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.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Govt won't ban use of asbestos

Both Environment & Health Ministry support ban

A asbestos victims from Ahemedabad, Gujarat

Here is a hand signal you should look for to keep a check on your asbestos disease

Club fingers: If the tips of your fingers are dome-shaped or look like small clubs, it could be a warning sign of serious diseases such as lung cancer, TB or mesothelioma - a deadly lung disease linked to asbestos. It is due to the build-up of a substance called PGE2 which helps dampen down inflammation in the lungs. It is thought lung tumours send production of PGE2 into overdrive, churning out 10 times the amount the body needs. It builds up in the finger tips and causes swelling. A new study in the latest issue of the Journal of the Royal
Society of Medicine reveals that if you have club fingers, you may have lung cancer.

Yeshwant Peje, a worker of Hindustan Composites, an asbestos-cement factory has asbestosis, a disease that scars the lungs and can be fatal. He has received no compensation. He knows that the asbestos comes from Canada in bags.. Russia is also a supplier.

Peje wore cotton gloves and a mask on a daily basis. His asbestosis makes him breathless and drains his energy for most things, aside from a bit of yoga in the morning. "The risk was assumed," he says . He is one of some 300 men who were examined for asbestos related illnesses. Out which 160 had symptoms that required X-rays. Only 99 showed up for the X-rays, and of those men, 41 were diagnosed with asbestosis. Thirty-six of the men launched a compensation claim in 2005. The factory relocated in 2006, and none of the men have received compensation.

Asbestos is everywhere - in the asbestos-cement roofs and also in the lungs of an unknown number of workers who are sick from the effects of working with asbestos besides consumers.

Till date 34 cases of asbestosis have been compensated for by the official compensation body, the Employees' State Insurance Corporation.

Some 107 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed between 1985 and 2005 at the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. Mesothelioma is a lethal, rare cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, and is increasingly common in Canadian communities that used to thrive on asbestos. But no work histories were taken of the men and women who had mesothelioma at the Tata Memorial Hospital. They were never formally acknowledged or given a certificate for compensation.

No one in India could provide definitive numbers of how many people have been affected by exposure to asbestos. Some 30 people die every day of an asbestos-related disease. It is a conservative estimate..

Right to health and medical care is a fundamental right under Article 21 read with Articles 39(c), 41 and 43 of the Constitution to make the life or workman meaningful, held the Supreme Court in CERC V. Union of India. In 1995, the Court directed that the workers who suffered from asbestosis - an occupational health hazard, should be paid compensation by the concerned establishments. All the asbestos industries were directed to maintain and keep maintaining healthy record of every worker upto a minimum period of 40 years from the beginning of the employment or 15 years after retirement or cessation of employment whichever is later, to adopt the Membrane Filter test to detect asbestos fibre, and to compulsorily insure health coverage to every worker.

Govt won't ban use of asbestos

27 Oct 2008, Nitin Sethi

NEW DELHI: More than 50 countries have banned it. The World Health Organisation says its causes cancer. Even a country that exports it to India
prefers not to use it domestically. But India refuses to even label asbestos as a hazardous material and is again ready to internationally commit to import it without any restrictions.

Despite the fact that safer and almost as cheap alternatives are available to white asbestos, the government has yet again decided to oppose any move to put it on the 'prior informed consent' or PIC list of the international Rotterdam Convention.

Putting asbestos on the PIC list would not have banned its import. It would have only forced the exporters to label it as hazardous and inform India as much each time they send a shipment of the fibrous material that is used to make rooftops as well as break linings.

Under the Rotterdam Convention, 126 countries will debate in Rome from October 27 to 31 whether chrysotile or white asbestos should be added to the 'watch list' of dangerous chemicals. As usual there are not going to be many in favour of continuing the free trade in the dangerous material. Canada and Russia — the world's biggest exporters — and India — one of the biggest importers — would be the key dissidents besides a few other exporting and importing countries.

In 2007, Canada exported US $77 million worth of asbestos — almost 95% of the chrysotile asbestos it mined. Forty-three per cent was shipped to India.

But, there has been dissension within the government too against continued free imports. The health and the environment ministries have objected but the chemicals and fertiliser ministry — the nodal agency for the issue — has stuck to its position favouring the domestic asbestos industry.

"The environment ministry made its reservations clear on the subject. But the government has decided to stick to its position (in favour of unencumbered imports of asbestos)," an environment ministry official told TOI.

While the convention does not oblige the countries to ban the international trade in the substance, the Indian government, observers say, would be wary of even accepting that it was openly trading in a material and using it extensively despite acknowledging that it is known to cause cancer. The chemicals ministry's defence of the domestic asbestos-processing industry was criticised earlier too when it commissioned a study on the impacts of white asbestos.

Baban Shirgaanker, 63, looks at an X-ray of his lungs under the watchful eyes of Pralhad Malwadkar. Malwadkar is employed by the Occupational Health and Safety Centre in Mumbai set up by unions to address occupational health issues. Shirgaonker was diagnosed with asbestosis by Malwadkar at the factory gates . He was 19 when he got a job as a machine operator at the factory. His job was to cut the asbestos brake liners for scooters and cars. Shirgaonker finds it difficult to breathe. Photo CREDIT: Katie Daubs, The Ottawa Citizen

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