The Non-governmental Organisations-Information Centre (NGO-IC) held a workshop in Hanoi on November 27 to call for joining hands with Vietnamese agencies in a bid to draw a roadmap for the ban of white asbestos use in the country.

Nguyen Manh Hung from the Vietnam Standards and Consumer Protection Association said asbestos is a generic name given to a group of fibrous silicate materials which are now present in more than 3,000 products.

In Vietnam, white asbestos is mostly used in producing asbestos-cement (AC) roofing sheets. Forty-one roofing sheet facilities nationwide are able to turn out over 100 million sq.m. of AC roofing sheets a year, meeting 60 percent of the demand, primarily in rural and mountainous areas due to their low prices and high level of durability, he added.

Tran Anh Thanh from the Ministry of Health’s Health Environment Management Agency said asbestos is proved harmful to human health, and people are exposed to asbestos dust during production or use such as drilling, grinding, and mixing asbestos materials.

Asbestos may cause a number of lung diseases such as pneumoconioses and lung cancer, or oesophagus cancer and ovary cancer. As it takes 20-30 years for asbestos-caused diseases to develop, a majority of patients are of retirement ages, he noted.

Thanh said health insurance has covered asbestos-related diseases since 1976 in Vietnam, but the country has not had adequate resources to study and monitor such cases. Meanwhile, hospitals reported an increasing incidence of mesothelioma cancer, which commonly develops in the lungs of people exposed to asbestos.

The Ministry of Health urged the Government to take timely actions to stop the use of asbestos in order to protect the health of workers as well as consumers and the whole community.

It also asked the Ministry of Construction to help roofing sheet facilities to produce asbestos-free products and recommended the Ministry of Science and Technology to step up researches on alternatives and measures to safely dispose asbestos solid waste, he noted.

Dr Tran Tuan from the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network (Vn-BAN), which made debut at the workshop, cited a survey in two communes in northern Yen Bai and central Thanh Hoa provinces that 85 percent of households used AC roofing sheets, less than 5 percent of residents knew about asbestos’s adverse effects on health and environment, and almost none of them heard about the ban of asbestos use in the world.-VNA