4.4.1 General Overview
In India Asbestos fibers are mined mainly in small plants and partly in deep mining. The production cannot cover the national demand, though, particularly for chrysotile fibers, so that a considerable amount of imports are necessary.
The mining activities are concentrated in the Cuddapah District in Andrah Prodesh (chrysotile) and the Districts Ajmer and Udaipur in Rajastahn (tremolite). In 1991 about 66 officially operating mines were located there, each having an average of about 5-50 workers. The annual production of the mines was between about 30 t/a for the small mines and 1500 t/a for the larger mines. The official total production is presented in Table 27.
In Asbestos mines the official number of workers is currently around 900, and about another 400 in Asbestos processing. The mining of raw Asbestos occurs-primarily with manual procedures, which are described below:
Asbestos containing rock is manually separated from waste rock and ground in edge runner mills. The Asbestos fibers are then separated in a series of shaking screens and freed of dirt. For the final cleaning, manually operated shaking screens are still used in some cases. Finally, the raw Asbestos is packed into polyethylene sacks.
Table 27: Asbestos Fiber Production in India (1 April '90 - 31 March 91)
Table 28: Asbestos Processing Companies in India (examples)
Source: own compilation
In automatic processes Asbestos containing rock is separated from rock and freed of dirt in a series of two-story rotation-eccentric screens. The raw fibers are pneumatically transported further and then discharged into cyclones.
India has a relatively large Asbestos processing industry. Since the entire capacity of all plants could not be determined, the capacities of just some plants are exemplified in Table 28.
In Table 29 the amounts of Asbestos used in different product areas are presented as well as their import and export. Since many products are produced in small plants, which come under the nonorganized or informal sector of the economy, these amounts can only be treated as estimations.
Table 29: Asbestos Containing Product Groups in India
Source: own compilation
In India a total of 1,293 tons of chrysotile, 31,728 tons of tremolite and 275 tons of crocidolite were processed in the period between April 1990 and March 1992. It is apparent that in India the main type of Asbestos used is not chrysotile, which is an exception to the introductory statement.
India has legal norms as the basis for particular safety regulations and requirements on the mining and processing of Asbestos. These are, in particular:
- Factories Act, 1948 (last revision 1987)
The authority making the laws is the Ministry of Labour or the Indian Government. Implementation and supervision of the laws are the responsibility of the Central Labour Institutes or the Regional Labour Institutes, the Chief Inspectorate of Factories, as well as the central and State Pollution Control Boards, whereby measurements are performed by the individual plants, the Inspectorate of Factories as well as the National Institute of Occupational Health.
In the area of Asbestos mining the Metalliferous Mines Regulations and the Mines Rules are to be followed. These norms stipulate a maximum concentration of Asbestos fibers in the air of 2 fibers/ml.
Average measured values in mines lie around 0.5 fibers/ml and are thus below these upper limits. This is achieved through protection measures, such as vacuum exhausting, water rinsing and encapsulation of facilities. In areas with an exceedance of 2 fibers/ml in the air, additional safety measures are necessary, such as respiratory protection and safety clothing. The measurement of the air concentration of Asbestos is performed as a time average measurement with the membrane filter method and phase contrast microscopy (BIS Standard No. lS-11450-1986). Furthermore, a medical examination is required upon commencement of employment, and regular examinations are needed at least once every 12 months (x-ray diagnosis, testing of lung functions, blood and urine tests). The workers are informed about the dangers of Asbestos at the workplaces. This is performed within discussion rounds, through audio-visual means, brochures in multiple languages and signs. In most plants there is a general no smoking policy. As long as the air limits at the workplaces are not exceeded, no respiratory protection is prescribed, but is typically available at the plants. This is also true for other protective equipment, such as possibilities for changing clothes, showers and exhaust systems.
In processing Asbestos fibers, as in all areas in which Asbestos fibers are used in any form, a maximum air emission of 4 fibers/ml is required by the Environment (Protection) Rules.
Asbestos products must be labeled with the symbol "a" in India.
There is no mandatory abatement for Asbestos containing building substances in India. Since no friable Asbestos products are manufactured directly in India, it is assumed that no dangers are posed by the other uses to justify abatement.
