The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Asbestos slur on states

New Delhi, July 23: Doctors and social activists have accused state governments and the asbestos industry of continuing to violate the 1995 Supreme Court verdict that laid down strict guidelines for factory owners.

The verdict came in the wake of widespread incidence of asbestos-related lung diseases and even cancer among workers. “The Supreme Court judgment (was) aimed at protecting asbestos factory workers from health hazards. Not even 1 per cent of it has been implemented,” said K.J. Nath, president of the Institution of Public Health Engineers.

The court asked factory owners to maintain health records of every worker up to a minimum of 40 years from the beginning of employment. It ordered membrane filter tests to detect asbestos fibre. All factories were directed to ensure health coverage for every worker.

The Union and state governments were asked to review the standards of permissible exposure limit to asbestos fibres in consonance with international standards.

The judgment ordered a payment of Rs 1 lakh to any worker suffering from asbestos-related diseases. “Till today, not a single worker suffering from this occupational illness has received the compensation amount,” Joshi said.

In most cases, factory owners put pressure on doctors to pass asbestos-related illnesses as asthma or tuberculosis. None of the factories dealing with asbestos, Nath maintained, has health records of workers.

Nath said there are safe substitutes for asbestos which have been introduced in many countries. In the US there has been a drastic reduction in the use of asbestos. It has been banned in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Austria and Saudi Arabia. The latest country to join their ranks is Australia.

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