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Fernanda Giannasi (1958–) is a symbol of the struggle to ban asbestos in Brazil. As Labour Inspector for the Ministry of Labor since 1983, Giannasi defends the public interest as regards worker safety and health. Although Brazil still uses asbestos, it has been banned in more than 40 countries, including the European Union members. Asbestos is used in the production of roofing, water tanks and brake pads, and 3000 other products. It can cause severe respiratory disease and cancer.
Giannasi is a founding member of Associação Brasileira dos Expostos ao Amianto (ABREA), the association of asbestos-exposed workers in Brazil, and coordinator in Latin America of the Citizens’ Virtual Network Against Asbestos. She leads the struggle of 3500 workers who have filed lawsuits against the industry. Criminal charges driven by economic interests have been filed against Giannasi for slander by Eternit, the biggest asbestos producer in Brazil, and by supporters of the French multinational Saint-Gobain. She has suffered pressure from the Canadian government, the world’s largest exporter, and has been the subject of death threats. In the USA and Europe, her work is well known and respected.
Giannasi has successfully widened the world discussion. According to Giannasi, “I defend an immediate world ban on the production, marketing and use of asbestos”.