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, January 30, 2010

Open Letter to Quebec's Chief Minister

US based Environmental Health Trust and Cancer Association of South Africa have sent a letter signed by over 100 scientists from 28 countries to Quebec's Premier Jean Charest. One can read it here:

On page 6 of the letter is a section on "Efforts by the asbestos industry to intimidate and silence scientists". In this section, it tells how the Quebec asbestos industry has called the health experts who work at the governments' National Public Health Institute "a little band of Talibans" for opposing asbestos use. And it tells how the asbestos industry in India is threatening scientists.

On page 7, the 100+ scientists who signed the letter make the following appeal to Premier Charest "These actions by the asbestos industry to intimidate and silence scientists are a threat to scientific and academic freedom of speech by vested interests and we call on you, on the eve of your trade mission to India, to categorically condemn such actions against scientists and to give your unequivocal support to your government’s own health scientists."

The letter is reproduced below:

Dear Premier Charest:

As scientists from twenty-eight countries, dedicated to protecting public health, we
appeal to you to respect the overwhelmingly consistent body of scientific evidence and
the considered judgment of the World Health Organization (WHO) that all forms of
asbestos have been shown to be deadly and that safe use of any form of asbestos has
proven impossible anywhere in the world.

We appeal to you to act honourably and to listen to Quebec’s own public health experts1,
prominent health experts across Canada2, as well as the Canadian Medical Association3,
the Quebec Cancer Society4 and the World Health Organization (WHO)5, who have all
called for use and export of asbestos to end.
We wish to draw your attention to the following troubling points, which suggest that your
government is practising a double standard, thus bringing dishonour on Quebec’s
international reputation.

1) Quebec itself is experiencing an epidemic of asbestos-related disease1
« Cessons le mensonge », La Presse, Sept. 16, 2009 2
Letter to federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Canadian Association of Physicians for the
Environment et al, Dec. 1, 2009 3
Canadian Medical Association resolution, Aug. 19, 2009, 4
Canadian Cancer Society, asbestos position
World Health Organization, Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases,

In Quebec itself, exposure to asbestos is the single biggest cause of worker death. Figures
for 2009 from the Quebec Workers’ Compensation Board show 60% of occupational
deaths were caused by asbestos.6

Other statistics confirm that Quebec is experiencing an appalling epidemic of asbestos-
related disease. Official data shows 134 new cases of mesothelioma reported in Quebec
in 20047 and Quebec’s National Public Health Institute (INSPQ) reports 211 cases of
asbestosis in 20048. It is well recognized that for every case of mesothelioma, asbestos
causes two to three times as many cases of lung cancer.9

This gives a total of 612 new cases of asbestos-related disease in Quebec in 2004 (134
recorded cases of mesothelioma, 211 recorded cases of asbestosis and a conservative
estimate of 268 cases of lung cancer).

From 1992 to 2006, the annual number of Quebec cases of mesothelioma has risen from
92 to 142.10

We note that in 2007, facing high numbers of cases of asbestosis, your government’s
health authorities set up a special program, using a mobile x-ray clinic to travel around
the province and give chest x-rays to construction workers, in an endeavour to identify
and aid workers with signs of asbestosis.11

This is a public health calamity and one that would not have happened if the industry’s
denial of the hazards of asbestos had not been believed. And as leading expert Prof. Paul
Demers of the University of British Columbia states, “Much of the burden of asbestos-
related disease remains unrecognized.”12

We call on you not to export this same public health tragedy to developing countries,
where surely there is more than enough injustice and suffering already.

2) Quebec itself does not use chrysotile asbestos
Confédération des syndicats nationaux, Octobre 18, 2009,
Statistics Canada,
0550 8
INSPQ, Descriptive Epidemiology of the Principal Asbestos-Related Diseases in Québec, 1981-
2004, page 38 9

Selikoff IJ, Seidman H. Asbestos-Associated Deaths among Insulation Workers in the United
States and Canada, 1967-1987. Ann N Y Acad Sci 330: 1-14 (1990).10
Statistics Canada, ibid. 11

Programme d’intervention pour la prévention des maladies professionnelles reliées à
l’amiante, Bulletin de santé publique, région des Laurentides, Vol 14, No 1, janvier 2007 12

Prof. Paul Demers et al, School of Environmental Health, University of British Columbia, The
Burden of Asbestos-Related Disease in BC, 2009

Quebec itself uses virtually none of the asbestos it mines, in spite of major infrastructure
projects currently underway. The government’s 2002 policy of increased use of chrysotile
asbestos in Quebec13 is a policy that has not been implemented, as the people of Quebec,
in order to protect their own and their children’s health, do not want asbestos in their
schools, hospitals or homes. Instead, virtually all Quebec’s asbestos is exported to
developing countries, where protections are few and awareness of the hazards of asbestos
almost non-existent.

