Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) that works for Asbestos Free India inspired by trade union leader Purnendu Majumadar. Occupational Health India and ToxicsWatch Alliance are its members that includes doctors, researchers and activists. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. It works with trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. For Details: 1715krishna@gmail.com

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Stop promotion of asbestos epidemic

Global Ban on Asbestos containing products only answer

"Research has found that needle-like crystals permanently penetrate the lung tissue when dust-sized particles of asbestos are inhaled. The crystals can eventually cause scarring of the lungs, called asbestosis, and can cause cancer of the lining of the lung, called mesothelioma. Both diseases are incurable and terminal."

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) appreciates the statement of Pat Martin and Libby Davies, Members of Parliament, Canada who have taken Canadian Government to task saying, "We are exporting human misery at a staggering rate.



Canada should be joining the international community to stop the production of asbestos and its export." New Democratic Party (NDP), Canada has called on their government to shut down Canada's asbestos industry and scrap "horrifying" regulations that allow the use of the cancer-causing mineral in children's toys and other products. New Democratic MPs Pat Martin and Libby Davies released test results on December 1, 2007 showing that asbestos is present in a popular new children's toy made in China (CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit). BANI supports the call to ban Chinese asbestos laden toys in particular and all kinds of asbestos in general.

Quite like its Indian counterpart, the Canadian government has fallen prey to "aggressive industry lobbyists" and is keeping its head in the sand about the dangers of asbestos. Ms. Davies said.

"There is no safe level of asbestos," she said. "There's no question that it's a carcinogen. Canada, which exports more than 200,000 tonnes of asbestos each year, should develop a relief program for workers and shut down the industry, she added. Globe and Mail, the Canadian newspaper published has published the results.

In such a context the statement of Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Health Minister is unpardonable. He informed the Lok Sabha saying, "…regarding asbestos, a lot of poor people use it. As regards the issue pertaining to banning of asbestos, as a health issue, the Government certainly has not taken it up. It is an occupational hazard and people working in the asbestos factories are prone to lung cancer, but we are taking the enormity of the usage of asbestos. Mostly, poor people in the villages use it. Hence, I cannot take a decision on this issue." He has succumbed to pressures from asbestos industry comprising of Visaka Industries, Hyderabad Industries Limited, Ramco Industries Limited, Utkal Industries Ltd, Everest Industries Ltd, New Sahyadri Industries Ltd, U P Asbestos Ltd, Tamil Nadu Cements Corporation Limited, Kerala Asbestos Cement pipe Factory Limited, Sturdy Industries Ltd, Shakti Roofings Ltd, Assam Roofing Ltd, A Infrastructure Ltd. and others who have been lobbying with the help of Chrysotile Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association, a corporate body and Asbestos Information Centre, a corporate NGO both are affiliated to multinational asbestos producers through International Chrysotile Association. Dr Ramadoss was responding to a question by

"Asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known and you would have to be insane to put asbestos in children's toys," Martin said. "It would be like putting razor blades in Halloween apples. So what does that say about a government that would allow it?" Martin said new regulations under Canada's Hazardous Materials Act allow asbestos-laden products "used by a child in education or play."

BANI has written to Canadian Tony Clement, the Canadian Health Minister and Canadian newspapers like Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Ottawa Citizen and the Vancouver Sun to ensure that a ban on the use and export of asbestos is announced at the earliest. BANI is one of the co-founders of Ban Asbestos Canada that has been part of ban asbestos campaign in Canada.

It has been argued by CSI kit manufacturers that its product meets all U.S. safety standards, but interestingly it noted that U.S. agencies "don't require asbestos testing and therefore we have never been apprised of any unacceptable levels of asbestos."

The Chinese toys have flooded Indian market. Most recently the fact of toxic Lead in these toys have been proven. This shows that these toys are not tested for any chemical health hazards including asbestos. In any case Indian Commerce and Environment Ministry has been promoting the use of killer asbestos fiber under the guidance of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA. The new asbestos plants in Jaunpur and Raebarely, Uttar Pradesh and at other places shows that CCEA has refused to take cognisance of the incontrovertible evidence of the toll asbestos epidemic is taking across the globe due to past exposure despite its ban in some 45 countries.

