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, October 23, 2011

Aren't Canadian & Indian Governments Subservient to Asbestos Companies?

Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APFC) asks:
Who is responsible for these asbestos-related diseases?
Is it Thetford Mines?
The Canadian public?
The federal government?
Or is it ultimately the responsibility of Asian governments to enforce better protection of their workers and citizens?
Should Canadian companies be allowed to export a disease-causing product which is legal in Asian countries?

Leah Nielsen responded with a short video of Bruce Bradshaw, a coworker of her dad’s in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Her father died of mesothelioma. Bruce now has it. He spoke at our walk on October 1, 2011 in Sarnia, Ontario. He received a standing ovation.

Dr Barry Castleman, author of "Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects" responds: Canada is the central point of the global asbestos struggle. The propaganda used by the regional asbestos industry groups was all developed by Canada, which was the world’s largest exporter of asbestos as recently as the 1990s.

Canada’s leading presence among the asbestos exporting countries confers a patina of credibility that Russia, Kazakhstan, and smaller asbestos exporters simply do not have. And that is why undisclosed regional members of the global Asbestos Mafia want to keep Canada in the asbestos business, wrapping the Canadian flag around the asbestos business and using the government of Canada to legitimize their predatory business.

As someone very much involved in public health work on asbestos for the past 40 years, I regard Canada as a crucially important country where we must win if we are to fulfill the World Health Organization goal of banning asbestos globally.

If the national government of Canada goes on supporting the asbestos trade and the Quebec taxpayers are hit up for a $58 million subsidy to re-open a large mine in Quebec for another 25 years, it will be a disaster for public health, worldwide.

The world depends on the Canadian people to stop this crime against humanity, and we are at the point where the battle in Canada will be won or lost in the next days or weeks, months at the longest.

Laurie Kazan-Allen, International Ban Asbestos Secretariat responded:
This dialogue is extremely timely given the October 1, 2011 deadline set by the Quebec Government regarding its decision to make a $58 million gift (they call it a loan guarantee) to Mr. Chadha’s asbestos consortium.

As luck would have it, the publication this week of a scientific paper in Thorax, a peer-reviewed medical journal, totally demolishes the asbestos industry’s propaganda regarding the supposed safe use of asbestos.

The paper: “A 37-year observation of mortality in Chinese chrysotile asbestos workers” was categorical. It found that amongst a cohort of chrysotile-exposed Chinese workers there was strong evidence of “increased mortality risks, particularly from lung cancer and non-malignant respiratory diseases, associated with exposure to chrysotile asbestos…”

Chrysotile asbestos is what Chadha proposes to mine in Quebec and ship to India and other Asian countries. If Canadian workers refuse to work with it, why should workers in India, Indonesia and the Philippines do so?

Christopher W. Lee, MD responded

The arguments put forward by Mr. Chadha are either intentionally misleading or demonstrate a willful ignorance of the risks of exposure to chrysotile. All forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, cause asbestos-related diseases, the most prominent of which are mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

There may be a relatively lower risk of mesothelioma from exposure to chrysotile compared to other forms of asbestos, but it is disingenuous to argue that there is no risk. To emphasize the relative risk of mesothelioma, and then imply that there is no risk for lung cancer and asbestosis from chrysotile is deceitful. The risk of lung cancer and asbestosis from exposure to chrysotile is on par with other forms of asbestos. It is for that reason that rules and regulations governing the use and handling of asbestos in Canada (and other countries) do not make a distinction between the different forms of asbestos. Occupational safety and health provisions that apply to amphiboles also apply to chrysotile.

If amphiboles “cannot be used safely, so they are no longer mined anywhere in the world,” there is a logical conclusion that can be drawn regarding chrysotile that is obviously at odds with Mr. Chadha’s opinion.

Controlled use in developing countries is expected to “not present risks of any significance to public and/or worker health.” Despite provincial and federal rules and regulations on use that have been in place for decades, asbestos-related diseases continue to make a significant contribution to the morbidity and mortality of Canadians. Using mesothelioma as an indicator of the ineffectiveness of a controlled use strategy, the annual incidence in Canada has steadily risen since the 1970s.

A report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2008 highlighted the increase in incidence from 153 cases in 1984 to 344 cases in 2003. The Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011 report that came out in May 2011 indicates that the number of new cases of mesothelioma in 2007 was 514.

Without provincial and federal rules and regulations, to the degree to which they are applied and enforced, the situation in Canada would be worse. It is naive at best to believe that controlled use will be effective in limiting the negative impact of chrysotile on public and worker health in developing countries.

The following documents related to the above are publically available on-line:
1. Chrysotile Asbestos Consensus Statement and Summary, 2007 report to Health Canada:

2. Five Deaths a Day: Workplace Fatalities in Canada, 1993-2005:

3. Canadian cancer statistics at a glance: mesothelioma, CMAJ 2008: Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011:

Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India responded: We urge you take cognizance of the newly released documents reveal that back in 2006 the Canadian government had rejected advice from Health Canada that asbestos be added to the UN list of hazardous substances. It is high time APFC advised Canadian government to pay heed to advice from Health Canada to act against a hazardous substance due to which billions of dollars are being spent over the next 20 years to remove asbestos from the Canadian Parliament Buildings because it’s a cancer-causing substance.

Supreme Court of India too has taken note of the fact that Canada mines and ships the majority of its asbestos to countries like India ignoring sharp increase in mortality and morbidity at present and in the decades ahead.

APFC ought to consider its influence over Mr Baljit S Chadha if any to persuade him to stop promoting production and trade in chrysotile asbestos, if he fails to act, we earnestly request you to disassociate APFC from Mr Chadha as it brings the Foundation into disrepute.

We also urge you to take note of the (NHRC), New Delhi that refers to "Banning use of white asbestos" (Case No.2951/30/0/2011) on page no. 5. NHRC took cognizance of how although the Government of India has technically banned the mining of all forms of asbestos including white asbestos (chrysotile asbestos) but it has allowed its import from countries which do not let it be used domestically referring to Canada. The NHRC has issued notices to the Secretaries of the Indian Ministries of Chemical & Fertilizers, Environment & Forest, Health & Family Welfare, Industry & Commerce, and Labour and to the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories in India. This illustrates that Mr Chadha's proposal to re-open up the mines is against basic human rights.

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