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Thursday, May 12, 2011
Indian Position Chrysotile (White Asbestos) & Bihar's Plants
Shrimati Sushma Swaraj
Leader of the Opposition
Parliament of India
Subject-Indian Position in Rotterdam Convention on Chrysotile (White Asbestos) & Bihar's Plants
I wish to express great appreciation for your position against Endosulfan and for urging the Government of India to join the international consensus against it in the UN's Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants during a recent meeting in Geneva, Switzerland as required by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). World over, your position has been deemed quite progressive.
It made me recollect your exemplary performance as a Union Health Minister and your considered opinion against asbestos including Chrysotile (White Asbestos). Kerala State Human Rights Commission has recommended ban on use of asbestos roofs for schools and hospitals and NHRC has termed exposing human beings to asbestos fibers as human rights violation.
I wish to draw your attention towards the 5th Conference of the Parties (COP5) to the UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade to be in Geneva wherein the fate of Endosulfan, Chrysotile asbestos and some other chemicals will be be decided. The objective of the Rotterdam Convention “is to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm.”
In order to meet its objective, COP5 of Rotterdam Convention will consider the inclusion in Annex III of chrysotile asbestos, Endosulfan, Alachlor and Aldicarb under agenda item 5 c during the meeting scheduled for June 20-24, 2011.
It is noteworthy that the inclusion in Annex III does not equate to a prohibition of trade. It imposes requirements on exporting nations to provide basic information to consumers and customers environmental health hazards due to certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade.
I wish to inform you that there has been several attempts to include chrysotile asbestos (White Asbestos) on the prior informed consent list have failed due to the influence of asbestos producing countries who are compelled by their companies led by Quebec based Canadian companies who have succeeded in preventing any action on chrysotile asbestos being taken.
I submit that discussions on chrysotile asbestos at the COP 4 of Rotterdam Convention in 2008 took a decision to examine its listing at COP5 in June 2011.
In a statement as Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ministry, you had informed the Rajya Sabha saying: "Studies by the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, have shown that long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma'' on August 18, 2003.
This clearly implies that white asbestos or Chrysotile asbestos is a health hazard which is essentially what COP5 is to decide in Geneva. As you are aware White asbestos or Chrysotile asbestos is used mainly for water pipes or as roofing sheets in construction industry. Asbestos dust can be inhaled while drilling, cutting a pipe, repairing, renovating or demolishing a building and its effects are far-reaching, affecting everyone from the person mining it to the ultimate consumer. Clinical reports show that asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer can show up even 25 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos.
I submit that like elsewhere, in our country too, all cases of mesothelioma, an aggressive asbestos-related cancer are linked to asbestos exposure. All the medical colleges in India must teach that most cases of mesothelioma are related to enviro-occupational asbestos exposure that often occurred decades earlier in industries heavily dependent on asbestos-based products. These industries include construction, automobile repair and shipbuilding.
It is a glaring fact that the members of Chrysotile Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (CACPMA), Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association of India (ASCMA) and other industries based on killer fibers of asbestos are knowingly exposing workers, their families and consumers.
While the medical and financial relief (compensation) for the illness of workers, their families and consumers must be borne by the companies in question, in India because of political patronage members of both CACPMA, ASCMA and others have escaped liability and have not been made accountable.
I submit that Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law should work in tandem to provide assistance to make asbestos victims and their families so that they or their children or parents can decide to pursue legal action against the companies responsible for making them incurably sick.
I submit that Ministry of Defence must also be alerted by both Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law against those industrial workers who served in the military to help, build and defend the country, and now they are now at risk of developing asbestos related diseases like mesothelioma.
I submit that there are many factors that influence a person’s life expectancy. Mesothelioma is typically diagnosed in the late stages because it displays no serious symptoms before then. When diagnosed in the late stages, the average life expectancy is 8 months.
I submit that there is currently no cure for the cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The Union Ministry of Health, Justice and Defence besides the State governments must identify and assist those who suffer from mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases because they have the right to pursue financial compensation. Both the state and central government agencies must provide free legal consultation to present and potential victims and their families.
In wish to submit that in the way Kerala government took the lead in banning Endosulfan followed by Karnataka, Bihar government can launch a Asbestos Free Movement by stopping some 12 asbestos plants that proposed. I have visited most of the sites there is a public opinion against these hazardous plants.
