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, September 24, 2008

Asbestos Time Bomb on India's Horizon

Medical and legal fraternity ill-equipped to provide relief to millions of asbestos victims

Governments adopt Ostrich Policy

Asbestos exposure causes incurable but preventable cancer to both workers and consumers. The story of such criminal recklessness by the asbestos industry has been documented in a dossier titled "India's Asbestos Time Bomb". The dossier recommends, "The only way for the government to remedy the situation created by the asbestos industry is to implement a complete ban on the mining, manufacture, use and trade of all kinds of asbestos including chrysotile (white) asbestos."

The report can be accessed online at:

While the reality is quite grim as far as the workers and consumers are concerned, industry continues to enjoy the patronage of the central government and all state governments. So much so that on September 24th, 2008 an Investment Advisor said, "If I were to sell my house and buy a stock I would probably buy this (Visaka Industries) asbestos-cement (AC) sheets manufacturing stock because it is coming at a very good valuation and there is a significant increase in profits expected over the next two-years."

Illustrating the grim reality of asbestos exposure both through personal accounts and research papers, the book notes: "Although mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer are recognized around the world, in India neither one of the diseases is commonly reported. This is not surprising as in India, cancer is not a notifiable disease," in a paper titled Asbestos-Related Disease in India.

Examining the role of the medical community, the dossier underlines, "Occupational Health is taught as a part of much maligned subject of Community Medicine, and students rarely have access to standard ILO radiological plates, mandatory for asbestosis diagnosis, even in the top medical colleges…consequently, even a first ranking radiology physician, lacking the expertise to diagnose asbestosis unambiguously, may be compelled to certify an X–ray as normal when it is not". This has resulted in the failure by the medical professionals to issue asbestos related diagnoses, leaving the victims with no option but to die a slow and painful death.

The study takes cognisance of countless studies that have shown that all varieties of asbestos, asbestos products and asbestos wastes are carcinogenic. Even though trade in asbestos waste is banned in India, the manner in which authorities have been indulgent in allowing the entry of asbestos waste laden toxic ships such as Riky and Blue Lady shows that a dangerous precedent of illegal traffic in asbestos waste has been set to the detriment of workers, communities and the adjoining environment.

As to asbestos situation in Maharashtra, there are asbestos factories in the Mumbai, Pune, Kolhapur, Kalyan, Nashik, Thane and Aurangabad region. The companies that are there in these regions include Hindustan Composite Ltd., Swastik roofing Ltd., Kross International, Shakti Roofing Pvt. Ltd, Wilson Roofing Product. Pvt. Ltd., Hydrabad Industries Ltd, Roofit Industries Ltd. Wada Arun Asbestos Pvt. Ltd., Eastwell Asbestos Ind. Pvt. Ltd, Everest Industries Ltd, Bosch Chassis Systems Pvt. Ltd. (formerly Kalyani Breaks Ltd.), Champion Seals) Pvt. Ltd, Mechanical Packing Industries Ltd., Jain asbestos and Capital Commerce Pvt. Ltd. (formerly Rufit Industries Ltd.). In Nagpur, Amravati, Navi Mumbai and Raigad region, there is no unit engaged in manufacturing of asbestos.

It is noteworthy that under massive criticism from all quarters both Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Union Ministry of Labour & Employment admitted in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on that the government has undertaken a conflict of interest ridden study to give clean chit to chrysotile asbestos, a cancer causing mineral on March 20, 2008 and March 17, 2008 respectively.

Earlier in its 2001 verdict, Appellate Body of World Trade Organisation while upholding chrysotile asbestos ban in France (European Community) had soundly rejected the "controlled use" and safe use argument of the Canadian asbestos industry. In its 95th Session of the International Labour Conference on 14th June 2006, International Labour Organtisation adopted a resolution for the elimination of all forms of asbestos from future use as the only way forward for protecting workers. It passed this resolution "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)".

In the light of the an unprecedented occupational health crisis due to ongoing asbestos exposure, environmental, labour and human rights organisations have called upon the government to support the inclusion of Chrysotile Asbestos in the list of UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade at the next conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention will be held from October 27 to 31, 2008 in Rome. So far Indian government, irrespective of the ruling party, has consistently colluded with asbestos interests against the interests of workers and consumers.

