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.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Asbestos is a "dirty" word for UN, Indian Navy, like India, Canadian asbestos mine too will not be re-opened

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)


Hon’ble President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan
Government of India
New Delhi

Date: October 11, 2012

Subject- Asbestos is a "dirty" word for UN, Indian Navy, like India, Canadian asbestos mine too will not be re-opened


I wish to draw your urgent attention towards three facts related to world’s movement towards becoming asbestos free because asbestos has become a "dirty" word because of its health hazards. One, the UN Headquarters in New York has just been made asbestos free pursuant to the Capital Master Plan for the renovation United Nations Headquarters Complex which entailed asbestos removal project. In February 2012, UN Conference Rooms 1-3 was gutted and made free of asbestos.

Two, the news report on the delivery of the INS Vikramaditya, a former Russian naval aircraft carrier (formerly Admiral Gorshkov) dated Sep 17, 2012 published in revealing, “India refused to use asbestos to protect the boilers from heat, fearing that the material was dangerous for the crew" according to Russian officials. The statement of the official spokesperson for the Indian Navy, Commander PVS Satish, saying, “There is no question of India’s refusal to use of asbestos since it’s internationally banned. At the time of signing the contract, it was simply specified in the agreement” merits serious attention.

Three, the report of October 10, 2012 published in La Tribune in the Canada’s asbestos mining region of Quebec, wherein Bernard Coulombe, CEO of Jeffrey Asbestos Mine has confirmed to La Tribune on October 10, 2012 that the mine will be closed. It is logical after the new Quebec government has cancelled the $58 million loan that the previous government gave to open the Jeffrey underground mine. After Canadian Government announced a ‘U-turn on asbestos mining’ on September 14, 2012. This announcement was awaited.  

I submit that to begin with key public building in India like Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament, Supreme Court, AIIMS, NHRC, buildings of our armed forces besides the headquarters of the political parties too should be made asbestos free like the UN headquarters.   

I submit that our armed forces are at a grave risk of asbestos exposure because asbestos has been used extensively in their work places and residential places. In the Army and Air Force, asbestos is used in brake and clutch pads installed in everything from tanks to jeeps to aircraft. Asbestos is part of the insulation in housing and other buildings on military bases, electric wiring insulation aboard military planes, and fire retardant materials used by military firefighters and gunners. In the Navy, Merchant Marine, and Coast Guard, it is even more widely used, mainly as thermal insulation aboard ships. Asbestos is used in old and new constructed naval vessels.

I submit that our Ministry of Defence, Navy, Army and Air Force must be asked to compile statistics for how many soldiers have died from asbestos related diseases, how many are suffering from it and how many face the danger of exposure which causes asbestos-related lung cancers and serious respiratory diseases. Our airmen, sailors and soldiers would feel betrayed by the armed forces and the government they served if they come to know that they faced asbestos exposure and government did nothing to save them.”

I submit that Union Ministries of Commerce and Finance fail to recognize that the world is preparing and planning to get rid of all forms of asbestos. This has been recognized by Ministries of Chemicals, Labour, Environment and Mines. It has been recognized by the National Human Rights Commission and Kerala State Human Rights Commission besides WHO, ILO and IARC. State Governments and other related ministries are constrained by the myopia of Commerce and Finance Ministries.     

I submit that it makes us look stupid in India to be still importing it and planning t o lift the ban on chrysotile asbestos mining. Instead, our scarce resources should be used to prevent the impending disaster by phasing it out as soon as we can.

It is high time Government of India took note of ongoing asbestos exposures of citizens, consumers and workers and took immediate remedial measures. The exposure of construction workers and automobile mechanics for instance defies regulatory control efforts in any country.

I submit that asbestos is mainly used for manufacturing asbestos-cement sheets, asbestos-cement pipes, brake lining, clutch lining, asbestos yarn & ropes, gaskets & seals etc.

I submit that import and export Asbestos-containing Products should be banned at the earliest and decontamination of asbestos laden building sand products must be initiated to save future victims.

