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

Thursday, September 5, 2013

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

Occupational Health India (OHI)                                                                                                                                                                                                 ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

To

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

Date: September 5, 2013


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

Sir,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asbestos Importing and Exporting Trends in India



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

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

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bhojpur’s Asbestos factories in violation of Supreme Court order dated January 27, 1995 in Asbestos Case


To

 Shri Subhash Sharma,
Principal Secretary
Department of Labour
Government of Bihar
Patna

August 8, 2013

Subject-Bhojpur’s Asbestos factories in violation of Supreme Court order dated January 27, 1995 in Asbestos Case  

Sir,

This is to inform you that even as the doctor of Ramco asbestos company’s factory continues to refuse to share the heath records of workers with them, the strike by workers in Bhojpur’s Bihiya has entered 7th day amidst demand for the closure of killer asbestos factory as it poses threat to villagers in its vicinity. Earlier also the workers of these factories were on strike on July 30, 2012 demanding medical attention. This was communicated by Block Development Officer, Bihiya, Bhojpur on August 1, 2012 to Sub Divisional Officer, Jagdishpur, Bhojpur. The workers are again on strike for the last 7 days.

In contempt of Supreme Court’s order dated January 27, 1995, the company is not maintaining and maintaining the health record of every worker, not conducting Membrane Filter test to detect asbestos fibre and not insuring health coverage to every worker. It is reliably learnt that the company’s doctor Dr Radhey Shyam Singh is not even qualified in occupational health to undertake these tasks.

I submit that the company should be asked for a list of workers employed in the factory, their health records and the qualification of the doctor assigned to undertake their health checkup.       

In Bhojpur’s Bihiya, the two plants have been set up with a 120,000 MT/Annum capacity of Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and 2 00000 MT/Annum capacity of Asbestos Grinding Plant. The total project area is 20 acres and land is allotted by the state government on lease for 90 years. In the minutes dated May 10, 2010, Experts Appraisal Committee (EAC), Industrial Projects made explicit reference to “Health Management Plan for Mesothalimoa, Lung cancer and Asbestosis related problems in asbestos industries”. 
The plants have been established by Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries Ltd. The second plant at Bihiya does not seem to have the clearance or consent to establish still it is operating.  The legal status of the second plant at the same site with a 2 Lakh MT/Annum Capacity of Cement Grinding Plant remains questionable.  

I submit that in an ongoing case in the Patna High Court all three plants of asbestos plants of Bhojpur including the one at Giddha, Koilwar are being cited to challenge State Government’s cancellation of asbestos based factory in Vaishali. The matter will be heard again on 13th of August, 2013 in the Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.9064 of 2013.

I submit that Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) which is operating an asbestos factory at Giddha, Koilwar, Bhojpur too is not complying with the Hon’ble Court’s order. The plant’s location behind a B Ed College is a constant threat to human health. It may be noted that District Magistrate, Bhojpur has undertaken a probe of this factory along with a team of district administration in compliance of orders from the State Government.
He was informed that the factory is running with conducting any public hearing. In June 2013 a worker was crushed to death in this very factory. The District Magistrate, Bhojpur undertook a visit to the plant against the backdrop of this incident. The company should be asked for a list of workers employed in the factory, their health records and name and qualification of the doctor assigned to undertake their health checkup.  

I submit that the attached order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court reads: “All the industries are directed
(1) To maintain and keep maintaining the health record of every worker up to a minimum period of 40 years from the beginning of the employment or 15 years after retirement or cessation of the employment whichever is later;
(2) The Membrane Filter test, to detect asbestos fibre should be adopted by all the factories or establish- ments at par with the Metalliferrous Mines Regulations, 1961; and Vienna Convention and Rules issued thereunder;
(3) All the factories whether covered by the Employees State Insurance Act or Workmen's Compensation Act or otherwise are directed to compulsorily insure health coverage to every worker;
(4) The Union and the State Governments are directed to review the standards of permissible exposure limit value of fibre/cc in tune with the international standards reducing the permissible content as prayed in the writ petition referred to at the beginning. The review shall be continued after every 10 yews and also as an when the I.L.O. gives directions in this behalf consistent with its recommendations or any Conventions;
(5) The Union and all the State Governments are directed to consider inclusion of such of those small scale factory or factories or industries to protect health hazards of the worker engaged in the manufacture of asbestos or its ancillary produce;
(6) The appropriate Inspector of Factories in particular of the State of Gujarat, is directed to send all the workers, examined by the concerned ESI hospital, for re-examination by the National Institute of Occupational Health to detect whether all or any of them are suffering from asbestosis. In case of the positive Ending that all or any of them ant suffering from the occupational health hazards, each such worker shall be entitled to compensation in a sum of rupees one lakh payable by the concerned factory or industry or establishment within a period of three months from the date of certification by the National Institute of Occupational Health.”

