March 19, 2019

Asbestos 'needs a ban and a plan' – petition presented

Workers have today presented a petition signed by over a thousand New Zealanders calling on the Government to ban the importation of asbestos and develop a comprehensive plan for the removal of all existing asbestos in New Zealand.

“Asbestos is the biggest workplace killer in New Zealand. It kills at least 170 workers annually: more than twice as many workers as accidental deaths at work. The number of people dying from asbestos related diseases (lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis) is increasing and the Government projections are that it will peak at 300: higher than the road toll,” said CTU Secretary, Sam Huggard.

“New Zealand is out of step with other developed countries. We are still importing asbestos containing products. Australia prohibited the import of all asbestos containing products in 2003. Similar bans in the United Kingdom date to the late 1990s.”

“The CTU, on behalf of all workers, calls for the Government to implement a total ban on the importation of asbestos containing materials. This action is overdue and well behind the action which other countries have taken.”

“We are very concerned about asbestos exposure in Christchurch. Public health experts continue to raise concerns about what the impact will be for workers will be in the decades to come.”

“New regulations are proposed that will significantly assist in the management of asbestos: These should be given the highest priority.”

“However, much more action is needed. The CTU recommends a twelve-point plan to deal with asbestos.”

“Many hundreds more people will die as a result of exposure in the next 50 years. We should act now to ensure that this is the lowest number possible, and that there are no more unnecessary exposures to asbestos,” said Huggard.

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Asbestos 'needs a ban and a plan' – petition presented

Views wanted on asbestos claim bill

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Views wanted on asbestos claim bill

Low Levels of Libby Asbestos Exposure Linked to Lung Abnormalities

Low Levels of Libby Asbestos Exposure Linked to Lung Abnormalities

Long-Term Changes Seen at Relatively Low Exposure Levels

Released:6-Jan-2015 8:30 AM EST
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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Newswise — January 6, 2015 — People exposed to asbestos from mining in Libby, Mont., show long-term changes in lung imaging and function tests, even with relatively low asbestos exposure, reports a study in the January Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Thirty years after the Libby mine was shut down, abnormalities are still found on chest computed tomography (CT) scans and lung function tests in more than half of workers exposed to Libby amphibole asbestos (LAA). “[T]hese changes occur at substantially lower cumulative fiber exposure levels than those commonly associated with commercial asbestos,” writes Dr James E. Lockey of University of Cincinnati and colleagues. The study was sponsored by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry.

The researchers followed up 431 living workers, from an original group of 513 LAA-exposed workers first studied in 1980. The workers were exposed to a particularly hazardous form of asbestos from contaminated vermiculite that had been mined in Libby for decades.

Of 191 workers with available CT scans, 53 percent had asbestos-related changes of the tissue lining the lungs (pleura), while 13 percent had changes of the lung substance (parenchyma). Greater involvement on imaging scans was related to greater average reductions in lung function (forced vital capacity): up to 18 percent for those with extensive pleural and/or parenchymal changes.

The CT scan abnormalities were present even in workers with lower levels of estimated lifetime exposure to LAA—about three to ten times below current standards for commercial asbestos exposure. The asbestos-related lung abnormalities “can be particularly relevant when potentially combined with other respiratory [diseases] that can occur over a person’s lifetime that can impact lung function,” Dr Lockey and coauthors conclude.


About the Author
Dr Lockey may be contacted for interviews at james.lockey(at)

ACOEM (, an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.

About Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ( is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.


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Low Levels of Libby Asbestos Exposure Linked to Lung Abnormalities

Abandoned asbestos mines still a hazard in India

RORO VILLAGE, India (AP) — Asbestos waste spills in a gray gash down the flank of a lush green hill above tribal villages in eastern India. Three decades after the mines were abandoned, nothing has been done to remove the enormous, hazardous piles of broken rocks and powdery dust left behind.

In Roro Village and other settlements below, people who never worked in the mines are dying of lung disease. Yet in a country that treats asbestos as a savior that provides cheap building materials for the poor, no one knows the true number and few care to ask.

“I feel weak, drained all the time,” Baleman Sundi gasped, pushing the words out before she lost her breath. “But I must work.” The 65-year-old paused, inhaled. “I don’t have a choice.” Another gasp. “I have to eat.”

Sundi and 17 others from a clutch of impoverished villages near the abandoned hilltop mines were diagnosed in 2012 with asbestosis, a fatal lung disease. One has since died. Tens of thousands more remain untested and at risk. Asbestos makes up as much as 14.3 percent of the soil around Roro Village, analysis of samples gathered by The Associated Press showed.

