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. For Details: krishnagreen@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

BANI welcomes suspension of import of asbestos laden Johnson & Johnson talc powder by Commerce Ministry, Congo

The Republic of Congo has suspended, the import of carcinogenic asbestos laden Johnson & Johnson talc powder. Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) welcomes this interim ban on killer asbestos mineral fiber laden talc powder. Its continued sale in India and other developing countries constitutes environmental racism because human biology is the same everwhere. 

Notably, on May 19, 2020 by Johnson & Johnson (J&J), a multinational company headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA has announced that it will discontinue sale of its talcum powder products in North America. This announcement is aimed at safeguarding the health and human rights of residents and citizens of North America but not the residents and citizens of India.

Such doublespeak and double standard in matters of public health in general and children’s health in particular merits the urgent intervention of NHRC: “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” (Statement of J&J, May 19, 2020).

The news report titled “Johnson & Johnson to End Talc-Based Baby Powder Sales in North America” published in “The New York Times” (May 19, 2020) merits attention as well. The Word Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) has recognized presence of asbestos in talcum powder. The 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 varicose 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) 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).”

NHRC must recommend 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. Earlier, an investigative report titled “Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder” was published on December, 14, 2018 which too is relevant for protecting the human rights of Indians.

The investigation was conducted by Reuters, a 167 year old international news agency headquartered in London. This investigative report is consistent with the findings of a study by India’s Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (IITR), Lucknow, a constituent laboratory of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India on “Exposure risk to contaminants in pharmaceutical and cosmetic powders” has found:
“There are different types of cosmetic powders such as body powder, baby powder, face powder, eye shadow and powdered blush as well as pharmaceutical powders available in the market. Both the sexes of all age groups are using these powders. These are talc-based. Talc is a mineral product and often contaminated with asbestos fibres.”

The aim of the IITR study “was to investigate the safety of such powders being sold in the market, initially by analyzing the asbestos content.” Five branded samples of talcum powder were analysed and all were found contaminated with asbestos fibres. Asbestos fibre contamination in these powders ranged from 10.3-15.4%. Fibre length study on two samples revealed that asbestos fibres were 22.8-34.7%, 48.2-55.1% and 17.1-22.1% in the range of <10µm, 10-20µm, and > 20µm, respectively.
The study indicates risk of human exposure to asbestos through the use of naturally contaminated talcum powder. It is noteworthy that asbestos takes many years to cause asbestosis and carcinogenic malignancies which are irreversible. It also necessitates a regular monitoring and surveillance on all the cosmetic and pharmaceutical powders being marketed for asbestos contamination.

This has been published in the Annual Report Annual Report 2005-2006 of IITR. IITR is accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) for chemical and biological testing and is recognized for GLP (Good Laboratory Practice) toxicity testing. The investigation by Reuters corroborates the findings of IITR.

This recent investigation was undertaken in the wake of three verdicts in New Jersey, California and St Louis awarding compensation to plaintiffs who blamed asbestos-tainted J&J 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 perennial antiperspirant and deodorant. The inclusion of ovarian cancer besides mesothelioma has broadened the potential liability of J&J, a 132 year old multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturing company headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.

Earlier, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an article titled “Jury awards $4.7bn damages against Johnson & Johnson in talcum cancer case”. As per BMJ’s article:
“More than 9000 former US talcum customers have lodged suits against the company. Most claim damages for ovarian cancer, but some allege that using the product led them to develop mesothelioma. The award is by far the biggest yet against Johnson and Johnson in litigation relating to talcum powder and the first case in which plaintiffs alleged that asbestos in talcum powder caused their disease. The verdict was handed down in the Circuit Court of the City of St Louis.”

This investigative report is of deep relevance for the public health of present and future generation of Indians given the fact that J&J company has admittedly been in India for last 70 years. The company has brought many products in consumer healthcare, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

In 1947, J&J expanded into India, marketing Johnson’s Baby Powder. In September 1957, J&J incorporated as a legal entity in India. The production in its first manufacturing facility began in 1959 at the J&J India plant in Mulund, Mumbai, for Johnson’s Baby Powder and other specialized products. In 1968, the company introduces the Stayfree brand to India. A situation emerged wherein J&J reached almost every household in India.

The Reuters investigative report refers to the findings of Dr Irving J Selikoff who had conclusively established a link between the inhalation of asbestos particles and lung-related ailments in the 1960s itself that paved the way for ban on asbestos of all kinds in some 60 countries. Dr. Selikoff was the director of the Environmental and Occupational Health Division of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. It is significant that Ms Lisa Girion of Reuters has shared the official documents on the basis of which she has made these startling claims in her investigative report.

In a Terms of Reference dated October 25, 2010 issued by tje Union Environment & Forests Ministry for a proposed asbestos cement sheet and accessories manufacturing unit of 1,80,000 Tonnes Per Annum capacity at Narsimharaopalem Village, Veerulupadu Tehsil, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh by M/s Sahyadri Industries Limited made reference to "talc and chrysotile”.

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

The investigation by Reuters reveals that “Johnson & Johnson developed a strategy in the 1970s to deal with a growing volume of research showing that talc miners had elevated rates of lung disease and cancer: Promote the positive, challenge the negative." That approach was summed up by a J&J applied research director in a “strictly confidential” March 3, 1975, memo to managers of the baby products division, which used the talc in J&J’s signature Baby Powder.

Its approach reads: “Our current posture with respect to the sponsorship of talc safety studies has been to initiate studies only as dictated by confrontation... This philosophy, so far, has allowed us to neutralize or hold in check data already generated by investigators who question the safety of talc.” It reveals that scientific ghostwriters have been hired for long to hide evidence of “cancer concern associated with exposure to talc.”
Based on an Italian study, one such ghost authored article that appeared in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, in 1976 found no mesothelioma, the signature cancer of asbestos exposure. 

