Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Ban-Asbestos-India

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) works for Asbestos Free India since 2002. Occupational Health India and ToxicsWatch Alliance are its members that includes occupational health doctors, researchers and activists. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. It works with trade unions, human rights, environmental and public health groups. For Details:krishna1715@gmail.com, oshindia@yahoo.in, toxicswatchallaince@gmail.com

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of mesothelioma in women

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cosmetic talcum powder products have been used for decades. The inhalation of talc may cause lung fibrosis in the form of granulomatose nodules called talcosis. Exposure to talc has also been suggested as a causative factor in the development of ovarian carcinomas, gynecological tumors, and mesothelioma.

PURPOSE:

To investigate one historic brand of cosmetic talcum powder associated with mesothelioma in women.

METHODS:

Transmission electron microscope (TEM) formvar-coated grids were prepared with concentrations of one brand of talcum powder directly, on filters, from air collections on filters in glovebox and simulated bathroom exposures and human fiber burden analyses. The grids were analyzed on an analytic TEM using energy-dispersive spectrometer (EDS) and selected-area electron diffraction (SAED) to determine asbestos fiber number and type.

RESULTS:

This brand of talcum powder contained asbestos and the application of talcum powder released inhalable asbestos fibers. Lung and lymph node tissues removed at autopsy revealed pleural mesothelioma. Digestions of the tissues were found to contain anthophyllite and tremolite asbestos.

DISCUSSION:

Through many applications of this particular brand of talcum powder, the deceased inhaled asbestos fibers, which then accumulated in her lungs and likely caused or contributed to her mesothelioma as well as other women with the same scenario.

Int J Occup Environ Health. 2014 Oct;20(4):318-32

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25185462

Friday, October 10, 2014

Whistleblower Ashok Khemka’s decision to replace asbestos sheets is right, CAG is wrong

CAG should audit asbestos laden buildings in India and provide a decontamination plan
October 10, 2014: Defending his decision to order replacement of asbestos sheets with galvalume sheets in food godowns between July 11, 2008 and April 23, 2010, in a letter, Ashok Khemka, former Managing Director, Haryana State Warehousing Corporation (HSWC) and the noted whistleblower has accused Shashi Kant Sharma, the new Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India of having denied him an opportunity to explain his decision. The past usage and the continued usage of the roofing sheets made of cancer causing fibers is an anti-public health legacy of previous governments. Asbestos causes incurable diseases like lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.  The alternatives of asbestos sheets are ideally suited for roofing applications.

Khemka’s decision to replace asbestos sheets is bound to be praised in some 55 countries which have banned asbestos of all kinds. His decision is in compliance with the resolution of World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) that has recommended elimination of asbestos. This decision honors the letter and spirit of the Supreme Court of India’s judgment dated January 27, 1995 directing central and state governments to update their rules and laws in the light of fresh ILO's resolution. ILO has made specific directions vide its Resolution of 2006 introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos.

Notably, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi is pursuing is a case (NHRC Case No.2951/30/0/2011) seeking compliance with the Supreme Court order wherein Haryana Government has also filed its reply. In its reply it claims that “No case of asbestosis has been detected so far” in the state although there are the three factories in Haryana State which use Asbestos in their manufacturing process. These are:
1. M/s Hyderabad Industries, Faridabad (of the CK Birla Group)
2. M/s BIC Auto (P) Ltd, Bahadurgarh
3. M/s ASK Automotive (P) Ltd, Gurgaon
.    
While the whole world is grappling with the epidemic of asbestos related incurable lung diseases, Haryana’s Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health claims that “No case of asbestosis has been detected so far.”

Unlike, Government of Haryana, Secretary, Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh Administration has informed NHRC that “a. White Asbestos (Chrysotile Asbestos) is implicated in so many studies with the following diseases:-Mesothelioma (Cancer of Pleura), Lung Cancer, Peritoneal Cancer, Asbestosis, And also consider as cause of following cancers:- Ovarian Cancer, Laryngeal Cancer, Other Cancer, b. Diseases are produced in the person involved in Asbestos Industry.” It states that “No. of cancer deaths due to asbestos requires further large
scale study from India” It informed, “It is definitely harmful material, causing cancer and other
related diseases.”

Union Ministry of Labour and Employment has constituted an Advisory Committee of 13 members to develop control strategies and to review the safeguards in relation to primary exposure to Asbestos by the workers in pursuance of the judgement of Supreme Court. There are four terms of reference (TOR) of this Advisory Committee. Two of these TORs deal with ‘ILO guidelines’ and ‘fresh resolution passed by ILO”. The reply does not recognize that the ‘fresh resolution passed by ILO’ refers to the above mentioned June 2006 resolution. Union Ministry of Labour set up this Advisory Committee to implement Supreme Court order.

Union Ministry of Labour has revealed that that 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" at page no. 28 of its concept
paper at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” during 19-20 September, 2011.

It is noteworthy that Dow Chemicals Company has set aside $2.2 billion in compensation fund to address future asbestos-related liabilities arising out of acquisition of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and its Indian investments in 1999. Many manufacturers of asbestos-containing products have gone bankrupt in USA as a result of asbestos litigation.

Dr. R.B. Raidas, Deputy Director General, Directorate General of Factory Advice Service & Labour Institutes. (DGFASLI) revealed that 36 out of 1000 workers have been found to be suffering from asbestos related diseases. He revealed that DGFASLI had studied some 8, 000 workers and found that some 228 workers were exposed.

Dr H N Saiyed, former Director, National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad has stated that paying compensation to the victims of asbestos related diseases is a long process. He added, asbestos does not have a threshold limit. The best way to stop the diseases is to
stop its use. Politicians are hiding behind absence of data which is not being collected. They shared this at conference organized by Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi organised by Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health in partnership with Drexel University, School of Public Health, Collegium Ramazzini, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India and Heart of England, NHS Foundation Trust.

