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.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Asbestos kills: Trial of Stephan Schmidheiny, the billionaire who is accused of murder of 392 people

Eternit trial 

December the 12th, 2022 Hearing

By Silvana Mossano 

The release of asbestos fibres from the extensive area of 'eternit' roofs and the so-called improper uses of the material (attics, courtyard squares and playgrounds lined with compacted dust) in Casale exceeded those produced by the Eternit plant and the former Piemontese area where the open-air crushing of waste took place using a caterpillar. This is what the defence experts claimed at the trial taking place in Novara in the Court of Assize, where the defendant Stephan Schmidheiny is accused of the murder (with possible wilfulness) of 392 people from the Casale area, all mesothelioma victims. Claims were based on the scientific models and mathematical formulae, illustrated in past hearings.

Are the defence experts right?

Prosecutors Dr Gianfranco Colace and Mariagiovanna Compare asked the Court of Assizes to hear other consultants, in particular technical experts from the regional Arpa (The Environmental Agency) to assess the method and application of the models. Chief Justice, Dr Gianfranco Pezone, who considered these in-depth studies useful, granted the request, of a confrontation between opposing parties and theses.

As a result, at the hearing on Monday, December the 12th, 2022, engineer Enrico Brizio, current Director of Arpa for the southwest of the Region Piedmont, and an expert in modelling air flows and the dispersion of pollutants in the atmosphere, was heard; together with colleagues Luca Mingozzi and Angelo Salerno (Arpa technicians and already heard as prosecution expert witnesses), he analysed the work of the defence expert Andrea D'Anna, an engineer and full professor of Chemical Plants at the University of Naples. The professor's study was subjected to technical-scientific evaluations, on methods and ways that led the Neapolitan professor to the conclusions he had already set out and then reiterated in cross at the September the 21st hearing. Prof D’Anna had said: 'The pollution close to the Eternit factory comes from the plant, but in the city centre it is caused by misuse of the material'. The Prosecutor asked: 'In your opinion, does the crushing at the former Piemontese pollute as much as, or even less than, the dust fibres coming out of the cracks between the tiles of a roof?’ The professor had nodded yes.

Challenged the method

However, engineer Brizio found it inappropriate that the defence expert witness had used different parameters when considering the sources of asbestos fibres referred to improper uses (attics, courtyards, roofs...) and the sources from “proper uses” specifically the Eternit plant and the Ex Piemontese crushing area.

The regional Arpa manager believes that, considering the range of improper uses the professor has maximised the parameters, while choosing minimum values when it referred to the plant. Prof D’Anna’s results are thus 'immeasurable dimensions’. If he had chosen intermediate parameters for both cases, it would be another matter, the fibre release referred to the improper uses would have been far lower, in the order of hundreds and thousands of times, than those of the proper uses. 'Arpa carried out specific monitoring on the improper uses, but found contamination values that are not comparable with Professor D'Anna's results!' According to Arpa's staff, 'using the emission factors in a more realistic and plausible way, one would see a reversal of the results' indicated by the defence consultant. 

Attics.

According to engineer Brizio, Schmidheiny's expert used a mathematical model that is specific for roofs (more exposed to winds and other atmospheric agents), but unsuitable for attics, where dispersion conditions are different.

And speaking about roofs

Public Prosecutor Gianfranco Colace recalled one of the arguments that the defence consultant had insisted on (the dispersion of fibres from the roofs of the five barracks, in two of which there was even some dust) and evoked a chilling statement (not by Prof D'Anna, but by another expert witness for the defence) that all 'asbestos roofs degraded a few months after installation'. The PP therefore asked Prof Brizio: 'Did these asbestos roofs exist only in Casale? "No, they existed everywhere, and still do”. And yet, so many victims like this are in Casale and not elsewhere. Why?

Appropriate uses

According to the Arpa’s assessment, in Professor D'Anna's work some of the sources of appropriate and expected uses such as the places where Eternit manufacturing took place, had not been considered or were underestimated. He examined the production plant, which was in the Ronzone district, and the crushing site, but ignored the warehouses in Piazza d'Armi, the dump along the river and the 'little beach' on the Po.

