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, April 24, 2012

Asbestos Tsunami in India & China on the horizon

Note:Incestous relationship between political parties and asbestos companies in asbestos producing countries and asbestos consuming countries has compelled the government and the parliament to make public health subservient to naked lust for profit. Asbestos Tsunami in India and China cannot be stopped unless this incest is stopped. No amount of scientific opinion and humanitarian concerns hammer the frozen passivity of ruling and opposition political parties who are funded by asbestos companies. Cruelty manifests itself in myriad ways, asbestos companies are personification of cruelty.

Gopal Krishna
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
ToxicsWatch Alliance

Experts Forecast Global "Catastrophe of Death and Disease" From Asbestos Use

Posted by Gary Cohn

Asia is heading for a huge jump in asbestos-related diseases in the coming decades, according to numerous scientific studies and two of the world’s most prominent experts on public health and asbestos exposure. Not surprisingly, the consequences are expected to be felt most severely in India and China, two emerging economies and most populous countries in the world.

“What we can expect is very predictable – an absolute catastrophe of death and disease,” Dr. Arthur Frank, chairman of environmental and occupational health at Drexel University, said in a recent interview with this reporter. He added that the coming catastrophe is “all preventable.”

“What we can expect is very predictable – an absolute catastrophe of death and disease”
- Dr. Arthur Frank, Chairman of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University

Frank’s cautionary words parallel numerous scientific studies and expert predictions forecasting a surge in mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases in Asia in the coming decades. This is primarily because India, China, and other countries on the continent continue to use – or in some cases, even increase – their dependence on asbestos for cheap roofing insulation, in cement, and other widespread applications.

Another expert, Dr. Amir Attaran, a scientist, lawyer and acknowledged expert on global health issues, said that the consequences of continued heavy use of asbestos will be felt particularly hard in India, a growing nation of 1.2 billion people with few limits or controls on the use of asbestos.

“It’s a scientific failure, a clinical failure, and a social and moral failure of India. It is a failure of culture and science”
-Dr. Amir Attaran

When asked about the consequences of the country’s widespread use of asbestos, Attaran, a leader in the fight to stop exports of the material to Third World countries, quickly replied: “In disease terms, incalculable. India has no public health controls. They will pay dearly for this with an epidemic of mesothelioma.”

“It’s a scientific failure, a clinical failure, and a social and moral failure of India. It is a failure of culture and science,” Attaran added.
Asbestos and Asia

Asbestos has historically been used as cheap insulation material in construction, ships and cars. In the United States and Europe, it has been banned for most uses because of its clear-cut links to mesothelioma and other diseases, but it is still widely used in Asia and other nations because it is effective, yet relatively inexpensive. In Asia, it is used primarily for cheap roofing insulation, and in cement and power plants. The health hazard of exposure is compounded by the fact that Asian workers often toil in factories with poor ventilation.

A few Asian nations, such as Japan and South Korea, have banned asbestos, but they are the exceptions.

In recent years, numerous studies have documented the anticipated rise in mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases over the next several decades in Asia. One recent study, in the Journal of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology, said that Asia, with its large, developing countries, currently accounts for about 64% of the world’s asbestos use. This represents a steady increase -- the continent accounted for a 33% share from 1971 to 2000, and 14% from 1920 to 1970.

Medical experts say that it generally takes people 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos to develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. This timetable clearly forecasts that Asia’s current rate of usage is likely to lead to a huge hike in asbestos-related diseases in the coming decades.

Ken Takahashi, the lead author and acting director of the World Health Organization Collaborative Center for Occupational Health, has said that Asia can anticipate an “asbestos tsunami,” in the coming decades. In response, WHO has identified asbestos as one of the most dangerous occupational carcinogens in the world, and says there is an urgent need to stop asbestos use in order to curtail the enormous associated health damages.

An estimated 107,000 people worldwide die each year from asbestos-related diseases, a number that will continue to grow if efforts to curb its usage fail.

While already substantial, this assessment is probably low, according to leading public-health experts, as it is difficult to categorically track deaths from asbestos-related diseases in Asia because India, China and other countries do not to keep reliable data on them.

In recent years, some Asian nations, including Japan and South Korea, have banned or limited asbestos use. But in most other Asian nations, most significantly India and China, the use of asbestos has continued with little or no regulation or oversight. (This reporter got a first-hand view of the problem in the late 1990s while investigating India’s notorious shipbreaking facilities in Alang, where thousands of unprotected workers worked on large, retired vessels with high asbestos content).
shipbreaking India

Many public health experts, such as Frank of Drexel University, have called for a ban on asbestos exports to Asia. Last year, Frank led a group of 120 medical doctors and other health professionals in a campaign to stop Canada from exporting asbestos to developing nations. Canada, which has largely banned asbestos for domestic use, is the second-largest exporter of asbestos to Asia, behind only Russia.

