Despite Health Warnings, Asbestos Industry Of India Thrives

Despite Health Warnings, Asbestos Industry Of India Thrives
Anandpur Sahib Hari Singh/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
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Asbestosis patient Chinnapan Chinnakannu, relying on his inhaler for breathing, claims that his laboring in one of India’s asbestos cement factories has resulted in his debilitating illness.


Asbestos, a pariah product in the West, has been blamed for thousands of deaths. Despite this, its popularity in the developing world remains unaffected. In India, the asbestos industry is worth $1.4 billion.

At a UN meeting in Geneva conducted the previous month, nations had made an attempt to add white asbestos to the list of dangerous substances subject to export restriction. But the leading asbestos exporter Russia and other developing nations, including India, blocked the move.

According to activists and unions, the Indian government should recognize the dangerous effects of asbestos, whose fibres – as claimed by doctors all over the world – lodge in the lungs and result in cancer and other diseases.

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After fighting a long battle for compensation from the state insurance scheme, Chinnapan receives a monthly compensation of 2,700 rupees a month ($42).

In India, white asbestos is used as an ingredient in cement roofing sheets, as well as wall panels and pipes in more than 50 factories. Every year, nearly 400,000 tonnes of asbestos is imported to feed the plants.

All forms of asbestos have been banned in more than 50 nations, including all European Union members.

As stated by the World Health Organization, at least 107,000 die due to asbestos each year.