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, April 28, 2010

Exposing Workers to Asbestos Fibers is Human Rights Violation

Press Release

Ban asbestos completely else lift ban on its mining, says Ministry of Mines

Civil Society demands ban on mining, manufacturing and use of asbestos

New Delhi 28/4/2010: Union Ministry of Mines held a meeting today in the Shashtri Bhavan on the possibility of lifting the current technical ban on mining chrysotile asbestos, amidst Kerela Human Rights Commission’s order banning use of asbestos in schools and a pending case in the National Human Rights Commission in the same matter.

Occupational and environmental groups present at the meeting called for complete ban on asbestos of all kinds because asbestos fibers cause incurable diseases like cancer and sought Mines Ministry’s support in getting a ban imposed on import chrysotile asbestos. The draft guidelines prepared by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), Union Ministry of Mines on possibility of safe mining of chrysotile asbestos drew severe criticism. Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), an alliance of public health, occupational health, human rights and environment researchers and activists argued, “it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that no safe and controlled mining, production and use of asbestos and its products possible.”

Ms Shanta Sheela Nair, Secretary, Union Ministry of Mines supported BANI’s position but argued, “Asbestos should be banned completely if not then why mining of asbestos within India should be not be allowed as well.”

Under manifest pressure from the “mine owners of Chrysotile Asbestos Mines” from Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand, the Ministry seems to be acting like a rubber stamp for the asbestos mining industry’s proposal to lift the ban on mining of asbestos although Supreme Court has held that “The development of the carcinogenic risk due to asbestos or any other carcinogenic agent, does not require 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, reminds the legal and social responsibility of the employer or producer not to endanger the workmen or the community or 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 efficiency without professional, industrial and governmental resources and legal and moral determination to implement such regulations.” Occupational and environmental groups demand that Ministry of Mines must come out with a status paper on asbestos victims in India’s asbestos mines and the action it has taken to provide compensation and medical remedy to them.

Notably, BIS Standard mentioned in the proposed guidelines in this regard is mere paper work with no teeth to act. There is reference to how “No person shall be allowed to enter or remain in any work place which contains airborne asbestos dust at any time, exceeding the TLV (threshold limit value) of 1 fibre per cc, perceptible through standard monitoring procedures” and “No person shall enter or remain in any place which contains airborne asbestos dust at any time exceeding the limit of 1 fibre per cc in the working atmosphere, as observed in standard monitoring, unless such person is wearing approved type respiratory equipment to prevent the inhalation of such dust.” The fact is that WHO’s conclusions and recommendations for protection of human health in Environmental Health Criteria 203 for Chrysotile Asbestos concludes, “No threshold has been identified for carcinogenic risks”. Also it says, “The impact of chrysotile/serpentine presence and degradation on the environment and lower life forms is difficult to gauge. Observed perturbations are many but their long-term impact is virtually unknown.” In such grave circumstances, it is blind lust for profit at cost alone that makes people propose standards when there is no level at which it is deemed safe.

BANI drew the attention of the Ministry towards the resolution of International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted by the 95th Session of the International Labour Conference, in June 2006, which stated that “all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are classified as known human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a classification restated by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (a joint Programme of the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme)”. The resolution noted that “an estimated 100,000 workers die every year from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos and resolved that “the elimination of the future use of asbestos and the identification and proper management of asbestos currently in place are the most effective means to protect workers from asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related diseases and deaths”. This shows that the proposed guidelines by the chrysotile mining ministry is blind to the global trend, domestic occupational health conditions and the preventable deaths that occurs due to asbestos mining and its subsequent uses.

Notwithstanding the fact that the current legal position with regard to asbestos is that there is ban on the import/export of waste asbestos (dust & fibers) under the Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008, the proposed guidelines misleadingly says, “Asbestos containing residue is covered under the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989. Accordingly, hazardous waste may be transported, treated and disposed of as per Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989”. The meeting was attended by representatives of Ministry of Labour and Environment besides representatives from Central Pollution Control Board, National Institute of Occupational Health, Mining and Geology Department, Rajasthan, Mining and Geology Department, Andhra Pradesh, Mining and Geology Department, Jharkhand, Directorate General of Mines Safety, National Institute of Miners’ Health, Campaign for Prevention of Silicosis & PRASAR.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, convener, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
Mb: 9818089660, E-mail:krishna2777@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.com
Blog: banasbestosindia.blogspot.com

DRAFT GUIDELINES PREPARED BY IBM FOR CARRYING OUT THE CHRYSOTILE ASBESTOS MINING

Notwithstanding any Rule contained under Mineral Conservation & Development Rules, 1988, the following guidelines are issued to the mine owners of Chrysotile Asbestos Mines, for pollution control and scientific development of these mines:
Every mine owner, who undertakes the Chrysotile Asbestos mining shall take adequate steps during mining, material handling & transport and processing of asbestos ore so as to eliminate or minimize the asbestos dust concentration in the working environment.

