Reuters reports that a Swiss billionaire has been convicted of negligence in the deaths of 2,000 people working for his company Eternit, a Swiss building material maker.  Stephen Schmidheiny was sentenced to 18 years in jail for intentionally not installing safety measures at Enternit plants in Italy, to prevent workers from becoming sick.  More than 6,000 people have filed claims against Eternit in the four towns where the company operated plants.

The lack of safety measures in Eternit plants led to the deaths of more than 2,000 people, from cancer caused by asbestos exposure, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, and thousands of other cases of chronic asbestosis and other illnesses over the past four decades.

Italian victims’ association Osservatorio Nazionale Amianto said, “This verdict encourages the battle by victims and their families for a world without asbestos and without that thirst for profits that sacrifice human lives.”

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According to a report by the BBC, the Department of Education in England has released a report on mesothelioma risks for children, prepared by the Committee on Carcinogenity.  The Committee on Carcinogenity is an independent organization that advises the British government on cancer issues. 

In its final report the Committee found that “(b)ecause of differences in life expectancy, for a given dose of asbestos the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about 3.5 times greater for a child first exposed at age five, compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about five times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30.”

The report explains that “(f)rom the available data, it is not possible to say that children are intrinsically more susceptible to asbestos-related injury. However, it is well recognised… that, due to the increased life expectancy of children compared to adults, there is an increased lifetime risk of mesothelioma as a result of the long latency period of the disease.”

About 75% of schools in England have some buildings containing asbestos.  The Department of Education is struggling to figure out how to handle this difficult situation and protect English school children from this asbestos hazard, and ultimately how to eliminate the risk of English children contracting mesothelioma as adults.