In an appeal to Canadian medical experts, Frank and his colleagues warned that Canada is morally obligated to consider the “enormous harm to health for generations,” if the exports continue – a plea that so far has gone unheeded.

In the recent interview, Frank reiterated the urgency to stop developed nations such as Canada from exporting asbestos to the Third World, along with the need for Asian nations to ban asbestos and start using available non-lethal substitutes.

What needs to be done is very simple,” Frank told me. “They should stop using asbestos in Asia.”

However, this is unlikely to happen as long as established countries continue to chase the profits from exporting the carcinogen. “Canada is the world’s biggest hypocrite when it comes to asbestos,” said Frank. “It is taking it (asbestos) out of Parliament buildings but willing to sell it overseas.”

Next up: The hypocrisy of asbestos-exporting nations. Canada, for example, has banned the use of asbestos domestically and is scheduled to begin a $1 billion renovation project to clean its parliamentary buildings of asbestos this summer. Yet Canada remains one of the world’s biggest exporters of asbestos to the Third World.

Tags: asbestos, Asia, Canada, China, Dr. Amir Attaran, Dr. Larry Frank, Gary Cohn, India, mesothelioma

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Reports Focus on Indian Shipbreaking

Reports Focus on Indian Shipbreaking Kurt Achin | New Delhi Alang beach in India's Gujarat province is one of the world's biggest shipping graveyards, an access-restricted, mafia-controlled funerary ground for hulking steel-container vessels marooned for demolition. Eighty percent of the world's international trade crosses the globe by ship, and each year hundreds of these massive retired freighters are physically dismantled in ocean-shoreline breaking yards. Two reports released in New Delhi this week are renewing focus on the industry's near total lack of environmental or labor oversight, and its connection to organized crime. According Federico Demaria, an Italian economist affiliated with New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, even gaining permission to watch shipbreaking in progress can prove extremely difficult. "Access to Alang is not permitted for foreigners, for journalists, for researchers, for anyone who can actually find out what is going on on the ground," he says, explaining that he got a glimpse of Alang in 2009, only after posing as a scrap trader. "You are supposed to ask permission, [and] I have been waiting for it for three years now, and I've [still] not got it." What he did get, however, was first-hand exposure to an aspect of trade and international commerce that few ever hear about. A surreal scene At Alang, he says, defunct trans-oceanic vessels stand like decrepit, abandoned city skyscrapers that have washed ashore, awaiting the arrival of laborers who, armed with torches, enter the structures to manually deconstruct them. On any given day, he says, one might see a two- or three-ton slab of steel fall to the beach below, or sometimes onto workers. Anonymous Critics: Gujarat shipbreakers lack rights, India, 2009. While advocates of Indian shipbreaking say the industry recycles cheap steel into the economy, fueling development and providing jobs, critics object, citing lack of health care, adequate housing or compensation for debilitating accidents that frequently befall its labor force. "How much do you count for a worker's life?" Demaria asks. "For example, I was not allowed to enter one ship in the Alang beach explicitly because the shipbreaker told me, 'If an accident happens, you'll be too expensive. I can't pay you.'" Yet compensation for Indian workers, he says, is cheap. "If they [compensate their own employees for work-related injuries], they would give something like $1,000 to $2,000, which is insignificant." A formerly regulated trade Shipbreaking used to take place mainly in Europe, under more controlled conditions, but globalization has opened the market for unregulated operations like those in Alang, where shipping companies sell older vessels to intermediary companies that exist only on paper, who then sell the steel structures to shipbreakers. Gopal Krishna, an Indian environmental activist, says the industry is hazardous not only to laborers, but to the entire ecosystem and people whose livelihoods depend on it. "Most of the ships, which are 25-30 years old, are asbestos-laden. They are laden with persistent organic pollutants like PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls; with waste oil; with ballast water," he says, none of which is managed in an environmentally sound manner. Prying eyes of industry observers, he adds, are shielded by local mafias driving the enterprise. "It is a source of black money in the country, one of the least acknowledged sources of black money," says Krishna. "There is collusion between the ruling party and the opposition party. Business interest, the profit motive alone, guides the political parties, which provide patronage to shipbreakers. There is no rule of law in Alang." Demaria and Krishna warn that the industry's lack of oversight could impact the West in the form of contaminated and radioactive imports wrought of improperly treated steel. New Delhi's failure to regulate and modernize shipbreaking, they say, will probably cause India's share of the industry to be subsumed by China's shipbreaking market within a decade. Find this article at:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Lack of capacity for removal of carcinogenic asbestos materials from existing buildings & disposal of end of life asbestos materials


