Monday, May 01, 2017

Gujarat tops India with 49 percent use in hazardous asbestos, causing occupational disease, cancer: Report

Asbestos textile cuttings in a Vadodara shop
By Our Representative
A new report “National Asbestos Profile: India”, prepared by Vadodara-based civil rights organization, People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), has found that Gujarat accounts for 49% of all industries of India where asbestos, considered one of the most hazardous commodities, is used, followed by neighbouring Maharashtra (18%).
Prepared for the Occupational and Environmental Health Network India, the report quotes a study conducted in a cement factory in Gujarat to say that 6.5% of examined workers had asbestosis, the fatal occupational health disease caused by asbestos, while another 32% of workers were “suspected” to have asbestosis.
The report further quotes a study, “Asbestos-related Diseases in India”, carried out by Dr Sudhakar Kamat, to say that out of chest radiographs taken from workers of different asbestos-cement plants and asbestos mines, examined by Dr Sudhakar Kamat, 44% were found to have asbestosis in Gujarat.
An all-India study, it also found that 22% of the workers examined in Tamil Nadu, and 77% of those examined in Rajasthan had asbestosis, says the report.
The report quotes a right to information (RTI) plea filed by Raghunath Manwar, a worker who suffered from the disease, to say that “across three thermal power plant stations in Gujarat, 17 out of 19 workers diagnosed with asbestosis worked in the cleaning cell” of power plants, while “the remaining two worked in the coal plant and fly-ash sections.”
“On and average workers with asbestos suffered from 41% to 50% disability”, the report reveals, adding, “Out of the 19 asbestosis patients identified, seven were women, from the Gandhinagar Gujarat Electricity Board power station.”
Giving more details on Gujarat, the report states, “In the ship-breaking yards of Alang, a study by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) found, in a sample of 98 workers, 16% were diagnosed with asbestosis”, though regretting, “activists sought more details on the study but NIOH refused to reveal details.”
Pointing out that mesothelioma, a cancer of the protective tissue lining the lungs and abdominal cavity, is caused because of asbestos exposure, the report says, though the disease “is considered to be rare” and is in existence in 21 cases during 2009-2012 by the Gujarat Cancer Research Institute, Ahmedabad, and in 23 cases in 2013.
The report says, a conference in the US was told that there was “30% prevalence rate of mesothelioma in northern Gujarat and 32.75% prevalence in southern Rajasthan” because of asbestos exposure, though in “other parts of Gujarat, the prevalence rate was much lower, at around 9%.”
“In March 2017”, the report says, “three mesothelioma victims were diagnosed by the state-run Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Hospital in Ahmedabad.” While one of them had “secondary exposure” in cement factory, the second one was employed by a foundry in the same factory, and the third one “suffer from tongue and larynx cancer.”
Pointing towards how commonly asbestos is used in Gujarat, the report provides the photograph of asbestos textile cuttings in a mezzanine floor constructed in a shop, which "manufactures and sells" asbestos gloves and other safety equipment, right in the heart of the Gujarati city of Vadodara.

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