Not only that Central Public Works Department (CPWD), Union Ministry of Urban Development Government of India provides for “non-asbestos cement board partitions.” (CPWD Dehli Schedule of Rates, 2007,  www.cpwd.gov.in/final-dsr2007.pdf). An update in 2012 refers to “high impact polypropylene” fibre as the non-asbestos type of fibre-cement specified. www.cpwd.gov.in/DSR2012.pdf.


Meanwhile, although India has technically banned asbestos mining, Russia, the world’s biggest asbestos producer remains India’s biggest supplier of raw asbestos. India remains the world’s biggest asbestos importer. India is consuming 15 % of the total world asbestos production, as per US Geological Survey estimates.


Notably, Ukraine decided to prolong anti-dumping duties on imports of asbestos-cement corrugated sheets from Russia for an additional five years.

Owing to growing public awareness about the hazards of asbestos, consumption of asbestos dropped by 39% from 2012 to 2013 in India. India’s asbestos consumption in 2013 was 302,668 tons. In 2012, it was 493,086 tons. 

It is quite evident that Khemka has done the right thing that paves way for asbestos free Haryana and paves the path for other Indian states to follow. Instead of auditing his work, CAG should conduct an audit the status of the asbestos laden buildings, victims of asbestos related diseases from the government hospital records in the country and suggest a plan for the decontaminating buildings of hazardous asbestos fibers to save present and future generations.  

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)/ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com
Web: www.toxicswatch.org, Blog: banasbestosindia.blogspot.in

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How the Asbestos industry is pushing its lies in India

Vaishali, India: The executives mingled over tea and sugar cookies, and the chatter was upbeat. Their industry, they said at the conference in the Indian capital, saves lives and brings roofs, walls and pipes to some of the world's poorest people.
The industry's wonder product, though, is one whose very name evokes the opposite: asbestos. A largely outlawed scourge to the developed world, it is still going strong in the developing one, and killing tens of thousands of people each year.
"We're here not only to run our businesses, but to also serve the nation," said Abhaya Shankar, a director of India's Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association.
In India, the world's biggest asbestos importer, it's a $2 billion industry with double-digit annual growth, at least 100 manufacturing plants and some 300,000 jobs.
The International Labor Organisation, World Health Organization, the wider medical community and more than 50 countries say the mineral should be banned. Asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs and cause many diseases. The ILO estimates 100,000 people die every year from workplace exposure, and experts believe thousands more die from exposure outside the workplace.
The asbestos executives who gathered in the ballroom of a luxury New Delhi hotel wanted to knock down those concerns. The risks are overblown, many said, and scientists and officials from rich Western nations who cite copious research showing it causes cancer are distorting the facts.
More than two-thirds of India's 1.2 billion people live in poverty on less than $1.25 a day, including hundreds of millions still in makeshift rural dwellings that offer little protection from insects, harsh weather and roaming predators such as tigers and leopards.
"These are huge numbers. We're talking about millions of people," Shankar said. "So there is a lot of latent demand."
Yet there are some poor Indians trying to keep asbestos out of their communities, even as the government supports the industry by lowering import duties and using asbestos in construction of subsidized housing.
"People outside of India, they must be wondering what kind of fools we are," said Ajit Kumar Singh from the Indian Red Cross Society. "They don't use it. They must wonder why we would."
___
In the ancient farming village of Vaishali, in impoverished Bihar state, the first word about the dangers of asbestos came from chemistry and biology textbooks that a boy in a neighbouring town brought home from school, according to villagers interviewed by The Associated Press.
A company was proposing an asbestos plant in the village of 1,500 people located about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of New Delhi.
The villagers worried that asbestos fibers could blow from the factory across their wheat, rice and potato fields and into their tiny mud-and-thatch homes. Their children, they said, could contract lung diseases most Indian doctors would never test for, let alone treat. Neither India nor any of its 29 states keep statistics on how many people might be affected by asbestos.
The people of Vaishali began protesting in January 2011. They objected that the structure would be closer to their homes than the legal limit of 500 meters (1,640 feet). Still, bricks were laid, temporary management offices were built and a hulking skeleton of steel beams went up across the tree-studded landscape.
The villagers circulated a petition demanding the factory be halted. But in December 2012, its permit was renewed, inciting more than 6,000 people from the region to rally on a main road, blocking traffic for 11 hours. They gave speeches and chanted "Asbestos causes cancer."
Amid the chaos, a few dozen villagers took matters into their own hands, pulling down the partially built factory, brick by brick.
"It was a moment of desperation. No one was listening to us," said a villager involved in the demolition, a teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the company. "There was no other way for us to express our outrage."
Within four hours, the factory and offices were demolished: bricks, beams, pipes and asbestos roofing, all torn down. The steel frame was the only remnant left standing.
"Still, we did not feel triumphant," the teacher said. "We knew it wasn't over."
They were right. The company filed lawsuits, still pending, against several villagers, alleging vandalism and theft.

