Sunday, October 27, 2013

Laos working towards national strategy on asbestos

The Ministry of Industry and Comm erce, mass organisations and international organisations are working towards a national strategy on asbestos in Laos, aiming to protect the health of factory workers and consumers in society.

A meeting was held on the issue recently. ‘Towards a National Strategy on Asbestos in Laos' was attended by Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Ms Khemmani Pholsena, Australian Ambassador to Laos Lynda Worthaisong, senior representatives from the Lao Trade Union, and Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.

Laos uses asbestos to produce industrial products, in particular, cement roof tiles. Large amounts of chemical importation to Laos from abroad began in 2002, with 8,000 tonnes of Chrysotite or white asbestos coming in every year. Currently, importation seems to be increasing compared to past years, Ms Khemmani said at the opening of the meeting.

Previously, the Industry and Handicraft Department organised some technical meetings, recognising that there should be proper control and disposal of asbestos in accordance with international standards. However there are still limitations in relation to specific knowledge and budgeting because it is a new issue for Laos, to which the building sector should pay greater attention.

“To ensure continual production, we should find new choice s, especially finding other suitable raw materials to use instead of this chemical, so finally we can stop using white asbestos permanently in the future,” Ms Khemmani noted.

“Along with this, there should be awareness raising for operators and consumers to understand the harmful health effects. We should create a handbook, regulations and enough monitoring equipment to manage the chemicals to avoid impacts on health and the environment”.

She said Laos has clean land, air and water and is a newly industrialising country. It is good opportunity to learn from developed countries which previously found problems using this chemical. Therefore, she urged all sectors to help address the issue. Although there will be development, it need to ensure people's health and the environment are preserved, she said.

According to the Lao Trade Union (LTU) asbestos survey in eight provinces, most asbestos has been used in cement roof tiles and ceiling factories. Previously, the Labour Protection Department launched mobile activities to campaign on harmful health effects of asbestos in 72 factories.

“I think that after this meeting there should be a resolution to report to the government. There should be some policy on asbestos imports, usage, disposal, and harm prevention. We should find other ways to use raw materials instead of asbestos,” said Labour Protection Department Director General Mr Ounkham Bounnhaseng.
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