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.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Govt urged to take lesson from S Africa and ban asbestos

Pointing out that South Africa has joined some 50 countries in banning the use of asbestos, the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) has urged the government to follow suit.

The African country was the fifth largest supplier of chrysotile asbestos.

The NGO said it was sad that India was one of the largest consumers of chrysotile asbestos. A february 2008 Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) survey that tracks and records the performance of the manufacturing sector, rated asbestos cement in the high growth category among others.

"What is not being recorded is the high growth rate of asbestos victims in the country. This is being done in a studied manner as a classic case of Ostrich policy under the influence of Russia and Canadia amid reports of 10, 000 asbestos deaths per year in US and asbestos related disease epidemic in Europe," BANI said here.

The role of South African government in safeguarding the health of its citizens was commendable, but in contrast, India was quite noteworthy, it added.

The regulations to ban use of asbestos in that country were put into effect from yesterday. They form part of the South African Environment Conservation Act 1989.

BANI pointed out that 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 it was the only way forward for protecting workers.

The resolution said,all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are classified as known ‘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)".

BANI said out of several million workers exposed to asbestos in India, less than 30 had been compensated so far. The reasons for such a small number were: refusal by management sponsored studies to grant medical certifications to workers suffering from occupational diseases, lack of training for doctors in diagnosis of occupational lung diseases, deliberate misdiagnosis by doctors of asbestosis as either chronic bronchitis or tuberculosis.

The NGO appealed to the Government to take lessons from the countries like South Africa and said it was high time for prohibition of asbestos consumption and a announced that national register of asbestos products and its victims would be maintained by them.(UNI)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Asarco, Sterlite & Asbestos Claims

Asarco, U.S. copper miner Asarco LLC sought bankruptcy protection in 2005 amid a strike and more than $1 billion in environmental damage and asbestos claims.

Grupo Mexico, the largest copper miner in Mexico, acquired Asarco in a buyout in 1999 but lacks board control because of the bankruptcy. Judge Richard Schmidt of the U.S Bankruptcy Court in Corpus Christi, Texas, had said Grupo Mexico's $2.48 billion plan was better than Sterlite's plan, as it would offer more recovery to creditors. Sterlite has contested that decision and earlier this month Sterlite raised its offer for Asarco to $2.57 billion.

Sterlite Industries, a Anil Agarwal-controlled company has raised its bid for acquiring Asarco, the third-largest copper company in the US, for the third time in two months. The Agarwal controlled company said that the revised bid would now include an all-cash offer of $2.56 billion (about Rs 12,300 crore at current exchange rates), compared with its earlier bid of $2.13 billion that was rejected by the Texas Bankruptcy Court, which had recommended rival Grupo Mexico’s offer instead.

After extensive discussions and review, in order to provide full cash payment to asbestos creditors and to allow late file claims and to provide for surplus cash... for the smooth operations of Asarco, Sterlite increased its offer,” Sterlite said in a statement to BSE.

The cases are In re: Asarco LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 05-21207 and In re: Asarco LLC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 09-00177.

On 21st September, Sterlite Industries Ltd said that it would release Grupo Mexico SAB de CV from a potential legal liability of nearly $8 billion if the Indian miner can win control of bankrupt U.S. copper miner Asarco LLC.

In a court document filed it said that if a federal court approves its plan to acquire Asarco over rival bidder Grupo Mexico's offer, it would not hold Grupo Mexico liable for more than about $900 million of liability related to the 2003 transfer of a Peruvian mine.

Grupo Mexico has been desperate to regain control of Asarco after a federal district judge found in April that Grupo Mexico had made a "fraudulent transfer" of Asarco's "crown jewel" stake in Peruvian miner Southern Copper Corp in 2003 and ordered Grupo Mexico to return the stake along with a cash payment.

Grupo Mexico is appealing the decision, but until now a central issue in the case has been that the judgment would disappear if Grupo Mexico wins, but would stand if Sterlite were to take over Asarco.

