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.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Help Needed to Stop Killer Asbestos Plants


Shri Sushil Kumar Modi
Deputy Chief Minister
Government of Bihar

Subject-Help Needed to Stop Killer Asbestos Plants

Dear Sir,

Pursuant to my earlier letter dated December 26, 2010, I am attaching a letter of Dr Barry Castleman who has authored the most authoritative book asbestos titled "Asbestos: Medical & Legal Aspects which is currently in its Fifth Edition. Dr Castleman as sent a similar letter to Mr Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Environment & Forests. This letter is attached.

Dr Castleman has given testimony before the US Senate Committee On Environment And Public Works public health issues related to asbestos exposure in America. The testimony is attached.

His testimony contributed to to the passage of the "Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007" on October 4, 2007 by the United States Senate. It was a unanimous voice vote and the bill now goes to the House of Representatives. This bill stops distribution of asbestos-containing materials including brake pads and roofing items that contain asbestos. The federal government would also expand research into diseases caused by asbestos exposure, particularly mesothelioma, asbestosis, and pleural injuries.

Dr Castleman has helped prepare the World Bank's Asbestos Guidance Note May 2009 as well. The Asbestos Guidance Note is also attached.

I also wish to draw your attention towards the recent disbursal of a meager amount of Rs 3 crore as compensation to 95 former asbestos workers – and in two cases their spouses –by a UK company which manufactured asbestos products at its Ghatkopar plant, Mumbai on 23rd December, 2010. This compensation was given because the nature of their work was responsible for them suffering from asbestosis, a dangerous lung infection that could lead to cancer. These workers were formerly employed with Hindustan Composites Ltd in which UK-based M/s Turner & Newall were one of the major share-holders. A case is still pending in the labour court at Mumbai. This British multinational company wound up its operations and has set up a trust fund to settle claims for asbestos related diseases from all over the world.

It is noteworthy that Dr Castleman has been writing against Maharashtra and Gujarat asbestos plants at least since 1981. He had reviewed the "extraordinary portrait of evil in the business world documented in "Magic mineral to killer dust: Turner & Newall and the asbestos hazard" giving an account of the UK asbestos scandal in The Lancet, the world's leading general medical journal and specialty journals in Oncology, Neurology and Infectious Diseases in its September 2, 2000 issue. In his article titled " Export of Hazards:The Double Standard in Industrial Hazards" published in the September 1984 issue of Multinational Monitor was an eye opener. The

Dr Castleman is the leading asbestos experts for both plaintiff and defense attorneys, occupational and environmental health professionals, as well as others in the field of toxic substances control, his book "Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects" has become the definitive resource on the medical and legal aspects of asbestos.

Meanwhile, villagers of Chainpur-Bishunpur, Marwan, Muzaffarpur have given a 24 page written submission to Mr Kundan Kumar, Sub Divisional Officer (SDO), Muzaffarpur (West) with a copy to Mr Anand Kishore, District Magistrate, Muzaffarpur on 28/12/2010 providing details of their struggle since July 2010 and giving seven reasons for their opposition to the proposed asbestos plant. This rigorous submission is in Hindi.

The reasons mentioned in the submission are as follows:

1. Balmukund Cement and Roofing Ltd, Bihar started the construction without taking villagers into confidence about the hazards from asbestos. The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report was not made available in Hindi. This EIA report is factually incorrect. The Public Hearing which was conducted was fake. It is now learnt that almost all the provisions of the EIA Notification, 2006 have been violated.
2. The problem of asbestos related diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer is a cause of serious concern. All forms of Asbestos including the “chrysotile” (White) Asbestos to be used in the factory is carcinogenic in nature.
3. The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 is pending in the Rajya Sabha
4. Orders of National Human Rights Commission, Kerela Human Rights Commission and the application to the Bihar State Human Rights Commission
5. Letter dated 24 December from Dr Sanjay Chaturvedi, Head, Dept of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Delhi, Delhi on the subject of asbestos hazards
6. International experience on asbestos issue and World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), representing 176 million workers in 151 countries have all called for an end to the use of any form of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, which represents 100% of the global asbestos trade.
7. National Experience with Asbestos Industry

Notably, it was the students of these villages who taught the villagers from their text book of Biology and Chemistry of Class Xth and XIIth, which revealed that asbestos causes incurable diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The Class Xth textbook is titled High School Jiv Vigyan published by Bharti Bhavan Publishers & Distributers, Patna in 1994. It is authored by Prof Vivekanand Banerjee, former Head, Department of Biology, Science College, Patna University and Dr Gopal Krishna Verma, former Head, Department of Zoology, CMP College, Allahabad University. At page no. 166 of the textbook refers to diseases caused by asbestos. The Class XIIth textbook is titled Inter Rasayan published by Bharti Bhavan Publishers & Distributers, Patna in 1976. It is authored by Dr Awadesh Kumar Singh and Dr Anil Kumar Sinha. At page no. 2-345 the textbook categorically says, “Asbestos is a particulate pollutant of the atmosphere. In the process of preparation of asbestos sheet, the asbestos particles become airborne. If one breathes such air for a long period it causes asbestosis disease”.

It is germane to note that as early as May & July 2010 Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi had informed Mr A M Mauskar, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests had pointed out manifest violation of Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 in the matter of the proposed asbestos plant by the Balmukund company.

In view of Dr Castleman's letter, my previous letter, villagers rational opposition, CSE's letter and in the interest of the public health of the present and future generation of Bihar, I urge you to stop the construction of the proposed asbestos cement roofing sheet factory in Chainpur, Muzaffarpur and proposed similar plants in Bihiya, Bhojpur, in Panapur, Vaishali and elsewhere in the state.

Thanks & Regards
Gopal Krishna
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
Asbestos Mukti Andolan
New Delhi
Mb: 09818089660, 07739308480

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