Accusing Canada of ignoring the carcinogenic nature of asbestos that is causing the deaths of workers and consumers especially in developing nations, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) has appealed to Canadian prime minister to put a ban on the export of its asbestos to India. BANI is part of a global anti-toxic activists coalition, and is fighting to ensure asbestos free ship-breaking.
Stating that more than fifty countries have already banned the use and import of white asbestos, the organization said in a statement, " It is unbecoming of Canada to defend the asbestos industry unmindful of the fact that over 90% of Canada's asbestos goes to developing countries like India, where worker protections and enviro-occupational health infrastructure are weak or non-existent. The silence of Canadian government in the face of workers and consumers who are sick and dying from asbestos-caused cancer is deafening."
The organization cited The STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS of The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced in the Rajya Sabha which reads: The white asbestos is highly carcinogenic even the World Health Organisation has reported that it causes cancer. But in our country, it is imported without any restriction. Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported almost 95 percent of the white asbestos it mined and out of it 43 percent was shipped to India. It is quite surprising that our country is openly importing huge quantity of a product, which causes cancer. This is despite the fact that safer and almost cheap alternatives to asbestos are available in the country. There is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative material."
Besides, the statement said that the Kerala State Human Rights Commission too has pointed out that exposing workers and consumers to asbestos fibers of all kinds including chrysotile constitutes violation of human rights.
In an appeal to the visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the activists' group has said that the he should immediately act to ban the asbestos mines in Quebec, the province where chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) is mined in Canada.
BANI said there was incontrovertible evidence that creates a compelling logic for making India asbestos free. The asbestos exporting countries in liaison with the Indian asbestos industry in collusion with government has unleashed a misinformation campaign about the mythical safe and controlled use of asbestos products, unmindful of the fact that so far some 50 countries have banned all forms of asbestos, and are already using alternative materials.
Almost every international health agency of repute including the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization and International Agency for Research on Cancer agree that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Most recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reconfirmed that all commercial asbestos fibers - including chrysotile, the most commercially used form of asbestos - cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. In addition, the IARC found sufficient evidence to prove that asbestos causes ovarian cancer and laryngeal cancer.