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.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ban on indigenous chrysotile asbestos mining lifted

Despite the asbestos disease epidemic in US, Europe, Australia, Japan, South Africa and elsewhere, a recent document titled "HUMAN HEALTH RISK ASSESSMENT STUDIES IN ASBESTOS BASED INDUSTRIES IN INDIA" by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Union Ministry of Environment Forests has failed to recommend ban on asbestos. The study was undertaken by the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow for the CPCB. The political patronage enjoyed by the industry is an open secret. It is clear from the document that the ban on indigenous chrysotile asbestos mining has been lifted.

In the foreword to the report dated May 27, 2008, J. M. Mauskar, the ex-officio Chairman of the CPCB and Joint Secretary, MoEF writes, "Asbestos is mainly used for manufacturing asbestos-cement sheets, asbestos-cement pipes, brake lining, clutch lining, asbestos yarn & ropes, gaskets & seals etc. Organised asbestos industrial units are mostly using imported chrysotile variety of asbestos. The indigenous asbestos is mostly used by the unorganized sector. This report provides detailed information on human risk of asbestos exposure and its health effects. The study includes asbestos monitoring at work environment, characterization and toxicity of indigenous asbestos, occupational and personal histories of workers, their clinical examinations, lung function tests and chest radiological examinations. It appears from the present investigation that unorganized units have poor industrial hygiene conditions. The report also recommends various preventive measures to reduce the risk of workers exposed to asbestos."

Underlining its risk it makes the following recommendations that ends up promoting mythical safe and controlled use of asbestos in order to safeguard the asbestos industry's lust for profit at any human cost. In the light of the study, the following recommendations that tantamounts to lip service have been made to reduce the human risk of asbestos exposure and its health hazard:

1. All the workers should be provided with medical surveillance by the employer.
Medical surveillance programme should consist of the following:
• Pre- employment medical surveillance
• Periodic medical examination
• Medical examination at cessation of employment
• Maintenance of medical records; and
• Health education
Medical examination record should be maintained and stored for a period of 10
years following the termination of employment, or for 40 years after first day of
employment, whichever is later.
The Medical Doctor appointed for examining the workers should be trained in
Occupational Health. This will facilitate early detection of occupational related
diseases in the workers.
In order to comply the recommendations contained in IS:11451-1986, employer
should stop existing practice of employment of temporary, contract workers or
daily wage workers.
2. The Ministry of Mines had decided to continue the ban on mining of amphibole
variety of asbestos. By the time this ban is implemented in totality, following
measures are required to be taken by the asbestos milling units of Rajasthan.
• Preferably complete plant machinery requires to be redesigned with
proper engineering controls to reduce asbestos fibre emission.
• Manual handling of asbestos should be reduced to minimum.
• Fugitive emissions generated needs to be controlled.
• Asbestos bearing stones should be stored in a covered shed to avoid
fugitive emission.
• All material transfer point should be connected to dust extraction system.
3. Floor should be cleaned by vaccum cleaner only.
4. Workers likely to get exposed to asbestos should wear protective clothing and
respiratory equipment.
5. The asbestos based product manufacturing industries should operate and
maintain the air pollution control devices properly so as to comply with the
emission standards of 0.2 fibre / cc for asbestos fibre and 2 mg / Nm3 for total
dust. The monitoring should be carried out regularly and data should be
submitted to State Pollution Control Board and Central Pollution Control Board.
6. The asbestos fibre concentration at work place should not exceed 1 fibre / cc, as
per Factories Act, 1948.
7. The asbestos based units should get asbestos fibre monitoring done on regular
8. All the organized and unorganized industries should ensure good house keeping
practices to reduce the asbestos exposure.
9. Work place asbestos standards should be brought down from 1 fibre/cc to 0.1
fibre/cc under the Factories Act, 1948 to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure.
10. Workers should be given education about the risk associated with asbestos dust
exposure, potential health effects, etc.
11. Display board should be provided showing the hazards associated with asbestos
and recommended precautionary measures.

CPCB officials P.K. Gupta, Environmental Engineer and J.S. Kamyotra, Additional Director for coordinated the Study under the guidance of Dr. B. Sengupta, Member Secretary, CPCB.

Earlier, dealing with “Impact of Hazardous Waste on Worker’s Health”, 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 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)

It has come to light and admitted in the parliament by the Minister concerned that the studies conducted by the national occupational health institute is being funded by the chrysotile asbestos

The CPCB document refers to Project Advisory Committee members whose suggestions were deemed valuable but nowhere in the document does one find the names of these members. One would not be surprised if these members who facilitated the lifting of ban on mining of chrysotile asbestos and influenced the study to recommend continued use and manufacture were representatives from the chrysotile asbestos.

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