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.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Asbestos, Asbestos Containing Material (ACM), Asbestos Wastes and their Impact on Worker’s Health

All forms of asbestos except Chrysotile Asbestos is banned in India. Mining of asbestos is also banned since no new lease for asbestos mining is allowed. The export and import of asbestos waste (dust and fiber) is also banned as per Hazardous Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2003. But import of Canadian and Chrysotile asbestos is still allowed despite ban in some 40 countries due to incurable but preventable cancer caused by this killer fiber in the name of its continued mythical “safe and controlled use”.
No accurate figures can be stated about the total number of asbestos victims in India as quantification has never been done despite ongoing global asbestos crisis. No has such attempt has been made till date. Constraints of finance, technical know-how and competence regarding the environmental pollution control and to some extent, lack of preference of health in relation to financial gains are some of the important factors which influence the appropriate development of health and safety strategy. Other factors include migratory nature of workers and non maintenance of medical or other records by the factory owners for the migrant labourers which makes it difficult to track the exposure-related diseases.
Given the fact that largest manmade epidemic of asbestos related diseases have become a reality and even reputed medical journals like British Medical Journal (January 31, 2004) have acknowledged it, Government of India should provide the names, addresses and photographs of the asbestos handlers including those who have been examined by the NIOH. This will enable future generations to ascertain for whether or not asbestos exposure was avoidable by preventing its use.
Asbestos is a proven human carcinogen (a substance which can cause cancer). No safe level can be proposed for asbestos products because a threshold is not known to exist. The greater the exposure, the greater the risk of developing lung disease (and cancer). The exposures of workers installing, maintaining and handling asbestos-cement products are quite high, and this exposure defies regulatory control efforts. Asbestos has however, one very dangerous quality, as it accumulates in the body; the microscopic fibers lodged in tissues can remain like little time bombs and cause cancer years later. Since asbestos exposure is cumulative, young people are in particular need of protection. The empirical research says "Adults have three or four decades to develop cancer after exposure". "The kids have six or seven. This means that a smaller dose of a carcinogen is as dangerous to the kids as a larger dose of it is to adults".
“Why is it that the concern of the countries which have banned asbestos not relevant to India?” While asbestos imports and use continues to grow in countries like India, its use has decreased significantly in the developed countries. Canada exports almost all of the asbestos (more than 96%) mined in the country, especially to Asia, including India, whereas asbestos use in Canada is almost non-existent. In the US, demand for asbestos has continued to decline. The developed world has responded to the asbestos health catastrophe with bans on the use of asbestos.
As this unfolds, the global asbestos industry is transferring its commercial activities to the third world. "Multinational asbestos corporations present a deplorable history of international exploitation. These firms have opened large and profitable internal and export markets in Brazil and elsewhere in South America, and in India, Thailand, Nigeria, Angola, Mexico, Uruguay, and Argentina."
Current Status in India: Dealing with “Impact of Hazardous Waste on Worker’s Health”, Hon’ble Supreme Court directed the government “to examine the matter and enumerate medical benefits which may be provided to the workers having regard to the occupational hazard as also keeping in view the question of health of the workers and the compensation which may have to be paid to them. The Committee while examining the recommendations, shall also keep in view the judgment of this Court in Consumer Education and Research Centre vs. Union of India (1995 (3) SCC 42).”
In the Consumer Education and Research Centre vs. Union of India matter the Hon’ble Court directed Union and the State Governments are directed to review asbestos standards must be reviewed “every 10 years and also as and when the ILO gives directions in this behalf consistent with its recommendations or any convention; (5) the Union and all the State Governments are directed to consider inclusion of such of those small-scale factory or factories or industries to protect health hazards of all workers engaged in the manufacture of asbestos or its ancillary products; appropriate Inspector of Factories in particular of the State of Gujarat, is directed to send all the workers, examined by the ESI hospital concerned, for re-examination by the National Institute of Occupational Health to detect whether all or any of them is suffering from asbestosis. In case of the positive finding that all or any of them are suffering from occupational health hazards, each such worker shall be entitled to compensation in a sum of rupees one lakh payable by the factory or industry or establishment concerned within a period of three months from the date of certification by the National Institute of Occupational Health.” (pg 73, 74. 1995 (3) SCC 42)
