Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Ban-Asbestos-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. Contact: Advocate Gopal Krishna, LL.M., Ph.D, krishnagreen@gmail.com

Friday, May 20, 2022

Why Kerala must be made free from asbestos related diseases

To


Hon'ble Chief Minister 
Government of Kerala 
Thiruvananthpuram 
Kerala

Date: May 21, 2022

Subject: Need to make Kerala free from asbestos related diseases 

Sir, 

With reference to the news item "Kerala ministers meet to discuss school fitness ahead of reopening" published in The Hindu on May 17, 2022 and the recommendation of Kerala Human Rights Commission dated 31 January, 2009 for ban on asbestos use in schools and decontamination of schools laden with asbestos, we wish to bring certain germane facts, documents and correspondence to your attention. 

Having asbestos in the vicinity or anywhere is harmful to human health as exposure to these mineral fibers causes incurable diseases like lung cancer, ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Although belated Kerala govt is taking a small step in the right direction. Asbestos of all kinds is banned in 70 nations. Health being a State subject under the Constitution, Kerala should become the first state to ban manufacture of asbestos based products, it's procurement and use in compliance with Supreme Court's verdict in Consumer Education Resource Centre v. Union of India, WHO's recommendation and ILO's resolution. Kerala should adopt scientific method for the disposal of asbestos as well. State government ought to emulate the 70 nations.

Pursuant to letter of Dr Barry Castleman, the author of "Asbestos:Medical and Legal Aspects" dated 15th July, 2010, telephonic conversation dated 13th July, 2010 with Industry Minister, Kerala, reply of 22th June, 2010 from the Director of Industries and Commerce to his letter to Minister of Industry, Kerala dated 18th January, 2010 and his conversations with Labor Minister, Kerala in the context of Kerala Human Rights Commission order dated 31st January, 2009 banning use of asbestos-cement construction materials in schools, hospitals, and other public buildings, we wish to draw your attention towards the New Delhi Declaration Seeking Elimination of cancer causing all forms of asbestos including chrysotile from India which was adopted and endorsed by eminent scientists and doctors on 24th March, 2011. The Declaration is given below. Dr Castleman’s first letter is also given below. 

This Declaration was adopted at a Round Table which was organized immediately after the conclusion of International Conference on "Emerging Trends in Preventing Occupational Respiratory Diseases and Cancers in Workplace" at Maulana Azad Medical College that expressed grave concern about asbestos related diseases like lung cancer in the national capital. The Declaration is given below for your perusal and immediate consideration.

This is also to draw your attention towards the fact that Kerala has a state owned asbestos company, Kerala Asbestos Cement pipe Factory Limited. A study titled 'Risk factors of ovarian cancer in Trivandrum' of 2008 refers to asbestos exposure too in its research.

The delegates at the Round Table discussed the asbestos policy of Kerala. They discussed the order of Kerala Human Rights Commission (KHRC) banning use of asbestos materials. The delegates were eager to know about the status of enforcement of KHRC order.

The delegates were of the considered opinion that Kerala government should phase out manufacturing and use of asbestos while implementing the KHRC order in order to pursue a path of alternatives of asbestos as a building material.

These delegates shared their views and gave their valuable hand written notes so that it can be used in a credible way while strongly recommending the need for immediate ban on asbestos to Government of India, State Governments and the relevant ministries.

Dr Alec Farquhar as Managing Director, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada said, “We now have around 500 asbestos cancer cases every year in Ontario from a population of 13 million. If you (India) continue on your current path, you will multiply our death count by 100 times. That would be 50, 000 Indian workers dying every year from asbestos. In Ontario, we learned that safe use of asbestos is impossible. I urge you from the bottom of my heart, please do not make the same mistake as we made in Canada. Stop using asbestos and use a safe alternative.” Meanwhile, Canada has banned all kinds of asbestos. 

Deeply disturbed by the state of affairs in India with regard to asbestos consumption, Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, Israel said, “All form of asbestos kill. India should bury asbestos, not people. Here is a case for examining whether those countries which export asbestos to India are committing a crime against humanity, because they are engaging in willful neglect. India should not repeat the mistakes of going back some 70 years which will kill tens of thousands of workers and their families.” Richter called on experts in human rights to reframe the carcinogen as a human rights violation to ban asbestos.

“No matter what mis-information comes of Canada or the Indian asbestos industry about Chrysotile, there is no question that science has shown that Chrysotile causes asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. This is the conclusion of World Health Organisation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, and other organizations that have no biases except for protecting people’s health,” said Prof. Arthur L Frank, PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, US.

Why does Canada apply strict measures domestically to protect the health of Canadians handling asbestos and yet exports asbestos to developing countries such as India, where the capacity to implement and monitor the application of similar precautionary measures is inadequate?, asked Dr. T.K. Joshi, Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini, Italy, an independent, international academy founded in 1982 by Irving J. Selikoff, Cesare Maltoni and other eminent scientists. The academy comprises of 180 internationally renowned experts in the fields of occupational and environmental health. The mission of the Collegium Ramazzini is to advance the study of occupational and environmental health issues and to be a bridge between the world of scientific discovery and the social and political centers which must act on the discoveries of science to protect public health. Notably, Canada avoids using asbestos in it was own country but exports it to India.

Prof (Dr) Qamar Rahman, Fellow of National Academy of Sciences, Dean, Integral University, Lucknow & former Deputy Director, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow asserted, “This is high time that Government of India should ban the use of asbestos in India. It has been proven scientifically that asbestos based articles such as roof ceilings, storage tanks will release fibers. The asbestos fibers will be the cause of exposure to our coming generations.”

“It is well known around the world that asbestos is hazardous to human health, and that there is no such thing as “safe use” of asbestos, just like there is no “safe cigarette”. The government of India would do better to aim for growth through development of safe industries, and to lower the prices of substitutes, rather than promote use of this hazardous substance,” opined Dr Yael Stein, MD, Unit of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Hebrew University, Israel.

The conference was organised by Centre for Occupational Health, New Delhi supported by Union Ministry of Labour & Employment, ESI, DGMS and DGFASLI in collaboration with Drexel University, US at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi. The conference was deeply concerned about asbestos related diseases and the alarming rise of asbestos in India. The Round Table was organized by Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), which has been working for asbestos free India.

BANI is a research based collective of concerned scientists, doctors, public health scholars, environmental researchers and journalists that has been campaigning for asbestos free India since 2000.

In short, we request you to take urgent steps on the following points:

• Create a Registry of Incurable Lung Cancers and Mesothelioma besides a registry of asbestos related diseases

• Start efforts to decontaminate asbestos laden buildings including schools and hospitals

• Create a building registry of those buildings and products which have asbestos.

• Include environmental and occupational health study in the medical education of all the 300 medical colleges in the state

• Stop Kerala Asbestos Cement pipe Factory Limited from manufacturing cancer causing asbestos based products

• Adequately compensate the victims of asbestos-related diseases, create a database of asbestos exposed people and victims as well besides providing legal and possible medical relief and taking preventive measures

• Review and rescind those policies which promote asbestos and asbestos based products in the state

Your Government has the solemn duty to safeguard the public health of present and future generations from the exposures of killer fibers of asbestos which are akin to a time bomb for the lungs. We would be quite happy to share more details about the asbestos related incurable diseases.

We will be happy to share more information in this regard.