The 17 surviving patients are suing in the country’s environmental court for cleanup, compensation and a fund for future victims. If they win, the case would set precedents for workplace safety and corporate liability, both often ignored in India.

Neither the government nor the Indian company that ran the mines from 1963 to 1983 has made any move to clean up the estimated 700,000 tons of asbestos tailings and debris left scattered across several kilometers (miles) of hilly mining area.

“The company had followed all rules and procedures for closure of a mine and had complied with the provisions of the law, as in force in 1983,” a spokesman for Hyderabad Asbestos Cement Products Ltd., now known as HIL Ltd., told AP.

India placed a moratorium on asbestos mining in 1986, acknowledging it was hazardous to miners. But that was the government’s last decision curtailing the spread of asbestos. It has since embraced the mineral as a cheap building material. Today, India is the world’s fastest-growing market for asbestos.

India keeps no statistics on how many people have been sickened or died from exposure to asbestos, which industry and many government officials insist is safe when mixed with cement.

Western medical experts strongly disagree.

The World Health Organization and more than 50 countries, including the U.S. and all of Europe, say it should be banned in all forms. Asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs and cause many diseases. The International Labor Organization estimates 100,000 people die every year from workplace exposure.

“My greatest concern is what will happen in India. It’s a slow-moving disaster, and this is only the beginning,” said Philip Landrigan, a prominent New York epidemiologist.

From the top of Roro Hill, a small boy leaped out to slide down the cascade of fluffy grey dust. A few villagers followed, nudging a herd of cows and goats. Huge clouds billowed in their wake.

The villagers often ignore the warnings from visiting doctors or activists to stay away from the waste. Many just don’t believe dust and rocks could be dangerous. Others are more fatalistic.

“We tell the children, don’t go there. But they are children, you cannot control them,” said 56-year-old Jema Sundi, diagnosed with asbestosis though she never went into the mines.

She then noticed her 4-year-old nephew Vijay, his tiny body covered with chalky white streaks, shrinking into himself as if trying to disappear. “You went up there today again?” she exclaimed.

Vijay, lowering his head, attempted a half-smile.

“It’s heartbreaking. Kids are playing on it. People are stirring it up. You don’t have to inhale much to put a cap on your life,” said Richard Fuller of the Blacksmith Institute, a New York-based watchdog that estimates 50,000 people could be at risk.

Hydrabad Asbestos employed about 1,500 people in the Roro asbestos mines in Jharkhand state.

The company said it followed strict health and safety policies, and “no health or environmental damage was reported during the mine operations.” It did not say if it sent anyone to check on the villagers’ health after the mines closed. Villagers told the AP they were never invited for a company-sponsored checkup after 1983.

The fact that Sundi and the other plaintiffs had the opportunity for a diagnosis was rare. Like most living near Roro Hill, they cannot read or write.

“The idea that the environment, something that has always provided and been taken for granted, could be causing them harm is a notion that just doesn’t occur to them,” said T.K. Joshi, a doctor who heads India’s only university department specializing in occupational health. “And unfortunately, most Indian doctors are not trained to ask the right questions.”

Activists, doctors and lawyers have described an almost Kafkaesque effort to hold the government and company accountable over the past decade.

At the time the mines were open, Jharkhand state didn’t even exist. The land was part of a wider Bihar state, with its capital and paperwork held in a different city. Neither state has been able to produce the 30-year-old documents about the mine’s closure.

“As far as environmental issues are concerned, we have already dealt with it,” said Jharkhand’s Mining Secretary Arun, who uses only one name.

In 2012, an activist group selected 150 Roro-area villagers for chest X-rays. The plates were examined by Dr. V. Murlidhar, an occupational health specialist, who confirmed 18 had the tell-tale honeycomb pattern that denotes asbestosis.

The results were not surprising, he said, and “more cases are likely” because asbestosis develops over decades of exposure.

Lawyer Krishnendu Mukherjee, who is spearheading the case, has high hopes for a judgment that awards the plaintiffs and future claimants with generous compensation.

A strong verdict, he said, will tell companies such as HIL that “it’s not permissible to simply leave a mine, a factory, whatever it is, in a state of abandonment.”


