Over 300 scientists and health defenders from 36 countries condemn dangerous misinformation being disseminated in India by asbestos industry organisations
In a letter released today, over 200 scientists and over 100 labour and health organizations from 36 countries strongly condemned efforts by asbestos industry organisations to promote use of chrysotile asbestos in India. The letter, sent to Health Minister Sh Gulam Nabi Azad, Labour Minister Sh Sis Ram Ola and Environment Minister Ms Jayanthi Natarajan, noted that the asbestos industry is on a mission to enhance its profits and urged the National Government of India to put the health of the Indian population ahead of the vested interests of the asbestos industry.
“The International Chrysotile Association and the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association of India (ACPMA) are disseminating deadly, deceptive misinformation about chrysotile asbestos, that will cause suffering and loss of life for years to come,” said Dr. Joseph LaDou, Emeritus Chair, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of California School of Medicine, USA.
“These organisations claim that scientific research shows that chrysotile asbestos can be safely used,” said Professor Luiz Augusto Facchini, Department of Social Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Brazil. “This claim is utterly false. The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Health Organization, as well as numerous other scientific organisations, have all called for an end to the use of chrysotile asbestos in order to prevent further tragic epidemics of asbestos-related diseases.”
“While a handful of scientists financed by and allied to the asbestos industry, deny the health risks of chrysotile asbestos and promote its continued used, not a single reputable scientific body in the world supports this position,” said Dr. Fernand Turcotte, Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Laval University, Québec, Canada.
In the face of the public health disaster caused by asbestos, 54 countries have banned any use of asbestos. The asbestos industry, in order to ensure its continued profits, is aggressively targeting Asian countries for sales. Just six Asian countries – China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Sri Lanka – now represent 70% of world asbestos consumption.
India imports more asbestos than any other country in the world, with imports having risen from 253,382 tons in 2006 to 473,240 tons in 2012, an increase of 186%. “These vast amounts of asbestos, being placed in homes and schools across India, are a deadly time bomb that will go on causing suffering and deaths for decades to come,” said Dr V. Murlidhar, Pneumoconiosis compensation board, TN Trust, UK and Trauma surgeon, Mumbai, India.
As a result of increased use of asbestos in Asia, asbestos experts, Dr. G.V. Le and Dr. K. Takahashi have warned: “A surge of Asbestos Related Disorders (ARD) in Asia should be anticipated in the coming decades. Asian countries should not only cease asbestos use but also prepare themselves for an impending epidemic of ARD.”
One of the ‘eminent’ speakers at the forthcoming industry conference, Dr David Bernstein was found by a New York court early this year to have committed potential crime-fraud by billing per hour to publish papers in the scientific literature that were financed and controlled by an asbestos products company.
The independence of a 2012 study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health titled ‘Health hazards/ environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of asbestos in the country’ commissioned by the Ministry of Chemicals and Petrochemicals was tarnished by the participation of the asbestos industry behind the scenes.
Commenting on the study, Dr Arthur Frank, Professor of Public Health, Drexel University, USA stated: “There are so many things wrong with this study it is hard to know where to begin. Perhaps the single most damning statement in the whole document is to be found on page 106 - All workers were using personal protective equipment device such as a piece of cloth as mask. Who could possibly believe that a piece of cloth acts as a piece of protective equipment for microscopic Asbestos dust?”
“It shows cynical indifference on the part of the asbestos industry that they are holding their event to promote a toxic product on the anniversary of the Bhopal tragedy,” said Pralhad Malvadkar, Occupational Health and Safety Centre, Mumbai. “The millions of tons of asbestos that are being placed in homes and schools in India will create thousands of innocent victims, while this irresponsible industry reaps the profits. A slow motion Bhopal is being created. It may be reliably predicted that the toll of death and disease from asbestos in India will be at least 10 to 100 times as great as that from the disaster in Bhopal. The corporate mentality that is the cause is the same in both cases”.
We call on the three government ministers to reject the discredited propaganda of a tainted, irresponsible industry and instead show leadership that respects reputable science and protection of health.