Thanking you in anticipation

Warm regards

Gopal Krishna, LL.M., Ph.D
Convener
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
Mb: 09818089660



New Delhi Declaration

Seeking Elimination of all forms of Asbestos including Chrysotile from India

Date: 24 March, 2011


Recalling the Ban Asbestos Resolution of 2002, WHO Resolution of 2005 and ILO Resolution of 2006 seeking elimination of future use of asbestos of all forms, in the face of massive asbestos exposure underway in India;

Taking note of The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced in Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) and the order of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission banning the use of asbestos in schools;

Considering the anti asbestos movement against 12 proposed asbestos plants in Bihar in face of massive people’s resistance;

Outraged at the Union of India’s Budget 2011-12’s callous reference to asbestos by including it under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to cover ‘unorganized sector workers in hazardous mining and associated industries like asbestos etc’ and on the other hand Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister’s Budget is allocating land for 4 new asbestos plants;

Recognising the fact that enviro-occupational health infrastructure in India is weak or non-existent in the face of workers and consumers who are sick and dying from asbestos-caused cancer and other related diseases;

Endorsing The STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS of The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced in the Indian Parliament that reads: “The white asbestos is highly carcinogenic even the World Health Organisation has reported that it causes cancer. It is a rare fibrous material that is used to make rooftops (roofing material) and break (brake) linings. More than fifty countries have already banned the use and import of white asbestos. Even the countries that export it to India prefer not to use it domestically. But in our country, it is imported without any restriction. Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported almost Ninety five percent of the white asbestos it mined and out of it forty-three percent was shipped to India. It is quite surprising that our country is openly importing huge quantity of a product, which causes cancer. This is despite the fact that safer and almost cheap alternatives to asbestos are available in the country. Instead of importing a hazardous material, it will be better if we spend some money in research and development and use environment friendly product. In view of the above, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative material.”

Appreciating Supreme Court of India’s order of 21st January, 2011 that takes cognizance of the above mentioned Bill and the resolutions of ILO and WHO and seeks government to take immediate preventive steps;

Taking cognizance of the human rights violation involved in exposing people to killer asbestos fibers and how even if few asbestos fibre reach the right places, it causes irreversible damage leading to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma;

Considering Government of India’s role in preventing the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous product under the Rotterdam Convention, an International Agreement that requires that importing countries be warned of the risks associated with hazardous products is unbecoming of a nation of India’s stature. It is unconscionable that the government knowingly allows trades in a killer product that will cause death of hundreds of thousands of people in India in general and in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Bihar and Rajasthan in particular and elsewhere in the world;

Reminding the Government of India that there is incontrovertible evidence that creates a compelling logic for making India asbestos free;

Condemning the asbestos exporting countries liaison with the Indian asbestos industry to which Government is turning a blind eye who have unleashed a misinformation campaign about controlled use of asbestos products which is a fantasy;

Disapproving Ministry of Environment & Forests Experts Appraisal Committee on Industry for approving environmental clearance of asbestos plants;

Asserting the fact that so far some 55 countries have banned all forms of asbestos, and are already using alternative materials;

Underlining that almost every international health agency of repute including the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the American Cancer Society agree there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Most recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reconfirmed that all commercial asbestos fibers - including chrysotile, the most commercially used form of asbestos - cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. In addition, IARC newly confirmed that there is sufficient evidence that asbestos causes ovarian cancer and reconfirmed asbestos causes laryngeal cancer;

We urge the Government to adequately compensate the victims of asbestos-related diseases, create a database of asbestos exposed people and victims as well besides providing legal and possible medical relief and taking preventive measures. We call on the government to create a mesothelioma registry and a building registry of those facilities which have asbestos. We seek inclusion of environmental and occupational health study in the medical education of all the 300 medical colleges in India

We recommend that the Government should start efforts to decontaminate asbestos laden buildings including schools and hospitals

We express shock at the instance countries like Canada using tax-payers money and Canadian embassies to actively promote the sale of asbestos around the world;

We appeal to the Government of India to put a ban on export, import, manufacturing, use and mining of all forms of asbestos including chrysotile (white) in India.

We call upon the Government of India, State Governments in general and Bihar Government in Particular besides Indian Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Ministry of Mines to initiate steps for an immediate ban on use, manufacture and trade of all forms of asbestos (including Chrysotile or White Asbestos).

Endorsed by:

Prof (Dr) Arthur Frank, Professor, Chair: Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, US, Email- alf13@drexel.edu

Dr Aleck Farquhar, Managing Director, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada, E-mail- afarquhar@ohcow.on.ca

Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, Israel, E-mail-elihudrichter@gmail.com

Dr Yael Stein, MD, Unit of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Hebrew University, Israel, E-mail- stein444@gmail.com

Dr Lyle Hargrove, Chairperson, Occupational Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada, E-mail- lyle.hargrove@gmail.com

Prof (Dr) Qamar Rahman, Fellow, National Academy of Sciences, India & former Deputy Director, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow E-mail- qamar_15@sify.com

Dr. T.K. Joshi, Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini, Italy, E-mail- kantjoshi@gmail.com


Dr Barry Castleman's Letter to Industry Minister, Government of Kerala

January 18, 2010

Hon. Elamaran Kareem

Minister of Industry

Kerala


Dear Mr. Kareem,

I am a public health scientist and work with people around the world on public health efforts to prevent asbestos disease. Dr. MK Pandhe has been a key ally for years in trying to reverse India's disastrous expansion of asbestos use in construction. He advised me last month while I was in India that you would be receptive to hearing about this issue and what you and other leaders could do about it in Kerala.

I have also discussed this issue with Labor Minister PK Gurudasan and several members of his staff last month while I was in Kerala, and he was interested in taking action.

The Kerala Human Rights Commission has announced that schools, hospitals, and other public buildings shall no longer use asbestos-cement construction materials. This is consistent with the global recognition that asbestos dust inhalation causes cancer and a potentially fatal lung scarring disease, asbestosis. About 50 countries have banned asbestos, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for all countries to ban asbestos products. The widespread use of asbestos in construction materials in India is particularly dangerous, because of the impossibility of protecting the millions of construction workers and building occupants from the dust raised in construction, repair, renovation, and demolition. There is no safe threshold of exposure to airborne asbestos dust that is free from the risk of cancer. Mesothelioma, the "signal tumor" for asbestos exposure, has been widely reported in neighbors of asbestos plants and among family members who lived in the households of asbestos workers. http://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/asbestosrelateddiseases.pdf

The World Bank’s policy is to avoid asbestos in new construction and to use internationally recognized precautions if in-place asbestos has to be disturbed in Bank-funded construction projects. I was the consultant to the World Bank in drafting its Good Practice Note on asbestos published in May, 2009, and am currently a consultant to WHO. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTPOPS/Resources/AsbestosGuidanceNoteFinal.pdf

In contrast to most of India, Kerala uses very little asbestos, and the one asbestos-cement roofing factory in Kerala is state-owned. The factory is in a district next to the one you come from, I believe. This provides an extraordinary opportunity for Kerala to make public health advances. The state-owned plant can be converted to make non-asbestos fiber-cement. And Kerala can ban asbestos in construction materials, which for India account for over 90% of current asbestos use which is rising at 10 percent yearly.


As a consultant for the World Bank and WHO, one thing I have tried to do is assemble is a directory of companies offering alternative technology to asbestos-cement products. In the course of this, I have come into contact with people in South Africa who replaced asbestos with polyvinylalcohol (PVA) fibers and cellulose, a company in Brazil that uses polypropylene and cellulose instead of asbestos, and another firm in Italy that touts acrylic fibers as superior in replacing asbestos in fiber-cement. I would be glad to put you in touch with these people, so you can invite them to make proposals for conversion of the state-owned asbestos-cement plant in Kerala. These sources say that once a plant is converted, the products cost up to 10-12% more than asbestos products and have some superior properties (e.g., lighter, less brittle, improved nailability).


I can provide abundant additional information on any of the issues covered above but will end this letter here as a proposal to you for more detailed consideration of the matter. Please let me know if you are interested in this idea of substituting asbestos at the state-owned plant, and I will provide more information on people to contact, etc. The approach of avoiding asbestos through state procurement has already been recognized by the Kerala Human Rights Commission. This can be followed with a total ban on asbestos use in Kerala, with potentially enormous lifesaving value for the people of Kerala and all India.