Although the Hon’ble Court had directed Union and State Governments to take action consistent with ILO resolutions and Convention on Asbestos, the concerned Ministries have not even initiated any action in pursuance of ILO’s Resolution on Asbestos dated 14th June, 2006 stating “the elimination of the future use of asbestos and the identification and proper management of asbestos currently in place are the most effective means to protect workers from asbestos exposures and to prevent future asbestos-related disease and deaths” has not been acted upon. That even if the use of asbestos products is discontinued there are and there will be a massive number victims from past asbestos exposure as is being experienced globally in US, Europe, Australia, Japan and other countries, therefore, the compensation amount may be increased from the current Rs 1 lakh to at least Rs 10 lakh. There is an urgent necessity for the creation of NIOH like facility in each state to deal with the imminent unprecedented environmental and occupational health crisis from asbestos exposure.
The Final Report of the Committee of Technical Experts has admitted that the vessel is laden with different kinds of asbestos such as Chrysotile, Amosite, and Crocidolite. (pg 4917, vol. xiv). Acknowledging the hazards from asbestos, the same Report NIOH’s admission “We do not have any information with regard to concentration of asbestos in the work environment” in its Report for TEC is noteworthy. (pg. 4824, vol. xiii)
In pursuance of the directions from the Chairman, TEC, the Director, NIOH was asked for medical examination of Asbestos Handlers. The NIOH in its recommendation said, “The directives of Hon Supreme Court (1995) for asbestos exposed workers …should be strictly followed.” The same has not been done else 16 % of the workers would not been found exposed to asbestos.
At page 4923, the Final Report of TEC has a copy of a letter dated March 14, 2006 (three months prior to SS Norway’s entry in the Indian territory) by one Jean Michel Chiapell wherein it is stated that “In Europe the exposure limit for workers is 0.100 fiber (average concentration over 1 hour). That means the air on the Norway was very clean, probably because of marine environment, and because most of the asbestos is covered or painted.”
It is noteworthy that the letter dated March 14, 2006 submitted by the TEC refers to the European occupational exposure limit. It is incomprehensible as to how the occupational exposure limit in Europe has any significance for a ship that carries tons of asbestos still on it, to India. The whole idea was for the European or American owners to have asbestos and other hazardous materials removed prior to sending the ship to India for shipbreaking. What difference does it make what the European asbestos workplace exposure limit is, if the asbestos is not removed in Europe?
In this connection it is relevant to submit that asbestos has been banned throughout the European Union since 1 January 2005. Asbestos is now a banned substance throughout all twenty-five member countries of the European Union. A five year phase-out period which was permitted under Commission Directive 1999/77/EC ended on January 1, 2005.
The countries that have banned asbestos are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom (including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), Uruguay and others.
On June 21, 2004, South Africa announced a 3-5 year phase-out of asbestos use and a ban on asbestos. Vietnam has banned the usage of chrysotile as a building material and is making more serious attempts than most Asian countries to remove asbestos from workplaces and replace it with safer alternatives. Vietnam announced its plan to ban in 2004. South Korea and Peru have also announced that they will soon ban asbestos.
An urgent intervention is needed in the matter of a serious unprecedented environmental, physical and occupational health and moral crisis with regard to unnoticed asbestos (killer fibre) epidemic in our country. It is high time concerned authorities took note of exposures of workers and citizen consumers. “The Asbestos War” an editorial in the International Journal of Environmental Health, Special Issue, 2003 is a revealing document. It says, after one hundred years, asbestos industry’s battle for Europe as its market had been lost. Following the collapse in Western demand for asbestos, producers have mounted a global campaign to protect remaining markets and develop new ones. A well-oiled propaganda machine reassures civil servants and consumers that asbestos can be used “safely under controlled conditions,” despite a vast amount of scientific and medical evidence, which proves otherwise.
The word 'asbestos' in Greek means 'indestructible'. All types of asbestos tend to break into very tiny fibre, almost microscopic. In fact, some of them may be up to 700 times smaller than human hair. Because of their small size, once released into the air or water they may stay suspended for hours or even days. Because of its high durability and with tensile strength asbestos has been widely used in construction and insulation materials - it has been used in over 3,000 different products. After mining and milling (crushed/grinding), Asbestos is processed through various methods and used for making cement products, gasket sheet material, friction material, heat resistant textiles, some special applications like in paints, thermoplastics etc. In addition it is used for textiles, laminated products, tape, gland packing, packing ropes, brake lining and jointing used in core sector industries such as automobile, heavy equipment, petro-chemicals, nuclear power plants, fertilizers, thermal power plants, transportation, defense. Asbestos fibre is used in manufacture of asbestos cement roofs, pressure and non pressure pipes, sewage, irrigation and drainage system in urban and rural areas etc.
Asbestos is world's most notorious industrial health hazard. The primary routes of potential human exposure to asbestos are inhalation. Asbestos is used so widely that the entire population is potentially exposed to some degree. According World Health Organisation "Damage to asbestos-containing material can result in the release of small asbestos fibres that become airborne and are readily inhaled. These fibres can remain in the lungs for long periods and can cause serious lung disease." Therefore, it is harmful to not only the workers who make the asbestos products and handle them but also to the consumers who use them. In such a scenario, all studies concerning health hazards of asbestos are relevant.

