Buying Asbestos is buying Cancer: Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council
Asbestos companies indulging in corporate crimes: Dr Barry Castleman
Patna/ December 24, 2012: Inaugurating the Conference on Environmental and Occupational Health, Shri Awadesh Narain Singh, Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council expressed grave concern about the lack of environmental and occupational infrastructure in the face of environmental exposures that present and future generations face. He favoured phasing of hazardous factories in public interest if they cause incurable but preventable diseases. He admitted the dangers of asbestos exposures. He said, “buying asbestos is akin to buying cancer. I will get asbestos removed from my residence.”
He said that struggle against asbestos factories in Vaishali and Bhojpur is a learning experience. He announced that he would convene an environmental conference in the auditorium of the Bihar Legislative Council after January 25, 2012. He added, “the ache of asbestos hazards is worse than the ache of unemployment.”
The conference adopted Patna Declaration seeking environmental, occupational health infrastructure and Prohibition on all forms of asbestos based products.
Former consultant of World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Bank, Dr Barry Castleman disclosed why asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposures “can only be prevented by adopting alternatives of asbestos. It is estimated that several thousands of deaths can be attributed annually to exposure to asbestos in the living environment.” Dr Castleman is a fellow Collegium Ramazzini, USA and author, Medical & Legal Aspects of Asbestos. He said, “Asbestos companies indulging in corporate crimes”.
In his observation, Prof. Qamar Rahman, Visiting Professor, Rostock University Germany, formerly with Institute of Toxicological Research Centre, Lucknow stated that it is impossible to use asbestos based products safely. Human biology is the same everywhere. If it is carcinogenic for over 50 countries, how Indians be deemed immune from it.
Justice (Retd) Rekha Kumari, Patna High Court contended 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.
Prof Ishwari Prasad, former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) argued against the externalization of health costs due to hazardous industries like asbestos industry. We cannot wait for studies and counting of dead bodies for government to act. The global evidence is incontrovertible.
Dr Satyajit Singh, Senior Urologist, Dr. Ruban Group of Hospitals & Vice- President, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development pledged support from ban asbestos movement. He had physically visited anti-asbestos struggles.
Prof. N K Chaudhary, Department of Economics, Patna University said that there is sufficient ground to inspire action and to stop hazardous factories in Vaishali. If it is not stopped it reveals the compjlicity of the head of the State.
Governments appear to be under the influence of vested interests else there is no reason why lung related diseases should not be prevented by prohibiting asbestos industry, Dr P N P Pal, ex-President Indian Medical Association, Bihar Chapter.
Dr Jitendra Kumar Singh, Director, Mahavir Cancer Sansthan and Research Center expressed concerned about the unattended health impacts from environmental exposures.
Trade unions of the left parties have consistently joined hands with the villagers in their struggle against hazardous asbestos factories. Participants include trade union leaders like Chakradhar Prasad Singh, AITUC, Shri Sarovodaya Sharma, CITU, Shri RN Thakur, AICCTU, Shri Arun Kumar Singh, President, All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Bihar, Shri Nand Kishor Singh, All India Federation of Trade Unions (New),Shri Arun Kumar, President, The Times of India Newspaper Employees Union, Patna & Member, Press Council of India and Shri Irfan Ahmed, President, Bihar State Vendors Hawkers Federation.
The leaders expressed support for villagers’ movement against asbestos factories and they termed such toxic factories as anti-people and anti-public health which must be banned as per the recommendations of the WHO.
Prof. D M Diwakar, Director, AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna argued for preventive approach to deal with the impending crisis due to environmental and occupational diseases. Consent of villagers for all the industrial activities must be considered mandatory. Alternatives to hazardous substances should be promoted because public health concerns are non-negotiable.
The conference urged central government to take action on its announcement that “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.
In January 2012, Union Ministry of Labour set up a Advisory Committee to implement Supreme Court order issued 15 years ago since ILO has also made certain specific directions vide its Resolution of 2006 introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos.