The Italian study in question has been updated three times – in 1979, 2003 and 2017 – “confirming the lack of association between exposure to asbestos-free talc, lung cancer and mesothelioma.” The investigative underlines that J&J got a lot of mileage out of the study. It was cited in a review article titled “The Biology of Talc,” published November 1, 1976, in the BJIM.

In addition to dozens of published studies, the review cited unpublished research, including one experiment that used a doll as a proxy for infants and that supported the company’s position on the safety of talc. It didn’t disclose that J&J had commissioned the unpublished research. The author of the review article concluded that the “concern that has been expressed about the possible health hazard from consumer exposure to cosmetic talc is unwarranted … There is no evidence that its normal use poses a hazard to health.”

The author was Hildick-Smith, the J&J physician executive who had overseen the Italian study and played a key role in the company’s talc safety research. The article did not disclose his J&J connection, identifying him only as a Rutgers University Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.
In a related event, I was a panelist at a Round Table Conference on Issues Related to Asbestos Use in India held at India International Centre, New Delhi on December 21, 2009, wherein Dr Iqbal Ahmad, a scientist from IITR, Lucknow, said that there are many different sources of asbestos exposures which need to be looked at. He identified talc (powder) as a major source which has asbestos contamination and exposes a large section of population, especially children and women. Talc is used in several industries as raw material. 

He said that we do have numbers of talc based cosmetic powders in India. China is the largest producer of talc. Some 47 companies which used to procure Chinese talc powder had to withdraw their product from market in South Korea due to high asbestos contamination. 

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

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

Instead of waiting for the Johnson and Johnson to withdraw its asbestos-laden talcum powder products, both baby powder and adult powder, Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry too must ban it. ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) has been pursuing its complaint in the National Human Rights Commission since 2018 in this regard. Drugs Controller of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has informed TWA that use of asbestos in cosmetics is prohibited in India. NHRC ought to recommend to the central government and state governments to prevent preventable diseases and deaths by banning these products with immediate effect. Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) has been working for asbestos free India to ensure environmental and occupational health justice since 2000.

Gopal Krishna
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)

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Google translation of news report from Congo is as under: 

 

Cosmetics - Congo suspends import of Johnson baby powder


By Fiacre Kombo

 

Sold on shelves in the Republic of Congo, the product of the American brand Johnson & Johnson would contain potentially carcinogenic substances. After several weeks of consultation with civil society, the Ministry of Commerce has decided to suspend the importation and marketing of this powder in the country.

 

Authorities have suspended Johnson's baby powder pending the results of commissioned laboratory analyzes. “Johnson's baby powder brand talcum powder, J&J acronym, is said to be contaminated with asbestos. The importation and marketing of this product are suspended until further notice. Protective seizures of the said product will be made from all distribution establishments, in depots and stores,” specifies a circular note dated 3 November.

 

The decision of the public authorities is a first victory for the Action for the Environment and Development (AED), at the initiative of an information meeting for civil society on 13 November in Brazzaville. For the president of the AED, Dr. Eugène Loubaki, the toxicity of this product is beyond doubt due to the proven presence of talc contaminated with asbestos, a kind of highly toxic magnesia or calcium with refractory properties.

 

It should be noted that the AED platform is a member of the International Network for the Elimination of Pollutants (IPEN), which campaigns for the elimination of pollutants such as lead in paints, mercury in the environment, endocrine disruptors, etc. Following the ban on the same powder in the USA and Canada, IPEN asked the AED to lead the battle for the withdrawal of the cosmetic product in Congo. "It is not the brand that is targeted by our actions, but rather talc-based baby powder which is potentially carcinogenic since the company has a variety of other products on the market", assured Eugène Loubaki.

 

According to this chemist, the withdrawal of baby powder solves a public health problem. Much like other civil society organizations, ACN calls on governments to toughen up, for example destroying existing stocks in order to protect consumers from serious health risks. The association intends to conduct awareness-raising and advocacy to further challenge the Congolese authorities, traders and consumer associations.

 

Since March of this year, the American brand has been the subject of more than 20,000 lawsuits related to its talc-based baby powder. In the USA, approximately 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer and 14,000 cancer deaths are recorded each year. A recent study indicates that African American women, who use it because of its affordability, are the most affected.


http://www.adiac-congo.com/content/cosmetique-le-congo-suspend-limportation-de-la-poudre-pour-bebe-johnson-baby-powder-121634

Monday, November 2, 2020

Rs 10 million political donation of Visakha asbestos company seized in Telangana town headed for by-election

 Asbestos products manufacturing industry in India survives because of such donations to ruling parties. Visakha Industries Ltd is part of the cartel that is not allowing govts to ban killer asbestos mineral which has been banned in over 70 countries. G. Vivek reportedly owns V6 TV channel . Visakha Industries Ltd is one of the 18 members of a cartel-Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (ACPMA). ACPMA has remained part of International Chrysotile Association (ICA), which has been found promoting the killer mineral fiber during covid-19 pandemic for “water and sanitation infrastructures”. Visakha Industries Ltd had filed a defamation case against Google and Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) to silence the voice of public health justice through its Strategic Litigation Against Public Persons (SLAPP) case.


1 Crore Seized From Car In Telangana Town Headed For By-Election
Hyderabad: 

Two people have been detained and ₹ 1 crore has been seized while being transported illegally allegedly for use in the Dubbak bypoll in Telangana, scheduled on Tuesday. The accused includes Surabhi Srinivas Rao, brother-in-law of the BJP candidate M Raghunandan Rao.

The Commissioner's Task Force, North Zone team along with Begumpet Police, busted the "illegal transport" of ₹ 1 crore near Begumpet flyover. Sources said the money being taken in a Toyota Innova was allegedly to be distributed to voters.