Prof. K.V. Thomas,
Union Minister of Consumer Affairs
Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs
Government of India
New Delhi

Subject-Lack of capacity for removal of carcinogenic asbestos materials from existing buildings & disposal of end of life asbestos roofing materials


This is to draw your urgent attention towards the fact that there is no capacity and skill in the country for removal of asbestos from existing buildings and for disposal of end of life asbestos roofing materials. We have been getting requests seeking help in dealing with disposal of end of life asbestos roofing materials and for removing carcinogenic asbestos materials.

We wish to point out that there is a compelling logic emerging for pre-existing asbestos based plants to shift to non-asbestos based building materials. We submit that Union Government is publicly revealing that it does not favour new asbestos plants in the country. "The Government of India is considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos." It has noted that "Asbestosis is yet another occupational disease of the Lungs which is on an increase under similar circumstances warranting concerted efforts of all stake holders to evolve strategies to curb this menace". A concept paper by Union Ministry of Labour revealed this at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” on 19th and 20th September, 2011. (Reference:

We wish to draw your attention towards Union Environment Ministry’s Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) that reads: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out”. (Reference:

We submit that Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)'s recommendations for cleaning of premises and plants using asbestos fibres and for disposal of asbestos waste material is merely a statement of intent is not really helpful in context of impossibility of safe use of asbestos of all kinds.

We wish to draw your attention towards the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)‘s notice to the Secretaries of Ministries of Chemical Fertilizers, Environment and Forest, Health and Family Welfare, Industry and Commerce, Labour and Chief Secretaries of all the States/Union Territories in the matter of incurable asbestos related diseases on July 6, 2011. (Reference:

We submit that Union Ministry of Chemicals, Government of India has rightly disassociated itself from countries like Russia and Canada on June 22, 2011 who derailed the international consensus that categorizes chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance under the UN’s Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. India has taken a position that it considers chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance.

We submit that World Health Assembly Resolution 58.22 on cancer prevention urges Member States to pay special attention to cancers for which avoidable exposure is a factor, including exposure to chemicals at the workplace. In 2005, with Resolution 60.26, the World Health Assembly requested WHO to carry out a global campaign for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases.

We submit that the resolution of the 95th Session of the International Labour Conference of ILO in June 2006 stated, "Considering that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are classified as known human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a classification restated by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (a joint Programme of the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme), it resolves that: (a) the elimination of the future use of asbestos and the identification and proper management of asbestos currently in place are the most effective means to protect workers from asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related diseases and deaths; and (b) the Asbestos Convention, 1986 (No. 162), should not be used to provide a justification for, or endorsement of, the continued use of asbestos."

We submit that Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)'s 'Guidelines for safe use of products containing asbestos' is outdated. There are grave concerns about asbestos exposures resulting in public health crisis world over that has compelled 55 countries to ban use of asbestos. In the absence of environmental and occupational health infrastructure in our country, the passivity of the state governments and the concerned ministries like yours appears cannot be deemed acceptable.

In view of the above, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) should be asked to re-examine the 'Recommendations for safety and health requirements relating to occupational exposure to asbestos' besides examining non-occupational exposure to asbestos and standards for asbestos related material like asbestos cement sheets, asbestos cement pressure pipes and joints, asbestos cement flat sheets, asbestos cement building boards, asbestos cement cable conduits and troughs etc.

We submit that your ministry ought to consider writing to the State Governments to save people from incurable lung diseases. There should be a moratorium on asbestos based hazardous industries. Now your ministry should take the next logical step and phase out asbestos use and take immediate steps to ban this killer fiber to save the present and future citizens of the country.

Thanking You

Yours Sincerely
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
New Delhi
Phone: +91-11-2651781, Fax: +91-11-26517814
Mb: 9818089660

Chairman, NHRC

How Canada exports death and disease to the developing world

Even though asbestos is banned in over 50 countries, Canada continues blocking international action to control its use, financially supporting asbestos industry spin doctors and promoting the continued trade of this toxic cancer-causing substance to the developing world despite it being effectively banned in Canada.

Managing editor David Donovan reports on a nation that has become an international pariah through what some have described as its “racist” double-standards.

The full text is available here:
9 April, 2012

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