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Put an end to use of asbestos, Laos advised

Government officials, experts from international organisations and representatives of the Australian Embassy to Laos gathered in Vientiane yesterday to discuss a national action plan for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases in Laos.
Speaking at the meeting, Director General of the Hygiene and Health Promotion Department, Ministry of Health, Dr Bounpheng Philavong said participants had convened to discuss a very important topic. The elimination of asbestos-related diseases would require an end to the use and production of all kinds of asbestos.

Asbestos is a cause of lung cancer and fibrosis of the lung. Everyone is susceptible to the effects of asbestos because it is widely used in construction, he explained.
Laos has one of the highest uses of asbestos in the world. The country has 16 tile factories that use asbestos, which employ more than 500 people.
One of the factories has closed as part of efforts by authorities to end the use of asbestos in factories by 2020, according to the Ministry of Health.
Asbestos is used in the production of tiles and plasterboard ceilings. Factories can use polyurethane foam, flour fillers, cellulose fibre, thermoset plastic flour and amorphous silica fabrics to replace asbestos. These materials do not cause the health hazards that result from the use of asbestos.
Also speaking at the workshop, WHO Representative to Laos Dr Juliet Fleischl said it was well known that asbestos and chrysotile could cause cancer. About 125 million people in the world come into contact with asbestos and chrysotile in their offices and workplaces.
About 107,000 people die each year from lung cancer and fibrosis of the lung as a result of inhaling asbestos or chrysotile, she added.
About half of the people who die from cancer have come into contact with asbestos during the course of their work, while WHO estimates that thousands of people die each year due to the presence of asbestos in their houses.
Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy to Laos, Mr Andreas Zurbrugg, said Australia stopped using asbestos in 2003 and the country’s authorities exercise strict control over its use.
In Laos it is estimated that on average people come into contact with about 1.2kg of asbestos per person per year.
The hazardous effects of asbestos are easily prevented by stopping its use, as has happened in nearby countries, Mr Zurbrugg said.
In the future, authorities in Laos will inform officials about asbestos-related diseases and report on the effects of asbestos to local people through various channels, as many people are unaware of the toxic effects of this household material.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update
March 2,

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