In a journal article "The Asbestos Cancer Epidemic", Joseph Ladou, editor, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health wrote, “The asbestos cancer epidemic may take as many as 10 million lives before asbestos is banned worldwide and exposures are brought to an end. In many developed countries, in the most affected age groups, mesothelioma may account for 1% of all deaths. In addition to mesotheliomas, 5-7% of all lung cancers can be attributed to occupational exposures to asbestos. The asbestos cancer epidemic would have been largely preventable if the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) had responded early and responsibly. The WHO was late in recognizing the epidemic and failed to act decisively after it was well under way. The WHO and the ILO continue to fail to address the problem of asbestos mining, manufacturing, and use and world trade of a known human carcinogen. Part of the problem is that the WHO and the ILO have allowed organizations such as the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) and other asbestos industry advocates to manipulate them and to distort scientific evidence. The global asbestos cancer epidemic is a story of monumental failure to protect the public health…All forms of asbestos can result in asbestosis (a progressive fibrotic disease of the lungs), lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a cancer arising in the membranes lining the pleural and peritoneal cavities.”(Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 112, 2004)

In an editorial “Chrysotile in India: Truth Held Hostage” (Indian Journal of Community Medicine, January – March 2006) Sanjay Chaturvedi, Professor, University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, Delhi wrote, “Information showing asbestos-cancer relationship was available as early as the 1940s. During next 2 decades, enough epidemiological as well as experimental evidence was generated to prove this relationship. For half a century the asbestos industry, in collaboration with some of the leaders of occupational and respiratory medicine, was able to suppress most of the data1. Meanwhile, millions of people were exposed to the carcinogen and hundreds of thousand died. The knowledge that asbestos causes cancer became public in the 80s, not because of scientific community but as a result of prolonged struggle and legal actions by ordinary people. For decades, certain privileged sections of the world order, including some scientists, were instrumental in the enormous release of a known carcinogen, just to keep their .profits. intact. Now we have a job on our hands - for a century - to combat the insult. Isn’t it a profound statement on our times, our polity and to an extent our science? This is just a punctuation in the whole story that ceases to conclude.”
Even World Bank has a policy against asbestos since 1991. “The Bank increasingly prefers to avoid financing asbestos use...Thus, at any mention of asbestos in Bank-assisted projects, the Task Manager needs to exercise special care.” The International Finance Corporation, the arm of the World Bank Group that lends to the private sector, urges that materials be avoided whose hazards to workers and the community cannot easily be prevented, such as “the use of asbestos in building materials.”
USA: The unanimous and successful passage of Ban Asbestos America Act of 2007 by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is a result of past exposure due to asbestos related deaths
CANADA: Canadian MP Pat Martin spoke out about Canada's duplicitous behavior in supporting the global asbestos lobby; his remarks were quoted in an article published in Canada on July 25, 2006 entitled: Canada tarnished by asbestos trade: "Canada is acting like an 'international pariah' by exporting asbestos to Third World countries despite the well-known health hazards, says a Manitoba MP (Martin)…".The Canadian asbestos industry was, Martin said, a "corporate serial killer" which exports "human misery." The Canadian Government should, Martin urged, ban all forms of asbestos, shut down the remaining mines, provide early retirement for asbestos workers and financial assistance to affected industries and communities. Martin has urged the government to launch a comprehensive testing and removal program.
· ASIA: The Asian debate on asbestos began in 2004 at the Global Asbestos Congress (GAC 2004) in Tokyo; the Bangkok conference progressed the discussion and allowed new voices to be heard. There was considerable interest amongst delegates in the availability of alternatives to replace asbestos-cement, a substance still being widely used throughout Asia. Following which Japan banned asbestos. The Asian Asbestos Conference which was held in Bangkok, Thailand in July 2006. The Bangkok Declaration on the Elimination of Asbestos and Asbestos-related Disease, called for a total ban on the use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Judging by the opinions expressed in Bangkok, there is little doubt that the momentum for a regional asbestos ban has been boosted by the conference.
