KARACHI - The trade unionists have demanded an immediate ban on the use of asbestos in industries because it is dangerous silicate mineral that puts human lives at risk.

The demand was made in a seminar titled “Asbestos a dangerous mineral” organised by National Trade Union Federation at its office on Sunday.

The speakers told that the asbestos in the country was mostly coming from mines in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and used in construction, pipes, boilers, fire-proof products, textile, plaster decoration, automobiles and aviation. Its side effects, they said, were usually diagnosed after 10 to 15 years - in the form of cancers and other chronic diseases - making it a silent killer.

Sixty countries, of Europe, America and Asia, have already completely banned its use for its health hazards but unfortunately, in Pakistan, it is being widely used regardless of so many lives getting affected, they said.

The speakers were quoted a report and said about 601 people died because of the asbestos in KP from 1995 to 2003. “Another survey on its effects on humans suggested that 90 percent of the lungs diseases were caused by the asbestos particles in the air, speakers added.

The speakers further said that Mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops in the lining of lungs and chest wall, was caused by the same. They deplored that no government institution kept data and record of the asbestos-affected people.

Pakistan Medical Research Council told in a report that the mineral was also found in talcum powders. Due to its rigidness and heat resistance, it was being used in floor tiles, paper products, roof sealing and coating and in the packaging of materials. Asia has its most use.

World Health Organization says that 125 million people were getting affected by the asbestos annually and of these 90 thousand died. International Labor Organization has appealed to its member countries to ban the use of asbestos, however, 23 percent of them has so far acted on it.

The speakers said that research on samples taken from workplaces where asbestos is used and from the resident towns near them told that it was as dangerous for women, children, in fact for everyone in the surrounding.

They deplored that the government neither had an ample health and safety law and so the mechanism to compensate people affected by such diseases at workplaces.

They demanded that the use of asbestos be immediately banned, special arrangements to eliminate its effects be employed where there it has been used, its mining should be stopped, its use in automobile and shipbuilding be stopped and a mechanism should be defined to draw it out safely from ships during their dismantling.

A question-answer session was also held at the end of the seminar. Those who spoke at the seminar, include Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary National Trade Union Federation, Shahid Baig, health and safety expert, Zehra Khan, general secretary Home Based Women Workers Federation, Mushtaq Ali Shan, Gul Rehman and others.