Australian agency to help regulate use of asbestos in Laos
Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA (Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad) will help Laos to manage the use of asbestos in industrial processing to reduce the impact on people's health.
An agreement for a data collection survey on the impact of asbestos was signed yesterday in Vientiane between the Mekong Regional Manager of Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA, Mr Phillip Hazelton, and the Deputy Director of the Industry and Handicraft Department, Mr Sompong Soulivanh.
This assistance represents the start of cooperation to regulate the use of asbestos in Laos in line with international principles.
The project will first focus on collecting information to raise awareness about the use of asbestos among business operators, and formulate regulations. The next phase will create a strategy as a tool for implementation, said Mr Somphong.
The first phase will run until June, and Mr Somphong said he believed more funding would be forthcoming for the next stage.
Asbestos has been used in a wi de range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials (roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and cement products), friction products (automobile clutch, brake, and trans mission parts), heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings.
The mineral has been used around the world for more than 2,000 years but its use grew significantly in the 19th century as industry expanded.
Today, scientists believe that asbestos represents a severe danger to human health. It affects the respiratory system and lungs and leads to lung cancer, Mr Somphong said.
Researchers are now finding new materials to replace asbestos and many countries have stopped using it altogether.
However, if a country stops using asbestos in industrial processing, cooperation from neighbouring countries is required so that contamination from this harmful mineral does not cross borders.
Laos uses asbestos in the manufacture of roofing tiles, with the material mostly imported from Russia and Kazakstan since 2002, Mr Somphong said.
Laos imports a kind of asbestos called Chrysotile, buying about 5,300 tonnes annually for supply to 13 factories. APHEDA is the Humanitarian Aid Agency of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It was founded in 1984 and has been working in Laos since 2001.
The agency focuses on decent work conditions, occupational health and safety, vocational training for women through the Lao Women's Union, trade union capacity building, and teacher training.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 107,000 people globally die globally from asbestos-related diseases, said Mr Hazelton.
About 54 countries have banned asbestos. China's Hong Kong will ban it this year, Taiwan will ban roofing sheets containing the mineral from this month, and Thailand and Malaysia a re considering banning asbestos.
Oman banned asbestos in 2001, Egypt and Honduras in 2004, Jordan in 2005, and South Africa in 2008.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update February 14, 2013)