Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) works for Asbestos Free India since 2002. Occupational Health India and ToxicsWatch Alliance are its members that includes occupational health doctors, researchers and activists. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. It works with trade unions, human rights, environmental and public health groups. For Details:krishna1715@gmail.com, oshindia@yahoo.in, toxicswatchallaince@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Statement of scientists on the ‘scientific’ study by National Institute of Occupational Health (India) titled ‘Study of Health Hazards / Environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country



ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

To

Shri Ashok Lavasa
Secretary
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate
Change
Paryavaran Bhawan, C.G.O. Complex, Lodhi Road
New Delhi 110003

Shri A.J.V. Prasad
Joint Secretary (Chemicals)
Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals
Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
Postal address: Room No. 340-C, 'A' Wing, Shastri Bhawan
New Delhi 110001

Permanent Mission
Government of India

Subject-Statement of scientists on the ‘scientific’ study by National Institute of Occupational Health (India) titled ‘Study of Health Hazards / Environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country

Sir,

This is to draw your urgent attention towards a Statement calling on the Government of India dated March 21, 2015 to withdraw a discredited scientific study on chrysotile (white) asbestos and to stop blocking the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance at an upcoming UN meeting.

I submit that the ‘Study of Health Hazards / Environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country’, carried out by the National Institute of Occupational Health (India), states that it found no evidence that chrysotile asbestos is causing harm to health of workers in India. The Government is using the study as the reason why it will oppose the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention at a UN conference in Geneva in May. The Convention sets safety standards to promote responsible trade in hazardous substances.

It may be noted that “The study has no scientific credibility,” stated Dr. Philip Landrigan, President of the Collegium Ramazzini and Dean for Global Health, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York. “It is flawed in the design, methodology and interpretation of the results,” he added.

I submit that photos in the study show some workers wearing a cotton scarf tied around their face as their only “safety equipment”.  The study also shows workers weaving asbestos cloth. This is one of the most hazardous uses of asbestos.
Statement of scientists on the ‘scientific’ study by National Institute of Occupational Health (India) titled ‘Study of Health Hazards / Environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country reads: “We would like to strongly state that the ‘claim’ being made by the government of India regarding the ‘safety’ of Chrysotile asbestos is unacceptable to any credible scientists or scientific community. The world scientific community has overwhelmingly concluded that Chrysotile asbestos causes deadly diseases, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung and other cancers, and that it cannot be safely used.”

It concludes saying, “We therefore request the Government of India to withdraw the NIOH study, which does not hold up to any credible scientific scrutiny and do the right thing by supporting the listing of Chrysotile asbestos at the upcoming UN conference.”

In view of the attached statement of scientists on the ‘scientific’ study by NIOH and my previous letter dated February 25th, 2015, I wish to request you to take action consistent with Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order and resolutions of ILO and WHO on chrysotile asbestos.   

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
E-mail:gopalkrishna
1715@gmail.com
Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Cc
Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Union Minister of External Affairs
Shri Ananth Kumar, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers
Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Dr. S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, Union Ministry of External Affairs
Shri Surjit Kumar Chaudhary, Secretary, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers
  

On 25 February 2015 at 21:23, krishna <gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com> wrote:
 ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

 To

Shri Ashok Lavasa
Secretary
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate
Change
Paryavaran Bhawan, C.G.O. Complex, Lodhi Road
New Delhi 110003

Shri A.J.V. Prasad
Joint Secretary (Chemicals)
Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals
Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
Postal address: Room No. 340-C, 'A' Wing, Shastri Bhawan
New Delhi 110001

