POB 1483, Baltimore, MD 21203-1483, 410-243-5864
WLA Home
Asbestos Watch
British Asbestos
News from India
Legal Information
News Reports
Paul Safchuck's Alerts
Jim Fite's Alerts
WLA Alerts & News
World Trade Center Health

The White Lung Association Condemns WTO Action to Exclude the Views of Asbestos Victims.

Below you will find the GreenPeace press release on the recent WTO action. Please study it carefully.

The White Lung Association was able to present the views of the asbestos victims through reports to several of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's). Our message has now been excluded by the leaders of the World Trade Organization. The entire collection of information recently gathered at the Global Asbestos Congress, held in Brazil last December, is now excluded from these proceedings. This is more of the "old economy, dis-information age, pretend the information and facts don't exist so we can help polluters do business" thinking. This thinking is unacceptable for asbestos victims. Our message must be heard so this torture and murder of innocent workers is put to a stop.

The World Trade Organization continues to tramble the views of the world's people and to be a servent of global corporations, including the asbestos industry and their hostage governments.

This outrageous situation continues to expose millions of the world's people to asbestos and to create more asbestos victims for the next century. The details of this latest action by the WTO are well discussed by the Greenpeace political unit and we urge all asbestos victims to read it, print it out and post it at meetings.

Jim Fite, National Secretary

Press Release
Embargoed for 14:00 GMT, 22 November 2000


A group of non-government organizations has been refused the opportunity to file amicus curiae -- or friend of the court -- submissions in the WTO Asbestos case. The organizations include Greenpeace International, World Wide Fund for Nature International, Ban Asbestos Network, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development and the Center for International Environmental Law.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) looked ready to come out and play but was quick to retreat again behind closed doors. Having invited the participation of civil society in Canada's appeal of a decision upholding a French ban on asbestos, the WTO's Appeals Body has now told non-government organizations (NGOs) to go home.

"Obviously they have not learnt the lesson from Seattle," said Greenpeace Political Director, Remi Parmentier. "Once again, the WTO has arbitrarily dismissed the input of civil society, fuelling concerns about the secretive way in which it makes decisions that impact on human lives and the environment." The WTO General Council is convening at 3 pm today, Wednesday November 22 in Geneva to discuss amicus curiae briefs in a special meeting --- an indication of the controversy the issue has raised amongst WTO Member governments.

Bait and Switch

The NGO group supports the French ban on asbestos that has been challenged by Canada as a contravention of the international trade regime. Laurie Kazan-Allen, from the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat is deeply involved in worldwide efforts to ban the use and sale of asbestos. "Thousands of people die from asbestos related diseases every year. And yet, throughout the entire WTO dispute resolution process, not one word was heard from asbestos victims, their families or medical personnel who work with them," Ms Kazan- Allen explained.

In a rare moment of clarity, the WTO issued special procedures inviting NGOs to file requests to make legal submissions in the case by 16 November. Despite misgivings about the time-frame and other restrictions imposed by the Appellate Body in its invitation, NGOs welcomed the move as one that recognized the value of their contribution to the WTO's decision-making process

However, less than twenty-four hours after it had filed its request, the group of NGOs received a standard form letter refusing the application. The WTO provided no detailed reasons for its refusal. Other applications by civil society were also refused without explanation. "What the WTO gave with one hand, it took with the other. We were encouraged by the WTO's invitation as a sign that it might have finally got the message about the importance of civil society participation. To then be summarily refused without reasons shows gross indifference to the interests of our constituencies and lack of due process," said Aimee Gonzales, WWF International Senior Policy Advisor.

One step forward, two steps back

By failing to give adequate consideration to directly affected groups, the WTO runs the risk of increasing widespread distrust in its dispute settlement procedures which are already heavily criticised for giving free trade precedence over other values such health, the environment and sustainable development. The WTO's Appellate body has instructed its Members to observe principles of "basic fairness" but has proven itself incapable of honouring its own preachings. Its decision to deny the group's request was swift but, without reasoning, appears arbitrary. Failing to provide adequate reasons for its refusal demonstrates a lack of procedural fairness that is not tolerated in democratic legal systems.


In London: Laurie Kazan-Allen, International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, IBAS; Phone: 44-20-8958-3887; Fax: 44-20-8958-9424; Email: laurie@lkaz.demon.co.uk

In Amsterdam: Remi Parmentier, Greenpeace International; Phone: 31-20-523 6228; Fax: 31-20-523-62 00; Email: siubhan.leslie@ams.greenpeace.org

In Geneva: Aimèe T. Gonzales, Senior Policy Advisor, World Wide Fund for Nature, International; Phone: 41-22-364-9002; Cellular Phone: 079-692-79-73; Fax: 41-22-364-8219; Email: agonzales@wwfint.org

In London: Jacob Werksman, Acting Director of Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development; Alice Palmer, Staff Lawyer; Phone: 44-20-7637-7950; Fax: 44- 20-7637-7951; Email: ap42@soas.ac.uk

