The International Chrysotile Association Continues Its Deadly Work Around The World
Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca
Right now, a battle is being waged in Europe to hold the asbestos industry accountable for its criminal negligence in hiding the risks of asbestos, thus causing thousands of deaths.
In Italy, last year, in the historic Eternit trial, a court sentenced top asbestos executives – Swiss millionaire, Stephan Schmidheiny, and Belgian Louis de Cartier de Marchienne – to 16 years in prison for the human and environmental catastrophes they caused. Schmidheiny and Marchienne are spending millions of dollars on lawyers and public relations initiatives in an attempt to avoid prison.
In France, the National Association for the Defense of Asbestos Victims (ANDEVA) is seeking to have criminal charges laid against asbestos industry executives, scientists and government officials for negligence in covering up asbestos risks, which resulted in the deaths of thousands in France.
Yet still today, the asbestos industry continues to practice the same deadly deception and the same criminal negligence. If not stopped, this will cause a repeat, in Asia and elsewhere, of the same tragedy that has cost so many lives in Europe.
The International Chrysotile Association: its history
The International Chrysotile Association is a lobby group for the global asbestos industry. Its purpose is to promote the use of asbestos, particularly in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
It was originally called the Asbestos International Association (AIA) and was set up the UK in 1976. Two decades later, when the UK and Europe were moving towards banning asbestos, the AIA needed to find a more hospitable environment. What could be better than Canada – a major asbestos exporter with the priceless asset of allowing Canada’s international credibility and the Canadian flag to be used as fronts for asbestos propaganda?
In 1997, the AIA moved to Montreal in Quebec and set up a cosy relationship with the Canadian lobby organisation, the Asbestos Institute. The president of the Asbestos Institute, Clément Godbout, was also the Chairman of the AIA. Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Ralph Goodale, boasted: “The location of this head office underlines Canada’s international leadership and expertise in dealing with chrysotile asbestos issues.”
In order to have a better image, the AIA and the Asbestos Institute removed the word “Asbestos” from their names in 2005, re-registering themselves in the Quebec corporate registry as the International Chrysotile Association and the Chrysotile Institute.
In 2012, the Chrysotile Institute closed its doors. In the face of severe criticism for giving taxpayer money to this disreputable asbestos lobby organisation, the Canadian government ceased its funding in 2011; as the two last Quebec asbestos mines were bankrupt and unable to contribute their portion of the Institute’s finances, the closure of the Chrysotile Institute became inevitable.
The Chrysotile Institute’s demise left the ICA without a home. I wish I could report that it too closed down. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The International Chrysotile Association re-creates itself
On July 1, 2011, Jean-Marc Leblond was appointed as the new President and Chairman of the ICA to replace Clément Godbout.
Leblond was Vice-President in charge of sales of LAB Chrysotile Inc. at Thetford mines for 21 years. He then became President of Chrysotile Canada Inc., a company that marketed asbestos overseas on behalf of LAB Chrysotile Inc. and Jeffrey Mine Inc. In June 2011, he set up his own international commerce consulting company, Polyser Inc.
At the same time, the ICA opened an office in Thetford Mines at the same address as Polyser Inc.
Five New Directors Appointed
Leblond has appointed new directors to the board of the ICA. On October 4, 2011, four new directors from Mexico, Colombia, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates were appointed and on January 1, 2012, a director from India:
1] Antonio Galvan Carriles, President of the Instituto mexicano de fibroindustrias (Mexican Institute of Fibre Industries), the Mexican asbestos lobby organisation
2] Jorge H. Estrada, Calle 71, No 10-47, Interior 7, Bogota, BC, Colombia
3] Jey Gnanam, 175 Sri Sumanatissa, Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka
4] Mounib Hatab, CP PO Box 1371 Dubai, U.A.E.
5] M. L. Gupta, 90, Nehru Place New Delhi 110019, India. Gupta is Chairman of Everest Industries Ltd., which is a member of the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association of India.
Eight Other Directors Of The ICA
Another eight directors continue to sit on the board of the ICA. They are from Indonesia, Brazil, the US, Kazakhstan, Russia, China, India and Mexico:
1] Bob J. Pigg, CP PO Box 2227 Arlington, VA 22202-9227 USA, president of the Asbestos Information Association, North America and a long-time lobbyist for the asbestos industry
2] Tubagus N. Farich, Gedung Alia 7FL JL MI Ridwan Rais No 10 Jakarta 10110, Indonesia
3] Rubens Rela Filho, Cana Brava Mine P.O. Box 01 76450-000 Minaçu Brazil
4] Kanat Kopbayev, 040907 Almaty Region Karasay District Alatau State Farm Samal Street 8-A, Kazakhstan
5] Yury Kozlov, 66 Uralskaya Str., Sverdlovsk Region, Russia
6] Zhang Zhan, Rm 426, Nanpeilou Bldg No 11, Sanlihelu, Beijing. China
7] A. Shankar, Sanatnagar, Hyderabad 500018, India
8] Petraca Francisco, 133 Piso 9 Co. Chapultecpec Polanco, Mexico, DF CP 11560, Mexico
The terms of the following ten ICA directors expired in 2011:
1] Clément Godbout, 1640-1200 av. McGill College, Montréal (Québec) H3B4G7 Canada (Note: This was the address of the Chrysotile Institute, now closed down.)
