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, December 20, 2007

Russian asbestos position caught in 1986 time frame

Pretends ignorance about ILO's 2006 Ban Asbestos Resolution
In an astounding exercise of sophistry, Ural Asbestos Mining & Ore Dressing Company with the active support of Russian government (in photo: Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev) is hiding behind International Labour Organisation (ILO)' 'Convention 162 on Safety in the Use of Asbestos that was adopted in 1986. On April 8, 2000 ILO Convention 162 was ratified in Russia by. Federal Act 50-FZ “About the ratification of Convention on Safety in the use of asbestos from 1986” In 1975, Soviet Russia overtook Canada and became the largest producer of asbestos.

Currently, Canada is the second largest producer of asbestos. Canada and Russia are working in tandem to stop the inevitable ban on asbestos of all kinds.
It is noteworthy that past asbestos exposure is causing 10, 000 deaths every year in US that has compelled US Senate to pass Ban Asbestos America Act 2007.

Russian scientific research center – Ekaterinbourg medical center is carrying out research works on the problem (based on «Uralasbest» company). N. F. Izmero, Russian asbestos industry expert who is associated with state run organization Research Institute of Occupational Health of Russian Academy of Medical Sciences says, "According to our studies all detected in Russia cases of asbestosis and lung cancer are the result of long-lasting professional contact in conditions of extremely high levels of asbestos containing dust concentration."

It is 21 years since the ILO’s asbestos guidelines were introduced. By the mid-1980s when Convention 162 was drafted, only the Scandinavian countries had banned asbestos.

In 2006, 40 countries in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, the Antipodes and Asia have imposed national asbestos bans. Major international bodies including the International Programme on Chemical Safety, the European Union, the Collegium Ramazzini, the Senior Labour Inspectors Committee, the International Social Security Association, the World Trade Organization, the Building and Woodworkers International, the International Metalworkers’ Federation and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions support the pro-ban position. So do the Governments of: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, 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 and Uruguay and scores of independent scientists.

Russian position is a manipulation of the true situation. In fact, Convention 162 does call for the prohibition of asbestos. However, this Convention refers principally to the measures required for the prevention of exposure to asbestos which is already installed. This standard is vital for the protection of those involved in renovations and demolition, for example, carpenters, plumbers and other trades.

ILO Convention 139 on Cancer causing substances calls for the substitution of known cancer causing substances, and this is the only logical, health based approach to the use of chrysotile asbestos.

The failure of the ILO to refute these assertions made by the pro-asbestos salesmen is shameful. It is imperative that we have a clear position from the ILO on this matter.

Article 10 of ILO Asbestos Convention No. 162, 1986 states:
“Where necessary to protect the health of workers and technically practicable, national laws or regulations shall provide for one or more of the following measures-

(a) replacement of asbestos or of certain types of asbestos or products containing asbestos by other materials or products of the use of alternative technology, scientifically evaluated by the competent authority as harmless or less harmful, whenever this is possible’

(b) total or partial prohibition of the use of asbestos or of certain types of asbestos or products containing asbestos in certain work processes.”

Occupational Cancer Convention 139, 1974

Article 1

1. Each Member which ratifies this Convention shall periodically determine the carcinogenic substances and agents to which occupational exposure shall be prohibited or made subject to authorisation or control, and those to which other provisions of this Convention shall apply.

2. Exemptions from prohibition may only be granted by issue of a certificate specifying in each case the conditions to be met.

Article 2

1. Each Member which ratifies this Convention shall make every effort to have carcinogenic substances and agents to which workers may be exposed in the course of their work replaced by non-carcinogenic substances or agents or by less harmful substances or agents; in the choice of substitute substances or agents account shall be taken of their carcinogenic, toxic and other properties.

The position of the World Health Organisation is as follows:
"Exposure to chrysotile asbestos poses risks for asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma in a dose-dependent manner. No threshold has been identified for carcinogenic risks" (EHC 203)

The WHO recommendation is to:

“Prohibit and enforce the prohibition of the production and use of chrysotile fibres and products containing them or restrict chrysotile to essential uses in which no safer alternatives are available."

In the face of such recommendations, Russia remains the largest asbestos producer and consumer in the world. In Russia only chrysotile is produced and used. Now 11 deposits of chrysotile are prospected with balance reserve of about 111 mmillion tons. Two big enterprises are working on mining and milling of chrysotile ore: «Uralasbest» and «Orenburgasbest».

N. F. Izmero says," the question about banning chrysotile is usually raised by the countries where pure chrysotile free of more hazardous and justly prohibited amphibole asbestos fibres has never been used."

Among the general risk factors of asbestos related diseases the most significant also are tobacco smoking, chronic bacterial infection, traumatic injuries of organs, genetic predisposition, etc.

