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.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Victory of Parti Québécois (PQ) and new Quebec government’s anti asbestos stance welcomed

Press Release

Victory of Parti Québécois (PQ) and new Quebec government’s anti asbestos stance welcomed

MPs, parties, chief secretaries, central govt, Congress Chief informed about consequences of trade, manufacturing and use of lung cancer causing asbestos based products

Names of 53 countries that banned asbestos revealed

New Delhi Sept 7, 2012: ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) and Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) welcome the victory of Pauline Marois led newly-elected Parti Québécois (PQ) this week since she has promised that under her leadership, the Quebec government will stop supporting the asbestos mining in her State which is exported countries such as India.

The previous regime of now-defeated Jean Charest Quebec government helped revive the asbestos mining industry by providing a $58-million government loan to reopen the Jeffrey Mine despite wide spread national and international condemnation.

TWA and BANI appeal to the new Marois government to extricate itself from its predecessor’s commitment to the asbestos mine by ensuring that public money is not used to defend an indefensible industry. It is evident across the world that asbestos industry is surviving the developing countries like India with government’s help. New Quebec government can pave the way for Indian government to extricate itself from promoting a lung cancer causing asbestos industry.

TWA-BANI wish to remind the promise of PQ made during the election campaign. It is heartening that PQ Leader Pauline Marois confirmed the commitment on August 30 by promising to cancel the loan and instead invest the money in economic diversification for the asbestos-producing region.

The former Liberal government had announced the granting of the controversial $58-million government loan to the Jeffrey Mine for production and export of the deadly fibre on June 29. It is commendable that Étienne-Alexis Boucher, the PQ candidate from Richmond, which contains the town of Asbestos lost by a just 269 votes but chose not to pander to the asbestos lobby on September 4. Her stance and her party’s stance against the killer asbestos industry is a shining example of political statesmanship.

TWA-BANI expect that the proposal to reopen Jeffrey Mine next summer and produce 250,000 tonnes of asbestos per year over the next 20 years, mainly for export to the developing countries like India will be cancelled at the earliest.

In a letter dated August 30, 2012 to Sonia Gandhi, President of Congress Parliamentary Party, TWA has drawn her urgent attention towards the news report 'Chinese car maker Chery announces Brazil recall of 12,500 vehicles for asbestos' (Washington Post, August 30, 2012) revealing recall of cars sold after asbestos was found in engine and exhaust gaskets by Chery International, a Chinese automaker. This follows ban on entry of China-made cars containing incurable cancer causing asbestos in its structure in Australia. Australia is one of the 53 countries that have banned the import of asbestos. India is yet to ban it. Almost all the vehicles in India are laden with asbestos based components. There is no building in India which is asbestos free. Copies of the letter were sent to all the national parties, all the MPs, concerned parliamentary committees, several Chief Ministers and all the Chief Secretaries of the States and administrators of Union Territories. The letter is attached.

Taking cognizance of threats to life and public health; more than 50 countries have banned production, use, manufacture and trade of the hazardous mineral fiber, ASBESTOS. These countries are: Algeria, Czech Republic, Iceland, Malta, Seychelles, Argentina, Denmark, Ireland, Mozambique, Slovakia, Australia, Egypt, Israel, Netherlands, Slovenia, Austria, Estonia, Italy, New Caledonia, South Africa, Bahrain, Finland, Japan, Norway, Spain, Belgium, France, Jordan, Oman, Sweden, Brunei, Gabon, South Korea, Poland, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Germany, Kuwait, Portugal, Turkey, Chile, Greece, Latvia, Qatar, United Kingdom, Croatia, Honduras, Lithuania, Romania, Uruguay, Cyprus, Hungary, Luxembourg and Saudi Arabia. All the 27 countries of European Union have banned it.

On August 15 August, 2012 news came from Australia that an Australian importer has recalled 23,000 cars made by China's Great Wall Motor Co Ltd and Chery Automobile Co after deadly asbestos fibres were found in engines and exhaust gaskets. The importer, Ateco Automotive has been asked by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to replace affected components in the cars. Dealers have also been asked to stop selling the asbestos laden cars. The news report ‘23,000 China-made cars recalled in Oz for asbestos parts’ is attached.

This news is quite relevant to our country because disregarding disastrous public health consequences, trade, manufacture and consumption of asbestos based products is rising at an alarming rate due to fiscal incentives of the central government since 1982.

The World Health Assembly Resolution on cancer prevention has urged the countries to pay special attention to cancers for which avoidable exposure is a factor, including exposure to chemicals at the workplace. The World Health Assembly has requested WHO to carry out a global campaign for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases. WHO Resolution is aimed at eliminating asbestos-related diseases is particularly targeted at countries still using chrysotile asbestos, in addition to assistance in relation to exposures arising from historical use of all forms of asbestos.