With best wishes,

Barry Castleman


--
Barry Castleman, ScD
Environmental Consultant
USA



Friday, January 21, 2022

Banned in 70 nations, India continues to import and export asbestos

Misguided by a discredited conflict of interest ridden study admittedly co-funded by white chrysotile asbestos companies and undertaken by National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, India continues to import  asbestos to the tune of  3,61,164 tonnes in 2019-20. It's important decreased by only 1% as against 3,64,105

tonnes in the previous year. The statement "Almost entire import was that of chrysotile asbestos" made in the Indian Minerals Year Book 2020 published in November 2021 reveals that India is importing small amount of non-chrysotile asbestos as well. The imports of chrysotile asbestos were mainly from Russia (85%), Brazil, Kazakhstan & Hungary (3% each), and Poland & South Africa (2% each). A total of 25,009 tonnes asbestos-cement products were also imported in 2019-20 as against 29,358 tonnes in the previous year. These imports were mainly from Thailand (93%) and Indonesia (4%). Besides above, asbestos-fibre of 3,60,839 tonnes was also imported during the year 2019-20 as compared to 3,63,902 tonnes in the previous year. 

The data reveals that despite Brazilian Supreme Court's landmark verdict declaring use of asbestos to be unconstitutional, it is exporting it to India not realising that human biology is same everywhere-what is poisonous for Brazilians and some 70 countries cannot be non-poisonous for Indians. It also brings to light the fact although South Africa, Hungry and Poland have banned asbestos, they continue to export it to India. 

The imports of asbestos fibre products were 3,580 tonnes during the year 2019-20 as compared to 4,425 tonnes in previous year. The imports of asbestos fibre products were mainly from China (31%), Japan (23%) and Denmark (12%). The 2020 report points out that in addition to asbestos minerals, an unknown quantity of asbestos is traded within manufactured products, possibly including brake linings and pads, building materials, gaskets, millboard, yarn and thread. 

It is noteworthy that exports of asbestos decreased substantially to 1,001 tonnes in 2019-20 as compared to 1,112 tonnes in the previous year. The exports were mainly to Bangladesh (92%) and Sri Lanka 7%. The exports of asbestos (fibre products) were at 43,310 tonnes in 2019-20 as compared to 41,677 tonnes in the previous year. The exports were mainly to USA (24%), UAE (7% ), Egypt (6%) and Nepal, Canada, Sri Lanka and Kenya (3% each). The exports of asbestos (chrysotile) were at 997 tonnes during the year 2019-20 as compared to 1090 tonnes in the preceding year. The exports of asbestos (others) decreased to 5 tonnes during the year 2019-20 as compared to 22 tonnes in the preceding year. The exports were solely to Nepal. The exports of asbestos-cement products were 91,100 tonnes in 2019-20 as compared to 67,352 tonnes in the preceding year. The exports of asbestos-cement products were mainly to UAE (36%), Nepal (26%) and Qatar (11%). These countries ought to act to protect the health of their present and future citizens. It is clear that despite banning asbestos, Canada and Nepal continue to import asbestos and asbestos based products. 

Some 70 countries have banned all kinds of asbestos including white chrysotile asbestos. World Health Organisation has recommended elimination of all kinds of asbestos and asbestos based products. India has banned mining of all kinds of asbestos because of it's harmful impact on human health. It has been established that safe and controlled use of asbestos is impossible. India has banned trade in asbestos waste ( dust and fibers) and it's use in ships but it continues to trade raw asbestos, asbestos based products  India continues to manufacture and use asbestos based products. This shows that asbestos producers like Russia have overwhelmed India's Ministries of Commerce & Industry and Chemicals. As a consequence no building or vehicle in India is free of carcinogenic asbestos mineral fibers. It is evident that Union and State Governments have failed to resist the influence of asbestos traders and merchants to protect the health of present and future citizens including Presidents, Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers, judges, soldiers and children. 



Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Hazardous Chrysotile Asbestos and Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code

The three Schedules under Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSHWC) Code 2020 refer to hazardous asbestos, banned in 70 nations. It also refers to asbestosis, an incurable disease. 

The report of Planning Commission of India's Working Group on Occupational Safety and Health (Tenth Five Year Plan) revealed that hazardous substances like asbestos which have a potential to cause serious occupational diseases such as asbestosis. It pointed out substantial prevalence of occupational health disorders amongst the workers such as Asbestosis. The prevalence rate for Asbestosis was reported to be 7.25%. 

The Vision Statement of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change recommends phase out of chrysotile asbestos saying, "Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out." http://moef.nic.in/divisions/cpoll/envheal th/visenvhealth.pdf 

The Concept Paper of Union Ministry of Labour presented at Fifth India-EU Seminar states, "The Government of India is considering the ban the mining and use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population


against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of asbestos".
Reference: http://www.labour.nic.in/lc/Background% 20note.pdf  (It seems Labour Ministry has removed this URL under the influence foreign asbestos producers like Russia and asbestos product manufacturers) 

In such a backdrop, it is strange that, the list of 427 hazardous chemicals/substances does not mention asbestos in Sub-Schedule-I of Schedule I &  the list of 179 toxic chemicals in Sub-Schedule-3 of Schedule-II under OSHWC (Bihar) Rules, 2021.

But sub-schedule-15 of Schedule-III deals with "Handling and Processing of Asbestos, Manufacture of any Article of Asbestos and any Process of Manufacture or otherwise in which Asbestos is used in any Form" under the OSHWC (Bihar) Rules. 

It is apparent that asbestos is not mentioned in the list of hazardous chemicals because Indian government's continued opposition to listing of carcinogenic chrysotile asbestos in the UN 's Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list under UN's Rotterdam Convention on PIC Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade along with governments of Pakistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Kyrgyzstan.  In 2011, India had supported it's inclusion in the UN list of hazardous substances but under the influence of asbestos producers like Russia it reversed it's stance later on. 

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has informed that major health hazards of asbestos include cancer of lung, mesothelioma of pleura and peritoneum and specific fibrous disease of lung known as asbestosis. All types of asbestos fibers are responsible for human mortality and morbidity. Studies have been carried out at National Institute of Occupational Research, an Institute of ICMR, Ahmedabad which show that workers when exposed to higher workplace concentration of asbestos fiber have higher incidence of interstitial lung disease and pulmonary function impairment. Directorate General Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes, (DGFASLI) under Ministry of Labour & Employment has intimated data of workers suffering from Asbestosis in factories registered under the Factories Act, 1948.As per the information provided by DGFASLI, it is informed that 21 no. of Asbestosis cases were reported in Gujarat in 2010 and 2 cases in Maharashtra in the year 2012.

As per the provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 and rules framed thereunder, manufacture, handling and processing of Asbestos and its products is declared as Hazardous Process. Further, Govt. of India has prepared Schedule XIV- ‘’Handling and Processing of Asbestos, Manufacture of any Article or Substance of Asbestos and any other Process of Manufacture or otherwise in which Asbestos is used in any Form’’ as a Dangerous Operation under section 87 of the Factories Act,1948. This Act has been subsumed under the OSHWC Code, 2020.

Further, the Govt. of India by notification in official Gazette has reduced the permissible level of Airborne Asbestos fibers in work environment 20.1fiber/cc.

The Ministry of Mines informed that the Grant of fresh mining leases and renewal of existing mining leases for Asbestos are presently banned in the country on Health Grounds.

This was stated by the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. 

In such a context, it is unbecoming of India's scientific stature to adopt inconsistent and indefensible position with regard to complete elimination of chrysotile asbestos and chrysotile based products. 

