The heavy use of asbestos (particularly chrysotile asbestos) in South East Asia and claims from the asbestos lobby group that it is “safe” illustrates the importance of Australia’s international work to ban asbestos.
Asbestos has been banned in Australia since 2003, and its use was greatly phased out since the late 1980s. Unfortunately the same is not true in South East Asia, where use remains high and asbestos manufacturing continues.
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) has strongly refuted claims by the industry lobby that chrysotile (white) asbestos is safe.
“It is clear that chrysotile can cause mesothelioma, other cancers and other forms of asbestos-related disease,” said ASEA CEO Justine Ross.
“This is not up for debate.
“Chrysotile is hazardous to human health. There is no evidence that a safe level of exposure exists, below which there would be no adverse health effects from the use of asbestos.
“As there is no known level of exposure that would prevent the likelihood of asbestos-related diseases occurring, the risk to human health now and in the future when asbestos is disturbed or deteriorates is unacceptable.
“With no known safe level of exposure, use in ‘controlled’ environments is not feasible as the risk of exposure cannot be eliminated.”
ASEA is working with government and non-government partners across SE Asia to spread this information.
Next Tuesday the National strategic plan for asbestos awareness and management 2019 – 2023 will be officially launched at the Asbestos Safety Conference in Perth. The conference is organised by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency.
The conference will be attended by Australian and international experts – including experts from South East Asia.
“The National strategic plan has four key priorities, and the fourth is ‘International collaboration and leadership’”, said Ms Ross.
“Australia is using our experience as one of the highest per capita asbestos producers and users in a positive way – to work with non-government partners across South East Asia and the Pacific to progress bans and educate our neighbours about the dangers.
“We are still dealing with the ramifications of our country’s heavy asbestos use in the past. We are still undergoing remediation and clean up and people continue to be inadvertently exposed. We don’t want this to happen to our neighbours. It is crucial that we use our knowledge to help others in the region.
“This also helps to protect Australians from illegal imports of asbestos, making sure that importers understand and comply with our ban.
“This year alone ASEA has been present at ban workshops in Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines, and we will be in Thailand before the end of the year. From 2020 we will be branching into the Pacific as well.”
Actions under the National strategic plan include sharing best practice approaches to asbestos awareness and eradication internationally – particularly in countering the claims of the chrysotile lobby that chrysotile asbestos is safe.
“Australia is doing our part to be a leader in this area, and work to help protect our neighbours from the scourge of asbestos, and present the facts.”