Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India


Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Open Letter to Union Health Minister seeks stoppage of continued sale of all talc power



Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare

Government of India

New Delhi


Date: 13/11/2023

Subject: Stoppage of the continued sale of all talc power for saving lives of present and future generation of Indians, carcinogenic asbestos fibers pose fatal threat to life




This is with reference to the efforts of the government of Netherlands to raise the cancer classification of talc in the EU which paves the way for ban talc in cosmetics and submission of application for withdrawal of license dated 22 June, 2023 given to Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop the production of the baby powder at its Mulund plant, Mumbai by Johnson & Johnson, a multinational company headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA which has proposed an $8.9 billion settlement to resolve years-long lawsuits claiming that its talcum powder products caused cancer

It has come to light that the Netherlands government has submitted to ECHA a proposal for a harmonized classification (CLH) for Talc on January 9, 2023. The talc  is classified as Carcinogenic Category 2 (Carc. 2, H351) and Toxic for certain target organs Category 1 (STOT RE 1, H372). If this harmonized classification is adopted at the European level, the use of Talc in cosmetic products will be banned. This classification follows the decision of the American courts which condemned in 2018 a distributor of Talc to pay several billion dollars in damages to consumers complaining of ovarian cancer caused by this Talc. It was heard at the end of a special piece on talc broadcast on TV Nov. 12 by one of Italy's public broadcasting companies, Rai3.  

(Reference: Talc, Soon Banned in Cosmetics Because of its Carcinogenic Nature?,, Sumitra Debroy, J&J stops manufacture of baby powder in country, The Times of India, Mumbai, July 14, 2023,, The Italian program:

The decision of the government of Netherlands provides a lesson for government of India to safeguard public health.  

I submit that the application  and the Johnson & Johnson company’s announcement dated August 11, 2022 saying, "As part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, we have made the commercial decision to transition to an all-cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio. As a result of this transition, talc-based JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder will be discontinued globally in 2023” is relevant for the public health of present and future generations of Indians. In a situation wherein talcum powder of this company has reached almost every household in our country, the revised settlement amount backed by more than 60,000 parties who have filed lawsuits alleging harm from talcum powder merits Commission’s attention. The lawsuits filed against it allege that its talcum powder caused users to develop ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, an incurable disease.

I had filed complaint regarding ongoing exposure of Indians to hazardous asbestos mineral fibers contaminated talcum powder of Johnson & Johnson with the Drugs Controller General of India, Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), Directorate General of Health Services, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on May 27, 2020. I had drawn the attention of CDSCO towards the announcement dated May 19, 2020 by Johnson & Johnson stating that it will discontinue sale of its Talcum Powder products in North America. This announcement was aimed at safeguarding the health of residents and citizens of North America but not the residents and citizens of India. Such doublespeak and double standard of these transnational corporations in matters of public health in general and children’s health in particular merits urgent intervention by the Commission.


Responding to my complaint, the Drugs Controller General (India) has informed me that “in India, the import, manufacture, distribution and sale of cosmetics is regulated under the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules made thereunder. Schedule 'S' of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 specifies that the cosmetics in finished form shall conform to the India Standards specifications laid down from time to time by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). As far as the asbestos in talcum powder is concerned, it is to mention here that asbestos is already prohibited to be used in the cosmetic products as per the Indian Standards IS 4707 Part 2:2017. Further, recently, the BIS has amended Indian Standard, IS 1462 “Talc for Cosmetic Industry- Specification”, with regard to the requirement and test method for the absence of asbestos.

I wish to submit that in April 2022 Johnson & Johnson’s shareholders voted against a proposal to stop sales of the talc baby powder in non-North American markets including India in a clear case of double standard and racism by the  shareholders of Johnson & Johnson. The shareholders of Johnson & Johnson had agreed to stop sale of asbestos laden talc powder in North America but had acquiesced to continue sale of toxic talc to countries like India. It is inhuman and immoral to knowingly expose humans to killer asbestos fibers. The claim of Johnson & Johnson that its “Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer" is an exercise to save itself from liabilities emerging out of fatal diseases caused by the consumers of its asbestos laden talc powder.

