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.

Monday, June 20, 2011

NHRC Approached for Listing of Chrysotile Asbestos & Endosulfan in UN List of Hazardous Chemicals List

Press Release

NHRC Admits Application for Listing of Chrysotile Asbestos & Endosulfan in UN List of Hazardous Chemicals List

New Delhi/Kolkata 20/6/2011:Environmental groups demand listing of Chrysotile Asbestos and Endosulfan in UN List of Hazardous Chemicals List at the UN's fifth meeting of Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade that commenced today in Geneva, Switzerland. India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has admitted an application with regard to the same. The same is attached.

Chrysotile asbestos
Chrysotile (serpentine forms of asbestos) is being proposed to be included in the PIC procedure as an industrial chemical in the conference. Its listing is based on the final regulatory actions to ban or severely restrict its use due to its impacts on health as notified by Australia, Chile and the European Union.

The conference will consider proposals to include endosulfan as a pesticide in Annex III to the Convention as recommended by the Chemical Review Committee at its second and sixth meetings. Endosulfan is an insecticide which has been used for over 50 years to effectively control several pests such as chewing, sucking and boring insects. Due to its severe adverse effects on health and
environment, it is banned in at least 60 countries including the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, and other Asian and West African nations, and is being phased out in Brazil, China and the United States. However it is still used in many other countries on commercially important crops, such as coffee and tea.

An application was submitted to NHRC on 15th June, 2011 with reference to its previous complaint of 15th April, 2010 (Complaint No. 41418). The NHRC admitted the recent application on 16th June. The Complaint No. is: 89772. The application urged NHRC to recommend to Government of India to ask Government of India:
• To comply with the resolutions of WHO and ILO (2005 and 2006 seeking elimination of future use of asbestos including chrysotile asbestos worldwide
• To announce the compensation package for present and future victims of asbestos diseases as it has done in the case of Silicosis and make the asbestos companies criminally liable for knowingly exposing citizens and consumers of asbestos products
• To take note of Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ministry's statement in Rajya Sabha saying: "Studies by the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, have shown that long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma'' on August 18, 2003
• To take cognisance of the order of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s bench of Chief Justice of India dated January 21, 2011
• To take note of The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced in Rajya Sabha and the order of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission dated 31st January 2009 banning the use of asbestos in schools and hospitals
• To consider the deliberations of the International Conference on "Emerging Trends in Preventing Occupational Respiratory Diseases and Cancers in Workplace" at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi in March 2011 following which New Delhi Declaration Seeking Elimination of all forms of Asbestos including Chrysotile from India on 24 March, 2011
• To take note of the fact that 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, IARC newly confirmed that there is sufficient evidence that asbestos causes ovarian cancer and reconfirmed asbestos causes laryngeal cancer
• To recall that the World Health Organisation's latest estimate notes that asbestos already claims 107,000 lives a year. Even that conservative estimate means every five minutes around the clock a person dies of asbestos related disease. The ongoing use of the asbestos fibre kills at least 300 people every day
• To respect the scientific process of the Rotterdam Convention and approve the recommendations of the Chemical Review Committee to list chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list of hazardous substances
• To refer to World Bank's Asbestos Good Practice Guidelines. These Guidelines, as well as its earlier Environmental, Health & Safety General Guidelines, require that the use of asbestos must be avoided in new construction in projects funded by the World Bank around the world. The Guidelines also provide information on available safer alternatives to asbestos.
In such a backdrop, it is germane to ask as to why India still a leading importer of chrysotile asbestos.

The application submitted that Canadian government which exports chrysotile asbestos to India has removed it from Canadian Parliament and its Prime Minister's Home. India has technically banned mining of asbestos (including chrysotile) but allows import, manufacture and use of asbestos based products which are proven to be deadly!

Earlier, NHRC has categorically observed that "...endosulfan has been banned in over 60 countries including all the major industrial nations, not because it was an inefficient pesticide, but because independent studies there had confirmed that its commercial utility was far outweighed by the great harm it caused to human health, to flora and fauna, and to the environment. The governments of these countries, therefore, put the right to health of their citizens, the lives of future generations and the protection of the environment above the commercial interests of the producers and users of endosulfan” in its order dated 31st December, 2010. This creates a rationale for Government of India to support listing of Endosulfan in the UN's hazardous chemicals and pesticides list.

It is also noteworthy that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) too has passed an order in Case No: 693/30/97-98 recommending that the asbestos sheets roofing be replaced with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful.
I submit that the Annual Report of NHRC 2003-2004 refers to a Report entitled “Asbestos – Health and Environment – an in-depth Study “submitted by the Institute of Public Health Engineers, India. The study underlines that safe and controlled use of asbestos is not possible.

It is relevant to point out that asbestos waste (dust and fibers) has been treated hazardous in all forms and has been banned under Hazardous Wastes Management Rules farmed under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. In our country, approximately 50, 000 people die every year due to asbestos related cancer. But so far Government of India has failed to take a pro-people’s health position and a scientific stand on the import of chrysotile asbestos whose mining is technically banned in India.

It may be noted that Kerala State Human Rights Commission has recommended ban on use of asbestos roofs for schools and hospitals. In view of the above, NHRC has been approached to recommend to Government of India to support listing of chrysotile asbestos in the UN list of hazardous chemicals.

Over 450 participants, representing more than 110 governments, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations are expected to attend the Conference. Under the theme “Rotterdam COP5: PICturing Chemical Safety, PICturing Informed Decisions”, the
conference will consider measures to strengthen implementation of the globe’s first line of defence for chemical safety.

The Rotterdam Convention entered into force in 2004. It built on the voluntary Prior Informed Consent, or PIC, procedure, initiated by UNEP and FAO in 1989, which gave way to the formalities of the Convention. The Rotterdam Convention was adopted in 1998 and entered into force in 2004 and makes the PIC Procedure legally binding.

The conference will consider decisions on, adding chrysotile asbestos, endosulfan, alachlor and aldicarb to the Convention’s Annex III, triggering the exchange of information between Governments on permissible importation and use of these hazardous chemicals and pesticides. There are 40 other chemicals and severely hazardous pesticide formulations already listed in Annex III.

Parties to the Rotterdam Convention will review progress on cooperation with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and follow up on the work of the Committee on Trade and Environment in Special Session (CTESS) and the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) between the Secretariat and the World Trade Organization.

The conference is the second of three conferences of the parties scheduled in 2011 to consider synergies between the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. Parties to the Stockholm Convention met earlier this year and adopted a decision addressing joint activities, joint managerial functions, joint services, synchronization of budget cycles, joint audits and review arrangements
between the three global chemicals and waste agreements. An identical decision will be considered by Rotterdam Convention’s parties at this meeting, and by the Basel Conventions parties at the latter instrument’s 10th Conference of the Parties, meeting in Cartegena, Colombia, in October, 2011.

The UN's fifth meeting of Rotterdam Convention will conclude on 24th June, 2011.

For Details: Information and Public Relations Officer, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC, India), Ph: 91-11-23382742,
Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)/Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), New Delhi Mb: 09818089660
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