3) Quebec is removing chrysotile asbestos from its buildings
Your government is spending millions of dollars to remove chrysotile asbestos and other
forms of asbestos from Quebec’s schools, hospitals and buildings, while at the same time
exporting it to developing countries and telling them it is safe. This seems to represent a
high level of hypocrisy.

Furthermore, Quebec has the financial resources, trained experts and specialized equipment to remove dangerous deteriorated chrysotile asbestos from its buildings;
developing countries do not.

4) Quebec itself has failed to achieve “safe use” of chrysotile asbestos
Your government’s own expert Public Health Institute (INSPQ) has published fifteen reports14, all of them documenting that it has proven impossible to handle chrysotile asbestos safely in Quebec itself. The INSPQ states that “safe use” of chrysotile asbestos is likely impossible, particularly for construction workers, and it therefore opposes your government’s policy of increased use of chrysotile asbestos.15

A research project by several of your government’s top health agencies found that, in the
miniscule number of work-places in Quebec still using chrysotile asbestos today, there
was a 100% failure rate to practise “safe use” standards. The report recommended that
equipment containing asbestos be replaced by safer, non-asbestos containing equipment.16

When Quebec itself is unable to achieve “safe use” of chrysotile asbestos, how can anyone pretend that chrysotile asbestos can be handled safely in developing countries, which lack the resources, regulatory controls and technological advantages Quebec enjoys? 13

Government of Québec, Policy Concerning the Increased and Safe Use of Chrysotile Asbestos
in Québec, June 2002, 14

INSPQ reports 222, 233, 250, 293, 393, 616, 651, 815, 927, 942, 953, 954, 968, 986 & 1002.
English translations: reports 292, 342, 394 & 955 15

INSPQ Advisory, The Use of Chrysotile Asbestos in Québec, pages 11 & 14, June 2005 16

Government of Québec, Projet Provincial – Amiante, 31 déc. 2007,

5) There is no safe exposure level for chrysotile asbestos
According to a spokesperson for Quebec’s Occupational Health & Safety Commission (CSST), the government of Quebec has adopted a "zero tolerance" policy for exposure to asbestos.17 We applaud your government for seeking thus to protect Quebec workers from asbestos harm. We call on you to show equal concern for the lives of workers in the developing world.

We are deeply troubled that, instead, your government is endorsing the position of the Chrysotile Institute, telling developing countries that exposure of 1 fibre of chrysotile asbestos per cubic centimetre of air (1 f/cc) is perfectly safe for them18. While this is indeed the position of the asbestos industry, it is not the position of independent experts. The WHO, the Canadian Cancer Society, the U.S. Surgeon General, the fifty countries who have banned chrysotile asbestos, state that there is no safe exposure level for chrysotile asbestos. Exposure levels of 1 f/cc will cause unnecessary disease and death for those exposed.

We find it shocking that the exposure level you endorse for people overseas is a ten times higher than the level permitted by all of the other provinces in Canada, by the U.S., by the European Union and by other Western industrialized countries. It is one hundred times higher than the exposure level permitted in several countries, such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

We note that samples taken during a five-year period from 1995 – 2000 for asbestos workers at Thetford Mines showed that the 1 f/cc standard was exceeded in more than 10% of the samples, with workers being exposed to levels from 1.02 f/cc to 5.15 f/cc.19

A recent CBC documentary Canada’s Ugly Secret20 showed workers in India handling Quebec’s asbestos who are exposed to far higher levels than 1 f/cc.