We call on the national government to adopt an enlightened policy and to support the WHO’s recommendation to end all use of asbestos in India.
In true Board of Investment (BOI) style, an asbestos sheet manufacturing company in Ekala, Ja-Ela has been allowed to bypass the pre-conditions laid down by the BOI in the investment approval and to commence its production without any restriction. Rhino Products Limited of No. 111, Maithri Mawatha, Ekala, Ja Ela, a subsidiary of Rhino Roofing Products of No. 30, Minuwangoda Road, Ekala, Ja Ela entered into an agreement with the BOI on May 29, 2008 to manufacture asbestos roofing sheets for the local market. As per the investment approval, all statutory requirements/ regulations stipulated under relevant legal enactments including the Factories Ordinance, and the National Environmental Act should be adhered to when improvements are made to the selected site and also during the operational period of the project. The investment approval further states that the site approval is valid only for the specific project referred to and all conditions stipulated in the BOI approval letter under reference should be complied with. It further states that an Environmental Protection Licence (EPL) should be obtained from the BOI prior to commencement of operations at the site. A completed application form should be submitted to the Director Environment Management of the BOI one month prior to commencement of trial operations.
Occupational and Environmental health and justice and workers’ rights groups from Asia, Europe and North America today issued a joint statement condemning TCO Development – the Swedish certification organization – for awarding its first “Sustainability Certification” to Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Smartphone, in spite of the fact that Samsung has been severely criticized in South Korea and elsewhere for its dismal occupational safety and health record. More than 180 young Samsung workers have developed occupational diseases such as cancer and 70 of them have already died after having been exposed to hazardous chemicals on the job. In addition, a recent leakage of hydrogen fluoride in a Samsung semiconductor factory in Hwaseong killed another worker.
Labor rights advocates questioned today May 23 the glaring “collusion” of employers and the police against striking workers in Quezon City. The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights condemned the Quezon City police and the Pentagon Steel Corporation management whom they said evidently worked in cahoots with each other to demolish the picket of more than a hundred workers in Apolonio Samson village, Kaingin Road, Quezon City.
Only hours after international brands signed onto the Bangladesh Building and Fire Safety Agreement, a building collapse at Asics supplier, Wing Star Shoes Co. Ltd has claimed the lives of at least 3 Cambodian garmentworkers, injured at least 10 and left many more unaccounted for.
The Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) would like to send its utmost condolences to the families of deceased workers at Wing Star Shoes Co. Ltd and condemn the absolute lack of responsibility that now typifiesthe Asian garment industry.
According to shipping data, Asics has received 148,641 lbs of product from Wing Star Shoes Co. Ltd since October of last year. Asics claim they "respect the fundamental human rights of all persons in all of [their] corporateactivities," yet workers at Wing Star Shoes Co. Ltd were not guaranteed their most fundamental right of all – their right to life.
We bring to the attention of Asics, the Garment Manufacturers’ Association of Cambodia and the Royal Cambodian government that you are obliged to act immediately.
We demand that Asics take responsibility for their failure to ensure the safety workers within their supply chain; to immediately send a representative to Cambodia and ensure medical treatment and compensation for the victims; and to ensure the safety of the remaining workers in this factory and others.
We demand that the Garment Manufacturers’ Association of Cambodia and the Royal Cambodian government conduct a full and transparent investigation into this incident and ensure occupational health and safety within all Cambodian garment factories.
International brands now make comparisons between the region's garment industries based upon the amount of lives lost therein. This is absolutely unconscionable and will not be tolerated. We demand immediate action.
'Events of the last eight months have clearly demonstrated a complete failure of the CSR [corporate social responsibility] and hollowness of the 'self-regulatory' standards and industry audits that manufactures and brands have been adopting,' said ANROEV in a statement issued as the group gathered for its 13th annual meeting. 'ANROEV members also express their deep outrage at the colossal loss of life, which is now unprecedented by any scale. Fire and structural safety of the buildings is the basic right that workers in Asia rightfully deserve,' said ANROEV in its statement. 'Enough is enough. Stop these murders at workplaces in Asia.'