The two accused are businessman Surabhi Srinivas Rao, 47, and T Ravi Kumar, 33, the driver of the SUV.

The seized currency notes are of denominations ₹ 500 and ₹ 2,000.

"The (seized) mobile phones have revealed a lot of information that directly links the cash seized to the BJP candidate in Dubbaka," Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said.

The accused Surabhi Srinivas Rao lives in Hyderabad, and runs a "technical manpower supply business" called A to Z Solutions Ltd.

Investigators said the money was collected by Surabhi Srinivas Rao from Vishaka Industries' office in at Begumpet, Secunderabad in order to deliver at Dubbaka for distribution to voters.

A manager of Vishaka Industries, owned by G Vivek Venkata Swamy, the former MP of Peddapally, allegedly handed over the cash to him to transport from Hyderabad to Dubbaka. The seized property and the accused have been handed over to Begumpet police station for further investigation.

There have been at least five instances of unaccounted cash seized in the last 10 days, allegedly linked to the bypolls.

https://www.ndtv.com/telangana-news/rs-23-crore-seized-from-car-in-telangana-town-headed-for-by-election-2319080?pfrom=home-topscroll

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Bihar Pollution Control Board yet to order decontamination of asbestos factory site

Now that Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) has cancelled the No Objection Certificate given to the asbestos factory unit of Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd in Giddha, Koelwar block, Bhojpur, Bihar is all set to be free of asbestos based factories. Sources have revealed that loans raised in the name of setting up the hazardous factory in question have been diverted to set up a unit Sri Lanka. The veracity of such claims merit separate probe by concerned agencies. 

Notably, Pollution Control Board's action is consistent with the ban in more than 70 countries. These countries have banned production, use, manufacture and trade of the hazardous mineral fiber, asbestos. These countries include: Nepal, Algeria, Czech Republic, Iceland, Malta, Seychelles, Argentina, Denmark, Ireland, Mozambique, Slovakia, Australia, Egypt, Israel, Netherlands, Slovenia, Austria, Estonia, Italy, New Caledonia, South Africa, Bahrain, Finland, Japan, Norway, Spain, Belgium, France, Jordan, Oman, Sweden, Brunei, Gabon, South Korea, Poland, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Germany, Kuwait, Portugal, Turkey, Chile, Greece, Latvia, Qatar, United Kingdom, Croatia, Honduras, Lithuania, Romania, Uruguay, Cyprus, Hungary, Luxembourg and Saudi Arabia. 

In such a backdrop, there is a logical compulsion based on scientific and medical evidence including resolutions of WHO and ILO to ban asbestos of all kinds including white chrysotile asbestos to save life and health of Indians. 

WHO’s views are available at: http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/asbestos/en/

Due to incessant efforts of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) and ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) along with Parwaywarn Bachao Jeewan Bachao Sangharsh Samiti and Parywawarn Swasthya Suraksha Samiti pointing out non-compliance with environmental laws, BSPCB has revoked its emission-consent order and discharge consent order which was valid till 31st March, 2018. Chairman, BSPCB has ordered, the company in question, Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd. to “close your industrial unit with immediate effect, failing which complaints shall be filed u/ss. 44 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and 37 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.”   This land allotment was considered to be part of the scam that led to an inquiry into allotments by Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA).

In Bhojpur's Giddha village in Koilwar block, the 100,000 MT Capacity Asbestos Fibre Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet, Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant acquired 15 acres. The plant site is located adjacent to Ara-Koilwar road. 

When it was repeatedly pointed out the violations of the general and specific conditions given the environmental clearance and NOC by the company, BSPCB took its cognizance. It made inquiries and reached the conclusion that this unit as a non-compliant industry. 

Significantly, questions have been raised against these plants in Bihar Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad. Abdul Bari Siddiqui, the leader of opposition has raised the issue of hazardous asbestos factories in Vidhan Sabha.

In another related observation Awadhesh Narain Singh Chairperson, Bihar Legislative Council (BLC) and former labour minister said, “buying asbestos is akin to buying cancer” and “pain of asbestos related diseases is worse than the pain of unemployment.” The speech of Chairman, BLC is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9TbemRUkYM

Given the fact that NOC of almost all the asbestos based factories been cancelled by BSPCB, it should ask Nibhi to decontaminate the site of it's factory in Giddha, Koelwar, Bhojpur pursuant to it's cancellation order. The Board ought to order health survey of villagers who reside in the vicinity, staff and teachers of the adjoining Trident B-Ed College and workers who were employed in the factory. Such measures can help establish the liability of the Nibhi and just compensation which ought to be awarded to the victims. 

In India, asbestos mining is technically banned and trade in asbestos waste (dust and fibers) is also banned but the process of banning trade, manufacturing and use of white asbestos is held up due to lobbying at the behest of asbestos producing countries.

Government’s apathy towards victims of primary and secondary exposure of killer asbestos mineral fibers shows that in the conflict between naked lust for profit and public health, it is choosing to be complicit with the former. The legacy of callousness towards victims of asbestos related diseases refuses to learn lessons from the epidemic of such diseases world over due to past usage of asbestos. Asbestos related diseases have a long incubation period ranging from 5-50 years.    

In a message to BANI, Prof. Colin L. Soskolne, University of Alberta, Canada Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health, University of Canberra, Australia Fellow, American College of Epidemiology and Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini pointed out that asbestos related diseases have a long incubation period ranging from "5 - 50" years" which has serious implications. 

 Union Environment Ministry’s Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health reads, "Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out" but the Experts Appraisal Committee of this very ministry continues to give environmental clearance to such hazardous industries. This is notwithstanding the fact that "The Government of India is considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure," as announced in a concept paper by the Ministry of Labour. Both these documents are available on central government’s website but struggle to make Indians safe from deadly exposure of asbestos fibers continues in the face of misinformation campaign of the killer industry.