Gopal Krishna


Friday, December 3, 2021

TATA Steel workers killed by asbestos exposure

Jason Williams, a TATA Steel worker got killed due to asbestos exposure. After graduating from university, Jason began his career in IT. While running cables and fitting computers, he was exposed to asbestos. Legal proceedings were pursued by Jason's Union, against TATA Steel, the current owners of the steelworks, after his death. His family has been awarded compensation. 

In a statement, TATA Steel said that they were unable to comment on any specific cases that had been dealt with.

They "take asbestos issues very seriously and comply with both the law and our own Health and Safety standard ensure we reduce any risk of exposure to those working on our sites." (Ref: Asbestos exposure from 20 years ago killed IT worker, December 2, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-59491185) 

Earlier in October 2011 too, TATA Steel had to payout for Scunthorpe steel worker, 88 years old, Reg Grimshaw's asbestos exposure related death because Scunthorpe steelworks was owned by Indian multi-national Tata Steel. The family was  awarded £48,000 in compensation. Grimshaw too died from the lung disease mesothelioma.

Tata Steel said the claim was from a "historic exposure to a risk". (Ref: Payout over Scunthorpe steel worker's asbestos death, October 11, 2011,www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-humber-15242708.amp?) 

Grimshaw, who worked at the plant from 1938 until his retirement in 1993, is believed to have been exposed to the asbestos from the insulation lagging used on the pipework in the factory.

Tata Steel said, "Mr Grimshaw was exposed to asbestos on the Scunthorpe steelworks when the site was run by British Steel and its predecessor companies. Asbestos-related claims arise from historic exposure to a risk which is now properly understood and managed. Tata Steel has in place robust monitoring and auditing procedures that are compliant with health and safety legislation. Any claim involving asbestos exposure is assessed on an individual basis. The settlement of this claim has been handled on behalf of Tata Steel by its insurers." It is noteworthy that the name of TATA Steel UK features in the list of companies that used asbestos in UK. (Ref:https://www.nationalasbestos.co.uk/companies-used-asbestos/) 

There is a lesson for India from both these UK cases of 2021 and 2011 reported by BBC. 

TATA Steel is yet to facilitate diagnosis of workers who are exposed to asbestos and to compensate workers in India. It shows that while it may be taking asbestos issue seriously in UK, it is not doing so in India despite the verdict of Supreme Court of India dated January 27, 1997.

Indian units of TATA Steel must prepare an inventory of asbestos laden sites under it's operations, announce a compensation fund for victims of asbestos-related diseases. All the units of other companies which have used asbestos ever too must do so besides adopting a plan to make their units and products asbestos free. 

Gopal Krishna

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) 






Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Parliamentary probe demanded into incurable asbestos related diseases and deaths


To


Shri Bhartruhari Mahtab
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour
Parliament of India
New Delhi

Through Shri K. G. Sidhartha, Deputy Secretary, Lok Sabha Secretariat 

Date: 18/11/2021

Subject: Probe into asbestos-related incurable diseases and deaths among workers and their families including doctors, defense workers, teachers and mechanics 

Sir, 

With reference to the incurable diseases and deaths caused by carcinogenic asbestos mineral fibers, we wish to draw your attention towards the investigation by a UK parliamentary  committee on the hazards of asbestos in schools and hospitals, amidst the finding that a total of 305 teachers were confirmed to have died from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, between 2001 and 2016. (Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/asbestos-deaths-inquiry-schools-hospitals-b1958949.html) 

We submit that this situation creates a compelling logic for the Indian parliamentary committee to undertake similar probe given the fact that India has one of the worst asbestos legacies in the world, and it continues to import, manufacture, procure and use white chrysotile asbestos mineral fiber despite having banned it's mining. 

We submit that the fact that no public and private building in India is free of carcinogenic asbestos mineral fibers. India allows toxic materials to sit in the walls of public and private buildings as they decay and grow increasingly dangerous for enviro-occupational health.

Unlike in some other countries, India does not have a central register of asbestos in public buildings. This must be changed for public safety.

We submit that more than 50,000 lives a year could be saved if the committee can recommend urgent measures. 

We submit that in a asbestos related development, "the murder trial against Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny continues in Novara, Italy.  On November. 15, 2021, pneumologists testified that numerous experts had examined the evidence and concluded that all 392 victims died from mesothelioma. Sixty-two were Eternit workers, 330 had environmental and/or domestic (household) asbestos exposure" according to a report by Silvava Mossano, a noted Italian journalist. The murder trial 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 has been recorded by former La Stampa journalist Silvana Mossano. 

We submit that there is considerable indignation in the US about Johnson & Johnson (J&J), US firm using a Texas law created to enable giant corporations and billionaires to avoid facing their victims in court and delay and minimize compensation payments.  J&J is using a bankruptcy maneuver to block lawsuits over baby powder cancer claims. (Source:https://www.krwg.org/post/jj-using-bankruptcy-maneuver-block-lawsuits-over-baby-powder-cancer-claims) 

Johnson & Johnson is drawing criticism after using a controversial bankruptcy maneuver to block roughly 38,000 lawsuits linked to claims that its talc baby powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. The health products giant used a quirk of Texas state law to spin off a new company called LTL, then dumped all its asbestos-related liabilities — including the avalanche of lawsuits — into the new firm. LTL filed for bankruptcy last week in a federal court in Charlotte, N.C., a move designed to sharply limit efforts to recover damages for those who say they were harmed by J&J's baby powder. "Johnson & Johnson doesn't have this liability anymore. They pushed all of it into the company they created just to file for bankruptcy," said Lindsey Simon, a bankruptcy expert at the University of Georgia School of Law. 

We submit that this company has stopped sale of talcum powder in North America but in a clear case of environmental racism it continues to sale it in India endangering almost every present and future Indians. 

J&J has made use of a law in Texas to split off its Johnson Baby Powder (JBP) unit and then have that unit file for bankruptcy, thereby halting all lawsuits over cancer from JBP and erecting a legal barrier to protect the rest of the corporation from liability over the talc-containing product (while avoiding a bankruptcy filing by the parent corporation).  A similar use of this outrageous law was used by Georgia-Pacific in 2017 to stop lawsuits over its drywall patching compounds sold in the US before they were banned in 1977, says Barry Castleman, author of "Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects", the most authoritative book on asbestos industry. 

We submit that Hon’ble Calcutta High Court’s order on carcinogenic-asbestos that has been used for roofing in the Hon’ble Court’s main building. This creates a compelling logic for our country to be made asbestos free.

We submit that in Writ Petition (Civil). No. 14729 (W) of 2016, the Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre and Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty has passed an order observing, “The High Court main building is undergoing repairs with the assistance of the Public Works Department (PWD) of the Government of West Bengal and other Authorities. When the entire renovation is undertaken, it is expected that the High Court and the PWD or, any other body entrusted with the renovation will ensure that the asbestos-sheets, which have been used for roofing, would be replaced by any other materials which are non-carcinogenic.” This creates a need for central and state legislatures to be made asbestos free as well besides the residences of the legislators. 

We submit that prior to the Hon'ble High Court's order, the Union Railway Ministry had ordered removal of asbestos roofs from all railway buildings. It is noteworthy that the ministry invited offers for “Procurement of Non-Asbestos “K” Type Composition Brake Blocks”. The offer was been issued by Director, Railway Stores (W) or and on behalf of Hon’ble President of India. More than 7, 000 railway platforms are at various stages of asbestos decontamination but sadly asbestos waste is not being disposed in a scientific and safe manner. This initiative merits your attention.

