Breakthroughs in ending asbestos
On March 2nd the Laos government organised an inter-agency workshop involving officials from nine ministries, the Lao Federation of Trade Unions, the World Health Organisation and the CPSU/CSA supported aid agency Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA. The meeting was organised to discuss the development of a National Action Plan to ban the use of chrysotile asbestos in the country.
Chrysotile asbestos is being used widely in Laos in the building industry; the amount of imported asbestos has been increasing year to year and it has reached over 8000 tons in 2013. Research supported by Union Aid Abroad revealed a total of 16 factories in Lao producing asbestos-containing roof tiles. Alarmingly, Laos is at the highest risk profile among Asia-Pacific countries, in terms of asbestos consumption per person.
The historic Laos inter-agency workshop developing the National Action Plan follows the announcement from Vietnamese Prime Minister Mr Nguyen Xuan Phuc in late January that Vietnam would ban asbestos in construction sector by 2023. Union Aid Abroad has developed and supported the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network (VNBAN) – an alliance of on-the-ground Vietnamese trade unions, NGOs and health campaigners.
While VNBAN and Union Aid Abroad welcomed the announcement, the priority is now to bring forward the ban to 2020 in order to save lives that would be affected by three years of working with asbestos — as well as limit the potential for asbestos contaminated building products to reach Australia.
Increased usage of asbestos has been most prominent in the Asia-Pacific region, a contributing factor to Australia having one of the highest rates of asbestos-related disease in the world. Community Public Sector Union and Civil Service Association members working in state government in the fields of environmental regulation, health and building safety face regular challenges due to asbestos being discovered in WA buildings, dumped illegally in the bush, or inadvertently exposed by DIY home owners. Despite years of asbestos being banned in Australia, dangerous building products still enter the country due to unregulated construction material production across the Asia Pacific.