I submit that the last direction creates a logical compulsion for Inspector of Factories of the State of Bihar to get the workers of Bihiya based asbestos factory examined for asbestos related diseases and ensure enhanced and just compensation for them.  

I wish to draw your attention towards the fact sheet of World Health Organization (WHO) available on asbestos:http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs343/en/index.html It re-iterates that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos and specifically states that its strategy is particularly targeted at countries still using chrysotile asbestos. The factsheet notes that “more than 107 000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure.”

I submit that in compliance of the Hon’ble Court’s order the work of WHO and International Labour Organization (ILO) must be taken cognisance of by Bihar Government in its efforts towards elimination of asbestos-related diseases “by recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos and by providing information about solutions for replacing asbestos with safer substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to stimulate its replacement.” The relevant ILO resolution and WHO document is attached.

I submit that the concept paper by Union Ministry of Labour presented at the 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” saying "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." It has noted that "Asbestosis is yet another occupational disease of the Lungs which is on an increase under similar circumstances warranting concerted efforts of all stake holders to evolve strategies to curb this menace". The paper is attached and is available here:  http://labour.nic.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Divisions/LC%26ILAS/Background%20note.pdf      

It may be noted that Supreme Court’s judgment of January 27, 1995 in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 refers to the book of Dr Castleman, at paragraph 18, reads: “In Asbestos Medical and Legal Aspects by Barry I. Castleman at p.10 had stated that Dr. Merewether following the diagnosis by Homburter in his coincidence of Primary Carcinoma at the Lungs and Pulmonary Asbestos 1943 stated that fibrosis of the lungs as it occurs among asbestos workers as the slow growth of fibrous tissue (scar tissue) between the air cells of the lungs whenever the inhaled dust comes to rest. While new fibrous tissue is being laid down like a spider's web that deposited earlier gradually contract. This fibrous tissue is not only useless as a substitute for the air cells, but with continued inhalation of the causative dust, by its invasion of new territory and consolidation of that already occupied, it gradually, and literally strangles the essential tissues of the lungs.”

I submit that in compliance with the Hon’ble Court’s order Union Ministry of Labour & Employment has constituted an Advisory Committee to implement the order.  

It may be recalled that Justice (Retd) Rekha Kumari, Patna High Court has advised that companies which willfully expose human beings to cancer causing fibers of asbestos must be made criminally liable because right to health is part of right to life as per Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order in her attached lecture on December 24, 2012 at A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna. Shri Awadesh Narain Singh, Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council on December 24, 2012 contended that “buying asbestos is buying akin to buying cancer. I will get asbestos removed from my residence” at this very conference. He added, “the ache of asbestos hazards is worse than the ache of unemployment.” The video documentation of his speech is available on www.youtube.com.

I submit that asbestos based plants have already been stopped by the villagers of Muzaffarpur and Vaishali. Human biology is same everywhere, how can same thing be deemed poisonous and hazardous in one district and non-poisonous and non- hazardous in Bhojpur.

It may be noted that Chairperson, Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) has cancelled the consent to establish given to West Bengal based Utkal Asbestos Company in Vaisahli. This was undertaken as a follow up of instruction from the Hon’ble Chief Minister dated February 13, 2013. Its cancellation order is attached.

