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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Role of IAOH on asbestos under scanner

A debate has broken out in the pages of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH) on the corporate influence on occupational health organisation. The original critique of the American College of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) was published in 2007 in this very journal.

A letter on industry's influence on the Indian Association of Occupational Health. The website for the journal is

Given the fact that Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is the official Publication of Indian Association of Occupational Health (IAOH), it would also be relevant for it to take a position on it. So far it has maintained silence on the issue.

Earlier, it has now been proven with documentary evidence that National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad has compromised its credentials by taking the fiscal support from the chrysotile asbestos industry to do a study that is to be used at the
upcoming Rotterdam Convention meeting.

The study will enable the Indian government to go to Rome in October 2008 and argue in favour of unrestricted trade of white asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention. India along with Canada and Russia is seen as the dirtiest player in the international negotiations to bring white asbestos in the 'prior informed consent' (PIC) list of the
convention, which will require exporting countries to obtain the prior consent of importing countries.

The study on which the ministry's report is based is partly funded by the Asbestos Cement Product Manufacturers Association, which paid Rs 16 lakh while the government paid Rs 43.66 lakh. What surprised occupational safety campaigners is the agency that conducted the study: the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), which in
the past has come out with studies defending workers' health.

The study's terms of reference reveal the government's intent. Here's what the ministry's April 2006 letter demanded of NIOH: "The deliverables will include generation of data which would justify the safe standards of its usage and the reasons justifying its non-inclusion/or otherwise in the pic ambit." The minutes of an April 2007 meeting of the ministry's review committee (half of which comprises asbestos industry representatives) gave NIOH a sharper focus: "It will specifically indicate as to how technology has made working conditions better. The same will include relevant photographs showing protective measures being undertaken." The minutes of the Review Committee obtained recently through Right to Information Act
dated 19 December, 2006 reads: "The report will be finalised after due discussions with the asbestos industry." Another meeting minutes dated 18 April, 2007 reports that "...the results of the study which was underway could not be shared [with public] till the same was finalised."

On April 18, 2007, the review committee felt the report didn't adequately address the industry's requirements: "S Ganesan of ICC (Indian Chemical Council) and NIOH representatives will redraft/re-word the Kolkata report keeping in view the international sensitivities." Ganesan's claim for the job: expertise in championing
the pesticide industry in international negotiations.

Clearly, a scientific study that is finalised after discussion with the corporate interests is grossly conflict of interest ridden and deserves to be scrapped. It is now time for Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine to take note of it as well.

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