the Eternit trial report, Torino (Italy)
Broadcasted on 08/11/2011 on ABC, Australia
From his tiny, ramshackle home in Ahmedabad 71 year old Naran Mehra cuts a forlorn figure.
The former power station worker is sick after years of exposure to asbestos that’s used as an insulator in his workplace.
‘When it would blow, my hair would turn white’. Naran Mehra
Unwittingly, he brought the danger home. His wife Sevita Devi used to shake asbestos dust from his clothes before washing them and now she’s also stricken with disease. With no money for proper medical care the couple have given up hope for the future.
Asbestos illness in India is under-diagnosed and mostly unrecognised as a health problem. But with the proliferation of factories making and using asbestos products and an import trade in asbestos building products booming, India has become a new frontier for what’s sure to be a dramatic, devastating health crisis.
Indian asbestos workers have little in the way of safety equipment and if they contract a respiratory illness like asbestosis or a cancer like mesothelioma few are paid compensation.
And unlike many developed countries where asbestos products have been banned, India can’t get enough of what’s called poor man’s roofing. Alarmingly it’s a first world nation that’s supplying the stuff. Canada won’t use asbestos itself but it is selling it by the shipload to India. Business is so brisk Canada is breathing new life into its asbestos mining industry to bolster its exports.
‘It amounts to Canada being a purveyor of death around the world. Our country is an exporter of a deadly substance, and we enjoy it … at least our federal government does’. Professor Amir Attaran, University of Ottawa
The asbestos industry is pouring millions of dollars into a campaign to assure India and convince any other developing nation that may be in the market that white asbestos, or chrysotile, is safe.
‘This particular asbestos has not been known to give cancer, so far’ Abhaya Shanker, Managing Director, Hyderabad Industries
Reporter Matt Peacock has spent decades investigating and uncovering many of the health scandals caused by asbestos. In fact much of his reporting has helped to elevate awareness about the dangers of asbestos in Australia. He’s encountered some shocking scenes in his career but India’s asbestos drama shocked even this seasoned correspondent.
‘I first began covering the story of its trail of death in Australia thirty years ago. Back home and in other developed countries the problem now is how to get rid of it. But India it seems is racing headlong into repeating the same mistakes only on a massive scale.
PEACOCK: In the remote tribal lands of Charkhand State, the lush landscape is nourished by the annual monsoon. These hills have made some Indians very rich. Nearly half of India’s mineral wealth is found in this region. It’s also home to some of India’s poorest people, including those who live in the tiny village of Roro. But Roro lies in the shadow of a sinister presence.
MADHUMITA DUTTA: “For me it was like the middle of this green jungle and forest and all, and suddenly there’s almost like a snow clad mountain that I saw from a distance which kind of completely, you know, shocked me”.
PEACOCK: High on the Roro Hills, this lunar-like landscape cuts and ugly swathe through the forest. I’m walking with environmental scientist turned activist, Madhumita Dutta across a toxic mix of tailings – asbestos and another cancer causing mineral, chromite. To be safe here, we need suits and masks, protection against the waste from a mine abandoned in 1983 by one of India’s biggest corporations.
“The children use this as a slippery slide do they?”
MADHUMITA DUTTA: “Yes, it’s like a playground. It’s like a toxic playground...
the entire transcription of the reportage on ABC website: http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2011/s3359246.htm
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