We submit that as per Environmental Impact Assessment Manual for Asbestos Based Industries, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, type and quantity of solid waste generated during the construction and operational stages is to be quantified. In case of expansion of the unit, the solid waste generated category wise should be furnished. For disposing asbestos waste mate rial the norms notified under Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 and the recommendations as per IS: 11768 – 1986 (Reaffirmed 2005) is required to be followed. "All asbestos waste must be kept in closed containers before its transportation to the disposal point so that no asbestos dust is emitted into the environment during transportation. Final covering of asbestos waste, other than high-density waste, shall be to a minimum depth of 2m and the asbestos waste including the used bag filters should be disposed at an approved TSDF." It must be noted that there is no mention of Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDFs) for the waste generated from the asbestos factories of four companies in the State. These factories are operating violation of general and specific conditions laid down on the environmental clearance unmindful of the fatal risk to workers, their families, the residents in the vicinity of these units and the consumers. 

We submit that it has been estimated that one person dies from mesothelioma for every 170 tons of asbestos consumed. WHO estimates we have107,000 deaths worldwide per year from occupational exposure to asbestos.If non occupational exposure is added it reaches a figure of about 120,000deaths. Average world consumption/year 30-60 years ago was -- looks like 3/2 of what it is now (2 million metric tons/year). Give India its share of that based on its share of global consumption. At 300,000 tons in 2013, that's about 18,000 deaths (15% of 120,000).  Asbestos diseases have a very long incubation period. So if you are exposed today to an asbestos fibre, you are likely to get the disease in next 10-35 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.

We submit that the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court has recorded that “there is sufficient study material indicating that asbestos sheets used for roofing could cause cancer” and “various documents, issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), and other materials obtained from the Internet, that the exposure to asbestos including chrysotile causes lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.” It was contended by the petitioner that “the High Court should not continue to use these materials for roofing, especially after legislation in different parts of the world has been enacted on recognizing the potential health risk of asbestos to the citizens at large. Even in India several Acts recognized the fact that asbestos is a health-hazard.”

We submit that the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated January 27, 1995 in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 asked both central and State Governments to incorporate fresh resolution of ILO in their rules and regulations. Government has not incorporated the ILO resolution dated June 14, 2006.

We submit that there is hardly any building in our country which is asbestos free. It is high time efforts are initiated to decontaminate asbestos laden public and private buildings.

We submit that prior to Hon’ble Calcutta High Court’s order, Kerala State Human Rights Commission recommended ban on use of asbestos roofs for schools and hospitals in its order dated n 31st January, 2009.

We submit that National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has passed an order in Case No: 693/30/97-98 recommending that the asbestos sheets roofing should be replaced with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful.

We submit that globally asbestos industry is on trial. Countries after countries are passing verdicts against it. They are banning future use of the cancer causing mineral fiber of asbestos. Government of India is publicly revealing that it does not favour new asbestos plants in the country any more. There is a compelling logic emerging for pre-existing asbestos based plants to shift to non-asbestos based building materials. It is not surprising that "The Government of India is considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos." It has noted that "Asbestosis is yet another occupational disease of the Lungs which is on an increase under similar circumstances warranting concerted efforts of all stake holders to evolve strategies to curb this menace". A concept paper by Union Ministry of Labour revealed this at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” on 19th and 20th September, 2011. (Reference: http://www.labour.nic.in/lc/Background%20note.pdf) 

We submit that the Annual Report of NHRC 2003-2004 refers to a Report entitled “Asbestos – Health and Environment – an in-depth Study “submitted by the Institute of Public Health Engineers, India. The study underlines that safe and controlled use of asbestos is not possible.

We submit that taking lessons from the industrial disaster of Bhopal, asbestos industry should ne made to pay heed to the way asbestos companies have gone bankrupt in the Western countries. They should be persuaded to join hands and create a compensation fund for victims. Dow Chemicals Company which refuses to own the liability for Bhopal disaster caused by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) in India has owned the UCC’s asbestos related liabilities and announced a compensation fund of 2.2 billion dollars for the victims. 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.

We submit that while India has technically banned mining of asbestos due deleterious impact on health, it is quite ironical that 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 now that Canada has rightly stopped mining of white chrysotile asbestos almost like India due its “deleterious” impact on health.

We wish to draw your attention towards the verdict of five judges of Japan’s Supreme Court of February 17, 2015 that has upheld a ruling that found asbestos used at a plant of Kubota Corporation caused fatal mesothelioma in a man who lived near the plant and ordered the company to pay ¥31.9 million in damages to his relatives. The petitioners were relatives of Kojiro Yamauchi, who died at age 80 after working for two decades about 200 meters from the Kubota plant in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture. His relatives and those of Ayako Yasui, who died at age 85 having lived about 1 km from the plant, sought damages from both Kubota and the government. In October, 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that the government was responsible for failing to protect workers from exposure at asbestos factories in Sennan, Osaka Prefecture. Reference: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/19/national/crime-legal/top-court-upholds-kubotas-liability-in-asbestos-death-case/#.VO3inSw8RkQ 

It is noteworthy that Japan has banned asbestos of all kinds including white chrysotile asbestos.

We also wish to draw your attention towards the fact that our neighbour Nepal has become the first country in South Asia which going in the direction of banning asbestos

We submit that in January 1995, while passing the judgment for the asbestos case file by the Consumer Education & Research Centre (CERC) (case details: http://indiankanoon.org/doc/1657323/), Hon’ble Supreme Court of India directed all asbestos factories to keep the health records of their workers for 40 years and/or 15 years after their retirement.

We submit that the second significant direction was the GoI and the state governments have to mend their rules and regulation as per the ILO resolution (International Labour Organisation). The ILO says eliminate asbestos of all kinds for elimination of asbestos related-diseases. Controlled use is not possible. It has not been possible for all the countries which have banned it and this is impossible in India too.

We submit that Navy officials have rightly objected to presence of asbestos in aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov which was inducted into the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya after asbestos decontamination. 

We submit that Union of India’s Budget 2011-12 had made reference to asbestos related diseases by including it under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to cover ‘unorganized sector workers in hazardous mining and associated industries like asbestos etc”. During Emergency, the ruling party and its acolytes had proposed to put opposition leaders in jails which had asbestos roofs.

We submit that there are fibre substitutes that have been evaluated by WHO are listed in the Summary Consensus Report of WHO Workshop on Mechanisms of Fibre Carcinogenesis and Assessment of Chrysotile Asbestos Substitutes. 
Reference: http://www.who.int/ipcs/publications/new_issues/summary_report.pdf

We submit that sooner or later, the asbestos industry will go bankrupt because they will have to pay huge amount of money in compensation. For every injury in the law there is a remedy. The present and the future generation will make sure they get remedy.

We submit that the rate of consumption of growth which they are enjoying today does not mean it will continue. In western countries, the rate picked at one time and today it is zero. This is the peak of Asbestos industry in India and now, the downfall will start.

We submit that the industry must be persuaded 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.

We submit that meanwhile, while an Advisory Committee of Union Ministry of Labour has been set up to implement Hon’ble Supreme Court order issued 15 years ago on January 27, 1995 and repeated on January 23, 2012. Although several years have passed but the Advisory Committee headed by Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Labour is yet to submit its report to incorporate specific directions of the Court with regard to fresh ILO’s Resolution of June 14, 2006 introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos.

We submit that even early industry-funded studies showed a causal relationship between asbestos exposure and cancer. Had this been made known to the public it could have prevented countless deaths but the asbestos industry made the conscious decision to protect their profits instead and choose to keep this information hidden from the public. India’s asbestos industry is following the same path.    As a consequence, although millions of Indian lives are being lost and millions are being exposed to the killer fibers of white chrysotile asbestos, no government agency or company is being held liable due to political patronage.

