Asbestos Use Rises in India Despite Protests

Despite hundreds of asbestos and medical professionals advising India against the use of the substance, government officials continue to condone and encourage asbestos use in commercial and residential construction projects within the country.

Asbestos has been banned in more than 50 countries around the world, yet India remains the biggest importer of the substance today. The country is home to over one hundred asbestos manufacturing plants, while the industry employs around 300,000 individuals. “We’re here not only to run our businesses, but to also serve the nation,” said Abhaya Shankar, an India’s Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association director.

street and market in India

Government officials and those within asbestos support groups claim that the substance is helping to develop a poor nation in need of housing, jobs, and more. Affordability is seen as one of the most attractive features of asbestos products, but health hazards are almost completely dismissed: “Chrysotile you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” said Kanat Kapbayel of Kazakhstan’s United Minerals and a board member of the International Chrysotile Association about the exposure to a particular type of asbestos fiber.

The World Health Organization states that “the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos.” Hundreds of medical professionals and health organizations have come forward in recent years to speak about the dangers of all asbestos fiber types–not just a few. Residents of small Indian villages are also not convinced by asbestos supporters’ claims of safety, and fear for their crops, homes, and health.

Executives within the asbestos industry in India believe they are “[saving] lives and [bringing] roofs, walls and pipes to some of the world’s poorest people,” but, really, they are exposing them to a deadly substance that can cause serious diseases in decades to come.