Global Asbestos Congress 2004
The Brazilian Asbestos Mafia Counterattacks: the Last Battle
Brazilian Association of Asbestos Victims (ABREA), Brazil
A ground-breaking Brazilian court ruling in 2004, worth approximately $160 million to thousands of asbestos victims, sparked retaliation by chrysotile (white asbestos) stakeholders in Brazil. More than $1 million was spent on spreading pro-asbestos propaganda in the Brazilian media. Objections by ABREA, the association representing Brazilian asbestos victims, to the falsehoods being spread by the campaign were upheld by the Brazilian Propaganda Regulation Council which banned further industry act
Transcript of Presentation
I wish to thank the organisers especially Sugio Furuya who was with us in 2000 in Osasco at the GAC in Brazil. I am very happy to be here in Japan. I thank for your hospitality and kindness and your support. I also thank the translator and hope he will be patient.
The title of this paper can appear very aggressive so please let me explain the background to this title. I have been criminally charged in Brazil for saying similar things about the Brazilian Asbestos Industry. I was criminally charged but I won the case. It was my first criminal charge and I was, of course, afraid to be found guilty and be jailed. But now I have more experience with such things and have had a lot of lawsuits and criminal charges brought against me by this industry.
Threshold Limit Values (TLVs)
When I heard Kyla talking at the beginning of this session, I remembered something I learned years ago from Dr. Castleman's book on Asbestos. It was very useful for me and maybe it will be useful for you too. During my 21 years at the Labour Ministry, asbestos companies have charged me about the TLV when I inspect a factory with a lot of dust in the environment and which has higher readings than our Brazilian TLV permits (the TLV in Brazil is 2 f/cc ; this is one of the highest TLVs in the world).
When I read Dr. Castleman's book, I found a response to industry's complaints; it says: if you kill your boss a little every day, you will be charged with murder but if your boss kills you, a little every day, this is called: TLV. The concept of TLV is absurd and it does not matter if we are working in conditions where there are 1 f/cc or 0.5f/cc; these are not safe conditions.
Recent Brazilian Developments
Yesterday I mentioned a ground-breaking ruling which the Brazilian Asbestos Victims Association (ABREA) achieved against Eternit.1 The sums of compensation look very small compared to those won in the U.S. and elsewhere but for us this good ruling, which is worth $160 million to 2,500 victims, is important.
In reaction to this court ruling, Eternit, supported by the Brazilian Asbestos Institute (a local branch of the Canadian Asbestos Institute), launched an aggressive mass media campaign, which cost more than $1.3 million, to publicize the many virtues of chrysotile asbestos. On billboards, on TV, in newspapers and in magazines, including the in-flight magazine on Varig, the Brazilian airline, they proclaim:
- asbestos in Brazil generates 200,000 jobs;
- a doctor says: the truth should be spoken: both the production and utilization of asbestos in Brazil respects ILO's regulations and conventions;
- chrysotile asbestos respects life and contributes to Brazilian development;
- there is only one truth: chrysotile asbestos is the cheaper solution to the Brazilian population's habitation problems;
- Brazilian chrysotile asbestos is a different type and has different uses than asbestos in the USA;
- chrysotile is one of the country's most important natural resource;
- we know how to use asbestos safely in Brazil!
ABREA denounced this propaganda as misleading to CONOR, the Brazilian Propaganda Regulation Council that adjudicates complaints about advertising.
- 25/10/2004 - CONOR halts propaganda in radios, tvs, newspapers, magazines, outoors
- 26/10/2004 - Chrysotile Institute appeals
- 27/10/2004 - CONOR maintains decision
- 28/10/2004 - Chrysotile Institute challenges CONOR at the civil court as an urgent matter
- 29/10/2004 - civil court doesn't accept the appeal and keeps prohibition
- 5/11/2004 - Chrysotile Institute changes the slogan to an institutional campaign
- 10/11/2004 - new propaganda featured in magazines, tvs
Only today I heard from our lawyer in Brazil that our complaint has been upheld. He wrote: "We have received a unanimous decision. The Chrysotile Institute propaganda is definitely banned. (even though) they came (to the tribunal) with a bunch of advisers…no judge accepted their points."
At the same time as we were fighting against industry's propaganda campaign, Saint-Gobain used our opposition for their own commercial purposes; they published an advertisement in the most important newspaper in Rio de Janeiro which stated: Make like the media, say no to asbestos.
For decades, Saint-Gobain and Eternit worked together to exploit Brazilian asbestos and Brazilian workers. In December, 2004, the two companies split and now Brasilit, Saint-Gobain's subsidiary, is advocating an asbestos-free future.