Asbestos Use in the Middle East 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



As asbestos consumption continues to fall in industrialized countries, global producers aggressively market consumers in developing countries. In 2003, chrysotile (white asbestos) use in the Middle East and in Africa accounted for about 20% of world demand.”1 Asbestos imports to the Middle East in 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, were:

Value of Asbestos Imports (2003)

Country                      US $
Iran 26,019,000
United Arab Emirates 10,787,000
Egypt 1,996,000
Pakistan 1,357,000
Lebanon 1,123,000
Oman 590,000
Iraq 194,000
Saudi Arabia 161,000
Syrian Arab Republic 6,000

The lack of published data and the fact that not one country in the region has ratified ILO Convention No. 162, which stipulates the implementation of health and safety measures to safeguard people working with asbestos, are causes for concern. Of the 20 or more countries in the Middle East, only Egypt and Saudi Arabia have banned asbestos.

Although the asbestos ban in Saudi Arabia is believed to be holding, the Egyptian ban is under constant pressure. An article entitled: Banned material still being used appeared in The Egyptian Gazette on June 28, 2006. Journalist Amina Abdul Salam described the current situation regarding asbestos use in Egypt as “anarchy, with people still using asbestos despite the fact that it can no longer be used, according to decisions taken by the ministers of environment, industry and foreign trade.”2 According to Professor Salah el-Haggar from the American University in Cairo, asbestos is still being used in Egypt in the production of insulation boards, asbestos-cement water pipes and fire-resistant clothing.3

July 5, 2006



2 Abdul Salam A. Banned Material Still Being Used. Egyptian Gazette. June 28, 2006, page 2. See also: What Price the Egyptian Asbestos Ban?

3 In Egypt, there are 50 million kilometres of asbestos-cement water pipes, containing an average of 12% asbestos.



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