While on a visit to New Delhi, Dr Alec Farquhar, as the Managing Director, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada said, “We now have around 500 asbestos cancer cases every year in Ontario from a population of 13 million. If you (India) continue on your current path, you will multiply our death count by 100 times. That would be 50, 000 Indian workers dying every year from asbestos. In Ontario, we learned that safe use of asbestos is impossible. I urge you from the bottom of my heart, please do not make the same mistake as we made in Canada. Stop using asbestos and use a safe alternative.” It is clear that lack of documentation and lack of environmental and occupational health infrastructure does not mean lack of victims of asbestos related diseases.

It is sad that a killer fiber like asbestos which is banned in some 70 countries is being used to manufacture asbestos cement sheets disregarding the fatal health impact for present and future generations. Such plants and products should be stopped to save residents from incurable lung cancer like diseases.

We submit that asbestos death toll has surpassed traffic fatalities in Australia. In US, every year 10, 000 people are dying because of asbestos related disease. There is an epidemic of asbestos diseases in Europe. In India, a silent Bhopal disaster is happening every year. The rate of consumption of asbestos in India is rising at an alarming rate due to budgetary support. Nearly all of India's asbestos is mixed with cement to form roofing sheets. Bolstered by asbestos import tariffs that have been reduced from 78% in the mid-1990s to 15% by 2004, the country's asbestos-cement industry is increasing by roughly 10% every year.

We submit that some typical asbestos-based materials include sound insulation infill, thermal insulation lagging, tape, rope, felts, blankets, mattresses, asbestos boards, gaskets and washers, drive belts/ conveyor belts, roofing sheets and slates, drain and flue pipes, rainwater goods, fascia boards, bath panels, ceiling tiles, toilet seats, cisterns, bitumen damp proof course, lining to walls, lab bench tops, extraction hoods and fume cupboards, brakes and clutches, cooling tower elements and others.

We submit that the health consequences are already apparent, but the scale of the problem is not clear because there is no documentation of disease caused by environmental and occupational factors. “The Government of India has a very poor, almost non-existent, system to record death and disease”, explains Arthur Frank from Drexel University, Philadelphia , PA , USA who is a regular visitor to India. Besides, cancer is not a notifiable disease. Prof. Frank cited a hospital in Mumbai which sees a dozen cases of mesothelioma every year. Studies have shown high rates of asbestosis among workers in the industry, including in those whose exposure to the material has spanned less than 5 years. There has been no real assessment of [asbestos-related disease] to the point that you can get accurate figures.

We submit that the verdict even by the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Appellate Body (AB) validated the rights of Member States to prohibit the import and use of goods which contain carcinogenic substances such as chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) is noteworthy. On March 12, 2001 the WTO's Appellate Body (AB) issued its ruling in the case of Canada vs. the European Communities Measures Affecting Asbestos and Asbestos-Containing Products. It noted that safe and controlled use of chrysotile asbestos is impossible.

We submit that India is the largest importer of asbestos, according to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database. Most of it goes into making corrugated roofing sheets as building material.

In our country, it has been estimated by a Canadian jurist that approximately 50, 000 people die every year due to asbestos related cancer. But so far Government of India and state governments have failed to take a pro-people’s health position and a scientifically consistent stand on the import of chrysotile asbestos whose mining is technically banned in India. 

In such a context, we appeal to you to take note of:
·         Hon’ble Calcutta High Court’s order;
·        Resolutions of WHO and ILO (2005 and 2006 seeking elimination of future use of asbestos including chrysotile asbestos worldwide;
·         Need to announce the compensation package for present and future victims of asbestos diseases as it has done in the case of Silicosis and make the asbestos companies criminally liable for knowingly exposing citizens and consumers of asbestos products;
·         The fact that every international health agency of repute including the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the American Cancer Society agree there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Most recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reconfirmed that all commercial asbestos fibers - including chrysotile, the most commercially used form of asbestos - cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. In addition, IARC newly confirmed that there is sufficient evidence that asbestos causes ovarian cancer and reconfirmed asbestos causes laryngeal cancer;
·         The World Health Organisation estimates that asbestos already claims 107,000 lives a year. Even that conservative estimate means every five minutes around the clock a person dies of asbestos related disease. The ongoing use of the asbestos fibre kills at least 300 people every day;
·         World Bank's Asbestos Good Practice Guidelines. These Guidelines, as well as its earlier Environmental, Health & Safety General Guidelines, require that the use of asbestos must be avoided in new construction in projects funded by the World Bank around the world. The Guidelines also provide information on available safer alternatives to asbestos;
·         Human biology is same everywhere if the asbestos is deemed hazardous in the developed countries; it must be deemed so in India too;

In view of the incontrovertible adverse health effects asbestos based plants and products should be phased out to protect the lives of present and future generations.

We take this opportunity to draw your immediate attention towards the fact that asbestos related diseases are also incurable despite this environmental clearances are still being given by the central environment ministry. 

In such a backdrop, it is germane to ask Union of India and the States to stop manufacturing, procurement and use of all forms of asbestos including white asbestos.

It is your solemn duty to protect fellow citizens and residents from the exposure of fibers of chrysotile asbestos.

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. 

Although domestic laws in India recognize white chrysotile asbestos as hazardous, the Union Government has been taking inconsistent position in this regard in UN meetings. Hon'ble High Court may recommend to the Government to take steps to rectify the blunder it has committed by immorally and illegitimately denying right to know about hazardous substances to present and future Indians. It should factor in views of health and environment ministers to pave the way for creating a future which is free of incurable hazardous asbestos related diseases.  Indian laws include asbestos in the list of hazardous substances but tremendous influence of commercial interests has forced the Indian delegation to take a position which is diametrically opposite of domestic laws.

We submit that UN’s Rotterdam Convention on the prior informed consent procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade and the Chemical Review Committee of this UN Convention has recommended listing of white chrysotile asbestos in the UN list of hazardous substances for better protection of public health and environment. It is consistent with our domestic law.

We wish to draw your urgent attention towards a paper titled  "Pleuroperitoneal Mesothelioma: A Rare Entity on 18F-FDG PET/CT" published in Indian Journal of Nuclear Medicine, authored by researchers from Department of Nuclear Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi and Department of Radiodiagnosis, AIIMS in the 2017 Jan-Mar; 32(1): 75–76 issue. This paper authored by Dr Shamim Ahmed Shamim et al provides credible information about a asbestos related disease of a 40-year-old-female without any history of occupational asbestos exposure presented with histologically proven malignant pleural mesothelioma. Malignant mesothelioma is a rare tumor that originates from the cells lining the mesothelial surfaces, including the pleura, peritoneum, pericardium, and tunica vaginalis.(The other co-authors of the paper are Dr Manas Kumar Sahoo, Dr Anirban Mukherjee, Dr Girish, Dr Kumar Parida, Dr Krishan Kant Agarwal, Dr Chandrasekhar Bal, Dr Madhavi Tripathi and Dr Chandan Jyoti Das).  

It is noteworthy that both workers and consumers are at fatal risk from the killer asbestos fibers through the life cycle of the asbestos based products.  

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Elimination of asbestos-related diseases should take place through the following public health actions:      
-recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos;     
-replacing asbestos with safer substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to stimulate its replacement;     
-taking measures to prevent exposure to asbestos in place and during asbestos removal (abatement), and;     
-improving early diagnosis, treatment, social and medical rehabilitation of asbestos-related diseases and establishing registries of people with past and/or current exposures to asbestos.

As per 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. 

We wish to draw your attention towards the interview of  Dr. Frank, Professor of Public Health and Chair Emeritus of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Drexel University School of Public Health, about the international research on asbestos he’s championed since the early 1990s. He asserts, “The people who do treatment research are oncologists and radiotherapists and surgeons, so they’re not always as concerned with identifying what the cause was. That’s what I do. I identify the cause of things.”  The interview is available at https://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/staff/asbestos-around-the-world-an-interview-with-dr-arthur-frank.htm

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. Dr. Frank asserts, “a lack of data does not mean a lack of disease.” In fact, when speaking to a doctor from a major cancer hospital in Mumbai, Dr. Frank learnt that, in just one year, there were 32 cases of mesothelioma in that hospital alone. “A lot of the asbestos cement factories — a major use of asbestos in India — are owned by members of parliament,” he said. “You can draw your own conclusions.” Dr. Frank has been visiting Delhi to conduct lung disease with focus on silicosis, and asbestos related disease. You may consult him for the protection of public health.