I submit that although more than 50 countries have recognized that safe and controlled use of asbestos of all kinds is not possible, CPCB under tremendous influence of the asbestos industry recommends standards even at the risk of sounding ridiculous in the comity of nations.

I submit that there were questions raised about asbestos in 15th Lok Sabha. In one instance, the Union Minister of Mines and Minister of Development of North Eastern Region reiterated the ban imposed on grant and renewal of mining leases and expansion of mining of asbestos and stated, ‘At present the ban on grant/renewal of mining leases of asbestos has not been lifted’ on December 7, 2010 in response to a question by Shri Narahari Mahato, Member of Parliament.

I submit that unmindful of the fact that over 50 countries have banned it the asbestos mining lobby from Andhra Pradesh has overwhelmed the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), a subordinate office of the Union Ministry of Mines. As a result IBM has failed resist such influence and undertaken a doctored Study recommending lifting of ban on asbestos mining.

I submit that draft guidelines laying down the safeguards for mining of asbestos for allowing grant/renewal of mining leases of asbestos based on the recommendations of such Study supposedly in consultation with Central Pollution Control Board and Directorate General of Mines Safety is motivated.  

I submit that it has come to light through Right to Information application and admitted in the Parliament by the Union Ministers of Labour and Environment that the studies conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahemedabad was funded by the chrysotile asbestos industry. The same holds true for the study by IBM.

I submit that on August 18,2003, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Parliamentary Affairs informed the Parliament that: "Studies by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad, have shown that long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma." This was not the first official acknowledgment of the asbestos hazard. Government of India's Office Memorandum NO.6 (6)/94 - Cement, (Sept 1, 1994) of the Ministry of Industry states: "The Department has generally not been recommending any case of Industrial License to any new unit for the creation of fresh capacity of asbestos products in the recent past due to the apprehension that prolonged exposure to asbestos leads to serious health hazards".
I submit that the asbestos industry’s denial of harm has aptly been summarized by Professor David Ozonoff, School of Public Health, Boston University as under:
Asbestos does not hurt your health.
 OK, it does hurt your health, but it does not cause cancer.
 OK, Asbestos can cause cancer, but not our formulation of Asbestos.
OK, our kind of Asbestos can cause cancer, but not the kind of cancer this person got.
 OK, our kind of Asbestos can cause that kind of cancer, but not at the doses to which this person was exposed.
OK, Asbestos does cause cancer, and at this dosage, but this person got their disease from something else.
OK, the person was exposed to our Asbestos and it did cause their cancer, but we did not know about the danger when we exposed them.
OK, we knew about the danger when we exposed the person, but the statute of limitations has run out.
OK, the statute of limitations has not run out, but if we are guilty, we will go out of business and everyone will be worse off.
OK, we will go out of business, but only if you let us keep part of our company intact, and only if you limit our liability for the harms we have caused.
I submit that globally asbestos industry and asbestos producers like Russia and Canada stand exposed.  
In the light of the above mentioned findings and developments, in short, I
1. Request you to ensure that Rashtrapati Bhavan and Governors’ House in States be made asbestos free at the earliest
2. Make buildings of our Armed Forces asbestos free
3. Ensure medical check of workers, consumers and citizens who handle asbestos products or are in its vicinity and work towards a just transition of workers with compensation to the affected workers and citizens
4. Prepare a Register of asbestos handlers and victims and award a compensation of at least Rs 20 lakh for the asbestos victims
5. Issue an appeal to the National Human Rights Commission and all the State Human Rights Commissions of the country to adopt the path-breaking order of the Kerala Human Rights Commission with immediate effect
6. Protect the human rights of the asbestos exposed workers and recommend setting up of a Compensation Fund for occupationally and non-occupationally exposed victims of asbestos related diseases
7. Recommend creation of adequate environmental and occupational health infrastructure
8. Urge you to put an end to the use of the of all kinds of asbestos products that is being used and encountered daily, because none of the schools, offices, legislatures, courts, hospitals, automobiles, private and public buildings in our country are asbestos free.

I will be happy to meet you and share reference documents in this regard.

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna,
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 9818089660

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