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Abandoned asbestos mines still a hazard in India

Feds say cleanup of Montana mining town working

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A long-delayed risk study released Monday for a Montana mining town where hundreds of people have died from asbestos poisoning concludes cleanup practices now in place are reducing risks to residents.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged there is no way to remove all the asbestos from the area and inhaling even a minute amount could cause lung problems.

The 328-page draft document will be used to guide the remaining cleanup of asbestos dust stemming from a W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine outside Libby, a town of 2,600 people about 50 miles south of the Canada border.

The scenic mountain community has become synonymous with asbestos dangers. Health workers estimate 400 people have been killed and more than 2,000 sickened in Libby and the surrounding area.

Dozens of sites across the U.S. received or processed vermiculite from Libby’s mine, which was used as insulation in millions of homes.

The EPA study used lung scarring — not just cancer deaths — to help determine how much danger asbestos poses to people who remain in Libby, where the contaminated vermiculite had been widely used in homes, as construction fill, and for other purposes before its dangers were known.

The EPA already has conducted cleanup work on more than 2,000 homes, businesses and other properties in the Libby area at a cost of roughly $500 million.

Concentrations of asbestos in the air around town is now 100,000 times lower than when the mine was operating from 1963 to 1990, the EPA said.

Those levels could be higher at the mine site — where cleanup work has barely started — and in areas where property owners have not given access to EPA contractors, the agency said.

“Where EPA has conducted cleanup, those cleanups are effective,” said Rebecca Thomas, EPA project manager in Libby.

She added that there will be some residual contamination left behind but only in places where officials determine there’s no threat of human exposure.

“As long as no one’s exposed to it, it doesn’t pose a risk and we’ll leave it in place,” Thomas said.

W.R. Grace and industry groups have criticized the EPA’s low threshold for exposure as unjustified and impossible to attain. They said the EPA limit was lower than naturally occurring asbestos levels in some places.

The criticism was one of the factors that delayed the risk study. In a report last year, the EPA’s inspector general said internal agency issues including contracting problems and unanticipated work also contributed to the delay.

W.R. Grace was “pleased to see EPA believes it has effectively managed the health risk to acceptable levels,” said Rich Badmington, a spokesman for the Columbia, Maryland-based chemical company

Still, the company believes the EPA’s threshold for exposure is too low, he said.

The town remains under a first-of-its kind public health emergency declaration issued by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in 2009.

Cleanup work is pending for as many as 500 homes and businesses in Libby and nearby Troy. Completing that work will take three to five years, Thomas said.

Because of the long latency period for asbestos-related diseases, it could be many years before some people in Libby develop medical complications.

Libby Mayor Doug Roll said moving forward with the study was critical for the tourism- and mining-dependent town. Roll said Libby wants to overcome its image of a poisoned community.

“Grace was the stumbling block, trying to put a bunch of their input into it,” Roll said. “We’re trying to get out from underneath this cloud and start promoting Libby as a place you can come and visit — and not worry about the air quality.”

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Feds say cleanup of Montana mining town working

James Hardie asbestos compensation fund's bid to pay victims in instalments faces ACTU legal action

James Hardie asbestos compensation fund’s bid to pay victims in instalments faces ACTU legal action



Unions will launch legal action against a bid by James Hardie’s asbestos compensation fund to start paying victims in instalments rather than lump sums.

The ACTU executive has voted for legal action blocking the body’s Supreme Court application to pay out sufferers in instalments because of a projected multimillion-dollar funding shortfall.

In September, the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund, bankrolled by James Hardie Industries, announced it was heading for a cash shortfall of $184 million by 2017 after underestimating the number of people dying because of toxic asbestos.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the average sufferer of the fatal asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma died 155 days after being diagnosed.



James Hardie asbestos compensation fund's bid to pay victims in instalments faces ACTU legal action

No prosecutions in Chch asbestos investigation

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

An investigation into how asbestos was managed in Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake has found some deficiencies but no reason to prosecute anyone.

WorkSafe New Zealand has completed its review of asbestos management in the Canterbury Home Repair Programme.

WorkSafe launched the inquiry earlier this year after allegations surfaced about possible inadequacies in the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and Fletcher EQR’s systems for identifying and managing asbestos hazards during early stages of the Canterbury rebuild.

Gordon MacDonald, WorkSafe chief executive, said the investigation did find some deficiencies in the management of asbestos during early parts of the Home Repair Programme.

However, WorkSafe said the risk of harm to workers and residents was very low and prosecution was not justified. The risk to residents was likely to have been even lower, WorkSafe said.