I am an applicant in the related matter in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) seeking environmental and occupational health justice for the workers, their families and consumers who are becoming victims of incurable asbestos related diseases

In view of the above, I wish to request you to urgently intervene in the matter of ongoing strike in Bhojpur’s plants in Bihiya to ensure that workers’ health is protected and to ensure compliance of Hon’ble Court’s order at Gidhha based plant as well.

Thanking You
Yours Sincerely
Gopal Krishna
Occupational Health India (OHI)
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Cc
Dr. Mrutyunjay Sarangi, Secretary, Union Ministry of Labour 
Shri Anup Chandra Pandey Chairman, Advisory Committee on Asbestos, Union Ministry of Labour 
Dr. R.B. Raidas, Dy.Director General, Directorate General, Factory Advice and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI)
Dr Vyasji Mishra, Principal Secretary, Health, Government of Bihar  
Dr. V.M. Katoch, Secretary, Department of Health Research & Director General Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare  
Prof. Subhash Chandra Singh, Chairman, Bihar State Pollution Control Board
Dr. G.K. Rath, Head of Department of Radio Oncology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)
Shri, Suresh Kumar Sinha, Labour Commissioner, Department of Labour, Government of Bihar Shri Abhimanyu Sharma, Lawyer, Patna High Court   

Thursday, May 16, 2013

India reverses stand on asbestos at Rotterdam Convention meet: Down To Earth

India reverses stand on asbestos at Rotterdam Convention meet

Opposes its inclusion in prior informed consent list; campaigners accuse industry lobby of influencing government

In a retrograde move, India opposed the listing of chrysotile asbestos under Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention at the sixth meeting of Conference of Parties (COP6) on May 8 in Geneva. Substances listed under Annex III of the Convention—a global treaty to promote shared responsibilities in relation to import of hazardous chemicals—require exporting countries to advise importing countries about the toxicity of the substances so that importers can give their prior informed consent (PIC) for trade. The Convention does not ban or limit trade in such hazardous substances.

Civil society members campaigning for a global ban on asbestos expressed shock at India retracting from its earlier decision, and allege that the Indian delegation was influenced by the industry lobby to take such a stand. 

Chrysotile asbestos, the most common form of asbestos used in India, is a fibrous substance, often mixed with cement to create a fire-retardant mixture which is applied to corrugated steel sheets and pipes. Called “the poor man’s material”, it is often used in roofing structures by the poor in India because of its high insulation and low-cost.

The Chemical Review Committee, a subsidiary body of the Convention, had recommended listing of white asbestos under Annex III as the World Health Organisation (WHO) had found that asbestos was harmful to human health and environment. It is a carcinogen.

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade is aimed at helping developing countries in managing potentially hazardous chemicals imported by them.

Going back on its word
During the fifth Conference of Parties (COP5) in June 2011, the Indian delegation had agreed to the listing of chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list, and received a standing ovation at the plenary. Despite India’s support, COP5 had not been able to reach a consensus on the listing of chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list. The reason given was confusion over the meaning of 'listing' as opposed to 'banning'. With no consensus, the PIC listing was postponed to COP6.

At the ongoing COP6 in Geneva, the Indian delegation did not support the listing, citing reasons such as the utility of the substance, the finding of “no hazard” in domestic studies and the increased trade costs of the PIC Procedure. The Russian federation suggested removing the issue from further consideration by the COP as there had been no consensus earlier. The COP forwarded the issue to the Contact Group on Listing of Chemicals. However, the agenda item was closed today, with chrysotile asbestos still not included in PIC.
M Subba Rao, director of MoEF, did not comment on the matter and said RN Jindal, assistant director, MoEF, who is also a part of the Indian delegation in Geneva, should be contacted.

Lobbies at work
It is believed that India had changed its stand based on a study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) and the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (DCPC) on effects of use of chrysotile asbestos on health and the environment. The study was done twice, in 2008 and in 2011, for big and small industries separately. The report released in May 2012 says the fibre concentration in predominant samples was found to be within permissible exposure levels.

The asbestos-cement industry is the largest user of chrysotile fibres, accounting for about 85 per cent of all use. The entire requirement of chrysotile asbestos is met through imports. The domestic industry in India is worth over USD 1 billion, and provides employment to a few thousand people.

