Australia Bans Asbestos 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



On October 17, 2001, the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC) in Australia resolved to ban the import and use of chrysotile by the end of 2003. Australia currently imports 1,500 tons of chrysotile and manufactures one million asbestos-containing products annually. During the phase-out period, the implementation of non-asbestos technology will proceed (especially in the changeover required for the production of brake pads).

The NOHSC estimates that between 1987-2010, exposure to asbestos will have caused 16,000 mesothelioma deaths and 40,000 lung cancer deaths. In the past, asbestos deaths resulted from exposures caused by mining operations and the ubiquitous use of asbestos products; increasingly, asbestos-related diseases are being diagnosed in workers from sectors in which asbestos exposures had been claimed to have been "well-controlled," such as friction part manufacture and repairs.

In a press release welcoming the prohibition, Bill Mansfield, Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, pointed out the high price paid by Australian workers and their families for decades of asbestos misuse. He deplored the fallacy of the "controlled use" policy espoused by asbestos producers saying: "The safeguards recommended for asbestos use have been too often ignored even after the deadly effects of the product were known... Corporations have failed to act responsibly in a number of cases to stop using the product when alternatives were readily available."


October 18, 2001



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