“Given the scale of work in Canterbury it’s inevitable there were instances where work was not up to best practice and our investigation did identify shortcomings with the management of asbestos,” Mr MacDonald said.

“It has to be remembered that in the weeks and months after the Canterbury earthquakes there was an incredible amount of work done – both demolitions and emergency repairs. People and organisations were stretched and conditions were far from ideal,” he added.

Mr MacDonald said contractors had significantly improved the way they managed asbestos. He said WorkSafe and its Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter partners had also educated tradespeople and contractors about health risks asbestos posed.

WorkSafe said the investigation included reviews of EQC and Fletcher EQR documentation, their systems and processes. It also included interviews with management, contractors and residents.

Investigators also carried out property inspections and asbestos testing in a few houses – including surface and air testing.

WorkSafe said it also hired independent experts to review research conducted on behalf of Fletcher EQR into breathable fibre release during certain types of repair work.


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No prosecutions in Chch asbestos investigation

New campaign on asbestos exposure

Construction workers and tradespeople including carpenters and painters could come into contact with asbestos more than 100 times a year, with few knowing whether the deadly dust is in newer buildings, according to a report.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched a new safety campaign amid concerns of confusion on how to combat exposure to asbestos.

With 20 people dying every week from asbestos-related diseases, the HSE revealed some common myths, such as drinking water or opening a window to keep workers safe.

A survey of 500 tradespeople showed that fewer than a third could identify the correct measures for safe asbestos working, while only 15% knew that the dust could still be found in buildings built up to the year 2000.

Fewer than one in five knew that asbestos could be hidden in toilet seats and cisterns.

Health and safety minister Mark Harper said: “The number dying every year from asbestos-related diseases is unacceptably high. Despite being banned in the construction industry, asbestos exposure remains a very serious risk to tradespeople. This safety campaign is about highlighting the risks and easy measures people can take to protect themselves.”

Philip White, HSE’s chief inspector for construction, said: “Asbestos is still a very real danger and the survey findings suggest that the people who come into contact with it regularly often don’t know where it could be and worryingly don’t know how to deal with it correctly, which could put them in harm’s way.

“Our new campaign aims to help tradespeople understand some of the simple steps they can take to stay safe. Our new web app is designed for use on a job so workers can easily identify if they are likely to face danger and can then get straightforward advice to help them do the job safely.”

Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, said “Construction workers are the greatest risk of being exposed to asbestos. Any campaign that warns workers of the dangers of asbestos is to be welcomed. However the campaign needs to be as wide ranging as possible and should not be confined to one company to distribute information.

“Over the last four and a half years, thousands of workers have been needlessly exposed to asbestos and their health has been put at risk because of that decision”

“It is vital that construction workers receive proper training in the dangers of asbestos, where it is likely to be found and what to do if you suspect asbestosis present. It is essential that pressure is placed on employers to ensure that training takes place and that workers are not victimised or threatened when raising concerns about asbestos, which is often the case.”

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New campaign on asbestos exposure

Asbestos Mesothelioma Legal Advice is Available at New Website

We know that Asbestos Mesothelioma lawyers are expert in this field. They are highly experienced and knowledgeable about this

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) September 19, 2014, a website that is designed to help people get free asbestos mesothelioma legal advice, has just launched its new and easy-to-navigate site.

As a spokesperson for the website noted, there is a definite need for a website like Over 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed annually in the United States, and many of the people who are dealing with this serious illness are unsure of what they should do, or where they can turn for legal assistance.

This is where can help: by helping people who have been exposed to asbestos get a mesothelioma free claim evaluation, as well as find a reputable and caring asbestos mesothelioma lawyer who can assist them.

“An expert asbestos mesothelioma lawyer can help us how to win the case,” the spokesperson said, adding that very few law firms have expert mesothelioma attorneys for asbestos cases.

“We know that Asbestos Mesothelioma lawyers are expert in this field. They are highly experienced and knowledgeable about this.”

Once it has been confirmed that the client has mesothelioma, a lawyer who is experienced with asbestos can find out where the asbestos exposure took place, set the recovery fees for the victim, file the case in court, provide guidelines for the payment from the mesothelioma lawsuit settlements, and collect all of the necessary documents so the client will be compensated. also offers in-depth information about mesothelioma, and asbestos exposure, and who is at high risk for developing this serious health condition. It also provides helpful insight about mesothelioma class action lawsuits. For example, for people who might be curious about the usual amount of the lawsuit settlements, an article on the website explains that there is no clear or definite answer. In the United States, the average amount of the settlements is usually between 30 to 40 percent of the recovery fee.

