategies and countermoves, the high price paid by Canadians workers has been down-played and even denied by official sources. Detailed analysis of government documents accessed under a Freedom of Information request presents evidence of a massive cover-up. Author Jim Brophy prepared two reports for the CAW; he was horrified by what he read in the files. Asbestos contamination up to 8,000 times today's permitted levels had been tolerated by government inspectors at the Holmes Foundry in Ontario. Air sampling at the Caposite Insulation plant recorded "counts (that) were the highest ever encountered by this Branch in any of the plants in Ontario." One Ministry official speculated that a particular sample was "probably the highest asbestos fibre concentration ever recorded." Brophy says: "People are dying because the government chose not to act on what it knew." Some months ago, the Toronto Star, the largest daily newspaper in Canada, ran a feature entitled: "Why Canada pushes killer asbestos." Investigative journalist Bill Schiller asked: "Is Canada exporting death?" Last year, output from Canadian mines was 420,000 tonnes, 97% of which was exported. Canada has strict regulations on the domestic use of chrysotile; stricter than those in Japan, Thailand, India, Korea and Mexico, its five most important markets. The Toronto Star editorial concluded: "Asbestos sales are plummeting worldwide. Most of Europe has banned the product. This is a dying industry. It should be allowed to die." Amen.
3. Asbestos Litigation: European and UK Developments
The work of personal injury lawyers and national asbestos victims groups has resulted in major advances in France, the Netherlands and the UK. The French law governing compensation for occupational diseases dates from 1919. Workers with prescribed diseases are entitled to compensation from a government body funded by employers' contributions; in theory, workers need not demonstrate the causal links between exposure and prescribed diseases. In practice, this is often undermined, not least by physicians, medical specialists and bureaucratic experts who continually question the principle of "presumption of origin." Victims of mesothelioma, asbestosis and pulmonary cancer, all of which are prescribed diseases, are disadvantaged by the pro-employer bias of the current system. Administrative procedures are long-winded, resulting in many claims being abandoned; acquisition of the requisite medical certificate is complicated for victims, most of whom are elderly, unskilled workers with no trade union support. ANDEVA, the national asbestos victims group, has been calling for changes for several years.
Test cases brought by ANDEVA's lawyers have broken new ground in recent months. In March, Michel Drouet, a fifty-three year old mesothelioma patient from Cherbourg, became the first applicant to win damages from the Criminal Compensation Commission (CCC), a panel more used to hearing appeals from victims of terrorism or road accidents. Having reviewed evidence of eighteen years of occupational exposure in the French Navy, the three Commissioners awarded the former mechanic 980,000 FF ($163,000). Unfortunately, this decision was appealed by the Fund of Guarantee, a government panel. An ANDEVA representative is scathing of the government's behaviour: "An appeal to Prime Minister Jospin's cabinet has fallen on deaf ears. Mr. Drouet is unlikely to survive until September, when the final ruling is expected. The unsympathetic and reactionary attitude of the government does not bode well for other asbestos victims." In April, the CCC in Dunkirk ruled that the diseases of four workers had been caused by the offences of involuntary homicide and offensive wounding. On April 16, twenty-two retired workers or their surviving relatives won a joint case before the Social Security Tribunal in Melun. Everite, their former employer, was guilty of "faute inexcusable," (outrageous misconduct). Evidence that even the most basic preventative measures had not been taken was accepted. The verdict of "faute inexcusable" more than doubles the size of the awards. Another precedent was set when the court insisted, despite the likelihood of an appeal, that payment of four million francs ($720,000) be made immediately.
Until this year, judicial proceedings arising from asbestos cases were confined to civil tribunals. This changed in April when Claude Chopin, Managing Director of a defunct asbestos textile company, was called to testify before Judge Michel Royet in an action brought by six Amisol workers. Charges of poisoning, involuntary homicide and involuntary wounding were made; the case is on-going. Josette Roudaire, a former Amisol worker and the head of the Clermont-Ferrand branch of ANDEVA, said: "This is the first time, the responsibility of those in charge is being recognised." Similar cases are being brought in Paris, Dunkirk, Saint-Nazaire, Caen, Thiant (Nord) et Riom (Puy-de-Dome).