For transport, packaging and storage of Asbestos containing materials, the relevant rules are in the Standard BIS Standard No. 12079 -1987 "Recommendations for Packaging, Transport and Storage of Asbestos". Since only Asbestos products with high densities are produced in India, however, no special measures are applied in practice. Smaller products are first transported after packaging, and products like Asbestos cement are transported in open trucks.
In India there are no regulations regarding maximum Asbestos fiber concentrations in drinking water.
4.4.3 Research and Development
In India some research projects are being performed on the health risks of Asbestos.
At the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre experimental studies on animals are performed. Cross sectional exams of industrial workers are performed by the Central Labour Institute, the Regional Labour Institutes and the National Institute of Occupational Health.
As for the development of Asbestos substitutes, some industrial plants conduct research, including the development of roof coverings and friction materials. The Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow has also published some some work on the hazardous properties of substitutes. The CBRJ is performing investigations on the coating of Asbestos with chemicals to reduce its toxicity.
In India Asbestos containing products are replaced in part by substitutes, as far as this is possible in spite of the elevated costs. The most important substitutes are listed in the following table.
Table 30: Substitutes for Asbestos Fiber Production in India
Source: own compilation
The technical properties and the weather resistance of these substitutes are typically judged poorer than those of the comparable Asbestos products. This is true for the processing ability as well. Aside from cement substitutes, all products are manufactured within the country.
Furthermore, a number of Asbestos substitutes are in use which are entirely fiber-free. These products are partly manufactured within the country. The most important classes are listed in Table 31.
Table 31: Fiber-free Substitutes for Asbestos Production in India
Source: own compilation
The technical properties and the weather resistance of these substitutes are satisfactory to good. The processing ability is difficult in the case of teflon for paper products.
In typical application areas of Asbestos cement, such as water mains or roofing, cement reinforced with cellulose fiber is mainly used today. In special cases of application, the alkali-resistant glass fibers also come into use. For water pipelines the following are also applied: (malleable-) cast iron, galvanized steel, PVC and HDPE. For roof coverings, steel panels or steel pressed panels are used in addition to cement and clay panels (tiles). Cement sheets are also impregnated with bitumen or acrylate protective coatings to become waterproof All of these materials are manufactured in India directly.
The technical suitability of these materials are judged according to special Indian norms. Generally, cement fiber products are classified somewhat poorer in comparison to Asbestos cement with regard to their tensile strength and impact resistance. Due to the climatic conditions, the low UV-resistance of plastics or plastic reinforced with glass fiber must be taken into consideration.
4.4.5 Risk Philosophy
Asbestos is clearly recognized in India as an environmental risk with a damaging effect on the health of the population. This was demonstrated on the basis of the Environmental-cum -Medical Study, which was performed in the Asbestos mines and Asbestos mills in Pullivendalla in the Cuddapah District of the state of Andrah Pradesh.
In this study, fiber concentrations in the air in mine operations were found to lie below the limit of 2 fibers/ml when wet processes were used. Asbestosis was still determined in about 3.1 % of the workers. In other areas, where these protection measures have not been applied, the fiber concentration in the air was a factor of 2 to 244 higher than the limit value. Correspondingly, in these areas up to 21.3% of the workers had Asbestosis. In this study, the immunological findings could be directly correlated with the development of Asbestosis through elevated Asbestos concentrations in the air.
In order to stop the further expansion of mining activities, the Indian government ordered the individual governments of provinces not to permit the expansion of Asbestos mines any longer. This has led to an increase in the import rate, though, so that the Indian government is currently reconsidering its decision. Stricter legislation on Asbestos is not presently anticipated, since the corresponding norms have just been revised in the mid to late 1980s.
The use of Asbestos containing materials is currently judged controversial in India. On the one hand, the hazards in handling are clearly recognized and the government recommends avoiding the use of Asbestos as insulation or sealing material and in cement pipes, as long as substitutes are available. On the other hand, there is an enormous demand for cheap building materials, which can apparently only be covered by Asbestos containing products. Health hazards from non-friable Asbestos are not considered significant.
It must also be mentioned that many social housing construction programs are financially supported by the individual governments of provinces, and that in these projects considerable amounts of Asbestos containing roof coverings are being used. Moreover, federal offices are the main requester of Asbestos cement pipes for water mains and sewer projects.
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