___
Durable and heat-resistant, asbestos was long a favourite insulation material in the West, but has also been used in everything from shoes and dental fillings to fireproofing sprays, brake linings and ceiling tiles.
Scientists and medical experts overwhelmingly agree that inhaling any form of asbestos can lead to deadly diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, or the scarring of the lungs. Exposure may also lead to other debilitating ailments, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
About 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos at work each year, the WHO says. Because the disease typically takes 20 to 40 years to manifest, workers can go through their careers without realising they are getting sick.
Dozens of countries including Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and all European Union nations have banned asbestos entirely. Others including the United States have severely curtailed its use.
Most asbestos on the world market today comes from Russia. Brazil, Kazakhstan and China also export, though some have been reviewing their positions.
Canada's Quebec province was the world's biggest asbestos producer for much of the 20th century. It got out of the business in 2012, after a new provincial government questioned why it was mining and exporting a material its own citizens shunned.
Asia is the biggest market. India last year imported $235 million worth of the stuff, or about half of the global trade. The global asbestos lobby says the mineral has been unfairly maligned by Western nations that used it irresponsibly. It also says one of the six forms of asbestos is safe: chrysotile, or white asbestos, which accounts for more than 95 percent of all asbestos used since 1900, and all of what's used today.
The asbestos executives who gathered in the ballroom of a luxury New Delhi hotel wanted to knock down those concerns. The risks are overblown, many said, and scientists and officials from rich Western nations who cite copious research showing it causes cancer are distorting the facts.
More than two-thirds of India's 1.2 billion people live in poverty on less than $1.25 a day, including hundreds of millions still in makeshift rural dwellings that offer little protection from insects, harsh weather and roaming predators such as tigers and leopards.
"These are huge numbers. We're talking about millions of people," Shankar said. "So there is a lot of latent demand."
Yet there are some poor Indians trying to keep asbestos out of their communities, even as the government supports the industry by lowering import duties and using asbestos in construction of subsidized housing.
"People outside of India, they must be wondering what kind of fools we are," said Ajit Kumar Singh from the Indian Red Cross Society. "They don't use it. They must wonder why we would."
___
In the ancient farming village of Vaishali, in impoverished Bihar state, the first word about the dangers of asbestos came from chemistry and biology textbooks that a boy in a neighbouring town brought home from school, according to villagers interviewed by The Associated Press.
A company was proposing an asbestos plant in the village of 1,500 people located about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of New Delhi.
The villagers worried that asbestos fibers could blow from the factory across their wheat, rice and potato fields and into their tiny mud-and-thatch homes. Their children, they said, could contract lung diseases most Indian doctors would never test for, let alone treat. Neither India nor any of its 29 states keep statistics on how many people might be affected by asbestos.
The people of Vaishali began protesting in January 2011. They objected that the structure would be closer to their homes than the legal limit of 500 meters (1,640 feet). Still, bricks were laid, temporary management offices were built and a hulking skeleton of steel beams went up across the tree-studded landscape.
The villagers circulated a petition demanding the factory be halted. But in December 2012, its permit was renewed, inciting more than 6,000 people from the region to rally on a main road, blocking traffic for 11 hours. They gave speeches and chanted "Asbestos causes cancer."
Amid the chaos, a few dozen villagers took matters into their own hands, pulling down the partially built factory, brick by brick.
"It was a moment of desperation. No one was listening to us," said a villager involved in the demolition, a teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the company. "There was no other way for us to express our outrage."
Within four hours, the factory and offices were demolished: bricks, beams, pipes and asbestos roofing, all torn down. The steel frame was the only remnant left standing.
"Still, we did not feel triumphant," the teacher said. "We knew it wasn't over."
They were right. The company filed lawsuits, still pending, against several villagers, alleging vandalism and theft.