In Geneva: Matthew Stilwell, Managing Attorney; Center for International Environ mental Law; Elisabeth Tuerk, Staff Attorney; Phone 41-22-789-0738; Fax: 41-22-789-0500; Email: cielgva@igc.org


In September this year, the WTO Panel upheld the French ban on asbestos, which is designed to protect French workers and consumers from this cancer causing material. Concerned that its remaining markets might impose similar restrictions on the use and sale of asbestos, Canada filed an appeal with the WTO Appellate Body in late October. Although the WTO Panel Body had reached the right conclusion by upholding the French ban, it did so through flawed reasoning. It found that deadly asbestos was "the same" as its innocuous substitutes and that the ban was therefore a violation of international trade laws. Only the WTO's narrow health and safety exception saved the ban from being struck down. While optimistic that the Appellate Body will endorse the Panel's finding in favour of the French ban, the coalition nevertheless wanted an opportunity to correct the Panel's faulty reasoning. Applying the same "toxic logic" to other equally dangerous substances could send a signal to regulators that distinctions between safe and poisonous products could raise a WTO dispute, freezing their efforts to make laws to protect human health and the environment. This group of NGOs, comprising organisations concerned about the deadly effects of asbestos, environmental protection and sustainable development, sought to provide expert legal analysis informed by individuals and groups whose interests are directly affected by the risks associated with the use, sale and international trade in asbestos. The coalition's concerns transcend national boundaries and extend to broader issues of health, safety and the environment. In the aftermath of Seattle, civil society will not accept inaccessible trade experts deciding in secret whether or not domestic policy measures to protect human health and the environment are compatible with international economic obligations. Any decision must take into consideration other non-economic bodies of law and give adequate consideration and access to directly affected groups. If national policy measures are to be scrutinized, the process must be fully open and transparent, allowing input to and free flow of information from the proceedings.

Siubhan Leslie
Political Unit, Greenpeace International
Keizersgracht 176, 1016 DW Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31-20-523 62 28
Fax: +31-20-523 62 00
email: siubhan.leslie@ams.greenpeace.org


Front Page, Week Of:

4/16/05: Spectre to Introduce U.S. Asbestos Bill This Week

5/22/05: Individuals Injured by Asbestos Exposure Oppose Specter's Trust Fund Legislation

10/16/05: Victim's Organizations Form Asbestos Victims Coalition in Opposition to Asbestos Trust Fund Legislation

11/17/05: White Lung Mourns Jose Jesus Pessora

12/18/05: Frist Introducing Asbestos Bill in January

12/04/06: Asbestos Watch Newsletter: Help Celebrate the 27th Anniversary of the WHITE LUNG ASSOCIATION

Jim Fite's Alerts:

Asbestos Victim's Superfund Compensation Program

Asbestos Watch March 14, 2005 (Maryland chapter of the White Lung Association meetings)

Directorate of Safety, Health, and Environment (open letter)


Joe Oliver's Alerts:

Joe Oliver, National Board Member and former President of the White Lung Association, has issued a call to all persons to help gather evidence on the conspiracy by asbestos trade organizations to suppress the knowledge about the hazards of asbestos exposure.

If you know anything about this horrific history or have documents which can be used to further prove their heinous crimes, please contact Joe Oliver, WLA, POB 1483, Balt. MD 21203.

Leonard Makowski's Alerts:

The White Lung Association stands in opposition to The Specter Bill (S.852)

WLA Alerts & News

S.1115: Bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to reduce the health risks posed by asbestos-containing products - This bill is supported by the WLA.

Meet Mr. Asbestos

Proceedings of the Asbestos Symposium for the Asian Countries - now available for purchase.

Australia Bans Asbestos!



Senator Specter Breaks Promise to Mesothelioma Patient and Research Community

Senate Judiciary Committee returns to Mark-Up on May 11th: Proposed asbestos trust fund legislation will further penalize victims of asbestos-caused diseases


World Trade Center Health:

In May 2003, the Global Environment & Technology Foundation developed the "Asbestos Strategies" report.

British Asbestos Newsletter:

The latest issue is Spring 2005


News from India:

The latest issue is January 4, 2007



December 17, 2000 is Asbestos Hazard Awareness Day


Current Projects:

Asbestos Museum


Articles & Publications:

Occupational Respiratory Diseases: Asbestos Associated Disease -- Reprinted from: Maxcy-Rosenau Public Health and Preventative Medicine 11th ed. (John M. Last, Ed.) 1980, Appleton-Century-Crofts

Asbestos Victims Deserve Compensation Not Betrayal: position release by the Board of Directors, White Lung Association



In Memoria:

Paul Safchuck May 21, 2003

Dr. William Nicholson Dies at 70

Ray Sentes Brave Fighter For Asbestos Victims

For more information please contact info whitelung org.