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

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Introduction of Bill to ban Use and Import of white asbestos is a welcome step

Supreme Court, WHO, ILO seek elimination of asbestos 

NHRC is seized with the case of victims of incurable asbestos related diseases

 ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) and Occupational Health India (OHI) welcome the introduction of the bill seeking total ban on use and import of white chrysotile asbestos in the country that has been re-introduced in the Rajya Sabha. 

The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2014, seeking use of safer and cheaper alternative to white asbestos was introduced on November 28, 2014. Earlier the Bill was introduced in 2009 “to provide for a total ban on use and import of white asbestos in the country and to promote the use of safer and cheaper alternative to white asbestos and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.”

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill read: “The white asbestos is highly carcinogenic even the World Health Organisation has reported that it causes cancer. It is a rare fibrous material that is used to make rooftops and breaklinings. More than fifty countries have already banned the use and import of white asbestos. Even the countries that export it to India prefer not to use it domestically. But in our country, it is imported without any restriction. Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported almost Ninety five percent of the white asbestos it mined and out of it forty-three percent was shipped to India. It is quite surprising that our country is openly importing huge quantity of a product, which causes cancer. This is despite the fact that safer and almost cheap alternatives to asbestos are available in the country. Instead of importing a hazardous material, it will be better if we spend some money in research and development and use environment friendly product. In view of the above, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative material.” The Bill has been introduced by Vijay Jawaharlal Darda, Member of Parliament

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.

Earlier, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) had written to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 21, 2014 submitting that the previous “Government let down the country when India’s delegation to the sixth meeting of the UN’s Rotterdam Conference on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade in Geneva, Switzerland took an untenable, inconsistent and unscientific position with regard to white chrysotile asbestos being non-hazardous substance contrary to domestic laws such as Factories Act, 1948 and India’s Inventory of Hazardous Chemicals Import in India that lists ‘asbestos’ at serial no. 26 as one of the 180 hazardous chemicals in international trade which is imported in India. This inventory was prepared by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), under Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. of India.  India opposed the listing of chrysotile asbestos under Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention during the meeting held from 28 April to 10 May 2013 based on an irrelevant, flawed and conflict of interest ridden study by the National Institute of Occupational Health, (NIOH), Ahmedabad.  Its listing has been recommended by Rotterdam Convention’s Chemical Review Committee. The Indian delegation was misled by Ministry of Chemicals.  It has made India’s position quite self-contradictory because how can some substance be designated as hazardous under national law and non-hazardous under an international law.  The new government must rectify this grave error and support listing of white asbestos in the PIC list of hazardous substances at the earliest before the Seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention which is scheduled to be held backtoback with the meetings of the conferences of the UN’s parties to the Basel and Stockholm conventions in May 2015.

The continued use of lung cancer causing white chrysotile asbestos is a legacy of the Soviet era has been promoted by companies close to the Congress party. There are established substitutes of these killer fibers of asbestos which need to be adopted to prevent incurable diseases but preventable deaths. 

TWA has written letters to Jagat Prakash Nadda, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare and to Bandaru Dattatreya, Union Minister of Labour and Employment on November 10, 2014 and November 18, 2014 respectively drawing their urgent attention towards the attached document of International Labour Organization (ILO) and World Health Orgainsation (WHO) seeking elimination of asbestos related diseases.”

It wrote, “In our country, 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 because all kinds of asbestos including white asbestos causes incurable diseases like lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.  The alternatives of asbestos sheets are ideally suited for roofing applications.”
It submitted that government set up a 13 member Advisory Committee on January 23, 2012 to incorporate the ILO resolution of 2006 in the matter of asbestos as per Hon'ble Supreme Court's order of 1995 and 2011 under the Chairmanship of A C Pandey, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Labour but as of November 17, 2014, the Advisory Committee has not submitted its report despite the fact that more than 2 years have passed since it was entrusted the task.