In this regard it is relevant to note that responding to questions about safety of talcum powder and whether talc contains harmful contaminants, such as asbestos, in January 2022, USA’s Food and Drugs Administration (USFDA) released a White Paper and technical appendices on testing methods for asbestos in cosmetic products containing talc. Talc is an ingredient used in many cosmetics, from baby powder to blush. Subsequently, on August 11, 2022, Johnson & Johnson announced that its “talc-based JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder will be discontinued globally in 2023.”

I wish to submit a study titled "Asbestos in commercial Indian talc" published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine which states that “this product study of various talcum powders marketed to combat prickly heat, purchased from Indian retailers both over‐the‐counter and online, demonstrates the ease of general population access to such products and the potential for significant exposure to asbestos. The analytical results of this study confirm that asbestos exposure of the Indian and potentially greater Southeast Asian populations is not limited to traditional occupational settings.” The findings of this study “imply that the asbestos‐related medical and public health implications to consider will need to extend to persons of both genders and all ages among this population group. This study's confirmation of an underappreciated source of asbestos exposure, through personal care products, also highlights the risk that anyone within breathing range of these aerosolizeable, contaminated, talcum products incurs.” The authors of the study observe, “"Until asbestos is also viewed as a hazard in India and banned, there will still be considerable risk to health." There is a need to identify the source of their talc supply as well.


(Reference:Fitzgerald S, et al. Asbestos in commercial Indian talc. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2019; 1‐8.


I submit that the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) has recognized the presence of asbestos in talcum powder. IARC Monograph on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans on Carbon Black, Titanium Dioxide, and Talc (2010) refers to the presence of asbestos in talcum powder. It also refers to "Use of talc for feminine hygiene". The use of body powder for feminine hygiene can be estimated from the prevalence reported for controls in case–control studies that investigated the association between the use of cosmetic talc for feminine hygiene and the risk for ovarian cancer. It refers to exposure to respirable dust during the use of talcum powders on the face, body and babies. Talc is used as a surface lubricant on the majority of condoms manufactured; contact with condoms may also represent a direct means of exposure of the female genital tract to talc. Exposure to talc can also occur during surgical procedures when using powdered gloves. Talc particles were observed in the navels of small children, in the testes, on the vocal cords, in the urinary bladder tract and after removal of varicous veins. Besides this the Food Chemical Codex (2003) provides specifications for food-grade talc, including the statement that “talc derived from deposits that are known to contain associated asbestos is not food grade.” Under the voluntary guidelines initiated in 1976, the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrances Association stated that all cosmetic talc should contain at least 90% platy talc (hydrated magnesium silicate) that is free from detectable amounts of fibrous, asbestos minerals. Meanwhile, some 67 countries have banned all kinds of asbestos. World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendations have established the infectious nature of Covid-19, the same WHO has underlined that “All types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).”

(Reference: and


Fitzgerald S. et al observe, “With products of this nature being readily available and appealing to both genders, it is necessary to consider what the potential health risks and burdens of disease are for millions of exposed women of childbearing age and the children for whom they provide care. IARC has confirmed the causal association of asbestos with ovarian cancer and other cancers”.


I submit that the ministry ought to recommend health audit of all Indians who have been using asbestos laden talcum powder and recommend adequate compensation for those who are suffering from asbestos related diseases. This will be also relevant for assessing the harm which the unsuspecting consumers continue to face. These consumers include all judges, legislators, officials, their children and grandchildren and the residents of India.


I wish to point out that an investigative report titled “Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder” was published on December 14, 2018 is noteworthy for protecting the human rights of Indians. The investigation was conducted by Reuters, an international news agency headquartered in London. This investigative report is consistent with the findings of a study by India’s Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (IITR), Lucknow, a constituent laboratory of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India on “Exposure risk to contaminants in pharmaceutical and cosmetic powders” has found that “There are different types of cosmetic powders such as body powder, baby powder, face powder, eye shadow and powdered blush as well as pharmaceutical powders available in the market. Both the sexes of all age groups are using these powders. These are talc - based. Talc is a mineral product and often contaminated with asbestos fibres.”


