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Brazil: State Law Cannot Overrule Federal Law on Transportation of Asbestos

(Oct. 5, 2011) In a six to three decision, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court ruled on September 28, 2011, that a law issued by the State of São Paulo (Lei No. 12.684 de 26 de Julio de 2007) cannot prohibit the transportation of asbestos in the state, because it contradicts a federal law allowing asbestos transportation nationwide.

The case was brought to court by the National Association of Freight Transportation and Logistics, which maintained that many trucks were being prevented from traveling with loads of asbestos in the State of São Paulo, even if they were carrying it to other states or taking the material to ports in order to export it. The Association contended that the prohibition was causing damage to their members.

In Brazil, Federal Law No. 9,055 of June 1, 1995, regulates the extraction, processing, utilization, marketing, and transportation of asbestos and products containing it, as well as natural and artificial fibers of any origin used for the same purposes. The Supreme Court has previously decided that states can regulate the use of such materials through state law. However, the rule was being used by state courts to grant injunctions preventing transport by trucks loaded with asbestos that were just passing through the state.

The majority vote that prevailed in the Supreme Court followed the reasoning that federal space is common to all states and one state cannot prevent cross-state transport of goods. The reasoning of the minority of the Ministers defended the right to human health. (Débora Zampier, STF decideque lei estadual não pode impedir transporte de amianto em São Paulo, AGÊNCIA BRASIL (Sept. 28, 2011).)