Eternit Asbestos Conviction Update

February’s historic verdict of guilty pertaining to billionaires Stephen Schmidheiny and Baron Jean-Louis de Cartier de Marchienne “reaffirms a century of scientific evidence that asbestos exposure is deadly,” states the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). This trial was a landmark in that “for the first time ever, those who manufacture or produce asbestos were criminally charged,” setting a precedence for holding such people accountable for human, social, and environmental rights violations. After being found guilty of the asbestos-related crimes de Marchienne and Schmidheiny were both sentenced to 16 years in prison and ordered to pay millions of euros in damages. While in the past it has been extremely difficult to prove personal responsibility in asbestos cases, an Italian court in Turin, after a ten-year process, ruled in favor of those harmed by Eternit. According to the ADAO, Bruno Pesce and fellow members of AFeVA were recently awarded with the Tribute of Unity Award at the Eigth Annual Asbestos Awareness Conference. When quoted by the ADAO Pesce, coordinator of AFeVA, stated, “This is a big change. Even a very powerful person, or a very important person, can cause thousands of deaths. Should we ignore it?” The ADAO noted that following the reading of the verdict “the court read the names of every person represented in the trial-6,000 workers from four Italian plants, including the deceased and their family members.” The guilty verdict is expected to impact those countries that continue to mine asbestos, including Russia, the top producer of asbestos in the world. The ADAO’s article quoted United States environmental scientist, Dr. Barry Castleman who testified as an expert witness during the case. Castleman stated that the importance of the sentence is that “it establishes a personal criminal responsibility of the production firm’s executives, who will now learn the lesson.” On the opposing side, Mr. Schmidheiny issued a statement calling the verdict “incomprehensible,” along with plans to appeal the decision. The ADAO has continued to remain involved with this case, including a screening of the film Dust: The Great Asbestos Trial on April 4, 2012 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts as part of activities in connection with the Global Asbestos Awareness Week. The film was directed by Niccolo Bruna and Andrea Prandstraller. Asbestos Awareness Week 2012 is April 1 through the 7th as an attempt to spread worldwide awareness of the dangerous substance asbestos, including environmental and health risks. As part of the effort the ADAO hosted their Eighth Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference March 30 through April 1st in Los Angeles, California, which included a variety of advocates, victims, researchers, medical experts, and journalists. Reference:
  • Reinstein, Linda. (April 6, 2012). “Convicted! Eternit Asbestos Criminal Update.” Retrieved on April 6, 2012, from The ADAO.
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