Indian asbestos workers want life

Published: Wednesday 15 December 2004

In view of the global and national evidence of the increasing death toll of asbestos workers, Indian trade unions, labour and environmental groups have demanded a boycott of all asbestos products and an immediate phase-out of white asbestos. The appeal was made at "The National Conference on Workers' Plight and White Asbestos Trade, held in New Delhi on November 8, 2004. India recently helped Russia and Canada block an effort under the Rotterdam Convention on hazardous chemicals to impose restrictions on white asbestos trade (see 'Yes to asbestos', Down To Earth, October 31, 2004).

All kinds of asbestos cause cancer and there is no cure for diseases caused by asbestos exposure. These may occur years after a person has stopped working in an asbestos factory or mine, said S K Dave, director, National Institute of Miners Health. Dave added that the country lacks the infrastructure to track affected workers and do cohort studies. Many patients would no longer be working. They will either be in hospitals or would have died. Almost 40 countries have already banned asbestos, pointed out H Mahadevan, general secretary, All India Trade Union Congress.

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