___
Durable and heat-resistant, asbestos was long a favourite insulation material in the West, but has also been used in everything from shoes and dental fillings to fireproofing sprays, brake linings and ceiling tiles.
Scientists and medical experts overwhelmingly agree that inhaling any form of asbestos can lead to deadly diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, or the scarring of the lungs. Exposure may also lead to other debilitating ailments, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
About 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos at work each year, the WHO says. Because the disease typically takes 20 to 40 years to manifest, workers can go through their careers without realising they are getting sick.
Dozens of countries including Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and all European Union nations have banned asbestos entirely. Others including the United States have severely curtailed its use.
Most asbestos on the world market today comes from Russia. Brazil, Kazakhstan and China also export, though some have been reviewing their positions.
Canada's Quebec province was the world's biggest asbestos producer for much of the 20th century. It got out of the business in 2012, after a new provincial government questioned why it was mining and exporting a material its own citizens shunned.
Asia is the biggest market. India last year imported $235 million worth of the stuff, or about half of the global trade. The global asbestos lobby says the mineral has been unfairly maligned by Western nations that used it irresponsibly. It also says one of the six forms of asbestos is safe: chrysotile, or white asbestos, which accounts for more than 95 percent of all asbestos used since 1900, and all of what's used today.
"Chrysotile you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner!" said Kanat Kapbayel of Kazakhstan's United Minerals and a board member of the International Chrysotile Association.
Chrysotile is a serpentine mineral, meaning its fibers are curly and more flexible than the other more jagged and sharp forms called amphiboles. The lobby and its supporters say this distinction makes all the difference.
A vast majority of experts in science and medicine reject this. "A rigorous review of the epidemiological evidence confirms that all types of asbestos fiber are causally implicated in the development of various diseases and premature death," the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology said in a 2012 position statement.
Squeezed out of the industrialised world, the asbestos industry is trying to build up new markets and has created lobbying organizations to help it sell asbestos to poor countries, particularly in Asia, it said.
___
Developed nations are still reckoning with health and economic consequences from past asbestos use.
American businesses have paid out at least $1.3 billion in the largest and longest-running collection of personal injury lawsuits in US legal history, according to a 2012 report by the California-based Rand research corporation. Two years ago, an Italian court sentenced two businessmen from Swiss building material maker Eternit AG to 16 years in prison for negligence leading to more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths. Billions of dollars have been spent stripping asbestos from buildings in the US and Europe.
Arun Saraf, the Indian asbestos association's chairman, said India has learned from the West's mistakes.
He said the lobby's 15 member companies maintain the strictest safety standards in their factories. That includes limiting airborne dust, properly disposing of waste and insisting employees wear safety masks, gloves and protective clothing.
The vast majority of asbestos used in India is mixed with cement and poured into molds for corrugated roof sheets, wall panels or pipes. Fibers can be released when the sheets are sawed or hammered, and when wear and weather break them down. Scientists say those released fibers are just as dangerous as the raw mineral.
AP journalists who visited a working factory and a shuttered one in Bihar found both had dumped broken sheets and raw material in fields or uncovered pits within the factory premises. Workers without any safety gear were seen handling the broken sheets at both factories. The working factory was operated by Ramco Industries Ltd, while the other owned by Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd was supplying materials to UAL Industries Ltd.
Saraf, who is also UAL's managing director, said the materials left strewn across the factory grounds were meant to be pulverised and recycled into new roofing sheets, and were no more dangerous than the final product as the asbestos had already been mixed with cement.
He said Nibhi was not an association member, but "I have been informed that Nibhi workers are provided with all the personal protective equipment."
In this Nov. 23, 2013 photo, a worker covers his face with a handkerchief as he sees people photographing him and his coworker handling asbestos sheets at the Ramco Industries Ltd. factory in Bhojpur district of Bihar. AP Some employees of Ramco's working factory said they were satisfied that asbestos was safe, and were delighted by the benefits of steady work. But several former employees of both factories said they were given masks only on inspection days, and rarely if ever had medical checkups. None was aware that going home with asbestos fibers on their clothing or hair could put their families at risk.
Ramco CEO Prem Shanker said all employees working in areas where asbestos was kept unmixed were given safety equipment and regular medical checkups that were reviewed by government authorities. "Ramco has consistently gone the extra mile to ensure a safe working environment," he said. AP was not given permission to visit these indoor areas.
Indian customers like the asbestos sheets because they're sturdy, heat resistant and quieter in the rain than tin or fiberglass. But most of all, they're cheap.
Umesh Kumar, a roadside vendor in Bihar's capital of Patna, sells precut 3-by-1 meter (10-by-3 foot) asbestos cement sheets for 600 rupees ($10) each. A tin or a fiberglass sheet of similar strength costs 800 rupees.
"I've known it's a health hazard for about 10 years, but what can we do? This is a country of poor people, and for less money they can have a roof over their heads," Kumar said.
"These people are not aware" of the health risks, he said. But as sellers of asbestos sheets wanting to stay in business, "we're not able to tell them much."
___
The two-day asbestos conference in December was billed as scientific. But organisers said they had no new research. One could say they've gone back in time to defend their products.
The Indian asbestos lobby's website refers to 1998 WHO guidelines for controlled use of chrysotile, but skips updated WHO advice from 2007 suggesting that all asbestos be banned. The lobby also ignores the ILO's 2006 recommendation to ban asbestos, and refers only to its 1996 suggestion of strict regulations.
When asked why the association ignored the most recent advice, its executive director, John Nicodemus, waved his hand dismissively. "The WHO is scaremongering," he said.
Many of the speakers are regulars at asbestos conferences around the world, including in Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia, Ukraine and Indonesia.
American Robert Nolan, who heads a New York-based organiastion called Environmental Studies International, told the Indian delegates that "a ban is a little like a taboo in a primitive society," and that those who ban asbestos are "not looking at the facts."
David Bernstein, an American-born toxicologist based in Geneva, said that although chrysotile can cause disease if inhaled in large quantities or for prolonged periods, so could any tiny particle. He has published dozens of chrysotile-friendly studies and consulted for the Quebec-based Chrysotile Institute, which lost its Canadian government funding and shut down in 2012.
When asked by an audience member about funding for his research, he said some has come from chrysotile interests without elaborating on how much. A short-term study generally costs about $500,000, he said, and a long-term research project can cost up to about $4 million.
He presented an animated video demonstrating how one special kind of human blood cell called a macrophage can engulf a squiggly white asbestos fiber, dissolve it in acid and carry it out of the lungs. He said his research concludes that smaller doses for shorter periods "produce no fibrosis."
"We have defense mechanisms. Our lungs are remarkable," Bernstein said. To suffer any health problems, "you have to live long enough."
Other researchers have drawn different conclusions. Their studies indicate that most chrysotile isn't eliminated but ends up in the membrane lining the lungs, where the rare malignancy mesothelioma develops and chews through the chest wall, leading to excruciating death.
Research such as Bernstein's frustrates retired US Assistant Surgeon General Dr Richard Lemen, who has studied asbestos since 1970 and first advocated a chrysotile ban in 1976. "His presentation is pretty slick, and when he puts it on animation mode, people think: 'Wow, he must know what he's talking about,'" Lemen said by telephone from Atlanta. But Bernstein or Nolan "would get shot down if they stood up and talked about their research" at a legitimate scientific conference, he said.
Debate has ended for richer countries, but that has not stopped asbestos use in poorer ones, Lemen said. "I've been saying the same thing over and over for 40 years. You feel like Sisyphus rolling the stone up the hill, and it comes back down."
___
Research conducted around the world has not convinced some Indian officials, who say there is not enough evidence to prove a link between chrysotile and disease in India.
Gopal Krishna, an activist with the Ban Asbestos India, calls this argument "ridiculous." "Are they saying Indian people's lungs are different than people's in the West?"
The permit for the asbestos plant in Vaishali was canceled by Bihar's chief minister last year after prolonged agitation, but some in his government still rejected that the mineral is hazardous.
"From the scientific information I have received, there is no direct health hazard with asbestos production," said Dipak Kumar Singh, who until recently was Bihar's environment secretary and oversaw industrial zones at the same time. He's now in charge of water management.
The state health secretary, Deepak Kumar, disagreed. "It's not safe," he said. "Of course it can affect the health system, create a burden for us all and especially the poor."
India in 1986 placed a moratorium on licensing any new asbestos mining, but has never banned use of the mineral despite two Supreme Court rulings ordering lawmakers to bring the law in line with ILO standards.
Last year, an Indian delegation traveled to Geneva to join Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Vietnam in opposing the listing of chrysotile as a hazardous chemical under the international Rotterdam Convention, which governs the labeling and trade of dangerous chemicals. Without unanimous support among the convention's 154 members, the effort to list chrysotile failed again.
An Indian Labor Ministry advisory committee set up in 2012 to give a recommendation on asbestos has yet to release a report. The Health Ministry has said asbestos is harmful, but that it has no power to do anything about it. The Environment Ministry continues to approve new factories even as it says asbestos may be phased out.
The position of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government is unclear, but during 12 years as chief minister of Gujarat state, Modi oversaw a boom in asbestos manufacturing and in the asbestos-laden ship-breaking industry.
Meanwhile, village-level resistance continues. Vaishali sparked other protests, including in the nearby district of Bhojpur.
"We'll start a people's revolution if we have to," said blacksmith Dharmatma Sharma, founder of a local environmental group.
In this November 23, 2013 photo, asbestos cement roof panels, some broken and rejected, lie on the grounds of Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd. in the district of Bhojpur in the north Indian state of Bihar. AP "Many people are not aware of the effects, especially the illiterate," said Madan Prasad Gupta, a village leader in Bhojpur, while sipping tea with other villagers at the roadside tea shop he built decades ago when he had no idea what asbestos was.
Over his head: a broken, crumbling asbestos cement roof.


