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Misinformation Campaign of use of asbestos condemned
There is incontrovertible evidence that creates a compelling logic for making India asbestos free to prevent an avoidable public health disaster facing our countrymen.
IN THE face massive asbestos exposure underway in India, recent ban on asbestos laden US ship, The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced in Rajya Sabha and the ban asbestos order of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission, environment, labour, human rights and health groups appeal to the Prime Minister and to all the parliamentarians to ensure that manufacture, use and trade of asbestos is banned in India.

 
There is incontrovertible evidence that creates a compelling logic for making India asbestos free to prevent an avoidable public health disaster facing our countrymen.

Advertisements in renowned national newspapres and news channels cannot hide the barbarism of the the asbestos industry. No amount of propaganda and public relations campaign can transform a poisonous and cancerous material like White Asbestos (chrysotile) into a non-poisonous material.


Almost every international health agency of repute including the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the American Cancer Society agree there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even 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, the IARC newly confirmed that there is sufficient evidence that asbestos causes ovarian cancer and reconfirmed asbestos causes laryngeal cancer.


Acting as merchants of death and workers and consumers are routinely being exposed deadly asbestos fibers. Notably, worker protections and enviro-occupational health infrastructure are weak or non-existent in our country. The silence of the government in the face of workers and consumers who are sick and dying from asbestos-caused cancer is deafening. The parliament must act to stop the government from protecting the corporate criminals of the asbestos industry who are hiding behind manifest immoral patronage of the government.


The statement of objects and reasons of The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced in the parliament reads: "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 break linings. 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."


Taking cognizance of the human rights violation involved in exposing people to killer asbestos fibers, Kerala State Human Rights Commission has noted that exposing consumers to asbestos fibers of all kinds including chrysotile constitutes violation of human rights in its order dated 31st January, 2009.


Civil society groups have consistently been drawing the urgent attention of the governments towards a serious unprecedented environmental and occupational health crisis with regard to unnoticed asbestos epidemic in the country.


Even if one asbestos fibre reaches the right place, it causes irreversible damage - leading to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Thirty deaths are caused per day from asbestos-related diseases as per estimates based on US and European studies.


In such a context, Indian, Russian and Canadian government's role in preventing the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous product under the Rotterdam Convention, an International Agreement that requires that importing countries be warned of the risks associated with hazardous products is condemnable. It is unconscionable that Canadian government knowingly exports a killer product that will kill thousands of people in India with the consent of the Indian government. As long as Indian, Russian and Canadian government continues to support, they would be and they must be deemed as one of the biggest violators of human rights on earth and unfit to be part of the rest of the civilized countries who have banned asbestos industry.


Human rights, environmental, public health and labour groups are shocked to note that instead of banning asbestos, the Canadian government uses tax-payers dollars and Canadian embassies to actively promote the sale of asbestos around the world. Working in tandem with the asbestos producing countries, Indian government has been making the asbestos products artificially cheaper to the detriment of its owns citizens.


Indian and the Canadian government must resist corporate influence of the chrysotile (white) asbestos industry and support the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous product under the UN's Rotterdam Convention as a first step at the next meeting of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention. And as a next step, initiate efforts to ban its mining, manufacturing and its trade.

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