Pakistan Supreme Court Reviews Asbestos Case
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.
The plaintiff in this case is Syed Haroon Ahmed, the brother of Syed Fareed Ahmed, who died of cancer at age 55. Until 2006, the deceased had worked as a maintenance engineer in a factory owned by M/S Dadex Eternit Ltd. (Dadex), a company established in 1959 which specializes in the production of asbestos-cement building materials. The lawsuit links the cancer contracted by Syed Fareed Ahmed to his occupational exposure to asbestos in the Karachi factory. A complaint was filed by the Ahmed family with the Environmental Protection Tribunal Karachi urging that the use of asbestos be banned in Pakistan.
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
1 According to data from the United States Geological Survey, Pakistan asbestos use in 2009, 2010, and 2010 was, respectively: 12,595 tonnes (t), 13,320 t, 9394 t.
2 Kazan-Allen L. Asian Asbestos Conference 2006: A Report. March 15, 2007.