We submit that to begin with you may seek a report on compliance with six specific directions given by Hon'ble Supreme Court in CERC v Union of India on 27 January, 1995. You may seek a report from all the hospitals about asbestos related victims attended by them and consider issuing an order preparing a list of asbestos laden public buildings in Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand. You may also seek a report from all the medical colleges and hospitals of Eastern India, Southern India, Western India and North India in this regard. 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 will be helpful for the present and future generation of Indians and residents.      

Therefore, we request you to take cognisance of the findings of WHO, AIIMS and Prof. Frank in order to recommend action to deal with asbestos related diseases of present and future generations in right earnest. We will be happy to submit more information in this regard. 


Thanking you

Warm Regards 
Gopal Krishna, LL.M., Ph.D
ToxicsWatch 
E-mail-krishnagreen@gmail.com
Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Cc
Hon'ble Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour
Hon'ble Members, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour








Friday, October 15, 2021

When will India ban import of carcinogenic white chrysotile asbestos?

When will India ban import of Russian, Chinese and Kazakh asbestos?

The Supreme Court and high courts in India have been consistent in voicing their concerns regarding exposure to these carcinogenic mineral fibres while asking the central and the state governments to update their laws as per the fresh resolution of International Labour Organisation (ILO), which has sought elimination of future use of white chrysotile asbestos to safeguard human health. But the governments in India have not complied with its directions so far. Only cheerful news comes from Bihar which has become the first State in India to announce that it will not allow setting up of asbestos factories in the State and 22 asbestos factories owner, CK Birla Group's Hyderabad Industries Limited (HIL), a member of Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (ACPMA), has entered non-asbestos, eco-friendly, autoclaved roofing solution. 

Fearing manslaughter cases, asbestos companies the world over are shifting to the non-asbestos sector. India's most deprived and marginalised communities – as many as 16.4 per cent in the rural areas and 20 per cent in the urban areas – live and work under asbestos roofs. Some 79 per cent of Dalits (200 million) live in such houses. The fact is that no private or public building in India is asbestos-free and almost all water supply pipes in the country are made of asbestos cement. Asbestos is harmful in its entire life cycle.

Significantly, First Schedule of Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSHWC) Code, 2020 refers to industries involving hazardous processes including manufacture, handling and processing of asbestos and its products and its Third Schedule lists incurable asbestosis as a Notifiable Disease. Given the fact that some 70 countries have banned the products, immediate steps are required in the supreme national interest to safeguard the health of present and the future generations. Alas, wisdom does not dawn without a high fee it seems. India imported 21% of all the asbestos from Brazil. Following a Brazilian court's decision, there is a compelling logic for the Union of India and the State governments to pay heed to the verdict of the Supreme Court of India to update the laws in the light of ILO resolution of 2006 to eliminate all kinds of asbestos and related incurable and fatal diseases.

The Brazilian court's immediate suspension of the extraction, exploration, processing, marketing, transport and export of asbestos cancerous minerals is one of the most sensible decisions to come by in recent times. Yet exporting continues here. However, India is yet to implement the 26-year-old verdict of the Supreme Court of India seeking adoption of a fresh ILO resolution that seeks elimination of asbestos. It is indeed strange that members of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group are refusing to learn from one another to safeguard the health of their citizens. Brazil, a country which banned asbestos, has been exporting it to India. South Africa, which has banned asbestos, has been importing asbestos products from India. Russia and China refuse to pay heed to asbestos-related laws in South Africa, Brazil and India. India has banned mining of asbestos but continues to import it from Russia, China and Kazakhstan. 

Is this the way to demonstrate scientific temper? 


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Violation of environmental laws by Ramco asbestos company in Bihiya, Bhojpur

 


To

Shri Nitish Kumar 
Hon'ble Chief Minister
Government of Bihar
Patna

Date: 09/10/2021

Subject- Violation of environmental laws by the two asbestos based units of Chennai based Ramco Industries Limited in Bihiya, Bhojpur

Sir, 

This is to draw your immediate attention towards the violation of environmental laws by two asbestos based factory units of Chennai based Ramco Industries Limited in Bihiya, Bhojpur near Mahthin Mai temple. 

I submit that First Schedule of Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020 refers to Industries involving hazardous processes including manufacture, handling & processing of Asbestos and ts products. Its Third Schedule lists incurable Asbestosis as a Notifiable Disease. Besides the villagers in the vicinity of Ramco's factories, all the workers face the threat of health hazards and accidents. This Code has to be read along with the verdict of Hon'ble Supreme Court dated 27 January, 1995 in Consumer Education Research Centre v Union of India for effective implementation. 

Initially, the legal action taken by the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) against the two units of asbestos based factories of Ramco Industries Limited located at Bihiya, Bhojpur pursuant to your instructions to the Board in response to villagers' petition to you against such hazardous factories merited appreciation. But subsequently, BSPCB revised it's position to the detriment of public health. 

As a follow up of your previous action in  regard to carcinogenic asbestos, I wish to draw your urgent attention towards the public health crisis as a consequence of ongoing unscientific and illegal disposal of hazardous and carcinogenic asbestos (dust & fibers) and broken asbestos based roofs by Chennai based Ramco Industries Limited in Bihiya, Bhojpur. It has endangered the human life and environmental health of Bihiya and the villages in the area besides the workers employed there. Asbestos is harmful through out it's life cycle. 

It may be noted that the Board's previous legal action could not become effective because of the order of a single judge bench of Hon'ble Patna High Court on the limited ground of violation of natural justice. The order of Justice Jyoti Sharan dated 30 March, 2017 had directed the Chief Secretary, State of Bihar to rectify the error of Chairman of the BSPCB and thev Appellate Authority happened to be Shri Vivek Kumar Singh. Source: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/64804529/

The fact remains this order too did not dispute the finding of the Board with regard to violation of the environmental laws. It did not dispute that as asbestos and asbestos based industries are heavily polluting and have been categorised as R24 in the Red Category (http://bspcb.bih.nic.in/Categorization_10.10.18_new.pdf) 

Subsequently, a division bench of the Hon'ble High Court comprising Justices Ajay Kumar Tripathi and Niku Agrawal passed another order modifying the previous order in The Bihar State Pollution Control Board & others Vs M/S Ramco Industries Ltd. on 30 April, 2018 (Letters Patent Appeal No.873 of 2017 In Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No. 421 of 2017. The order authored by Justice Tripathi reads: "Since Mr. Vivek Kumar Singh no longer happens to be the Chairman of the Bihar State Pollution Control Board, therefore, one of the reasons provided by the learned Single Judge for interfering with the order no longer holds good. It is left open to the new Chairman of Bihar State Pollution Control Board to pass a fresh order in accordance with law after hearing the parties." Source: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/85967218/ 

In such a backdrop, I wish to draw your attention again towards the violation of all the general and specific conditions laid down in the NOC given by the Bihar State Pollution Control Board and the environmental clearance given by the Experts Appraisal Committee of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change by the company's factories in question. 

I wish to draw your attention towards a news broadcast by a news channel titled - 

Ramco Company: सरकार के साथ साथ दे रही जनता को धोखा| https://youtu.be/2fJKGtrPyC4
An official video of Ramco Industries Limited which authenticates the claims made in the news report is available with us which can be shared when required. It is not being shared right away because of it is a heavy file. 
In such a context, I submit that I have learnt the following methods in disposing of asbestos waste (dust and fibers) by the company in question:

1. Using excavators the broken sheets are crushed and buried deep inside factory premises. The broken pieces pose a grave threat to the ground water shared by fertile agriculture land and villagers who use it for drinking purpose. 

