New evidence submitted by the former projectmanager of SS Norway (Blue Lady) reveals that the toxic ship-for-scraprenamed Blue Lady and currently anchored 4000 feet off Alang coast hasradioactive material on board in at least 5500 fire detection points.
Americium 241 – a radioactive substance – concentrates in the bone,liver and muscle and can expose surrounding tissues to radiation,thereby increasing the risk of cancer. Ironically, this finding wasmade months after the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of TechnicalExperts (CTE) opined "the presence of radioactive materials in apassenger ship like "Blue Lady" is quite unlikely."
The new evidence exposes the shoddy state of science in this country. A body of experts appointed by the apex Court of the countryconfidently, and without evidence, rules on a subject that hasfar-ranging implications on worker health and environment."
Supreme Court in the matter of Ship Breaking dealing with"Decontamination of ships before they are exported to India forbreaking", has specifically directed that "Before a ship arrives atport, it should have proper consent from the authority concerned orthe State Maritime Board, stating that it does not contain anyhazardous waste or radioactive substances. AERB should be consulted inthe matter in appropriate cases." There has been no compliance ofthese directions in the case of Blue Lady. No one has been punishedfor this lapse till date.
"The ship admittedly contains more than 1200 tons of asbestos,significant quantities of carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs) and other heavy-metal-laden substances. Export of such ships tonon-OECD countries violates the Basel Convention. However, India hasrefused to challenge such imports despite the abysmal environment andsafety record at its ship-breaking yard in Alang."
The Final Report of CTE submitted to the apex court notes, "theaverage annual incidence of fatal accidents in ship breaking industryis 2.0 per 1000 workers while the All India incidence of fatalaccidents during the same period in mining industry, which isconsidered to be the most accident prone industries, is 0.34per 1000workers."
The Final Report also notes of asbestos victims in the ship-breakingindustry and cites the "Medical Examination of the Asbestos Handlers"by a team of National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) thatconcludes, " The X ray examination by NIOH showed linear shadows onchest X rays of 15 (16 %) of 94 workers occupationally exposed toasbestos. These are consistent with asbestosis…" but has failed torecommend any compensation as is required as per court's directions.
"In such a context the imminent contamination from Americium-241 canoccur to people/workers who work at or near a contaminated sidethrough ingestion of food and water, or by inhalation is alarming."
When inhaled, some Americium-241 remains in the lungs, depending uponthe particle size and the chemical form of the Americium compound. Thechemical forms that dissolve easily may pass into the bloodstream fromthe lungs. The chemical forms that dissolve less easily tend to remainin the lungs, or are coughed up through the lung's natural defensesystem, and swallowed. From the stomach, swallowed Americium maydissolve and pass into the bloodstream. That Americium-241 poses a significant risk if ingested (swallowed) orinhaled. It can stay in the body for decades and continue to exposethe surrounding tissues to both alpha and gamma radiation, increasingthe risk of developing cancer. Americium-241 also poses a cancer riskto all organs of the body from direct external exposure to its gammaradiation. Neither the Dismantling Plan submitted by the buyers of theship nor any of the Reports/Affidavits by the Technical Committee orEnvironment Ministry envisage safe removal/destruction of suchradioactive substances contained in the Blue Lady.
For details: H Mahadevan (AITUC), 9818120885, P K Ganguly (CITU),9968214082, Gopal Krishna (Platform on Shipbreaking), 9818089660