Earlier a conference on Canadian Asbestos: A Global Concern in Ottawa on September 12, 13 and 14 2003 culminated in the passing of a resolution seeking ban on all forms of asbestos and the formation of Ban Asbestos Canada.

The Asbestos Institute now renamed as The Chrysotile Institute in Montreal received a total of $54 million from the Federal Government, the Quebec Government and the asbestos industry to promote "the safe use of chrysotile asbestos in Canada and throughout the world between 1984-2001. The conference also called on the Canadian government to withdraw its funding to this institute.

The conference was organised by the Canadian Union of Public Employees OHCOW Clinic, the Sierra Club of Canada, Mining Watch Canada, the New Democratic Party, the White Lung Association (USA) the Society of Occupational and Environmental Health (USA), the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat and the Global Ban Asbestos Movement

Some of the trade unions expressed the hope that if Paul Martin who is likely to become the next Prime Minister of Canada will play a constructive role in getting white asbestos banned. Martin belongs to the Liberal Party. Martin is the Member of Parliament in Montreal, Quebec. He has been a business executive Power Corporation of Canada, in Montreal, and as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canada Steamship Lines.

After the conference Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) submitted a petition to Joe Comartin, member, Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development expressing its appreciation of the conference on Canadian Asbestos: A Global Concern in Ottawa on September 12, 13 and 14 2003 organized with him as the President. The petition sought immediate ban on white asbestos. Some of the Canadian trade unions are quite well informed about the hazards of white asbestos. Those trade unionists who attended the conference endorsed the call for the ban on white asbestos.

BANI endorsed the call given by the conference to the Canadian government to withdraw its funding to The Asbestos Institute which is now renamed as The Chrysotile Institute. This institute has been supporting the Asbestos Information Centre in India and has been very active in promoting asbestos in India.

The myth of so-called ¡°safe use¡± has been shattered by none other than Martin Barratt, Second Secretary (Commercial), Canadian High Commission in India when he admitted that even the Asbestos Information Centre agrees that there are problems with the ¡°safe use¡± of asbestos in the unorganised sector. Mr. Barratt is concerned that if a ruling is passed which states that subjecting a worker to asbestos is a violation of human rights it could have far reaching consequences whether or not it is binding¡±.

In India, workers slice open the bags of Canadian asbestos with knives, then shake the bags into troughs and mix it with cement to make piping. The unprotected workers are completely covered in asbestos dust, and there are absolutely no precautions in place.

Most of the Canadian asbestos is used in the rural India where there is no health infrastructure in place. Each passing day is taking more than hundreds of thousands of workers towards death.

Human biology is the same everywhere, if asbestos of all kinds including white asbestos is cancer causing in over 30 countries how can it be non-hazardous and safe in India. How can asbestos be allowed to cause havoc while waiting for another 30-40 years for more studies to conclude that white asbestos is a carcinogen, says Dr T K Joshi, a fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini, an international body of occupational health experts.

BANI appealed to the Canadian House of Commons through Mr Comartin to eliminate the burden of disease and death and save the India from yet another disaster.

The conference passed a the following resolution which was adopted on September 13, 2003 in Ottawa, Canada:

Canadian Asbestos: A Global Concern

Preamble:

The international epidemic of ill-health and death caused by exposure to asbestos has been raging for decades. As Western countries have sought to control harmful exposures by implementing national prohibitions on the use of asbestos (including amosite, crocidolite and chrysotile), global asbestos producers have targeted consumers in developing countries.

Canada is currently the world’s second biggest chrysotile (white asbestos) exporter, sending this class 1 carcinogen to countries with few, if any, safeguards, where it is used by poorly trained and uninformed workers with little access to medical care or sickness benefits. Although Canadian asbestos stakeholders maintain that chrysotile can be used safely under controlled conditions. Canada exports more than 95% of all the asbestos it produces; critics suggest that the Canadian principle of controlled use is a hypocritical ploy to profit from the export of a substance too hazardous to be used at home. By advocating this double standard, Canadian interests are promoting occupational and environmental racism in consuming countries.