By Katy Daigle/Associated Press
http://www.firstpost.com/living/asbestos-industry-pushing-lies-india-1660683.html

Thursday, May 1, 2014

NHRC seeks 'additional information' about asbestos deaths and diseases in India


India continues to ignore recommendations of ILO and WHO for banning use of all forms of asbestos to save workers, their families and consumers


Certified victims of asbestos related diseases in Gujarat yet to be compensated despite Supreme Court's order

Bihar Chief Minister's intervention led to stoppage of construction of asbestos plant in Vaishali despite threats from centre and biased report from Central Pollution Control Board

May 1, 2014: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which is seized with a complaint alleging that about thousands of people die every year in the country due to Asbestos related cancer has sought 'additional information' about asbestos deaths and diseases in India and scheduled first week of June 2014 for the next hearing.

The complainant has sought Commission's intervention for a ban on the use of Chrysotile Asbestos (White Asbestos), which is hazardous for the health of people and causes various incurable diseases. The white Asbestos is a fibrous material used for building roofs and walls and
various in other forms.

Dealing with Case No.:2951/30/0/2011, on March 31, 2014, NHRC issued its directions saying, "The Commission while considering the matter on 5.8.2013 inter alia observed and directed as under:- "Pursuant to the directions of the Commission, requisite reports have been received
from Director of Industries, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (Cement Section), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, New Delhi, National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad and Department of Chemical and Petrochemical, New Delhi."

The Commission had issued notices 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 calling for status reports within four weeks on the issues raised in the complaint.

NHRC's direction reads: "A communication dated 17.5.2013 has been received from the Senior Admin Officer, Tata Memorial Centre, Advanced Centre for Treatment Research & Education in Cancer, Navi Mumbai informing that they have forwarded the Commission's directions to the
Director, Cancer Epidemiology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai for their review and reply to the NHRC directly as this case pertains to Cancer Epidemiology Division of TMH. However, no response has been received from Director, Cancer Epidemiology, Tata Memorial Hospital
Mumbai, so far. Registry is, therefore, directed to issue reminder to Director, Cancer Epidemiology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai to submit the required report within six weeks."

"Ms. Rashmi Virmani and Ms. Mukta Dutta, Counsel on behalf of Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association appeared before the  Commission today and sought time to submit suggestions. Their request has been granted." Pursuant to the above directions of the Commission, Shri Rajeev K. Virmani, Sr. Advocate, Ms. Rashmi Virmani and Ms. Mukta
Dutta, Counsel on behalf of Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (ACPMA) appeared before the Commission today. The Counsel for the ACPMA has stated that the Supreme Court has already dealt with the case and therefore, NHRC may not consider the case and dispose of the same. After hearing them, the Commission stated that the Commission is only concerned with the 'Right to Health' of the people, which is guaranteed under the Constitution of India, and also whether the directions of the Supreme Court in this regard are being complied with by different agencies/industries."

The direction reads: "Registry to issue reminder to Director, Tata Memorial Centre, Navi Mumbai to send the requisite report sought for by the Commission within six weeks. The complainant has made a complaint regarding the painful death of Virendra Kumar Singh @ Barak
Yadav, an asbestos worker who worked in the factory of Ramco Industries in Bhojpur, Bihar vide his communication dated 27.1.2014. He may be at liberty to produce the medical report, if any, and other details regarding the death of Virendra Kumar @ Barak Yadav to the Commission within six weeks. DC, Bhojpur, Bihar also is requested to inquire into the death of Virendra Kumar @ Barak Yadav who worked in the factory of Ramco Industries in Bhojpur, Bihar and furnish a report
within six weeks. Vide letter dated 14th September, 2013, Shri Gopal Krishna of Toxics Watch Alliance, New Delhi has made another complaint regarding harassment meted out to him by the Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL), Member of Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association as he is pursuing the matter relating to hazardous effects of Asbestos in the NHRC. Let this complaint/letter be de-linked from Case File No. 2951/30/0/2011 and registered as a separate case. List this matter in the 1st week of June, 2014."

WHO and ILO have recommended ban on all form of asbestos including white chrysotile asbestos to prevent incurable but preventable deaths and diseases.

The complainant has also requested for grant of a compensation package for present and future victims of Asbestos diseases.

In his reply submitted to NHRC in this very case, Raman Maheria, Joint Secretary, Labour and Employment Department, Government of Gujarat submitted the Action Taken Report furnished by the Director Industrial Safety & Health, Gujarat State. In this reply it is stated that "Asbestosis is declared as notifiable occupational diseases in Third Schedule under section 89 and 90 of the Factories Act. The workers working in the registered factories are eligible for compensation either under the Employees Compensation Act, 1923 or under the Employees State Insurance Act."

