Asbestos, the cause for mesothelioma and lung cancer, even though known for its toxic nature, is not banned in many countries of the world. The WHO estimates that 107,000 workers around the world will die every year of an asbestos-related disease. At the same time, asbestos in India continues to be called the ‘poor man’s material’.
At Rotterdam Convention Meet in Geneva, India shocked everyone by blocking the listing of asbestos in the Prior Informed Consent list (PIC). It was rumoured that this decision was influenced by the mafias of asbestos in India. The other countries to decide the same were Russia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Cuba.
India uses white asbestos on a large scale in the industry of steel sheets and pipes. It is often used in roofing structures by the poor in India because of its cheap rates, and hence is called ‘poor man’s material’.
There have been protests against the governments of Canada and Quebec to stop asbestos mining in Quebec but the Canadian government itself has voted against the listing asbestos in PIC. While India recognizes asbestos for the health risks and has banned asbestos mining, the substance is in trade and at quite a low price.
The video below shows workers in India working with asbestos without any protection and are in the fatal health hazard as a result of asbestos exposure.
There’s been research done on it and India’s Asbestos Time Bomb , a study published by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). Edited by David Allen and Laurie Kazan-Allen, the book reports the asbestos industry in India, implicitly comparing it to “a time bomb that is slowly ticking away”.
The Indian asbestos cement industry is booming with an annual gross of around Rs 2,000 crore. While there have been protests against this industry and consequently the use of asbestos, no nation-wide movement has been reported.
While the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) works for an Asbestos Free India since 2002, the organisation has seen little in the way of success. Indians die of cancer, but a few make the effort to search for it’s cause, and asbestos is a prevalent one.