*Press Release *


*Google restores Asbestos Free India site for public view *



*TWA demands ban on manufacturing and usage of asbestos based products *



*Death of worker in illegal asbestos based factory of Nibhi company in
Giddha, Bhojpur merits inquiry  *



New Delhi: In a communication dated September 22, 2016, Google has informed
that it has restored Asbestos Free India site. This was in response to the
message sent to Google team by Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), a
sister association of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA). The site was taken off
public view following a complaint by a asbestos based company.



In its message to Google, BANI communicated that “the truth about the
hazards from asbestos exposure in India ought to remain in public domain in
the interest of present and future generations. Asbestos is banned in over
50 countries because it causes incurable lung related diseases. In view of
the same, the site may be approved for public view in public interest.”

The site http://www.asbestosfreeindia.org is now available for public view.

[image: https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif]

In a related move, in a letter dated September 13, 2016 sent to Union
Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, TWA has sought “ban on
manufacturing and usage of asbestos based products”.  In this letter TWA
has disputed the factually inconsistent views expressed by Shri Bishwanath
Sinha, Joint Secretary regarding ban on manufacturing and usage of asbestos
based products.



TWA appreciates minister’s TWA had given 12 suggestions to the minister on
16 July, 2016 asking him to “Stop giving environmental clearances to
asbestos based factories and projects in keeping with the 19 page long
Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health of your ministry which
states ‘4.3.1 Environmental epidemiological studies are required to be
carried out near to industrial estates and hazardous waste disposal sites
to estimate the extent of health risks including from asbestos.
Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of
asbestos may be phased out’.” The relevant URL of Vision Statement on
Environment and Human Health is envfor.nic.in/sites/default/
files/visenvhealth.pdf

It was following this letter that Anil Madhav Dave Union Minister of
Environment, Forest & Climate Change told media on Aug 15, 2016 that "Since
the use of asbestos is affecting human health, its use should gradually be
minimised and eventually end. As far as I know, its use is declining. But
it must end." The reporting of July 24, 2016 by media also followed this
letter and BANI’s conclusive victory in getting permissions of asbestos
based factories cancelled in Bihar.

TWA has sought minister’s intervention to ensure strict compliance with
this order and to get a Register of asbestos laden buildings prepared so
that a road map can be prepared for their decontamination. The state ought
to prepare a Register of those workers who handle asbestos and the victims
of primary and secondary exposure from asbestos fibers.

TWA has apprised the minister about the Concept Paper of Government of
India presented at the EU-India Seminar that reveals that the Central
Government is planning to eliminate asbestos from the country due to health
reasons.

It has drawn minister’s attention towards Supreme Court's order dated
January 27, 1995 and World Health Organisation (WHO)'s outline for the
Development of National Programmes for elimination of asbestos related
diseases' make a case for stopping all asbestos based products to prevent
the imminent public health crisis as a consequence of which more than 55
countries have banned all forms of asbestos.

The Court's order is available at https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1657323/.
This order has been reiterated in 2011 by the Court.

It is significant that Secretary, Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh
Administration has categorically informed National Human Rights Commission
(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 informs, “It is definitely harmful material,
causing cancer and other related diseases.”

It quotes from *Pulmonary Medicine *journal saying, “Asbestos is a set of
six naturally occurring silicate minerals exploited commercially for their
desirable physical properties. However, it has been proved beyond doubt
that Asbestos is hazardous to humans. White asbestos has been found to have
causal relationship with various diseases like pulmonary asbestosis, lung
cancer and mesothelioma leading to deaths of thousands of people every
year.” Considering the risk, its use has been banned more than 50 countries
including Japan, European Union and Australia and efforts are being made
for its prohibition in many countries.

The reply concludes saying, “Hence, use of white asbestos should be
completely banned in India also and the same may be replaced by some safe
alternative material.” Chandigarh Administration has realized the public
health consequences of exposure to fibers of asbestos.

In a separate reply Assistant Labour Commissioner, Union Territory,
Chandigarh has referred to para 16 of the judgement of Supreme Court dated
January 21, 2011 passed in Writ Petition (Civil) No.260 of 2004 wherein
directions of January 27, 1995 in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986
is required to be strictly adhered to.

It further states, “In terms of the above judgement of this Court as well
as reasons stated in this judgement, we hereby direct the Union of India
and States to review safeguards in relation to primary as well as secondary
exposure to asbestos keeping in mind the information supplied by the
respective States in furtherance to the earlier judgement as well as fresh
resolution passed by the ILO. Upon such review, further directions,
consistent with law, shall be issued within a period of six months from the
date of passing of this order.”

