Why No Asbestos Use at the Commonwealth Games 2010?
The 19th Commonwealth Games (CWG), which opened in New Delhi on October 4, 2010, did so amidst a flurry of media attention regarding unfinished accommodation facilities, missed deadlines and questions over security arrangements; thousands of athletes from 71 countries were expected to take part.1 The fact that the Games were being held in the country which has for years been the world's biggest importer of a class 1 carcinogen saw no mention in the media coverage.
Since 2003 when India was awarded the Commonwealth Games, 1,709,302 tonnes of asbestos have been used, the vast majority in asbestos-cement building products.2 Various attempts to ascertain from official sources whether or not asbestos was used in the CWG infrastructure have proved fruitless. Enquiries made amongst colleagues on the ban asbestos network have proved more successful, with Mohit Gupta of the New Delhi-based Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India saying:3
Asbestos is not being used in any construction project related to the Commonwealth Games 2010 as per replies received under the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI Act). However, there is no reason given for not using Asbestos. The only information available is that Asbestos has been removed from the standard schedule for civil works item known as DSR2007 with effect from 01/09/2007 and hence is not used in any government construction. Reason for this change was not communicated despite several attempts.
This is not the first time that an asbestos-consuming country has chosen not to use asbestos in the construction of a high-profile project. During the years when the 2008 Olympic infrastructure was being put in place, nearly 3 million tons of asbestos were used in China. Despite multiple enquiries, no information on the use of asbestos in this multibillion dollar project was obtained; however, there was a consensus amongst alternative sources that the use of asbestos had been forbidden in the project. The question remains, however, if none of the 3 million tonnes of asbestos were used on the Olympics, where were they used?4
In 2014, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup will be held in Brazil, currently the world's third biggest producer and fourth biggest user of asbestos. Enquiries made about the proposed use of asbestos in the construction of the Brazilian World Cup elicited the following response from FIFA:
The delivery of the FIFA World Cup stadiums is generally a responsibility of the Local Organizing Committee together with the respective host cities. The stadiums have to fulfill the FIFA World Cup requirements and must be in line with local legislation. However, for details on the stadium construction we kindly ask you to contact the stadium owners or host cities.5
To date, no information has been obtained from the Brazilian World Cup organizers about the building products being used. If they remain true to precedents set in China (2008) and India (2010), it is likely the use of asbestos will be banned. The question remains why is asbestos banned in high-profile construction projects like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Cup and yet deemed safe enough for buildings designed for use by ordinary citizens? The apparent double standard being applied in these situations is morally unjustifiable. Do not ordinary men and women in asbestos-consuming countries like China, India and Brazil deserve the same protection from the world's worst industrial killer as that afforded to international athletes, diplomats and journalists?
October 4, 2010.
2 All data used has been sourced from the United States Geological Survey.
4 Kazan-Allen L. Asbestos Olympics 2008?
5 Email received from FIFA October 1, 2010.