2] Fouad Makhzoumi, Abu Dhabi Dubai, U.A.E.
3] Rudy Rivera Duran, Avenida Blanco Galindo Km 7.5 Casilla Cochabamba 1791 Bolivia
4] Hugo Villegas Gomez, Carera 17 No. 93-82 Officina 502 Santa Fe De Bogota, Colombia
5] Luis Cejudo Alva, Estado De Mexico 52959 Atizapan, Mexico
6] Tu Le Dinh, No. 6 Vu Gnoc Phan Str 3 Floor Ha Noi City Vietnam
7] M. Ganesan, 175 Sri Sumanatissa Mawatha Colombo Sri Lanka
8] M. Khamvardi, 68819-Doroud P.O. Box 311, Lorestan, Iran
9] Richard Lardez, 16 AVE Lamine Guéye X Rue Monteil CP BP 320 CP18524 Dakar, Senegal
10] Sanjaya Kanoria, A-94 Malhotra House, Green Park Main, New Delhi 110 016, India (Note: Mr. Kanoria was appointed a director on October 4, 2011 and ended his term on December 31, 2011.)
The International Chrysotile Association continues its work promoting deadly misinformation and harm around the world
The ICA has sponsored conferences and meetings that bring together scientists and lobbyists financed by the asbestos industry. These conferences disseminate deadly misinformation about asbestos and promote its use.
In 2011, a powerful public relations company with a history of working for the tobacco industry, APCO Worldwide, intervened in Malaysia to try to defeat a ban on asbestos, proposed by the Malaysian Department of Occupational Safety & Health. APCO refused to disclose who had hired them to carry out this work. It was discovered, however, that it was, in fact, the ICA who had hired APCO. See Put human lives ahead of asbestos profits, public health advocates tell APCO Worldwide.
APCO brought in David Bernstein, a scientist allied to and funded by the asbestos industry, to speak at meetings in Malaysia, organised by APCO, where he put forward the asbestos industry’s propaganda that chrysotile asbestos can be safely used
Barry Castleman, a world expert on the asbestos issue, stated at the time: “It is scandalous that these international influence peddlers representing foreign asbestos companies are blocking public health decisions in Malaysia.” Dr Fernand Turcotte, Professor Emeritus of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, called on APCO “to stop pushing the deadly propaganda of the asbestos industry. The world has seen enough asbestos deaths.”
The International Chrysotile Association and the upcoming Rotterdam Convention Conference
The ICA and scientists it finances, like Bernstein, continue, however, to peddle the industry’s deadly deception and to undermine initiatives to protect people from being harmed by asbestos.
In May 2013, the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention will take place in Geneva. Once again, the recommendation of the Convention’s expert scientific committee to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance will be put forward.
The ICA has financed a piece of research by David Bernstein and other industry funded scientists, Health risk of chrysotile revisited, published in February 2013, which claims that the studies they examined provide “a framework for establishing safe use” of chrysotile asbestos and that low exposures do not present a detectable risk to health.
It is likely that asbestos industry lobbyists, who always attend the Rotterdam Convention conferences, will use this ICA-funded article to try to, once again, block the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance.
The ICA refuses to provide information about its activities and its finances. No annual reports or financial statements are made public.
The last two asbestos mining companies in Canada, both in Quebec (LAB Chrysotile Inc. and Jeffrey Mine Inc.) are bankrupt and both mines are shut down. Thus the funds to finance the ICA office in Quebec and to fund the ICA’s activities, such as hiring APCO and commissioning pro-chrysotile research, are, it seems, coming from asbestos interests outside Canada.
Quebec’s reputation continues, however, to serve as a public relations asset for the ICA, along with the ICA’s slogan, claiming that it is an association “For environmental, occupational health, safe and responsible use.”
Time for an end to immunity
The ICA continues in 2013 to practice the same deadly deception for which the two Eternit asbestos executives have been sentenced to prison in Italy and the same deadly deception for which asbestos executives and their political and scientific collaborators are being pursued in France.
It is time for the immunity – enjoyed by the asbestos industry and its lobby groups for so many decades – to end.