It submitted that Supreme Court in its judgment in the above mentioned case, dated January 21, 2011at paragraph 14 reads as under:
               “....In the earlier judgment of this Court in the case of Consumer Education and Research Centre (supra), hazards arising out of primary use of asbestos were primarily dealt with, but certainly secondary exposure also needs to be examined by the Court. In that judgment, the Court had noticed that it would, thus, be clear that diseases occurred wherever the exposure to the toxic or carcinogenic agent occurs, regardless of the country, type of industry, job title, job assignment or location of exposure. The diseases will follow the trail of the exposure and extend the chain of the carcinogenic risk beyond the work place. In that judgment, the Court had also directed that a review by the Union and the States shall be made after every ten years and also as and when the ILO gives directions in this behalf consistent with its recommendations or conventions. Admittedly, 15 years has expired since the issuance of the directions by this Court. The ILO also made certain specific directions vide its resolution of 2006 adopted in the 95th session of the International Labour Conference. It introduced a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos. As already noticed, serious doubts have been raised as to whether `controlled use' can be effectively implemented even with regard to secondary exposure. These are circumstances which fully require the concerned quarters/authorities in the Government of India as well as the State Governments to examine/review the matter in accordance with law, objectively, to achieve the greater health care of the poor strata of the country who are directly or indirectly engaged in mining or manufacturing activities of asbestos and/or allied products.”

The Supreme Court in its judgment dated January 21, 2011 in Writ Petition (Civil) No.260 of 2004 referred to its directions of January 27, 1995 in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 that are required to be strictly adhered to including fresh ILO resolution on Asbestos dated June 14, 2006.

Owing to growing public awareness about the hazards of asbestos, consumption of asbestos dropped by 39% from 2012 to 2013 in India but this is hardly enough to save us from the hitherto unacknowledged imminent public health crisis. India's asbestos consumption in 2013 was 302,668 tons. In 2012, it was 493,086 tons.

Dr Barry Castleman, the noted author of Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects has underlined that one person dies from mesothelioma for every 170 tons of asbestos consumed. WHO estimates we have 107,000 deaths worldwide per year from occupational exposure to asbestos. If non occupational exposure is added it reaches a figure of about 120,000 deaths. Average world consumption/year 30-60 years ago was -- looks like 3/2 of what it is now (2 million metric tons/year). Give India its share of that based on its share of global consumption. At 300,000 tons in 2013, that's about 18,000 deaths (15% of 120,000). Dr Castleman's work was quoted by Supreme Court of India in its judgment dated January 27, 1995.
If the government can pay heed to the decision taken by some 55 countries which have banned asbestos of all kinds, it can ensure compliance with the resolution of WHO that has recommended elimination of asbestos for eliminating asbestos related diseases.
This decision would honor the letter and spirit of Hon'ble 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's order in the backdrop of an epidemic of asbestos related incurable lung diseases.
It is germane to note that 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."

It has come to light 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 presented by the central government at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on "Occupational Safety and Health" during 19-20 September, 2011.
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, central ministries of Government of India and Heart of England, NHS Foundation Trust.
At the conference Dr. R.B. Raidas, Deputy Director General, Directorate General of Factory Advice Service & Labour Institutes. (DGFASLI) has 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.
Notably, the Working Group of a Planning Commission on Occupational Safety and Health for the Xth Five Year Plan at the workplace in its 159 page report dated September 2001, the Working Group noted that “The workers are also exposed to a host of hazardous substances, which have a potential to cause serious occupational diseases such as asbestosis…” It has recorded that various studies conducted by the Central Labour Institute have revealed substantial prevalence of occupational health disorders amongst the workers such as Asbestosis. The prevalence rate for Asbestosis was reported to be 7.25%. It has been acknowledged that “At the same time the number of occupational diseases reported is very meager…This makes it evident that early identification of occupational diseases is required. It has recommended that “To meet these requirements, measures are needed for diagnostic facilities and appropriate training in the field of occupational health. Occupational health hazards and diseases to the workmen employed in asbestos industries are of great concern to the industries, Govt. and the public. The Honorable Supreme Court of India in its judgement dated 27th January, 1995 relating to the Public Interest Litigation No.206 of 1986 had given several directions concerning the protective measures to be taken against the hazards of exposure to asbestos at workplaces such as mining and manufacturing activities. In the light of Supreme Court directives, it is proposed to launch a comprehensive programme for the protection of the health of the workers engaged in hazardous industries with adequate mechanisms for monitoring of work environment and diagnosis and control of disease.”  
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 and its Indian investments in 1999. Many manufacturers of asbestos-containing products have gone bankrupt in USA as a result of asbestos litigation. 
It is relevant to note that World Bank has a policy against asbestos since 1991. "The Bank increasingly prefers to avoid financing asbestos use...Thus, at any mention of asbestos in Bank-assisted projects, the Task Manager needs to exercise special care." (World Bank’s Environmental Assessment Sourcebook, Vol. 3, World Bank Technical Paper #154) The guideline says: “The onus is on proponents to show the unavailability of alternatives.”
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 has decided to prolong anti-dumping duties on imports of asbestos-cement corrugated sheets from Russia for an additional five years.
Given incontrovertible evidence, the government ought to consider recommendations to take preventive steps by ensure elimination of use of all kinds of asbestos as per the recommendations of the Court, ILO and WHO.   

