Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. For Details: krishnagreen@gmail.com

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Bihar Pollution Control Board yet to order decontamination of asbestos factory site

Now that Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) has cancelled the No Objection Certificate given to the asbestos factory unit of Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd in Giddha, Koelwar block, Bhojpur, Bihar is all set to be free of asbestos based factories. Sources have revealed that loans raised in the name of setting up the hazardous factory in question have been diverted to set up a unit Sri Lanka. The veracity of such claims merit separate probe by concerned agencies. 

Notably, Pollution Control Board's action is consistent with the ban in more than 70 countries. These countries have banned production, use, manufacture and trade of the hazardous mineral fiber, asbestos. These countries include: Nepal, Algeria, Czech Republic, Iceland, Malta, Seychelles, Argentina, Denmark, Ireland, Mozambique, Slovakia, Australia, Egypt, Israel, Netherlands, Slovenia, Austria, Estonia, Italy, New Caledonia, South Africa, Bahrain, Finland, Japan, Norway, Spain, Belgium, France, Jordan, Oman, Sweden, Brunei, Gabon, South Korea, Poland, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Germany, Kuwait, Portugal, Turkey, Chile, Greece, Latvia, Qatar, United Kingdom, Croatia, Honduras, Lithuania, Romania, Uruguay, Cyprus, Hungary, Luxembourg and Saudi Arabia. 

In such a backdrop, there is a logical compulsion based on scientific and medical evidence including resolutions of WHO and ILO to ban asbestos of all kinds including white chrysotile asbestos to save life and health of Indians. 

WHO’s views are available at: http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/asbestos/en/

Due to incessant efforts of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) and ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) along with Parwaywarn Bachao Jeewan Bachao Sangharsh Samiti and Parywawarn Swasthya Suraksha Samiti pointing out non-compliance with environmental laws, BSPCB has revoked its emission-consent order and discharge consent order which was valid till 31st March, 2018. Chairman, BSPCB has ordered, the company in question, Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd. to “close your industrial unit with immediate effect, failing which complaints shall be filed u/ss. 44 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and 37 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.”   This land allotment was considered to be part of the scam that led to an inquiry into allotments by Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA).

In Bhojpur's Giddha village in Koilwar block, the 100,000 MT Capacity Asbestos Fibre Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet, Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant acquired 15 acres. The plant site is located adjacent to Ara-Koilwar road. 

When it was repeatedly pointed out the violations of the general and specific conditions given the environmental clearance and NOC by the company, BSPCB took its cognizance. It made inquiries and reached the conclusion that this unit as a non-compliant industry. 

Significantly, questions have been raised against these plants in Bihar Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad. Abdul Bari Siddiqui, the leader of opposition has raised the issue of hazardous asbestos factories in Vidhan Sabha.

In another related observation Awadhesh Narain Singh Chairperson, Bihar Legislative Council (BLC) and former labour minister said, “buying asbestos is akin to buying cancer” and “pain of asbestos related diseases is worse than the pain of unemployment.” The speech of Chairman, BLC is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9TbemRUkYM

Given the fact that NOC of almost all the asbestos based factories been cancelled by BSPCB, it should ask Nibhi to decontaminate the site of it's factory in Giddha, Koelwar, Bhojpur pursuant to it's cancellation order. The Board ought to order health survey of villagers who reside in the vicinity, staff and teachers of the adjoining Trident B-Ed College and workers who were employed in the factory. Such measures can help establish the liability of the Nibhi and just compensation which ought to be awarded to the victims. 

In India, asbestos mining is technically banned and trade in asbestos waste (dust and fibers) is also banned but the process of banning trade, manufacturing and use of white asbestos is held up due to lobbying at the behest of asbestos producing countries.

Government’s apathy towards victims of primary and secondary exposure of killer asbestos mineral fibers shows that in the conflict between naked lust for profit and public health, it is choosing to be complicit with the former. The legacy of callousness towards victims of asbestos related diseases refuses to learn lessons from the epidemic of such diseases world over due to past usage of asbestos. Asbestos related diseases have a long incubation period ranging from 5-50 years.    

In a message to BANI, Prof. Colin L. Soskolne, University of Alberta, Canada Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health, University of Canberra, Australia Fellow, American College of Epidemiology and Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini pointed out that asbestos related diseases have a long incubation period ranging from "5 - 50" years" which has serious implications. 