The reply reveals that "22 workers of Gujarat Composite Ltd, Kaligam, Ahmedabad, who were suspected victims of asbestosis were sent for medical check-up to National Institute of Occupational Health. Out of them, following two workers were confirmed for Asbestosis by N.I.O.H.: (1) Shri Hazarilal Manraj and (2) Shri Sahejram B Yadav."

The reply discloses that "Letters dated 24/12/2002, 16/10/2006 and 19/1/2007 were issued to the Gujarat Composite Ltd. to pay compensation of Rs 1 lac to the above two victims as per the direction of the Supreme Court. Gujarat Composite Ltd. has denied to pay compensation to the above workers as the company has challenged the report of N.I.O.H. This fact is mentioned in the affidavit made before the Hon'ble Supreme Court that the Gujarat Composite Ltd. has not paid
the compensation to the victims as per the directions given in the Writ Petition (C) No. 206/1986. Thus, the State Government has taken all the steps required for the protection of workers from Asbestosis in factories of Gujarat State."  It may be noted that Gujarat Composite Ltd (formerly named Digvijay Cement Company) appears to be attempting to hide behind myriad corporate veils by changing names and by outsourcing its work (to agencies like Apurva Vinimay and Infrastructure Division).

The reply does not disclose that there is a case of 62 workers pending in the Gujarat Human Rights Commission wherein 23 workers have been medically examined at the direction of the State Human Rights Commission but their report was not shared.

The reply submits that Government of Gujarat has adopted the ILO Convention on Asbestos (Convention 162) of 1986. It has ignored the ILO Resolution of June 14, 2006, Its clause 2  reads: The ILO Asbestos Convention, 1986 (No. 162), provides for the measures to be taken for
the prevention and control of, and protection of workers against, health hazards due to occupational exposure to asbestos. Key provisions of Convention No. 162 concern: - replacement of asbestos or of certain types of asbestos or products containing asbestos with other materials or products evaluated as less harmful, - total or partial prohibition of the use of asbestos or of certain types of asbestos or products containing asbestos in certain work processes, - measures to prevent or control the release of asbestos dust into the air and to ensure that the exposure limits or other exposure criteria are complied with and also to reduce exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.  Its clause 4 in paragraph 3 reads: "The Resolution also underlined that the ILO Convention on Safety in the Use of Asbestos, No. 162, should not be used to provide a
justification for, or endorsement of, the continued use of asbestos."

This Resolution concerning asbestos was adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 95th Session in 2006 calls for "the elimination of the future use of asbestos and the identification and proper management of asbestos currently in place as the most effective means to protect workers from asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related diseases and deaths".

In his reply Raman Maheria, Joint Secretary, Labour and Employment Department, Government of Gujarat has enclosed the notification of Union Ministry of Labour and Employment constituting an Advisory Committee in pursuance of the judgement of Hon'ble Supreme Court.

There are four terms of reference (TOR) of this Advisory Committee. Two of these TORs deal with 'ILO guidelines' and 'fresh resolution passed by ILO". The reply does not recognize that the 'fresh resolution passed by ILO' refers to the above mentioned June 2006 resolution.

Director Industrial Safety & Health, Gujarat State has filed the 'Compliance Report of Para 16 of Directions of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 260 of 2004. This document submits that "Use of Crocidolite and product containing this fiber is prohibited in the State as per the guide line of the ILO convention 162 for Asbestos. This report does not reveal how Hon'ble Court's direction regarding 'fresh resolution passed by ILO" seeking elimination of future use of asbestos is being complied with.

In a separate evasive reply, V R Ghadge, Senior Environment Engineer, Gujarat Pollution Control Board has failed to reveal the status of asbestos related diseases in the asbestos based factories in the State and the procurement of asbestos based products by the State Government and the residents of the State. It does concede that "Asbestos" is identified as having hazardous properties with regard to health effects but its reply is highly unsatisfactory given the fact that Gujarat is emerging as the asbestos disease capital of India. In fact the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 in which the Hon'ble Supreme Court gave the directions with regard to adverse impact of asbestos industry in 1995 was filed due to cases of asbestos victims in Gujarat.

Even this somewhat lackadaisical letter which is confining itself to the Asbestos containing material management at Bhavnagar's Alang Ship Breaking Yard generated during shipbreaking activity, it has not disclosed the findings of the study by National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad undertaken in compliance of the instructions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court constituted Technical Experts Committee. The same was filed in the Hon'ble Court revealing
how 16 % of the workers on the Alang beach involved in ship breaking are exposed to asbestos fibers.

It is noteworthy that Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, the UN Special Rapporteur who vison the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights who visited India notes, "most workers, but reportedly also a number of yard owners, are not aware of the serious life-threatening work-related diseases which may result from long-term exposure to toxic and hazardous substances and materials present on end-of-life ships. In particular, it appears that the majority of the workforce and the local population do not know the adverse consequences of prolonged exposure to asbestos dusts and fibres and are not familiar with the precautions that need to be taken to handle asbestos-containing materials." Not surprisingly, some 200 migrant workers from UP, Bihar, Jharkahnd and Odisha have died on Alang beach between 2001 and 2014. This figure is only for deaths due to accidents. The deaths and diseases due to exposures to asbestos fibers is not even recorded but lack of documentation does not mean absence of occupational health crisis in Alang.