Permanent Mission
Government of India

Subject- Unethical & immoral act of inclusion of of Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association (ACPMA) in Indian delegation for UN workshop on white chrysotile asbestos
Sir,
This is to draw your urgent and immediate attention towards the upcoming technical workshop of UN's Rotterdam Convention (RC) on white chrysotile asbestos scheduled during March 30-31, 2015 and 7th Conference of the Parties (COP7) of the UN's Rotterdam Convention (RC) in Geneva during May 12-15, 2015 which will consider inclusion of white chrysotile asbestos in a list of hazardous chemicals yet again.  
I wish to strongly object and express my outrage at the unethical and immoral act of inclusion of Mr. Vivek Chandra Rao Sripalle of Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association (ACPMA), India in the Provisional list of participants at the Technical workshop on chrysotile asbestos in Geneva, Switzerland in March 2015.
I was informed by an official on condition of anonymity that officials feel humiliated when they have to take orders from likes of ACPMA.
I submit that in a letter to Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), on behalf of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), I had exposed how Indian delegation’s position at the sixth meeting on UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade which concluded on May 10, 2013 with regard to asbestos was/is contrary to Indian laws in practice. My submissions to the Ministry were responded and clarifications provided, which revealed that the MoEF was misled by Union Ministry of Chemicals which in turn was misled by Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association (ACPMA).  TWA is an applicant in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi.
I submit that ACPMA had overwhelmed and misled the Indian delegation making the Indian delegation ignore the fact that Asbestos is listed as a hazardous substance under Part II of Schedule-I of the Manufacture, Storage and import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 provides the List of Hazardous and Toxic Chemicals. This list has 429 chemicals. Asbestos is at the serial no. 28 in the list. This Rule and the list is available on the website of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests.
I submit that even then the Indian delegation included asbestos industry lobbyists like Mr. Vivek Chandra Rao Sripalle, ACPMA.
I submit that ACPMA’s influence on the delegation’s stance is quite manifest. It also merits attention as to whether the industry representatives went to this UN conference on their own expense or government sponsored their visit.
I submit that ACPMA consists of 20 big firms and 68 manufacturing units, of which top six players holding 87 per cent of the market share.
I submit that had ACPMA not overwhelmed the Indian delegation, the Indian position would have been in keeping with its Inventory of Hazardous Chemicals Import in India that lists ‘asbestos’ at serial no. 26 as one of the 180 hazardous chemicals in international trade which is imported in India. This inventory was prepared by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), under Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. of India prepared in September, 2008 with a foreword September 24, 2008 by Shri J. M. Mauskar, the then Chairman, CPCB and Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests This was done pursue of Government of India’s “Manufacture, Storage, and Import of Hazardous Chemicals (MSIHC) Rules, 1989” under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. According to these Rules, any person responsible for importing hazardous chemicals in India is to provide the data of import to the concerned authorities, as identified in Column 2 of Schedule 5 to the Rules. The CPCB “has been identified as one of such Authorities. In order to study the inventory of Hazardous Chemicals being imported by various categories of industrial units in India, the data provided by these industrial units to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have been compiled.” It is scandalous as to why did the Indian delegation took a position inconsistent with the Manufacture, Storage, and Import of Hazardous Chemicals (MSIHC) Rules, 1989.
I submit that even under Factories Act, 1948, the List of 29 industries involving hazardous processes is given under Section 2 (cb), Schedule First, asbestos is mentioned at serial no. 24.  The Act defines "hazardous process" as “any process or activity in relation to an industry specified in the First Schedule where, unless special care is taken, raw materials used therein or the intermediate or finished products, bye-products, wastes or effluents thereof would--(i) cause material impairment to the health of the persons engaged in or connected therewith, or (ii) result in the pollution of the general environment”.  This leaves no doubt that asbestos is a hazardous substance. The Act is available at:
I submit that promoters of white chrysotile asbestos like ACPMA who were planted in the Indian delegation made the government representatives take a position against human health and the environment and to put profit of the asbestos industry before gnawing public health concerns.
I submit that on June 22, 2011 Indian delegation led by Ms. Mira Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, had supported the listing of Chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous chemical substance at the fifth meeting on Rotterdam Convention amidst standing ovation. TWA had taken the opportunity of congratulating the government but the about turn in May 2013 was a sad let down.
It is reliably learnt that officials and scientists who go to such UN meetings feel humiliated when the industry representatives give them directions instead of the senior government officials or ministers. The UN meet on hazardous chemicals creates a rationale for insulating government officials from undue and motivated industry influence else they will be obliged to act like parrots. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) must factor in the far reaching implications for public health before defending the indefensible hazardous asbestos industry. The day is not far when members of CCEA too will be held liable for their acts of omission and commission as is happening in more than 50 countries that have banned all kinds of asbestos.  
In keeping with Indian laws when the UN’s Chemical Review Committee of Rotterdam Convention recommended listing of white chrysotile asbestos as hazardous substance it is incomprehensible as why Indian delegation opposed its inclusion in the UN list. The only explanation appears to be the fact that the Indian government delegation did not have a position independent of the asbestos industry’s position which has covered up and denied the scientific evidence that all asbestos can cause disease and death.
I submit that there is a case going on against the white asbestos in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi wherein the applicant has demanded inclusion of white asbestos in the UN list. On behalf of the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Shri R B Lal, Deputy Director has submitted its reply to the NHRC. The reply did not disclose that the delegation of Government of India led by Ms. Mira Mehrishi, Additional Secretary had announced its agreement to the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the list of hazardous chemicals paving the way for its “phase out” as envisioned in Union Environment Ministry’s Vision Statement amidst standing ovation. This reply to NHRC chose to maintain deafening silence about its own Vision Statement that says, “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use ofasbestos may be phased out”.   
I submit that meanwhile, an Advisory Committee of Union Ministry of Labour has been set up to implement Hon’ble Supreme Court order issued 15 years ago on January 27, 1995 and repeated on January 23, 2012. Although more than 1 year and four months have passed but the Advisory Committee headed by Shri A C Pandey, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Labour is yet to submit its report to incorporate specific directions of the Court with regard to fresh ILO’s Resolution of June 14, 2006 introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos. NHRC has served a notice to the Ministry of Labour after considering the matter on 24 December 2014, asking it provide details about steps taken to ban white chrysotile asbestos.  
I submit that even early industry-funded studies showed a causal relationship between asbestos exposure and cancer. Had this been made known to the public it could have prevented countless deaths but the asbestos industry made the conscious decision to protect their profits instead and choose to keep this information hidden from the public. India’s asbestos industry is following the same path.  
As a consequence, although millions of Indian lives are being lost and millions are being exposed to the killer fibers of white chrysotile asbestos, no government agency or company is being held liable due to political patronage which becomes quite glaringly visible when ACPMA is included as part of the delegation.
While on a visit to New Delhi, Dr Alec Farquhar, the then 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.” It is clear that lack of documentation and lack of environmental and occupational health infrastructure does not mean lack of victims of asbestos related diseases.
It has been estimated that one person dies from mesothelioma for every 170 tons of asbestos consumed. WHO estimates we have107,000 deaths worldwide per year from occupational exposure to asbestos.If non occupational exposure is added it reaches a figure of about 120,000deaths. Average world consumption/year 30-60 years ago was -- looks like3/2 of what it is now (2 million metric tons/year). Give India its share ofthat based on its share of global consumption. At 300,000 tons in 2013, that's about 18,000 deaths (15% of 120,000).  Asbestos diseases have a very long incubation period. So if you are exposed today to an asbestos fibre, you are likely to get the disease in next 10-35 years. Asbestos is like a time bomb to the lungs and Indians will suffer the most. If it is banned today that does not mean people will not suffer. Because of past usage people will continue to suffer from these diseases.
I submit that the very existence of ACPMA is highly problematic and very dubious. ACPMA which faced charges of cartelization by the Competition Commission of India is registered under The Societies Registration Act, 1860 and it claims to be a non-profit organization. Is the asbestos industry a non-profit organization? They make completely dubious and baseless claims. They have put profit ahead of public health. These associations appear inhuman, cruel and have a deviant behavior. The members of ACPMA all await the fate of Kubota Corporation.
I wish to draw your attention towards the verdict of five judges of Japan’s Supreme Court of February 17, 2015 that has upheld a ruling that found asbestos used at a plant of Kubota Corporation caused fatal mesothelioma in a man who lived near the plant and ordered the company to pay ¥31.9 million in damages to his relatives. The petitioners were relatives of Kojiro Yamauchi, who died at age 80 after working for two decades about 200 meters from the Kubota plant in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture. His relatives and those of Ayako Yasui, who died at age 85 having lived about 1 km from the plant, sought damages from both Kubota and the government. In October, 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that the government was responsible for failing to protect workers from exposure at asbestos factories in Sennan, Osaka Prefecture.
It is noteworthy that Japan has banned asbestos of all kinds including white chrysotile asbestos.
I also wish to draw your attention towards the fact that our neighbor Nepal has become the first country in South Asia which going in the direction of banning asbestos
I submit that in January 1995, while passing the judgment for the asbestos case file by the Consumer Education & Research Centre (CERC) (case details: http://indiankanoon.org/doc/1657323/),  Hon’ble Supreme Court of India directed all asbestos factories to keep the health records of their workers for 40 years and/or 15 years after their retirement. I challenge the entire ACPMA member to simply upload their employee’s heath records on their websites.

