The muscle power of Asbestos industry was quite visible at a workshop organised by DGFASLI, Union Ministry of Labor on 17th March, 2006. During a session on "Hazards of Asbestos in Construction Industry"chaired by Dr. H.N. Saiyed, the then Director of National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahemdabad said “First of all let me thank DGFASLI, the organizer of the seminar for inviting me to the chair the technical session.Construction industry is a very important industry where a large number of people are employed and asbestos is one of the concern”. He requested the first speaker from the industry to give his speech on “Asbestos in Construction Industry”.
The first speaker was Dr. S.P. Vivek Chandra Rao, General Manager, Occ. Health and Environment, Hyderabad Industries Ltd gave the industry persp[ective saying that in India 90% of white (Chrysotile) fiber is used in the manufacture of asbestos cement product with the composition of 8 to 9% of fiber, 30% fly ash, 41% cement and 20% water. He said there is a growth in the cement products at the rate of 15 to 20% every year. In the conclusion, he said that the construction workers engaged in sawing, drilling and laying of asbestos cement sheets and following recommended work practices are exposed to asbestos cement dust and the concentration is less than 0.1 f/cc of air. At such levels, there should not be any chrysotile asbestos related disease in construction workers.
He didn't dwell on why most of the developed countries have banned all forms of asbestos including chrysotile asbestos. He did not reveal as to how many workers in the factories of Hyderabad are exposed to asbestos, how many are suffering the incurable diseases and how many have been compensated so far by his company.
The second paper at the workshop was on Health Hazards of Asbestos” wherein Dr. T.V. Ranga Rao, Director (Med.), Central Labour Institute (CLI), Mumbai said that the asbestos fibre could enter human body through inhalation and ingestion and the exposure to asbestos fibre could be occupational, para-occupational and non-occupational. After 20-40 years of exposure one may develop lung cancer, malignant mesothelieoma or gastro intestinal cancer. Concluding his presentation Dr. Rao mouthed the propaganda of the asbetsos industry saying that the asbestos was a known enemy and is to be used in controlled conditions.
It is noteworthy that Dr Rao had co-chaired along with Brig. V Pattabhi of the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association (ACPMA) a session two day International Conference on Chrysotile Asbestos Cement Products organised by Clemant Godbout, chairman of Asbestos International Association (AIA) during 10-11 November 2003 declaring on behalf of the participants that "We are the ambassadors of chrysotile fibre in our respective countries" The conference took place in Taj Palace, New Delhi.
Another advocate of asbestos industry's misinformation campaign, Dr. P.K. Sishodiya, Deputy Director of Mines Safety (OH), Occupational Health Division, DGMS, Ministry of Labour & Employment made a presentation on "Safety in Use, Handling and Disposal of Asbestos Products in Construction Industry”. He highlighted various types of products of asbestos used in construction industry such as asbestos cement sheets, asbestos cement pipes, asbestos tiles and other roofing material and prefab panels, boards and jointing. He pointed out that the common operations in use of asbestos products are stacking, sawing, drilling, cutting, grinding, filing, cleaning and nailing.
Dr Sisodiya added, "The possible health hazards because of these operations would be inhalation of fibres as significant amount of airborne asbestos fibre dust can be generated during any of the operations if proper precautions are not taken."
Clearly, he was talking about a utopian condition.As if precautions were not being taken by the developed countries that have banned it and Indian working conditions and occupational safety measures would ever be better than them.
While he explained the general precautions to be taken while using asbestos cement products like using mechanical handling when large quantities of product is to be handled, carefully placing products in stacks, during manual handling avoiding sliding the product against abrasive surface, avoiding dragging and dropping of the products, maintaining designated storage area clean and disposing of damaged and crushed products in appropriate manner but forgot to inform whether or not Europeans who have found "safe use of asbestos impossible"were taking these precautions.
As a general guidelines for tools he said for cutting, handsaw, nibblers and low speed circular cutters should be used. For drilling, hand drills or power drills with local exhaust can be employed and for sanding power operated sanders with local exhaust should be used and for cut outs hand saw, jig saw and low speed circular cutters should be used. Will asbetsos become safe then?
Dr Sisodiya said, as far as possible high powered tools should be avoided. He does not reveal as to what happens if it is not avoided.
He said it was obligatory for the manufacturers of asbestos products to put a mark on the product indicating that it contains asbestos to supply safety data sheet and provide information to the end user on proper use of asbestos product. He said the asbestos product with specific pictograms and warning phrases in common man’s language should be placed on asbestos products.
Is it done? Has Dr Sisodiya ever seen it in India?
Dr Sisodiya said that the operations should be carried out in well ventilated areas, the product should be damped before cutting or drilling, hand tools should be used which produces coarse and non-respirable dust, high powered tools and stationery cutting equipment must be fitted with local exhaust and dust generated should be properly disposal off.
Will it not become airborne and pose hazards for the communities living in the proximity? Isn't community health a consideration? He seems to have forgotten about it.
On the matter of asbestos waste handling and its disposal, Dr Sisodiya said that the waste should be handled in such a manner that it does not pose a health risk and waste containing high density products should be disposed off in land fills and covered with soil. The disposal sites should be identified and should have vehicular access. The waste should be deposited at the bottom of the land fill. All wastes, except high density waste should be covered with 250 mm of soil. The final covering of the soil should be atleast 2 meters. Wet waste should also be covered with soil. The asbestos disposal site should be clearly marked and public access should be minimum. The high density waste can be disposed off as normal waste but the final covering should be 2 meters of soil.
Will Dr. Sishodiya reveal the disposal sites for asbestos wastes in India and the places where mythical safe handling of end of life asbestos products is done?
There were no presentations from any representative of trade unions, labour, consumer, human rights and environmental groups else the wisdom of the asbestos companies and their mouthpieces within the government would have faced uncomfortable questions about the global movement against the killer fibers of asbetsos.
Does DGFASLI or the asbestos comapnies have the data on asbestos victims in India? They have found a way out. Do not compile the data else the companies will go bankrupt paying compensation to the victims?
Absence of data does not mean absence of disease.
The estimates suggest that every day 30 people are dying because of asbestos diseases with none of the 300 medical colleges in India having the competence to even diagnose the disease.
Hasn't India's Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association (ACPMA)
Misinformation campaign and misleading advertisements of ACPMA which was formed in 1985 as an NGO cannot hide the truth about the incurable disease caused by the killer fiber it promotes. ACPMA is affiliated to International Chrysotile Association, (ICA), USA. ICA is an international body formed by various country Associations and has a membership of 23 countries prominent being Canada, Brazil, China, Russia, Mexico amongst others. Notably, an epidemic of asbestos-caused diseases in the United States is engulfing the life of one out of every 125 American men who die over the age of 50. Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007 has been approved by the US Senate.
ACPMA currently has 15 Members having 51 manufacturing units located in various States claiming to have a gross annual turnover of approx Rs.4500/- crores. ACPMA's naked lust for profit over people's health makes it a satan whose sole objective is to aid, stimulate and advise promotion of Chrysotile Asbestos Cement Products (Sheets and Pipes) in India unmindful of the disastrous health consequences of the present and future generations.