6) Industry misinformation is funded by your government
Chrysotile asbestos represents 100% of the world asbestos trade. It represents ninety-five
percent of all the asbestos ever used. The chrysotile asbestos industry in Quebec, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe and Russia all claim that chrysotile asbestos can and is being safely used. 17
Asbestos remains leading Cause of Que. work-related deaths, Marianne White, CanWest
News Service, Nov. 5, 2009
Promotion de l’amiante : Québec persiste et signe, François Cardinal, La Presse, Sept. 22,
quebec-persiste-et-signe.php 19

L’exposition aux fibres d’amiante dans le secteur minier, Turcot & Roberge, Dec. 2001 20
CBC The National, Canada’s Ugly Secret,

The information put out by the asbestos industry is however completely discredited. Health experts in Quebec and around the world have documented and condemned the misleading and untruthful information the industry disseminates.21

We draw to your attention that a favourite expert of the Chrysotile Institute (a registered
lobby group for the Quebec asbestos industry funded by your government22 and on whose board a representative of your government sits23) is Christopher Booker, who has no apparent scientific credentials and who considers climate change, harm from chrysotile asbestos, harm from tobacco smoke and harm from lead in gasoline to all be hysterical hoaxes24.

Recently, the Pro-Chrysotile Movement and Dr Jacques Dunnigan (a long-time employee and spokesperson for the Chrysotile Institute) falsely presented to the Quebec public a U.S. Dept of Health CERCLA Priority List of Hazardous Substances25 as evidence proving that chrysotile asbestos is a low threat to health, noting that chrysotile asbestos is #119 on the list.

What they did not disclose, however, is that the list relates only to clean-up of wastes at
Superfund toxic sites in the U.S., where chrysotile asbestos is not significantly present. If
Dr Dunnigan and the Pro-Chrysotile Movement had bothered to read the list, they would
have seen that amosite asbestos, which they themselves recognize as an extremely hazardous substance, is listed at #131, as less hazardous than chrysotile asbestos, and plutonium, an extremely deadly substance, is listed at #121.

In fact, the U.S. Dept. of Health website specifically provides a warning that the list is
NOT a list of most toxic substances and should NOT be treated as such26.

We find it incomprehensible and extremely disappointing to learn that Radio Canada’s
news program Le Téléjournal presented the list to its viewers as authentic evidence of the
low risk of chrysotile asbestos, when the most elementary journalistic standards, such as
reading the list or the document containing the list, would immediately reveal this
purported evidence to be a hoax.27 It is hard to believe that Dr Dunnigan and Radio-21

Smoke and Mirrors: Chrysotile Asbestos Is Good For You – Illusion and Confusion But Not
Fact, Dr Richard Lemen, U.S. Assistant Surgeon General (Ret) 22

CHRYSOTILE, Canada NewsWire, 17 mars 2008 23

Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada, 24

Booker & North, Scared to Death: from BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares are Costing Us
the Earth, Chrysotile Institute, Undeniable Facts, pages 29 & 41,

CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) 2007 list
compiled by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) 26

Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, What is the CERCLA list? 27

Radio-Canada, Le Téléjournal, Dec. 7, 2009

Canada could demonstrate such extreme ignorance and irresponsibility, but the alternative explanation of deliberate deception is even more disturbing.

We note that in an earlier program on chrysotile asbestos, le Téléjournal interviewed five
people, everyone one of whom was a proponent of, and had a connection to, the asbestos
industry. In response to complaints, the Radio-Canada Ombudsman ruled that le Téléjournal’s program was biased and violated the journalism standards of Radio-Canada.

7) Efforts by the asbestos industry to intimidate and silence scientists
We note with dismay that the asbestos industry, as well as Laurent Lessard, a minister in your government who represents the asbestos mining area, have vilified and threatened your government’s National Public Health Institute (INSPQ), thus creating a climate of intimidation to inhibit these health professionals from practising independent science without fear or favour. Bernard Coulombe, who is a director of the Chrysotile Institute and president of the Jeffrey asbestos mine, has called the INSPQ “a little bunch of Talibans”28 and Minister Lessard has spoken of “repercussions” on the INSPQ29.

We note also that the asbestos industry’s supporters have informed your government that they are displeased that the INSPQ’s research reveals health problems caused by asbestos, strongly implying that they would like you to silence the inconvenient truths about asbestos that the INSPQ documents.30

We are extremely disturbed that the asbestos industry in India - Quebec’s number one asbestos customer, with whom the Quebec industry works closely - has recently sent letters to a number of scientists in India saying that legal action will be taken against them if they do not retract their statements and published articles concerning the threat to health posed by chrysotile asbestos.

