Asbestos in India
The situation in India
While over 40 countries have implemented the ban of asbestos, in India, the use of this product in increasing at a yearly rate of 9% (Castleman & Joshi, 2007). According to research, of the 125, 000 million metric tons of asbestos used in India, 100,000 million tons are imported, while the remaining 25,000 is mined in the country (Joshi, 2002).
Perhaps the most alarming factor to come in conjunction with this growth is the inadequacy in handling this dangerous material. The average of airborne asbestos fibers has consistently been found to be higher than the limits prescribed (Castleman & Joshi, 2007) and occupational health and safety efforts are scant across the country (Joshi, 2002). In fact Castleman and Joshi (2007) suggest that the problem spreads beyond un-involvement and lack of resources, and reports the formation of associations (ACPMA ??“ Absetos Cement Manufacturers Association) that propagate claims that asbestos usage is harmless, especially under controlled conditions.. This association is said to be collaborating with the Chyrsotile Institute in Montreal (Castleman & Joshi, 2007).
Even the Supreme Court of India showed itself to be ineffective in helping asbestos workers??™ situation: 10 years after the case was brought to court, ???less than 30 had been compensated for occupational disease from asbestos, out of an estimated workforce of 100,000 people exposed to asbestos in India??? (Murlidhar & Kanhere, 2005). Other Indian political representatives such as the Minister for Environment and Forests have also encouraged the industry by saying that since ???no scientific study establishing that the use of white asbestos causing lung cancer is available, it is not considered as desirable to ban the use of white asbestos??? (Castleman & Joshi, 2007).
One study by Ramanathan and Subramanian (2001) has found that those most affected by asbestos are women who work in the milling and processing plants, and not men, who are mostly employed in the mines. Other workers dramatically impacted by asbestos are those who are responsible for slicing open, the bags imported from Canada, and then shaking the contents out and mixing them to make piping (Dogra & Donaldson, 1995). These workers who do not wear protective equipment (Down to earth, 2000) are then covered in asbestos dust (Ramanathan & Subramanian, 2001). To make matters worse, these imported bags lack any warning specification, though the finished product is sent back with the labeled notification of hazardous materials (Ramanathan & Subramanian, 2001).
All in all, the situation in India appears to be fairly bleak with few measures being taken to improve the situation, while to the contrary, the industry appears to be growing. Castleman and Joshi (2007) advocate: ???the toll in human suffering is increased where the responsible parties escape, with impunity, liability for the tragic human consequences of their actions, as is the case in the countries where there are still thriving asbestos industries???.
Castleman B.I., Joshi T.K. (2007). The global asbestos struggle today. European Journal of Oncology, 12, 149-154.
Dogra S., Donaldson K. (1995). Effect of long and short fiber amosite asbestos on in Vitro TNF production by rat alveolar macrophages: The modifying effect of lipopolysaccharide. Industrial Health 33, 131-41.
Down to earth (DTE). (2000) Death inside the factory (asbestos) gate. Scientific magazine ed. By Agarwal A., 38-42, Center for science and environment, New Delhi.
Joshi T.K. (2002). Precautionary principle and need to ban all forms of asbestos use in India. Indian J Occup Environ Med.; 6:102??“4
Murlidhar V., Kanhere V. (2005). Asbestosis in an asbestos composite mill at Mumbai: a prevalence study. Environmental Health 4(24).
Ramanathan A.L., Subramanian V. (2001). Present status of asbestos mining and related health problems in India??”a survey. Industrial Health, 39, 309??“315.