HA NOI (VNS) — A recent survey revealed that 85 per cent of households in northern Yen Bai and Thanh Hoa provinces used roofing sheets made with asbestos.
Asbestos has been proven to harm human health, causing diseases such as lung and esophageal cancer and pneumoconiosis, Tran Anh Thanh from the Ministry of Health (MOH)'s Environment Management Agency said at a workshop on Thursday.
Only five per cent of survey respondents were aware about the risks of exposure to asbestos and only 25 per cent knew asbestos was used in the production of roofing sheets.
After being warned about the risks of exposure, 65 per cent of the households wanted to replace their roofing sheets.
"We must first communicate the danger of asbestos to human health and the environment and together the country will work toward a timeline for the ban of asbestos use," said Nguyen An Luong from the Labour Safety Department.
People in rural and mountain areas use these roofing sheets because they are cheap and durable, said Nguyen Manh Hung from the Viet Nam Standards and Consumer Protection Association. According to Hung, there are 41 facilities producing roofing sheets made with asbestos in the country, exposing about 5,000 workers to the harmful mineral on a daily basis.
Viet Nam recognised asbestos-related diseases as occupational diseases since 1976 but routine health checks for workers have been largely ineffective to prevent them.
The MOH also urged the Ministry of Construction and the Ministry of Science and Technology to limit the use of asbestos and invest in research and development to find an alternative material.
More than 40 countries in the world have agreed to prohibit the use of asbestos. In Viet Nam, however, consumption is increasing with 78,000 tons used in 2012, said head consultant from the International Labour Organisation Phillip Healton. — VNS