As per data released by the U.N. Statistics Division, India imported about 306,000 tonnes of asbestos in 2006. Of which, 152,820 tonnes was imported from Russia and 63,980 tonnes from Canada. It is estimated that cumulative asbestos consumption will exceed 7 million tonnes by the end of 2008.

What is most alarming is that as of now there is a political consensus to promote its use in India. The acts of omission and commission by all the agencies that are working in tandem with Russian and Canadian asbestos producers must be brought under a scanner to set matters right. Insulated from media's attention in India, death toll due to asbestos is rising at an alarming rate. Even as such manifest acts of corporate crimes are underway routinely without any conviction till date, all news agencies remain dogmatically focussed on street crimes. Both state and central governments have devised a very simple way of responding to it. They have ensured that the deaths caused by asbestos are not counted ever by any institution. As result, Indian asbestos industry is well-insulated from the ongoing global ban on asbestos. So far some 50 countries have banned asbestos.

The only way forward is to ban the production and use of all forms of asbestos in the country and ensure that safe alternatives are put in place, which will address the issues of health, livelihood and economic implications of banning asbestos.

This book has been co-published by International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Corporate Accountability Desk, Asia Monitor Resource Centre, People's Training & Research Centre and others.

Besides India, the dossier has been released globally in The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Canada.

In India its release was supported by Trade Union Solidarity Committee; Trade Union Centre of India; Occupational Health and Safety Centre; Occupational Health and Safety Association; People's Training Research Centre; Bandhkaam Mazdoor Sangathan; Indian National Rural Labour Federation, BUILDING AND WOOD WORKERS' INTERNATIONAL, Ban Asbestos Network of India(BANI); Corporate Accountability Desk-The Other Media

The report warns India is "on the cusp of a devastating asbestos cancer epidemic"

Record and rising asbestos imports to India will translate to thousands of asbestos-related cancer deaths each year and are already responsible for "a hidden epidemic," an expert report has revealed. Exposing the Indian Government's collusion with asbestos stakeholders at home and abroad, the authors call for an immediate national ban on all asbestos use.

"India's Asbestos Time Bomb," published today (September 25, 2008) by a coalition of Asian campaign and research organizations, global union federations and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), calculates that total asbestos usage in India since 1980 exceeds 6 million tonnes, matching the amount used in the UK in its entire industrial history. India is far and away the world's largest importer of asbestos.

"The UK is now in the grip of its largest ever industrial disease epidemic, with between 5,000 and 10,000 estimated to be dying of asbestos cancers every year," says report editor Laurie Kazan-Allen. "India, with ineffective regulation on asbestos use, is on the verge of a much larger and more devastating epidemic. Because it can take 30 years or more for asbestos- related cancers to emerge, India faces an inevitable and sharp escalation in cancer cases over the next three decades. No one is safe!"

Annual imports of asbestos to India now exceed a quarter of a million tonnes, and have climbed rapidly over the last decade. "We estimate asbestos cancers already claim thousands of lives each year in India, but this will certainly exceed 10,000 cases a year by 2040," says Kazan-Allen. "This will put an incredible strain on families, communities and India's medical system."

A hidden epidemic exists due to medical ignorance and government intransigence; in light of the dearth of serious measures to alert workers and consumers of the asbestos hazard, things can only get worse. India does not have a national cancer registry or any system to record asbestos cancers or asbestos exposures, so the problem remains unrecognised and unaddressed. But instead of acting to remedy these failings, the report warns that India is actively encouraging asbestos use, both at home and globally.

India, working closely with asbestos stakeholders in Canada, has been instrumental in blocking a United Nations move to impose health information disclosures on exports of chrysotile asbestos. When the UN next considers applying global right-to- know rules on chrysotile at its Rotterdam Convention meeting in Rome this October, it is likely that both nations will again move to veto any effort to require exporters to warn of the risks posed by using chrysotile asbestos.

"There is an unimaginable and unconscionable level of ignorance of the asbestos hazard in India, a situation that is a great boon to Indian asbestos companies that are benefiting from huge levels of economic growth," says IBAS's Laurie Kazan-Allen. "The government is a willing conspirator in this state of affairs, with devastating consequences for the health of its citizens. But politicians and asbestos peddlers should take heed – we aim to see the industry wither and die and its apologists face the courts for knowingly and in the name of profit pushing the world's worst ever industrial killer."

