Asbestos in roof sheets still a threat to workers

Update: September, 25/2015 - 10:53
The use of asbestos in roofing sheet plants in Viet Nam has led to severe consequences for workers' health. — VNA/VNS Photo

HA NOI (VNS) — The use of asbestos in roofing sheet plants in Viet Nam has led to severe consequences for workers' health, a workshop in Ha Noi was told on Tuesday.

The event was co-organised by the Viet Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA), the Environment Health Management Department under the Health Ministry and Viet Nam Ban Asbestos Network (Vn-BAN).

"White asbestos is harmful to human health. It can cause pneumoconiosis, pleural effusion and other fatal diseases such as lung cancer, malignant mesothelioma, esophageal cancer and ovarian cancer," said Vice Chairman of VUSTA, Phan Tung Mau.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed asbestos among the most deadly occupational carcinogens. It says it causes about half the cancer deaths in the workplace.

There are more than 40 factories making asbestos roofing across 23 provinces and cities nationwide. Over the last 10 years, the country has been among the world's 10 largest users of asbestos. It consumes about 65,000tonnes every year.

Hospital surveillance 2012 showed a high percentage of asbestos-related diseases.

Viet Nam has already taken measures to reduce the harm of asbestos to health. The use of amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos) were prohibited in 2004. However, chrysotile (white asbestos) has yet to be banned.

"Asbestos is a hazardous material that affects not only workers but also consumers of products containing it," said Tran Tuan, director of the Research and Training Centre for Community Development (RTCCD).

"In Viet Nam, most asbestos roofing sheets are used by people with low incomes and in housing programme for the poor ," Tuan said.

"In the long term, those people's health will be severely impacted, leading to poverty and illness," he added.

The Government has decided to implement a plan to replace asbestos. The Ministry of Construction was instructed to develop a specific roadmap for the elimination procedure of white asbestos in roofing production in 2020.

The Ministry of Health was asked to co-operate with the Ministry of Science and Technology to build a national action plan on eradicating asbestos-related diseases. — VNS