The aim of the IITR study “was to investigate the safety of such powders being sold in the market, initially by analyzing the asbestos content. Five branded samples of talcum powder were analysed and all were found contaminated with asbestos fibres. Asbestos fibre contamination in these powders ranged from 10.3 – 15.4%. Fibre length study on two samples revealed that asbestos fibres were 22.8 – 34.7%, 48.2 – 55.1% and 17.1 – 22.1% in the range of <10µm, 10 – 20µm, and > 20µm, respectively. The study indicates risk of human exposure to asbestos through the use of naturally contaminated talcum powder. It is noteworthy that asbestos takes many years to cause asbestosis and carcinogenic malignancies which are irreversible. It also necessitates a regular monitoring and surveillance on all the cosmetic and pharmaceutical powders being marketed for asbestos contamination.” This has been published in the Annual Report Annual Report 2005-2006 of IITR. IITR is accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) for chemical and biological testing and is recognized for GLP (Good Laboratory Practice) toxicity testing.


(Reference: )


The investigation by Reuters corroborates the findings of IITR. This recent investigation was undertaken in the wake of three verdicts in New Jersey, California and St. Louis awarding compensation to plaintiffs who blamed asbestos-tainted Johnson & Johnson talc products for their mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs. The connection between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma was discovered in the 1970s. The third verdict was a watershed in in St. Louis: The 22 plaintiffs were the first to succeed with a claim that asbestos-tainted Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc, a longtime brand the company sold in 2012 that caused ovarian cancer, which is much more common than mesothelioma. The jury awarded them $4.69 billion in damages. Most of the talc cases have been brought by women with ovarian cancer who say they regularly used Johnson and Johnson talc products as a perineal antiperspirant and deodorant. The inclusion of ovarian cancer besides mesothelioma has broadened the potential liability of Johnson & Johnson.


I wish to submit that prior to the Reuters report, a 2014 paper published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health titled "Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of mesothelioma in women" by Ronald E Gordon et al concluded "we found that a specific brand of talcum powder contained identifiable asbestos fibers with the potential to be released into the air and inhaled during normal personal talcum powder application. We also found that asbestos fibers consistent with those found in the same cosmetic talc product were present in the lungs and lymph node tissues of a woman who used this brand of talc powder and developed and died from mesothelioma. This study was published in October 2014.




I submit that your intervention is required in the light of the judgment of Supreme Court in Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) Vs Union of India (1995 AIR 922, 1995 SCC (3) 42) that recognized right to health as part of right to life and had directed central and state governments to revise their law related asbestos in keeping with fresh resolutions of International Labour Organisation (ILO). ILO’s asbestos related resolution of June 2006 is relevant in this regard.




I submit that the ILO resolution was followed by a joint publication of WHO and ILO titled "Outline for the Development of National Programmes for Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases" published in December 2007. It creates a logical compulsion for urgent remedial action.




I wish to submit that the ministry should consider recommending a stoppage of the continued sale of existing inventory of talcum powder of all brands through retailers.


Therefore, I earnestly request you to consider recommending to the Union government departments and State governments to prevent preventable diseases and deaths by banning all these talcum powder products along with all asbestos based products with immediate effect, instead of waiting for all the companies to withdraw their licenses for manufacture of asbestos-laden talcum powder products-both baby powder and adult powder and asbestos based products.