The asbestos industry, including the Quebec Chrysotile Institute that your government funds, has a long history of seeking to silence, by lawsuits or other means, those who oppose use of asbestos. In November 2007, the Quebec Chrysotile Institute filed a lawsuit in France against the National Association of Victims of Asbestos (ANDEVA), causing them financial and human costs, only to withdraw the case on the court-house steps in March 2009 after the Association refused to be intimidated. 28

Le Soleil, Nov. 18, 2009, Michel Corbeil, Amiante, une politique sans suivi,

La Tribune, Les défenseurs n’ont pas l’intention de baisser les bras, 30 nov. 2009, Nelson

Sherbrooke Record, Quebec sending mixed messages on support for asbestos industry, Dec.
14, 2009, Stephen McDougall,

These actions by the asbestos industry to intimidate and silence scientists are a threat to
scientific and academic freedom of speech by vested interests and we call on you, on the
eve of your trade mission to India, to categorically condemn such actions against
scientists and to give your unequivocal support to your government’s own health

8) Sabotage of a U.N. environmental convention
We note that your government and the asbestos industry have successfully lobbied the
Canadian government to block the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance
under a U.N. environmental convention (the Rotterdam Convention), thus preventing the
recommendation of the Convention’s expert scientific body from being implemented and
thus also jeopardizing the mandate of the Convention.

The Rotterdam Convention was created specifically to protect people in developing
countries and countries in economic transition from being harmed by hazardous
substances. It provides the basic human right of prior informed consent, requiring that
countries be informed that a substance they may import is hazardous.

It is extremely troubling to see Quebec instigate sabotage of a U.N. environmental
convention and thus deny a basic human right that is taken for granted in Quebec itself.
This obstruction helps the industry’s sales. But it brings Quebec into international

Under Canadian law, chrysotile asbestos is classified as a hazardous substance, but the
Quebec government has successfully lobbied to prevent it being recognized as such under
international environmental law, thus creating a double standard of protection as if some
lives were less deserving of protection than others.

We note that at the December 2009 Copenhagen Conference you called on Canada to
show stronger commitment to implementing the UN Climate Change Convention. We
ask you to show similar commitment to implementing the UN Rotterdam Convention.

Our appeal to you

In light of the above disturbing facts, we appeal to you, as you are about to leave on a
trade mission to India, to show the integrity and honour that the world expects of Quebec.
We ask that you listen to the overwhelming evidence put forward by independent health
experts, including your own Quebec health experts, and not succumb to the political
lobbying of the asbestos industry.

We call on you, as well as the leaders of the other Quebec political parties, to end
Quebec’s export of asbestos, to stop funding the Chrysotile Institute, to support the listing
of chrysotile asbestos under the UN Rotterdam Convention, to assist the last 340 asbestos
miners and their community with economic diversification and to address the asbestos
disease epidemic in Quebec.

We thank you for giving our request your consideration and look forward with hope and
anticipation to receiving your response.


Devra Davis Sue Janse van Rensburg
Founder, Environmental Health Trust Chief Executive Officer
Professor of Preventive Medicine Cancer Association of South Africa
Mt Sinai Medical Center
Cc: Pauline Marois, chef du Parti Québécois
Sylvie Roy, chef de l’Action démocratique du Québec
Amir Khadir, chef du Québé Solidaire

- Dr Richard A. Lemen, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.; United States Assistant Surgeon General,
USPHS (ret.)
- Dr Arthur L. Frank MD, PhD, Professor of Public Health and Professor of Medicine,
Drexel University, Philadelphia, U.S.
- Dr David G. Kern, M.D., M.O.H., Consultant in Occupational and Environmental
Medicine, Formerly, Director, Program in Occupational Medicine and Associate
Professor of Medicine, Brown University School of Medicine, U.S.
- Dr Domyung Paek, MD, MSc, ScD, Professor, Occupational and Environmental
Medicine, School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Korea
- Dr Peter F. Infante, D.D.S., Dr.P.H., Department of Environmental and Occupational
Health, School of Public Health and Health Services, George Washington University,
Washington; former Director of Standards Review, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health
Administration; Asbestos Dispute Resolution Panel Scientific Expert, World Trade
Organization, 1999-2000, U.S.
- Dr Giuliano Franco MD Hon FFOM, Professor of Occupational Medicine
School of Medicine, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy
- Professor Konrad Rydzyński M.D. , Ph.D, Director, Nofer Institute of Occupational
Medicine, Lodz, Poland; Coordinator of Environmental Cancer Risks, Nutrition and
Individual Susceptibility, European Network of Excellence