Health being a State subject under the Constitution, Bihar ought to take a lead by banning asbestos procurement and use in the state to pave the way for other state governments and the central government to follow.

Responding to anti-asbestos struggle Bihar Chief Minister assured the state assembly in July 2019 that he will puncture this industry and will not allow setting up of such toxic factories in the state but the task of decontaminating asbestos laden factory site like one in Giddha, building, preparing a I'm register of victims of asbestos related diseases, creating an inventory of asbestos based products and announcing a compensation fund for victims of fatal diseases remains to be undertaken. It has reliably been learnt that the preliminary work of identifying victims have begun in a well known cancer hospital in Patna.       

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)  has been pursuing the campaign for a nation-wide for more than a decade to save present and future generation from asbestos related diseases. It's effort is aimed at environmental and occupational health justice in compliance with Supreme Court's verdict dated, 27 January, 1995 in CERC v Union of India. 

 FOR DETAILS: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), E: krishnagreen@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

PUBLIC STATEMENT: Fake claims of International Chrysotile Association, chrysotile asbestos lobby amidst pandemic condemned

BANI condemns fake claims of global chrysotile asbestos lobby amidst pandemic 

Notwithstanding World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Outline for the Development of National Programmes for Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases, pretending amnesia about the verdict of WTO’s Appellate Body, feigning ignorance about World Bank’s Good Practice Note on Asbestos Occupational and Community Health Issues and unmindful of ban on asbestos in over 70 countries, International Chrysotile Association (ICA), a notorious lobby group of hazardous asbestos industry has unleashed an unethical, immoral, unscientific and anti-people propaganda to take advantage of the Covid-19 disaster by claiming that white Chrysotile asbestos “can be used in a safe and responsible way, both in terms of workers’ health and the environment” for “water and sanitation infrastructures”. Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) condemns ICA’s misleading claims amidst pandemic in an unpardonable act of fishing in the troubled waters. 

Exposé of the International Chrysotile Association reveals that members of the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association of India (ACPMA) has been among the directors of ICA. ICA’s shameful conduct during the pandemic creates a compelling logic for end of immunity that protects asbestos industry and its lobby groups like ICA and ACPMA. Indeed, ICA indulges in the same “deadly deception for which the two Eternit asbestos executives have been sentenced to prison in Italy and the same deadly deception for which asbestos executives and their political and scientific collaborators are being pursued in France.” 

Asbestos has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by many national and international organizations. World Bank Group (WBG)’s Good Practice Note: Asbestos Occupational and Community Health Issues, states that Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) should be avoided in new construction, including construction for disaster relief. In reconstruction, demolition, and removal of damaged infrastructure, asbestos hazards should be identified and a risk management plan adopted that includes disposal techniques and end-of-life sites. 

It is noteworthy that Asian Development Bank (ADB)'s Technical Report on "India: Preparing the Bihar Urban Development Project—Environmental Impact Assessment for Bhagalpur Water Supply" (2011) states that “Special measures are also developed to protect workers and the public from exposure to carcinogenic asbestos fibers in the event that asbestos cement pipes used in the existing water supply system are uncovered accidentally during excavation work. 

Dealing with Asbestos Cement (AC) Pipes, ADB report states “An additional, particularly acute health risk presented by this subproject derives from the fact that, the existing water supply system may comprises partially AC pipes, so there is a risk of contact with carcinogenic material if these pipes are uncovered in the course of the work. Precautions have already been introduced into the design of the project to avoid this, of which the most important are that: (i) No work is proposed on those parts of the existing system that contains AC pipes (ring, carrier, and distribution mains), and these will be left in-situ undisturbed, so there will be no deliberate excavation of AC pipes; and (ii) The locations of the new network has been planned to avoid all locations of existing AC pipes so these pipes will not be discovered accidentally.” It underlines that claims of ICA and ACPMA are inconsistent with World Bank Group’s concerns about hazards from asbestos cements pipes because it cannot be used in a safe and responsible way, both in terms of workers’ health and the environment” for “water and sanitation infrastructures”. 

Reiterating the same, ADB's Initial Environmental Examination Report of India: Bihar Urban Development Investment Program—Bhagalpur Water Supply Subproject (2016) states that "There are no Asbestos Cement Pipes existing and no such pipes have been proposed in the current investments and so any related hazard from asbestos fibres has been avoided." Clearly, ICA’s sophistry has failed to cut ice with the Bank. 

Asbestos gets introduced into water by the dissolution of asbestos-containing minerals and ores as well as from industrial effluents, atmospheric pollution, and Asbestos Cement pipes in water distribution systems. Exfoliation of asbestos fibres from Asbestos Cement pipes is related to the aggressiveness of the water supply. Erosion of such piping appeared to contribute measurably to the asbestos content of water supplies. Foods that contain soil particles, dust, or dirt probably contain asbestos fibres; crude estimates suggest that the intake of asbestos in food may be significant in comparison with that in drinking-water. The fact remains that the possibility of whatever gets ingested also getting inside human lungs through breathing cannot be ruled out and creates a case for adoption of precautionary principle. 

Indian government has rightly banned mining of all kinds of asbestos and trade in asbestos waste but it is yet to ban import, manufacture and use of white chrysotile asbestos under the deleterious influence of ICA and asbestos promoters like Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Syria, Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, the International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile”, Fiber Cement Product Manufacturer’s Association of India and Asbestos Cement Product Manufacturer’s Association. 

Government must resist their influence to safeguard public health in the light of the findings with regard to carcinogenic white chrysotile asbestos mineral fiber published on National Health Portal (NHP)[1], Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India. 

