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, August 27, 2011

Sahyadri Asbestos Company Makes Unturthful Claims About Asbestos

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) has come across a two page excerpts from its 17th Annual Report 2010-11 titled "Misconceptions About Asbestos" that is being distributed by Pune-based Sahyadri Industries, an asbestos manufacturing company. It misrepresents facts by saying that asbestos manufacture and use is harmless. The "Truth About Asbestos" is that it kills at every level of exposure through incurable diseases. There is no alternative to eliminating use of asbetsos.

On 6th July 2011, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to central government and state governments taking cognizance of a complaint alleging that about fifty thousand people die every year in the country due to Asbestos related cancer. The complainant has sought Commission's intervention for a ban on the use of Chrysotile Asbestos (White Asbestos), which is hazardous for the health of people and causes various incurable diseases. The white Asbestos is a fibrous material used for building roofs and walls and various in other forms.

Citing contradictory position of the Government on the issue the complainant Toxics Watch Alliance has argued that though the mining of Asbestos has been technically banned by the government, but it allows its import and that too from the countries which do not prefer its domestic use.

It is also alleged that white Asbestos is considered a hazardous chemical substance for environment by a number of countries in the world. However, it is being used in a number of industries in India affecting the workers employed their in.

The complainant has also requested for grant of a compensation package for present and future victims of Asbestos diseases.

The NHRC has issued notice to Chief Secretary, Maharashtra besides the Secretaries of Ministries of Chemical Fertilizers, Environment and Forest, Health and Family Welfare, Industry and Commerce, Labour and Chief Secretaries of all the other States/Union Territories calling for status reports within four weeks on the issues raised in the complaint.

Asbestos is a "perfect carcinogen" because it acts as both a promoter and initiator of cancer. Asbestos fibres are dangerous when inhaled and the dustiest processes are, in general, the most hazardous. That asbestos is a toxic material has been known for decades. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to several diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Asbestosis: Evidence presented in 1907 to a government enquiry by Dr. Montague Murray described the first diagnosed case of fatal, non-tubercular, diffuse pulmonary fibrosis in an asbestos worker: asbestosis. Asbestosis is an irreversible and progressive lung condition which results from the inhalation of asbestos fibres over an extended period. In asbestosis, lung tissue is scarred and thickened by the abrasive action of the asbestos fibres in the alveoli, the air sacks. The latency period for asbestosis is usually at least ten years and the higher the exposure, the greater the chances of developing the disease. Asbestosis tends to be linked to heavy occupational exposure although cases of asbestosis among those not occupationally exposed have been known.

Lung Cancer: An article which appeared in The Lancet in 1934 presented evidence of a link between asbestos and lung cancer. Dr. Richard Doll's landmark paper: Mortality from Lung Cancer in Asbestos Workers was published in 1955; Doll's research showed that the incidence of lung cancer among men at an asbestos factory in Rochdale was ten times the national norm. Asbestos-related lung cancer can occur from occupational or environmental exposure: it is virtually incurable. The chances of recovery for those whose lung cancer is caused by asbestos are worse because the lungs may already damaged by the dust. One type of lung cancer asbestos causes, undifferentiated, small-cell type, is the one with the least hope of treatment. The latency period for lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure is usually between fifteen and thirty-five years. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that an asbestos insulation worker who smokes had ninety two times the chance of dying from lung cancer as a non-smoking, non-asbestos worker.

Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is a formerly rare, but increasingly common cancer of the lung or the abdominal cavity; the only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Malignant mesothelioma can be contracted from very low exposures to asbestos and accounts for the majority of victims who contract an asbestos-related disease through environmental exposure. The latency period for mesothelioma is generally between thirty to fifty years although British courts have accepted a latency period as short as ten years. On average, mesothelioma patients survive for eighteen months to two years following diagnosis although some poeple survive considerably longer. Currently, there is no known cure.

A routine analysis of British statistics by Professor Julian Peto of the Institute of Cancer Research in 1995 uncovered a rapid acceleration in the number of British mesothelioma deaths which, he predicted, would continue to increase from 1,000 to 3,000 per year by the year 2024. According to him, the most worrying aspect is the discovery that the rate of mesothelioma deaths is rising in men aged 50 and younger and that most victims have only had secondary links with asbestos, often as construction workers, carpenters, plumbers or electricians.

The inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause serious diseases of the lungs and other organs that may not appear until years after the exposure has occurred. For instance, asbestosis can cause a build-up of scar-like tissue in the lungs and result in loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and death. There are four main diseases caused by asbestos: mesothelioma (which is always fatal), lung cancer (almost always fatal), asbestosis (not always fatal, but it can be very debilitating) and diffuse pleural thickening (not fatal). According to the UK Health and Safety Executive, abestos-related conditions are responsible for about 4,000 deaths a year in UK.

In the context of a proposed Asbestos cement sheet and accessories manufacturing unit of 1,80,000 Tonnes Per Annum capacity at Narsimharaopalem Village, Veerulupadu Tehsil, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh by M/s Sahyadri Industries Limited, BANI had written to S V Prasad, Chief Secretary/Chairman, Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, Government of Andhra Pradesh, drawing his attention towards the TOR for the proposed plant dated October 25, 2010 issued by Union Environment & Forests Ministry wherein 45 paragraph refers to “Detailed action plan for compliance of the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India regarding occupational health and safety measures in asbestos industries should be included” and how an order dated January 21, 2011, of Supreme Court’s bench of Chief Justice of India Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar has not been taken note of.

In the order of Chief Justice of India bench it is observed in para 15 that, “the Government has already presented the Bill in Rajya Sabha. The statement of objects and reasons of this Bill specifically notices that the white asbestos is highly carcinogenic and it has been so reported by the World Health Organisation. In India, it is imported without any restriction while even its domestic use is not preferred by the exporting countries.”

The Bench of Chief Justice of India notes, “Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported 95% of the white asbestos, it mined out of which 43% was shipped to India. In view of these facts, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative materials. The Bill is yet to be passed but it is clearly demonstrated that the Government is required to take effective steps to prevent hazardous impact of use of asbestos.”

BANI has submitted that the Environmental Management Plan mentioned in the Chapter 10 of the DREIA submitted to the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) does one respond to the work of WHO and International Labour Organization (ILO) towards elimination of asbestos-related diseases “by recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos and by providing information about solutions for replacing asbestos with safer substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to stimulate its replacement.”

BANI has argued that the TOR for Sahyadri Industries Limited’s proposed asbestos sheet plant must be revised in the light of the above mentioned order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. It is clear that the company in question should be made to submit the above mentioned observations of the Hon’ble Court and the Expert Appraisal Committee-1 (Industry) must re-visited.

In the light of the above, BANI, Human Rights Forum and Jana Vignana Vedika have demanded a blanket ban on asbestos production and usage.

Gopal Krishna
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)

No comments:

Blog Archive