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, June 25, 2008

Asbestos in schools is too urgent to ignore

Note: Some years back Delhi government banned asbestos use in new government schools. But this ban was never implemented. In Tamil Nadu after a fire tragedy, the government made asbestos cheaper through subsidy for use in schools. In India, there no school which is asbestos free.

Asbestos in schools is too urgent to ignore
The European Union has banned the use of asbestos, as have most developed and many developing countries. But here in Quebec, home of one of world's largest commercial deposits of asbestos, as well as of Canada's only two asbestos mines, we continue to produce and export asbestos to such countries as India and China. We continue to live and die with it as well, having failed to remove it from the public buildings, such as schools, where it used in its heyday as Quebec's magic product.

In the intervening decades, asbestos has been identified as a deadly threat by the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization. A Quebec public-health agency reported 10 years ago that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified asbestos a proven human carcinogen. The province has one of the highest rates in the world of the cancer commonly associated with asbestos.

The Quebec government cannot pretend that it doesn't know how harmful asbestos is. We should not be allowing people to work in buildings in which asbestos fibres are floating in the environment, contaminating the very air that students, teachers and civil servants must breathe.

What made asbestos attractive - from a production point of view - was its durability and ability to retard heat and fire. One of its most common uses was in insulating materials. In Quebec, asbestos was sprayed into a number of public buildings up to the late 1970s, when the technique was banned. Sprayed asbestos has a tendency to shed; small fibre bits come loose and float in the air. Children are considered at greater risk from the fibres.

Ten years ago, La Presse reports, more than 500 Quebec schools were found to have floating asbestos fibres. In the majority, the asbestos was either removed or covered up again. This year, the Montreal School Board decided it would look into the situation in 24 of its schools. Good. But what about the rest of the schools? The province seems to have done no follow-up work.

The Gazette (Montreal)

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