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Yet another mine disaster in Turkey as Prime Minister takes the heat
|THE TURKISH MINING INDUSTRY HAS THE WORST SAFETY record of any in Europe. The European Review has already covered three major accidents but the recent disaster at Soma in Western Turkey, which killed 302 miners, was more lethal than the 1992 methane explosion at Kozlu on the Black Sea, the previous worst. Over the last 73 years more than 3,000 miners have been killed in Turkey. A fault in a transformer is thought to have triggered an explosion which knocked out mine cages taking workers to the surface. The consequences were aggravated by the change of shift which was occurring at the same time meaning nearly 800 miners were trapped underground, most of the fatalities were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Controversy has centred around safety inspections with the government insisting that there had been eleven||
||inspections of the privately-run mine over the past five years. However a long-time worker at the facility said that these are ‘office-based inspections’ where ‘The plant managers and the inspectors are hand in hand and drink tea at the managers’ office’. Prime Minister Erdogan was accused of insensitivity or worse when he said ‘Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time‘, he was also heard telling a protester ‘If you boo the country's prime minister, you get slapped’. In a message to Turkish trade union Maden-Is who organise the mine’s workforce the IndustriALL federation called ‘upon the Turkish government to immediately ratify and implement ILO’s Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines’, ‘Turkish Government and employers have responsibility for this carnage’ said Kemal Özkan, the assistant general secretary.|
A rescue worker affected by toxic fumes
SEVERAL EU MEMBER STATES APPEAR to be ready to take unilateral action to ban or restrict endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) Suspicion fell on the chemical industry (see our last issue) as the deadline of last December was passed without the publication of an EU policy on the substances; it subsequently failed to appear before May’s parliamentary elections. As well as metals like lead and mercury the chemicals, which have adverse effects on the neurological, reproductive and immune systems, are present as plastic-softeners in babies’ dummies and children’s toys, and as flame retardants used in textiles and furniture. A study in France showed that children there had an average of 21 EDCs in their hair.
Sweden’s environment minister Lena Ek is particularly worried about Bisphenol A (BPA), found in hard plastic bottles and food containers. The use of BPA in children’s food containers has already been banned by France, Belgium and Denmark but the minister said ’I and my party would personally like to see a total ban on Bisphenol A’. In the absence of promised action from the European Commission this would lay Sweden open to prosecution as, under the REACH chemical regulations, national governments must consult them before banning chemicals. But to forestall this, Ms. Ek continued: ‘it's so serious from an environment and health point of view that we will follow up by sueing the Commission’.
|ECHA ban leads to safer chemicals in Italian glass industry|
|AS SOME OF THE MOST TOXIC CHEMICALS reach the end of the long process of evaluation by the European Chemicals Authority (ECHA), under the REACH and CLP regulations, prospective bans are forcing companies to look for substitutes. The Italian glass-making industry, centred on the Venetian island of Murano, has long used arsenic trioxide as a clarifying agent but this will be prohibited next year by the ECHA who have classified it as a carcinogen. Two years ago, in a pioneering research project, the Italian REACH authority identified two safe substitutes: cerium oxide and GGBS. Reaction by the glass companies has varied between those that are already using the alternatives and those who will only give up arsenic on the day that it is banned. Although substitution involves initial expense Alessandro Toso of Formia believes that money will be saved in the long run as ‘The price of arsenic has risen out of all proportion recently’. However Alberto Dona is representative of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) when he objects that ‘Replacing arsenic with cerium oxide means having purification plants and that requires big investments at a time when many SMEs are struggling to survive’.|