Killing The Future: Asbestos Use In Asia

Asbestos Experiences of Asian Countries: Vietnam

Asbestos Experience in Vietnam

A conflict between economic development39 and public health can forestall action by pro-ban governments.40 Although Vietnamese delegates to the GAC 2004 confirmed their Government's commitment to an asbestos ban, this goal has not been achieved,41 in fact, Vietnam's asbestos consumption increased 32% over the period 2000-2004 (Appendix A). From the 1970s, asbestos imported from Russia, Canada, China and Zimbabwe has been used in Vietnam principally for the manufacture of asbestos-cement (AC) roofing tiles, insulations and friction materials. Nearly 10,000 workers at 37 facilities in 21 provinces manufacture 60 million m3 of ac roofing tiles every year; these relatively cheap tiles are popular amongst poor people in rural, mountain, coastal areas and in the Cuu long River Delts. Thirty-two of the ac roofing tile factories in Vietnam were built between 1995 and 2000; the majority of these factories are owned by the state.

The adverse effects of occupational asbestos exposure in Vietnam have been studied since 1996. Medical examinations fo more than 1,000 asbestos-exposed workers from 12 ac companies have revealed that hazardous occupational exposures have resulted in a high level of lung disease amongst this cohort of workers. Research conducted by officials from the National Institute of Labor Protection (NILP) in 2000 at a factory producing asbestos roofing materials recorded levels of asbestos exposure from 33.7 f/cm3 by the grinding machine to 1.8 f/cm3 by the mixing machine. The fact that levels were reduced to 11.7 f/cm3 and 0.7 f/cm3 within nine months does not disguise the fact that the situation remains unsatisfactory. Research (2002) following up on the initial survey at 23 ac roofing factories revealed that: "most of the studied enterprises are polluted by asbestos dust. The reasons are:

Other steps taken by the Government to quantify and categorize the adverse impact of asbestos use on occupational and public health include:

Asbestos Experience in Vietnam

Despite a government decision in 2004 to phase-out the use of asbestos-cement roofing materials,42 the transition period has been prolonged due to uncertainty over teh existence and cost implications of safer alternatives such as ceramic, glass, stone, quartz, natural organic and/or man made mineral fibers. During the current phase, regulations have been tightened so that:

Calls for the elimination of asbestos use in Vietnam were aggressively countered by industry stakeholders who maintained the substance was indispensable for the country's development. In response to these claims, a government research program focusing on the replacement of chrysotile by para-aramid, polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) or cellulose fibers was initiated. Laboratory studies and industrial experiments established that PVA-cement roofing tile production and the transition from asbestos to non-asbestos technology were feasible.

Notes:

39. The US$38+ million generated by the ac industry, its direct employment of 10,000 wrokers and indirect employment of many thousand others and the industry's use of low quality cement (500,000 t/year) make important contributions to the Vietnamese economy.
40. This information was presented. Dr. Le Van Trinh and Dr. Nguy Ngac Toan from the Vietnam National Institute of Labor Protection at GAC 2004.
41. On Aug 1, 2001, in Governmental Decision No. 115/QD-Ttg, the Prime Minister declared that there should be an end to "using the asbestos material in the roofing tile production." Since 2001, the construction of new asbestos-cement tile factories has been forbidden.
42. In 1998, the import and use of amphiboles such as amosite and crocidolite were banned in Vietnam by Interministerial Circular No. 1529/1998; only chrysotile asbestos is used in the production of roofing materials.

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