New Delhi, Feb 5 : Labour unions and NGOs have demanded a ban on the use of "toxic" asbestos in the country.
As many as 13 labour unions and NGOs released a report - "A Fox in the Hen House: Made-to-order Science and India's asbestos policy," alleging nexus between the government and the industry.
Addressing a news conference here today, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) General Secretary P K Ganguly, said "When there are alternatives to asbestos, it should be banned."
"The World Health Organisation has got the reports. The reports say that all sorts of asbestos, including the white type called Chrysotile asbestos is one of the most toxic and widely used in India and some other developing countries," said Ganguly.
Environment watchdogs have long been up in arms against the use of asbestos in the country, considering that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, have been classified as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Alarmed that an estimated 100,000 workers die every year due to the diseases caused because of exposure to asbestos, environmental groups demanded that a complete ban be placed on the use of asbestos in India.
More than 40 countries have banned the use of chrysotile asbestos in any form, owing to the occupational health hazards.
India and six other countries alone are opposing the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the list of hazardous chemicals. Chrysotile accounts for 95 percent of asbestos usage worldwide.
India's ship breaking industry is the most vulnerable when it comes to asbestos exposure. The labourers, a majority working on daily wages, are often exposed to toxic wastes in the process of dismantling of ships.
As per the latest data released by the UN Statistics Division, India imported about 306,000 metric tones of asbestos in 2006, of which 152,820 metric tones was imported from Russia and 63,980 metric tones from Canada.