Thanking you


Yours faithfully

Dr. Gopal Krishna




Thursday, October 19, 2023

International Mesothelioma Interest Group General Policy Statement on Asbestos

From Archives: iMig general policy statement on asbestos
20 February 2019
The International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) is a community of physicians, basic researchers,
clinician/scientists, care providers, and social advocates that is engaged in understanding the underlying
genetics, molecular mechanisms, proteomics, and epidemiologic factors associated with mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and nearly universally fatal cancer specifically caused by asbestos. 
The goal of those involved with iMig is to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos, to improve the survival and quality of life of mesothelioma sufferers through the development of new treatment strategies, enhancements to the efficacy of current therapeutic options, definitions of best practices, and supportive services. 
Asbestos will unfortunately continue as a scourge in our lifetimes because 1) millions of tons of asbestos were mined worldwide;1 2) it was widely introduced into our environments over several decades;1 3) asbestos does not naturally detoxify; 2 4) it is mutagenic with evidence suggesting no minimal threshold dose;3 5) there is growing evidence that the newest wave of mesothelioma incidence is being driven by exposure to environmental asbestos;4 6) the incidence of asbestos-related mortality is increasing;5 and 7) the latency period between first exposure and development of mesothelioma is considerable.
Asbestos is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a Group 1 human
carcinogen. In their words: “All forms of asbestos(chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite) are carcinogenic to humans (Group1).”
iMig would like to re-state the position of the World Health Organization (WHO):
1. There is no evidence for a safe threshold for the carcinogenic effect of asbestos,
2. The most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop using all forms of asbestos, and
3. All forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are carcinogenic to humans. 7
iMig supports the call made by the WHO and the International Labor Organization (ILO) to stop the use of all types of asbestos. It is intolerable that asbestos causes 255,000 deaths worldwide annually, 98.6% of which are cancer deaths, including 37,000 mesothelioma deaths 5 – and every one of these deaths would be preventable in the absence of asbestos exposure.
A growing number of countries – sixty-six at the latest count - have banned asbestos entirely, 8 but that is only about one third of all countries. Unless more countries impose a total ban on asbestos, the number of deaths will continue to rise.
The WHO and the ILO are joined in their call to ban asbestos by the following bodies: International Commission on Occupational Health, The International Trade Union Confederation, The Union for International Control of Cancer, The International Social Security Association, Societies of Epidemiology, Collegium Ramazzini, as well as the International Mesothelioma Interest Group. 9,10
iMig asserts that there is no safe use of asbestos and urges all stakeholders to resist any new use of
asbestos and to work towards a total worldwide ban. 
1. Virta RL. Worldwide asbestos supply and consumption trends from 1900 through 2003: Circular 1298; 2006. Available at:
2. Spasiano D, F.Pirozzi F. Treatments of asbestos containing wastes. Journal of Environmental Management 2017; 204(Pt 1):82-91.
3. Huang SXL, Jaurand M-C, David W. Kamp DW, Whysner J, Hei TK. Role of mutagenicity in asbestos fiber-induced carcinogenicity and
other diseases. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2011; 14:179-245.
4. International Mesothelioma Interest Group. Available at: (accessed 18 Dec 2018).
5. Furuya S, Chimed-Ochir O, Takahashi K, David A, Takala J. Global Asbestos Disaster. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018; 15(5): 1000.
6. Reid A, de Klerk NH, Magnani C, Ferrante D, Berry G, Musk AW, Merler E. Mesothelioma risk after 40 years since first exposure to
asbestos: a pooled analysis. Thorax. 2014; 69:843-850.
8. Kazan-Allan L. Current asbestos bans. International Ban Asbestos Secretariat; Oct 23, 2018. Available at: (accessed 15 Jan 2019).
10. Kazan-Allan L. Asbestos Policies of Major International Agencies. International Ban Asbestos Secretariat; May 25, 2018. Available at:

Monday, October 9, 2023

U.S. Geological Survey provides several substitutes for asbestos

Asbestos is poisonous for Brazilian citizens and for the citizens of some 70 countries but Indian ministries of commerce and chemicals continues to permit it's import disregarding it's lethal consequences for the present and future generations of Indians.
Notably, "asbestos production in Brazil is permitted for export purposes only", reveals the Mineral Commodity Summaries of January 2023, U.S. Geological Survey. Till recently, Canada too had similar policy of double standards wherein it had no home use asbestos policy but it exported it to India with the complicity of Indian law makers and regulators. Such policies are an exercise in racism. India continues to procure Brazilian asbestos besides Russian and Chinese asbestos. 