Under the influence of ICA and asbestos producers, India has disregarded incontrovertible conclusive scientific evidence provided by the WHO pointing out how all forms of asbestos cause cancer in humans. India must disassociate itself from asbestos promoters and adopt the stance of its own National Health Portal with regard to all forms of asbestos including white chrysotile asbestos. The 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, 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.”[2] 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.” 

As per a UN document, chrysotile asbestos is the predominant asbestos fibre consumed today (94% of the world’s production) and is processed into products such as friction materials, asbestos-cement, cement pipe and sheet, gaskets and seals, paper and textiles. The asbestos-cement industry is by far the largest user of chrysotile fibres, accounting for about 85% of all use 

It is a universal fact that exposing human beings to asbestos fibers constitutes violation of human rights by asbestos companies. Government of India has a duty to protect the human rights and public health of present and future generation of Indians by disassociating itself from the seven countries that are promoting white chrysotile asbestos unmindful of its human and environmental cost. 

So far, Government of India has ignored Indian Supreme Court’s verdict of 27 January, 1995 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986. The 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 or it is not absolved of the inherent responsibility to the exposed workmen or the society at large. They have the responsibility legal, moral and social to provide protective measures to the workmen and to the public or all those who are exposed to the harmful consequences of their products. Mere adoption of regulations for the enforcement has no real meaning and efficacy without die professional, industrial and governmental resources and legal and moral determination to implement such regulations.” Rotterdam Convention’s PIC procedure and the recommendations of CRC are consistent with Indian Supreme Court’s verdict and inconsistent with claims of ICA and ACPMA. 

Given the fact that mining of asbestos is rightly banned in India because of its hazardous nature, a member of ACPMA had revealed to the government and the public that the chrysotile type asbestos fiber “will be imported from Brazil[3], Canada and Russia.” It is the only kind that remains to be totally banned in India. Now the fact is that Brazil and Canada have banned asbestos and India has emerged as the biggest consumer of Russian white chrysotile. 

All the central ministries and state governments were supposed to incorporate specific directions of the Court given in its verdict of 27 January 1995 and reiterated on 21 January 2011 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. The Supreme Court has recorded that “whenever asbestos fibres are used for insulation and other purposes, the possibility of asbestosis among workers due to inhalation of asbestos fibres cannot be ruled out”[4]. It noted that these materials are highly dangerous to human health, if inhaled or if contacted with skin surface. 

Admittedly, 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)”[5]. 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”[6]

Notably, 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”[7] (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….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”. 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. 

So far governments have ignored the fact that the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods classifies Chrysotile Asbestos in Hazard Class and Packing Group. Its International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code is UN No: 2590: Class or division 9. 

Meanwhile, current phasing out of asbestos roofs from some 8000 railway stations across the country is significant. Taking note of hazards from asbestos of all kinds, rules have been framed in Maharashtra state as a step to make the state free of asbestos. It is also significant that bitter protests of villagers led to the cancellation of asbestos based factories in Bhojpur, Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, West Champaran and Madhubani in Bihar. 

While there has been failure in listing of white chrysotile asbestos in the UN list of hazardous chemicals, the fact remains nothing stops Government of India to comply with Supreme Court’s verdict of 27th January, 1995 by adopting ILO resolution of 2006 which seeks elimination of all kinds of asbestos for the protection of human health and demonstrating that vested interest like ICA and ACPMA cannot dictate its public health policy with regard to such carcinogenic mineral fibers. 

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

*Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) is a research and advocacy forum which has been working for freedom from asbestos related diseases and environmental and occupational health justice since 2000. 

------------------------------------------------------
[1] Asbestos-related diseases, National Health Portal, Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/non-communicable-disease/asbestos-related-diseases

[2] Asbestos-related diseases, National Health Portal, Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/non-communicable-disease/asbestos-related-diseases

[3] Casado, Leticia (2017) Brazilian Supreme Court Bans Use of Asbestos in Brazil 
November 30, Brasilia, https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/internacional/en/business/2017/11/1939473-brazilian-supreme-court-bans-use-of-asbestos-in-brazil.shtml 9 

[4] (2005), Order of Supreme Court, Writ Petition (Civil) No.79 of 2005 

[5] Asbestos-related diseases, National Health Portal, Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/non-communicable-disease/asbestos-related-diseases

[6] Asbestos-related diseases, National Health Portal, Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/non-communicable-disease/asbestos-related-diseases

[7] Asbestos Related Diseases, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Press Information Bureau 
Government of India, 21 February, 2014, http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=104105

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Letter to Chief Minister, West Bengal seeking stoppage of carcinogenic asbestos cement roofs for shelter amidst Amphan, Covid-19 pandemic


To

Hon'ble Chief Minister
Government of West Bengal
Kolkata

June 4, 2020

Subject- Request for stoppage of use of carcinogenic asbestos cement roofs for shelter amidst Amphan and Covid-19 pandemic 

Madam,

With reference to the disturbing news about doubling of prices of hazardous asbestos cement roofs for rebuilding houses, we wish to draw your attention towards the fact that as per World Health Organisation (WHO),all kinds of  asbestos are a health hazard. It is banned in some 70 countries, Unmindful of this, it continues to be manufactured and used amidst Amphan and  Covid-19 pandemic. The report states “Each 8×3 asbestos sheet cost Rs 530 earlier but is selling for Rs 650". The use asbestos sheets is an invitation to incurable deadly diseases because “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.”

(Reference: WHO, https://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/asbestos/en/,

Covid, cyclone, lockdown: All lines blur in Sundarbans, Indian Express, Kakdwip, Namkhana, West Bengal, May 31, 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/india/cyclone-amphan-sunderbans-west-bengal-6435093/).

