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

Monday, April 28, 2008

Canadian Trade Unions call for ban asbestos

Building Trades unions urge federal Conservatives, Liberals to support New Democratic Party call for total ban on use and export of deadly asbestos from Canada, citing expected 1,500 BC workers' deaths over next 5 years

VANCOUVER, April 27 /CNW/ - BC's Building Trades unions are urging
Members of Parliament from the federal Conservative, Liberal and Bloc
Quebecois parties to support a New Democratic Party call for a total ban on
the use or export of deadly asbestos mined in Canada.
Mesothelioma and other asbestos exposure illnesses are expected to kill
1,500 BC workers over the next five years, according to medical experts, with
the overwhelming majority from the construction industry, says Wayne Peppard,
Executive Director of the BC and Yukon Territory Building and Construction
Trades Council (BCYT).
The new NDP policy calls on the federal government to adopt a
comprehensive policy on asbestos including the phasing out of its use and
export to other countries, as well as a transition strategy to assist asbestos
miners in Quebec, Peppard said.
"The current Conservative and past Liberal governments have failed to
stop the use and export of deadly asbestos for years and workers here are
already paying a heavy price for their inaction," Peppard said. "We are urging
both parties to join the NDP in supporting the end to the use and export of
asbestos and a fair transition program for the asbestos industry."
Recently released research findings from the UBC School of Environmental
Health indicate over 1,500 BC workers will die from asbestos-related diseases
over the next five years, Peppard said. Construction workers in the piping and
insulation fields are suffering the most fatalities, he said.
Peppard said the federal NDP position backs the Canadian Cancer Society,
the World Health Organization and the Institute National de Sante du Quebec,
which have all confirmed the carcinogenic toxins in asbestos and called for
comprehensive strategies to phase out the use and export of asbestos.
The NDP policy calls for economic development investments in Quebec
communities that have been negatively affected by the asbestos industry
crisis, Peppard said. The plan also calls for testing and the safe removal of
asbestos in residential, commercial, institutional and industrial buildings,
he added.
"Canada is among a very few countries left in the world that have not
ratified the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the United Nations Rotterdam
Convention," Peppard said. "We urge all of the federal parties to support a
total ban on use and export of asbestos before the next meeting by the UN on
the Rotterdam Convention in October."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New mineral policy comes under flak

DH News Service, New Delhi

Five days after the Centre released the National Mineral Policy, green activists are up in arms against the policys stand on use of asbestos.


Environmentalists alleged that the government is not only ignoring the toll asbestos takes on national health, but is also siding with the asbestos industry to promote their interest.

The green lobby has a point because of a controversial study being undertaken by researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad, that seeks to explore the health risks associated with asbestos industry.

But in a clear “conflict of interest” case, the industry is funding almost one-fourth of this study whose findings are crucial to determine if India can resists a proposed global regime for restrictive trade practices in this hazardous material.

The results are likely to be used in a global summit in October where India is expected to lobby hard for a free global trade in asbestos, sources told Deccan Herald.

Globally more than 40 nations have banned the use of white asbestos due to high health risks.

The research was prompted because of a proposal under the Rotterdam Convention to make asbestos trade more restrictive by categorising chrysotile as a hazardous material for which “prior informed consent (PIC)” was required for any trading.

While India, Canada and Ukraine along with a handful of countries are opposing this proposal, other countries are carrying out national studies to find out if the health risks associated with asbestos are manageable.

“Despite the pressure, the minister for mines Sis Ram Ola revealed in the new policy that India continues to use asbestos. The indifference towards occupational and public health is unpardonable,” says a member of Bas Asbestos Network of India.

Left-backed trade unions are also critical of the government for giving a free run to the industry. In a letter to top officials in the ministry of chemicals and fertiliser, the trade unions stated that NIOH study needs to be immediately scrapped as it will seal the fate of millions of workers handling asbestos.

April 15, 2008

Deccan Herald

Asbestos use goes on despite health hazards

New Delhi, April 14
Ignoring the dangerous effects they have on health, amphibole and chrysotile varieties of asbestos continue to be used in India.

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) says the details of the National Mineral Policy announced on April 10 have revealed quite unambiguously that India continues to use both amphibole and chrysotile varieties of asbestos, ignoring the toll it takes on the national health.

Gopal Krishna of the BANI elaborates that exposure to asbestos causes stiffening of lung and has resulted in the deaths of many miners. “Lung cancer has a higher incidence in miners who also smoke, with the chance of developing cancer roughly proportional to the amount smoked. Asbestos-induced cancer is found only rarely in non-smokers. Among the various type of asbestos, chrysotile workers have the lowest incidence of cancer,” he says.

