Thursday, January 27, 2011

Asbestos Cement Products: Truth held hostage


Fact – Dictionary defines fact as verified information about past or present circumstances or events which
are presented as objective reality.

In case of present usage of Asbestos, facts are often misrepresented and contorted to present a picture
far from reality. The differentiation of types of asbestos fibers is deliberately ignored by certain antiasbestos
groups. They omit to mention that White Asbestos, which is only used now, is completely safe
under controlled conditions.
The Asbestos Cement industry has always supported an extensive range of domestic and commercial
requirements of the society. Yet the industry has been under constant threat of several myths and
negative propaganda.

The awareness about asbestos are at a very low level and most people even do not know that there are different types of asbestos and risk potential differs by product and process. It occurs in a number of different forms and the risks posed by them vary considerably... from minimal to severe.

The Asbestos Cement industry, a Rs. 4,500 crore industry, generates employment for about 3 Lakh people
in India and contributes over 20 % of the turnover to the government’s exchequer by way of direct and
indirect taxes. Still the usage of asbestos (even white asbestos) has been made by certain groups of
vested interests as a contentious issue.

It is a misconception that asbestos is hazardous to health, whereas the fact is that today it is not the mixed varieties of asbestos, but it is only Chrysotile (White fibre) variety which is used as approved by national and international scientific authorities and governments. Only safe white fibre is used in India and the unsafe blue and brown fibres are banned.
Asbestos Cement products are eco friendly and contain only 8% of white asbestos while the rest consists of
Fly ash (30%), cement (40%), water (20%) and pulp (2%). Chrysotile is a natural mineral without any known hazards under controlled usages in Asbestos Cement manufacturing process.
Various organizations are working on a negative propaganda against asbestos and are being funded by
multinationals from European Union who want to promote their substitute products in the Indian market.
These organizations get active support from steel sheet and pipe manufacturers’ lobby in India which
commercially benefits by the increased sale and market share of metal roofing sheets and metal pipes, if
manufacture of Asbestos Cement Sheets and Asbestos Cement Pipes is discontinued in India.

The campaigns by these organizations are not based on any scientific evidence in India or elsewhere, and are
totally dictated by vested commercial interests. The Activists try to create hysteria by quoting data and
experience of past Asbestos usage notably in the European Union, which has no relevance at all in Indian
usage.
International and national anti-asbestos bodies allege that asbestos is a dangerous substance and can
cause lung cancer. However, there has not been any case of death or lung cancer in asbestos cement
plant in India. One of the studies conducted in 2004-05 by Central Labour Institutes of the Ministry of
Labour, Govt of India, has not found any asbestos-related diseases in 8 factories. Nor is there any
evidence to show that people who lived under the asbestos cement roofing - even for decades - have had
any adverse health effects.
The various inspections and studies of the government agencies from time to time and the health records
of employees, including the retired employees has been the testimony to the claim that manufacture and
use of asbestos cement products are not a health hazard to the employees or the users. All the production
facilities are fully automated where the workers have no direct exposure to asbestos fibre.

Workers have no chance of inhaling the fibre as the fibres are bound to cement, besides, workers are provided with all kinds of precautions like masks, in addition to proper environment engineering controls.
When it comes to products asbestos cement such as corrugated roofing sheets, pipes, etc. the asbestos
fibers are bonded with cement and have no chance of getting airborne and polluting the environment.
It can thus be concluded that Chrysotile asbestos is just as safe, if not safer, than the replacement
products. There is no proof to the contrary, from either a scientific or a medical point of view. Chrysotile
makes it possible to offer families roofs that are well built, safe, and affordable and that will not go up in
smoke or be perforated by rust after a few years.

Asbestos sheets provide a safe, heat protective, leastnoisy roof to millions of poor people, farmers and their poultry and cattle. These are cost effective, durable and energy efficient. AC products serve the developing countries by providing durable and low cost house roofings and water pipe systems.

Myths FactsAsbestos cement is a dangerous material
Asbestos cement is completely safe. It is not corrosive, reactive, ignitable or toxic

Inhalation of even one fibre of asbestos is harmfulThousands of asbestos fibres, invisible, are inhaled by us everyday from natural
resources, and cleared off by natural clearance mechanisms without any harm

People sleeping underasbestos cement roofs will get lung diseasesAsbestos Cement sheets have been extensively used by Indian Railways for over 60
years to provide safe and ideal form of roofing to thousands of Railway Platforms
across the country. It is noteworthy that AC Sheets have withstood the test of time
with no reported risk/ casualty to the Indian traveler.

It is not safe to use asbestos cement water pipesIt’s absolutely not harmful to use them. Even WHO has approved the usage of AC pipes
for drinking water. Even USA uses AC pipes for drinking water transportation.

Weathering of asbestos cement products is a risk for public and the environmentAsbestos cement sheets do not decay or rot because of the inherent properties of
asbestos fibre and cement. These do not crumble due to continued exposure to the
elements or due to age. There is no evidence that people living under asbestoscement
roof, or the general public living around asbestos-cement roofed buildings or
factories producing asbestos cement products have been specifically affected in any
manner

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