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, January 2, 2011

Agitation against Asbestos Plant Intensifies

Press Release
Agitation against Asbestos Plant Intensifies
Leaders of Khet Bachao Jivan Bachao Jansangharsh Committee, Tarkeshwar Giri & Kumud Ram Still in Jail
Medha Patkar Writes to Nitish Kumar Again
BANI Seeks Asbestos Free Bihar

Patna/New Delhi, 2/1/2011: Since May, 2010 villagers of Chainpur-Bishunpur, Marwan Bock, Muzaffarpur has been opposing the construction of asbestos plant in their village peacefully despite firing on them by Kolkata based Balmukund Company’s private army on December 13, 2010. To protect present and future generation, there is no alternative to taking steps to make Bihar in particular and the country in general asbestos free.

The leaders of Khet Bachao Jivan Bachao Jansangharsh Committee, Tarkeshwar Giri & Kumud Ram who have led a powerful protest against the proposed plant are still in jail. Medha Patkar, Convener of National Alliance for People’s Movement has written again to the Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar demanding that these leaders must be released unconditionally and talks must be started with them else the movement can magnify further. (Letter is attached)

The mineral fiber ‘asbestos’ is linked to irreversible damage to human health. The latest issue of Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology (2011) has published a letter by world’s leading environmental and occupational health experts titled ‘Exposure science will not increase protection of workers from asbestos-caused diseases’ noting that, “The asbestos cancer pandemic may take as many as 10 million lives before asbestos is banned worldwide and all exposure is brought to an end. An international ban on the mining, manufacture, and use of asbestos is urgently needed.” The journal is published by Nature America, Inc. (Letter is attached)

Sadly, while globally, country after country is banning use of asbestos, under political pressure, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recommended permanent employment of all asbestos workers to track the diseases of the workers, even this has not been complied with. Consequently, there is absence of data on asbestos victims. This finds mention in a 130 page CPCB document titled “Human Health Risk Assessment Studies in Asbestos based Industries in India” based on a study undertaken by Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow. It notes that asbestos is mainly used for manufacturing asbestos-cement sheets, asbestos-cement pipes, brake lining, clutch lining, asbestos yarn & ropes, gaskets & seals etc. “Organised asbestos industrial units are mostly using imported chrysotile variety of asbestos” from countries like Canada which do not use it themselves.

Quite insincerely, the CPCB document says, “Asbestos in building does not spontaneously releases fibres, but physical damage to ACM (asbestos containing materials) by decay, renovation or demolition can cause release of airborne fibres”. Isn’t decay of asbestos products a spontaneous process?

The same document concedes, “People are most likely to be exposed to asbestos through inhalation of airborne fibres. Asbestos fibres can be broken down in the environment but will remain virtually unchanged over long period.” It underlines, "Asbestos fibres can enter the air…from the wearing down of manufactured asbestos products. "

US based Drexel University professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Arthur Frank, MD, PhD, warns, “We can expect a lot more death and disease [in India]. There is no champion for the working person, or for the elimination or reduction in the use of asbestos that I can see in the central Indian Government.” This is published titled ‘Health experts concerned over India’s asbestos industry’ in February, 2010 issue of The Lancet. In this British medical journal, there is an alarming prediction saying, “India’s surging consumption of asbestos, the industry’s hefty political and economic clout, and the country’s poor record of worker protection….a sizeable burden of asbestos-related disease is inevitable” leading to health consequences that “will be felt into the next century.” These health consequences include an epidemic of mesothelioma.
Asbestos is a group of useful fibrous varieties of a number of rock forming silicate minerals that are heat resistant and chemically inert. Given below are optical characteristics of five types of asbestos under plane polarized light.
Asbestos Species & its appearance under plane polarized light
1. Chrysotile Asbestos
Wavy fibres. Fibre bundles have splayed ends and kinks. Aspect ratio typically >10:1.Colourless, nonpleochronic
2. Crocidolite Asbestos
Straight, rigid fibres. Thick fibres and bundles common blue to purple-blue in color. Pleochronic Birefringence is generally masked by blue color.
3. Amosite Asbestos
Straight, rigid fibres. Aspect ratio typically >10:1 Colorless or brown, nonpleochronic or weakly so. Opaque inclusion may be present.
4. Anthophyllite Asbestos
Straight, single fibres, some larger composite fibres. Cleavage fragment may be present with aspect ratio <10:1. Colorless to light brown.
5. Tremolite/Actinolite Asbestos
Tremolite as single or composite fibres, aspect ratio <10:1. Colorless to pale green.

World over millions of people have died due to exposure to asbestos fibers. Everybody is exposed to some asbestos fibres at all times, whether working for an asbestos factory, under an asbestos cement roof or passing by asbestos products. British rulers did not share the information about its hazards although they knew it at least since 1934.
In Muzaffarpur, Bihar it is Chrysotile Asbestos also called White Asbestos which constitutes 100 % of global trade that is proposed (to be used in Balmukund factory) is an established cancer causing mineral that is being phased out world over. Bihar government must steer clear of such exercises in sophistry and take steps to protect its citizens and not the killer factory.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)/Asbestos Mukti Andolan, Mb: 07739308480, 09818089660, Web:

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