Disregarding the incontrovertible scientific and medical evidence, Government of India has informed the Parliament in 2022 that there was no proposal to prohibit the use of asbestos in the country. It ignores it's own notification under Section 25(1) of the Mines Act, 1952, which recognises the diseases that can be caused by asbestos. These include asbestosis and cancer of the lung or the peritoneum or pleura (i.e., mesothelioma). 

Almost all of the asbestos produced worldwide is of chrysotile variety, the white asbestos.  Unmindful of the recommendations of World Health Organization (WHO), the global demand for asbestos is likely continue for the foreseeable future, particularly for use in cement pipe, roofing sheets, and other construction materials in Asia. This trend is reported in the Mineral Commodity Summaries of U.S. Geological Survey. 

The WHO recommends it's elimination because all forms of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).

The US survey states that the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil enacted a national ban on asbestos in November 2017. With the exception of an approximately 2-week pause because of a legal challenge in 2021, the only asbestos producer in the country has operated its mine continuously since November 2020 under the authority of a State law that permits the extraction and processing of asbestos in the State of Goias for export purposes only.

U.S. Geological Survey records several substitutes for asbestos, including calcium silicate, carbon fiber, cellulose fiber, ceramic fiber, glass fiber, steel fiber, wollastonite, and several organic fibers, such as aramid, polyethylene, polypropylene, and polytetrafluoroethylene. Several non-fibrous minerals or rocks, such as perlite, serpentine, silica, and talc, are also considered to be possible asbestos substitutes for products in which the reinforcement properties of fibers are not required. Membrane cells and mercury cells are alternatives to asbestos diaphragms used in the chloralkali industry.

There is a compelling logic for India to adopt these substitutes to safeguard the life of all the present and future citizens including presidents, prime ministers, chief ministers, ministers, judges, soldiers, traders, consumers and doctors. 

Friday, June 9, 2023

Lessons for India from the conviction of Swiss asbestos billionaire for manslaughter

Lessons for India from the conviction of Swiss asbestos billionaire found guilty of causing death of 392 people due to carcinogenic asbestos mineral fibers


Similar fate awaits the manufacturers of asbestos based products in India


Will Yale University rescind the honorary degree given to Stephan Schmidheiny and will winners of Max Schmidheiny Freedom Prize return their prizes now?


The fate of Stephan Schmidheiny, a Swiss billionaire who has been sentenced to 12 years in jail on aggravated manslaughter charges connected to the deaths of hundreds of people due to asbestos exposure by an Italian court on 7 June, 2023 has lessons for India. Similar fate awaits the manufacturers of asbestos based products in India who are endangering the lives of all present and future generations of Indians. The verdict is relevant for India because Eternit company with which he was associated had plants in India as well. There is no public or private building in India which is asbestos free including the new parliament building.


This verdict has a relationship with the verdict of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India dated 27 January 1995 in Consumer Education & Research Centre (CERC) v Union of India. It directed all asbestos factories to keep the health records of their workers for 40 years and/or 15 years after their retirement. It is germane to India because human biology is same everywhere if the asbestos is deemed hazardous and unusable in the developed countries; it must be deemed so in India too.


The conviction of Stephan Schmidheiny for asbestos related deaths paves the way for the 300 year old Yale University to rescind the honorary degree given to him. It rescinded it from comedian Bill Cosby for sexual assault. The extent of greenwashing, blue washing and ethical positioning by Stephan Schmidheiny can be fathomed from the fact that his foundations financed entirely by the Schmidheiny family have awarded Max Schmidheiny Freedom Prize to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, Professor Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, and Jorma Ollila, Chairman & CEO, Nokia, The Economist, The International Committee of the Red Cross and N. R. Narayana Murthy, the Founder-Chairman of Infosys Technologies Limited, a global software consulting company headquartered in Bangalore, India. After Schmidheiny’s conviction, there is a moral obligation on the part of the individuals and institutions to return the tainted awards and donations from him and to recall the awards and degrees given to him.