Sterlite said in court papers that it was willing to stipulate that the "net present value" of the judgment was $9.13 billion, and based on that value, it would agree to release Grupo Mexico from most of the obligation.

Sterlite said in the court papers that Grupo Mexico could still appeal the decision and may end up paying nothing to Asarco.

In August, 2009 a federal bankruptcy judge made a nonbinding recommendation that Mexican miner Grupo Mexico be allowed to take control of U.S. copper miner Asarco LLC as it emerges from bankruptcy.

Canadian MP remains mum on asbestos issue

SARNIA -- The refusal by Sarnia-Lambton's MP to clarify her position on Canada's controversial asbestos exports is appalling, a prominent Liberal says.

"I'm appalled by (Pat Davidson) not taking a stand, especially considering the many families in this riding who have been devastated by asbestos and its effects," said Tim Fugard, who is seeking the federal Liberal party nomination in Sarnia-Lambton.

Fugard was responding to Davidson's repeated dodging of questions from media asking her to clarify her stance on asbestos exports.

"I don't have anything else to say on it," she said yesterday.

Asbestos, a known carcinogen, is no longer used in Canada but the federal government allows it to be sold in developing countries.

According to Statistics Canada, more than $100 million worth of asbestos was exported last year, much of it to India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Brazil.

The Conservatives currently hold the Quebec seat that is home to the last asbestos mine in Canada, and critics say Ottawa is afraid to reverse a policy that might anger Quebec voters.

"It shouldn't be a dollar issue," said Fugard. "(Davidson) should be standing up for Sarnia-Lambton and for all Canadians."

The London Free Press
‎Sep 3, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BANI Welcomes U.S. Surgeon General’s Statement Seeking Asbestos Ban

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, September 17, 2009

New evidence shows asbestos causes ovarian cancer and laryngeal cancer

BANI Demands immediate ban on import & use of asbestos

September 17, 2009, New Delhi -Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) appreciates and welcomes US Surgeon General Steven K. Galson's statement acknowledging the dangers of asbestos and calls upon the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Commerce and Industry to initiate steps for immediate ban on use, manufacture and trade of all forms of asbestos (including Chrysotile or White Asbestos).

Illustrating the same Kerala State Human Rights Commission has noted that exposing workers and consumers to asbestos fibers of all kinds including chrysotile constitutes violation of human rights in its order dated 31st January, 2009. But Indian government continues to put commercial interests of asbestos industry ahead of health and the environment of Indian citizens.

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 reiterates the Supreme Court’s order by asking 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. In order to comply with the recommendations contained in IS:11451-1986 (i.e. Bureau of Indian Standards Recommendations for Safety and Health Requirements Relating to Occupational Exposure to Asbestos), employer should stop existing practice of employment of temporary, contract workers or daily wage workers. Such recommendations have not been complied in a contemptuous manner.

The study was undertaken by the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow for the CPCB. The foreword by Chairman, CPCB reveals the alarming fact that the indigenous asbestos is mostly used by the unorganized sector. Clearly, ban on asbestos mining has not been implemented in totality.

The political patronage enjoyed by the industry is an open secret. BANI has written letters to the President, Vice President, National Human Rights Commission and the Defence Minister (armed forces use asbestos as well) drawing their urgent attention towards a serious unprecedented environmental and occupational health crisis with regard to unnoticed asbestos epidemic in the country. Even if one asbestos fibre reaches the right place, it causes irreversible damage - leading to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma. Thirty deaths are caused per day from asbestos-related diseases as per estimates based on US and European studies.

Russia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe and few others are the largest exporters of asbestos and BANI along with the trade unions are concerned about Indian government's apathy for the occupational and public health of citizens and workers in India. Further the massive unethical advertising campaigns in India are underway to make people believe that asbestos is safe, while the facts state the contrary. There is incontrovertible evidence that creates a compelling logic for making India asbestos free.

