Asbestos World Watch for January 20th, 2009

In ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN, the Prime Minister, Karim Massimov, held a meeting concerning the use and production of chrysotile asbestos in the nation. Those present discussed the advantages to the socio-economic status of Kazakhstan via producing and using chrysotile asbestos both within the country and abroad. No mention of the devastating health effects of asbestos were mentioned at the session. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to the development of several often fatal diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. Its use has been banned in many developed nations, but it continues to be used in poorer countries. The session closed with the Premier setting before the states a schedule to further promote the production and use of asbestos in foreign nations. In YOKOHAMA, JAPAN, a settlement has been reached by the families of two victims of asbestos exposure with the company which succeeded the victim’s former employer. The Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency and Japan Freight Railway Co. (JR Freight), which both took control of the former Japanese National Railways (JNR), have agreed in the Yokohama District Court to pay the families 17 million yen each.

In April of 2009, the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency will set aside a settlement fund that will award 10 million yen per family of any former employee of the JNR who has died of an asbestos related disease. An estimated 100,000 former employees of the JNR were exposed to asbestos during the course of their work on the trains. In ANTONINO, PERTH, AUSTRALIA, a victim of asbestosis finally declared his victory in his six-year fight against the Ford Motor Company on Christmas Eve, 2008. Lo Presti won a $840,000 payout in February 2008 after suing the Ford Motor Company in 2002 for exposing him to the asbestos during his work as a mechanic. Ford appealed the decision but withdrew its appeal in December 2008, ensuring that Presti would get his award. Presti’s suit was the first winning from a mechanic against a car manufacturer. Presti’s exposure came from the asbestos in the lining of the brakes he serviced from 1970 through 1987. His case sets a precedent for other mechanics to sue. Australian Asbestos Diseases Society president Robert Vojakovic was critical of the length of time that the decision and payout took. “Ford kept delaying, they kept frustrating. That should never happen again,” he said. In TORONTO, CANADA, a fire released asbestos contained in a building into the air on the east end of the city. Next to the historic Guild Inn, a fire broke out, freeing the asbestos in the building’s construction into the air. The fire trucks remained on the scene long after the fire was out to control the air quality by keeping the site wet to prevent further air contamination. There were no injuries reported.