Asbestos use in construction a labor hazard

HANOI, (PNA/VNS) — The use of asbestos in construction should be stopped as it poses serious health risks to workers, said experts at a conference in Hanoi yesterday.

The conference, which was hosted by the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, heard a World Health Organization (WHO) report claimed that exposure to asbestos, a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals used in construction, can cause serious illnesses including lung cancer and asbestosis.

WHO has warned that an average of 1.25 million of workers worldwide die each year due to direct exposure to asbestos and more than 107,000 deaths each year are caused by illnesses related to asbestos.

So far, 54 countries have banned the use of asbestos, and experts said those still using the material, are mostly traditional producers of asbestos and developing countries.

In Vietnam, according to Dr. Luong Mai Anh, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health’s Environment Management Department, asbestosis (a disease of the lungs caused by inhaling fibers of asbestos) has been recognized as an occupational disease eligible for compensation since 1976. However, until 2013, only three persons had been compensated.

According to Mai Anh’s study, Vietnam is among the world’s 10 largest users of asbestos with a consumption of about 60,000 tonnes every year.

Dr. Le Van Trinh, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Labor Safety Science and Technology Association said that asbestos should be removed in both production and civil use, and it was not impossible to ban the material in Vietnam.

He said that the technology of producing non-asbestos roofing sheets at a price 10-15 percent higher than those made from asbestos is now available, and mass production of such products could help reduce costs.

According to the Ministry of Health’s research, not only workers who are regularly exposed to asbestos at work, but also people living near an area where asbestos is exploited, or those living under a roof made from asbestos can be affected. (PNA/VNS)