The Eternit warehouses

Why did Professor D'Anna not consider them as a significant source of the spread of asbestos fibres? The consultant, who was present at the trial on Monday, 12 December, after Arpa's objections, provided a justification: he had thought that the warehouses, mentioned in studies and surveys dating back to the late 1980s, were all inside the production plant at Ronzone and therefore assessed this are as one, without imagining that there were warehouses even kilometres away. Those in Piazza d'Armi, as a case in point.

On Monday, after having had a good look, he found them, but nevertheless rejected the Arpa’s objections: according to the Piedmontese environmental protection agency, 'the Eternit warehouses had not yet been cleaned up in 1990 and were a significant source of asbestos fibres into the town air, contributing to the rise in the background value'. The professor insisted: 'Finished materials were allocated in those warehouses and no processing was carried out. That is to say: the roofs and attics of houses are a source of heavy asbestos release, while the piles of tonnes of unsealed manufactured goods in a facility with extensive 'eternit' coverage, would be so insignificant as not to be considered?

The timing of remediation

Had the warehouses in the Piazza d'Armi already been reclaimed in the '89/'90s? 'No, they had not yet been decontaminated,' said Brizio. The clean-up began in 1995. At the time Luisa Minazzi, a true Casalese, was the Councillor in charge of Environmental Affairs but she died in 2010 at the age of 58, killed by an asbestos related disease so could not be called. In 1994, the municipality had purchased the warehouses and had immediately arranged for the reclamation work to be carried out, creating a multipurpose area for exhibitions, a cinema and commercial activities [nicknamed Casale’s 'Lingottino' with reference to the conversion of Turin’s Fiat plant].

In 1994, Casale took part in a European Union Urban Project, and was awarded a project which made it possible to find funding for remediation, including that of the manufacturing plant at Ronzone, the most demanding and complex intervention, completed in 2006.

Fewer Fibres

"Monitoring carried out by Arpa in 2007," stressed engineer Brizio, "showed a reduction of fibres in the air in the city of Casale, even below one fibre per litre. This means that after the reclamation of the plant area, the air improved, while roofs, dust and courtyards were mostly still there. That notwithstanding, Prof D'Anna persisted in his conviction, believing that the improvement in the air was also attributable to the elimination of improperly used asbestos. How? 'People,' he speculated, 'in private spaces had certainly already started to remove roofs, perhaps without waiting for the Town, and in any case, they had learnt to be more careful, all the more so after Mayor Riccardo Coppo's 1987 ordinance [banning the use of asbestos in Casale, pointing out its danger to health]. Thus, in the professor's opinion, greater caution on the part of community would have limited the spread of asbestos fibres resulting from that mass of improper use which, in his opinion, was the main cause of mesotheliomas.

Those who were there know that this was not the case. The ordinance signed by Mayor Coppo was a much pondered and suffered act, drafted with scrupulous care with the technical support of frontline doctors such as Angelo Mancini and Giampiero Bertolone, also considering the impact that the ban would have. The ordinance banned the use of materials containing asbestos, even residues from processing, for the first time in Italy, but unfortunately was not enough to convince most of the residents that the danger concerned everyone, because people were persuaded that it was only Eternit workers who developed the disease, that the 'puvri', the 'malapolvere [the bad dust] did not affect the community. 

The awareness of the community and the subsequent reclamation was the result of a steady stream of deaths and tenacious work to increase awareness the institutions, which Afeva (Associazione famigliari e vittime amianto - Association of Asbestos Victims and Families), the trade unions, and schools carried out. Private reclamation arrived well after 1987, so it is realistic that the 1987 Arpa survey, which attested to a clear improvement in the air, was positively affected by the plant's closure.

Spiaggetta or paludetta (Beach or swamp)?

The 'spiaggetta' or little beach on the banks of the River Po was sixty-seventy metres long, and was reclaimed between 2000 and 2001, recalled engineer Brizio. Not even this had been considered by the defence consultant as a source of asbestos fibres, and he explained why: it was a wet area close to the Po and it is known that humidity greatly reduces dust.