The commercial use of asbestos began comparatively late in the Netherlands. Once introduced, however, the import of raw asbestos and asbestos-containing material (acm) grew rapidly, peaking in the 1970's with the import of 50,000 tons of fibre and 150,000 tons of products annually. Between 1946 and 1995, 10,000 Dutch jobs involved the direct processing of asbestos and 330,000 the manufacture of acm. Five million tons of acm remain incorporated within the national infrastructure. In the late 1960's, occupational physician Dr. Stumphius identified twenty-five cases of mesothelioma among shipyard workers resident on the Dutch island of Walcheren. His presentations and efforts to increase domestic awareness of asbestos problems led in 1973 to the first asbestos conference in the Netherlands. Although a partial ban was enacted in 1978, it was, as is often the case, too little, too late. The authors of: The Monitoring and Enforcement of the Asbestos Policy in The Netherlands in Volume 19 of the Sourcebook on Asbestos Diseases, explain why no comprehensive ban was introduced until 1993. Unregulated and poorly regulated occupational use of asbestos have had the usual repercussions. The rate of pleural mesothelioma in Dutch "men rose from 1.0 per 100,000 in 1969 (65 cases) to 3.9 per 100,000 in 1994 (301 cases in a total population in The Netherlands of about 7.7 million men)." It is widely acknowledged that these figures are underestimates. By 2035, 40,000 additional asbestos-related deaths are expected in the Netherlands.
Until fairly recently, the thirty year limitation term combined with the latency of asbestos diseases has meant that many Dutch victims have remained uncompensated. Since 1994, the number of asbestos personal injury cases has increased; more than 600 lawsuits are pending. Legal, judicial and governmental changes have encouraged this growth. A new Civil Code which transferred the burden of proof from the employee to the employer meant that companies had to demonstrate safe working conditions throughout decades of operations. Victims have benefited from the support and advice of the Asbestos Victims Committee and its lawyers. Academics in the Safety Science Group of Delft University of Technology have been pivotal in the climate change; their articles in Dutch law journals and presentations to judicial audiences have increased professional knowledge. Other academic initiatives have included: the second asbestos conference, a book documenting the state of the art in the Netherlands over four decades, the development of models to predict future levels of asbestos mortality and work on retrospective exposure patterns for mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. The availability of more and better information has led to a significant rise in the size of pain and suffering awards ($50,000-$80,000). There has been a shift from a guilt to a risk approach, while the date of guilty knowledge has been pushed back to the 1930's. Plans to set up an Asbestos Institute to administer a national compensation scheme are well advanced. Initially, the tripartite body will deal with some mesothelioma victims; legislation is being prepared to include claimants with asbestosis and lung cancer and those with pre-1969 exposure. A separate fund for mesothelioma victims who would otherwise be unable to make a claim on "an answerable party" has also been established.
Asbestos cases are among the most complicated encountered by UK personal injury litigators. In the Spring issue of the APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) Newsletter, Welsh solicitor J M Parsons identifies a new hurdle: the ELDRG. This abbreviation stands for the Environment Lung Disease Research Group, the most frequently used UK service for electron microscopic fibre counts on lung samples. Parsons provides several reasons for caution, urging that "conclusions reached by the ELDRG must be carefully considered before they are accepted as correct." Coroners' verdicts, based on ELDRG findings, of death by natural causes are preventing valid mesothelioma cases from being brought. In the same issue of the newsletter, Dr M Greenberg asks: "Why are the courts persuaded that malignant mesothelioma cannot be attributable to heavy occupational exposure to chrysotile asbestos?" He points out that in the case of Eileen Hare vs. TAC Construction Materials Ltd., no mention was made of the conclusions reached in 1996 by the World Health Organisation and International Labour Organisation that: "Exposure to chrysotile asbestos poses increased risks of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma in dose-dependent manner. No threshold has been identified for carcinogenic risks."
In February, 1999, Yorkshire Coroner E S Hooper issued an unprecedented verdict when he ruled that seventy-three year old Douglas Moore "died from necrotising pneumonia consequent on epithelioid haemangio-endothelioma consequent on exposure to asbestos." Accepting evidence that had the deceased not been exposed to asbestos he wouldn't have contracted this disease, Hooper pointed out that legal constraints prevented him from recording a verdict of industrial death. This was the first inquest in England or Wales which associated this rare disease with exposure to asbestos. Hooper's finding will enable the Moore family to initiate legal proceedings against Mr. Moore's former employers.
There is no centralised collection of information on asbestos settlements or verdicts in the UK. For this reason, corporate reviews and in-house newsletters provide vital news of defendants' legal strategies and settlement policies. The latest annual review published by the law firm of Rowley Ashworth reinforces the view that defendants prefer to remain outside the courtroom. A last minute payment of £100,000 brought the case of Norris vs. British Bata Shoe Company to its conclusion. Manning Norris, who died from mesothelioma in 1996, had worked in carpentry and general maintenance for the company for thirty-eight years. Insurers initially denied the claim stating that Norris had not been exposed to asbestos and that his disease was not asbestos-related. Discussions with former work-mate Peter Griffin revealed that he too was suffering from lung impairment. Further medical investigations found that Mr Griffin had mesothelioma; the case was settled for £69,000 shortly before he died. A claim from the widow of Stewart Anderson was denied by the insurers for Smiths Docks. Anderson, a marine fitter, died of mesothelioma, aged 66. After High Court proceedings had been issued, a settlement of £100,000 was reached.
