Vietnam Asbestos Offensive  

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



A workshop entitled “Using Chrysotile Safe (sic) and Under Control” was held in Hanoi, Vietnam on November 18, 2015. The title is a poorly translated adaptation of discredited asbestos industry rhetoric extolling the “safe use of asbestos.” The subjects of the presentations made at the event organized by the Roofing Sheet Association, a trade association representing the interests of the asbestos sector, were informative:

  • “Research on affect (sic)of chrysotile on human health”;
  • “Research on affect(sic) of chrysotile on human health and longevity of workers at chrysotile production factories”;
  • “Chrysotile dust concentration report and measures to ensure the safety in installing and removing chrysotile house roof sheet”;
  • “Research on chrysotile house roof-sheet quality control – Assessing health risks”;
  • “Economic impact of chrysotile ban in Vietnam – A case study of Chrysotile house roof-sheet”;
  • “Using chrysotile safe and under control – A comparative policy and legislative perspective.”

The first subject listed in the section above was addressed by John Hoskins whose accreditation was given as “John Hoskins, PhD., Iindependent (sic) consultant toxicologist, Royal Society of Chemistry (see: Workshop Program).” However, a spokesperson for the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) last week said that Hoskins was not speaking in Vietnam on behalf of the RSC nor was he presenting a position agreed by the RSC. When asked by a delegate at the workshop about his accreditation, it was reported that Hoskins clarified the situation saying the views he expressed were his own.


John Hoskins speaking at the Chrysotile Workshop.

In the past, Hoskins has spoken about a campaign by “ambitious politicians and litigation lawyers… against white asbestos that is scaring the public and ‘committing economic damage’.”1 “You have,” he said “a cheap product which actually does a good job”; “I think there’s an immeasurably small risk and immeasurably small means it cannot be measured.” From the text of slides shown during his PowerPoint presentation on November 18, it seems he still holds these opinions:

  • “Although scientific efforts and legal arguments continue, the risk of pleural mesothelioma in human populations is probably negligible for exposures to airborne chrysotile asbestos that is not known to be contaminated by amphibole.”
  • “In asbestos cement (which accounts for the majority of Vietnam’s asbestos consumption) the chrysotile is bound in a tight matrix and will not easily shed fibres under normal day to day usage.”
  • “Several papers have shown that chrysotile in cement undergoes changes in surface characteristics, composition and crystal structure. Other work has shown that such chemical changes lead to a marked decrease in the biological potency of chrysotile fibres. Therefore any risk posed by asbestos cement becomes significantly less.”
  • “It is worth noting that when asbestos cement roofs in an advanced state of deterioration are found… a significant release of asbestos fibres is not observed from such materials.”

The comments recounted above were, so we were informed, representative of other workshop speeches. Whereas, not very long ago such views would have gone unchallenged, the mobilization of asbestos activism – as represented by the work of the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network (VN-BAN) – means that this is no longer the case. Prior to the workshop, representatives from VN-BAN had provided evidence to the workshop chair detailing the scientific consensus regarding the hazard posed by chrysotile asbestos. Although VN-BAN delegates were not invited to present their material as part of the agenda, they were allowed to make contributions during the discussions; selected extracts from a prepared text (see: VN-BAN PowerPoint Presentation) were communicated. Paper copies of the VN-BAN presentation and the executive summary of the position statement on Asbestos from the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology (JPC-SE) were distributed to all workshop delegates including reporters. In response to the questions asked and points made by VN-BAN and Evidence-based Health Policy Development Coalition (EBHPD) delegates, the pro-asbestos camp – represented by the lobbyists from the Roofing Sheet Association, and civil servants from the Ministry of Construction and Ministry of Trade – remained silent.

Commenting on the workshop, the Co-founder of VN-BAN and the Chair of the EBHPD Steering Committee Dr. Tuan Tran (in Vietnam written: Tran Tuan) said:

“For years, the Government of Vietnam has invested in research into the production of safer substitutes for asbestos-cement roofing materials. Acknowledging the public health risk posed by asbestos, many Ministries support our call for an asbestos ban. The recent workshop was a blatant attempt by vested interests to delay progress in order to continue making money regardless of the deadly consequences to workers and consumers. In our opinion, the speakers’ motivation and lack of credence were obvious. Their failure to convince delegates of the possibility of using asbestos safely was obvious from the reaction of the workshop attendees and the lack of media coverage which ensued after the event.”

November 25, 2015


1 Dangers in the dust: Inside the global asbestos trade. July 21, 2010.



       Home   |    Site Info   |    Site Map   |    About   |    Top↑