Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) 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, oshindia@yahoo.in

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Canada, India, Pakistan & Russia sacrificing public good

Immoral opposition from Chrysotile asbestos importers like India and Pakistan under the influence of Russia and Canada besides the industry has almost ensured that the killer fiber will not be blacklisted by the UN hazardous chemicals treaty.

Pat Martin, a member of the leftist New Democratic Party, said the Canadian government -- currently run by a conservative minority -- was behind the deadlock as it sought to defend the country's small but politically important asbestos industry.

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) says, Indian position is dictated by Italy born President of ruling Indian National Congress party. She is an avid supporter asbestos industry because her party's senior members own companies that manufacture asbestos products.

More Sacrifices of the Public Good

in the Name of Appeasing Quebec

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A report on "As It Happens": CBC Radio One (08.10.29), from the Rotterdam Conference indicates that Canada has not taken a position on the matter of asbestos.

However, in small workshop sessions leading to the plenary session, Canada has indicated that political decisions are instrumental in this matter. Read: We have to pander to Quebec and the jobs in their asbestos industry which is killing both their own people and which is probably harmful to the people working in the industries using this product in foreign countries.

Note to Stephen Harper: much of Quebec cares not a rat's ass about the Conservatives in particular and Canada in general. In Quebec, it is always about "MOI"!

So, Steve, do the right thing and stop this commerce in death. It won't affect the votes cast for your Party one whit.

There is a role here for the media.

One: Go to those communities in Quebec affected by the asbestos industry. Tell us the stories of those people. Are they actually willing to make a choice of having the highest death rate in Canada from asbestosis in order that those asbestos-related jobs are maintained?

Two: Which countries are buying Quebec/Canadian asbestos? How is this asbestos used in those countries? The workers in the purchasing countries who are working with asbestos, what are the related health effects for these people?

Canadian Doctors say, Stop exporting asbestos
October 29, 2008
Aleck Ostry, Tom Kosatsky, Bruce W. Case

When it comes to discussions of the continued mining, use, or particularly export of chrysotile asbestos – the major form used worldwide and formerly an important Canadian export, now accounting for under ten per cent of world production – it seems that even agreement on principles does not lead to action.

The Post editorial provocatively titled “The case for selling asbestos” (Oct. 22, 2008) agrees with Canadian Medical Association Journal editorialists that chrysotile should be added to the Rotterdam Convention “PIC” list of hazardous substances that can be exported only on condition of an intergovernmental warning. They agree further that an expert-panel report on asbestos risks submitted to Health Canada in March which has been held secret despite calls from the authors, the British Medical Journal, and an editorial in the Annals of Occupational Hygiene “should certainly be allowed” to see the light of day.

Yet somehow, they manage to squeeze out of this a pro-industry position – at least, a position that supports the vestigial remnant of the Canadian chrysotile industry, a small enterprise that is essentially bankrupt and no longer relevant to the Canadian economy. To get things really wrong, they make the breathtaking (pun intended) assertion that “The science is still too immature to apply the precautionary principle to chrysotile asbestos”.

The Precautionary Principle, as proposed in the UN Rio Declaration on Environment and Development of 1992, is described by Environment Canada: “…the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason to postpone decisions when faced with the threat of serious or irreversible harm”. While there is debate over the degree to which chrysotile asbestos causes malignant mesothelioma, there is consensus that it is a cause, given sufficient dose, of asbestos-related lung cancer (which is twice as common as mesothelioma) and asbestosis (irreversible scarring of the lungs). Indeed, compensation has been given to workers for these diseases in every Canadian Province for decades; in Quebec chrysotile asbestos was recognized as a cause of compensable disease in 1946 (noted by Paul Cartier in his Contribution á l'étude de l'amiantose, Arch Mal Prof, 1949). Materials that were proven “toxic” over 60 years ago do not fit the purpose or definition of the “precautionary principle”.

It is quite true that the CMAJ editorialists gloss over the debate about chrysotile and mesothelioma, and even use the seminal 2008 articles referred to by the Post’s editors by Wayne Berman and Kenny Crump in Critical Reviews in Toxicology as evidence for equivalence of risk for fibre types in lung cancer. However, this is accurate: the study shows no significant differences for lung cancer while simultaneously estimating mesothelioma chrysotile risk at at least 200 times less than the other forms of asbestos. In other words, both sets of editorialists cherry-pick their data from the same study, an unfortunate but not unusual habit in the “asbestos debate”.

But is this a reason to encourage export of a proven carcinogen to countries where Canada has absolutely no control over its use? And in so doing to prop up a dying industry with taxpayers’ money, when that money could be used to provide a socially just transition for out-of-work chrysotile miners and millers and their families to jobs which actually exist in reality rather than simply as a possibility?

Canadian scientists and Canadian health bodies are certainly not in doubt about this; the Canadian Association for Research on Work and Health (CARWH) called in May of 2005 for “…the federal government to cease its support for the asbestos industry and ban the mining, production and use, as well as, the export of asbestos; (and) upon the federal and provincial Quebec government to provide the necessary financial and logistic support for an economically just transition and environmental remediation for the asbestos mining communities”.

They were joined by the Canadian Cancer Society recently whose public position is in part directly relevant to the question at hand:

“Countries importing chrysotile asbestos from Canada should be fully informed of the human health and environmental risks associated with its use. The Canadian government, for the first time, should support the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos on the Rotterdam Convention’s Prior Informed Consent list for 2008”
We may not know absolutely everything there is to know about the magnitude of chrysotile asbestos’ health risks, but the latter inclusion is an easy, moral, and necessary step to take.

Bruce W. Case, MD, DOH, MSc, FRCP(C)
Montréal, Québec, H3G 1A4

Tom Kosatsky, MD, MPH
Vancouver, B.C.

Aleck Ostry, MA, MSc,PhD
Victoria, B.C.

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