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WHO, The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2014 and Supreme Court's order

Written By Gopal Krishna on Monday, December 08, 2014 | 3:01 AM

To

Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda
Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Government of India
New Delhi

December 8, 2014

Subject-WHO, The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2014 and Supreme Court's order

Sir,

This with reference to my letter to you dated November 10, 2014, I wish to draw your attention towards The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2014 which quotes World Health Organisation (WHO) to underline the cancer causing nature of the mineral fiber.

I wish to submit that the Bill's 2009 version has been quoted in the Supreme Court's judgment dated January 21, 2011. Its relevant para 14 and 15 reads:
                       “14. In the matter relating to secondary exposure of workers to asbestos, though the grounds have been taken in the Writ Petition without any factual basis, again in the Rejoinder filed to the counter affidavit of respondent No.37, this issue has been raised by the petitioner in detail. 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.

15. As already noticed above, the Government has already presented the Bill in Rajya Sabha. The statement of objects and reasons of this Bill specifically notices that the white asbestos is highly carcinogenic and it has been so reported by the World Health
Organisation. In India, it is imported without any restriction while even its domestic use is not preferred by the exporting countries. Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported 95% of the white asbestos, it mined out of
which 43% was shipped to India. In view of these facts, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative materials. The Bill is yet to be passed but it is clearly demonstrated that the Government is required
to take effective steps to prevent hazardous impact of use of asbestos.

I submit that the Supreme Court's order of 23 January 1995 is also relevant. Its concluding para reads:
"33 The writ petition is, therefore, allowed. All the industries are directed (1) To maintain and keep maintaining the health record of every worker upto 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 establishments 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 years and also as and when the ILO 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 products; (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 finding that all or any of them are 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 wish to also draw your attention towards the three recommendations of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) seeking ban on use of asbestos roofs in its order dated January 31, 2009. The recommendations are: “

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.”

It is germane to note that Terms of Reference (TOR) that is awarded by the Experts Appraisal Committee, Industrial Project, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests to the project proponents for white asbestos  based roofing factories state that they should prepare a “Health Management Plan for Mesothelioma, Lung cancer and Asbestosis related problems in asbestos industries.”

I submit that the WHO 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.” The relevant factsheet is asbestos available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs343/en/index.html

It is not surprising 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." 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". A concept paper by Union Ministry of Labour revealed this at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” on 19th and 20th September, 2011. Reference: http://www.labour.nic.in/lc/Background%20note.pdf

In such a backdrop, the introduction of the bill seeking total ban on use and import of white chrysotile asbestos in the country must be factored by your ministry.

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 Shri 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 Shri 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 back‐to‐back with the meetings of the conferences of the UN’s parties to the Basel and Stockholm conventions in May 2015.

I submit that 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.

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.

I submit that National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi is pursuing 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.

It is noteworthy that 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 must be noted 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 Source book, 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.  

In view of the above, I wish to reiterate that 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.

Thanking You 

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

Cc
Shri Vijay Jawaharlal Darda, Member of Parliament Dr. Vishwa Mohan Katoch MD, FNASc, FAMS, FASc, FNA, Secretary, Department
of Health Research (DHR), Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Dr Barry Castleman, author, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: krishna <gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, 10 Nov 2014 21:12:23 +0530
Subject: WHO and Elimination of Asbestos related diseases
To: jp.nadda@sansad.nic.in
Cc: jpnadda@gmail.com, secydhr@icmr.org.in, Barry Castleman <barry.castleman@gmail.com>

To


Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda
Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Government of India
New Delhi

Subject-WHO and Elimination of Asbestos related diseases

Sir,

Let me congratulate you on taking charge as the cabinet minister of
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. It is quite apt that your experience
as minister of health in the Government of Himachal Pradesh has been
recognized.

This is to draw your urgent attention towards the attached document of
World Health Orgainsation (WHO) seeking elimination of asbestos related
diseases. 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.

I submit that 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.

I submit that the 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 Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in its judgment dated January 27, 1995.

I submit that if the ministry under your leadership can pay heed to the
decision taken by some 55 countries which have banned asbestos of all
kinds, it will be a historic moment. I wish to seek your intervention to
ensure compliance with the resolution of WHO that has recommended
elimination of asbestos for eliminating asbestos related diseases.

I submit that in case you decide to pay heed to WHO's resolution, 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.

I submit that our National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi is
pursuing is a case (NHRC Case No.2951/30/0/2011) seeking compliance with
the Hon'ble Court's order in the backdrop of an epidemic of asbestos
related incurable lung diseases.

I submit 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."

I submit 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.

I submit that 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.

I submit that 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.

I submit that 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.

I submit that 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.

I submit that Ukraine decided to prolong anti-dumping duties on imports of
asbestos-cement corrugated sheets from Russia for an additional five years.

Given incontrovertible evidence, the ministry ought to consider
recommendations to take preventive steps by ensure elimination of use of
all kinds of asbestos as per the recommendations of the Hon'ble Court's and
the WHO.

In view of the above, 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 am copying the message to Dr Castleman for his considered opinion in this
regard.

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

Cc
Dr. Vishwa Mohan Katoch MD, FNASc, FAMS, FASc, FNA, Secretary, Department
of Health Research (DHR), Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Dr Barry Castleman, author, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects







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