In this regard WHO's Outline for the Development of National Programmes for Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases merits your attention because it makes a case for stopping all asbestos based products to prevent the imminent public health crisis. It states "Exposure to asbestos causes a range of diseases, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), as well as pleural plaques, thickening and effusions. There is also evidence that it causes laryngeal and possibly some other cancers.." (Reference: https://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/elim_asbestos_doc_en.pdf?ua=1) The Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) of Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change is also relevant. It reads: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out”.

(Reference: http://moef.gov.in/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/visenvhealth.pdf)

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)

In Ashis Mitra - Versus - The State of West Bengal & Others Calcutta High Court, 2017 Order in Writ Petition (Civil). No. 14729 (W) of 2016, 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.” The order dated  July 21, 2017 is attached.

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 is to draw your kind attention towards a serious unprecedented environmental and occupational health crisis with regard to the unnoticed epidemic of asbestos related diseases in West Bengal in particular and in our country in general.

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 the verdict 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.”

We submit that prior to this when you were the Hon’ble Union Railway Minister the ministry had ordered removal of asbestos roofs from all railway buildings. It is noteworthy that the ministry has invited offers for “Procurement of Non-Asbestos “K” Type Composition Brake Blocks”. The offer has been issued by Director, Railway Stores (W) or and on behalf of Hon’ble President of India.

In a related development, in January 2020, the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has said that no building, including madrasas, religious schools, and tutorials, in which children study should have an asbestos roof. In case any such building has an asbestos roof, the Local Self-government Department should not issue licence or building number to them, and should initiate action against them under the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act and the Kerala Municipalities Act. The commission order said asbestos was not conductive to the children’s health or comfortable environment in which they could study.It should not be used for school buildings and should be replaced urgently. (Reference: No asbestos roof for places where children study: panel, The Hindu, Thiruvanathapuram, January 04, 2020 https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/no-asbestos-roof-for-places-where-children-study-panel/article30473820.ece)

It is germane to take note of the recommendations of Kerala Human Rights Commission dated January 31, 2009. It made the following recommendations: a) The State Government will replace asbestos roofs of all school buildings under its control with country tiles in a phased manner. b) The Government will take steps to see that the schools run under the private management also replace the asbestos roofs with country tiles by fixing a time frame. c) The Government should see that in future no new school is allowed to commence its functions with asbestos roofs.

We wish to draw your attention towards the recommendations of National Human Rights Commission in Case No: 693/30/97-98. Case No.693/30/97-98). The Commission recommended steps to "Replace the asbestos sheets roofing with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful to inmates."

We submit that in a reply dated July 5, 2012 Deputy Secretary, Labour Department, Government of West Bengal has enclosed the reply dated May 30, 2012 of R C Dutta, Director/Chief Inspector of Factories, Government of West Bengal wherein he status of asbestos factories its adverse impact in the State has been submitted.  In the submission it is reported that there are 4 units in the district of Paschim Medinipur (1) UAL Bengal (Prop. Utakal Asbestos) Village. Tungadhowa, Guptamani-Kultikiri Road (2) Ramco Industries Ltd., Village. Dewanmaro Ayma, P.O. Hariatara, (3) Neelachal Natural Resources Pvt Ltd., P.O. Manickpara and (4) Visaka Industries Vill., Chang sole, P.O. Saiyadpur. It reveals that “Six persons of UAL Bengal (Prop. Utakal Asbestos) having some respiratory ailments, diagnosed as suffering from Pulmonary Koch’s were treated and subsequently fit to join work in the non-dust area.” He discloses that in the Everest Industries Ltd., 1, Taratala Road, P.O. Garden Reach in the District of Kolkata “One person having some abnormality in X-Ray Chest, diagnosed as fibrotic lung disease (?) were made unfit and alternate placement facilities were provided.”  It has reported in the submission that the operation of Unit Sarbamangala Industries, 34 B, B.T. Road, Kolkata-700002 is closed for last two years. Its management has been asked to maintain the health records of the workers. It is reported that Mahendra Tubes Ltd. NH-31, Birpara Gairkata Road, Vill. P.O. Sakuajhara, Dist. Jalpaiguri is in irregular operation and the workers are not fixed and permanent. Its management has been asked to maintain the health records of the workers. With reference to J.D Jones Ltd. Howrah, it has been reported that at present it is having no process/work involved in asbestos handing. Its management has been asked to maintain the health records of the workers. The reply submits that “No case of compensation has been reported in the above units though alternate facility has been recommended for few workers in some units on medical ground”. We submit that this reply appears to constitute a blatant case of adoption of Ostrich policy the State Government in 2012. It is refusing to admit to emergence of asbestos related diseases in these factory units of the State.

We submit that the government agencies like Directorate General, Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) took note of Prevalence of Asbestosis and Related Disorders in a Asbestos Fiber Processing Unit in West Bengal as early as in 1996. Reference: Prevalence of Asbestosis and Related Disorders in a Asbestos Fiber Processing Unit in West Bengal, http://www.dgfasli.nic.in/newsletter/jan_march_96.pdf

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 like3/2 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 there is hardly any building in West Bengal which is asbestos free. It is high time efforts are initiated to decontaminate asbestos laden public and private buildings.

We submit that taking lessons from the industrial disaster of Bhopal, asbestos industry in Bengal should be 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. Meanwhile, on 24 August, 2017, Constitutional Supreme Court of Brazil decided that the use of all kinds of asbestos is unconstitutional. The President of the Brazilian Supreme Court observed, “In concern of the environment, if any doubts, it must be prohibited so that the rights for us today and tomorrow won’t be lost for the ones that come after us”. It is significant because Brazil is one of the key suppliers of asbestos besides Russia, Kazakhstan and China.

