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    Occupational hazards took 186 deaths in Gujarat in 2016: Corporate giants blamed for not protecting workers

    May 2, 2017

    April 28, 2017: A new estimate, arrived at by a Vadodara-based civil rights organization working on occupational health issues in Gujarat, has estimated that as many as 186 persons have died in 2016 alone in the state because of various occupational hazard diseases. Sourced on vernacular media of South Gujarat, the organization, People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), believes that the actual numbers should be “much higher”, as the news items published in the dailies are “based on police complaints.”

    In a profile of the deaths, PTRC has found that big industries and industrial estates in Gujarat’s chemical hubs account for many of them. The incidents profiled include 1 3 deaths which took place in units runs by top industrial houses — Adani, Nirma and Reliance.

    Thus, on April 28, 2016, seven workers died in the Adani-owned power plant in Mundra, Kutch district, died as a result of explosion in the pipeline leading to the flash tank steam because of obstruction caused by an iron part. It led to hot water at 144 degrees falling on workers, all of whom were migrants from Jharkhand.
    Then, four workers in Nirma’s plant on December 10, 2016 near Bhavnagar died because of a blast next to the tank, under which they were working. And two workers died on November 25, 2016, at Jamnagar’s Reliance Industries Ltd during maintenance shutdown. Other spots where incidents took place are Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Surat, and Himatnagar.

    Bringing this to light on April 28, the International Workers Memorial Day, Jagdish Patel of PTRC, who addressed mediapersons in Ahmedabad, said, “We mourn for the workers who have die during the year in accidents at work as well as occupational diseases, even as pledging to fight for the rights  of those who are have survived.”
    Patel said, “The rate of fatal accidents at work in India is 12.35 per 100,000, while rate of fatal accidents at work in India is 15.38 per 100,000 workers, considering 13 lakh workers and average 200 fatally per year.”
    He added, Considering that in 2013 and 2014, as many as 229 and 259 workers, respectively, died in Gujarat, the rate would still go up. Surat alone reported 35 and 48 fatalities in years 2013 and 2014 respectively. These are highest among all other districts of Gujarat.”
    Especially referring to the occupational hazard caused by asbestos against the backdrop of the Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention, Geneva, Switzerland from April 24 to May 5, 2017, Patel said, India is opposing ban on the commodity, which it imports.
    Patel said, “Asbestos related diseases are on the not just across India butt also in Gujarat. In Ahmedabad during 2009-2012, 21 cases of mesothelioma were reported at Gujarat Cancer Research Institute, Ahmedabad, while in 2013, in a span of one year, 23 cases of mesothelioma were diagnosed.” He added, “Mesothelioma is one of the rare cancers caused by exposure to asbestos fibre. Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), an NGO based in Gujarat, has identified four cases of mesothelioma of which two were employed by an asbestos factory.”
    Banned in 55 countries, but not in India, Patel said, “Even Nepal banned asbestos in 2014, while Sri Lanka has declared to ban import of asbestos roof sheets from 2018.India does not mine asbestos. It depends on import from Russia, Kazakhstan and Brazil. Canada was the biggest exporter of asbestos to India but Canada too has banned asbestos export.”
    “India is one of world’s largest importers of asbestos. In 2011-12, it has imported over 378,122 tons, 396,493 tons in 2014-15 and by 2017 it is expected to rise by 605,000 tons with 9% growth”, he said.
    “In a large number of cases”, regretted Patel, “Those die because of occupational diseases never care to register any complaint with the police. More often than not, such deaths are registered as having happened due to accidents” Quoting from a 2009 Government of India policy on occupational health, Patel said, “It is the responsibility of the employers to ensure safety and health of the workers who work in factory premises. However, this is seldom done.”
    He regretted, “National Human Rights Commission and Supreme Court recommendations for safety at work places have also not been implemented”, adding, “There is no effort to rehabilitate those who suffer because of occupational hazard.”

    ANROEV Statement for International Workers’ Memorial Day 2017

    April 28, 2017

    Let’s push the governments and relevant organizations for the collection of reliable OSH data for sustainable action

    International Workers’ Memorial Day takes place annually around the world on April 28 as a day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work.

    According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), across the world:

    • Each year, more than two million men and women die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases
    • Workers suffer approximately 270 million accidents each year, and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of work-related illnesses
    • Hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos claims 100,000 lives
    • One worker dies every 15 seconds worldwide. 6,000 workers die every day. More people die whilst at work than those fighting wars.

    However, the above-mentioned data are years old and not being updated on a regular basis due to challenges associated with occupational safety and health (OSH) data collection in many countries of the world particularly in the Asia and Pacific region.

    The ILO recognizes that the collection and utilization of reliable OSH data are indispensable for the detection of new hazards and emerging risks, the identification of hazardous sectors, the development of preventive measures, as well as the implementation of policies, systems and programmes at international, national and enterprise levels. OSH data provide the basis for setting priorities and measuring progress.

    Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) and its partner organization Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) published a report in 2012 titled “Invisible Victims of Development – Workers Health and Safety in Asia” to highlight the severity of the problem on the ground in Asia with a detailed report from 6 Asian countries: China, India, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.

    The absence of figures also highlights the invisibility of impacted workers and their families and most of the time even denial about their existence by governments in the region.

    Yet they exist on the ground — impacted due to hazardous conditions at work and denied justice in terms of compensation, rehabilitation and dignity forming the most marginalized and exploited section of society.

    Under the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and multiple ILO OSH conventions, recommendations and protocols, countries have committed to the collection and utilization of reliable OSH data. However, following are many of the recognized challenges associated with OSH data collection, which are organized into the following four categories: A) Coverage; B) Accuracy; C) Comparability; and D) Timeliness.

    On the International Workers’ Memorial Day 2017 let’s continue to push the governments and relevant organizations for the collection of reliable OSH data so that workers health and safety in the world particularly in Asia can no longer be invisible, therefore, can be properly taken care of to uphold the four basic workers’ rights on OSH:

    1. The right to refuse to do dangerous work;
    2. The right education and training;
    3. The right to information; and
    4. The right to representation and participation.

    Chrysotile asbestos—a call for action on this hazardous substance

    April 28, 2017

    By Kathleen Ruff

    April 27, 2017: Chrysotile asbestos comprises 95% of all asbestos sold during the past century and for the past 30 years has represented the totality of the global asbestos trade.[1]

    The scientific consensus is clear that all forms of asbestos are harmful and should be banned.[2, 3, 4, 5] In light of clear evidence linking asbestos to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for an end to any use of asbestos.[6, 7, 8]

    Studies linking inhalation of asbestos fibres to lung disease started to emerge as early as the 1930s. By the 1980s, as evidence of harms mounted, the asbestos industry faced extinction as its longtime customers in industrialized countries planned to ban or stop using asbestos. The industry created new markets in developing countries, claiming that chrysotile asbestos can be safely used,[9] and for the past 30 years, it’s been calculated that two million tons[10] of asbestos have been sold every year and placed in homes, schools, and buildings—mostly in Asia.

    The United Nations Rotterdam Convention regulates trade in hazardous substances. It requires exporting countries to obtain prior informed consent from any country to which they wish to ship a substance on the convention’s list of hazardous substances. Thus the convention empowers countries to protect their populations by refusing or setting conditions over the import of hazardous substances.

    Yet for over 10 years, a tiny number of countries have refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be put on the convention’s list, even though the convention’s expert scientific body has repeatedly recommended its listing, stating that chrysotile asbestos meets the convention’s criteria for listing.[11]

    At the convention’s conference in Geneva this week and next week (from 24 April to 5 May), the recommendation to list chrysotile asbestos will once again be put forward. The convention will also consider a proposal by a dozen African countries to amend the convention to allow a 3/4 majority vote to list a hazardous substance if consensus proves impossible.[12]

    The Rotterdam Convention was specifically created to address the double standard whereby hazardous chemicals and pesticides that are banned or severely restricted in industrialized countries are increasingly being shipped to developing countries, where there are few resources to manage them safely. Thus, as populations in the global North gain greater protection from harm from hazardous substances, populations in the global South are increasingly exposed to such harm. The Rotterdam Convention seeks to stop this injustice by providing the modest but critical right of prior informed consent.

    In 2011, Canada, then a major asbestos exporter, supported by four other countries, refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be listed as a hazardous substance.[13] Canada no longer exports asbestos and is now supporting and advocating for the listing of chrysotile asbestos at the Geneva conference. But other countries that export asbestos are continuing to block the listing of chrysotile asbestos.

    Russia and Kazakhstan currently represent 82% of all asbestos export. They, along with a handful of other countries, are seeking to keep chrysotile asbestos off the Rotterdam Convention’s list of hazardous substances, and to also defeat the proposed amendment that would allow decisions to be made by a 3/4 majority vote if consensus proves impossible.

    The Basel and Stockholm Conventions also regulate toxic substances and work conjointly with the Rotterdam Convention. Both the Basel and Stockholm Conventions allow a majority vote when consensus proves impossible. It makes sense and is clearly imperative that the Rotterdam Convention be amended to likewise enable a majority vote to list hazardous substances. If this is not done, then the ability of hazardous industries to block the right provided by the convention will continue endlessly. Countries have a right to control the import of hazardous substances, but a right that cannot be implemented is no right at all.

    The undermining of public health policy by the asbestos industry must be stopped. At the Rotterdam Convention conference, countries must ensure that chrysotile asbestos is listed as a hazardous substance, and if asbestos exporting countries refuse, then the convention must be amended to allow a majority vote decision.