 Union Environment Ministry’s Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health reads, "Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out" but the Experts Appraisal Committee of this very ministry continues to give environmental clearance to such hazardous industries. This is notwithstanding the fact that "The Government of India is considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure," as announced in a concept paper by the Ministry of Labour. Both these documents are available on central government’s website but struggle to make Indians safe from deadly exposure of asbestos fibers continues in the face of misinformation campaign of the killer industry.

Health being a State subject under the Constitution, Bihar ought to take a lead by banning asbestos procurement and use in the state to pave the way for other state governments and the central government to follow.

Responding to anti-asbestos struggle Bihar Chief Minister assured the state assembly in July 2019 that he will puncture this industry and will not allow setting up of such toxic factories in the state but the task of decontaminating asbestos laden factory site like one in Giddha, building, preparing a I'm register of victims of asbestos related diseases, creating an inventory of asbestos based products and announcing a compensation fund for victims of fatal diseases remains to be undertaken. It has reliably been learnt that the preliminary work of identifying victims have begun in a well known cancer hospital in Patna.       

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)  has been pursuing the campaign for a nation-wide for more than a decade to save present and future generation from asbestos related diseases. It's effort is aimed at environmental and occupational health justice in compliance with Supreme Court's verdict dated, 27 January, 1995 in CERC v Union of India. 

 FOR DETAILS: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), E: krishnagreen@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

PUBLIC STATEMENT: Fake claims of International Chrysotile Association, chrysotile asbestos lobby amidst pandemic condemned

BANI condemns fake claims of global chrysotile asbestos lobby amidst pandemic 

Notwithstanding World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Outline for the Development of National Programmes for Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases, pretending amnesia about the verdict of WTO’s Appellate Body, feigning ignorance about World Bank’s Good Practice Note on Asbestos Occupational and Community Health Issues and unmindful of ban on asbestos in over 70 countries, International Chrysotile Association (ICA), a notorious lobby group of hazardous asbestos industry has unleashed an unethical, immoral, unscientific and anti-people propaganda to take advantage of the Covid-19 disaster by claiming that white Chrysotile asbestos “can be used in a safe and responsible way, both in terms of workers’ health and the environment” for “water and sanitation infrastructures”. Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) condemns ICA’s misleading claims amidst pandemic in an unpardonable act of fishing in the troubled waters. 

Exposé of the International Chrysotile Association reveals that members of the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association of India (ACPMA) has been among the directors of ICA. ICA’s shameful conduct during the pandemic creates a compelling logic for end of immunity that protects asbestos industry and its lobby groups like ICA and ACPMA. Indeed, ICA indulges in the same “deadly deception for which the two Eternit asbestos executives have been sentenced to prison in Italy and the same deadly deception for which asbestos executives and their political and scientific collaborators are being pursued in France.” 

Asbestos has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by many national and international organizations. World Bank Group (WBG)’s Good Practice Note: Asbestos Occupational and Community Health Issues, states that Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) should be avoided in new construction, including construction for disaster relief. In reconstruction, demolition, and removal of damaged infrastructure, asbestos hazards should be identified and a risk management plan adopted that includes disposal techniques and end-of-life sites. 

It is noteworthy that Asian Development Bank (ADB)'s Technical Report on "India: Preparing the Bihar Urban Development Project—Environmental Impact Assessment for Bhagalpur Water Supply" (2011) states that “Special measures are also developed to protect workers and the public from exposure to carcinogenic asbestos fibers in the event that asbestos cement pipes used in the existing water supply system are uncovered accidentally during excavation work. 

Dealing with Asbestos Cement (AC) Pipes, ADB report states “An additional, particularly acute health risk presented by this subproject derives from the fact that, the existing water supply system may comprises partially AC pipes, so there is a risk of contact with carcinogenic material if these pipes are uncovered in the course of the work. Precautions have already been introduced into the design of the project to avoid this, of which the most important are that: (i) No work is proposed on those parts of the existing system that contains AC pipes (ring, carrier, and distribution mains), and these will be left in-situ undisturbed, so there will be no deliberate excavation of AC pipes; and (ii) The locations of the new network has been planned to avoid all locations of existing AC pipes so these pipes will not be discovered accidentally.” It underlines that claims of ICA and ACPMA are inconsistent with World Bank Group’s concerns about hazards from asbestos cements pipes because it cannot be used in a safe and responsible way, both in terms of workers’ health and the environment” for “water and sanitation infrastructures”. 