· INDIA: On August 18, 2003, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare told the Indian Parliament that: “Studies by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad, have shown that long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.” This was not the first official acknowledgment of the asbestos hazard. Government of India’s Office Memorandum NO.6 (6)/94 - Cement, (Sept 1, 1994) of the Ministry of Industry states: “The Department has generally not been recommending any case of Industrial License to any new unit for the creation of fresh capacity of asbestos products in the recent past due to the apprehension that prolonged exposure to asbestos leads to serious health hazards”.
In Uttar Pradesh a survey of U.P. Asbestos Limited, Mohanlalganj, Lucknow and Allied Nippn Pvt Ltd, Gaziabad, (U.P), the lung function impairment was found to be higher in subjects exposed for more than 11 years. This was the result of a Central Pollution Control Board sponsored project entitled "Human risk assessment studies in asbestos industries in India". This has been reported in the (2001-2002) Annual Report of Industrial Toxicological Research Centre, Lucknow. It has also been published in the 139th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forests, Science and Technology and presented to the parliament on 17th March, 2005.
Dr S R Kamat, a renowned lung specialist was bitter at the "utter callousness of employers", the total lack of medical expertise and government inaction; all of which continued to put workers at risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases. In the 5 surveys done in the country, large number of the subjects showed asbestos lung diseases. All of them showed breathing problem, many had cough, some had sputum, chest pain finger clubbing and chest pain. Disability in such cases are permanent, progressive; means of compensation are meager. Dr Kamath, has observed number of asbestosis cases where patients who have not directly worked with asbestos had contracted the disease. "….patient was an industrialist's son, owner of an asbestos boxing plant...was exposed to the dust and diagnosed with asbestosis. In another case, the patient had an office in the first floor of a building which had asbestos boxing shed in the ground floor. The patient got exposed to asbestos fibres and dust through the AC ducts into the office...he was diagnosed with asbestosis too. A railway master was diagnosed with asbestosis due to the constant loading of asbestos in the rail wagons."
Dr Qamar Rahman one of the most renowned toxicologists of India formerly with Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (ITRC), Lucknow has revealed very shocking data on cellular and genetic mutations and about the plight of the asbestos mine workers especially women. She informed the scientific and medical community present here about the occurrences of asbestos related diseases that include cases where women have died after 6-7 years of the first exposure as was reported by the government doctors.
CONCLUSION: The present pathetic situation demands the criminal prosecution of those responsible for asbestos exposures such as factory owners and company directors and also the planners and users of the product. Asbestos is a public health issue, which the Government has ignored for far too long. Although non-asbestos technology certainly exists in India, in fact in some factories the two technologies exist side-by-side, consumers will inevitably opt for the cheaper product: more demand will translate into higher sales which will generate more Asbestos Money that is being used to obtain political support.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Parliamentary Committee Seeks Awareness Campaign about Asbestos Hazards

Parliamentary Committee Seeks Awareness Campaign

Thursday, August 23, 2007

BANI Update

BANI Update

August, 2007


Following anti asbestos campaign of BANI and correspondence with the Chief Minister of Delhi, the government has initiated a survey or asbestos products in Delhi in order to phase out use of asbestos products from Delhi. The Principal Scientific Officer of the government at the instruction from the Chief Secretary has initiated the process but in conversation with a BANI member underlined that there is no alternative to banning it.

It is noteworthy that currently both asbestos products and asbestos free products are being manufactured in Delhi and National Capital Territory but the former is meant for domestic consumption and the latter is meant for export.


The state of Haryana has continued the use of asbestos cement pipes for water supply.