The long latency period for asbestos diseases disadvantages plaintiffs in many ways: former employers go out of business or are taken over, insurance details and employment records are lost. As there is no compulsory registration of Employers Liability Insurers, asbestos victims can be left with no one to sue. To capitalise on information previously collected, the staff at Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) have begun work on a computerised database called Coda. Details of asbestos companies, liquidators and insurers from more than a thousand cases have been logged on the system. A trawl through FFW's Spring issue of Asbestos News shows a wide diversity of defendants including: Forest Healthcare NHS Trust, A. Boake Roberts Ltd., English Electric Co. Ltd., Associated Electrical Industries Ltd., Turmag (Great Britain) Ltd., London Underground, Cape plc, Kodak Limited, Abbott Insulated Co. Ltd., Prescot (No 1) Ltd. and National Grid plc. Successful outcomes of eleven cases are discussed; awards range from £500,000 for mesothelioma to £15,000 for symptomless pleural plaques caused by environmental exposure
4. Mesothelioma: Clinical Trials
Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is widely regarded as untreatable and incurable. Chemotherapy and combinations of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy protocols have yielded encouraging results. In a study being conducted at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London symptoms such as persistent coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain improved in a majority of the twenty-seven patients treated with Vinorelbine, a drug approved for the treatment of breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer; few side effects were experienced. In seven of the cases, CT scans showed marked regression of the tumours. The non-invasive out-patient treatment involves repeated cycles of six doses of the drug. An abstract presented at the July meeting of the British Association for Cancer Research, concludes: "Vinorelbine may offer a real opportunity for palliation of patients with MM." Rob Dawber, who was diagnosed on December 22, 1998, is in no doubt about the effectiveness of the drug. A CT scan taken after his first cycle of treatment last winter showed: "a definite regression in all areas." Lung specialist Dr. Robin Rudd believes that "recent developments suggest that we are beginning to make progress." In the Autumn, Rudd hopes "to go on to a new study in which we shall be looking at the addition of a new drug called Oxiliplatin to Vinorelbine to see if this will improve efficacy." The study is recruiting patients; contact Dr. Rudd at: R.M.Rudd@mds.qmw.ac.uk
Professor Bruce Robinson, joint leader of the mesothelioma research team in Perth, Australia, reports a 42% success rate for the Gemcitibine-cisplatin protocol used since 1997. Proposals for gene therapy trials are currently being considered by his team at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.
5. The London Wide Hazardous Waste Collection and Disposal Service
A scheme for the disposal of small amounts of hazardous substances, including asbestos, from schools and domestic properties is now operating in all London boroughs, bar Hillingdon and Camden. Previously operated by the Environment Agency, the administration of the service was transferred to the Corporation of London with effect from April 1, 1998. Boroughs subscribing to the service vary in their approach; some act as intermediaries, some refer residents directly to the Corporation of London. In the first instance, Londoners are required to ring the cleansing department of the local civic centre. Harrow spokesperson Bill Miller said demand in the first three months has been limited. Mr. Miller highlighted the importance of wrapping procedures for asbestos waste; heavy gauge polythene sacks liftable by one person must be used. He estimated that the cost of the disposal of asbestos cement tiles from a garage roof in Harrow would be £70-£100. Commenting on this scheme, a spokesperson from the Department of Environment, Regions and Transport strongly recommended that: "Householders concerned about potential asbestos problems should consult with their local environmental health officer before taking any action."
6. News Round-up
Reviewing F Mayle's book: Amiante. Le Dossier de l'Air Contamine, Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum writes: "Mayle follows in the footsteps of Paul Brodeur... In the best tradition of French journalism, Mayle also identifies with remarkable detail those scientists, politicians, and business people who actively or passively opposed the attempt to bring under control the use of asbestos and to begin the process of cleanup and expiration of asbestos from French building stock"
Social Consequences and Cellular Biology, volume 19, of the Sourcebook on Asbestos Diseases has been published. Chapter 8, Asbestos-Induced Deaths in the United Kingdom, by R Howie concludes that predictions of asbestos deaths have been grossly underestimated. His calculations show: "125,000 asbestos-induced deaths to 1996 resulting from asbestos exposures to 1960, with further deaths resulting in between 663,000 and 820,000 cumulative asbestos-induced deaths by 2020..."
