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.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

White Asbestos Industry & ‘Prostitute’ Scientists Rebuked

For Immediate Release

White Asbestos Industry & ‘Prostitute’ Scientists Rebuked

Health Experts, Labour Ministry & Delhi Govt Express Grave Concern about Asbestos Diseases

Misleading Advertorials of Industry Disapproved

New Delhi/19/12/2009: The commercial tactics of the asbestos industry are very similar to those of the tobacco industry.

At a Global Conference presentation after presentation environmental and occupational health experts from some 15 countries called for elimination of the burden of disease and death that is caused worldwide by exposure to asbestos. All forms of asbestos including white asbestos (chrysotile asbestos) are occupational and environmental hazards of catastrophic proportions. The profound tragedy of the asbestos epidemic is that all illnesses and deaths related to asbestos are entirely preventable.

Collegium Ramazzini based in Italy and one of the co-organizers of the conference has stated that safer substitutes for asbestos exist, and they have been introduced successfully in many countries. The grave hazards of exposure to asbestos and the availability of some safer substitute materials have led a growing number of countries to stop trade in asbestos.

Experts took note of the advertorial by the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturer's Association published in a newspaper (attached relevant ad of The Times of India, 17 December, 2009), which coincided with the inauguration of the conference and debunked the misleading claims and disapproved the attempts by the industry to hide behind government agencies like Directorate General, Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI), which took note of Prevalence of Assbestosis and Related Disorders in a Asbestos Fiber Processing Unit in West Bengal as early as in 1996.

Officials from the Labour Ministry who were present at the conference joined Prof Arthur Frank and Dr Barry Castleman, both well known asbestos experts in dismissing industry references to absence of asbestos diseases in India as junk science. Besides courts, Press Council of India and Advertising Standards Council of India should take suo motto notice of such manifestly misleading advertisements which refer to poison as non-poison. Newspapers should be wary of such irresponsible and immoral advertising.

Scientists at the conference noted that the health consequences of the use of asbestos in contemporary industrial society have been amply documented in the international scientific literature. The toll of illness and death among asbestos workers in mining, construction and heavy industry is well known. The risks from toxic exposures affect not only those who work with asbestos, but also their families and neighbours (from material on clothing or plant emissions), users of products that contain asbestos and the public at large.

All forms of asbestos cause asbestosis, a progressive, fibrotic disease of the lungs. They can all cause lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma. Debdas Mukerjee from US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted that Asbestos has been declared a proven human carcinogen and scientists who say anything to the contrary are like prostitutes because they manufacture scientific study to endorse unethical industry interests. International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization and ILO has also called for elimination of asbestos of all forms. The preponderence of scientific evidence to date demonstrates that chrysotile (white asbestos) also causes cancer, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Russian and
Canadian chrysotile is associated with mesotheliomas and lung cancers.

The experts repeatedly urged government of India to harbour no illusions about the “controlled use” of asbestos because there is no realistic alternative to a ban. Moreover, even the best workplace controls cannot prevent occupational and environmental exposures to products in use or to waste. The trend of alarming rise in the consumption of asbestos in India in hospitals, schools, homes and commercial buildings now resemble those that existed in the industrialized countries before the dangers of asbestos were widely recognized.

The conference entitled "Preventing Emerging Occupational and Environmental Risks in South Asia and Beyond" was organized by Centre for Occupational & Environmental Health (New Delhi), Collegium Ramazzini (Italy), and Drexel University, School of Public Health, Philadelphia, supported by Union Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, and WHO, SEARO at capital’s Maulana Azad Medical College.

Katja Radon from Germany informed that the social system in Germany are geared to provide pension to asbestos victims and their families besides compensation and the public health system provides universal coverage. Takehiko Murayama from Japan provided a historical review of asbestos industrialization, hazard identification and legal measures and Andrew Watterson from UK asked Indian public health experts, trade unions and civil society organizations to be part of a Global Occupational Cancer Prevention Campaign. Efforts to Ban Asbestos and Promote Safer Substitutes for Asbestos Products: Barry Castleman, USA. Hemantha D. Wickramatillake from Sri Lanka underlined a need for a South Asian Forum for Occupational and Environmental Health Researchers.

The grave health hazards of asbestos are entirely preventable. The health risks of asbestos exposure are unacceptable. Indian health experts and officials admitted the almost complete absence of occupational and environmental health infrastructure and the cancer registry of the country of does not record occupational cancers.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Mb: 9818089660,

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