Laos plans to eliminate the importation of asbestos

A project to research, compile and publish a National Asbestos Profile report in cooperation with line ministries is set to commence in January next year, with a focus on promoting healthier workers and consumers in Laos.

The project, costing AUD 25,000, is funded partly by Australian Aid and partly by Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad (APHEDA) otherwise known as Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, and will be carried out by the Industry and Handicrafts Department of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

An agreement for partnership and support was signed last Friday by Deputy Director General of the Industry and Handicrafts Department under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC), Mr Somphong Soulivanh, and APHEDA's Mekong Regional Representative Mr Philip Hazelton.

Both parties will work together to promote the development of a National Asbestos Profile in Laos based as closely on the form of the Japan Asbestos profile as possible.

The project's output will also focus on a study tour to Vietnam. A total of four officials from the MOIC, Ministry of Health and other line ministries will go there to gain understanding on developing a National Asbestos Profile in Vietnam.

Mr Somphong said Asbestos is a hazardous substance for the health of people so the project was to focus on compiling an asbestos profile and drafting a hazardous substance law.

“On behalf of the MOIC, we will do our best to ensure the project is successfully implemented for the benefit of people's health and sincerely thank APHEDA for their support,” he said.

Mr Hazelton also said that Asbestos does not kill people immediately but does so after a long time.

“Currently, more than 40 countries across the world have banned the use of this substance. Many developing countries do not have strong enough regulations yet to deal with it,” he said.

He said Asia is the biggest importer of asbestos in the world and its use in Laos and Vietnam is in the manufacture of zinc roofing tiles or sheets and in automotive parts.

“It is a good idea to carry out this project in Laos because it will be able to help the government here to produce and develop a hazardous substance law,” he said.

Mr Hazelton added that the World Health Organisation has reported that more than 100,000 people in the world die every year due to asbestos exposure.

MOIC senior officials recently said that Laos uses asbestos to produce industrial products, in particular, cement roof tiles. Large amounts of chemical importation into Laos from abroad began in 2002, with 8,000 tonnes of Chrysotite, or white asbestos, coming in every year.

The project is part of a step towards the development of a National Strategy on the Elimination of Asbestos, and will be concluded at the end of June, 2014.

vientiane times

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