“It is shocking that the ministry is quoting a discredited study by NIOH for not listing Chrysotile in PIC. Through RTI queries it had been exposed that the NIOH study was funded by major asbestos industries. The industry lobby bought the Indian delegates during COP6. We are thinking of moving court,” said Gopal Krishna of non-profit ToxicsWatch Alliance.

C Jayakumar, director of Thanal Conservation Action and Information Network, who attended the COP6 meet and is back in India, said that Indian delegates seemed clueless about what was going on at the meet. “My colleagues are still there attending the meetings and they informed me that India quoted a discredited study to oppose the listing of chrysotile asbestos,” he said, adding that the industry seems to have strong influence on the delegation.

Global push for a ban
WHO cites 107,000 occupational deaths yearly from exposure to asbestos. Chrysotile asbestos, in particular, is a toxic carcinogen. WHO, the International Labour Organization and the World Bank have all called for an end to the use of this substance. Over the past century, chrysotile asbestos represented 95 per cent of all asbestos sold, with all other forms of asbestos representing five per cent of asbestos sold. Today, it is the only form of asbestos in use.

The Union for the International Control of Cancer (2012), comprising more than 700 member organisations in 155 countries, the World Federation of Public Health Associations (2005), the International Commission on Occupational Health (2000), the International Social Security Association (2004), the Collegium Ramazzini (1999, 20105) and the International Trade Union Confederation (2004) – representing 175 million workers in 151 countries – have all called for a global ban on the use of all forms of asbestos, particularly chrysotile asbestos.

India earlier had not supported the inclusion of paraquat dichloride, a highly toxic substance used as a herbicide in diluted form, under Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention, similarly stating there was no scientific basis for the stated threshold limit in the proposal.

Soma Basu
Down To Earth

Comments

The asbestos lobby is transparently behind the about turn in India's stand. With elections around the corner, is it any wonder? Vistasp Mehta

Glare on asbestos risk U-turn: The Telegraph

Glare on asbestos risk U-turn

New Delhi, May 15: India’s environment ministry has ignored domestic laws and reneged on its own pledge by telling a global convention there is not enough evidence to show that asbestos is hazardous to health, a non-government group said today.
The group, called Toxics Watch Alliance, has complained to the Centre that the ministry delegation’s position at the UN’s Rotterdam Convention in Geneva earlier this month was contrary to Indian laws and the ministry’s own earlier decision.
Toxics Watch Alliance said the ministry delegation had told the convention that studies by Ahmedabad’s National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) had shown no hazards from white chrysotile asbestos, widely used in the construction industry to make asbestos-cement material.
The convention was debating the need to include chrysotile asbestos into a special list of hazardous substances that would make it obligatory for exporting countries to alert importing countries about shipments.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Toxics Watch Alliance has said it appears (asbestos) industry representatives have “overwhelmed government representatives who were made to take a position against human health and the environment”.
The group has cited several domestic laws that classify asbestos as a hazardous substance. The ministry’s own vision statement says: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out.”
Toxics Watch Alliance also cited a concept paper by the Union labour ministry circulated at an India-European Union conference on occupational health that said the Indian government was “considering a ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and general population against primary and secondary exposure to chrysotile form of asbestos”.
It said the ministry stand this year was a “volte-face” over its support for the listing of asbestos as a hazardous substance indicated by the environment ministry’s own delegation at the previous Rotterdam Convention meeting in 2011.
“In 2011, India received a standing ovation for its support, we are saddened by what happened this year,” said Gopal Krishna, a representative of Toxics Watch Alliance in New Delhi.
The Union environment secretary and the head of the environment ministry delegation to the convention this year were not available for comment. Another member of the delegation declined to provide any response.
Toxics Watch Alliance has said documents it obtained through the Right to Information Act have shown that the chrysotile asbestos industry had provided Rs 16 lakh to the NIOH study that cost about Rs 60 lakh.
The non-government group said the documents also reveal that a review committee of the NIOH study had said that the report of the findings would be “finalised after due discussions with the asbestos industry”.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer had said in 2009 that “there is sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of all forms of asbestos”.

