Sitting inside his house in central New Delhi, Raja Singh leafs through folders packed with petitions, freedom-of-information requests and hard-won data from hospitals and local governments across India. Dr. Singh is one of a number of researchers and activists who have spent years trying to prove something long accepted in most of the world: Asbestos is a danger to public health.
“There’s a lot of talk that there is no mesothelioma in India,” Dr. Singh told The Globe and Mail, referring to a type of cancer almost always caused by asbestos. “But I’ve gone and looked at each and every record available, and there are cases even in pretty small registries.”
India stopped mining asbestos in 1993, almost two decades before Canada did. But today, the South Asian country is the world’s largest importer of chrysotile, or white asbestos, which is prized for making fire-resistant products – but has been shown to cause cancer and other diseases among those exposed to it.
India, which accounts for more than 40 per cent of global asbestos imports, currently gets most of its supplies from Russia. But in the decade before Ottawa halted exports, almost half a billion tonnes of Canadian asbestos was sent to India.
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