2. Since there is no space to bury the asbestos waste and broken asbestos products are sold to fictitious or  known dealers on ex- factory basis to discard company's responsibility for disposal. Normally, the destination of duch disposal will be in remote locations and buried on fertile lands or used for land filling and covered by sand permanently. It seems to be a corporate crime but logical from company's perspective as no one will pay 4 times the cost for transportation for a zero value material. 

3. The broken ast based sheets are cut inside factory into unmarketable sizes like 1 meter length and gifted as CSR activities. The cutting process emits lot of asbestos dust and fibers harmful for the workers and villagers. 

4. Broken asbestos sheets and wastes during transit handling or from customer end are brought to depot at various locations to harden top soil or land filling which again poses a threat to ground water. Cutting broken bigger asbestos sheets also pose danger as asbestos  fibers become air borne. 

5. Wherever cement is handled in bags inside factory it creates occupational hazard for workers due to asbestos dust particles. This is a threat to villagers as well because the air quality in the area gets polluted. 

6. Ramco Industries Limited has been donating asbestos based roofs to the nearby Mahthin Mai temple and to the parking space of the District Magistrate's office as an exercise in ethical positioning of it's bran and as a public relations exercise. Villagers, temple devotees and the district administration has been taken for a ride. They have acted in complete ignorance of Board's action against Ramco's factories.

In view of the above, I wish to request you to probe the health status of the communities linked to the factory and who reside in proximity of the two units of asbestos factories in Bihiya, Bhojpur run by Ramco Industries Limited besides the workers. Your prompt action will  safeguard the environmental health of present and future residents of Bhojpur in particular and all the residents of Bihar in general by imposing immediate ban on use of asbestos based products of all kinds in State. 

I appreciate for stance declaring in the State Assembly that Bihar Government will not allow construction of carcinogenic asbestos factories in the state on 1st July, 2019. This announcement is a vindication of the anti-asbestos struggle by villagers of Muzaffarpur, Vaishali and Bhojpur. 

I submit that the death toll of children in Muzaffarpur has revealed that asbestos cement sheets are quite unhealthy building materials which lead to morbidity and mortality by contributing to the deterioration of their health.

I submit that Board's action with regard to carcinogenic white chrysotile asbestos mineral fiber has been consistent with what is published on National Health Portal (NHP) , Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India. The National Health Portal states that “All forms of asbestos (chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite) are in use because of their extraordinary tensile strength, poor heat conduction, and relative resistance to chemical attack. Chemically,s asbestos minerals are silicate compounds, meaning they contain atoms of silicon and oxygen in their molecular structure. All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans. Exposure to asbestos (including chrysotile) causes cancer of the lung, larynx, and ovaries, and also mesothelioma (a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal linings).

Asbestos exposure is also responsible for other diseases such as asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), and plaques, thickening and effusion in the pleura.”  It observes that “Exposure to asbestos occurs through inhalation of fibers 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 asbestos materials.”

I wish to draw your urgent attention towards the order of Kerala Human Rights Commission (KHRC) that has ruled that exposing Indians to asbestos is a human rights violation. This paves the way for the eventual complete ban on asbestos and its products. On January 31, 2009, the KHRC ruled that the government should take steps to phase out asbestos roofing from all schools in the state. Bihar State Pollution Control Board can act of this recommendation as well.

I submit that so far Hon'ble Supreme Court’s order of 27 January, 1995 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 cannot be ignored without endangering residents of Bihar. Hon'ble Court observed: “The development of the carcinogenic risk due to asbestos or any other carcinogenic agent, does not require a continuous exposure. The cancer risk does not cease when the exposure to the carcinogenic agent ceases, but rather the individual carries the increased risk for the remaining years of life. The exposure to asbestos and the resultant long tragic chain of adverse medical, legal and societal consequences, remains the legal and social responsibility of the employer or the producer not to endanger the workmen or the community of the society. He is not absolved of the inherent responsibility to the exposed workmen or the society at large.”

I submit the state government was supposed to incorporate specific directions of the Court with regard to fresh ILO Resolution of June 14, 2006 introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos besides WHO‟s resolution of 2005 seeking elimination of future use of asbestos but it has been ignored so far.

I wish to also draw your attention towards what Government of India’s National Health Portal states: “The burden of asbestos-related diseases is still rising, even in countries that banned the use of asbestos in the early 1990s. Because of the long latency periods attached to the asbestos related diseases, stopping the use of asbestos now will result in a decrease in the number of asbestos-related deaths only after a number of decades. There is no safe use of asbestos and no safe limits set by WHO, ILO (International labour organization)” . It discloses that “The prevalence of asbestosis in four cement factories (Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Mumbai) varied from 3% to 5%” and “In asbestos textile industry prevalence of asbestosis was 9% in workers having less than 10 years exposure, in contrast to the reported average duration of over 20 years”  (National Health Portal, Government of India).

I submit that in a reply to the Parliament, Union Minister of Health and Family welfare stated that “The Ministry of Mines has informed that the Grant of fresh mining leases and renewal of existing mining leases for Asbestos are presently banned in the country on Health Grounds”  (Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare, 2014). He also shared the findings of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare which has “informed that major health hazards of asbestos include cancer of lung, mesothelioma of pleura and peritoneum and specific fibrous disease of lung known as asbestosis. All types of asbestos fibers are responsible for human mortality and morbidity….” This has been shared by the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare in a written reply to the Parliament and released by Press Information Bureau, Government of India. This reply corroborates your observation in the State Assembly.

I was saddened when Ramco company' factories in Bhojpur’s Bihiya managed to get relief from Hon’ble Patna High Court on a grossly procedural
ground of violation of natural justice. I am also saddened by BSPCB's failure to reiterate it's earlier order after the procedural error was rectified. It is evident that the operation of the two units of an asbestos company has not been stopped by the BSPCB as yet. Its operation is a case of environmental health lawlessness. Ramco has dumped hazardous asbestos waste in the agricultural fields and has been spewing toxic asbestos dust at night.
It has violated every specific and general condition which has been stipulated in the environmental clearance and the No Objection Certificate. It may also be noted that when a worker died in this factory, his family was given a compensation of Rs 5, 000. The factory seemed to have the patronage of Bhojpur administration by donating asbestos roofs to it for its parking. This situation creates a compelling logic for medical investigation of the environmental health status of the village and temple communities living in the vicinity of these units and the workers of these two factories owned by the same company. The probe can reveal the extent of asbestos related diseases in this area because of environmental exposure. 

Let me take the opportunity to mention the  the fact that all asbestos based products have a life-span, it is natural that all asbestos based products are potential asbestos wastes. This state of sad affairs is crying for attention. At present Indian railways is removing asbestos cement roofs from all the railway stations and platforms in Bihar like elsewhere but it is not being disposed of in a scientific and safe manner. 

In view of the above, I submit that the Board must be asked to reiterate its order on immediate closure of Ramco's hazardous factories, to create a Master Plan for decontaminating all asbestos laden government buildings including legislative and judicial buildings and discontinue public procurement of asbestos based products including asbestos cement pipes for water supply in Bihar. It s necessary to initiate preventive action in order to protect present and future generations of Bihar from the silent killer mineral fibers of asbestos which  are akin to a ticking time bomb.

I will be glad to share more relevant information in this regard.

Thanking you in anticipation.

Yours Sincerely

Gopal Krishna, LL.M., Ph.D
E-mail:krishnaruhnai@gmail.com
Website:www.toxicswatch.com

Blog Archive