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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Statement of scientists on the ‘scientific’ study by National Institute of Occupational Health (India) titled ‘Study of Health Hazards / Environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country



ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

To

Shri Ashok Lavasa
Secretary
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate
Change
Paryavaran Bhawan, C.G.O. Complex, Lodhi Road
New Delhi 110003

Shri A.J.V. Prasad
Joint Secretary (Chemicals)
Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals
Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
Postal address: Room No. 340-C, 'A' Wing, Shastri Bhawan
New Delhi 110001

Permanent Mission
Government of India

Subject-Statement of scientists on the ‘scientific’ study by National Institute of Occupational Health (India) titled ‘Study of Health Hazards / Environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country

Sir,

This is to draw your urgent attention towards a Statement calling on the Government of India dated March 21, 2015 to withdraw a discredited scientific study on chrysotile (white) asbestos and to stop blocking the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance at an upcoming UN meeting.

I submit that the ‘Study of Health Hazards / Environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country’, carried out by the National Institute of Occupational Health (India), states that it found no evidence that chrysotile asbestos is causing harm to health of workers in India. The Government is using the study as the reason why it will oppose the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention at a UN conference in Geneva in May. The Convention sets safety standards to promote responsible trade in hazardous substances.

It may be noted that “The study has no scientific credibility,” stated Dr. Philip Landrigan, President of the Collegium Ramazzini and Dean for Global Health, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York. “It is flawed in the design, methodology and interpretation of the results,” he added.

I submit that photos in the study show some workers wearing a cotton scarf tied around their face as their only “safety equipment”.  The study also shows workers weaving asbestos cloth. This is one of the most hazardous uses of asbestos.
Statement of scientists on the ‘scientific’ study by National Institute of Occupational Health (India) titled ‘Study of Health Hazards / Environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country reads: “We would like to strongly state that the ‘claim’ being made by the government of India regarding the ‘safety’ of Chrysotile asbestos is unacceptable to any credible scientists or scientific community. The world scientific community has overwhelmingly concluded that Chrysotile asbestos causes deadly diseases, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung and other cancers, and that it cannot be safely used.”

It concludes saying, “We therefore request the Government of India to withdraw the NIOH study, which does not hold up to any credible scientific scrutiny and do the right thing by supporting the listing of Chrysotile asbestos at the upcoming UN conference.”

In view of the attached statement of scientists on the ‘scientific’ study by NIOH and my previous letter dated February 25th, 2015, I wish to request you to take action consistent with Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order and resolutions of ILO and WHO on chrysotile asbestos.   

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
E-mail:gopalkrishna
1715@gmail.com
Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Cc
Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Union Minister of External Affairs
Shri Ananth Kumar, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers
Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Dr. S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, Union Ministry of External Affairs
Shri Surjit Kumar Chaudhary, Secretary, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers
  

On 25 February 2015 at 21:23, krishna <gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com> wrote:
 ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

 To

Shri Ashok Lavasa
Secretary
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate
Change
Paryavaran Bhawan, C.G.O. Complex, Lodhi Road
New Delhi 110003

Shri A.J.V. Prasad
Joint Secretary (Chemicals)
Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals
Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
Postal address: Room No. 340-C, 'A' Wing, Shastri Bhawan
New Delhi 110001