It has come to light from the Office Memorandum dated May 2011 that Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF)'s Standing Monitoring Committee (SMC) on Shipbreaking has suggested that monitoring of asbestos in ambient air at shipbreaking yards on Alang beach "shall be commissioned by GMB for carrying out the same by a reputed institute like NIOH, as a one time study." The facts is Asbestos cannot be handled safely or in a controlled manner. Therefore, International Labour Organisation's resolution of June 2006 and World Health Organisation's resolution of 2005 seek elimination of future use of asbestos. Indian workers in general and migrant workers of Alang should not be made to handle asbestos under any situation.

The reply does not reveal the health status of the workers at the asbestos cement sheet plant in Kachchh in Gujarat operated by Ramco Industries. It is totally silent about the health impact of asbestos units like Charminar Asbestos, Royal Asbestos, Supreme Asbestos Trading Company,  Eagle Asbestos Pvt Ltd, Shree Khodiyar Asbestos Company, Shiv Shakti Enterprises, Royal Asbestos and several others. The reply of Gujarat Government has failed to report whether Gujarat State has the environmental and occupational health infrastructure in place to diagnose asbestos related diseases.

Meanwhile, following Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar's intervention and support of the left parties and AAP leader Medha Patkar against anti-asbestos struggle Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) has refused the permission for construction of asbestos based plant
proposed by UAL Industries Limited in Vaishali in the face of threats from centre and an unfavourable and biased report from Central Pollution Control Board.

Notably, as Bihar's Environment Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi had supported construction of asbestos factories in Bihar's Bhojpur amid densely populated villages of Bihiya and Koilwar blocks and he had misled Bihar's State Assembly about Supreme Court's
decision on hazardous substances like asbestos that has sought compliance with ILO resolution 2006 seeking elimination of asbestos.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb:08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com, Web:www.toxicswatch.org

Thursday, September 5, 2013

OHI, TWA Letter to DGMS seeking relief from the abandoned asbestos mines in Roro, Chaibasa, Jharkhand

Occupational Health India (OHI)                                                                                                                                                                                                 ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

To

Director General
Directorate General of Mines Safety. (DGMS)
Dhanbad

Date: September 5, 2013


Subject-Seeking relief from the abandoned asbestos mines in Roro, Chaibasa, Jharkhand  

Sir,

This is with reference to the presentation which I had made before you at the Jaipur conference co-organised by Australian University and MLPC. Subsequent to that I met Dy. Director general, DGMS Ghaziabad on September 4, 2013 with regard to relief from the abandoned asbestos mines in Roro, Chaibasa, Jharkhand. I submitted a letter to him but he asked me to contact you in this matter.  
 
This is to draw your kind attention towards the asbestos related incurable occupational and non-occupational diseases caused by the exposure to lung cancer causing fibers from the abandoned asbestos mines in Roro.  
It may be noted that the liability for asbestos related diseases remain a huge issue in the entire developed world leading to bankruptcy of hundreds of companies due to compensation money they have to pay to victims of asbestos related deaths and ailments. Dow Chemicals Company has set up an asbestos compensation fund of 2.2 billion US Dollars for the asbestos related liability of Union Carbide Corporation which is now its subsidiary in the aftermath of the Industrial Disaster of Bhopal.  I submit that human biology of people in Jharkhand isn’t any different. 

It is important to prepare a Health Management Plan for Mesothelioma, Lung cancer and Asbestosis related problems emerging for these abandoned mines Jharkhand. 

I submit that it is relevant to recollect the sad legacy of undivided Bihar, the unpardonable act of vanishing hazardous companies and the asbestos mines in places like Roro Hills in Chaibasa, West Singhbhum. The death toll and the disease burden that has emerged due to this abandoned asbestos mine must be ascertained because it would provide valuable lessons in preventive medicine. The Roro hills is infamous for an abandoned asbestos mine.  It is estimated that nearly 0.7 million tons of asbestos waste mixed with chromite-bearing host rock lies scattered here and in 25 years no study has been conducted to assess the fate of this hazardous waste dumped improperly on top of Roro hills. The waste material extends several meters down slope spreading into the paddy fields on the foothills of Roro. About 40 centimeters of thick silty waste of crushed rocks is spread over the paddy fields and poisoning the local residents. 

I submit that there is a need for an official health survey of 14 villages around the Roro hills and the former workers of the Roro asbestos mines. There is a link between the asbestos exposures and several adverse health effects such as shortness of breath indicating respiratory ailments. 

I wish to inform you that local newspaper clippings from Singbhumi Ekta, a weekly from Chaibasa, published between January and August 1981, include a press release from the late P. Mazumdar, the leader of the United Mine Workers Union, affiliated to All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) states that 30 workers from Roro mines had died of asbestosis. You may ascertain the fate of ex-workers from the Roro mines from Roro and Tilaisud villages. The Roro mines were closed down in 1983 after Hyderabad Asbestos Cement Products Ltd. (now known as Hyderabad Industries Limited) decided that they were no longer profitable even at the cost of human health in general and workers health in particular. 

I submit that there are ex miners who have died before their times. “So many people have died before they turned forty,’ says Birsingh Sondi, Sahayak Munda (Deputy Chief) of Roro, who points to his neighbour’s house, “There lived Mangalsingh Sondi, who was 25 when he died.” He shares some narratives.

Dumbi Boipai, an ex-miner who feels recurring pain in his chest remembers his fellow miners who all are dead, he mumbles first to himself and then aloud, “Pooliya Sondi, Rohto Gop, Vijay Singh Sondi, Rahto Samadh,” and he suddenly refuses to speak as he takes a gasp. Some like Mukund Sundi are barely alive. His young wife is helpless, resigned, refusing to talk.  “I worked in the crusher, where they produced asbestos,” says Mukund Sundi. They use to pay us Rs 7 a day.” Some of his symptoms match TB, but doctors can't pinpoint his illness and so they offer no cure.

There has been no assistance for Mangal Sundi from his former employers. “Koi nahi aya madad ke liye. Koi mera ilaj bhi nahi karwata.” (No one ever has come up for help. No one got me treated.), Sundi in a whisper.

