Southeast Asia Ban Asbestos Conference 2018
Just weeks after the South Asia Asbestos Strategy Meeting took place in Sri Lanka, 100+ delegates from Vietnam and ten other Asia Pacific countries eight of which are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met at the second annual conference of the Southeast Asia Ban Asbestos Network (SEABAN) in Hanoi, Vietnam to progress plans for achieving regional asbestos prohibitions.1 The conference, broadcast live on GTV multimedia channels, took place on September 13 and 14, 2018 and raised the profile of the struggle to ban asbestos in Vietnam via widespread TV coverage,2 newspaper articles and social media posts.3 Taking part in plenary, workshop and training sessions were representatives of Vietnam ministries4 and civil society organizations including the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network (VNBAN) as well as national and international scientific, technological, trade union and medical experts. In recognition of the lives being put at risk by the widespread use of asbestos roofing by ethnic minorities in mountainous areas,5 Vietnams Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs collaborated with the Law and Policy of Sustainable Development Research Centre and Media Education for Community Vietnam to host this event. Sponsors of the conference included: Australias Union Aid Abroad -APHEDA, the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, the Asia Monitor Resource Centre, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, the Building and Woodworkers International, Solidar Suisse, and the Australian Governments Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency.
SEABAN Delegates, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Asian countries remain important markets for asbestos producers despite a 30+% decline in global asbestos production in recent years from 2.1 million tonnes in 2012 to ~1.4m tonnes in 2015. According to provisional data from the United States Geological Survey in 2016, the worlds top five asbestos consumers were India (308,000t [tonnes]), China (288,000t), Russia (234,000t), Uzbekistan (70,600t) and Vietnam (58,100t).6 In his presentation to the conference Sugio Furuya, the Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN), expressed concern “concern over what the current use of chrysotile asbestos would mean for future cancer rates in ASEAN countries”, then continued:
We commend the Vietnam and Lao Governments for their determination to ban asbestos in coming years and ABAN members will work closely with ban networks in the region to build momentum for more countries to ban chrysotile asbestos.7
Highlighting the global momentum towards outlawing asbestos use as evidenced by a 2017 decision by Brazils Supreme Court, Canadian plans to ban asbestos by the end of 2018 and moves by Pacific Island countries to transition to asbestos-free technologies, Mr. Furuya urged delegates to consider adapting techniques from successful strategies to advance the banning of asbestos at national and regional levels.
Vietnams struggle to free itself of asbestos has been beset by multiple reversals and deviations over the last 20 years as a result of pressure from asbestos vested interests. Nevertheless, on January 1, 2018 the Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc signed resolution 01/NQ-CP mandating the Ministry of Construction to create a roadmap to stop the use of white asbestos [and] to stop the production of asbestos roofing from 2023.8 In his presentation to SEABAN delegates, Mr. Hoang Xuan Luong Chairperson of the Action Group for Justice Health and Environment and former Deputy Chairman of the Ethnic Minorities Committee, Director of the Research Center for Human Rights of Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Areas said that attempts to forestall the implementation of this resolution continue despite the known human health risks posed by asbestos exposures.
Representatives of Vietnamese organizations were highly critical of the continuing delay over the ban on the use of asbestos with Dr. Tran Tuan Director of the Center for Research, Training and Community Development and committee member of the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network condemning the corruption and deliberate misinformation disseminated by the asbestos lobby to fuel confusion and delay action being taken. Dr Tran Tuan also denounced the intervention of foreign lobbyists, especially from Russia, in the national asbestos debate. Urging scientists to take a leadership role in the policy-making process, he highlighted the need for the distribution of up-to-date information via media outlets and educational institutions.
Dr. Tran Tuan.
Ms. Bui Thi An a member of the National Congress VIII and Director of the Institute of Resources and Environment and Community Development categorized the years of failure to ban asbestos as a betrayal of the people and commended the current Prime Minister for his announcement of 2023 at the latest to stop the production of asbestos roofing sheet in Vietnam.9 Outlining the principles used to design a roadmap for banning asbestos in Vietnam, she expressed her optimism that the implementation of this model would set a regional precedent which could inspire similar actions elsewhere.
Ms. Bui Thia An.
During the conference, speakers from the Australian government, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA and scientists from Vietnam substantiated the availability of high quality substitutes for all asbestos-containing products, detailed the technology for producing non-asbestos roofing sheet, documented new training modules for health and safety campaigners and discussed up-to-date research which revealed that the global death rate from all asbestos-related diseases could exceed 300,000 per year.10
September 20, 2018
1 George O. South Asia Asbestos Strategy Meeting. July 12, 2018.
2 GTV Talk show: Sức Khỏe và Môi Trường. Xử Lý và Thay Thế Vật Liệu Amiang - Kinh Nghiệm Nhật, Úc và Việt Nam.
[GTV Talk show: Health and environment. Dispose and replace asbestos material Australia, Japan and Vietnam experiences.] September 12, 2018.
3 Tấm lợp Amiang trắng tại Việt Nam, cần nhanh chóng loại bỏ, muộn nhất là năm 2023 [White asbestos sheeting in Vietnam, should be quickly removed, by 2023 at the latest]. September 14, 2018.
Tiếp tục kiến nghị dừng sử dụng amiăng để bảo vệ môi trường và sức khỏe [Resume recommendations to stop using asbestos to protect the environment and health]. September 14, 2018.
Cần nhanh chóng loại bỏ tấm lợp Amiang trắng tại Việt Nam [Need to quickly remove white roofing sheet in Vietnam]. September 14, 2018.
4 Representatives from the following Vietnam organizations attended the SEABAN conference: the Ministry of Construction, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Health, the National Assembly Office of Vietnam, the Food Safety Association, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor and others.
5 Fourteen million people live in remote areas in Vietnam.
6 Allen D, Kazan-Allen L. Dramatic Fall in Asbestos Production. May 3, 2018.
7 Final Communique. The Second SEABAN network meeting in Hanoi September 12-14, 2018.
8 Press Release. Annual Conference of the South East Asia Ban Asbestos Network. September 13, 2018.
9 Tấm lợp chứa chất Amiang gây ung thư:’ 'Không cấm là có tội với dân’ [Asbestos roofing cancer: No ban betrays the people]. September 13, 2018.
10 Allen D, Kazan-Allen L. Global Mortality Data. October 12, 2017.