A case being adjudicated by the Supreme Court of Pakistan has highlighted the use of asbestos in a country which has consumed more than 35,000 tonnes since 2009.1 To clarify issues arising from the asbestos litigation, the Supreme Court requested advice from an expert panel; according to information received, the commission's report is overdue.
Asbestos-cement sewage pipes and roofing materials are made at Dadex plants in Karachi, Lahore and Hyderabad. An occupational health and safety expert who recently visited a Dadex plant in Pakistan reported that the asbestos workers he observed were not working in a safe environment.
The dangers of using asbestos have been known in Pakistan for years. In a presentation to the 2006 Asian Asbestos Conference in Bangkok, Geologist Noor Jehan described a range of tests she had conducted including geographical, air and product sampling from various deposits, mines, mills, factories and residential areas. Based on her findings, Mrs. Jehan concluded that exposure to asbestos was an everyday occurrence in Pakistan. Widespread asbestos contamination, she said, endangered the health of housewives, schoolchildren, hospital patients, schoolteachers as well as mine and industrial workers.2 The fact that there was no asbestos health and safety legislation in Pakistan and no procedures for awarding compensation for occupational asbestos injuries exacerbated an already dangerous situation.
August 13, 2012
There is a scientific consensus that the use of asbestos is harmful to human beings and the environment and that it should be banned. This position is supported by all major international agencies including the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization, and the International Commission on Occupational Health, the Collegium Ramazzini, the World Bank and others. There has been information available about the asbestos hazard for many decades and there is no doubt that the asbestos-related deaths of individuals in Pakistan could and should have been avoided; for this reason, the companies which have been shown to have exposed their workers, consumers or members of the public to asbestos should be held accountable for their crimes.