Procedure for sampling should be adopted as per BIS Standard 11450. The air sampling may be done with Sampler Model XX5700000 or equivalent with ester cellulose filter of appropriate (0.8-1.2µm) pore size. Low volume Vaccum / Pressure Pump Model XX5600002 with filter holder MAWP 025 AC (Millipore US Corp. US or equivalent) should be used for drawing the air sample at a uniform rate. For assessment / measurement of asbestos fibres, a Phase Contrast Microscope capable of 400X magnification should be used (Labrox Germeny or equivalent). Once the DGMS approves the necessary equipments for sampling of asbestos dust, the approved equipment must be used.

No person shall be allowed to enter or remain in any work place which contains airborne asbestos dust at any time, exceeding the TLV (threshold limit value) of 1 fibre per cc, perceptible through standard monitoring procedures.

No person shall enter or remain in any place which contains airborne asbestos dust at any time exceeding the limit of 1 fibre per cc in the working atmosphere, as observed in standard monitoring, unless such person is wearing approved type respiratory equipment to prevent the inhalation of such dust.

For the above purpose air quality monitoring has to be done for every quarter at all the mine working faces, transport road ways, milling plants and the tailing and waste dumps, sampling of which to be done through an approved apparatus and analyzed as per standard methods. The quarterly reports on such monitoring shall be submitted within a fortnight of the previous quarter to the respective Regional Controller of Mines and Controller of Mines (Zonal office of Indian Bureau of Mines).

Dust generated by drilling operations shall be controlled by either wet drilling or by employing approved extraction equipment mounted on the drill.

Dust emission from blasting shall be minimized by wetting of the face with water immediately before the blast, and multiple small blasts rather than one large blast, should be practiced.

To reduce throw of the dust, control blasting techniques with proper spacing burden and stemming along with the delay elements and with deck loading or Air Decking, wherever possible, shall be adopted.

In Underground mines, to reduce damage to fiber during the drilling & blasting operation and thus releasing as airborne dust, where ever possible, the blasting face should be provided with an initial free face or pre-splitting with dummy holes, within the non-asbestos mineralized zone. After this free face is developed, blasting within the asbestos mineralized zone shall be carried out, as far as possible, with low-density explosives.

All roadways shall be regularly watered and wetted to reduce the creation of air borne asbestos dust.

The transport trucks used for transport of asbestos ore or its tailings shall never be overloaded and should be properly wetted and completely covered with suitable means.

For the underground mines, a well designed ventilation system shall be provided and operated throughout the working of the mine and also during the blasting time as per standard prescribed in MMR, 1962. Persons should not be allowed to be inside the mine while there is a stoppage of ventilation system. An uninterrupted power supply should be provided to the ventilation fan.

The exhaust air coming out from the underground workings, through the Evasee fitted on the surface, should be allowed to pass through wet scrubbers, before the air is released to the outside atmosphere.

The effluent water released from the mine as well as from the processing plants should be properly treated to remove the sediments before their final discharge.

The Asbestos milling operations should be mechanized, using mechanized transport equipment like elevators, screw conveyors, belt conveyors etc and for crushing and liberation of asbestos fibres using mechanical equipments like Crushers, Fibrizers, Disintegrators, Pulverizes, Edge-runners etc. and for separation of fibre using mechanized equipment like Vibro-screens, Gyro-centric screen, Trammels Cyclones etc.

Material transfer from one operation to the other including Bagging and other operations, are to be pneumatically conveyed through ducts. The transfer points shall be completely enclosed and connected to dust extraction system which shall be pneumatically conveyed and discharged in water precipitator tanks.

All the ore processing operations should be in closed circuit, with proper enclosures like exhaust hoods, so as not to allow the dust generated to escape in to the outside atmosphere. These enclosures shall be cleaned periodically with water and compressed air emulsions and such discharge water shall be disposed off properly.

Provisions shall be made at all dust generating points of the mill to collect the dust laden air, which shall be filtered through high efficiency bag filters.

The external walls of the ore processing plant shall be provided with exhaust fans, for pneumatically conveying the fine dust particles to water precipitators for reduction of dust released from various operations/units.

The tailings discharged from the screen are transported outside the plant by conveyor, preferably by screw conveyors. These tailing dumps as well as the waste dumps shall be suitably rehabilitated with an inert cover over laid by sufficiently thick soil cover, for developing suitable vegetation.

To prevent the spread of air borne fiber dust to outside environment, thick green barriers shall be developed, surrounding the mine area, processing plant and the waste/tailing dumps.

Asbestos containing residue is covered under the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989. Accordingly, hazardous waste may be transported, treated and disposed of as per Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989

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