From: Akhila Vijayaraghavan, Triple Pundit, More from this Affiliate
Published June 21, 2011 08:40 AM

Asbestos: Common Roofing Supply in India

Asbestos pollution may be a waning issue in Europe and the US but it still remains a big problem in India. Richer nations like the UK and Germany banned asbestos decades ago after it was discovered that it leads to a condition called asbestosis which was first identified in 1906. Asbestos consists of six natural fibers about 1,200 times smaller than a strand of human hair that can be woven like fabric. The material is resistant to fire, heat and chemicals and is therefore well-suited to construction and auto industries.


It has been used for the last 140 years in construction and national bans were first enacted in the 1970s after harmful effects were noticed. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they bruise the lung tissue. This leaves scars that accumulate and cripple the organ's ability to process oxygen. This damage can also lead to the development of lung cancers, shortness of breath and chest pains. There is no minimum safe level for asbestos exposure and sometimes it can take up to 20 years for symptoms to manifest.

Supply and Demand

According the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, India is the largest importer of asbestos. Most of it goes into making corrugated roofing sheets that sell for as little as $7. More than 100,000 people are employed by companies producing the material, according to the Asbestos Cement Producers Association, an industry lobby group.

Canada was India's second-largest overseas supplier of asbestos in 2009, trailing Russia, according to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics database. According to Bloomberg, the Quebec government approved a $60 million loan guarantee to a group of Canadian and Indian investors, enabling them to expand production at the last remaining asbestos mines. It produces 250,000 metric tons annually, of which 40% may end up in India and sales will generate $130 million in revenue.

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