The Italian Court’s verdict is relevant to India because it has been estimated that one person dies from mesothelioma for every 170 tons of asbestos consumed. India is the biggest consumer of asbestos. It imported 3,61,164 tonnes of asbestos in 2019-20. The imports of asbestos were mainly from Russia (85%), Brazil , Kazakhstan, Hungary (3% each), and Poland  and South Africa (2% each). Asbestos diseases have a very long incubation period. Therefore,  if you are exposed today to asbestos fibre, you are likely to get the disease in the next 10-50 years. Asbestos is like a time bomb to the lungs and Indians will suffer the most. If it is banned today that does not mean people will not suffer. Because of past usage people will continue to suffer from these diseases.


Responding to the verdict of the Italian Court, Dr. Barry Castleman says, “The court will issue a written explanation of its verdict, called the Motivation, in about 3 months. This makes 3 manslaughter convictions in trials of Schmidheiny in Italy, the others were in Turin in 2019 (one death, 4 years' sentence reduced to 1 1/2 on appeal) and Naples in 2022 (one death, 3 1/2 year jail sentence).  In this verdict, a small number of the 392 fatal cases were excluded based on inadequate proof regarding dates of exposure or incomplete histological test data.  In over 300, the convictions were not subject to penalty only because of the statute of limitations.  In about 30 remaining, the court held that the convictions for these deaths were not blocked by the statute of limitations.  This verdict, like the other trial convictions, will now be appealed by the asbestos billionaire, who has never appeared in an Italian court but has been represented by able counsel at a cost of over $100 million.” Dr. Castleman is the author of Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, the most authoritative book on the asbestos industry.


“Eternit does have asbestos manufactories in India and is responsible for many asbestos related deaths. I hope the Indian legal system is as sophisticated as the Italian legal system to allow justice for victims of asbestos disease, similar to those in Casale Monferrato, Italy,” says Harminder Bains, joint head of Leigh Day asbestos team, UK. Her father died of mesothelioma, an asbestos related disease.  


Mr. Schmidheiny is a 73 years old industrialist and former main shareholder in the cement production company Eternit Italia, was sentenced by a court in Novara after being found guilty of causing the death of 392 people in Casale Monferrato, the Piedmont town that until 1986 was home to the largest of Eternit Italia’s six factories. Mr. Schmidheiny used to manage the plant in Casale Monferrato from 1976 until its closure. Eternit SEG, led by Schmidheiny, was a leading shareholder in Eternit Italia until its bankruptcy in 1986. The judges have ordered him to pay €50m (£43m) in provisional damages to Casale Monferrato’s local authority as well as €30m to the Italian state and €500m to a local association for relatives of victims of asbestos related diseases.


Mr. Schmidheiny was tried because under Italian law, the owner of a firm is deemed responsible in the event of workplace accidents or deaths. The factory’s asbestos waste used to be crushed outside causing asbestos dust to be blown across the town. The factory was responsible for primary and secondary exposure to the carcinogenic asbestos mineral fibers.  


A rise in the number of victims of asbestos related diseases like pleural mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, was found alarming in the late 1970s despite the fact that symptoms of these diseases have a long incubation period before they become manifest.


It is noteworthy that the UN agencies have taken note of a study that found the Kymore asbestos factory in Katni, Madhya Pradesh, was first operated by a subsidiary of UK's Turner & Newall,& later by a subsidiary of ETEX/Eternit between 1992-1998. It has dumped asbestos waste on 600,000 square metres of land. More than 3000 people currently live there.This study has found presence of one million tonnes of asbestos-contaminated surface soil,with asbestos concentrations of upto 70%. Belgian ETEX/Eternit was a shareholder of five asbestos factories in India during 1989-2001, ETEX/Eternit sold its Indian subsidiary prior to Belgian ban on asbestos.