There is an immediate need to create a register of asbestos workers and their health records as per Court's decision and conduct an audit of the current status of the victims of asbestos related diseases from the government hospital records in the country and make it mandatory for medical colleges to provide training for doctors. This is required so that they can diagnose diseases caused by occupational, non-occupational and environmental exposures to killer fibers and substances.


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

Friday, December 5, 2014

Scientists publish Erratum to disclose their conflicts of interest

Dec 5, 2014,  Kathleen Ruff
In 2012, Carlo La Vecchia and Paolo Boffetta published an article in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention (EJCP) entitled Role of stopping exposure and recent exposure to asbestos in the risk of mesothelioma. In the article, the authors stated that they had no conflicts of interest and that the article was funded by the Italian Association for Cancer Research.
Both these statements were untrue.
Dr. La Vecchia and Dr. Boffetta were acting as consultants and expert witnesses for various companies facing criminal charges related to asbestos exposure. The Italian Association for Cancer Research had not funded the article.
Dr. La Vecchia is Associate Editor of the EJCP. The Conflict of Interest policy of the EJCP requires that: “Authors must state all possible conflicts of interest”.
In January 2014, over 140 scientists, health advocates and organisations submitted a complaint to the Editor-in-Chief of the EJCP, Dr. Jaak Janssens, regarding the false information and other improprieties related to the article. Dr. Janssens responded that he saw nothing wrong.
In March 2014, a number of scientists and organisations submitted a complaint to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), regarding the fact that the improprieties and the journal’s failure to address the improprieties were contrary to COPE’s Code of Conduct and Best Practices. The EJCP is a member of COPE and is supposed to follow its Code of Conduct and Best Practices.  See: Scientific journals: Do ethical standards apply?
As a result of the complaint to COPE, the journal has now published the following Erratum in which the authors disclose their conflicts of interest and withdraw the inaccurate funding information:

Role of stopping exposure and recent exposure to asbestos in the risk of mesothelioma: Erratum

 European Journal of Cancer Prevention 2015, 24:68
The authors would like to bring the reader’s attention the conflicts of interest for their review paper (La Vecchia and Boffetta, 2012), and subsequent correspondence (La Vecchia and Boffetta, 2014). La Vecchia has acted as expert witness for the defendants or the judge in criminal trials involving occasional exposure to asbestos, on behalf of ENEL (Rome, Italy), Edison (Milan, Italy), Pirelli Tyres (Milan, Italy) and the Ordinary Tribunal of Turin (Italy). Boffetta has acted as expert witness for the defendants in a criminal trial involving exposure to asbestos in the manufacture of synthetic polymers and risk of mesothelioma (Edison, Milan, Italy).
This work was not conducted with the contribution of the Italian Association for Cancer Research as stated on page 229 and the authors withdraw this statement on the acknowledgement of funding.
References
La Vecchia C, Boffetta P (2012). Role of stopping exposure and recent exposure to asbestos in the risk of mesothelioma. Eur J Cancer Prev 21:227–230.
La Vecchia C, Boffetta P (2014). A critique of a review on the relationship between asbestos exposure and the risk of mesothelioma: reply. Eur J Cancer Prev 23:494–496.

Complaint to COPE continues to be pursued

It is encouraging that the Associate Editor of the EJCP, Dr. La Vecchia, and his co-author, Paolo Boffetta have finally been required to disclose their conflicts of interest and to correct the false funding information.

The complaint continues to be pursued since other issues contained in the complaint, such as the failure to follow a proper peer review process and the non disclosure of board members conflicts of interest, have still not been addressed.

- See more at: http://www.rightoncanada.ca/?p=2757#sthash.RNQJXnAp.dpuf

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

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