In Geneva, India U-turn on chrysotile asbestos:The Asian Age

In Geneva, India U-turn on chrysotile asbestos

In a dramatic turnaround, India has altered its earlier position and opposed listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance at the sixth meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP-6) in Geneva.

Substances listed under annex 111 of the Rotterdam Convention of COP-6 demand that exporting countries must give details about the toxicity of the substances to importing nations in order that the latter can give their prior informed consent (PIC) in matters of trade.

In COP-6, India has, under obvious pressure from the asbestos lobby, taken a viewpoint that since chrysotile asbestos possesses utility, it cannot be brought under the ambit of the PIC.

But in 2011, during COP 5, India received a standing ovation when leader of the delegation Meera Mahrishi, additional secretary in the environment ministry, had declared at the plenary that chrysotile asbestos must be so listed.

The turnaround is all the more strange because the ministry’s own website has placed it under the list of hazardous substances.

The present delegation, led by Ajay Tyagi, joint secretary in the environment ministry, was not willing to go public on India’s changed stance but a senior bureaucrat cited a study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) and the department of chemicals and petrochemicals (DCPC) on the effects of the use of chrysotile asbestos on both workers health and environment.

The report stated that it was not hazardous and that it was within permissible exposure levels.
Panning the NIOH and DCPC study, Gopal Krishna, heading Toxics Watch Alliance, said, “We have done a series of RTIs to show that the asbestos industry was the major funder for the NIOH study. We also question why the Indian delegation to Geneva had included two representatives from the asbestos industry.
We are planning to move court over this issue.”

Activists have been demanding that chrysotile asbestos be listed as a hazardous substance. A similar recommendation has been made by the United Nations’ Chemical Review Committee which comprises a group of 31 leading scientists from across the globe.

India’s asbestos cement industry is a large consumer of chrysotile fibres and uses 85 per cent of its imports.

Friday, March 29, 2013

US does not mine asbestos since 2002

Asbestos has not been mined in the United States since 2002. U.S. asbestos consumption is likely to decline over time as the few remaining consuming industries slowly replace older asbestos-based technology or phase out its use.

Statement from US Surgeon General Steven K. Galson about National Asbestos Week
In recognition of ‘National Asbestos Awareness Week,’ I urge every American to become aware of the public health issues of asbestos exposure and the steps they can take to protect their health.

In recent decades, because of concern about asbestos’ health effects, production and use has declined substantially. Most individuals exposed to asbestos, whether in a home, in the workplace, or out-of-doors will not develop disease- but there is no level of asbestos exposure that is known to be safe and minimizing your exposure will minimize your risk of developing asbestos-related disease.

Asbestos is the name given to a group of fibrous minerals that occur naturally in the environment.  Low levels of asbestos are commonly in the air as fibers enter the environment from natural rock outcroppings, products that contain asbestos, former asbestos mining and milling operations, and from disturbance of asbestos-containing material. It is when we are exposed to much more concentrated levels of asbestos that we should be concerned.  Therefore, it is important for all Americans to be aware of asbestos levels in their environment.

Asbestos can be dangerous if it is inhaled.  Activity that disturbs asbestos causing these small fibers to float in air increases the chances of inhalation and the contraction of asbestos-related diseases. Disturbance is what leads to exposure. Do not attempt to touch or remove asbestos by yourself. Only people professionally trained and certified to safely handle asbestos should remove it.

Once breathed in, asbestos fibers can remain in the lungs for years and even decades. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs, changes in the lining of the chest cavity around the lung, and certain cancers. Remember that tobacco smoke greatly increases your risk of lung cancer if you have also been exposed to asbestos.

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, I encourage you to speak to your health care provider. Your provider can tell you if any of your health problems might be caused by asbestos exposure.
To learn more about asbestos and asbestos related diseases, please visit:

In 2011, according to the United States Geological Survey, the U.S. exported about $27 million worth of asbestos products. Source: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/asbestos/myb1-2011-asbes.pdf

Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007 was passed in the US Senate by unanimous consent on October 04, 2007. 

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