As a result of the efforts made to get asbestos banned the Government of Haryana has examined the hazardous nature of asbestos cement water pipes, which were meant for water supply in rural areas within the state. The Public Health Department has taken a position that the department “was against the use of asbestos pipes for water supply as asbestos was a deadly carcinogen.” In another order issued in September 2006, the Industries Department withdrew the order debarring Bansal Asbestos Cement Product Private Ltd of Indore from doing business with the Haryana Government. The company was blacklisted for three years in July, 2004. It has been noted by the public health department that “Unless asbestos was banned, the real cost of asbestos may be paid in death and disability”.


Engagements with Maharsthra Pollution Control Board bore fruit; it has now released a FAQ on hazards from asbestos.


Deputy Commissioner of Ranchi has sought to know concrete steps as to how he can make Ranchi district asbestos free.

Uttar Pradesh

Visits were made by BANI to asbestos cement sheet plants in Lucknow and Raebarely to take stock of the status of exposure to the asbestos workers. The same has been was widely published.

Policy Intervention

BANI has written letters to all the chief ministers and administrators of the Union Territories urging them to make their states asbestos free. Some of them have responded and responses are awaited from others. BANI has been pursuing them to respond to the imminent asbestos crisis in the country.

BANI has consistently engaged with media to impress upon the government to put a ban on asbestos trade and use and support the inclusion of Chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list of Rotterdam Convention.

BANI has used all the platforms made available to it to argue for ban on asbestos. It did so when the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous wastes and Technical Experts Committee called it for its submission.

It lambasted National Institute of Occupational Health for having taken fund from chrysotile asbestos industry to undertake research on harmful effects of chrysotile asbestos cement. It condemned the misinformation campaign of AK Saraf, Chairman of the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association, India who said, “Asbestos cement used in India is free from all health hazards.” It persuaded CSR Asia to endorse phasing out of asbestos stating “Companies must adopt global policies for avoiding the use of new asbestos products and carefully manage in-place asbestos products in existing infrastructure.”

Following anti-asbestos efforts the study done by Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment, Government of India that showed no harmful effects has been questioned. Now it has been noted that on the basis of scientific research that all the varieties of asbestos are hazardous and harmful to health.

In the ongoing hazardous waste case in the Supreme Court asbestos, asbestos containing material and asbestos wastes has become the key issues of concern. In the submission made to the court as affidavits BANI has submitted that some 45 countries have banned asbestos and informed the court that ILO too has recommended it. It reminded the Court of its own order of 1995 wherein it had directed the Government to make its steps consistent with ILO resolutions. In the entire Blue Lady case matter besides the issue of prior decontamination of the ship hazards from asbestos has been brought in the public domain quite prominently.

Dealing with the asbestos matter the Parliamentary Petitions Committee in its report dated 17 August, 2007 has asked the Ministry of Environment “to strongly campaign to create awareness amongst the people about the ill effects of asbestos” that has been submitted in the parliament.

BANI’s web address:

Monday, August 20, 2007

‘It’s a horrible way to die’: Lawsuits mounting over asbestos-related cancer

Tens of thousands of blue-collar workers are being robbed of their golden years be
cause of a deadly asbestos-related lung cancer that for decades has been overlooked by researchers and swept under the rug by companies that hid the dangers of the deadly mineral.
Only recently has medical research come around, and now former plumbers, mechanics and Navy shipbuilders are taking asbestos manufacturers and insurance companies to court for compensation.
Mesothelioma, which is diagnosed in 3,000 Americans a year, is 100 percent fatal and caused directly by asbestos, experts say.
“Some of these companies are being held accountable, but it doesn’t make the whole circumstance easier to deal with,” said Michael Levesque, a Bay State native who lost his mother to the disease. “It wasn’t about money. I’d rather have my mom here.”
Pauline Levesque, who lived in Swansea and Raynham, died of mesothelioma in 2001 at age 72, after decades of asbestos exposure from doing her husband’s laundry.
Her husband, who was exposed to asbestos as an airplane mechanic, never contracted it. His family reached a confidential settlement with multiple defendants.
“It’s a disease that’s been ignored for decades,” said Chris Hahn, director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation in California. In the past year, attorney competition for patients suffering from mesothelioma has heated up in the wake of a failed bill in Congress that would have set up one large fund for compensation, preventing more lawsuits.
The history of the asbestos coverup is well-documented and not entirely unlike the tobacco company scandal of the 1980s, said Barry Castleman, a Maryland asbestos expert who wrote “Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects.”
He said some companies hid the results of employee health studies and continued to sell and profit from asbestos. The effects of those decisions still linger.
A typical mesothelioma settlement is at least six figures, sometimes more than $1 million, attorneys said. Last month Travelers Cos. Inc., which insured former asbestos contractor ACandS, settled litigation worth $449 million.
“The companies knew plenty about toxic substances. It’s extraordinary how much they did know. The workers didn’t know. Nobody was telling them. The unions knew little or nothing,” Castleman said. The federal government started phasing out asbestos products in the 1980s, but they are still present in older buildings, homes and some auto parts.
Mike Shepard, a Boston attorney who has litigated 500 mesothelioma cases, including the Levesque case, said mesothelioma is still a medical mystery. “Doctors don’t know why in some people this horrible disease is triggered and other people could work their entire lives around asbestos and not get this disease,” he said.
Only recently have doctors developed better treatment and understanding of mesothelioma, said Dr. Raphael Bueno, a thoracic surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, home to the International Mesothelioma Program.
He said research and treatment options are lagging far behind other cancers. “It’s decades behind breast cancer research,” Bueno said. “Mesothelioma is the other side of the spectrum.”


By Jessica Fargen / Sunday Focus: Health & Medicine
Boston Herald Health & Medical Reporter
Sunday, August 19, 2007

Killing the Future: Asbestos use in Asia

— Stephen Frost

The first anniversary of a landmark conference in Bangkok has been marked with the publication of a dossier exposing the devastating repercussions of Asia’s increasing consumption of asbestos, an acknowledged carcinogen. Information and data previously unobtainable in English form the core of Killing the Future: Asbestos Use in Asia (download full report here - opens as PDF 1.4 MB). Favourite quote?

“Asbestos cement used in India is free from all health hazards.” AK Saraf, Chairman of the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association, India.

CSR recommendation: Companies must adopt global policies for avoiding the use of new asbestos products and carefully manage in-place asbestos products in existing infrastructure.

Update: Please see a letter in response to this posting below the fold from Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) - the organisation that published the book. His letter is well worth reading and offers a powerful condemnation of the quote by AK Saraf above.

This is with reference to a piece “Killing the Future: Asbestos use in Asia” on your website published on 8th August, 2007.

BANI objected to the statement of A K Saraf of Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association quoted in the piece is highly misleading. In India the asbestos industry has mastered the art of misinformation campaign. The statement is an expression of the same.

The book “Killing the Future: Asbestos Use in Asia” provides an authentic account of health hazards from asbestos in India. BANI is one of the publishers of the book.

It is inappropriate for Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia to allow its web space to be used by likes of A K Saraf of Asbestos Industry to spread falsehoods such as “Asbestos cement used in India is free from all health hazards.”

BANI condemns this statement because it is inhuman, anti-worker, anti-environment and against established public health facts with regard to hazards from this killer fiber. There are some 673 asbestos factory units which employs casual and contract workers who are destined to die due one of the most painful deaths imaginable as a result of incurable asbestos related diseases.

Even a Supreme Court Committee headed Secretary, India Ministry of Environment and Forests submitted to the Supreme Court in August 2006 that 16 % of the workers exposed to asbestos are suffering from asbestos related diseases.

Although the apex court of India has ruled that the Government of India must comply with ILO resolutions, so far the ILO resolution (June 14, 2006) stating “the elimination of the future use of asbestos and the identification and proper management of asbestos currently in place are the most effective means to protect workers from asbestos exposures and to prevent future asbestos-related disease and deaths” has not been acted upon.

India has banned all forms of asbestos except Chrysotile Asbestos. Mining of asbestos and export of asbestos waste is also banned in India. Canada is the biggest exporter of asbestos to India.

In India, sale of the killer fiber called Canadian Chrysotile Asbestos is promoted through Asbestos Information Centre (AIC) and Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association. Indian Government seems to be in a vice like grip of Canadian asbestos mafia.