I submit that the second significant direction was the GoI and the state governments have to mend their rules and regulation as per the ILO resolution (International Labour Organisation). The ILO says eliminate asbestos of all kinds for elimination of asbestos related-diseases. Controlled use is not possible. It has not been possible for all the countries which have banned it and this is impossible in India too.
I submit that in August 2003, during the previous NDA led government regime, the health minister had informed the parliament that asbestos causes incurable lung diseases (such as asbestosis, lung cancer, etc).
 I submit that Navy officials have rightly objected to presence of asbestos in aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov which was inducted into the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya after asbestos decontamination. 
I submit that Union of India’s Budget 2011-12 had made reference to asbestos related diseases by including it under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to cover ‘unorganized sector workers in hazardous mining and associated industries like asbestos etc”. During Emergency, the ruling party and its acolytes had proposed to put opposition leaders in jails which had asbestos roofs.
I submit that there are fibre substitutes that have been evaluated by WHO are listed in the Summary Consensus Report of WHO Workshop on Mechanisms of Fibre Carcinogenesis and Assessment of Chrysotile Asbestos Substitutes.
I submit that sooner or later, the asbestos industry will go bankrupt because they will have to pay huge amount of money in compensation. For every injury in the law there is a remedy. The present and the future generation will make sure they get remedy.
I submit that the rate of consumption of growth which they are enjoying today does not mean it will continue. In western countries, the rate picked at one time and today it is zero. This is the peak of Asbestos industry in India and now, the downfall will start.
I submit that the industry must be persuaded to phase out in two phases. In the first phase the goal is to eliminate use of chrysotile asbestos and the number of exposed workers and consumers in the country. In the second phase, the goal is to create incentives for the use of safer materials, ensure, create a registry of asbestos laden buildings and victims of asbestos-related diseases and ensure  decontamination of the former and compensation for the latter. There is an immediate need to conduct an audit of the current status of the victims of asbestos related diseases from the government hospital records in the country and make it mandatory for medical colleges to provide training for doctors so that they can diagnose diseases caused by occupational, non-occupational and environmental exposures to killer fibers and substances.