- Dr Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, President, Collegium Ramazzini; Ethel H. Wise
Professor and Chairman, Department of Preventive Medicine; Professor of Pediatrics,
Director, Children's Environmental Health Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, U.S.
- Prof J Myers, Director, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health Research,
School of Public Health, University of Cape Town, South Africa
- Prof. Dr. Qamar Rahman, FNASc, Dean, Research & Development, Integral University,
Lucknow, India
- Dr. Linda C. Koo, former Head, Cancer Research Laboratory, Hong Kong Anti-Cancer
Society; former Associate Professor, Dept. of Community Medicine, University of Hong
Kong, Hong Kong
- Dr David H. Wegman, MD, MSc, Professor Emeritus, Department of Work
Environment, School of Health and Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell,
- Dr Stephen M. Levin, MD, Medical Co-Director, I J Selikoff Center for Occupational
and Environmental Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, U.S.
- Dr Heleno Rodrigues Corrêa Filho, Associate Professor, Epidemiology, UNICAMP –
FCM, Dept. Social & Preventive Medicine CAMPINAS, Brazil
- Dr Sanjay Chaturvedi, MD, FAMS, FIPHA, FIAPSM, Professor of Community
Medicine, University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, Delhi, India
- Dr. Mathuros Ruchirawat, Vice President for Research, Chulabhorn Research Institute
Bangkok, Thailand,
- Dr Bruce WS Robinson, MBBS MD FRACP FRCP DTM&H FCCP, Professor of
Medicine, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, Consultant Respiratory Physician,
Dept of Respiratory Medicine, SCGH: Director, National Centre for Asbestos Related
Diseases; Director, International Skills and Training Institute in Health, Chairman, State
Health Research Advisory Committee, Australia
- Dr Guadalupe Aguilar Madrid, Unidad de Investigación en Salud en el Trabajo.
Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI, Mexico
- David Gee, Senior Adviser, Science, Policy, Emerging Issues, Integrated Environmental
Assessment, European Environment Agency, Denmark
- Dr Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH, Assistant Research Professor, Dept of
Environmental & Occupational Health, School of Public Health, The George Washington
University, U.S.
- Dr Kenneth D. Rosenman M.D., Professor of Medicine, Chief, Division of
Occupational and Environmental Medicine Michigan State University, U.S.
- Dr James Huff, PhD, Associate Director for Chemical Carcinogenesis, National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, U.S.
- Dr Colin Soskolne, Professor (Epidemiology), Department of Public Health
Sciences; Academic Coordinator, Office of Sustainability, School of Public Health,
University of Alberta, Canada
- Dr Michael Gochfeld, MD, PhD, Professor of Environmental and Occupational
Medicine, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, U.S.
- Dr Gerald V. Poje, Ph.D., Former Board Member, U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard
Investigation Board, U.S.
- Prof. Rodolfo AG Vilela, Depto de Saúde Ambiental, Faculdade de Saúde Pública,
USP, Brazil
- Dr Laura S Welch MD, Medical Director, CPWR - The Center for Construction
Research and Training, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University School of
Public Health and Health Sciences, U.S.
- Dr Eduardo Algranti, MD, MSc, DPH, Division of Medicine, FUNDACENTRO,
Ministry of Labour and Employment, São Paulo, Brazil
- Dr Tim K. Takaro, MD, MPH, MS., Associate Professor, Acting Associate Dean for
Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Canada
- Dr Bernard D. Goldstein, MD, Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health,
Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, U.S.
- Dr Matthew Keifer MD MPH, Professor, Occupational Medicine, University of
Washington, U.S.
- Dr Lew Pepper, MD, MPH, Assstant Professor Environmental Health, Boston
University School of Public Health, U.S.
- Dr Robert B. Cameron, M.D., Professor of Surgery, UCLA, U.S.
- Dr David Egilman, MD, MPH, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family
Medicine, Brown University, U.S.
- Dr Fiorella Belpoggi, Director, Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Centre, Ramazzini
Institute, Italy