Notes to editors

1. India's Asbestos Time Bomb is published by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), the Building and Woodworkers International, International Metalworkers' Federation, Asia Monitor Resource Center, Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational Accident Victims, Corporate Accountability Desk – The Other Media, Ban Asbestos Network India, Peoples Training and Research Centre, Baroda, India.

2. Indian asbestos imports increased from under 40,000 tonnes in 1970 to over 250,000 tonnes in 2006. Since 1960, approximately 7 million tonnes have been imported.

3. India is the world's largest importer of chrysotile asbestos, followed by China, Thailand and the Ukraine – the only countries importing more than 100,000 tonnes. India is Asia's second largest consumer of asbestos.

4. Indian import duty on asbestos was slashed from 78% in 1995-96 to 15% in 2004. Lowering the cost of imported asbestos fiber means that dangerous asbestos-containing products are cheaper than safer alternatives.

5. India does not operate a national cancer registry or record occupational histories with medical records, so the asbestos cancer epidemic is not officially tracked or recorded. There are no official statistics.

6. The Conference of the Parties of the UN Rotterdam Convention1 will take place in Rome from October 27-31, 2008. India and Canada have been instrumental in ensuring previous meetings failed to allow right-to-know controls on asbestos.

How ministers ignored the asbestos 'time bomb' in the classroom

Did asbestos at school kill this woman?

Leigh Carlisle, who died from mesothelioma. Photograph: MEN

Concerns about asbestos in schools were first voiced in the 1960s yet 13,000 schools today still contain the substance

Editor's Note: Leigh Carlisle died on 27 August as the magazine was going to press.

Leigh Carlisle is 28. Doctors and lawyers have not yet established how she was exposed to asbestos or why she is dying of mesothelioma at such a young age. The aggressive cancer often takes 20 years or more to reveal itself after exposure.

They consider it possible that she was affected at school in Oldham and have placed a Freedom of Information request with the council there, hoping to determine whether there was asbestos in her classrooms.

They are waiting to discover if Leigh's name will be added to around 200 school workers who are dead or dying of mesothelioma as a result of the widespread use of the mineral in school building projects during the second half of the 20th century. About 13,000 schools today contain asbestos.

As early as 1967, the Department of Education and Science was concerned about the dangers of asbestos in schools but bowed to pressure from the asbestos industry to continue using its products. Correspondence between the department and the industry illustrates just how much power the asbestos firms had. In July 1967, when the schools building programme was in full flow, the DES published a memorandum advertising the risk of mesothelioma posed by asbestos and urging local authorities to "reduce the use of all forms of asbestos by finding a substitute wherever possible".

One month later the department received a letter written jointly by directors of Cape Asbestos and Turner & Newall which stated: "We have seen this memorandum and have come to the conclusion that it is intended to cover the use of asbestos by students in laboratories."

It went on to warn of the "enormous economic consequences" of interpreting the memorandum more widely. Under pressure from the Board of Trade, the DES relented, confirming that it would "define the scope of the memorandum" as suggested by the asbestos firms.

Today, 40 years on, the National Union of Teachers describes the issue of asbestos in schools as a "ticking time bomb".

Ed Howker

Published 28 August 2008

Did asbestos at school kill this woman?

Teachers' leaders warn of a 'ticking time-bomb' after primary classroom link to premature death

For two years Leigh Carlisle courageously battled the killer disease mesothelioma, which is almost always caused by asbestos, and searched for the reason why she might have contracted it at the age of 26. She was believed to be the UK's youngest recorded victim of a disease normally associated with older people. To have developed it at such a young age, she must have been exposed as a child. But how and where?

Leigh, from Failsworth, Oldham, never got her answer. She died on Wednesday, aged 28, at a hospital in north Manchester, with her boyfriend by her side.

Not long before her death, her lawyers began to investigate the possibility that she could have contracted the disease at her primary school. As her family and boyfriend paid tribute to her fight, solicitor Geraldine Coombes of Irwin Mitchell, a firm specialising in industrial diseases, said they were awaiting a response to a Freedom of Information request about the buildings in which Leigh was taught as a youngster.

'We had been working with Leigh and her family to establish how she was exposed to asbestos. We know that she must have been exposed to it as a child,' said Coombes, adding: 'We know that asbestos in schools in a real problem.'