I submit that in the 30th year of Bhopal disaster, asbestos industry should pay heed to the way asbestos companies have gone bankrupt in the western countries. They should join hands and create a compensation fund for victims. Dow Chemicals Company which refuses to own the liability for Bhopal disaster caused by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) in India has owned the UCC’s asbestos related liabilities and announced a compensation fund of 2.2 billion dollars for the victims. In Europe, tycoons and ministers are facing criminal charges and imprisonment for their act of knowing subjecting unsuspecting people to killer fibers of asbestos. The future is no different for Indian culprits.
I submit that it is eminently consistent with the principle of prior informed consent for India which imports white chrysotile asbestos from countries like Russia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan and others to receive the information to assess whether it has the ability to safely use this substance or products containing it. The fact remains that the Convention is about prior informed consent about trade in hazardous chemicals and not about banning any hazardous substance.
I submit that India should not allow itself to be misled by asbestos producers like Russia in this regard now that Canada has rightly stopped mining of white chrysotile asbestos almost like India due its “deleterious” impact on health. 
In view of the above, I demand that vested interests like ACPMA should not be included in the Indian delegation and it must support its inclusion in the Annexure III of the Rotterdam Convention at the UN meetings in March and in May, 2015 in Geneva. 

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
E-mail:1715krishna@gmail.com
Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Cc
Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Union Minister of External Affairs
Shri Ananth Kumar, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers
Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Dr. S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, Union Ministry of External Affairs
Shri Surjit Kumar Chaudhary, Secretary, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers
  





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