I have visited BJP party office both in Patna and New Delhi and was happy to note that party office bearers were quite aware of the hazards of expsoure from asbestos fibers especially because the party offices are also laden with asbestos roofing material. They informed me that it is for the party leadership to decide on the fate of such hazardous building materials. May I suggest that to begin with in as an illustration for other political parties, BJP as a party ought to consider making its headquarters and state offices asbestos free. These efforts can commence with your specific instruction especially from Bihar given the fact that the State Party Chief is also a former Union Health Minister and a renowned doctor.
I seek your urgent intervention to stop the three asbestos plants in Bhojpur district in Bihar. These three asbestos plants are proposed by Tamil Nadu based companies Ramco Industries and Nibhi Industries. The former is setting up two plants and the latter is
setting up one plant. Besides giving several representations, letters and personal interactions with the officials and ministers there isn't any progress to stop it.
I wish to inform that on 11th May, 2011, Shri Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar was in Bhojpur. At least two separate petitions against these asbestos plants in one district of Bhojpur have been given to him.
If these three asbestos plants are stopped, Bihar would become the first state in India to ban asbestos plant. The Bihar
Chief Minister appears to be quite conscious of the hazardous nature of the asbestos industry and want national ban on it. It would be set an exemplary precedent if the state takes the lead as it has done in several cases such as SEZ, reservation for women in Panchayats, GM Maize. There are news reports in Hindi newspapers even today in Bhojpur, Bihar seeking closure of these asbestos plants.
I submit that the asbestos plant in Muzaffarpur district has been stopped temporarily after police firing and lathi charge against the
protestors. We are demanding permanent stay. We marched on the streets of Patna, the state capital and as part of a delegation I gave submission for the Chief Minister, Bihar. Following which an inquiry is underway by Secretary, Industry Dept, Government of Bihar. It would be relevant that the scope of the inquiry is expanded to include the three asbestos plants of Bhojpur and to summon expert testimonies from WHO, ILO and those 55 countries that have banned asbestos including white asbestos.
I do comprehend that it is for the Union Commerce Ministry and Finance ministry to take a decision on ban this killer fiber at the central level but health being a state subject, the State Government does have the right to ban asbestos plants and products, the way Kerala and Karnataka has done in the case of Endosulfan .
I wish to inform you that a bitter struggle against proposed asbestos plants is underway in Bhojpur district, Bihar.
In such a backdrop, I submit that in an order dated January 21, 201, Hon’ble Supreme Court’s bench of Chief Justice of India Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar has observed in para 15, “the Government has already presented the Bill in Rajya Sabha. The statement of objects and reasons of this Bill specifically notices that the white asbestos is highly carcinogenic and it has been so reported by the World Health Organisation. In India, it is imported without
any restriction while even its domestic use is not preferred by the exporting countries.”
The Bench of Chief Justice of India notes, “Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported 95% of the white asbestos, it mined out of which 43% was shipped to India. In view of these facts, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative materials. The Bill is yet to be passed but it is clearly demonstrated that the Government is required to take effective steps to prevent hazardous impact of use of asbestos.”
I wish to inform you that the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a new factsheet on asbestos:http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs343/en/index.html It re-iterates that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related
diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos and specifically states that its strategy is particularly targeted at countries still using chrysotile asbestos. The factsheet notes that “more than 107 000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure.”
I submit that the work of WHO and International Labour Organization (ILO) must be taken cognisance of by Bihar Government and Central Government in its efforts towards elimination of asbestos-related diseases “by recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos and by providing information about solutions for
replacing asbestos with safer substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to stimulate its replacement.”
I wish to draw your attention towards the New Delhi Declaration Seeking Elimination of cancer causing all forms of asbestos including Chrysotile from India which was adopted and endorsed by eminent scientists and doctors on 24th March, 2011. This happened at a Round Table which was organized immediately after the conclusion of International Conference on "Emerging Trends in Preventing Occupational Respiratory Diseases and Cancers in Workplace" at Maulana Azad Medical College that expressed grave concern about asbestos related diseases like lung cancer in the national capital.
The Declaration is given below for your perusal and immediate consideration.
The delegates at the Round Table discussed the asbestos policy of Bihar. These delegates shared their views and gave their valuable hand written notes so that it can be used in a credible way while strongly recommending the need for immediate ban on asbestos to Government of India, State Governments and the relevant ministries.
I wish to submit that during a visit to New Delhi in March 2011, Dr Alec Farquhar, Managing Director, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada said, “We now have around 500 asbestos cancer cases every year in Ontario from a population of 13 million. If you (India) continue on your current path, you will multiply our death count by 100 times. That would be 50, 000 Indian workers dying every year from asbestos. In Ontario, we learned that safe use of asbestos is impossible. I urge you from the bottom of my heart, please do not make the same mistake as we made in Canada. Stop using asbestos and use a safe alternative.”
