Govt urged to take lesson from S Africa and ban asbestos

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New Delhi, Mar 29 (UNI) Pointing out that South Africa has joined some 50 countries in banning the use of asbestos, the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) today urged the government to follow suit.

The African country was the fifth largest supplier of chrysotile asbestos.

The NGO said it was sad that India was one of the largest consumers of chrysotile asbestos. A february 2008 Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) survey that tracks and records the performance of the manufacturing sector, rated asbestos cement in the high growth category among others.

''What is not being recorded is the high growth rate of asbestos victims in the country. This is being done in a studied manner as a classic case of Ostrich policy under the influence of Russia and Canadia amid reports of 10, 000 asbestos deaths per year in US and asbestos related disease epidemic in Europe,'' BANI said here.

The role of South African government in safeguarding the health of its citizens was commendable, but in contrast, India was quite noteworthy, it added.

The regulations to ban use of asbestos in that country were put into effect from yesterday. They form part of the South African Environment Conservation Act 1989.

BANI pointed out that in its 95th Session of the International Labour Conference on 14th June 2006, International Labour Organtisation adopted a resolution for the elimination of all forms of asbestos from future use as it was the only way forward for protecting workers.

The resolution said,''all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are classified as known 'carcinogens' by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a classification restated by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (a joint Programme of the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme)".

BANI said out of several million workers exposed to asbestos in India, less than 30 had been compensated so far. The reasons for such a small number were: refusal by management sponsored studies to grant medical certifications to workers suffering from occupational diseases, lack of training for doctors in diagnosis of occupational lung diseases, deliberate misdiagnosis by doctors of asbestosis as either chronic bronchitis or tuberculosis.

The NGO appealed to the government to take lessons from the countries like South Africa and said it was high time for prohibition of asbestos consumption and a announced that national register of asbestos products and its victims would be maintained by them.

UNI NAZ JT RK1350

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