Killing The Future: Asbestos Use In Asia

Asbestos Experiences of Asian Countries: Pakistan

Asbestos Experience in Pakistan

In Pakistan, widespread contamination by both imported and locally sourced asbestos endangers both public and occupational health.46 A range of tests including geological, air and product sampling from various deposits, mines, mills, factories and residential areas, carried out by Geologist Dr. Noor Jehan from Peshawar University over recent years, revealed that all the samples contained:

"different types of respirable chrysotile, tremalite and anthophyllite. The exposure level was hundreds and thousands times greater than the permissible exposure limit in the indoor and outdoor environment as specified by the WHO and OSHA."47

Residents living in close proximity to small-scale asbestos-using production units or in typical houses containing uncoated asbestos doors, windows and sidings as well as students/teachers using asbestos tables and other furniture and patients/staff in hospitals with asbestos bedside tables, operating talbes or corrugated sheeting are all at-risk. Consumers who use small heating plates, containing up to 80% asbestos, sold in Peshawar's main market, and industrial and mine workers also experience hazardous exposures on a regular basis. In addition to the asbestos mined in Pakistan, raw fiber from Canada and asbestos products on board end-of-life ships are imported.

Between 1995-2003, 601 cases of mesothelioma were diagnosed in the Northwest Frontier Province, of which 60% were in males (356) and 40% (245) in females.48 According to Professor Dr.Ashad Javed, President of the Pakistan Chest Society, up to 1000 cases remain undiagnosed.49 Despite the known health effects associated with asbestos exposure, asbestos-related diseases are not recognized by the Department of Health and hazardous exposures are not controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency in Pakistan. Even if asbestos were banned tomorrow, the problem of disposal would remain; there are no waste collection or disposal procedures and no dumps designated to receive asbestos wast in Pakistan.

In a letter written on March 16, 2006, the All Pakistan Federation of United Trade Unions informed the Minister for Industries and Production, Mr. Jehangir Khan Tarin, under the subject heading: "Asbestos is dangerous for human life" that:

"the scientific and medical evidence on the dangers of this building material is beyond doubt. We as a group of unions believe that this substance should be BANNED in our country. We also note that asbestos is still being widely produced and used in our industry and call on government, employers and unions to work together to switch to substitute products as a matter of urgency."

Notes:

46. From 2000 2004, asbestos consumption in Pakistan increased more than four-fold from 1,590 t to 9,170 t.
47. OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S.
48. Jehan N. Asbestos Risks: Occupational and Para-Occupational Health Status in Pakistan. Global Asbestos Congress, November 2004.
49. Mesothleioma Cancer on the Rise in NWFP; (assessed June 14, 2004)

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