Krishna adds that the mineral policy has made two facts clear. One that ban on asbestos is not in force even though no formal announcement has been made to the effect that the ban has been lifted. Two, it is also clear that ban on amphibole, the most dangerous variety of asbestos, is not correct.

“World over, asbestos-based MNCs are all in bankruptcy proceedings and shifting to other businesses. But India’s mining policy shows how the Indian government has adopted a considered ostrich policy in face of indisputable evidence about the havoc from asbestos consumption. Unmindful of the ongoing global momentum to ban this mineral, asbestos cancer epidemic in India is a story of monumental failure to protect public health,” he adds.

Asbestos is one of the most pervasive environmental hazards in the world, present in more than 3,000 manufactured products. Five to seven per cent of all lung cancers can be attributed to occupational exposures to asbestos. All forms of asbestos, including amphibole and chrysotile varieties, cause variety of health disorders.

Asbestos exposure affects not only asbestos workers but also their families, users of asbestos products, and the public as it is exposed to building materials and asbestos in heating and ventilating systems, Krishna says, quoting a recent paper.

“It is noteworthy that Rajasthan produces asbestos despite repeated statements in Parliament stating that asbestos mining remains banned in India so far.”

The Tribune

Sunday, April 13, 2008

National Mineral Policy callous towards asbestos hazards to public health

Rajasthan taking Jharkhand route to asbestos exposure

The Minister for Mines Sis Ram Ola announced the details of the National Mineral Policy on April 10, 2008 revealing quite unambiguously that India continues to use both Amphibole and Chrysotile varieties of Asbestos ignoring the toll it takes on national health.


(Union Minister for Mines Sis Ram Ola (right) releasing the New Mineral Policy, 2008, along with J. P. Singh, Secretary, Mines, in New Delhi)

World over, asbestos-based multinational corporations are all in bankruptcy proceedings and/or shifting to other businesses but this policy shows how Indian government has adopted a considered Ostrich policy in face of indisputable evidence about the havoc from asbestos consumption. Unmindful of the ongoing to global momentum to ban this mineral, asbestos cancer epidemic in India is a story of monumental failure to protect the public health. The callousness that is manifest in the National Mineral Policy towards occupational and public health is unpardonable.

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) finds such governmental patronage to asbestos mining and manufacturing industry of all ilk quite alarming in view of its obstinate refusal of the government to prevent even preventable cancers from this killer mineral fiber. This tantamounts to policymaking that is manifestly anti-national in character since it illustrates complete disregard for citizen’s health. The government is pretending ignorance about the disturbing developments in countries like France where asbestos had been a "health catastrophe" as it is responsible for an estimated 2,000 deaths annually. In US, the death rate is 10, 000 annually.

Clearly, besides asbestos product manufacturers like 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, and others, the Indian asbestos producers too have successful in their lobbying efforts in face of glaring human cost asbestos consumption in some 50 countries that have banned asbestos.

Asbestos is one of the most pervasive environmental hazards in the world, present in more than 3,000 manufactured products. The asbestos cancer epidemic is largely preventable if the Ministry of Mines & Minerals, Commerce Ministry and Health Ministry act urgently, early and responsibly by acknowledging that in addition to other asbestos related diseases, 5-7% of all lung cancers can be attributed to occupational exposures to asbestos.

All forms of asbestos including amphibole and chrysotile variety cause four health disorders. Asbestosis results in stiffening of the lung, and has resulted in the deaths of many miners. Lung cancer has a higher incidence in miners who also smoke, with the chance of developing cancer roughly proportional to the amount smoked. Asbestos-induced cancer is found only rarely in nonsmokers. Among the various type of asbestos, chrysotile workers have the lowest incidence of cancer. Mesothelioma involves the development of a fatal tumor. The time between diagnosis and original exposure is commonly 30 years or more.

Asbestos is found in two varieties: serpentine asbestos and amphibole asbestos. Approximately 90% of serpentine is the variety chrysotile. While amphibole asbestos includes crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite asbestos, actinole asbestos, and tremolite asbestos.

Among the general population, 70-80% of all mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos. A staggering 18% of all mortalities in crocidolite workers are the result of mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure affects not only asbestos workers but also their families, users of asbestos products, and the public as it is exposed to building materials and asbestos in heating and ventilating systems. In India, where protection of workers and communities is scant or nonexistent, the asbestos cancer epidemic may be even more devastating than it has been in developed countries like US, Europe, Australia, Japan & others. The battle against asbestos is in danger of being lost where the human costs may be greatest, in countries like India that is desperate for industry.