The workers, their families, consumers and unsuspecting citizens at Kymore factory and its vicinity face risks of exposure to asbestos fibre. Asbestos is a threat to life throughout its life cycle. Some ex-workers and their family members have reported manifestation of asbestos-related diseases. It has been admitted that the prevalence of asbestosis is 3-9% among factory workers. In such a backdrop, it is ironic that Everest is into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) work for Tobacco Control! Now one has to wait only for the Tobacco industry to undertake CSR work for Asbestos Control although some 70 countries have learnt that safe and controlled use of this carcinogenic mineral fiber is impossible.


Disregarding incurable Asbestos diseases, India's first plant Asbestos fibre based plant in Kymore has been awarded for excellence in Safety, Health and Environment by Government of Madhya Pradesh (MP). It has ignored WHO's recommendation seeking elimination of Asbestos related diseases which requires ban on asbestos. WHO is the same entity whose recommendations on covid-19 is restructuring global response of public health institutions all over the world.


Notably, UN agencies have taken note of human rights implications of exposure to asbestos from this asbestos fibre cement factory, which used to be partly owned by Belgium-based company, ETEX/Eternit, and dumping of asbestos waste in the village of Kymore, Madhya Pradesh, India. They have written to the Government of India but our government is maintaining deafening silence and remains indifferent to the plight of the victims of asbestos related diseases.


It may be recalled that the Kymore asbestos factory was India’s first asbestos plant, built by British company Turner & Newall. The British also built an asbestos based plant in the erstwhile Shahabad district of Bihar. Besides Kymore, UN agencies have noted the presence of Everest factories in Nashik, Coimbatore, Kolkata and Roorkee. The plight of workers and communities in these areas merit your attention. The committee ought to visit the sites of these factories which were linked to Eternit in particular and other asbestos based factories in India.


This situation creates a compelling logic for Indian authorities to take cognisance of India’s asbestos legacies, and the implications of the ongoing import, manufacture, procure and use of white chrysotile asbestos mineral fiber despite having banned its mining.


The conviction of the Swiss asbestos tycoon is linked to the abject lack of effort by Eternit management to protect or warn workers and the people in the community surrounding the plant prevailed during the 80 years of plant operation until the plant was padlocked and declared bankrupt in 1986. The terror imposed on the community, with so many dying from asbestos, year after year, is expressed in the  testimonies of the victims.


A testimony of Ms. Chandni Sharma, daughter of a victim of malignant mesothelioma, one of the deadliest forms of cancer which is caused by exposure to asbestos. an asbestos related disease establishes the crying need to address this public health crisis. She says, “my father Mr Dayakrishan Sharma had served the Indian Navy 41 years. My dad was admitted for days, all night I would read about mesothelioma, I asked my father if he had ever got in contact with Asbestos to which he replied asbestos was used in Naval Dockyard, I asked him if he was sure- he said of course, it was a material used for fire insulations and he had been present many a times when the process was on. I was astonished, my father got this deadliest form of cancer due to exposure to asbestos at work, in defence- in the Indian Navy!” Notably, Indian Navy officials have rightly objected to the presence of asbestos in aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov which was inducted into the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya after asbestos decontamination. Both civilian and non-civilian lives in India are exposed to the carcinogenic asbestos mineral fibers.


Significantly, Indian railways is engaged in making more than 7,000 railway platforms asbestos free. Similar efforts are needed in every sector and in every public and private space. India has banned mining of asbestos due deleterious impact on health but it is quite ironic that the Union Government allows import of white chrysotile asbestos from countries like Russia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan and others. Government should not allow itself to be misled by asbestos producers like Russia in this regard due its “deleterious” impact on health.


