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Anti asbestos workshop marks International Labour Day

The Ministry of Health and involved government bodies yesterday held a brainstorming session on the National Action Plan to eliminate asbestos-related diseases among workers to mark the International Labour Day.
The workshop was attended by representative of the health ministry, Dr Tayphasavanh Fengthong.
The health of workers in Laos was of key concern in the multi-sectoral consultation meeting to raise awareness on the importance of banning chrysotile asbestos, and jointly finalise a National Action Plan to reduce and mitigate asbestos-related diseases in the country.
Relevant stakeholders from the government, non-government organisations and development partners participated actively in the discussion on how to protect workers and stop the exposure.
Urgent action is required to prevent the extended use of asbestos as a construction material and ban all forms of asbestos to protect lives, support safer economic growth and ensure social stability in the country.
WHO Representative to Laos, Dr Juliet Fleischl told the workshop that the National Action Plan’s aim was to eliminate asbestos-related diseases among workers, noting that, “all forms of asbestos can cause cancer in humans and no threshold has been identified for the carcinogenic risks.
This is the conclusion reached by experts from WHO and IARC following a series of authoritative international assessments conducted over a period of more than 15 years.”
Acting Deputy Head of Mission from the Australian Embassy, Mr Dominique Vigie said Australia is still paying a heavy price after declaring chrysotile as a carcinogen in 1995; millions of dollars are spent removing asbestos from existing buildings.
Currently, about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace. According to global estimates, at least 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposures.
Mr Philip Hazelton, Campaign Coordinator for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA that supported Laos to develop the National Asbestos Profile, showed that chrysotile asbestos is still being imported into the country and used in the building industry; the amount of imported asbestos has been increasing year to year and reached over 8,000 tonnes in 2013.
The national asbestos profile (APHEDA/MOCI 2017) concluded that Laos ranked highest among Asia-Pacific countries in terms of asbestos consumption per person. Increased usage has been most prominent in the Asia-Pacific region.
Evidence continues to show that national burdens of asbestos-related diseases are directly proportional to national consumption of asbestos.
The “low cost” of asbestos-containing products is often cited as a reason for the continued use of asbestos. However, future costs for compensation to industry workers and costs of removing asbestos-related materials will be very substantial.
There are safer substitutes available and this is an opportunity for Laos and local companies to position themselves within the green industry to strive for a more sustainable pathway of growth by undertaking green public investments and implementing public health policy initiatives that encourage environmentally responsible private investments.
The Lao government will join other countries to protect their labour force as they finalise the National Action Plan to eliminate asbestos-related diseases among workers.
Absbestos is often used in building products such as roof tiles and wall sheeting.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update April 27, 2018

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