Resolved:

In view of the rising asbestos death toll, delegates to the conference: Canadian Asbestos: A Global Concern urge Canadian Federal and Regional Governments to renounce their backing of the asbestos industry and withdraw financial and political support from the Asbestos Institute, the Montreal-based body which has been orchestrating global pro-chrysotile support since the mid-1980s. Further be it resolved that the Canadian government immediately join in the global ban on the use and importation of asbestos. Be it further resolved that since the Canadian government has played a direct role in maintaining the asbestos industry globally that it must assume responsibility for harm done to workers, their families and their communities where Canadian asbestos has been used. This liability includes providing the necessary financial resources for the health and compensation of asbestos victims and for assisting in the just transition for workers who are employed in industries that utilize Canadian asbestos. Be it further resolved the conference start the process of negotiating for a United Nations agreement for the worldwide ban of asbestos. This agreement would be negotiated in the framework of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

Recommendations:

We wish to make the following recommendations to the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations, the European Union and all national governments:

ASBESTOS BAN: The use of all forms of asbestos should be banned in developed and developing countries; objective information about safer alternatives is needed to counter industry propaganda such as that being spread in India about the virtues of chrysotile by the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association. No virtues of chrysotile can excuse the continuing use of such a hazardous substance. The influence of Canada has been applied to oppose efforts in other countries to ban asbestos. Some authorities in Canada are encouraging the use of asbestos in asphalt mixtures for road repairs to generate sales for the ailing local asbestos industry. In the name of occupational health and public safety, these practices must cease.

MINIMISATION OF RISK: Labelling of asbestos products contained throughout national infrastructures should be mandatory.
National groups of experts and workers with expertise in minimizing exposure to asbestos during maintenance, reconstruction and demolition work should be convened in order to identify approved protocols; these protocols must be enforced.
Research into procedures for disposing of asbestos-contaminated waste is needed. All nations should ratify the Basel Convention which classifies asbestos as dangerous waste.
The ILO and WHO must adopt the recommendations of chrysotile (International Programme on Chemical Safety - Environmental Health Criteria Document 203: Chrysotile Asbestos, 1998) in line with the decision by many countries to ban asbestos.
; be encouraged to update asbestos-related measures such as ILO convention 162 (adopted 1986!) and Chrysotile Criteria 203 in line with the adoption by many countries of asbestos prohibitions.

RAISING AWARENESS: Campaigns for raising awareness of the hazards of asbestos must be carried out amongst the public and exposed sectors of the workforce. Trade unions and NGOs have a pivotal part to play in the education process; medical professionals have an ethical obligation to spread knowledge about these problems.

INFORMATION: Information on safer alternatives and national experiences of implementing non-asbestos technologies should be shared. As asbestos-cement products account for 90% of all the asbestos used, it is of paramount importance to disseminate accurate and independent information on substitute materials. The ILO and WHO should produce and distribute literature on these subjects.

RESEARCH: Funding is urgently needed for the development and implementation of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to asbestos-related diseases.
Commitments to monitor the current burden of asbestos-related diseases, update epidemiological predictions and conduct medical surveillance of exposed populations are urgently needed; the establishment of national mesothelioma registers should be a priority.

COMPENSATION: Laws or procedures for compensating victims, including bystander victims, of asbestos-related diseases must be approved. Governments must take a positive role in providing medical surveillance if this is not done by employers.

JUST TRANSITION: Where the implementation of an asbestos ban displaces workers, a policy of just Transition (in line with the Canadian Labour Congress policy on just transition) should be adopted to safeguard the income, employment and welfare of affected workers and their communities. Plans should be put in place to guarantee a pension to all workers displaced from the Canadian asbestos industry; health care should be provided for them and their families. Former asbestos workers should be permitted to work, should they choose to, while receiving their pensions; their expertise could be put to good effect in decontaminating affected buildings and areas.

CORPORATE RESPONSIBILTY/OPERATIONS OF ASBESTOS MULTINATIONALS: Corporations that engage in the use of asbestos should be liable under both civil and criminal law. The application by multinational companies of double standards in the treatment of workers, consumers and the public in developed and developing countries must be exposed and terminated; multinationals involved in the mining of asbestos and the marketing and use of asbestos products should accept responsibility for compensating asbestos victims and cleaning up contaminated areas.

In many developing countries, multinationals are selling off asbestos interests to ruthless and powerful local entrepreneurs; the ILO and WHO should take up asbestos problems directly with national governments.

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