On October 6, 2016 I was honored to speak at the Seminario Internacional do Amianto: Uma Abordagem Socio-Juridica (International Asbestos Conference: An Approach to Social Justice) in Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil. The conference brought together doctors, attorneys, prosecutors, judges, scientists and victims advocates from Brazil, Portugal, Italy, the United States and other countries, in order to discuss the health hazards of asbestos, asbestos civil and criminal actions in various national and international legal systems and the efforts to ban the mining and use of asbestos in Brazil.
Despite all forms of asbestos being classified as known human carcinogens capable of causing mesothelioma, lung cancer as well as other malignant and non-malignant diseases, asbestos continues to be mined and used in a number of countries. While the members of the European Union and a growing list of more affluent countries have banned asbestos, use of this carcinogenic mineral persists largely in developing countries, shifting the burden of cancer on their less privileged workers and citizens. Advocates in Brazil have been successful in obtaining a ban on the manufacture and use of asbestos products (but not mining of asbestos) in the state of Sao Paulo.
However, the rest of the country enjoys no such ban. My presentation at the conference focused on legal theories, evidentiary issues and defenses encountered in civil asbestos lawsuits in the United States. I was encouraged to see the progress obtained by devoted Brazilian labor prosecutors who have forced several roofing tile manufacturers to remove asbestos from their products.
It is hoped that by sharing our experiences in the United States and the successful efforts by others in Italy to criminally prosecute principals of the asbestos manufacturer, Eternit, we can support the efforts of advocates in Brazil to bring an end to the economic and environmental injustice of continued use of asbestos in Brazil.