The conference was critical of the central government for announcing that “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out" in the Vision Statement on Environment and Health of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests but it continues to grant to grant environmental clearance to hazardous asbestos factories. It was also critical of State Government which is turning a blind eye to the public health concerns being raised in Vaishali and Bhojpur in Bihar against the asbestos factories. Instead, fake and fabricated cases are being lodged against the villagers who have displayed scientific temper which the State Government has failed to show so far.
The conference called on the central government to withdraw fiscal incentives from the asbestos industry to discourage use of asbestos products instead of promoting it. But State Government should act at the earliest to save the lives of its citizens without waiting for the Central government to act.
More than 55 countries have banned asbestos to protect the life of present and future generation of Australian citizens. Government of India is taking steps in this direction but in installments. Some ministries have been given conflicting signals. Government of India and State Government should coordinate and pay heed to the wisdom available in Union Ministry of Labour and announce immediate ban on the deadly asbestos fibers.
Case studies were presented from Rajasthan by Rana Sengupta, by Amitabh Patra of Odisha, by Pralhad Malvadkar of Maharasthra, by Ragunath Manwar of Gujarat and Tarkeshar Giri and Lalit Ghosh of Muzaffarpur and Vaishali, Bihar.
The Conference on Environmental and Occupational Health was co-organized by ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, and PEACE, New Delhi.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 8002263335 (Patna), 09818089660 (Delhi), Eemail@example.com
Seeking environmental, occupational health infrastructure and
Prohibition on all forms of asbestos based products
Date: 24 December, 2012
Taking cognizance of the human rights violation involved in exposing people to killer asbestos
fibers and how even if few asbestos fibre reach the right places, it causes irreversible damage -
leading to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma;
Asserting the need for inclusion of environmental and occupational health study in the medical education;
Appreciating Union Ministry of Labour revelation 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.
Recalling the Supreme Court’s order of 1995 reiterated in 2012 seeking the Union and state governments in the Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) vs Union of India case to examine/review the matter with regard to asbestos exposure in tune with the resolution of the International Labour Organisation (ILO);
Awaiting the recommendations of Union Labour Ministry’s Advisory Committee to implement Supreme Court order issued 15 years ago since ILO has also made certain specific directions vide its Resolution of 2006 introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos.
Recollecting that Supreme Court’s order of 21st January, 2011 that took cognizance of the resolutions of ILO directing s government to take immediate preventive steps;
Endorsing World Health Organisation’s resolution of 2005 seeking elimination of all forms of asbestos;
Disapproving Union Ministry of Environment & Forests Experts Appraisal Committee on Industry for approving environmental clearance of asbestos plants;
Asserting the fact that so far some 55 countries have banned all forms of asbestos, and are
already using alternative building materials;
Underlining that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reconfirmed
that all commercial asbestos fibers - including chrysotile, the most commercially used form of
asbestos - cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. In addition, IARC newly confirmed that there is
sufficient evidence that asbestos causes ovarian cancer and reconfirmed asbestos causes laryngeal cancer;
Reminding the Government of India and State Government that there is incontrovertible evidence which creates a compelling logic for making India asbestos free;
Expressing solidarity with struggles ALL ACROSS THE NATION against Asbestos Factories
All public institutions must disclose the data regarding occupational diseases and occupational history, it should be mandatory for all public and private hospitals/ dispensaries and all medical practitioners.
Permanently stop the Asbestos factories at Mahua, Vaishali , Bhojpur and other parts of Bihar
Withdraw the cases against the protestors at Muzzafarpur and Mahua (Vaishali) and initiate criminal proceedings against the government and factory officials
We recommend that the Government should start efforts to decontaminate asbestos laden
buildings including schools, hospitals, railways and others
We urge the Governments at all level to adopt policy to not use asbestos containing building materials in Public building and adequately compensate the victims of asbestos-related diseases,
create a database of asbestos exposed people and victims as well as besides providing legal and
possible medical relief and taking preventive measures. We call on the government to create a
mesothelioma registry and a building registry of those facilities which have asbestos.
We urge the State of Bihar to ban Asbestos Product Use
We urge the Govt. of India to ban Asbestos Product Use