- Dr Joseph LaDou, MD, Director, International Center for Occupational Medicine,
University of California School of Medicine, U.S.
- Dr John M Last MD, Emeritus professor of epidemiology, University of Ottawa,
- Prof Karen B. Mulloy, DO, MSCH, Associate Professor, Colorado School of Public
Health, U.S.
- Dr John C. Bailar III, Former Professor, McGill University; Professor Emeritus,
University of Chicago, Scholar in Residence, National Academies, U.S.
- Dr Abby Lippman, PhD, Professor, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and
Occupational Health, McGill University; member, Steering Committee, Women and
Health Protection, Canada
- Dr Daniel Thau Teitelbaum MD, Adjunct Professor, Colorado School of Public Health
Denver, U.S.
- Dr Fernand Turcotte, Professor Emeritus of Public Health, Faculté de Médecine,
Université Laval, Québec, Canada
- Dr Morris Greenberg, Morris Greenberg, MB, FRCP, FFOM, former HM Medical
Inspector of Factories & Member of the Toxicology and Environmental Health
Division, Department of Health, England
- Dr Ivancica Trosic, Ph.D., Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health,
Zagreb, Croatia
- Dr Peter Orris, MD, MPH, Professor and Chief of Service, Environmental and
Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, U.S.
- Professor Andrew Watterson, Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group,
University of Stirling, Scotland
- Dr. Manomita Patra, NRC Research Associate, National Academy of Sciences,
Environmental Protection Agency, U.S.
- Dr Ray Bustinza MD MSc, Chargé d'enseignement clinique, Faculté de Médecine,
Médecine sociale et préventive, Université Laval, Québec, Canada
- Dr Hans-Joachim Woitowitz, MD, PhD, Professor Emeritus; former Director, Institute
and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational and Social Medicine, University of Giessen,
- Dr Leslie Thomas Stayner, PhD, Professor and Director, Division of Epidemiology and
Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago, U.S.
- Dr Joachim Schneider, MD, PhD, Professor; acting Director of the Institute and
Outpatient Clinic for Occupational and Social Medicine, University of Giessen, Germany
- Dr Bengt Järvholm, Dean, Medical Faculty, Umeå University, Sweden
- Dr C. Eduardo Siqueira MD, ScD, Assistant Professor, Department of Community
Health and Sustainability, University of Massachusetts, U.S.
- Dr Barbara Silverstein, MSN, PhD, MPH, CPE, Research Director, Safety and Health
Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP), Washington, U.S.
- Dr James A Merchant, MD, DrPH, Director, Healthier Workforce Center of Excellence;
Founding Dean, College of Public Health, Professor of Public Health, Medicine and
Nursing, University of Iowa, U.S.
- Dr Tim Morse, Ph.D., CPE, Professor, Certified Professional Ergonomist, Occupational
and Environmental Health Center and Dept. of Community Medicine, University of
Connecticut Health Center, U.S.
- Dr David Ozonoff, MD, MPH, Professor of Environmental Health, Boston University
School of Public Health, Boston, U.S.
- Dr David C.F. Muir, Professor of Medicine, McMaster University, Canada
- Dr John M. Dement, Ph.D., CIH, Professor, Division of Occupational & Environmental
Medicine, Department of Community & Family Medicine, Duke University Medical
Center, U.S.
- Dr Melissa A. McDiarmid, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, University of Maryland
School of Medicine, US
- Dr Craig Slatin, Sc.D., MPH, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Community
Health and Sustainability, University of Massachusetts Lowell, US
- Bjørn Erikson, Head of Working Environment Department, Norwegian Confederation
of Trade Unions, Norway
- Prof. Shelley Bhattacharya, Environmental Toxicology, Department of Zoology, Visva
Bharati University, India
-Dr Stanislaw Tarkowski, MSc., DSc., Professor, School of Public Health, Nofer Institute
of Occupational Medicine, Lodz, Poland
- Dr Cecile Rose, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver,
Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, US
- Dr Martin Cherniack, MD, MPH , Professor of Medicine, University of Connecticut
Health Center, US
- Dr David F. Goldsmith, MSPH, PhD, Associate Research Professor, Department of
Environmental & Occupational Health, George Washington University, US