On the heels of Bangladesh’s worst industrial disaster to date—a building collapse that has claimed the lives of more than 380 workers—survivors of last year’s Tazreen fire in Bangladesh, other workers injured on the job and safety rights activists will hold a press conference on May 10 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Kader factory fire in Thailand, which killed 188 workers, most of them young women. Speakers will reflect on the 1993 tragedy and the dismal state of occupational health and safety in Asia two decades later. The Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) will present a new legal resource handbook for practitioners working to obtain compensation and justice for sick and injured workers.
The Seoul administrative court ordered KCOMWEL, the quasi-government entity responsible for workers compensation, on October 18 to withdraw its earlier decision and to pay industrial-accident payouts to the bereaved family of a former Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd employee who died in 2009 of leukemia. --- Posthumous Victory The ruling is a posthumous victory for Kim Kyung-mi, who had waged a long fight until her death four years ago. Kim began work as a wafer etcher at the Giheung plant of Samsung in 1999, after graduating high school. Until 2004 when she got married, Kim has worked at the same plant where Hwang Yu-mi, the first publicly known victim of Samsung’s blood disorder cluster, developed leukemia. ---Marriage, Miscarriage, And Acute Leukemia In 2005, she had a miscarriage—probably the first sign of physical anomalies because there was no family history of miscarriage. After a regimen of fertility medications and treatment, in 2007, Kim gave birth to a child. However, in 2008, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia after she suffered bruise-like rashes on her body. The following year, she died, aged 29, after failed marrow transplants.
At least 10 garment workers including some of the factory’s officials were killed and many injured by a devastating fire at a garment factory in Sreepur upazila, Gazipur on the outskirts of Dhaka, on Tuesday.
The fire originated in the dyeing section of Aswad Composite Mills owned by the Palmal Group.
The cause of the blaze is yet to be ascertained. However, eyewitnesses said, the flame spread to a nearby chemical store on the first floor and in no time engulfed the two floors.
Firemen recovered seven bodies from the ground floor and two from the second floor of the two-storey factory. Police said most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.
At least 170 workers were on duty on the two floors when the fire broke out.
One man turns his grief for his daughter's death into a protest against a corporation, linking the tragedy to her work.
Mr Hwang, a South Korean taxi driver, has been protesting against the government and a giant multinational corporation for more than five years, to find out why his daughter died of a rare form of leukaemia at the age of 23.
There was no family history of the disease and Mr Hwang believes that his daughter died because she was exposed to deadly toxic chemicals at the semiconductor factory where she worked for nearly 2 years.
The film follows a very emotional journey of a grieving father, who is dealing with the loss of his daughter, and is determined to find out why his daughter died.
Two Indonesian workers were crushed to death when a slab of wet cement floor collapsed on them at a supermarket construction site at Taman Gaya, Ulu Tiram here. Known only as Asmawi, 27, and Aripen, 24, they were working on a cracked cemented floor at about 3.30pm on Saturday when tragedy struck. Johor Baru South OCPD Asst Comm Zainuddin Yaacob said the site supervisor had instructed the two workers to repair a cracked beam on the first floor of the building. “While repairing the crack, the wet concrete ceiling above the beam collapsed on top of them,” he said, adding that they died at the scene of the incident.
Asia Monitor Resource Centre is appalled at the death of the Chinese workers in the poultry farm of Jilin, China. By now more than 122 workers have died and many more injured. This is by now the worst industrial fire in China with death toll surpassing the Zhili fire in Shenzen that killed 88 young workers almost two decades ago. It is ironic when we are observing the 20th anniversary year of Zhili fire and thought the locked fire exits were a thing of the past in China - reality evades all logic. Doors continue to be locked making workplaces death traps. It seems there are no lessons learnt from the past and workers continue to be treated with no dignity. With the recent happenings in Pakistan and Bangladesh, many have expressed China that evolved at least in terms of fire safety, yet the Jilin fire shows problems in enforcement. At this moment AMRC expresses its solidarity with the victims and their families and urges the government to provide immediate relief and justice to the injured and dead workers and their families.