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No building or vehicle in India 'is free of' carcinogenic asbestos mineral fibres

By Gopal Krishna* 

Banned in 70 nations, India continues to import and export asbestos. A discredited conflict of interest-ridden study, co-funded by white chrysotile asbestos companies, and undertaken by National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, states that India imported asbestos to the tune of 3,61,164 tonnes in 2019-20. It was 3,64,105 tonnes in the previous year.
The statement "Almost entire import was that of chrysotile asbestos", made in the Indian Minerals Year Book 2020 published in November 2021, reveals that India is importing small amount of non-chrysotile asbestos as well. The imports of chrysotile asbestos were mainly from Russia (85%), Brazil, Kazakhstan and Hungary (3% each), and Poland and South Africa (2% each).
A total of 25,009 tonnes asbestos-cement products were also imported in 2019-20 as against 29,358 tonnes in the previous year. These imports were mainly from Thailand (93%) and Indonesia (4%). Besides above, asbestos-fibre of 3,60,839 tonnes was imported during the year 2019-20 as compared to 3,63,902 tonnes in the previous year.
The data reveals that despite the Brazilian Supreme Court's landmark verdict declaring use of asbestos to be unconstitutional, it is exporting it to India not realising that human biology is same everywhere -- what is poisonous for Brazilians and some 70 countries cannot be non-poisonous for Indians. It also brings to light the fact although South Africa, Hungry and Poland have banned asbestos, they continue to export it to India.
The imports of asbestos fibre products were 3,580 tonnes during the year 2019-20 as compared to 4,425 tonnes in the previous year. The imports of asbestos fibre products were mainly from China (31%), Japan (23%) and Denmark (12%).
The 2020 report points out that, in addition to asbestos minerals, an unknown quantity of asbestos is traded within manufactured products, possibly including brake linings and pads, building materials, gaskets, millboard, yarn and thread.
Meanwhile, exports of asbestos decreased substantially to 1,001 tonnes in 2019-20 as compared to 1,112 tonnes in the previous year. The exports were mainly to Bangladesh (92%) and Sri Lanka 7%. The exports of asbestos (fibre products) were at 43,310 tonnes in 2019-20 as compared to 41,677 tonnes in the previous year. The exports were mainly to USA (24%), UAE (7%), Egypt (6%) and Nepal, Canada, Sri Lanka and Kenya (3% each).
India has banned trade in asbestos dust and fibres and its use in ships, but it continues to trade raw asbestos and asbestos-based products
The exports of asbestos (chrysotile) were at 997 tonnes during the year 2019-20 as compared to 1090 tonnes in the preceding year. The exports of asbestos (others) decreased to 5 tonnes during the year 2019-20 as compared to 22 tonnes in the preceding year. These exports were solely to Nepal.
The exports of asbestos-cement products were 91,100 tonnes in 2019-20 as compared to 67,352 tonnes in the preceding year. The exports of asbestos-cement products were mainly to UAE (36%), Nepal (26%) and Qatar (11%). These countries ought to act to protect the health of their present and future citizens. It is clear that despite banning asbestos, Canada and Nepal continue to import asbestos and asbestos based products.
Some 70 countries have banned all kinds of asbestos including white chrysotile asbestos. The World Health Organisation has recommended elimination of all kinds of asbestos and asbestos based products. India has banned mining of all kinds of asbestos because of it is harmful impact on human health.
It has been established that safe and controlled use of asbestos is impossible. India has banned trade in asbestos waste (dust and fibers) and its use in ships, but it continues to trade raw asbestos and asbestos-based products. India continues to manufacture and use asbestos based products.
Asbestos producers like Russia appear to have overwhelmed India's Ministries of Commerce & Industry and Chemicals. As a consequence no building or vehicle in India is free of carcinogenic asbestos mineral fibers. Evidently, Union and State governments have failed to resist the influence of asbestos traders and merchants to protect the health of present and future citizens.
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*Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Source: BANI

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