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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Make Goa Free of Cancer Causing Asbestos Fibers

To

Shri Sanjay Kumar Srivastava

Chief Secretary

Government of Goa

Panjim

Subject-Need to Make Goa Free of Cancer Causing Asbestos Fibers


Dear Shri Srivastava,

With reference to a news report "Asbestos threat to Goa basilica's heritage status" dated May 10, 2011 published in DNA newspaper (pasted below), this is to draw your attention towards the existing asbestos laden buildings and its usage in the new buildings.

I wish to submit that to begin with, the asbestos roofing material must be removed from UNESCO designated world heritage monument, the Basilica of Bom Jesus (meaning "Good Jesus") that was built in 1605. It would be appropriate for UNESCO to announce a policy making it mandatory for all designated world heritage monuments to be asbestos free. The Archaeological Survey of India must follow such a rule on its own and ask UNESCO to issue such guidelines.

I was recently in Goa to attend a conference on "Litigating Against Corporations" wherein asbestos, a killer mineral fiber and associated companies and products were discussed in at least two presentations. When we came out of the conference room for a stroll, we were saddened to witness asbestos laden buildings all around. I wish to inform you that a bitter struggle against proposed asbestos plants is underway in Bhojpur district, Bihar and Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh.

In such a backdrop, I submit that in an order dated January 21, 2011, 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.” It is noteworthy that once a Bill is introduced in Rajya Sabha, it never lapses.


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 Goa 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 Goa. 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.” 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, PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, US. 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.

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 take steps on the following points:

· Do not grant environmental clearance to the proposed asbestos sheet plant

· Deny Consent to Establish to this hazardous factory unit

· 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 state

· Stop procurement of cancer causing asbestos based products in Goa

· 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.

Yours Sincerely

Gopal Krishna,

Convener,

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)

National Alliance for Asbestos Free India (NAAFI)

Mb: 09818089660, 07739308480

Email:krishna2777@gmail.com,
Blog:banasbestosindia.blogspot.com

Cc
Chief Minister, Goa

Union Environment Minister

Union Health Minister

Union Commerce Minister

Union Finance Minister

Director General, Archaeological Survey of India
Director (Conservation & World Heritage), Archaeological Survey of India

Dr Claude Alvares, Director, Goa Foundation

Dr Barry Casttleman, Author, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects

Dr P L Ahuja Rai, Director, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests

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 schools;

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 mesothelioma;

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 fantasy;

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 laryngeal cancer;

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 the world;

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) 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 White Asbestos).


Endorsed by:

Prof (Dr) Arthur Frank, Professor, Chair: Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, US, Email- alf13@drexel.edu
Dr Aleck Farquhar, Managing Director, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada, E-mail- afarquhar@ohcow.on.ca

Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, Israel, E-mail-elihudrichter@gmail.com
Dr Yael Stein, MD, Unit of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Hebrew University, Israel, E-mail- stein444@gmail.com

Dr Lyle Hargrove, Chairperson, Occupational Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada, E-mail- lyle.hargrove@gmail.com
Prof (Dr) Qamar Rahman, Fellow, National Academy of Sciences, India & former Deputy Director, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow E-mail- qamar_15@sify.com
Dr. T.K. Joshi, Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini, Italy, E-mail- kantjoshi@gmail.com



Asbestos threat to Goa basilica's heritage status

The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa that houses the mortal remains of Saint Francis Xavier has an asbestos roof that is threatening to compromise its heritage status.

The UNESCO-designated world heritage monument, the Basilica of Bom Jesus (meaning ‘Good Jesus’) was built in 1605.The completed structure had a roof with red clay tiles imported from Mangalore, besides huge wooden rafters, beams and girders. Now, its roof is laid with asbestos sheets and wedged together with crude U-shaped hooks and bolts — compromising the heritage status.

There is no record of when the asbestos roofing replaced the original roof. Senior Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials said the asbestos roofing existed when the Basilica was handed to them after the state’s liberation from the Portuguese in 1961. But parishioners insist that the original roofing was made of red clay tiles and not asbestos.

After a fire on October 21, 2004 destroyed a portion of the Basilica’s roof, the ASI replaced only that portion using available original material. An August 10, 2010-dated ASI tender called contractors to replace the Mangalore tiles and wooden rafters and stock them aside for re-use. However, even after nine months the asbestos roof continues to remain in place, violating the heritage structures act.

“A high-level team was expected to inspect the site and take a decision. A committee has been formed at the local level to help put things in place for this world heritage structure,” regional director (South), ASI, SV Venkateshiah, told DNA.
The Basilica which houses the mortal remains of Goa’s patron saint and the founder of the Jesuit order, St Francis Xavier is a major pilgrim cum tourist centre. It was elevated to UNESCO World Heritage status in 1986.

By M Raghuram Velha

No comments:

Blog Archive