    Kathleen Ruff is a senior human rights adviser at the Rideau Institute, Ottawa, Canada, and founder and co-coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance. She has worked intensively for the past nine years with scientists in Canada and around the world to stop the use of asbestos.

    Competing interests: I have read and understood BMJ’s policy on declaration of interests and declare I have no competing interests to declare.

    This blog was published in the British Medical Journal, April 27, 2017, http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2017/04/27/kathleen-ruff-chrysotile-asbestos-a-call-for-action-on-this-hazardous-substance/

    References

    1. World Asbestos Production by Type, 1900 to 2012. US Geological Survey. Figure available at http://www.rightoncanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/World-asbestos-production-by-type-1900-to-20121.jpg

    2. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Asbestos (chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite). 2012; Vol. 100c. http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol100C/mono100C-11.pdf

    3. International Commission on Occupational Health. ICOH Statement on Global Asbestos Ban and the Elimination of Asbestos-related Diseases. 2013. http://www.icohweb.org/site/news-detail.asp?id=83

    4. Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology. Position Statement on Asbestos. 2012. https://www.ijpc-se.org/documents/03.JPC-SE-Position_Statement_on_Asbestos-June_4_2012-Full_Statement_and_Appendix_A.pdf

    5. World Federation of Public Health Associations. Global ban on the mining and use of asbestos. 2005. http://www.wfpha.org/tl_files/doc/resolutions/positionpapers/enrivonment/GlobalBanMining&Asbestos.pdf

    6. World Health Organization. Elimination of asbestos-related diseases. 2006. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2006/WHO_SDE_OEH_06.03_eng.pdf

    7. World Health Organization. Asbestos: elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Fact Sheet. Updated June 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs343/en/index.html

    8. World Health Organization. Chrysotile Asbestos. 2014. http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/chrysotile_asbestos_summary.pdf

    9.  Asbestos Fibre Types and Health Risks: Are Perceptions Related to Facts? Chrysotile Institute website. http://www.chrysotile.com/data/Orange_anglais_lr.pdf

    10. Virta, R. Asbestos Production, Trade, and Consumption in 2014. US Geological Survey. Worksheet for world asbestos consumption calculations available at http://www.rightoncanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/World-asbestos-data-2014.pdf

    11. Chemical Review Committe. CRC 1 report: Chysotile asbestos, UNEP/FAO/RC/CRC 1/28.
    http://www.pic.int/TheConvention/Chemicals/RecommendedtoCOP/Chrysotileasbestos/tabid/1186/language/en-US/Default.aspx
    http://www.pic.int/Portals/5/chemicals/Inf-Exchange/chrysotile.doc

    12. Intersessional work on the process of listing chemicals in Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention, UNEP/FAO/RC/COP.8/16/Add.1. http://www.pic.int/TheConvention/ConferenceoftheParties/Meetings/COP8/Overview/tabid/5311/language/en-US/Default.aspx

    13. In brief: White asbestos is kept off list of hazardous chemicals. BMJ2011;342:d4084. http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d4084

    Concordia University withdraws asbestos report

    April 27, 2017

    April 26, 2017: In response to a complaint from scientists, academics and civil society organisations, Concordia University in Montreal has posted a notice that Concordia has withdrawn a report that the university funded and published in 2015, Lessons from the Quebec Asbestos Industry: Can there be meaningful dialogue and consensus when facts come up against feelings?  The notice states that the report should not be used or cited.

    International Chrysotile Association lobbying document for Rotterdam Convention

    The ICA has therefore been required to remove the text on page 4 of their Rotterdam Convention lobbying document, which criticized those who oppose the use of asbestos as engaging in a highly emotional campaign, ignoring scientific evidence, and promoting their position as scientific but without offering real scientific published studies.

    The text on page 4 of the ICA’s document had been taken directly from the Concordia report.

    Page 4 of the of the ICA’s Rotterdam Convention – COP8 Meeting – 2017  document is now a blank page.

     

    Prepared by: Kathleen Ruff, e-mail: kruff@bulkley.net

    Media Briefing Kit of Rotterdam Convention COP 8 has been launched

    April 26, 2017

    The final version of the Media Briefing Kit of Rotterdam Convention COP 8 has been launched. The COP 8 is scheduled to be held from April 24 to May 5, 2017 at Geneva, Switzerland.

    The Media Briefing Kit has been produced with the help of ASEA and APHEDA. This media kit has been produced as a guide for each organisation to frame around their organisation’s needs and audiences. Therefore, feel free to re-brand it with your logo and distribute to local or international media for a wider audience or use bits of it as you see fit.

    The Kit is attached as a pdf file with this post.

    It is also available in the Media Library section of the ABAN website. Please distribute urgently and as widely as possible.

    Rotterdam Media Pack

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