Leigh's boyfriend, Michael Price, said: 'Leigh had so much courage and strength - she was an inspiration to me and to others.' Instead of flowers at her funeral, he said she wanted donations to the Oldham Cancer Support centre in Failsworth. 'Leigh would have liked to think that she helped the cancer centre to support other people.'

Her parents, Sheila and Mark, sister Sarah and niece Bella said in a statement: 'Leigh is still very much part of our family, always a treasured daughter, sister and auntie. Everyone is so proud of her.'

Leigh, who completed an MA degree in marketing last year, was eventually diagnosed after suffering abdominal pains. The disease, which attacks a thin membrane coating the lungs and abdomen, is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, but usually takes more than 20 years to develop.

Leigh once speculated that she could have been exposed to it while taking a regular shortcut to her primary school through a builder's yard.

Although the precise cause of her illness is not yet known, her story has highlighted the cases of around 200 school workers who have died or are suffering serious illness as a result of asbestos being used in schools. The National Union of Teachers has described the issue as a 'ticking time bomb'. Research and campaigning work by Michael Lees, whose teacher wife died from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in the school where she worked, had made the public aware of the extent of the problem, said Coombes. 'We hope the government will act to protect teachers and schoolchildren,' she added.

It is estimated that today around 13,000 schools contain asbestos. It was widely used in school building projects during the second half of the 20th century.

It is claimed in an investigation in the New Statesman this week that even though the Department of Education and Science became concerned about its use as early as 1967, pressure from the asbestos industry meant that it continued to be used.

Around 2,000 people die from mesothelioma in Britain each year, a figure which has doubled since 1992 and looks set to rise further. Professor Julian Peto of Cancer Research UK has called the use of asbestos in Britain an 'extraordinary industrial error'. He believes that 90,000 more people will die from mesothelioma in Britain and that a further 90,000 will die from other lung diseases related to asbestos exposure.

'Leigh will be greatly missed by everyone who knew her,' said her solicitor. 'She was always friendly and kind to others, no matter how bad things were with her health. She was an exceptional young woman, spending time raising money for charity and raising awareness among younger people about cancer.'

* Andrew Russell and Caroline Davies
* The Observer, Aug 30, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Status of asbestos products manifacturuing industries in Maharashtra

Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB)says, "Exposure to Asbestos can lead to Cancer"

Asbestos Factories in Maharashtra

In the Mumbai region, M/s. Hindustan Composite Ltd. L.B.S.Marg, Ghatkoper(W) manufactures textile cloth rope, CAF Jointing, mill board, compestos and break linings.

In the Pune region
, M/s.Swastik roofing Ltd., Plot-no- 44, MIDC Chinchwad manufactures Asbestos
cement product.

M/s. Kross International Plot no-E-19,MIDC Akkoalkot, road Solapur manufactures metal sheets, springs, asbestos yarn, adhesive, jute yarn.

M/s. New Shyadri Industries Ltd. Gut no-322,323,& 14,Village: Kedgaon Tal-Daund manufactures
A.C. corrugated sheets & its accessories

M/s. Shakti Roofing Pvt. Ltd. Gut no-321,Shajapur, Nandur, Tal-Daund manufactures A.C. corrugated sheets & its accessories

In the Kolhapur region, M/s. Wilson Roofing Product.Pvt. Ltd., Plot no-C-20,Kagal-Hatkanangle MIDC, Tal- Hatkanangle manufactures asbestos cement, corrugated sheets, asbestos cement accessories, asbestos cement sheets.

In the Kalyan region, M/s. Hydrabad Industries Ltd. Gut no-347,Vill-Musarane,Tal-Wada,Dist-Thane manufactures asbestos cement sheets and accessories.

M/s.Roofit Industries Ltd. Plot no-379,Abitghar,Tal-Wada, Dist-Thane manufactures Fiber cement sheets.

M/s.Wada Arun Asbestos Pvt. Ltd. Plot no-24, Vill-Khupari, Dist-Thane manufatures asbestos cement
Pressure pipes & coupling.

M/s. Eastwell Asbestos Ind. Pvt. Ltd. Opp.Water supply work,O.T.Section,Ulhasnagar, Dist-Thane
manufactures asbestos graphite packing.