Permanent Mission
Government of India

Subject- Unethical & immoral act of inclusion of of Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association (ACPMA) in Indian delegation for UN workshop on white chrysotile asbestos
Sir,
This is to draw your urgent and immediate attention towards the upcoming technical workshop of UN's Rotterdam Convention (RC) on white chrysotile asbestos scheduled during March 30-31, 2015 and 7th Conference of the Parties (COP7) of the UN's Rotterdam Convention (RC) in Geneva during May 12-15, 2015 which will consider inclusion of white chrysotile asbestos in a list of hazardous chemicals yet again.  
I wish to strongly object and express my outrage at the unethical and immoral act of inclusion of Mr. Vivek Chandra Rao Sripalle of Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association (ACPMA), India in the Provisional list of participants at the Technical workshop on chrysotile asbestos in Geneva, Switzerland in March 2015.
I was informed by an official on condition of anonymity that officials feel humiliated when they have to take orders from likes of ACPMA.
I submit that in a letter to Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), on behalf of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), I had exposed how Indian delegation’s position at the sixth meeting on UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade which concluded on May 10, 2013 with regard to asbestos was/is contrary to Indian laws in practice. My submissions to the Ministry were responded and clarifications provided, which revealed that the MoEF was misled by Union Ministry of Chemicals which in turn was misled by Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association (ACPMA).  TWA is an applicant in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi.
I submit that ACPMA had overwhelmed and misled the Indian delegation making the Indian delegation ignore the fact that Asbestos is listed as a hazardous substance under Part II of Schedule-I of the Manufacture, Storage and import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 provides the List of Hazardous and Toxic Chemicals. This list has 429 chemicals. Asbestos is at the serial no. 28 in the list. This Rule and the list is available on the website of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests.
I submit that even then the Indian delegation included asbestos industry lobbyists like Mr. Vivek Chandra Rao Sripalle, ACPMA.
I submit that ACPMA’s influence on the delegation’s stance is quite manifest. It also merits attention as to whether the industry representatives went to this UN conference on their own expense or government sponsored their visit.
I submit that ACPMA consists of 20 big firms and 68 manufacturing units, of which top six players holding 87 per cent of the market share.
I submit that had ACPMA not overwhelmed the Indian delegation, the Indian position would have been in keeping with its 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 prepared in September, 2008 with a foreword September 24, 2008 by Shri J. M. Mauskar, the then Chairman, CPCB and Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests This was done pursue of Government of India’s “Manufacture, Storage, and Import of Hazardous Chemicals (MSIHC) Rules, 1989” under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. According to these Rules, any person responsible for importing hazardous chemicals in India is to provide the data of import to the concerned authorities, as identified in Column 2 of Schedule 5 to the Rules. The CPCB “has been identified as one of such Authorities. In order to study the inventory of Hazardous Chemicals being imported by various categories of industrial units in India, the data provided by these industrial units to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have been compiled.” It is scandalous as to why did the Indian delegation took a position inconsistent with the Manufacture, Storage, and Import of Hazardous Chemicals (MSIHC) Rules, 1989.
I submit that even under Factories Act, 1948, the List of 29 industries involving hazardous processes is given under Section 2 (cb), Schedule First, asbestos is mentioned at serial no. 24.  The Act defines "hazardous process" as “any process or activity in relation to an industry specified in the First Schedule where, unless special care is taken, raw materials used therein or the intermediate or finished products, bye-products, wastes or effluents thereof would--(i) cause material impairment to the health of the persons engaged in or connected therewith, or (ii) result in the pollution of the general environment”.  This leaves no doubt that asbestos is a hazardous substance. The Act is available at:
I submit that promoters of white chrysotile asbestos like ACPMA who were planted in the Indian delegation made the government representatives take a position against human health and the environment and to put profit of the asbestos industry before gnawing public health concerns.
I submit that on June 22, 2011 Indian delegation led by Ms. Mira Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, had supported the listing of Chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous chemical substance at the fifth meeting on Rotterdam Convention amidst standing ovation. TWA had taken the opportunity of congratulating the government but the about turn in May 2013 was a sad let down.
It is reliably learnt that officials and scientists who go to such UN meetings feel humiliated when the industry representatives give them directions instead of the senior government officials or ministers. The UN meet on hazardous chemicals creates a rationale for insulating government officials from undue and motivated industry influence else they will be obliged to act like parrots. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) must factor in the far reaching implications for public health before defending the indefensible hazardous asbestos industry. The day is not far when members of CCEA too will be held liable for their acts of omission and commission as is happening in more than 50 countries that have banned all kinds of asbestos.  
In keeping with Indian laws when the UN’s Chemical Review Committee of Rotterdam Convention recommended listing of white chrysotile asbestos as hazardous substance it is incomprehensible as why Indian delegation opposed its inclusion in the UN list. The only explanation appears to be the fact that the Indian government delegation did not have a position independent of the asbestos industry’s position which has covered up and denied the scientific evidence that all asbestos can cause disease and death.
I submit that there is a case going on against the white asbestos in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi wherein the applicant has demanded inclusion of white asbestos in the UN list. On behalf of the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Shri R B Lal, Deputy Director has submitted its reply to the NHRC. The reply did not disclose that the delegation of Government of India led by Ms. Mira Mehrishi, Additional Secretary had announced its agreement to the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the list of hazardous chemicals paving the way for its “phase out” as envisioned in Union Environment Ministry’s Vision Statement amidst standing ovation. This reply to NHRC chose to maintain deafening silence about its own Vision Statement that says, “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use ofasbestos may be phased out”.   
I submit that meanwhile, an Advisory Committee of Union Ministry of Labour has been set up to implement Hon’ble Supreme Court order issued 15 years ago on January 27, 1995 and repeated on January 23, 2012. Although more than 1 year and four months have passed but the Advisory Committee headed by Shri A C Pandey, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Labour is yet to submit its report to incorporate specific directions of the Court with regard to fresh ILO’s Resolution of June 14, 2006 introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos. NHRC has served a notice to the Ministry of Labour after considering the matter on 24 December 2014, asking it provide details about steps taken to ban white chrysotile asbestos.  
I submit that even early industry-funded studies showed a causal relationship between asbestos exposure and cancer. Had this been made known to the public it could have prevented countless deaths but the asbestos industry made the conscious decision to protect their profits instead and choose to keep this information hidden from the public. India’s asbestos industry is following the same path.  
As a consequence, although millions of Indian lives are being lost and millions are being exposed to the killer fibers of white chrysotile asbestos, no government agency or company is being held liable due to political patronage which becomes quite glaringly visible when ACPMA is included as part of the delegation.
While on a visit to New Delhi, Dr Alec Farquhar, the then Managing Director, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada said, “We now have around 500 asbestos cancer cases every year in Ontario from a population of 13 million. If you (India) continue on your current path, you will multiply our death count by 100 times. That would be 50, 000 Indian workers dying every year from asbestos. In Ontario, we learned that safe use of asbestos is impossible. I urge you from the bottom of my heart, please do not make the same mistake as we made in Canada. Stop using asbestos and use a safe alternative.” It is clear that lack of documentation and lack of environmental and occupational health infrastructure does not mean lack of victims of asbestos related diseases.
It has been estimated that one person dies from mesothelioma for every 170 tons of asbestos consumed. WHO estimates we have107,000 deaths worldwide per year from occupational exposure to asbestos.If non occupational exposure is added it reaches a figure of about 120,000deaths. Average world consumption/year 30-60 years ago was -- looks like3/2 of what it is now (2 million metric tons/year). Give India its share ofthat based on its share of global consumption. At 300,000 tons in 2013, that's about 18,000 deaths (15% of 120,000).  Asbestos diseases have a very long incubation period. So if you are exposed today to an asbestos fibre, you are likely to get the disease in next 10-35 years. Asbestos is like a time bomb to the lungs and Indians will suffer the most. If it is banned today that does not mean people will not suffer. Because of past usage people will continue to suffer from these diseases.
I submit that the very existence of ACPMA is highly problematic and very dubious. ACPMA which faced charges of cartelization by the Competition Commission of India is registered under The Societies Registration Act, 1860 and it claims to be a non-profit organization. Is the asbestos industry a non-profit organization? They make completely dubious and baseless claims. They have put profit ahead of public health. These associations appear inhuman, cruel and have a deviant behavior. The members of ACPMA all await the fate of Kubota Corporation.
I wish to draw your attention towards the verdict of five judges of Japan’s Supreme Court of February 17, 2015 that has upheld a ruling that found asbestos used at a plant of Kubota Corporation caused fatal mesothelioma in a man who lived near the plant and ordered the company to pay ¥31.9 million in damages to his relatives. The petitioners were relatives of Kojiro Yamauchi, who died at age 80 after working for two decades about 200 meters from the Kubota plant in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture. His relatives and those of Ayako Yasui, who died at age 85 having lived about 1 km from the plant, sought damages from both Kubota and the government. In October, 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that the government was responsible for failing to protect workers from exposure at asbestos factories in Sennan, Osaka Prefecture.
It is noteworthy that Japan has banned asbestos of all kinds including white chrysotile asbestos.
I also wish to draw your attention towards the fact that our neighbor Nepal has become the first country in South Asia which going in the direction of banning asbestos
I submit that in January 1995, while passing the judgment for the asbestos case file by the Consumer Education & Research Centre (CERC) (case details: http://indiankanoon.org/doc/1657323/),  Hon’ble Supreme Court of India directed all asbestos factories to keep the health records of their workers for 40 years and/or 15 years after their retirement. I challenge the entire ACPMA member to simply upload their employee’s heath records on their websites.

