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

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A debate has broken out in the pages of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH) on the corporate influence on occupational health organisation. The original critique of the American College of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) was published in 2007 in this same
journal.

Of interest to Indian readers is a letter on industry's influence on
the Indian Association of Occupational Health. He writes about his
experiences as the scientific committee
chair at a past IAOH conference. The website for the journal is
www.ijoeh.com/index.php/

Given the fact that Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental
Medicine is the official Publication of Indian Association of
Occupational Health (IAOH), it would also be relevant to bring to your
notice the way National Institute of Occupational Health has
compromised its credentials by taking the fiscal support from the
chrysotile asbestos industry to do a study that is to be used at the
upcoming Rotterdam Convention meeting.

The Indian government has traditionally preferred the interests of the
asbestos cement industry, consistently ignoring evidence of its harms.
The report will enable the Indian government to go to Rome in October
2008 and argue in favour of unrestricted trade of white asbestos under
the Rotterdam Convention. India along with Canada and Russia is seen
as the dirtiest player in the international negotiations to bring
white asbestos in the 'prior informed consent' (PIC) list of the
convention, which will require exporting countries to obtain the prior
consent of importing countries.

The study on which the ministry's report is based is partly funded by
the Asbestos Cement Product Manufacturers Association, which paid Rs
16 lakh while the government paid Rs 43.66 lakh. What surprised
occupational safety campaigners is the agency that conducted the
study: the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), which in
the past has come out with studies defending workers' health.

The study's terms of reference reveal the government's intent. Here's
what the ministry's April 2006 letter demanded of NIOH: "The
deliverables will include generation of data which would justify the
safe standards of its usage and the reasons justifying its
non-inclusion/or otherwise in the pic ambit." The minutes of an April
2007 meeting of the ministry's review committee (half of which
comprises asbestos industry representatives) gave NIOH a sharper
focus: "It will specifically indicate as to how technology has made
working conditions better. The same will include relevant photographs
showing protective measures being undertaken." The minutes of the
Review Committee obtained recently through Right to Information Act
dated 19 December, 2006 reads: "The report will be finalised after due
discussions with the asbestos industry." Another meeting minutes dated
18 April, 2007 reports that "...the results of the study which was
underway could not be shared [with public] till the same was
finalised."

On April 18, 2007, the review committee felt the report didn't
adequately address the industry's requirements: "S Ganesan of ICC
(Indian Chemical Council) and NIOH representatives will
redraft/re-word the Kolkata report keeping in view the international
sensitivities." Ganesan's claim for the job: expertise in championing
the pesticide industry in international negotiations.

Clearly, a scientific study that is finalised after discussion with
the corporate interests is grossly conflict of interest ridden and
deserves to be scrapped. It is now time for Indian Journal of
Occupational and Environmental Medicine to take note of it as well.

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