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Ban Asbestos Campaign
Home Campaigns Ban Asbestos Campaign

Ban Asbestos Campaign

APHEDA and its partners have identified low cost masks as an interim step to protecting workers
APHEDA and its partners have identified low cost masks as an interim step to protecting workers

Australians know that asbestos kills. We are historically one of the highest per capita miners, manufacturers and consumers of asbestos in the world. Almost all public buildings and around one third of all private houses were built with asbestos. And the toll was heavy - by 2020, Australia will have had 13,000 cases of mesothelioma and over 40,000 cases of asbestos related cancer.

Globally, it is estimated that each year 107,000 workers succumb to asbestos or asbestos related cancers & disease. And the centre of this new epidemic is Asia where the the World Health Organisation estimates that 60% of the 125 million people exposed to asbestos live. And that figure is set to increase - already half of asbestos consumption occurs in Asia with 90% of the global increase in consumption between 2000 and 2004 occurring in Asian countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and India.

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA shares the union movement's concern about the continued use of asbestos. It is unacceptable that millions of workers are occupationally exposed every day and that countries such as Russia, China and ,most shamefully Canada, make hundreds of millions of dollars exporting death to developing countries.

We have a long history of working with partners to fight asbestos and asbestos disease. For example, the in the post-war environment in East Timor in 2000, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA and its partners identified asbestos as a major worker and public health issue. After surveying the situation it emerged that asbestos handling practices were endangering the lives of thousands of workers, we then worked with the United Nations Transitional Authority of East Timor and the Timorese Department of Health to conduct an audit of asbestos use in East Timor and to develop the Guidelines for Asbestos Abatement in East Timor, which was eventually adopted as a national standard. This was possible due to techncial support of Australian unions, especially the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

More recently, in 2010 we launched a pioneering project in Vietnam, the Vietnam-Australia Asbestos Disease Prevention Project (VAADP) with the National Institute of Labour Protection (NILP), the occupational health and safety insitute of the Vietam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL). The project was supported by AusAID, the Asbestos Disease Research Institute (ADRI) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU). In just one year, we developed one of Vietnam's first asbestos training programs for workers and union officials, engaged with workers about their health and asbestos risks, and helped establish Vietnam's first focal point for asbestos issues - the National Resource Centre for Asbestos and Asbestos Related Disease. We also completed studies on asbestos alternatives and built research alliances that could help propel Vietnam to a post-asbestos future.

Working with Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) we are currently supporting an extension of this project both in Vietnam and into neighbouring countries, focusing on completing the national profile of asbestos use, conducting further research in factories that use asbestos and rolling out training materials for workers and trade union officials. In Lao PDR we are mapping asbestos-using enterprises and convening tripartite conferences to get the issue on the national agenda.

But more needs to be done to ban asbestos in Asia once and for all. Countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia continue to accelerate their use of asbestos amidst rapid industrialisation. We envisage a pan-Asian program that works with trade unions, research institutes, governments and NGOs to build coalitions to not only ban asbestos, but put in place the health and social infrastructure required to deal with the coming tsunami of asbestos deaths in the future. We need to harness technical expertise and world's best practice from Australia, including from trade unions, government agencies, health and research institutes, universities and survivor groups as well as retaining the flexibility of our partners to come up with innovative and localised solutions.

Our strategy for fighting asbestos in Asia is to:

  • Support local organisations, institutions, coalitions and others to advocate for a ban on asbestos from their country.
  • Minimise the exposure of workers currently handling asbestos.
  • Build awareness of the health impacts of using asbestos among institutions, government and the community.
  • Support and promote the use of non-asbestos materials and technologies.

Read more about asbestos, how it kills, who trades it and what you can do, below in Background Information.

Ban Asbestos Campaign News

Asbestos in Asia: Breaking Through the Silence in Lao PDR - 09 January 2012
Australians know that asbestos kills. We are historically one of the highest per capita miners, manufacturers and consumers of asbestos in the world. Almost all public buildings and around one third of all private houses were built with asbestos. And the toll was heavy - by 2020, Australia will have had 13,000 cases of mesothelioma and over 40,000 cases of asbestos related cancer. ...
>> READ MORE

Canada: Stop Exporting Asbestos - 26 September 2011
The Canadian government is looking to reopen Jeffery Mine in Quebec. This will massively increase Canada's export of death - asbestos.Will you tell the Canadian High Commissioner what you think of their deadly trade?...
>> READ MORE

Fighting Back: A reflection on our pilot asbestos project in Vietnam - 07 June 2011
Late last year, a curious thing happened in Vietnam. After decades of fighting and arguing that white asbestos was safe, the Vietnam Roof Sheet Manufacturers Association (VRSM) embraced the need to move on from asbestos....
>> READ MORE

Background Information

What is Asbestos?
Find out more about what asbestos is, what it is used for and how it damages human health....
>> READ MORE

The Global Trade in Asbestos
Who still uses asbestos? Who exports it? And why is Asia the new epicentre of asbestos use?...
>> READ MORE

A Global Ban on Asbestos?
Is a global ban on asbestos possible?...
>> READ MORE

What Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is doing
What is Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA doing about asbestos?...
>> READ MORE

   
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