The Russian study notes the distinctive features of occupational chrysotile-induced diseases have been established: asbestosis has a long asymptomatic period, slow progression; uncomplicated forms of asbestosis have no acute onset, exudation, including bloody pleural effusion, and other manifestations characteristic of health effects of amphiboles; chronical bronchitis develops gradually, has no acute onset with fever and symptoms of intoxication; over 50 % of cases with asbestos-induced diseases are associated with different congenital malformations and anomalies of bronchi and lungs; biomarkers of susceptibility and resistance to the asbestos induced diseases and malignant neoplasms have been found recently. Our research work
allowed us to bring out a «dose-effect» relationship, to ground «critical» value of dust load in total mass of inhaled dust, which is equal to 100 grams of total dust during all the period of contact.

It claims that its data were confirmed by results of Russian-Finnish-American research project “Health and exposure surveillance of Siberian asbestos miners”. Development of dust-related (and asbestos-related in particular) changes in health status was found only among workers of old asbestos enrichment factories closed now, where dust levels exceeded current thresholds several hundred times.

In Russia, there exists a “Judgment on the problem of total ban of asbestos by the Russian group of governmental experts” (2002). It would be worthwhile to know the source of funding of the agency that came to the judgment that allows use, trade and exposure of asbestos by its won citizens and the people of the developing countries like India.

Russian position on asbestos is caught in a time warp. It is quite outdated. Russian company in question and the Russian government should end the barbarism of exposing mankind to asbestos by taking congnisance of Resolution concerning asbestos
(adopted by the 95th Session of the International Labour Conference, June 2006)

Given below is its text:
The General Conference of the International Labour Organization, Considering that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are classified as known human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a classification restated by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (a joint Programme of the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme),

Alarmed that an estimated 100,000 workers die every year from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos,

Deeply concerned that workers continue to face serious risks from asbestos exposure,
particularly in asbestos removal, demolition, building maintenance, ship-breaking and waste handling activities,

Noting that it has taken three decades of efforts and the emergence of suitable alternatives for a comprehensive ban on the manufacturing and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products to be adopted in a number of countries,

Further noting that the objective of the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention 2006 is to prevent occupational injuries, diseases and deaths,
1. Resolves that:
(a) 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 exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related diseases and deaths; and
(b) the Asbestos Convention, 1986 (No. 162), should not be used to provide a justification for, or endorsement of, the continued use of asbestos.
2. Requests the Governing Body to direct the International Labour Office to:
(a) continue to encourage member States to ratify and give effect to the provisions of the Asbestos Convention, 1986 (No. 162), and the Occupational Cancer Convention, 1974 (No. 139);
(b) promote the elimination of future use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos containing materials in all member States;
(c) promote the identification and proper management of all forms of asbestos currently in place;
(d) encourage and assist member States to include measures in their national programmes on occupational safety and health to protect workers from exposure to asbestos; and
(e) transmit this resolution to all member States.

NGO warns against lifting ban on asbestos mining

New Delhi, Dec 12 (UNI) Environment NGO Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) has expressed concern over the proposal to lift the ban on mining of asbestos, the cancer causing material used in construction.

It said stories of the toll asbestos takes on people are yet to hit the headlines in India as has been the case in the US, Europe, Australia and Japan. Workers in India work up to their knees in asbestos powder, breaking up asbestos cement roofs and pipes.

Quoting the recent UN statistics, it said India imported roughly 306,000 MT of asbestos in 2006, out of which 152, 820 MT was imported from Russia, 63, 980 MT from Canada, 48, 807 MT from Kazakhstan and 34, 953 MT from Brazil.

So far, some 45 countries have banned this killer fiber. Asbestos consumption is rising dramatically in India while US Senate passed the Ban Asbestos in America Act on October 4, 2007 unanimously.

Asbestos is banned in Europe since January 1, 2005. But countries like Russia, Canada, Kazakhstan and Brazil continue to produce, trade and promote it in India. The Russian Federation has also been found to be exporting asbestos industry waste to India.

The NGO said research was showing asbestos epidemics across the globe even in countries where it was currently banned, as the consequence of past exposure.

In its report titled 'Asbestos: the iron grip of latency' issued last year, the International Labour Organisation has already said that asbestos was still the No.1 carcinogen in the world and the dumping of asbestos on developing countries will "prove to be a health time bomb in these countries in 20 to 30 years' time." The NGO said it was unfortunate that the Union Ministry of Mines and Minerals had proposed to lift the existing ban on asbestos mining.

''The Ministry was ignoring the views of exposure victims, informed recommendations of public sector medical experts, and mounting evidence of an asbestos disease epidemic emerging in developed countries. The rationale to permit mining is hollow,'' it added.

It said research had found that needle-like crystals permanently penetrate the lung tissue when dust-sized particles of asbestos were inhaled. The crystals can eventually cause scarring of the lungs, called asbestosis, and can cause cancer of the lining of the lung, called mesothelioma. Both diseases were incurable and terminal." In such a situation, BANI said, it was inexplicable as to why discredited and false claims of 'safe use' of asbestos by the industry were being repeated by Namo Narain Meena, the Minister of State for Environment saying, "No complaints have so far been received regarding its carcinogenic content and its hazard to health and environment." This is in stark contrast to the Ministry' own admission in the Supreme Court that 16 per cent of the workers exposed are suffering from asbestos related diseases, it said.

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