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, January 16, 2024

"Asbestos concerns " with Indian property in Washington D.C: Dr. S. Jaishankar

Indian foreign minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar informed parliament on February 9, 2023 that "There were asbestos concerns "with regard to  Indian property in Washington D.C. It posed a challenge in preparing it for use as Indian Cultural Centre.  He was replying to a question from Mohammed Nadimul Haque.

Asbestos is a class of magnesium-silicate minerals which are light-weight, chemically inert and heat-resistant. They do not conduct electric currents and possess high flexibility, strength, durability and acoustic properties. At the Headquarters complex, asbestos-containing materials were extensively used, because the buildings were constructed in the early 1950s, when the use of asbestos was widespread. The harmful effects of exposure to asbestos fibres on the respiratory system has been clearly established since the early 1970s. The fibres are so thin that they hang in the air a long time before settling. 
It may be recalled that UN Secretary-General's report had provided an assessment of asbestos-containing materials at UN Headquarters. It had reviewed measures to ensure that such materials did not cause harm to persons working or visiting in the United Nations (document A/54/779). The report covered the Headquarters complex, the UNDC-I and UNDC-II buildings, the former United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) building and leased spaces in other buildings in New York.

Close attention has been paid to the asbestos situation in the UN Headquarters buildings and steps have been taken to make them abestos-free. UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) has recommended that information be provided on asbestos at other United Nations duty stations.

Measures for managing asbestos include continued encapsulation of the existing asbestos, whereby it is not considered a health risk; semi-annual testing of air supply and return sources for asbestos fibres; and the removal of asbestos- containing materials only where the maintenance, alterations, improvement, construction or other activity necessitates its removal, according to the report.

A UN release stated that the UN complies with all standards, codes and regulations issued by the United States Government, New York State and City with regard to inspection, engineering controls, abatement and management of disposal of asbestos-containing materials. Unfortunately, this not enough because despite WHO's recommendation, US is yet to ban all kinds of asbestos unlike 70 countries which have prohibited it. 

The Committee also had before it a report of the ACABQ on the asbestos situation at Headquarters (document A/54/7/Add.12) recommending that the General Assembly take note of the Secretary-General's report and that information be provided on buildings at Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi and the regional commissions.

The ACABQ was informed that all handling of asbestos followed standard procedures and unacceptable levels had not entered the air stream, the report states. The ACABQ was also informed that since measures to manage asbestos started at Headquarters, 30 per cent of the asbestos has been removed from the buildings. It was told that 70 per cent of the asbestos at the UNITAR building had been removed and the remaining 30 per cent remain encapsulated, mainly on the ground floor.

The ACABQ learned that roughly 15 complaints concerning asbestos are received every year. On receiving a complaint from staff, a licensed independent contractor was sent to test the area for the presence of asbestos fibres and the results were made available through the Medical Services Division.
In a  related development, Iraq has informed India in writing that it has banned asbestos like some 70 countries. The countries which have banned it are: 1) Algeria, 2) Czech Republic, 3) Iran, 4) Malta, 5) Serbia, 6) Argentina, 7) Denmark, 8) Iraq, 9) Mauritius, 10) Seychelles, 11) Australia, 12) Djibouti, 13) Ireland, 14) Monaco, 15) Slovakia, 16) Austria, 17) Egypt, 18) Israel, 19) Mozambique, 20) Slovenia, 21) Bahrain, 22) Estonia, 23) Italy,  24) Netherlands, 25) South Africa, 26) Belgium, 27) Finland, 28) Japan, 29) New Caledonia, 30) Spain, 31) Brazil 32) France, 33) Jordan, 34) New Zealand, 35) Sweden, 36) Brunei, 37) Gabon, 38) South Korea, 39)  Norway, 40) Switzerland, 41) Bulgaria, 42) Germany, 43) Kuwait, 44) Oman, 45) Taiwan, 46) Canada, 47) Gibraltar, 48) Latvia, 49) Poland, 50) Turkey, 51) Chile, 52) Greece, 53) Liechtenstein, 54) Portugal, 55) United Kingdom, 56) Colombia, 57) Honduras, 58) Lithuania, 59) Qatar, 60) Uruguay, 61) Croatia, 62) Hungary, 63) Luxembourg, 64) Romania, 65) Ukraine, 66) Cyprus, 67) Iceland, 68) Macedonia and 69) Saudi Arabia which have banned asbestos of all kinds because safe and controlled use of asbestos is not possible.  
Hasn't Indian properties been made asbestos free in these 70 countries which have banned all kinds of carcinogenic asbestos mineral fibers? 
India has banned mining of all kinds of asbestos and trade in asbestos waste (dust and fibers) but it is yet to ban its trade, manufacture and use.

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