According to a recent paper "Monitoring and identification of airborne asbestos in unorganized sectors, India" (Qamar Rahman et al Volume 68, Chemosphere journal), unorganized asbestos units particularly mills showed unhealthy occupational. In another recent paper in Environmental Health Perspectives, a US journal published by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences notes that besides workers and consumers, “Family members of asbestos workers are at increased risk of malignant mesothelioma.” Dr Qamar Rahman, a senior scientist formerly with ITRC, and Dean, Research & Development, Integral University, Lucknow who did the research says that on the basis of the report and recent studies conducted in the milling units, the ban on asbestos mining should not be lifted. Dr Rahman said in her comments to the central government on a report regarding lifting the ban on asbestos mining.

The Minister of Mines pronounced the revision of royalty rates and dead rent of minerals in the National Mineral Policy. The main highlights of the revised rates with regard to asbestos is that royalty rates for minerals like amphibole asbestos is going to be shifted from tonnage basis system of royalty to ad valorem basis in a business as usual fashion. In choosing to do so it ignores sane suggestions in the same way as it has ignored the plight of victims of white asbestos mines in Roro Hills, Chaibasa, Jharkhand abandoned by Hyderabad Asbestos Cement Products Limited (now known as Hyderabad Industries Limited). It is noteworthy that Rajasthan produces asbestos in the country despite repeated statements in the parliament stating that asbestos mining remains banned in India so far. The asbestos that is mined is processed there in unorganized sectors including milling and manufacturing of asbestos-based products.

BANI condemns the National Mineral Policy that paves the way for lifting the existing ban on asbestos mining by ignoring the views of exposure victims, trade unions and citizen groups besides the informed recommendations of public sector medical experts, and mounting evidence of an asbestos disease epidemic. The rationale to permit asbestos mining is manifestly hollow.


Note: Sadly, the Minister who hails from Rajasthan is taking his native state towards he Jharkhand way by exposing workers and communities to asbestos. Incidentally, the proprietors of CK Birla group of industries that own Hyderabad Industries Limited also hail from Rajasthan. The Minister, Sis Ram Ola represents Jhunjhunu constituency of Rajasthan and is a member of the Indian National Congress.

Friday, April 11, 2008

India still uses Amphibole Asbestos along with Chrysotile

The Minister for Mines Sis Ram Ola April 10, 2008 announced the details of the National Mineral Policy. The Minister also spokes about the revision of royalty rates and dead rent. The main highlights of the revised rates are:-Royalty rates for minerals like amphibole asbestos is going to be shifted from tonnage basis system of royalty to ad valorem basis.

Rajasthan state in India is credited to cater more than 90% of total production of asbestos in this country, of which around 60% is processed there in unorganized sectors including milling and manufacturing of asbestos-based products.

According to a paper "Monitoring and identification of airborne asbestos in unorganized sectors, India" published in Chemosphere journal (Qamar Rahman et al Volume 68, Issue 4, June 2007), Unorganized asbestos units particularly mills showed unhealthy occupational conditions, therefore industrial hygiene study was carried out focusing on the prevalence of asbestos fibres in air at work zone area of asbestos milling units. Fibre levels were in the range of 2.00–5.09 f/cm3 and 4.07–15.60 f/cm3 in unorganized asbestos mills of Rajasthan located at Beawer and Deogarh districts, respectively.

Like asbestos concentration, fibre type and length are also vital factors in the health risk assessment of industrial workers. Phase contrast and polarized light microscopic study of asbestos fibres showed their amphibole nature registering about 90% as tremolite and rest as anthophyllite. Fibre length measured micrometrically were sub-grouped in <10 μm, 11–20 μm, 21–30 μm and >30 μm. About 30–40% fibres belonged to sub-group <10 μm.

The paper concludes that unorganized asbestos mills bear poor industrial unhygienic conditions reflected specifically from their manyfold higher fibre concentrations than the Indian and International standards. Poor industrial unhygienic conditions are attributable to obsolete milling technology, lack of pollution control devices and escape from regulatory control.

Natural asbestos is found in two varieties: serpentine asbestos and amphibole asbestos. Approximately 90% of serpentine is the variety chrysotile, while amphibole asbestos includes crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite asbestos, actinole asbestos, and tremolite asbestos.

Asbestos has been observed to cause four health disorders. Asbestosis results in stiffening of the lung, and has resulted in the deaths of many miners. Lung cancer has a higher incidence in miners who also smoke, with the chance of developing cancer roughly proportional to the amount smoked. Asbestos-induced cancer is found only rarely in nonsmokers. Among the various type of asbestos, chrysotile workers have the lowest incidence of cancer. Mesthelioma involves the development of a fatal tumor. The time between diagnosis and original exposure is commonly 30 years or more. Family members of miners are also at risk. Among the general population, 70-80% of all mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos. A staggering 18% of all mortalities in crocidolite workers are the result of mesothelioma. Benign pleural changes also occur to an extent proportional to exposure, but rarely cause functional impairment.

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