Anybody who would like to learn more about is welcome to visit the new website; there, they can read about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, and how they can get a free evaluation of their claim.

About is a new website dedicated to help people getting legal advice for their personal injuries as well as providing a claim evaluation at no cost nor obligations. For more information, please visit


Asbestos Mesothelioma Legal Advice is Available at New Website

India's thriving $2B asbestos industry

“These are huge numbers. We’re talking about millions of people,” Shankar said. “So there is a lot of latent demand.”

Yet there are some poor Indians trying to keep asbestos out of their communities, even as the government supports the industry by lowering import duties and using asbestos in construction of subsidized housing.

“People outside of India, they must be wondering what kind of fools we are,” said Ajit Kumar Singh from the Indian Red Cross Society. “They don’t use it. They must wonder why we would.”

In the ancient farming village of Vaishali, in impoverished Bihar state, the first word about the dangers of asbestos came from chemistry and biology textbooks that a boy in a neighboring town brought home from school, according to villagers interviewed by The Associated Press.

A company was proposing an asbestos plant in the village of 1,500 people located about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of New Delhi.

The villagers worried that asbestos fibers could blow from the factory across their wheat, rice and potato fields and into their tiny mud-and-thatch homes. Their children, they said, could contract lung diseases most Indian doctors would never test for, let alone treat. Neither India nor any of its 29 states keep statistics on how many people might be affected by asbestos.

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The people of Vaishali began protesting in January 2011. They objected that the structure would be closer to their homes than the legal limit of 500 meters (1,640 feet). Still, bricks were laid, temporary management offices were built and a hulking skeleton of steel beams went up across the tree-studded landscape.

The villagers circulated a petition demanding the factory be halted. But in December 2012, its permit was renewed, inciting more than 6,000 people from the region to rally on a main road, blocking traffic for 11 hours. They gave speeches and chanted “Asbestos causes cancer.”

Amid the chaos, a few dozen villagers took matters into their own hands, pulling down the partially built factory, brick by brick.

“It was a moment of desperation. No one was listening to us,” said a villager involved in the demolition, a teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the company. “There was no other way for us to express our outrage.”

Within four hours, the factory and offices were demolished: bricks, beams, pipes and asbestos roofing, all torn down. The steel frame was the only remnant left standing.

“Still, we did not feel triumphant,” the teacher said. “We knew it wasn’t over.”

Read MoreCanada to donate its own Ebola vaccine to WHO

They were right. The company filed lawsuits, still pending, against several villagers, alleging vandalism and theft.

Durable and heat-resistant, asbestos was long a favorite insulation material in the West, but has also been used in everything from shoes and dental fillings to fireproofing sprays, brake linings and ceiling tiles.

Scientists and medical experts overwhelmingly agree that inhaling any form of asbestos can lead to deadly diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, or the scarring of the lungs. Exposure may also lead to other debilitating ailments, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

About 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos at work each year, the WHO says. Because the disease typically takes 20 to 40 years to manifest, workers can go through their careers without realizing they are getting sick.

Dozens of countries including Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and all European Union nations have banned asbestos entirely. Others including the United States have severely curtailed its use.

Most asbestos on the world market today comes from Russia. Brazil, Kazakhstan and China also export, though some have been reviewing their positions.

Canada’s Quebec province was the world’s biggest asbestos producer for much of the 20th century. It got out of the business in 2012, after a new provincial government questioned why it was mining and exporting a material its own citizens shunned.

Asia is the biggest market. India last year imported $235 million worth of the stuff, or about half of the global trade.

The global asbestos lobby says the mineral has been unfairly maligned by Western nations that used it irresponsibly. It also says one of the six forms of asbestos is safe: chrysotile, or white asbestos, which accounts for more than 95 percent of all asbestos used since 1900, and all of what’s used today.

“Chrysotile you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” said Kanat Kapbayel of Kazakhstan’s United Minerals and a board member of the International Chrysotile Association.

Chrysotile is a serpentine mineral, meaning its fibers are curly and more flexible than the other more jagged and sharp forms called amphiboles. The lobby and its supporters say this distinction makes all the difference.

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A vast majority of experts in science and medicine reject this.

“A rigorous review of the epidemiological evidence confirms that all types of asbestos fiber are causally implicated in the development of various diseases and premature death,” the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology said in a 2012 position statement.