According to information provided by the Information Commissioner of Canada, “Canada is working with other countries to promote chrysotile asbestos. The Indian government has worked diligently in cooperation with the Indian AIC and the Canadian Asbestos Institute.” Canadian High Commission in India says, “A ruling which states that subjecting a worker to asbestos is a violation of human rights could have far reaching consequences whether or not it is binding". It also notes, “AIC is of the belief that problems with safe use of asbestos will arise in the unorganised sector. These include small manufacturers who cannot afford to either install the equipment necessary to safely use asbestos or invest in the health needs of their workers.” AIC accepts that “unorganised sector does use imported products that they acquire through agents.” It is noteworthy that Indian Government consults and trusts this very AIC in matters related to continued use of Chrysotile.

Government of India’s “Office Memorandum NO.6 (6)/94 – Cement” of the Ministry of Industry has stated: “The Department has generally not been recommending any case of Industrial License to any new unit for the creation of fresh capacity of asbestos products in the recent past due to the apprehension that prolonged exposure to asbestos leads to serious health hazards". But under tremendous influence of the industry, the government has changed its stance and has not only ignored in the global evidence against this killer fiber but also has consistently made asbestos artificially cheaper.

BANI demands criminal prosecution of those responsible for letting workers and citizens suffer asbestos exposures. It is alarming to note the misinformation by the Chrysotile asbestos cement industry and AIC since they will have Indians believe that the pattern of asbestos is entirely different in India hence most of the diseases pattern seen in the West bear no relevance to the magnitude of Indian experience.

It is in this backdrop that the outcome of the Chrysotile asbestos study by at National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad is highly suspect because it has been partly funded by the Chrysotile asbestos industry along with Indian Ministry of Chemicals.

When the world is preparing and planning to get rid of all forms of asbestos, the asbestos industry makes India look stupid to by pressurising the government through its political influence to keep promoting it.

BANI appreciates the fact that CSR Asia has recommended, “Companies must adopt global policies for avoiding the use of new asbestos products” but sadly asbestos industry and the Government of India is acting contrary to such a sane advice.

Lust for profit and the lack of political will is letting the unpardonable criminal act of exposing humans to the killer asbestos fiber goes on and yet Canada calls itself a civilized country. Indian National Congress led coalition Government too remains a callous collaborator in the ongoing acts of barbarism.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Canadian Cancer Society Calls for Elimination of Asbestos

Canadian Cancer Society Pursues Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases

11 July 2007

TORONTO - The Canadian Cancer Society is calling on the federal government to adopt a comprehensive asbestos strategy, including the eventual phasing out of both the use and export of this substance.

“The Society believes that exposure to asbestos must stop so that asbestos-related diseases can be eliminated,” says Dr. Barbara Whylie, CEO, Canadian Cancer Society, in announcing a new position adopted by the National Board of Directors.

In developing its asbestos position, the Society wanted to ensure elimination of this harmful substance going forward, without forgetting either the people who have already been affected from exposure or those whose livelihood depends on asbestos.

“Ensuring there is a fair and just transition plan for communities affected by changes to the asbestos industry must be part of a comprehensive approach,” says Whylie.

Whylie adds that the Society’s next step is to join with other interested parties to develop an asbestos action plan. “We want to see a strategy in place as soon as possible.”

The Society’s position is:

  • Canadians must be safe from exposure to asbestos around mines and industries, in their communities and homes, and at work.
  • People working with asbestos, with asbestos-containing products and in asbestos removal projects, should be made aware of the dangers. Stringent protection measures, and the safest methods to remove or replace asbestos-containing materials, should be used.
  • A national surveillance system to track asbestos-related diseases in Canada must be developed. This system would assess the extent of asbestos-related diseases in Canada and it would track health outcomes for those Canadians suffering with asbestos-related diseases.
  • A public registry of buildings that contain asbestos should be maintained. This will ensure that asbestos-specific health hazards linked with degrading structures are more quickly identified. Removal of asbestos from these structures must take place with proper training and equipment.
  • People and communities affected by strategies to reduce asbestos exposure should have resources to ensure ongoing financial stability. Individual Canadians, labour unions, producers, manufacturers, and all levels of government must work together to ensure that solutions meet local needs.
  • Countries importing asbestos from Canada must be made fully informed of the health and environmental risks.
  • Safer substitutes for asbestos, which have been identified, should be safely phased into use, including safeguards for workers.
  • Research must continue to identify safer alternative to asbestos. More research is also needed to determine how to reduce exposure in existing asbestos-containing structures.
  • Information about treatment options for asbestos-related diseases should be widely available. Continued research can improve the health outcomes for those people who have already been exposed to asbestos.

