Killing The Future: Asbestos Use In Asia

Asbestos Experiences of Asian Countries: Indonesia

Asbestos Experience in Indonesia

In the global rankings, Indonesia is the world's 8th largest importer, processor, consumer and exporter of asbestos and asbestos materials,43 during the period 2000-2004, consumption rose by 20%. Throughout Indonesia, asbestos sheeting is readily available and, as one of the cheapest materials, remains the building product of choice for many customers. More than 7,700 workers are employed by asbestos-processing industries; one case of mesothelioma has been identified. The majority of chrysotile asbestos, which is imported from Canada, Brazil and Russia, is used in the manufacture of asbestos-cement roofing materials.44

a well-resourced national asbestos lobby aggressively counters potential threats to the industry. In February 2006, the fiber cement manufactures association, supported by the International Chrysotile Association and the Canadian Embassy, held a so-called "International Scientific Symposium" in Jakarta which was little more than a propaganda exercise to promote the "safe use" use of chrysotile. On the cover of the symposium program the logos of the International Chrysotile Association, the Government of Canada and the Chrysotile Association were prominently displayed. An attempt to invite Australian pathologist Dr. Douglas Henderson, a leading asbestos expert and adviser to the World Trade Organization on the case Canada brought against the French asbestos ban, to speak out of hand by the event organizers. One year on, things had improved marginally with the participation of trade unionist Fiona Murie at the "Ban an Asbestos Panel" discussion during a National Working Meeting in Jakarta. Whilst the other speakers in this session45 extolled the virtues of industry's "controlled use" philosophy, Ms. Murie said:

"Since 1989, the Building and Woodworkers international (BWI) has had a clear policy to actively campaign for a global ban on all kinds of asbestos, mainly used in building materials. The reason is clear-asbestos kills, whether it's blue, brown or white—it is deadly. Choosing between chrysotile and amphibole asbestos is like deciding between the electric chair and a lethal injection…

The BWI has heard the oft-repeated 'safe use' refrain from so-called 'asbestos experts,' whose research has been commissioned by the industry or who are paid consultants to the industry' we give no credence to thier spurious findings or to the propaganda which makes use of it. The BWI prefers to rely on the opinions of the independent scientific community, such as the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the International Programme on Chemical Safety, the Collegium Ramazzini, the International Social Security Association, the International Labour Organization, the Senior Labour Inspectors' Committee and many more independent organizations which enjoy international credibility and are not in the pay of the asbestos industry. They agree that the use of asbestos is hazardous and that the best way to protect humanity from the asbestos scourge is to ban asbestos."

Notes:

43. Asbestos imports more than doubled between 1999 and 2004; the latest data shows annual consumption of 65,000 t/year. After the tsunami in December 2004, "a generous country (a big chrysotile exporter) shipped material containing asbestos to Indonesia." In May 2006, a government official announced that more cement and asbestos were needed for reconstruction after teh earthquake in Yogyakarta.
44. Anti-asbestos Campaign Worries Indonesia Firms. Jakarta Post. March 3, 2006. There is a discrepancy over consumption data for 2004 with the U.S.G.S. saying Indonesia's consumption for that year was 51,000 t while industry sources claim it was 70,000 t.
45. The speakers at the session on April 25, 2007 included representatives from the Department of Manpower of Indonesia and the Indonesian Employers' Association.

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