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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Asbestos roofs pose a health threat to kids in 60 schools

Sreedevi Chitharanjan, Jul 15, 2012

KOZHIKODE: For the children of many schools in the district, the asbestos roofs over their head are posing a serious health hazard. Oblivious to the fact that the asbestos is carcinogenic (cancer-causing), they continue to attend classes. Though the State Human Rights Commission prohibited the use of asbestos as roofs in state schools in January 2009, nearly 60 schools, both private and government-run, in the district are yet to implement the order.

Though no cases of any asbestos-related diseases have been reported from these schools so far, the surprising fact is that the district education officials don't even have a proper account of the number of schools using asbestos as roofs.

"We do not have a consolidated data on this. Of the 1,162 schools in the government, aided and unaided sectors, less than 100 schools are functioning in temporary buildings made of asbestos roofs," said P Ajayakumar, deputy director of education in-charge.

Though the official claimed that the number is more in schools run by private managements, he quickly added that steps are being taken to ensure that government schools do not use asbestos. "We are in the process of ensuring that buildings of government schools that are functioning in the temporary sheds do not use asbestos," he said.

But the schools which use asbestos have their own reasons to defend the use of this carcinogenic material for roofs. Many say that lack of funds compel them use asbestos for roofing as it is cheaply available.

"We know the health hazards of asbestos sheets. But we are helpless. We don't have money to construct school building by spending huge sums. There were 15 classrooms under asbestos roofs. We have reduced the number to nine," said N Basheer, staff secretary of the Government Ganapath Model Girls HSS. He said the school would use Rs 1 crore granted by the state government to build nine new classrooms.

But many education department officials also blame the state government for the tardy progress in checking the use of asbestos in schools. "Though the government issued a circular, no follow-up action was taken to check if the order is being implemented," said an assistant education officer who declined to be named.

Meanwhile, doctors in the district forewarn that continuous exposure to asbestos also known as the deadly white fibre increases the risk of lung cancer. "Prolonged exposure can create scratches in the lung. It can also cause incurable mesothelioma cancer," said Dr E Narayanan Kutty Varrier, an oncologist. He said that children also face the risk of asbestosis, a condition in which the breathing ability of lungs is affected.

Considering the serious health threats to schoolchildren, the district panchayat is planning a special project as part of this financial year to remove asbestos sheets from government schools. "We have found 12 government higher secondary schools that use asbestos roofs. An initial discussion on this has already taken place with the deputy director of education," said K P Sheeba, district panchayat chairperson of health and education standing committee.

The Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/Asbestos-roofs-pose-a-health-threat-to-kids-in-60-schools/articleshow/14916738.cms

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