In Europe, tycoons and ministers are facing criminal charges and imprisonment for their act of knowing subjecting unsuspecting people to killer fibers of asbestos. The future is no different for Indian culprits. It is increasingly evident that sooner or later, the asbestos industry in India too will go bankrupt because they will have to pay a huge amount of money in compensation. For every injury in the law there is a remedy. The present and the future generations will make sure they get remedy.


Government must persuade the asbestos industry to phase out in two phases. In the first phase the goal is to eliminate use of chrysotile asbestos and the number of exposed workers and consumers in the country. In the second phase, the goal is to create incentives for the use of safer materials, ensure, create a registry of asbestos laden buildings and victims of asbestos-related diseases and ensure  decontamination of the former and compensation for the latter. There is an immediate need to conduct an audit of the current status of the victims of asbestos related diseases from the government hospital records in the country and make it mandatory for medical colleges to provide training for doctors so that they can diagnose diseases caused by occupational, non-occupational and environmental exposures to killer fibers and substances.


It is unbecoming of the India’s scientific stature to take untruthful and unscientific position displaying unpardonable callousness towards concerns of consumers, public health, workers, environment and human rights. India should learn from countries that have banned asbestos of all kinds including white chrysotile asbestos. These countries are:  1) Algeria, 2) Argentina, 3) Australia, 4) Austria, 5) Bahrain, 6) Belgium, 7) Brunei, 8) Bulgaria,  9) Chile, 10) Croatia, 11) Cyprus, 12) Czech Republic, 13) Denmark, 14) Egypt, 15) Estonia, 16) Finland, 17) France, 18)  Gabon, 19) Greece, 20) Germany, 21) Gibraltar, 22) Hungary, 23) Honduras, 24) Iceland, 25) Iraq, 26) Ireland, 27) Israel, 28) Italy, 29) Japan, 30) Jordan, 31) Kuwait, 32) Latvia, 33) Luxembourg, 34) Lithuania, 35) Mauritius, 36) Mozambique, 37) Malta, 38) Netherlands, 39) New Caledonia, 40) New Zealand, 41) Norway, 42) Oman, 43) Portugal, 44) Poland, 45) Qatar, 46) Romania, 47) Saudi Arabia, 48) Sweden,  49) Switzerland, 50) Serbia, 51) Seychelles, 52) Slovakia, 53) Slovenia, 54) South Africa, 55) South Korea,  56) Spain, 57) Turkey, 58) Uruguay, 59) United Kingdom and 60) Ukraine. Besides these countries, 10 more countries have banned asbestos of all kinds.


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), "All types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs). Exposure to asbestos occurs through inhalation of fibres in air in the working environment, ambient air in the vicinity of point sources such as factories handling asbestos, or indoor air in housing and buildings containing friable (crumbly) asbestos materials." It underlines that several thousands of deaths can be attributed to other asbestos-related diseases, as well as to non-occupational exposures to asbestos.


It may be noted that in our country, the government does not record cases of mesothelioma, and thus proclaims no one in the country develops the disease. But “a lack of data does not mean a lack of disease.” It has come to light that “A lot of the asbestos cement factories — a major use of asbestos in India — are owned by members of parliament”.


In the backdrop of the Italian court’s verdict, the Government of India and State Governments must ensure compliance with the six specific directions given by Indian Supreme Court in CERC v Union of India on 27 January, 1995. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) must be asked to seek reports from all the hospitals about asbestos related victims attended by them. Governments must issue an order seeking a database of victims of asbestos related diseases, asbestos laden buildings, an inventory of asbestos based products, a database of hospitals which can diagnose the disease and a database of agencies which are competent to decontaminate asbestos from existing buildings. This will be helpful for the present and future generation of Indians and residents.      


It is high time the Government of India and State Governments took steps to make the manufacturers of asbestos based products liable for knowingly exposing the present and future generation of Indians to killer fibers. There is a compelling logic for charging these manufacturers with the offence of manslaughter. The conviction of the asbestos billionaire creates a logical compulsion for the governments to make India free from asbestos related disease causing factories and products.


Contact: Dr. Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), E-mail: Web: 



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