Squeezed out of the industrialized world, the asbestos industry is trying to build up new markets and has created lobbying organizations to help it sell asbestos to poor countries, particularly in Asia, it said.

Developed nations are still reckoning with health and economic consequences from past asbestos use.

American businesses have paid out at least $1.3 billion in the largest and longest-running collection of personal injury lawsuits in U.S. legal history, according to a 2012 report by the California-based Rand research corporation. Two years ago, an Italian court sentenced two businessmen from Swiss building material maker Eternit AG to 16 years in prison for negligence leading to more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths. Billions of dollars have been spent stripping asbestos from buildings in the U.S. and Europe.

Arun Saraf, the Indian asbestos association’s chairman, said India has learned from the West’s mistakes.

He said the lobby’s 15 member companies maintain the strictest safety standards in their factories. That includes limiting airborne dust, properly disposing of waste and insisting employees wear safety masks, gloves and protective clothing.

The vast majority of asbestos used in India is mixed with cement and poured into molds for corrugated roof sheets, wall panels or pipes. Fibers can be released when the sheets are sawed or hammered, and when wear and weather break them down. Scientists say those released fibers are just as dangerous as the raw mineral.

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AP journalists who visited a working factory and a shuttered one in Bihar found both had dumped broken sheets and raw material in fields or uncovered pits within the factory premises. Workers without any safety gear were seen handling the broken sheets at both factories. The working factory was operated by Ramco Industries Ltd., while the other owned by Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd. was supplying materials to UAL Industries Ltd.

Saraf, who is also UAL’s managing director, said the materials left strewn across the factory grounds were meant to be pulverized and recycled into new roofing sheets, and were no more dangerous than the final product as the asbestos had already been mixed with cement.

He said Nibhi was not an association member, but “I have been informed that Nibhi workers are provided with all the personal protective equipment.”

Some employees of Ramco’s working factory said they were satisfied that asbestos was safe, and were delighted by the benefits of steady work. But several former employees of both factories said they were given masks only on inspection days, and rarely if ever had medical checkups. None was aware that going home with asbestos fibers on their clothing or hair could put their families at risk.

Ramco CEO Prem Shanker said all employees working in areas where asbestos was kept unmixed were given safety equipment and regular medical checkups that were reviewed by government authorities. “Ramco has consistently gone the extra mile to ensure a safe working environment,” he said. AP was not given permission to visit these indoor areas.

Indian customers like the asbestos sheets because they’re sturdy, heat resistant and quieter in the rain than tin or fiberglass. But most of all, they’re cheap.

Umesh Kumar, a roadside vendor in Bihar’s capital of Patna, sells precut 3-by-1 meter (10-by-3 foot) asbestos cement sheets for 600 rupees ($10) each. A tin or a fiberglass sheet of similar strength costs 800 rupees.

“I’ve known it’s a health hazard for about 10 years, but what can we do? This is a country of poor people, and for less money they can have a roof over their heads,” Kumar said.

“These people are not aware” of the health risks, he said. But as sellers of asbestos sheets wanting to stay in business, “we’re not able to tell them much.”

The two-day asbestos conference in December was billed as scientific. But organizers said they had no new research.

One could say they’ve gone back in time to defend their products.

The Indian asbestos lobby’s website refers to 1998 WHO guidelines for controlled use of chrysotile, but skips updated WHO advice from 2007 suggesting that all asbestos be banned. The lobby also ignores the ILO’s 2006 recommendation to ban asbestos, and refers only to its 1996 suggestion of strict regulations.

When asked why the association ignored the most recent advice, its executive director, John Nicodemus, waved his hand dismissively. “The WHO is scaremongering,” he said.

Many of the speakers are regulars at asbestos conferences around the world, including in Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia, Ukraine and Indonesia.

American Robert Nolan, who heads a New York-based organization called Environmental Studies International, told the Indian delegates that “a ban is a little like a taboo in a primitive society,” and that those who ban asbestos are “not looking at the facts.”

David Bernstein, an American-born toxicologist based in Geneva, said that although chrysotile can cause disease if inhaled in large quantities or for prolonged periods, so could any tiny particle. He has published dozens of chrysotile-friendly studies and consulted for the Quebec-based Chrysotile Institute, which lost its Canadian government funding and shut down in 2012.

When asked by an audience member about funding for his research, he said some has come from chrysotile interests without elaborating on how much. A short-term study generally costs about $500,000, he said, and a long-term research project can cost up to about $4 million.

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India's thriving $2B asbestos industry