Asbestos ban in India: challenges ahead

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences . 2006 Sep;1076:292-308. [Link]

Tushar Kant Joshia, Uttal B Bhuvaa and Priyanka Katocha

a Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Lok Nayak Hospital, New Delhi 110002, India

Address for correspondence: Tushar Kant Joshi, Head of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Programme, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Ground Floor B.L. Taneja Block, Lok Nayak Hospital, MAMC New Delhi 110002, India. Voice: 0091/011/23214731; fax: 0091/011/23235574.  e-mail:


Rapidly industrializing India is described by the International Monetary Fund as a young, disciplined, and vibrant economy with a projected growth of 6.7% for 2005. The total workforce of 397 million has only 7% of workers employed in the organized sector with construction, where asbestos exposure is prevalent, employing 4.4%. The domestic production of asbestos declined from 20,111 tons in 1998–1999 to 14,340 tons in 2002–2003. The imports from Russia and Canada increased from 61,474 tons in 1997–1998 to 97,884 tons in 2001–2002. The production of asbestos cement products went up from 0.68 million tons in 1993–1994 to 1.38 million tons in 2002–2003. The asbestos industry has been delicensed since March 2003. The number of asbestos-based units stood at 32, with the western state of Maharashtra having the largest number. According to official figures, the industry employs 8000 workers. The occupational exposure standard is still 2 fibers/mL, worse still, mesothelioma is not recognized as an occupational disease. The latest cancer registry data have no information on mesothelioma. The health and safety legislation does not cover 93% of workers in the unorganized sector where asbestos exposures are extremely high. Workers remain uninformed and untrained in dealing with asbestos exposure. Enforcement agencies are not fully conscious of the risks of asbestos exposure. Industrial hygiene assessment is seldom carried out and pathologists do not receive training in identifying mesothelioma histopathologically. The lack of political will and powerful influence of the asbestos industry are pushing India toward a disaster of unimaginable proportion.