DOZENS of prestigious scientific organizations and scientists from around the world have issued a statement calling on the Government of India to withdraw a discredited scientific study on chrysotile (white) asbestos and to stop blocking the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance at an upcoming UN meeting.
The ‘Study of Health Hazards / Environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country’, carried out by the National Institute of Occupational Health (India), states that it found no evidence that chrysotile asbestos is causing harm to health of workers in India. The government is using the study to oppose the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention at a UN conference in Geneva in May. The convention sets safety standards to promote responsible trade in hazardous substances.
“The study has no scientific credibility,” says Dr. Philip Landrigan, President of the Collegium Ramazzini and Dean for Global Health, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York. “It is flawed in the design, methodology and interpretation of the results.”
“We would like to strongly state that the ‘claim’ being made by the government of India regarding the ‘safety’ of Chrysotile asbestos is unacceptable to any credible scientists or scientific community. The world scientific community has overwhelmingly concluded that Chrysotile asbestos causes deadly diseases, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung and other cancers, and that it cannot be safely used,” says the statement.
“We therefore request the Government of India to withdraw the NIOH study, which does not hold up to any credible scientific scrutiny and do the right thing by supporting the listing of Chrysotile asbestos at the upcoming UN conference,” concludes the statement. The statement has been sent to the Indian government and a response is awaited.
Mr. Ram Niwas Jindal
Director, Hazardous Substances Management Division
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change
Room No 556, Agni Wing; Level- III; Indira Paryavaran Bhawan
Jor Bagh Road, Aliganj,
110 003 New Delhi
Subject: International statement of health scientists and scientific bodies on the ‘scientific’ study by National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) titled ‘Study of Health Hazards / Environmental hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country’
As you are aware, the Conference of Parties (COP 7) for the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC Convention) is going to be held May 3 – 15, 2015 in Geneva. India is a party to this Convention and has been actively participating in realizing the mission and goals of this Convention which calls for responsible trade, greater transparency, exchange of information and right of all countries including the smallest nation to have a say in an international treaty through a process of consensus.
The Convention’s committee of scientific experts (the Chemical Review Committee), made up of over 30 scientists from around the world, has, after careful and thorough examination of the issue, recommended that chrysotile asbestos be put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances (Annex III). Parties to the Convention have agreed that chrysotile asbestos meets all the criteria to be listed in Annex III.
However, in the last Conference (held in 2013) of the PIC Convention, India played a role in blocking the recommendation of the Chemical Review Committee that Chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) should be placed in the PIC list. As you are aware, the purpose of the PIC list is to ensure transparency in the exchange of information between the trading countries regarding the health and environmental impacts of a substance. The Convention does not ban on trade in hazardous substances. Its purpose is to promote responsible trade by requiring prior informed consent between importing-exporting countries through access to credible scientific information.
At the last COP, most of the developing world, including the African nations pleaded with India not to block the listing in the interest of humanity and environment. But unfortunately, India blocked the listing by stating that there is no ‘scientific’ evidence of ‘harm’ to Chrysotile asbestos to Indian workers or its population. India based its position on a study conducted by one of India’s premier scientific institutions – the National Institute of Occupational Health.
The NIOH study, a draft of which was also critiqued in 2008, has now again been reviewed by a body of scientists and scientific organisations from across the world who have found serious flaws in the design, methodology and interpretation of the results. They have written a statement regarding the flawed nature of the study and requested India to recall the study and to support the inclusion of Chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list at the Conference of the Parties in May.
We enclose the statement signed by 16 scientific institutions/organizations and 78 scientists from across the globe. We do hope you will do the right thing and recall the study. We do hope that India will support the inclusion of Chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list at the upcoming COP 7 in Geneva.
Madhumita Dutta (OEHNI);
Kathleen Ruff (ROCA)
Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India
Secretariat – Environics Trust
K No 177, Neb Sarai
Shokeen Market, Main IGNOU Road
Email – [email protected]