Asbestos in India
A paper entitled: Present Status of Asbestos Mining and Related Health Problems in India - A Survey by AL. Ramanathan and V. Subramanian paints a horrific picture of the health repercussions for 100,000 Indians currently experiencing occupational exposure to asbestos in mining and processing facilities throughout the country. Data cited by the authors, whose work appeared in the Industrial Health Journal 2001, 39, 309-315, detail total monthly production figures of 1750 tonnes of tremolite and chrysotile at mines in Andra Pradesh, Rajastan, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Manipur. In addition to locally sourced fibre, imported asbestos is also widely used:
"In India raw material asbestos is received from Canada without any warning and India sends back the finished product to them along with the warning hazardous product. In India workers slice open the bags of Canadian asbestos with knives, then shaking the bags into troughs and mixing it with cement to make piping. Here the unprotected workers are completely covered in asbestos dust, where precautions are absolutely not in place."
While the use of asbestos is decreasing in the West, asbestos consumption almost doubled in Asia between 1970 and 1995. If the ubiquity of asbestos use and working conditions described in this paper are typical throughout the region, then the European mesothelioma epidemic1 identified by Peto et al in 1999, which is predicted to claim 250,000 lives from mesothelioma by 2034, will most certainly spread.
February 8, 2002
1 The European mesothelioma epidemic by J Peto, A Decarli, C La Vecchia, F Levia and E Negri, The British Journal of Cancer (1999) 79(3/4), 666-672