Prosecutor Colace tried to find a suitable definition: 'Was it a small beach or a swamp?' Professor D'Anna, keeping the point on the humidity thesis, replied: 'Even at the sea there are beaches lapped by water...'. In this case by the river. D'Anna added that the beach 'was also sometimes flooded...'. But then the sun comes out, it dries and the surface releases dust as it cracks in the sun: that's what we had heard from eyewitnesses, those who evoked the happy summer Sundays spent on the local 'riviera'.

Was there dust at the former Piedmontese Area?

Are witnesses to be believed? Are they to be believed when they recall clouds of dust rising from the crushing area at the former Piemontese? 

The former (Ex) Piemontese was an area thus named because a previous industrial plant, a few tens of metres away from Eternit, which had acquired it and used it, precisely, to crush raw waste.

The defence lawyer questioned the dustiness of that area: it seems that the visual perception of dust can be an optical effect, he believes, linked to a material's light absorption properties.

Prof. D'Anna also raised doubts that there had been all the activity described by the prosecution. However, Prosecutor Dr Colace insisted: 'The bulldozer was on the move 24 hours a day, crushing scrap'. The consultant was puzzled: 'Is it possible that the Casalese plant was producing so much waste to justify that activity day and night?

He is absolutely right: there is a physiological percentage of waste in every production process, but so much waste... In fact, the Casale plant did not produce that much waste at all; but Professor D'Anna had probably not been informed, that the total amount of debris was brought together from various Eternit plants in Italy, concentrating all the crushing activity in Casale, in that area, for the subsequent reintroduction of the shredded material into the production cycle, through the Hazemag mill.

The skips (or dumpsters) dumped in the ditches

Speaking of witnesses, should one also question that of Rosalino Secreto, called to give evidence on Monday December the 12th? 

"I worked for Enrico Bagna's company between 1978 and 1984/85," he began.

Bagna's company, which dealt in general with scrapping activities, had a contract with the Eternit company to dispose of the factory's waste. The owner had confirmed this in the first Turin trial. 

"I was a mechanic,' Secreto told the Assize Court on Monday, 'I was mainly involved in vehicle maintenance but also in the processing of scrap iron. But there was a colleague, yes, that 'boy' there... Bartolo Occhipinti was his name, who must have died 15 years ago..., well, he used to go to Eternit and load the powder and scrap into a sort of skip or dumpster. And then he would dump them near the Po: there was a ditch, from which the gravel had been extracted, they said it was thirty metres deep, and he would throw everything in there. A lot of people went to dump them there, eh... even the building materials from the construction sites, everything'.

He explained how the operations took place: 'The skip was brought to the plant, filled, hooked to the truck and Occhipinti, who was in charge of those operations, would go and dump it in the ditch. Not just the powder, but also the mud from the tanks: they would let it dry, then hook it up with the 'spider' and take it away'. And how were the skips or dumpsters carried? 'Usually but not always covered, it depended on how full they were'.

Was the material thrown into the pit near Po treated? Treated, no; every now and then a bulldozer would come and level it. It would level everything’.

This dumpster business went on 'until around 83/84, a little before the factory was closed'. The factory was closed in 1986, when they filed for bankruptcy in June.

Since then, where did the waste, previously dumped in the ditch, end up? 'Well,' replied the former worker, 'there were rumours that they took them to Switzerland, France or Germany. There were rumours that they used them to make 'prismates' or large prism shaped artificial barrages with which to strengthen riverbanks'.

Undeterred, Professor D’Anna, tenaciously defended his work and responded to the remarks made by the Arpa technicians and experts by insisting on the data, citing numbers and his own conclusions: namely that the sources from which the largest quantity of fibres was released in Casale were roofs and improper uses.

What about the winds?

How did winds and air currents affect the scattering and dispersion of fibres? 

The Court raised the question: 'what can you tell us about the wind as a variable,' Judge Pezone asked, 'is it the same thing to have an area without obstacles compared to a more urbanised area, with buildings?'

