Brazil Supreme Court Bans Chrysotile Asbestos – Declares ‘Safe Use’ argument invalid and unconstitutional

Dec 1, 2017

In a major blow to the global asbestos industry one of the last asbestos producer countries has decided to ban the deadly material as a result of a majority Supreme Court decision this week.

After many years of campaigning by trade unions, health groups and asbestos disease sufferers, on 29th November 2017 the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court (STF) announced its decision (7 to 2 vote) to ‘ban the production, commercialization and use of asbestos in Brazil’. The substance is currently used in the production of roofing tiles and water tanks etc.

Brazil will join Canada, also in the past a major producer, in the more than 70 countries that have formally banned asbestos or announced they will ban the carcinogenic fibre. This leaves just Russia, China and Kazakhstan as commercial producers.

The Court found the law which regulates the exploration of minerals in the country and allows for the utilization of asbestos in a “controlled” fashion to be unconstitutional. The decision on the ban is valid for the entire country. The interpretation by the seven judges is that there are no safe levels for the use of asbestos, and therefore it should be banned.

Eternit, a major roof sheet manufacturer in Brazil, earlier this week announced it was stopping use of asbestos and moving to alternative materials in its roof sheet products in 2018, in response to consumer demand.

“While we await final details of how the decision will be implemented we congratulate Brazil on joining the majority of countries that will no longer use chrysotile asbestos,” said Union Aid Abroad Executive Officer Kate Lee. “We continue to suffer the deadly legacy of chrysotile asbestos in Australia with still over 4000 deaths per year, even though we banned in 2003,” she said.

“Asia is the last remaining big market for this deadly fibre. We really hope governments in Asia can join Brazil and Canada and so many others, in banning chrysotile asbestos and preventing further asbestos related cancers among workers and local communities in coming decades.

“Alternatives to asbestos exist in Asia and at comparable quality and price. We urge governments in Asia to look at the evidence and not the self-interested lobbying of this deadly industry.”

Contact: Kate Lee, Union Aid Abroad Executive Officer, +61 420293083, Phillip Hazelton, Union Aid Abroad Campaign Coordinator Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases  +84917878314

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