Chennai, India - Europe's toxic waste is ending up along India's coastline threatening the health of local residents and environment. This dangerous rubbish is being transported to India's coast in shipping containers and often in ships that are destined to be recycled.
India's ship breaking industry is one of the largest in the world, where decommissioned and old ships are broken down and recycled. The ship breaking industry in India recently came under international fire when the former Exxon Valdezcame to India to be taken apart. Evidence of toxins like asbestos were found on the ship.
Now, Europe's toxic trash is being shipped surreptitiously in these ships leaving India struggling to cope.
Asbestos, used batteries and oil are among Europe's rubbish. Shockingly, military trash like spent shells are finding their way to India's coast.
The immediate concern is what negative impact this toxic waste has on the environment and the health of those who work directly in the shipyards and nearby communities. For example, if shipping containers with toxic waste are not sealed properly, the risk of contaminating the ocean and the shoreline remain high. In the case of asbestos, if the containers are not properly sealed or if the broken apart asbestos is handled without proper protection, dockworkers run the risk of asbestos exposure.
Even though asbestos is a carcinogen, the severe health problems stemming from exposure only arise when the material is broken apart, allowing for small particles to become airborne.
Exposure to asbestos, like the other toxic waste now arriving on India's coast, can lead to devastating medical conditions like mesothelioma cancer, asbestosis and lung cancer. In some cases, exposure to asbestos may exacerbate a preexisting condition or increase the risk of a secondary cancer.
India's shipping ministry is scrambling to deal with the influx of Europe's toxic trash. The ministry cautions that it may take several months for the dangerous rubbish to return to the countries where it was generated.