The defence expert witness replied: 'The city centre of Casale has not very high buildings nor very narrow streets. He admitted that he had never been there, but had taken 'virtual walks using Google maps, such as Street View'. And he has seen 'buildings with a maximum of two storeys... and farmsteads with rural housing and large courtyards, but not big buildings that channel winds’. So, he insisted, he considered buildings to be insignificant... 'I imagined that there were not many tall buildings in Casale between 1970 and the 80s that would have forced the fibres to linger.' the expert witness insisted and stood firm: roofs and misuse were the main culprits, and the urban area as he described it confirmed it.

What does the city really look like?

Well, 'Street View' is undoubtedly an interesting, a useful and convenient tool, but trusting it blindly is a bit unwise. His eyes could have better guided him in the centre of Casale, in the maze of streets where local authorities have had to make streets one-way precisely because of their limited width: too narrow for two cars and sometimes dangerous. Walking along those streets, he would have been able to admire noble palaces of three, four, five storeys next to streets such as - to cite just a few examples – via Roma, Mameli, Benvenuto Sangiorgio, Saffi, Liutprando, Lanza, Garibaldi, Paleologi, Canina, Corso Trento or Indipendenza or Giovane Italia or Valentino where only the names have changed over time, because the urban layout has been the same for centuries. In the outskirts, then, the streets are a little wider but the buildings have six, seven, or even eight storeys.

A real visit to Casale is well worth it, to realise, without a virtual lens, that it is a beautiful city, with tall, ancient palazzos clustered on charming, narrow, and sometimes winding streets. This is the layout. A beautiful city, yes, and more hapless than others where, even there, asbestos roofs were and still are, but mesothelioma is not at all so frequent, indeed it is even an unknown word.

There, in those picturesque streets, among those buildings and under the porticoes, the professor could meet some polite people who, with dignity and tenacity, and without anger, invoke only a cure and the recognition of a wrong suffered. For truth, without hiding it and without revenge.

NEXT HEARINGS

The last confrontation between PP and defence expert witnesses will take place at the hearing on January the 16th 2023.

Then, Chief Justice  Pezone will declare the trial phase closed and open the closing speeches. On  January the 30th , Prosecutors Colace and Mariagiovanna Compare are expected to begin.

https://www.silmos.it/amianto-nellaria-larpa-le-deduzioni-della-difesa-sono-basate-su-modelli-sbagliati/


Saturday, October 1, 2022

No asbestos mine functional in India but trade, manufacture and use of asbestos yet to be stopped


  Given the fact that 70 nations have banned asbestos and Brazilian Supreme Court has declared use of asbestos as unconstitutional, question of  Sangamlal Gupta and P.P. Chaudhary  on “Ban on Asbestos Mines” in the Parliament and the reply of Pralhad Joshi, minister of coal and mines assumes significance. The minister replied that no asbestos mine functional in India because of the harmful effect of asbestos. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), 250, 000 are dying annually because of asbestos related diseases. 25 per cent of the entire asbestos produced globally comes to India because India is yet to ban trade, manufacture and use of all kinds of asbestos although it has banned mining of all kinds of asbestos. 

India imported asbestos to the tune of 3,61,164 tonnes in 2019-20. It was 3,64,105 tonnes in the previous year.
"Almost entire import was that of chrysotile asbestos", reveals the Indian Minerals Year Book 2020 published in November 2021. It also 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 and Hungary (3% each), and Poland and 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 imported during the year 2019-20 as compared to 3,63,902 tonnes in the previous year.

The data reveals that despite the Brazilian Supreme Court's landmark verdict declaring use of asbestos to be unconstitutional, it is exporting it to India not realizing 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 the 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.

Meanwhile, 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. These 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.

Notably, WHO has recommended elimination of all kinds of asbestos and asbestos based products. India has banned mining of all kinds of asbestos because of it is 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 its use in ships, but it continues to trade raw asbestos and asbestos-based products. India continues to manufacture and use asbestos based products. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Sale of talcum powder to be stopped globally by Johnson & Johnson, India yet to stop sale of asbestos laden talcum powder

 Public Statement


Sale of talcum powder to be stopped globally by Johnson & Johnson, India yet to stop sale of asbestos laden talcum powder

 

August 12, 2022: ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) and Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) welcome the announcement of Johnson & Johnson, a multinational company headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA to stop the sale of baby talc powder across the world including India from 2023. It is apparent that Indians will continue to be exposed to asbestos laden talcum powder throughout 2022 unless the Government of India acts to stop the sale of talcum powder with immediate effect. Companies like Johnson & Johnson have been insensitive towards public health for quite a long time. They have been practicing practising racism too. Johnson & Johnson and other companies which sell talcum powder should be made to stop the sale of adult talc powder besides baby talcum powder. TWA has been pursuing the demand for ban on sale of asbestos laden talcum powder with the National Human Rights Commission and Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), Directorate General of Health Services, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for several years without success. 