Reiterating the same, ADB's Initial Environmental Examination Report of India: Bihar Urban Development Investment Program—Bhagalpur Water Supply Subproject (2016) states that "There are no Asbestos Cement Pipes existing and no such pipes have been proposed in the current investments and so any related hazard from asbestos fibres has been avoided." Clearly, ICA’s sophistry has failed to cut ice with the Bank. 

Asbestos gets introduced into water by the dissolution of asbestos-containing minerals and ores as well as from industrial effluents, atmospheric pollution, and Asbestos Cement pipes in water distribution systems. Exfoliation of asbestos fibres from Asbestos Cement pipes is related to the aggressiveness of the water supply. Erosion of such piping appeared to contribute measurably to the asbestos content of water supplies. Foods that contain soil particles, dust, or dirt probably contain asbestos fibres; crude estimates suggest that the intake of asbestos in food may be significant in comparison with that in drinking-water. The fact remains that the possibility of whatever gets ingested also getting inside human lungs through breathing cannot be ruled out and creates a case for adoption of precautionary principle. 

Indian government has rightly banned mining of all kinds of asbestos and trade in asbestos waste but it is yet to ban import, manufacture and use of white chrysotile asbestos under the deleterious influence of ICA and asbestos promoters like Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Syria, Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, the International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile”, Fiber Cement Product Manufacturer’s Association of India and Asbestos Cement Product Manufacturer’s Association. 

Government must resist their influence to safeguard public health in the light of the findings with regard to carcinogenic white chrysotile asbestos mineral fiber published on National Health Portal (NHP)[1], Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India. 

Under the influence of ICA and asbestos producers, India has disregarded incontrovertible conclusive scientific evidence provided by the WHO pointing out how all forms of asbestos cause cancer in humans. India must disassociate itself from asbestos promoters and adopt the stance of its own National Health Portal with regard to all forms of asbestos including white chrysotile asbestos. The portal states that “All forms of asbestos (chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite) are in use because of their extraordinary tensile strength, poor heat conduction, and relative resistance to chemical attack. Chemically, asbestos minerals are silicate compounds, meaning they contain atoms of silicon and oxygen in their molecular structure. All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans. Exposure to asbestos (including chrysotile) causes cancer of the lung, larynx, and ovaries, and also mesothelioma (a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal linings). Asbestos exposure is also responsible for other diseases such as asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), and plaques, thickening and effusion in the pleura.”[2] It observes that “Exposure to asbestos occurs through inhalation of fibers in air in the working environment, ambient air in the vicinity of point sources such as factories handling asbestos, or indoor air in housing and buildings containing friable asbestos materials.” 

As per a UN document, chrysotile asbestos is the predominant asbestos fibre consumed today (94% of the world’s production) and is processed into products such as friction materials, asbestos-cement, cement pipe and sheet, gaskets and seals, paper and textiles. The asbestos-cement industry is by far the largest user of chrysotile fibres, accounting for about 85% of all use 

It is a universal fact that exposing human beings to asbestos fibers constitutes violation of human rights by asbestos companies. Government of India has a duty to protect the human rights and public health of present and future generation of Indians by disassociating itself from the seven countries that are promoting white chrysotile asbestos unmindful of its human and environmental cost. 

So far, Government of India has ignored Indian Supreme Court’s verdict of 27 January, 1995 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986. The Court observed: “The development of the carcinogenic risk due to asbestos or any other carcinogenic agent, does not require a 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, remains the legal and social responsibility of the employer or the producer not to endanger the workmen or the community of 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 efficacy without die professional, industrial and governmental resources and legal and moral determination to implement such regulations.” Rotterdam Convention’s PIC procedure and the recommendations of CRC are consistent with Indian Supreme Court’s verdict and inconsistent with claims of ICA and ACPMA. 

Given the fact that mining of asbestos is rightly banned in India because of its hazardous nature, a member of ACPMA had revealed to the government and the public that the chrysotile type asbestos fiber “will be imported from Brazil[3], Canada and Russia.” It is the only kind that remains to be totally banned in India. Now the fact is that Brazil and Canada have banned asbestos and India has emerged as the biggest consumer of Russian white chrysotile. 