I submit that the second significant direction was the GoI and the state governments have to mend their rules and regulation as per the ILO resolution (International Labour Organisation). The ILO says eliminate asbestos of all kinds for elimination of asbestos related-diseases. Controlled use is not possible. It has not been possible for all the countries which have banned it and this is impossible in India too.
I submit that in August 2003, during the previous NDA led government regime, the health minister had informed the parliament that asbestos causes incurable lung diseases (such as asbestosis, lung cancer, etc).
 I submit that Navy officials have rightly objected to presence of asbestos in aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov which was inducted into the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya after asbestos decontamination. 
I submit that Union of India’s Budget 2011-12 had made reference to asbestos related diseases by including it under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to cover ‘unorganized sector workers in hazardous mining and associated industries like asbestos etc”. During Emergency, the ruling party and its acolytes had proposed to put opposition leaders in jails which had asbestos roofs.
I submit that there are fibre substitutes that have been evaluated by WHO are listed in the Summary Consensus Report of WHO Workshop on Mechanisms of Fibre Carcinogenesis and Assessment of Chrysotile Asbestos Substitutes.
I submit that sooner or later, the asbestos industry will go bankrupt because they will have to pay huge amount of money in compensation. For every injury in the law there is a remedy. The present and the future generation will make sure they get remedy.
I submit that the rate of consumption of growth which they are enjoying today does not mean it will continue. In western countries, the rate picked at one time and today it is zero. This is the peak of Asbestos industry in India and now, the downfall will start.
I submit that the industry must be persuaded to phase out in two phases. In the first phase the goal is to eliminate use of chrysotile asbestos and the number of exposed workers and consumers in the country. In the second phase, the goal is to create incentives for the use of safer materials, ensure, create a registry of asbestos laden buildings and victims of asbestos-related diseases and ensure  decontamination of the former and compensation for the latter. There is an immediate need to 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 so that they can diagnose diseases caused by occupational, non-occupational and environmental exposures to killer fibers and substances.

