More than a dozen labor unions and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in India recently released a report that resulted in a demand for a ban on asbestos throughout the country, which has an extremely high incidence of asbestos-related diseases.
According to an article in Thaindian News, the report, entitled “A Fox in the Hen House: Made-to-order Science and India’s Asbestos Policy,” alleges a suspicious link between the government and the nation’s asbestos industry and calls for an all out ban on the toxic mineral.
Addressing a news conference yesterday, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) General Secretary P. K. Ganguly, said “When there are alternatives to asbestos, it should be banned.”
“The World Health Organization has got the reports. The reports say that all sorts of asbestos [are dangerous], including the white type called Chrysotile asbestos, [which] is one of the most toxic and widely used in India and some other developing countries,” added Ganguly.
To date, 40 countries have banned the use of chrysotile and other forms of asbestos, but India is one of six countries that are opposing the inclusion of chrysotile on a list of hazardous chemicals. The list is updated annually at a meeting of the World Health Organization. Other countries opposing the listing of chrysotile include Canada and Russia, both of whom continue to mine asbestos.
India’s ship breaking industry is the hardest hit when it comes to asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. Dismantling old ships usually results in exposure to asbestos, which was widely used in shipbuilding until the late 1970s. Often, when the ships arrive in India, the asbestos is already damaged or it becomes damaged with improper removal. Damaged asbestos results in airborne fibers, which can be easily inhaled by shipyard workers.