- Dr. Morando Soffritti, Scientific Director, Ramazzini Institute, Italy
- Dr Raul Harari, Latino-American Vice-President of the International Society of Doctors
for Environment; member, Collegium Ramazzini and International Commission on
Occupational Health, Ecuador
- Dr Yvonne R.K. Waterman, Sc.D. LL.M., The Netherlands
- Dr Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H., Dean, UCLA School of Public Health, U.S.
- Alice Freund, MSPH, Program Director, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, US
- Dr Harlal Choudhury, Ph.D., DABT. Non-Resident Indian Scientist, U.S.
- Dr Iman Nuwayhid, MD, DrPH, Professor and Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences,
American University of Beirut, Lebanon
- Dr Philippe Grandjean, Professor & Chair, Environmental Medicine, University of
Southern Denmark
- Dr Barry Castleman, ScD, Environmental Consultant, US
- Helge Kjuus, Research Director, Department of Occupational Medicine and
Epidemiology, National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway
- Dr James Leigh, Director, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Sydney
School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Australia
- Dr Ivan Gut, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., National Institute of Public Health, Czech Republic
- Dr. Cecilia Zavariz, MD., Ph.D. Public Health, Labour Inspectorate, São Paulo, Brazil
- Dr. Arun Kumar, M.Sc., Ph.D, Mahavir Cancer Institute & Research Centre, Bihar,
- Dr Antonio Giordano MD PhD, Director Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and
Molecular Medicine and Center of Biotechnology, College of Science and Technology
Temple University, US; Ordinario di Anatomia Istologia Patologica, Dipartimento di
Patologia Umana ed Oncologia, Laboratorio di Tecnologie Biomediche ed Oncologia
Sperimentale, Siena, Italy
- Dr Maths Berlin, MD, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Medicine, Lund
University, Sweden
- Dr Joseph DiGangi, PhD, Senior Science and Technical Advisor, International POPs
Elimination Network (IPEN), Chicago, U.S.
- Prof. Jock McCulloch, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
- Bernardo Reyes, Director, Instituto de Ecología Política, Santiago, Chile
- Prof. Christer Hogstedt, former Research Director of the Swedish Institute of Public
Health, Östersund, Sweden
- Dr Jim Brophy, Adjunct Professor, University of Windsor, Canada
- Dr Margaret Keith, Adjunct Professor, University of Windsor, Canada
- Dr Marcel Golberg, Pr MG, Faculté de médecine, Paris Ile de France Ouest-Université
Versailles Saint Quentin
- Prof. Daniela Pelclová, M.D., PhD., Charles University; Department of Occupational
Medicine,1st Faculty of Medicine and General Teaching Hospital, Prague, Czech
- Dr John G Edwards PhD FRCS(C-Th), Chair, British Mesothelioma Interest Group
- Prof. Marc Hindry, Université Denis Diderot, Paris, France
- Judy Sparer, Certified Industrial Hygienist, Yale University Occupational &
Environmental Medicine Program, U.S.
- Dr Ana Digon. Médica. Primera Cátedra de Toxicología. Facultad de Medicina. UBA,
- Dr Eduardo Rodríguez. Medico especialista en Medicina del trabajo, Argentina
- Dr Anna Tompa, MD.Ph.D. Dsc., Semmelweis Medical University, Director of Public
Health Institute, Budapest, Hungary
- Dr Kapil Khatter, President, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment,
Ottawa, Canada
- Dr Debdas Mukerjee, M.Sc., Ph.D. Non-Resident Indian Scientist, U.S.
- Dr Paul A. Demers, Professor & Director, School of Environmental Health, University
of British Columbia; member of WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer’s
Working Group on asbestos risk
- Dr Zulmiar Yanri, MD, OM, PhD, Member of Parliament Republic of Indonesia;
former Head of National OSH Center, Ministry of Manpower, Indonesia
- Dr Ruth Sara, Arroyo Aguilar, Magister en Salud Publica; Docente de la Facultad de
Medina, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Peru
- Dr Anders Englund, MD, Retired Director of Medical and Social Department, Swedish
Work Environment Authority
- Dr. Christopher W. Lee, MD, FRCPC, Medical Oncologist, BC Cancer Agency and
Chair, Mesothelioma & Thymoma Working Group, NCIC Clinical Trials Group Lung
Disease Site Committee, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