The asbestos exporting countries in liaison with the Indian asbestos industry in collusion with government has unleashed a misinformation campaign about the mythical safe and controlled use of asbestos products, unmindful of the fact that so far some 50 countries have banned all forms of asbestos, and are already using alternative materials.

Almost every international health agency of repute including the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the American Cancer Society agree there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Most recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reconfirmed that all commercial asbestos fibers - including chrysotile, the most commercially used form of asbestos - cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. In addition, the IARC newly confirmed that there is sufficient evidence that asbestos causes ovarian cancer and reconfirmed asbestos causes laryngeal cancer.

US Surgeon General’s statement specifies: "I urge every American to become aware of the public health issues of asbestos exposure and the steps they can take to protect their health." It also underscores the need for a ban, stating, "...there is no level of asbestos exposure that is known to be safe and minimizing your exposure will minimize your risk of developing asbestos-related disease."
The US Senate's Resolution urging the Surgeon General to issue a warning, 'as a public health issue, to warn and educate people that asbestos exposure may be hazardous to their health', is indeed a landmark step to prevent exposure and deaths.

Responding to the statement, a victim of asbestos disease, Linda Reinstein, Executive Director of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) said, "As a mesothelioma widow, I am pleased to see the Surgeon General's statement, as asbestos has been a known carcinogen for more than thirty years. ADAO is excited to be able to advance educational efforts with his statement, which strongly reaffirms the need to ban asbestos."

Notably, In the US, Dow Chemicals Company which refuses to own the manifest liability for Bhopal Gas leak disaster has set aside $2.2 billion to address future asbestos-related liabilities arising out of the Union Carbide acquisition, no Indian industry has done so till date.

To read the Surgeon General's full statement, please visit:
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About Ban Asbestos Network of India
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) is engaged in responding to public health crisis due to mining, manufacturing, use, and import of all forms of asbestos including Chrysotile. As part of a global anti-toxic activists’ coalition, BANI is fighting to ensure asbestos free ship-breaking. Asbestos is a commercial term for six fibrous minerals of which chrysotile (white asbestos), the fibrous form of serpentine, is the form of asbestos which is mostly used now. BANI was founded by public health and environmental health researchers and activists in 2002. For more information visit

For further details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Mb:09818089660, E-mail:

Read the 6th United States Senate Annual Asbestos Awareness Resolution

Statement from Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson about
National Asbestos Week

In recognition of 'National Asbestos Awareness Week,' I urge every American to become aware of the public health issues of asbestos exposure and the steps they can take to protect their health.

In recent decades, because of concern about asbestos' health effects, production and use has declined substantially. Most individuals exposed to asbestos, whether in a home, in the workplace, or out-of-doors will not develop disease- but there is no level of asbestos exposure that is known to be safe and minimizing your exposure will minimize your risk of developing asbestos-related disease.

Asbestos is the name given to a group of fibrous minerals that occur naturally in the environment. Low levels of asbestos are commonly in the air as fibers enter the environment from natural rock outcroppings, products that contain asbestos, former asbestos mining and milling operations, and from disturbance of asbestos-containing material. It is when we are exposed to much more concentrated levels of asbestos that we should be concerned. Therefore, it is important for all Americans to be aware of asbestos levels in their environment.

Asbestos can be dangerous if it is inhaled. Activity that disturbs asbestos causing these small fibers to float in air increases the chances of inhalation and the contraction of asbestos-related diseases. Disturbance is what leads to exposure. Do not attempt to touch or remove asbestos by yourself. Only people professionally trained and certified to safely handle asbestos should remove it.

Once breathed in, asbestos fibers can remain in the lungs for years and even decades. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs, changes in the lining of the chest cavity around the lung, and certain cancers. Remember that tobacco smoke greatly increases your risk of lung cancer if you have also been exposed to asbestos.

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, I encourage you to speak to your health care provider. Your provider can tell you if any of your health problems might be caused
by asbestos exposure.

To learn more about asbestos and asbestos related diseases, please visit:

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