Kicking Goals Towards Eradicating Asbestos in the Asia Pacific
Laos Launches National Ban Asbestos Network
On Monday 23 October, the Lao BAN Network was officially formed. This is a historic outcome and one which the Union Aid Abroad APHEDA Lao team have worked hard to support.
After 6 months of discussion and preparation among Lao groups, Phillip Hazelton – APHEDA’s Eliminating Asbestos Related Disease campaigner – co-chaired the latest meeting with the Vice President of the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU) Mr Simoune Ounlasy. The 1-day meeting and discussion included a presentation from LFTU on asbestos in Laos and Phillip on updates on the global and regional situations on asbestos use and disease. Importantly, the meeting discussed lessons and wins by other regional Ban Asbestos Networks.
At the end of a lengthy discussion, a ballot was held to decide upon the name and the Lao BAN Network was born.
Also participating were civil society organisations, doctors, media, and a representative from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Lao is currently one of the highest consumers of asbestos in the world per head of population at 1.2 kgs/head. The formation of Lao BAN is an important achievement as it brings together different groups to advocate for an asbestos ban in Lao as soon as possible, and to raise awareness among workers in the 16 asbestos roof sheet factories, communities living around these factories as well as consumers of asbestos-containing products and policymakers of the exposure risks. Mr Simoune declared at the end of the meeting. ‘We can prevent the cancers caused by asbestos – but we can’t treat them (once people get ARD’s). Our goal is a ban as soon as possible. The trade union can’t do this alone. We need to work with other sectors to raise awareness, to submit the proposal to the government for a complete ban’.
Engineers in Cambodia get on board with the campaign!
Earlier this month, our team in Cambodia, along with the Board of Engineering and Cambodia’s Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training ran a “Risk of Asbestos in Engineering” workshop.
Facilitated by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training Secretary of State H.E Lim Sothav, together with Union Aid Abroad staff, the workshop was attended by a wide range of Ministries, members of the National Engineering Board, Engineering students and trade union representatives. The workshop gained widespread media coverage in Cambodia.
Cambodia imports large quantities of asbestos-containing materials from neighbouring countries, particularly in the booming construction sector. The ban asbestos campaign in Cambodia is gaining strong momentum from events like this and is developing the first National Asbestos Profile.
Pacific Countries agree on plan for asbestos ban
After discussion on the issue over more than 5 years and inputs from WHO and the Australian government, 14 Pacific Island countries have agreed as a group, to ban or severely restrict asbestos-containing products entering their countries. Those countries are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. This regional approach to banning asbestos is a significant development. These 14 countries will join the over 60 countries that have already banned asbestos around the world and significantly add momentum for others in Asia and around the world to do the same. Go Pacific Islands!