I submit that in the 30th year of Bhopal disaster, asbestos industry should pay heed to the way asbestos companies have gone bankrupt in the western countries. They should join hands and create a compensation fund for victims. Dow Chemicals Company which refuses to own the liability for Bhopal disaster caused by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) in India has owned the UCC’s asbestos related liabilities and announced a compensation fund of 2.2 billion dollars for the victims. In Europe, tycoons and ministers are facing criminal charges and imprisonment for their act of knowing subjecting unsuspecting people to killer fibers of asbestos. The future is no different for Indian culprits.
I submit that it is eminently consistent with the principle of prior informed consent for India which imports white chrysotile asbestos from countries like Russia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan and others to receive the information to assess whether it has the ability to safely use this substance or products containing it. The fact remains that the Convention is about prior informed consent about trade in hazardous chemicals and not about banning any hazardous substance.
I submit that India should not allow itself to be misled by asbestos producers like Russia in this regard now that Canada has rightly stopped mining of white chrysotile asbestos almost like India due its “deleterious” impact on health. 
In view of the above, I demand that vested interests like ACPMA should not be included in the Indian delegation and it must support its inclusion in the Annexure III of the Rotterdam Convention at the UN meetings in March and in May, 2015 in Geneva. 

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
E-mail:1715krishna@gmail.com
Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Cc
Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Union Minister of External Affairs
Shri Ananth Kumar, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers
Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Dr. S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, Union Ministry of External Affairs
Shri Surjit Kumar Chaudhary, Secretary, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers
  





--
"We may admire what he does, but we despise what he is."-referring to humans who act mechanically on instructions
-------Wilhelm von Humboldt, 1792

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Government of Nepal banned import, purchase and use of asbestos

 Note: Ban Asbestos Network of India, as part of Ban Asbestos South Asia has long been urging SARRC countries to ban asbestos of all kinds. Prior to this Government of Sri Lanka had also initiated efforts to ban asbestos. The day is not far when whole of South Asia will become asbestos free. A Bill to ban asbestos in India has been introduced in Rajya Sabha as well. Supreme Court has taken note of it and recommended action in pursuance of the recommendations of WHO and ILO.

Gopal Krishna 
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)

Government of Nepal banned import, purchase and use of asbestos

KATHMANDU, DEC 24 - The government has banned the import, purchase and use of carcinogenic mineral fibre asbestos, which is used as construction material, saying that it is causing serious public health complications.

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE), as per the provision of Environment Protection Act 1997, published a notice in Nepal Gazette on Monday to ban the hazardous asbestos sheets and related products to protect human health as well as environment from harmful consequences due to its increasing use in the construction sector. This decision will automatically come into effect within 181 days after the date of notification.

A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) has already identified that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans and cause various other health implications. Over 40 countries have banned the import, export and use of the material within their territories.

Human health and environment were under high risk of getting impacted from these carcinogenic asbestos sheets used massively in many places in the country, especially in the Tarai region, according to the Centre for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED).

“Since last year, civil society and experts have been advocating to address the related public health and environmental problems possibly resulted from unscientific burying of asbestos wastes in Maitighar Mandala in Kathmandu and its massive import and use in the Tarai region,” said  Ram Charitra Sah, executive director at CEPHED. “Now we need effective implementation of this decision,” he said.

2014-12-25 

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

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