There are many victims of Roro and the 14 surrounding villages who recall days of reckless mining operations and deplorable conditions of miners. Persistent cough, haemoptysis, pain in chest while breathing is common health complaints. As per Jun Sunwai reports of a public hearing by Jharkhand Organisation for Human Rights (JOHAR) conducted in 2003, the testimonials of villagers say:

Jeevan Tubid, 50, is an ex underground mine worker who lost his leg while working in the underground mines of Roro as a loader. He has almost lost his eye sight and has intense pain in his lower back. No compensation has been paid yet to him by the mining company.

Pandu Pradhan, 45, almost lost his eye sight while working as a Timber man in the underground mines of Roro. The company gave him spectacles but no compensation.

Lakhan Doraiburu, 70, heavy equipment fell on his leg while working in the plant. No proper treatment was given to him for his injury. He still has lot of pain in his legs. He recalls workers in milling plant were given jaggery to eat. Many of his co-workers in the plant died while working or after the closure of the mines. Workers died of chest pain and spitting blood. No count of how many workers died and of what disease. No medical tests were done on workers while they were employed. No information was divulged on the medical conditions of the workers who were examined by the company doctors. 

Indeed if there is one example of sheer corporate and Government negligence, it is this.

I submit that workers who are exposed to asbestos and they are suffering from asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis and mesothalamia. Doctors call them TB patients, as they want to save their employers from giving any compensation. 

I submit that as per section 22 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, all asbestos mines have to be closed. The Hyderabad Industry Limited of the CK Birla Group did not close their mines at Roro village at Chaibasa, Jharkhand. The asbestos fibres that are blown into the wind, that seep into the fields and rivers, still exist 30 years after the mines shut down.

I submit that at present there is a moratorium on grant/renewal of asbestos mines as per a letter of Government of India dated July 9, 1986. What led do this continuing moratorium? In the pre-moratorium era workers were knowingly exposed to carcinogenic fibers of asbestos by a company which had engaged them in the mining of asbestos.
I submit that the consistent failure of several institutions both at the state and the national level is quite stark. None of the institutions including Union Ministry of Mines, Government of India seem to have heard about public health crisis that has engulfed Roro.

I submit that there a case for complete ban on all kinds mining of asbestos and ensuring legal and medical remedy for the victims of occupational and non-occupational exposure to asbestos. It must be noted that unless the company which abandoned the asbestos mines is made accountable and liable for its acts of omission and commission, the victims of asbestos related diseases will not get justice in Roro and even in manufacturing and other allied activities of the asbestos industry.      

In view of the above I urge you to undertake remedial measures for present and future generations can be taken before these victims of Jharkhand State get engulfed in the epidemic of incurable but preventable asbestos related diseases. To begin with a compensation fund and a remediation cell for abandoned mines of Roro may be set up as it is of seminal importance to prevent at least preventable diseases and deaths.
Your reply and considered advice in this matter will be eagerly awaited.
Thanking You
                                                                                                                                 Yours Sincerely
Gopal Krishna
Occupational Health India (OHI)
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

Asbestos Importing and Exporting Trends in India



Asbestos Importing and Exporting Trends in India
Since the 1800s, economic interests have driven the asbestos industry. Asbestos is both a profitable powerhouse for the companies that export it, and an inexpensive purchase for those that import it. To make sure the market for the fibers stays robust – despite the many health risks that exposure can cause -- lobbyists have spent more than $100 million promoting their interests with public health officials.
Sadly, it seems to be working. Because asbestos remains affordable (and available in large quantities), it is especially popular in rapidly developing nations such as India, China and Brazil. India especially – with companies on both ends of the spectrum, and an asbestos lobby whose annual budget tops out at $13 million – faces a difficult battle in its future fight against asbestos.
Indian Asbestos Imports
In 2010, India spent more than $427 million to import Canadian asbestos products. (India is one of Canada’s largest asbestos customers.) And as astounding as that figure is, it only accounts for half of the nation’s asbestos imports. In total, India imports more than 600,000 tons of asbestos each year.
India sources asbestos from several other national asbestos export leaders, including China, South Africa and Russia. India currently stands as the world’s second largest consumer of asbestos – and some experts believe that the national market is growing as quickly as 30 percent every year.
Indian asbestos imports are often sent to rural areas, where they are used in home construction. Shingles, siding and flooring products are often used for family houses and public buildings – especially in lower-income areas with access to fewer non-toxic alternatives.
Indian Asbestos Exports
While India is one of the world’s largest asbestos importers, the country is home to more than 1,000 of its own mines (and more than 1 million asbestos workers). Indian asbestos mines have operated (or continue to operate) in cities such as:
·         Alwar
·         Ajmer
·         Pali
·         Udaipur
·         Dungarpur
·         Cuddapah
·         Shimogah
·         Chickmagular
·         Hasan
·         Mysore
·         Mandya
Other smaller mines dot the northern part of the nation. Here, workers – including many migrants – extract the fibers from mineral deposits in the ground and prepare it for sale, without access to adequate respiratory protection.
Asbestos mines aren’t the only part of the industry that enjoys major success in India. Many companies – such as Visaka Industries – purchase raw fibers to incorporate into other building products. With more than 400 asbestos cement factories in Gujarat alone, repurposing asbestos into other exportable products is also a booming trend in the Indian economy.

Faith Franz is a writer for The Mesothelioma Center. She likes to spread the word about the benefits of alternative medicine.
 
Sources:
Simpson, J. (2010). Playing a Dirty Game: Exporting Asbestos. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/playing-a-dirty-game-exporting-asbestos/article624675/
Morris, J. (2010). Exporting an Epidemic. The Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved from http://www.publicintegrity.org/2010/07/21/3401/exporting-epidemic

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