Canada to Ban Chrysotile Asbestos?

LAB Chrysotile, a company based in Quebec, Canada has filed a notice of intention to submit a proposal to their creditors under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act on July 25, 2007. This Act grants LAB a period of 30 days to submit a proposal. This company is one of Canada's largest asbestos producers.

The Canadian Cancer Society called for a ban on the use and export of asbestos.

In 2004, Canada produced 220,000 tonnes of asbestos, about one-tenth of global production, federal statistics show. Russia is the world leader, producing 900,000 tonnes a year.

Asbestos industry in Canada consists of two companies with 800 workers at three mines in the towns of Asbestos and Thetford Mines, which is exported to countries like India, where it's used in cement, pipes and sheeting etc।

In September, 2004 there was a conference on "Asbestos Exposure in India" in New Delhi. Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) who were also invited gave the presentation on the Canadian perspective, on why and how they banned the use of asbestos in the automobile plants; how they dealt with the removal of asbestos from their workplaces. CAW supported the ban to stop the mining and the export of this deadly substance chrysotile (white asbestos) to India and other countries.

Dr. Jacques Dunnigan was a surprise speaker at the conference. He was previously employed by the Canadian Asbestos Institute (now Chrysotile Institute) before his retirement and is now a consultant. He argued that there is a need to make people literate about safe use of Chrysotile asbestos but failed to convince the ILO representative and others.

As a speaker at the conference Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) representative had asked Dr Dunnigan as to whether he was representing the Canadian Government or the Canadian Asbestos Industry. He was asked as to why is it that Canada wants to be proven wrong in country after country. Although the myth of Canadian “safe use” has been demolished, with the defeat of Canadian argument at WTO it continues to propagate contrary to incontrovertibly established facts. He did not have any answer.

It was soon noted that the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers' Association (ACPMA) had deputed Dr Dunnigan to defend the killer fiber. In fact, the asbestos industry got all the national dailies in India to carry his interviews as advertisements and paid features.

ACPMA claims to be a non-profit organization registered with the Registrar of Societies under Indian Societies Act formed with an objective to aid, stimulate and advise promotion of Chrysotile Asbestos Cement Products (Sheets and Pipes) in India.

The conference called for an international ban on asbestos, warning automobile mechanics about the hazards of asbestos, drawing attention to Canadian asbestos as a global concern, and highlighting asbestos related illness and deaths in India. Canadian government’s effort to exclude chrysotile asbestos from Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent list was severely criticized.

Canada promotes the sale of Chrysotile Asbestos through Chrysotile Institute. Asbestos Information Centre (AIC), which has mastered the art of misinformation in India works to spread its message.

According to information provided by the Information Commissioner of Canada, “Canada is working with other countries to promote chrysotile asbestos. The Indian government has worked diligently in cooperation with the Indian AIC and the Canadian Asbestos Institute. AIC is a member of the Asbestos International Association which represents the interests of the asbestos industry worldwide and has been very active in promoting asbestos in India.”

Martin Barratt, Second Secretary (Commercial), Canadian High Commission in India says, “AIC is of the belief that problems with safe use of asbestos will arise in the unorganised sector. These include small manufacturers who cannot afford to either install the equipment necessary to safely use asbestos or invest in the health needs of their workers.” AIC accepts that “unorganised sector does use imported products that they acquire through agents.” Further “A ruling which states that subjecting a worker to asbestos is a violation of human rights could have far reaching consequences whether or not it is binding,” adds Barratt.

The profound tragedy of the asbestos epidemic is that all illnesses and deaths related to asbestos were entirely preventable by not using asbestos. The threat to health was known and alternative viable substitutes were available.

It is possible to eliminate the use of asbestos by redesigning the job or product, or by using another safer material. Lust for profit and the lack of political will is letting the unpardonable criminal act of exposing humans to the killer fiber goes on and yet Canada calls itself a civilized country. Indian National Congress led coalition Government that is supported by Communist Parties too remains a collaborator in the ongoing acts of barbarism.

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