NOTE: Institutions named for identification purposes only

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hazards of Asbestos Sheds at Airports


Her Excellency
Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil,
The President of India
Rashtrapathi Bhavan
New Delhi - 110 001

Subject-Hazards of Asbestos Sheds at Airports

Respected Madam,

I am writing this letter on behalf of ToxicsWatch and Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) to express my concern and request you for immediate action. I am an independent environmental health researcher.

We came to know about how a helicopter carrying you hit a asbestos shed at the Bhubaneshwar airport on December 9, 2009.

We are indeed happy that you, Shri M C Bhandari, Hon'ble Governor, Orissa and Shri Devi Singh Shekhawat landed safely.

We are aware that a Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the incident by the Indian Air Force.

May I take the opportunity to submit that such asbestos sheds pose a health, environmental and occupational risk to every body in our country.

In US every year 10, 000 people are dying to due to past exposures from asbestos. In 2006 alone there were more than 1,000 mesothelioma deaths (asbestos related fatal disease) in Japan. Although the reason for the relatively high incidence amongst women remains unproven, a high element of environmental exposure from asbestos.

Exposures to children in schools and patients in hospitals remains a matter of serious concern even in India besides hazards to workers and consumers.

Calling for a ban on asbestos of all kinds at a conference on 21st December, 2009 in New Delhi, Dr George Karimundackal from Tata Memorial Hospital, Chennai presented 127 cases of mesothelioma and lung cancers which his hospital has diagnosed and treated from 1985 to 2008 stating how most cases came at a terminal stage. He concluded that his hospital receives 5-6 cases of asbestos diseases every year and 1 % of all lung cancer cases are mesothelioma, an incurable asbestos disease.

Notably, only 3 in 36 of the cases had a history of exposure from asbestos industry which implied that there is prevalence of secondary exposure to consumers as well, Dr George Karimundackal informed the international and national experts of impeccable repute.

These conferences brought together scientists and doctors from across the globe who underlined that “The reason no asbestos diseases are visible in India is because somehow Indian public health system does not record the asbestos related diseases, this won’t work in India." They strongly disapproved of the misguided efforts underway to lift the present ban on asbestos mining in India and the misleading advertisements.

It was admitted by Indian public health experts that none of the 300 medical colleges are asbestos free and none are equipped to deal with asbestos diseases. "A beginning must be made by asking all the medical colleges to prepare a list of asbestos exposed patients, preparing a register of incurable asbestos diseases and starting occupational health courses," said Dr Arun Kumar Agarwal, Additional Director, General of Health Services, Government of India at another international conference at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi on 19th December, 2009.

Environmental and occupational health experts from abroad who were at the conference adviced India to take action based on the steps being taken by WHO is assisting countries to eliminate asbestos diseases and ILO’s 2006 resolution calling for banning asbestos of all kinds including white asbestos. Prof (Dr) Arthur Frank, a renowned public health expert from US said, "substitutes for asbestos which are readily available”.

At one of these conferences, the victims of Asbestos diseases from Maharshtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat narrated their story of living and working conditions, concealing of the hazards of working with asbestos, delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis and absence of legal remedy for their incurable diseases.

Dr Qamar Rehman, a well known toxicologist pointed out that “We need to ban asbestos. We need to compensate the workers, which is the only way to phase out asbestos and get justice for the workers.” Ignoring such sane advices, because of government’s patronage, the demand for asbestos products has risen between 10-15 % with the current production of almost four million tonnes of asbestos cement roofing annually. Criminal callousness involved in knowingly exposing workers and consumers to asbestos hazards is unpardonable.

In the light of the above, I submit that Government of India, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Health and Orissa government must act earnestly to make our country asbestos free in all walks of life and initiate immediate steps to stop a preventable disaster before it is too late.

Our armed forces are at a grave risk of asbestos exposure because asbestos has been used extensively in their work places and residential places. In the Army and Air Force, asbestos is used in brake and clutch pads installed in everything from tanks to jeeps to aircraft. Asbestos is part of the insulation in housing and other buildings on military bases, electric wiring insulation aboard military planes, and fire retardant materials used by military firefighters and gunners. In the Navy, Merchant Marine, and Coast Guard, it is even more widely used, mainly as thermal insulation aboard ships. Asbestos is used in old and new constructed naval vessels.

Our Ministry of Defence, Navy, Army and Air Force must be asked to compile statistics for how many soldiers have died from asbestos related diseases, how many are suffering from it and how many face the danger of exposure which causes asbestos-related lung cancers and serious respiratory diseases.

Our airmen, sailors and soldiers would feel betrayed by the armed forces and the government they served if they come to know that they faced asbestos exposure and government did nothing to save them.

Incidentally, instead of discouraging and stopping use of this killer mineral fiber, asbestos cement sheet plant is being at Sambalpur in Orissa and subsidy is being provided for the same. The scenario across the country is no different.

In such a context, besides a Court of Inquiry that has been ordered by the Indian Air Force, the Ministry of Defence, Orissa government and other concerned central ministries must be made to act against asbestos hazards latent in our public buildings. In supreme national interest efforts must be made to decontaminate them at the earliest as is being done in some 50 countries which have banned asbestos products of all kinds.

I would be glad to share more information.

Thanking you

Yours truly

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