We also 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 unlike India, Russia, Kazakhstan and China, Japan has banned asbestos of all kinds of asbestos including white chrysotile asbestos. Nepal has become the first country in South Asia which has banned asbestos. Sri Lanka too had banned it but because of blackmail by Russia, it had to rescind its ban. It is relevant to recall that Indian Navy officials had rightly objected to presence of asbestos in Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov which was inducted into the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya after asbestos decontamination.

During Emergency, the ruling party and its acolytes had proposed to put opposition leaders in jails which had asbestos roofs. It is recorded in the report of Judicial Inquiry Commission headed by Justice J. C. Shah. 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”.

We submit that the industry must be persuaded to phase out in two phases in West Bengal. In the first phase the goal must be to eliminate use of chrysotile asbestos and record the number of exposed workers and consumers in the country. In the second phase, the goal must be 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 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.

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 WHO 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 West Bengal 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 but health being a state subject, your government can act to safeguard the life of present and future generations by stopping it. All the groups working on human rights, labour rights, health rights and environmental justice will appreciate if you can intervene urgently in the matter of chrysotile asbestos as Kerala government acted in the case of Endosufan. Health is a state subject. In such a backdrop, government must stop manufacturing, procurement and use of all forms of asbestos including white asbestos.

In view of the above, we request you ensure that use of asbestos-cement roofs and other asbestos based products are prohibited to prevent preventable diseases and deaths.  It is your solemn duty to protect the residents of West Bengal from the exposure of fibers of chrysotile asbestos.

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

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Occupational Health India (OHI)
E-mail:krishnaruhani@gmail.com
Web:www.toxicswatch.org



Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Doublespeak & Double Standards of Johnson & Johnson endangers life of Indians



To

Chairman
National Human Rights Commission
Manav Adhikar Bhawan
Block-C, GPO Complex, INA,
New Delhi – 110023

Date: May 26, 2020

Subject- Doublespeak and Double Standards of Johnson & Johnson causeo f ongoing exposure of Indians to hazardous asbestos mineral fibers
contaminated Talcum Powder

Sir,

This is to draw your immediate attention towards the announcement
dated May 19, 2020 by Johnson & Johnson, a multinational company
headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA stating that it will
discontinue sale of its Talcum Powder products in North America. This
announcement is aimed at safeguarding the health and human rights ofr esidents and citizens of North America but not the residents andc itizens of India. Such doublespeak and double standard in matters ofp ublic health in general and children’s health in particular merits urgent intervention of the Commission. (Reference: Statement of
Johnson & Johnson, May 19, 2020,
https://www.jnj.com/our-company/johnson-johnson-consumer-health-announces-discontinuation-of-talc-based-johnsons-baby-powder-in-u-s-and-canada)

We wish to point out that “the Company will wind down the
commercialization of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in the U.S. anda Canada in the coming months. Existing inventory will continue to be
sold through retailers until it runs out.” The news report titled
Johnson & Johnson to End Talc-Based Baby Powder Sales in North America
published in The New York Times merits attention as well. (Reference:
Tiffany Hsu and Roni Caryn Rabin, May 19, 2020,
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/19/business/johnson-baby-powder-sales-stopped.html).

We submit that Word Health Organisation (WHO)’s International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) has recognized presence of asbestos int alcum 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)

We submit that the Commission. must recommend 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.

Earlier, an investigative report titled “Johnson & Johnson knew for
decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder” was published on
December, 14, 2018 which too is relevant for protecting the human
rights of Indians. The investigation was conducted by Reuters, a 167
year old international news agency headquartered in London. This
investigative report is consistent with the findings of a study by
India’s Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (IITR), Lucknow, a
constituent laboratory of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research
(CSIR), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India on
“Exposure risk to contaminants in pharmaceutical and cosmetic powders” has found that “There are different types of cosmetic powders such asb ody powder, baby powder, face powder, eye shadow and powdered blush as well as pharmaceutical powders available in the market. Both thes exes 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%,4 8.2 – 55.1% and 17.1 – 22.1% in the range of <10 10="" 20="" and="" m="">20 µm, respectively. The study indicates risk of human exposure to
asbestos through the use of naturally contaminated talcum powder. It
is noteworthy that asbestos takes many years to cause asbestosis and
carcinogenic malignancies which are irreversible. It also necessitates
a regular monitoring and surveillance on all the cosmetic and
pharmaceutical powders being marketed for asbestos contamination.”
This has been published in the Annual Report Annual Report 2005-2006 of IITR. IITR is accredited by National Accreditation Board for
Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) for chemical and
biological testing and is recognized for GLP (Good Laboratory
Practice) toxicity testing. (Reference:
http://www.itrcindia.org/ITRC_Annual_Report_2005-06.pdf )

The investigation by Reuters corroborates the findings of IITR. This
recent investigation was undertaken in the wake of three verdicts in
New Jersey, California and St. Louis awarding compensation to
plaintiffs who blamed asbestos-tainted Johnson & Johnson talc products for their mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs. The
connection between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma was discovered in the 1970s. The third verdict was a watershed in in St. Louis: The 22 plaintiffs were the first to succeed with a claim that
asbestos-tainted Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc, a longtime
brand the company sold in 2012 that caused ovarian cancer, which is
much more common than mesothelioma. The jury awarded them $4.69 billion in damages. Most of the talc cases have been brought by women with ovarian cancer who say they regularly used Johnson and Johnson talc products as a perineal antiperspirant and deodorant. The
inclusion of ovarian cancer besides mesothelioma has broadened the
potential liability of Johnson & Johnson, a 132 year old multinational
medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods
manufacturing company headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.