All the central ministries and state governments were supposed to incorporate specific directions of the Court given in its verdict of 27 January 1995 and reiterated on 21 January 2011 with regard to fresh ILO Resolution of June 14, 2006 introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos besides WHO‟s resolution of 2005 seeking elimination of future use of asbestos but it has been ignored so far. The Supreme Court has recorded that “whenever asbestos fibres are used for insulation and other purposes, the possibility of asbestosis among workers due to inhalation of asbestos fibres cannot be ruled out”[4]. It noted that these materials are highly dangerous to human health, if inhaled or if contacted with skin surface. 

Admittedly, Government of India’s National Health Portal states: “The burden of asbestos-related diseases is still rising, even in countries that banned the use of asbestos in the early 1990s. Because of the long latency periods attached to the asbestos related diseases, stopping the use of asbestos now will result in a decrease in the number of asbestos-related deaths only after a number of decades. There is no safe use of asbestos and no safe limits set by WHO, ILO (International labour organization)”[5]. It discloses that “The prevalence of asbestosis in four cement factories (Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Mumbai) varied from 3% to 5%” and “In asbestos textile industry prevalence of asbestosis was 9% in workers having less than 10 years exposure, in contrast to the reported average duration of over 20 years”[6]

Notably, in a reply to the Parliament, Union Minister of Health and Family welfare stated that “The Ministry of Mines has informed that the Grant of fresh mining leases and renewal of existing mining leases for Asbestos are presently banned in the country on Health Grounds”[7] (Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare, 2014). He also shared the findings of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare which has “informed that major health hazards of asbestos include cancer of lung, mesothelioma of pleura and peritoneum and specific fibrous disease of lung known as asbestosis. All types of asbestos fibers are responsible for human mortality and morbidity….Directorate General Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes, (DGFASLI) under Ministry of Labour & Employment has intimated data of workers suffering from Asbestosis in factories registered under the Factories Act, 1948.As per the information provided by DGFASLI, it is informed that 21 no. of Asbestosis cases were reported in Gujarat in 2010 and 2 cases in Maharashtra in the year 2012”. This has been shared by the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare in a written reply to the Parliament and released by Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 

So far governments have ignored the fact that the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods classifies Chrysotile Asbestos in Hazard Class and Packing Group. Its International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code is UN No: 2590: Class or division 9. 

Meanwhile, current phasing out of asbestos roofs from some 8000 railway stations across the country is significant. Taking note of hazards from asbestos of all kinds, rules have been framed in Maharashtra state as a step to make the state free of asbestos. It is also significant that bitter protests of villagers led to the cancellation of asbestos based factories in Bhojpur, Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, West Champaran and Madhubani in Bihar. 

While there has been failure in listing of white chrysotile asbestos in the UN list of hazardous chemicals, the fact remains nothing stops Government of India to comply with Supreme Court’s verdict of 27th January, 1995 by adopting ILO resolution of 2006 which seeks elimination of all kinds of asbestos for the protection of human health and demonstrating that vested interest like ICA and ACPMA cannot dictate its public health policy with regard to such carcinogenic mineral fibers. 

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)*, E-mail: krishnagreen@gmail.com, Mb: 9818089660, Web: www.asbestosfreeindia.org

*Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) is a research and advocacy forum which has been working for freedom from asbestos related diseases and environmental and occupational health justice since 2000. 

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[1] Asbestos-related diseases, National Health Portal, Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/non-communicable-disease/asbestos-related-diseases

[2] Asbestos-related diseases, National Health Portal, Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/non-communicable-disease/asbestos-related-diseases

[3] Casado, Leticia (2017) Brazilian Supreme Court Bans Use of Asbestos in Brazil 
November 30, Brasilia, https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/internacional/en/business/2017/11/1939473-brazilian-supreme-court-bans-use-of-asbestos-in-brazil.shtml 9 

[4] (2005), Order of Supreme Court, Writ Petition (Civil) No.79 of 2005 

[5] Asbestos-related diseases, National Health Portal, Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/non-communicable-disease/asbestos-related-diseases

[6] Asbestos-related diseases, National Health Portal, Centre for Health Informatics (CHI), National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/non-communicable-disease/asbestos-related-diseases

[7] Asbestos Related Diseases, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Press Information Bureau 
Government of India, 21 February, 2014, http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=104105

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