 

TWA and BANI demand that Government of India should promote use of cornstarch and stop the sale of talcum powder of all the companies now that Johnson & Johnson has decided to stop its sale across the globe including India. Other companies which are selling talcum powder to unsuspecting consumers in India too should be ordered to stop their sale to safeguard the public health.

 

When TWA approached Dr. V.G. Somani, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), Directorate General of Health Services, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in this regard, he informed that “as far as the asbestos in talcum powder is concerned, 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. But the continued sale of asbestos laden talcum powder in India whose sale has been discontinued in North America shows that this law has not been enforced. DCGI is yet to address the complaint regarding ongoing exposure of Indians to hazardous asbestos mineral fibers contaminated talcum powder of Johnson & Johnson and other brands and enforce prohibition of the sale of talcum powder products to safeguard the health of residents and citizens of India.

 

In April 2022 when Johnson & Johnson’s shareholders voted against a proposal to stop sales of the talc baby powder in India and other non-North American markets, TWA and BANI had accused shareholders of Johnson & Johnson of practicing double standard and racism. In a classic case of double standard and racism, US 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 recall 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.

 

On May 19, 2020 Johnson & Johnson had announced 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 and non-North American regions. It also announced that “the Company will wind down the commercialization of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in the U.S. and Canada in the coming months. Existing inventory will continue to be sold through retailers until it runs out.” Now that it has agreed to stop sale of talc based powder across the globe, it emerges that it is and has been knowingly exposing Indians and non-North Americans to carcinogenic asbestos for years.    

 

A study titled “Asbestos in commercial Indian talc” published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine 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."

 

Notably, Word 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: https://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/asbestos/en/ and https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asbestos-elimination-of-asbestos-related-diseases.]

 

Fitzgerald 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”.

 

TWA and BANI demand that CDSCO must undertake the enviro-occupational health audit of the workers who handle asbestos laden talcum powder in the manufacturing facilities of talcum powder products in general besides the health audit of the communities who are in the vicinity of such factories and recommend adequate compensation for those who are exposed to the carcinogenic mineral fibers and 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.

 

It is noteworthy that  in an investigative report titled “Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder” published on December 14, 2018 which too is relevant for protecting the human rights of Indians. The investigation was conducted by Reuters, a news agency. 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 <10 10=”” 20=”” and=”” m=””> 20┬Ám, 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 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:http://www.itrcindia.org/ITRC_Annual_Report_2005-06.pdf ]

 

The investigation by Reuters had corroborated 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, a 132 year old multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturing company headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.

 

This announcement of Johnson & Johnson dated August 11, 2022 is of deep relevance for the public health of present and future generation of Indians given the fact that Johnson & Johnson company has admittedly been in India for the last 70 years. The company has brought many products in consumer healthcare, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. In 1947, Johnson & Johnson expanded into India, marketing Johnson’s Baby Powder. In September 1957, Johnson & Johnson incorporated as a legal entity in India. The production in its first manufacturing facility began in 1959 at the Johnson & Johnson India plant in Mulund, Mumbai, for Johnson’s Baby Powder and other specialized products. In 1968, the company introduced the Stayfree brand to India. A situation emerged wherein Johnson & Johnson reached almost every household in India.

 

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). The non-enforcement of these standards has created a situation where in the face of global outrage against asbestos laden talcum powder, these products continue to be in the Indian market unmindful of its disastrous public health consequences.  

 

For Details: Dr. Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)/Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Mb: 9818089660, E-mail:krishnagreen@gmail.com Web: www.asbestosfreeindia.org, www.toxicswatch.org 

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) 






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