Earlier, British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an article titled
“Jury awards $4.7bn damages against Johnson & Johnson in talcum cancer
case” published in the renowned British Medical Journal (BMJ). As per
BMJ’s article, “More than 9000 former US talcum customers have lodged
suits against the company. Most claim damages for ovarian cancer, but
some allege that using the product led them to develop mesothelioma.
The award is by far the biggest yet against Johnson and Johnson in
litigation relating to talcum powder and the first case in which
plaintiffs alleged that asbestos in talcum powder caused their
disease. The verdict was handed down in the Circuit Court of the City
of St. Louis. ((Reference: BMJ 2018; 362 doi:
https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k3135)

We reiterate that this investigative report 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 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 introduces the Stayfree brand to India. A situation emerged
wherein Johnson & Johnson reached almost every household in India.

The Reuters investigative report refers to the findings of Dr. Irving
J. Selikoff who had conclusively established a link between the
inhalation of asbestos particles and lung-related ailments in the
1960s itself that paved the way for ban on asbestos of all kinds in
some 60 countries. Dr. Selikoff was the director of the Environmental
and Occupational Health Division of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
It is significant that Ms Lisa Girion of Reuters has shared the
official documents on the basis of which she has made these startling
claims in her investigative report.

(Reference: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/johnsonandjohnson-cancer/)

We wish to reiterate that in a Terms of Reference dated October 25,
2010 issued by Union Environment & Forests Ministry for a proposed
Asbestos cement sheet and accessories manufacturing unit of 1,80,000 Tonnes Per Annum capacity at Narsimharaopalem Village, Veerulupadu Tehsil, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh by M/s Sahyadri Industries Limited made reference to "talc and chrysotile”.

Prior to the Reuters report, a 2014 paper published in the
International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health titled
"Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of
mesothelioma in women" by Ronald E Gordon et al concluded "we found
that a specific brand of talcum powder contained identifiable asbestos fibers with the potential to be released into the air and inhaled
during normal personal talcum powder application. We also found that asbestos fibers consistent with those found in the same cosmetic talc
product were present in the lungs and lymph node tissues of a woman
who used this brand of talc powder and developed and died from
mesothelioma. This study was published in October 2014. (Reference:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4164883/)

We submit that the investigation by Reuters reveals that “Johnson &
Johnson developed a strategy in the 1970s to deal with a growing
volume of research showing that talc miners had elevated rates of lung
disease and cancer: Promote the positive, challenge the negative. That
approach was summed up by a J&J applied research director in a
“strictly confidential” March 3, 1975, memo to managers of the baby
products division, which used the talc in J&J’s signature Baby Powder.
Its approach reads: “Our current posture with respect to the
sponsorship of talc safety studies has been to initiate studies only
as dictated by confrontation,” the memo said. “This philosophy, so
far, has allowed us to neutralize or hold in check data already
generated by investigators who question the safety of talc.” It
reveals that scientific ghostwriters have been hired for long to hide
evidence of “cancer concern associated with exposure to talc.” Based on an Italian study, one such ghost authored article that appeared in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, in 1976 found no mesothelioma, the signature cancer of asbestos exposure. The Italian study in question has been updated three times – in 1979, 2003
and 2017 – “confirming the lack of association between exposure to
asbestos-free talc, lung cancer and mesothelioma.” The investigative
underlines that Johnson & Johnson got a lot of mileage out of the
study. It was cited in a review article titled “The Biology of Talc,”
published Nov. 1, 1976, in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine.

(Reference: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/77df/7030e57e91ee73c8e313d6b54e0ea0b7c498.pdf)

In addition to dozens of published studies, the review cited
unpublished research, including one experiment that used a doll as a
proxy for infants and that supported the company’s position on the
safety of talc. It didn’t disclose that Johnson & Johnson had
commissioned the unpublished research. The author of the review
article concluded that the “concern that has been expressed about the
possible health hazard from consumer exposure to cosmetic talc is
unwarranted … There is no evidence that its normal use poses a hazard
to health.” The author was Hildick-Smith, the Johnson & Johnson
physician executive who had overseen the Italian study and played a key role in the company’s talc safety research. The article did not
disclose his Johnson & Johnson connection, identifying him only as a
Rutgers University Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

In a related event, I was a panelist at a Round Table Conference on
Issues Related to Asbestos Use in India held at India International
Centre, New Delhi on December 21, 2009, wherein Dr Iqbal Ahmad, a
scientist from IITR, Lucknow said that there are many different
sources of asbestos exposures which need to be looked at. He identified talc (powder) as a major source which has asbestos
contamination and exposes a large section of population, especially
children and women. Talc is used in several industries as raw
material. He said that we do have numbers of talc based cosmetic
powders in India. China is the largest producer of talc. Some 47
companies which used to procure Chinese talc powder had to withdraw
their product from market in South Korea due to high asbestos
contamination.

We submit that Commission’s intervention will be germane in the light of the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) Vs Union of India (1995 AIR 922, 1995 SCC (3) 42) that recognized right to health as part of right to life and had directed central and state governments to revise their law related asbestos in keeping with fresh resolutions of International Labour
Organisation (ILO). ILO’s asbestos related resolution of June 2006 is
relevant in this regard (Reference:
https://www.ilo.org/safework/info/standards-and-instruments/WCMS_108556/lang--en/index.htm. The ILO resolution was followed by a joint publication of WHO and ILO titled "Outline for the Development of National Programmes for Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases" published in December 2007.

It creates a logical compulsion for urgent remedial action.
(Reference: https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/safety-and-health-at-work/resources-library/publications/WCMS_108555/lang--en/index.htm)

In view of the above, we submit that instead of waiting for the coo
withdraw its asbestos-laden talcum powder products-both baby powder
and adult powder, the Commission must consider recommending to the
central government and state governments to prevent preventable
diseases and deaths by banning these products with immediate effect.

Thanking You

Yours faithfully

Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Occupational Health India (OHI)
Mb: 9818089660
E-mail:krishnaruhani@gmail.com
Web:www.toxicswatch.org

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