Special Correspondent

SHRC recommendation to government on a petition

KOCHI: The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has recommended that the government reject permission to new schools whose buildings have asbestos roofing. It has also suggested that asbestos roofs of all government school buildings be replaced with earthen tiles in phases as asbestos is hazardous to children’s health.

The recommendation comes on a petition by Mukesh Jain of Mattancherry, who pointed out to the commission the health risks of asbestos and the steps taken world over to restrict asbestos use.

“The exposure to asbestos results in a long tragic chain of adverse medical, legal and social consequences,” N. Dhinakaran, Chairman of the commission, noted. “It is therefore clear that the use of asbestos for roofing the buildings, especially school buildings, leads to severe consequences.”

The commission wanted the government to get the private school managements to replace their asbestos roofs replaced within a time frame.

Mr. Jain said that constant exposure to asbestos caused diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesuthelema. He pointed out that international standards of workplace safety insisted that factory buildings should have no asbestos roofing. One of the norms for securing the ISO 14000 certification was the factories concerned should not use asbestos roofing, he said. “It is imaginable how much health risk a schoolboy is exposed to if he attends class under an asbestos roof for seven hours a day during his 12-year schooling.” He also pointed out that the impact of exposure to asbestos fibres took up to 20 years to manifest and that very often source of exposure went unnoticed.

The commission, also on Mr. Jain’s petition, urged the government to ask school managements to introduce cotton uniforms. The government has been told to educate parents, children and schools managements on the benefits of cotton fabric.