I submit that Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, Israel said, “All form of asbestos kill. India should bury asbestos, not people. Here is a case for examining whether those countries which export asbestos to India are committing a crime against humanity, because they are engaging in willful neglect. India should not repeat the mistakes of going back some 70 years which will kill tens of thousands of workers and their families.” Prof. Richter too was in New Delhi in March 2011.
It must be noted that “No matter what mis-information comes of Canada or the Indian asbestos industry about Chrysotile, there is no question that science has shown that Chrysotile causes asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. This is the conclusion of World Health Organisation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, and other organizations that have no biases
except for protecting people’s health,” said Prof. Arthur L Frank, MD, PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, US. He has 40 years of experience in dealing with asbestos diseases and he was in India to make a presentation at an International Conference on Occupational Health.
I submit that Collegium Ramazzini, a Italy based independent, international academy founded in 1982 by Irving J. Selikoff, Cesare Maltoni and other eminent scientists has called for the elimination asbestos of all kinds.
Presenting her views, Prof (Dr) Qamar Rahman, fellow of National Academy of Sciences, Dean, Integral University, Lucknow & former Deputy Director, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow asserted, “This is high time that Government of India should ban the use of asbestos in India. It has been proven scientifically that asbestos based articles such as roof ceilings, storage tanks will release fibers. The asbestos fibers will be the cause of exposure to our coming generations.” This merits your immediate attention.
It may noted that the conference was organised by Centre for Occupational Health, New Delhi supported by Union Ministry of Labour & Employment, ESI, DGMS and DGFASL in collaboration with Drexel University, US at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi from 22-24 March, 2011.
The conference was deeply concerned about asbestos related diseases and the alarming rise of asbestos in India.
In such a backdrop, in short, I request you to recommend steps on the following points:
· Urge Government of India to Support Listing of Chrysotile (White Asbestos) in the PIC List of Rotterdam Convention and do not grant environmental clearance to the proposed asbestos sheet plants
· Deny Consent to Establish to this hazardous asbestos factory units
· Create a Registry of Incurable Lung Cancers and Mesothelioma besides a registry of asbestos related diseases
· Start efforts to decontaminate asbestos laden buildings including schools and hospitals
· Create a building registry of those buildings and products which have asbestos.
· Include environmental and occupational health study in the medical education of all the medical colleges in the states and in the whole country
· Stop procurement of cancer causing asbestos based products in Bihar in particular and in the whole country in general
· Adequately compensate the victims of asbestos-related diseases, create a database of asbestos exposed people and victims as well besides providing legal and possible medical relief and taking preventive measures
I would be quite happy to share more details about the asbestos related incurable diseases.
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
Asbestos Mukti Andolan, Bihar
Mb: 09818089660, 07739308480
Shri Lal Krishna Advani, Chairman, BJP Parliamentary Board
Dr Murali Manohar Joshi, Chairman, Public Accounts Committee, Parliament of India
Shri Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister, Government of Bihar
Shri Arun Jaitli, Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha, Parliament of India
Dr C P Thakur, Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Chemicals & Fertilizers
and Member, Parliamentary Consultative Committee for Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Shri Sushil Kumar Modi, Deputy Chief Minister, Government of Bihar
Shri Jairam Ramesh, Union Environment & Forests Minister
Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Health Minister
Shri Anand Sharma, Union Commerce Minister
Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Union Finance Minister
New Delhi Declaration
Seeking Elimination of all forms of Asbestos including Chrysotile from India
Date: 24 March, 2011
Recalling the Ban Asbestos Resolution of 2002, WHO Resolution of 2005 and
ILO Resolution of 2006 seeking elimination of future use of asbestos of all
forms, in the face of massive asbestos exposure underway in India;
Taking note of The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009
introduced in Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) and the order
of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission banning the use of asbestos in
Considering the anti asbestos movement against 12 proposed asbestos plants
in Bihar in face of massive people’s resistance;
Outraged at the Union of India’s Budget 2011-12’s callous reference to
asbestos by including it under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to cover
‘unorganized sector workers in hazardous mining and associated industries
like asbestos etc’ and on the other hand Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister’s
Budget is allocating land for 4 new asbestos plants;
Recognising the fact that enviro-occupational health infrastructure in India
is weak or non-existent in the face of workers and consumers who are sick
and dying from asbestos-caused cancer and other related diseases;
Endorsing The STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS of The White Asbestos (Ban on
Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced in the Indian Parliament that reads:
“The white asbestos is highly carcinogenic even the World Health
Organisation has reported that it causes cancer. It is a rare fibrous
material that is used to make rooftops (roofing material) and break (brake)
linings. More than fifty countries have already banned the use and import of
white asbestos. Even the countries that export it to India prefer not to use
it domestically. But in our country, it is imported without any restriction.
Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007,
Canada exported almost Ninety five percent of the white asbestos it mined
and out of it forty-three percent was shipped to India. It is quite
surprising that our country is openly importing huge quantity of a product,
which causes cancer. This is despite the fact that safer and almost cheap
alternatives to asbestos are available in the country. Instead of importing
a hazardous material, it will be better if we spend some money in research
and development and use environment friendly product. In view of the above,
there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white
asbestos and promote the use of alternative material.”
Appreciating Supreme Court of India’s order of 21st January, 2011 that takes
cognizance of the above mentioned Bill and the resolutions of ILO and WHO
and seeks government to take immediate preventive steps;
Taking cognizance of the human rights violation involved in exposing people
to killer asbestos fibers and how even if few asbestos fibre reach the right
places, it causes irreversible damage leading to asbestosis, lung cancer or
Considering Government of India’s role in preventing the listing of
chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous product under the Rotterdam Convention,
an International Agreement that requires that importing countries be warned
of the risks associated with hazardous products is unbecoming of a nation of
India’s stature. It is unconscionable that the government knowingly allows
trades in a killer product that will cause death of hundreds of thousands of
people in India in general and in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Bihar
and Rajasthan in particular and elsewhere in the world;
Reminding the Government of India that there is incontrovertible evidence
that creates a compelling logic for making India asbestos free;
Condemning the asbestos exporting countries liaison with the Indian asbestos
industry to which Government is turning a blind eye who have unleashed a
misinformation campaign about controlled use of asbestos products which is a
Disapproving Ministry of Environment & Forests Experts Appraisal Committee
on Industry for approving environmental clearance of asbestos plants;
Asserting the fact that so far some 55 countries have banned all forms of
asbestos, and are already using alternative materials;
Underlining that almost every international health agency of repute
including the World Health Organization, the International Labor
Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Occupational
Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health, and the American Cancer Society agree there is no safe level of
asbestos exposure. Most recently, the International Agency for Research on
Cancer (IARC) reconfirmed that all commercial asbestos fibers - including
chrysotile, the most commercially used form of asbestos - cause lung cancer
and mesothelioma. In addition, IARC newly confirmed that there is sufficient
evidence that asbestos causes ovarian cancer and reconfirmed asbestos causes
We urge the Government to adequately compensate the victims of
asbestos-related diseases, create a database of asbestos exposed people and
victims as well besides providing legal and possible medical relief and
taking preventive measures. We call on the government to create a
mesothelioma registry and a building registry of those facilities which have
asbestos. We seek inclusion of environmental and occupational health study
in the medical education of all the 300 medical colleges in India
We recommend that the Government should start efforts to decontaminate
asbestos laden buildings including schools and hospitals
We express shock at the instance countries like Canada using tax-payers
money and Canadian embassies to actively promote the sale of asbestos around
We appeal to the Government of India to put a ban on export, import,
manufacturing, use and mining of all forms of asbestos including chrysotile
(white asbestos) in India.
We call upon the Government of India, State Governments in general and Bihar
Government in Particular besides Indian Ministry of Health, Ministry of
Environment, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Consumer
Affairs and Ministry of Mines to initiate steps for an immediate ban on use,
manufacture and trade of all forms of asbestos (including Chrysotile or
Prof (Dr) Arthur Frank, Professor, Chair: Department of Environmental and
Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, US, Email-
Dr Aleck Farquhar, Managing Director, Occupational Health Clinics for
Ontario Workers, Canada, E-mail- email@example.com
Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of
Medicine, Israel, Efirstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Yael Stein, MD, Unit of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Hebrew
University, Israel, E-mail- email@example.com
Dr Lyle Hargrove, Chairperson, Occupational Clinics for Ontario Workers,
Canada, E-mail- firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof (Dr) Qamar Rahman, Fellow, National Academy of Sciences, India & former
Deputy Director, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow E-mail-
Dr. T.K. Joshi, Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini, Italy, Eemail@example.com
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