Besides mining of asbestos of all kinds, trade in asbestos waste (dust & fibers) is banned in India. In June 1993, central government stopped the renewal of existing mining leases of asbestos. The mining activity was banned by Union Ministry of Mines. It is strange that while mining of asbestos is banned in our country due to adverse health impact, the same is being imported from Russia, Canada and other countries. It may be noted that Canada has a no home use policy and it is investing to decontaminate its built environment of asbestos.

Notably, UN headquarters has been decontaminated of asbestos besides Canadian House of Commons. It is about time Indian buildings like its legislatures, courts, schools, hospitals etc also became asbestos free.

According to a Fact sheet No.343 of World Health Organisation (WHO) titled ‘Asbestos: elimination of asbestos-related diseases’ dated July 2010, “All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans, and may cause mesothelioma and cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary. Asbestos exposure is also responsible for other diseases, such as asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), pleural plaques, thickening and effusions.” The harmful effects of asbestos of all kinds have been established conclusively.

Indian Mines Ministry has consistently informed the Parliament that “In view of the hazardous effect of asbestos mining on health, the Government has decided not to grant any new lease for mining of asbestos and minerals found along with asbestos. It does not renew the existing mining leases of asbestos. In view of the deleterious effect of asbestos mining on the health of the workers, the government has ordered the State governments in 1986 not to grant any new mining lease for asbestos (including chrysotile variety) in the country.

It is noteworthy that in 1995, Supreme Court of India held that “The development of the carcinogenic risk due to asbestos or any other carcinogenic agent does not require continuous exposure. The cancer risk does not cease when the exposure to the carcinogenic agent ceases, but rather the individual carries the increased risk for the remaining years of life. The exposure to asbestos and the resultant long tragic chain of adverse medical, legal and societal consequences, reminds the legal and social responsibility of the employer or producer not to endanger the workmen or the community or the society. He or it is not absolved of the inherent responsibility to the exposed workmen or the society at large. They have the responsibility-legal, moral and social to provide protective measures to the workmen and to the public or all those who are exposed to the harmful consequences of their products. Mere adoption of regulations for the enforcement has no real meaning and efficiency without professional, industrial and governmental resources and legal and moral determination to implement such regulations.”

It high time India stopped procuring raw asbestos fibers from Russia’s Ural Asbestos Mining & Ore Dressing Company, the world's largest manufacturer. It should rescind its asbestos trade related agreements with Canada, Kazakhstan and Brazil.

Public health experts and environmental and occupational health specialists have argued for long that asbestos should be buried not people. The continued use of asbestos in India is bound to lead to a public health disaster of asbestos-related illness and premature death for decades to come. This will be repeating the epidemic that is witnessed today in developed countries that used asbestos in the past.

Both International Labour Organization (ILO) and WHO recognize that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos, replace asbestos with safer substitutes, take measures to prevent exposure to asbestos in place and during asbestos removal and improve early diagnosis, treatment, social and medical rehabilitation of asbestos-related diseases and to establish registries of people with past and/or current exposures to asbestos. ILO also passed a resolution seeking elimination of future usage of asbestos of all forms in June 2006. How can such glaring scientific and medical facts be ignored?

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to all the State Governments, Union Territories and concerned ministries of central government to file the status of asbestos disease victims and asked them why it should not be banned. The Commission has underlined that keeping inmates under asbestos roof is harmful and alternative roofs should be used. But so far only the States of Mizoram, Nagaland and the National Institute of Occupational Health Ahmedabad have submitted the reports. NHRC’s intervention has been sought for a ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos), which is hazardous for the health of people and causes various incurable diseases. While Government has rightly banned mining of asbestos, yet it allowed its import and that too from the countries like Canada which did not prefer its domestic use.

Unmindful of such developments in the world and within the country, it appears that Ministry of Commerce is unable to resist asbestos industry’s influence in public interest and desist from signing the "Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement" (CEPA) with Canada that allows the export of cancer causing Canadian asbestos to India. The New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada, the official Opposition party has revealed the efforts of Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper government to eliminate trade tariffs on exports of lethal Canadian asbestos to India. “It is a disgrace that the Harper government has opposed the global effort to ban this substance,” NDP said in a release dated December 5, 2011.

In view of the above facts, immediate steps are required to ban use and manufacture of asbestos and stop construction of asbestos based factories in all the states including Bihar, Odisha and others.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)-BANI, Mb: 9818089660,, Web:

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