As to ‘fresh resolution passed by the ILO’, it is noteworthy that “A
Resolution concerning asbestos was adopted by the International Labour
Conference at its 95th Session in 2006. Noting that all forms of asbestos,
including chrysotile, are classified as human carcinogens by the
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and expressing its
concern that workers continue to face serious risks from asbestos exposure,
particularly in asbestos removal, demolition, building maintenance, ship
breaking and waste handling activities, it calls for: – the elimination of
the future use of asbestos and the identification and proper management of
asbestos currently in place as the most effective means to protect workers
from asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related diseases and
deaths.”

TWA has submitted that the following recommendations of World Health
Organisation for the minister’s consideration:


"WHO recommendations on prevention of asbestos-related diseases: Bearing in
mind that there is no evidence for a threshold for the carcinogenic effect
of asbestos and that increased cancer risks have been observed in
populations exposed to very low levels (5;9), the most efficient way to
eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop using all types of asbestos.
Continued use of asbestos cement in the construction industry is a
particular concern, because the workforce is large, it is difficult to
control exposure, and in-place materials have the potential to deteriorate
and pose a risk to those carrying out alterations, maintenance and
demolition (5). In its various applications, asbestos can be replaced by
some fibre materials (15) and by other products which pose less or no risk
to health. Materials containing asbestos should be encapsulated and, in
general, it is not recommended to carry out work that is likely to disturb
asbestos fibres. If necessary, such work should be carried out only under
strict preventive measures to avoid exposure to asbestos, such as
encapsulation, wet processes, local exhaust ventilation with filtration,
and regular cleaning. It also requires the use of personal protective
equipment - special respirators, safety goggles, protective gloves and
clothing - and the provision of special facilities for their
decontamination (16). WHO is committed to work with countries towards
elimination of asbestos-related diseases in the following strategic
directions: - by recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate
asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos; - to
provide information about solutions for replacing asbestos with safer
substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to
stimulate its replacement; - to take measures to prevent exposure to
asbestos in place and during asbestos removal (abatement); - to improve
early diagnosis, treatment, social and medical rehabilitation of
asbestos-related diseases and to establish registries of people with past
and/or current exposures to asbestos. W HO strongly recommends planning for
and implementation of these measures as part of a comprehensive national
approach for elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Such an approach
should also include: developing national profiles; awareness raising;
capacity building; an institutional framework; and a national plan of
action for elimination of asbestos-related diseases. W HO will collaborate
with ILO on the implementation of the Resolution on Asbestos, adopted by
the Ninety-fifth Session of the International Labour Conference (17) and
will work other intergovernmental organizations and civil society towards
elimination of asbestos-related diseases worldwide."


The relevant WHO document is available at: http://www.who.int/
occupational_health/publications/asbestosrelateddiseases.pdf


It is noteworthy that Kerala Human Rights Commission has passed an order
with the following recommendations: a) The State Government will replace
asbestos roofs of all school buildings under its control with country tiles
in a phased manner. b) The Government will take steps to see that the
schools run under the private management also replace the asbestos roofs
with country tiles by fixing a time frame. c) The Government should see
that in future no new school is allowed to commence its functions with
asbestos roofs.

In a disturbing development it has reliably been learnt that about a week
back, one worker (a resident of Basudevpur, Bihiya, Bhojpur) died in the
asbestos based factory of Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd
situated in Gidhha, Koilwar, Bhojpur. In a manifest case of environmental
lawlessness although No Objection Certificate given by the Bihar State
Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) to this factory in question has been
cancelled by BSPCB. This is the second incident wherein a worker has died
without the company providing just compensation. Earlier, one worker had
died in this factory in June 2013. The death of the worker in this illegal
asbestos based factory of Nibhi company merits inquiry.

In view of such facts, TWA has asked the minister to seek strict adherence
with ministry's own Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health and
pursue remedial measures for present and future generations before children
get engulfed in the epidemic of incurable but preventable asbestos related
diseases. This is of seminal importance to prevent preventable diseases and
deaths. The ministry can take steps for elimination of asbestos factories
by denying them environmental clearance.

*For Details*: Gopal Krishna, BANI/ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb:
09818089660, 08227816731, Email: 1715kris...@gmail.com, Web:
http://www.asbestosfreeindia.org, www.toxicswatch.org

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