In the Nashik region,
M/s. Everest Industries Ltd. 152, Lakhampuri Dindori,Dist-Nashik manufactures asbestos cement products.

M/s.Bosch Chassis Systems Pvt. Ltd. (formerly-M/s.Kalyani Breaks Ltd.) At-Bambori,Tal &
Dist-Jalgaon manufactures automotive break system & aggregators.

In the Thane region, M/s.Champion Seals (I) Pvt. Ltd.Plot no-S-1, MIDC Tarapur manufactures asbestos textile and non Asbestos.

M/s.,Mechanical Packing Industries Ltd.Plot no-J- 9,MIDC Tarapur.Dist-Thane. manufactures asbestos yarn.

M/s. Neela Asbestos At-Masoli,Tal-Dahanu manufactures asbestos Mill board.

In the Aurangabad region, M/s. Hindusthan Composite Ltd. Plot no-C-11, Addl. MIDC Jalna manufactures CAF Jointing and industrial textile products.

M/s. Hindustan Composite Ltd. Plot No-2/11, MIDC Paithan,Dist-Aurangabad manufactures friction break liner.

M/s.Jain asbestos Plot-C-2, MIDC Waluj, Dist-Aurangabad manufactures asbestos cement pipes.

M/s.Capital Commerce Pvt. Ltd. (Formerly M/s.Rufit Industries Ltd.) Plot no- E-25, MIDC
Chikalthana manufactures asbestos cement sheet, A.C. Coupling and A.C. Pipes.

In Nagpur, Amravati, Navi Mumbai and Raigad region, there is no any unit engaged in manufacturing or use of asbestos.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Canada still blocking action on asbestos

Canada still blocking action on asbestos

The federal government is expected to continue blocking international efforts to place the chrysotile variety of asbestos, the type mined in Quebec, on the UN's list of the world's worst substances, at a high-level international meeting next month.

A group of public-health and environmental activists tried before the election call to have the Harper government announce whether it would change its position to supporting action against chrysotile, but was rebuffed.

The group says the Liberals, who have been trying to burnish their environmental credentials through their Green Shift program, also declined to support the listing. That suggests that regardless of which of the two major parties wins the election, Canada's controversial position at the United Nations body, known as the Rotterdam Convention, is unlikely to change.

The parties "won't say, but it's very implicit, because they're concerned about votes in Quebec, they're not going to support the convention," said Kathleen Ruff, co-ordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance.

Yesterday, the group released letters signed by dozens of prominent Canadian and foreign public-health experts appealing to both Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to reconsider Canada's efforts to promote chrysotile.

Exposure to the fibrous mineral is linked to asbestosis, lung cancer and other cancers.

At the last meeting of the convention in 2006, Canada led a group of countries including Iran, Zimbabwe and Kyrgyzstan in blocking the listing.

Had it been listed, chrysotile would have been placed on the roster of substances considered so dangerous that any importing country would be required to give prior informed consent showing that it knows it's buying an extremely dangerous material before any shipments would be allowed.

About 95 per cent of Canadian asbestos is exported. The federal government opposed listing, arguing that with appropriate safeguards, the Third World countries that buy nearly all of the country's output can minimize health risks.

Both the NDP and the Greens back listing, according to Ms.Ruff a former director of the B.C. Human Rights Commission. Her group didn't canvass the Bloc Québécois.

The Rotterdam Convention lists 39 hazardous materials that are banned or severely restricted for either health or environmental reasons, including the insecticide DDT, compounds containing the nerve toxin mercury, and PCBs - industrial chemicals linked to intelligence impairments in children.

The convention was established in part to prevent Third World countries from becoming dumping grounds for dangerous substances no longer acceptable for use in advanced Western countries.

The meeting in late October, to be held in Rome, will also discuss listing endosulfan, a highly toxic pesticide, and tributyltin, an anti-fouling material for boat hulls that is such a powerful hormone disruptor it causes exposed female snails to develop penises.

The decision by Canada and its allies to block action on chrysotile has caused the UN to circulate proposals for revising the way the convention operates.

One proposal up for discussion at the meeting would be for the UN body to create a second list of substances on which the countries can't agree.

The Globe and Mail
10 Sep 2008
Page: A10
Section: National News
Byline: Martin Mittelstaedt

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