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News Release

Brazil Reverses Position, Moves to Ban Asbestos

On Sunday, March 28, 2004, two major Brazilian newspapers announced astounding reversals in Brazilian national asbestos policy and practice.

Folha de São Paulo published a major spread on asbestos issues by Fatima Fernandes and Claudia Rolli which was featured in the central pages of the Sunday issue's Money section and documented the Government's "U" turn on asbestos; senior Government officials are quoted as saying that the Brazilian Government will ban asbestos soon and that committees will be set up to investigate what needs to be done including a technical committee from the Ministry of Work and an interministerial commission. Various government spokespeople deplore the huge numbers of Brazilians who have been exposed to asbestos occupationally, domestically and environmentally. The situation in Bahia where redundant asbestos mines continue to cause hazardous exposures to local people was examined. If you want to congratulate the editor of Folha de São Paulo, e-mails can be sent to: ombudsman@uol.com.br and paineleitor@uol.com.br.

In addition, messages congratulating President Lula for this landmark and progressive step in protecting the lives of his fellow countrymen and women can be sent to:
Presidente Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva:
pr@planalto.gov.br and secom@planalto.gov.br
Fax: (55- 61) 226-7566
Palacio do Planalto
70150-900 Brasilia - DF

The Sunday issue of Estado de São Paulo announced the patenting of a new process for making fibre-cement which uses vegetable matter. Companies are already producing water tanks (7,000 a month) and in April 2004 production will begin of corrugated tiles using the new process. This breakthrough in non-asbestos technology provides a safer alternative for local consumption. Researcher Holmer Savastano, who has been working on this ground-breaking process for some years, can be reached at: holmersj@usp.br.

Fernanda Giannasi, subject of an action alert to protect her from death threats and harrassment, is very relieved at these developments and believes that the piece in Folha de São Paulo will save her. As positive as these moves are, Fernanda is still facing bogus criminal and civil charges. Those charges must be dropped and she must be reinstated in her work.