Health and Safety Statistics 1997/98 by the Health and Safety Commission reveals a disturbing shortfall in the number of awards made for asbestos-related lung cancer. While conservative estimates put the annual incidence of these cases at more than one thousand, in 1997, the Special Medical Boards approved disablement benefit for fewer than thirty applicants. The report explains: "There is no clinical feature by which lung cancers caused by asbestos can be definitely distinguished from cases in which asbestos has not been involved, and therefore many of these cases may not be recognised as asbestos related by the sufferers or by their doctors."
In February, 1999, The Asbestos Epidemic: A Special Report in USA Today, focused on the developing world. Observations of conditions in Poland and China are of particular interest: "Szczucin, a town of 2,800 in southern Poland, is essentially an asbestos dump. Leftover asbestos from the asbestos cement plant, the town's biggest employer for 40 years, has been used to pave the town's roads and playgrounds and to build houses and barns. Local ditches and fields are littered with discarded asbestos."
In 1997, M Carbone, P Rizzo and HI Pass concluded that "available data are still insufficient to indicate what, if any, pathogenic role SV40 and SV40-like sequences may have when detected in the tumor cells of a given patient... The contribution, if any, of SV40 to the increased incidence of mesotheliomas is presently unclear." In a paper published in January, 1999: Cell and Molecular Biology of Simian Virus 40: Implication for Human Infections and Disease, JS Butel and JA Lednicky find "undeniable evidence that the virus is a potent oncogenic agent under a variety of conditions... People exposed to possible cofactors, such as asbestos, may also be at higher risk of developing SV40-related cancer."
The editorial: Global Corporate Policies and International "Double Standards" in Occupational and Environmental Health in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (Jan-March, 1999) highlights the need for "a careful analysis of what (global) corporations are and are not doing to prevent the emergence of international double standards in the protection of human lives and the environment."
Asbestos Disease in Brazil and the Building of Counter-power: a Study in Health, Work and Gender by L Scavone, F Giannasi and A Thebaud-Mony (Revista Perspectivas, n.22, 1999) investigates "the invisibility of knowledge about the problems related to the use of asbestos in Brazil." The authors report that "the daily drama of the illness is experienced and managed mostly by the family... (allowing) employers to escape their responsibility... (with) the connivance and complicity of governmental institutions."
Compensating the Workers: Industrial Injury and Compensation in the British Asbestos Industry, 1930s-60s by G Tweedale and DJ Jeremy (Business History, April, 1999) examines internal case files of T&N plc, formerly the UK's biggest asbestos manufacturer. The authors conclude that injured workers "were never adequately compensated for industrial disease."
Asbestos Related Mortality in Northern Ireland: 1985-1994 by D O'Reilly, J Reid, R Middleton and AT Gavin (Faculty of Public Health Medicine, volume 21, 1999) records an annual average of 81 deaths with high mortality ratios in the shipbuilding and construction industries.
Respiratory Protective Equipment: a Practical Guide (HSE, HSG53 £9.50) provides information on choosing, using and maintaining RPE. A free pamphlet: Asbestos Dust Kills: Keep Your Mask On encourages employees to follow good practice.
Working with Asbestos in Buildings (HSE, INDG289) is aimed at those most at risk of occupational exposure to asbestos: maintenance workers, builders, carpenters, plumbers, telecommunications engineers, computer, cabling and fire alarm installers.
Asbestos: Medical Guidance Note (HSE, C30 £4.50) cites current action levels and control limits, health effects, procedures for the notification of asbestos-related diseases and social security benefits.
Toronto: June 8, 1999 - As part of a global economy theme, the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition heard presentations from F Giannasi (Brazil), A Dalton (England), Barry Castleman (USA) and Jim Brophy (Canada) on the marketing of asbestos. In a panel discussion, Ms. Giannasi said: "In Brazil, the concept of controlled use is a fiction."
Edinburgh: September 17-19, 1999 - The Seventh European Work Hazards Conference; e-mail contact A+Gberatung@PowerOnlines.net
Nottingham: October 5-8, 1999 - Combined Meeting of the International Congress on Peritoneal Repair and Adhesions and International Mesothelioma Interest Group; e-mail contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council: www.iiac.org.uk
International Labour Organisation: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/130inst/research/labns.htm
Occupational and environmental health and safety issues in Latin America and the Caribbean: http://www.cepis.org.pe/enwww/saluocup/rst-lac/home.html
The White Lung Association: www.whitelung.org
Compiled by Laurie Kazan-Allen