Beginning of Ban Asbestos Debate in Pakistan 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



A seminar organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad on the subject of Known Human Carcinogens: Asbestos, Asbestiform Talcum Powder, Silica and Environmental Law in Pakistan on October 1, 2005 marked the first public event at which calls for a national ban on the import of asbestos were made.

In the keynote speech, Dr. Noor Jehan, from the University of Peshawar, told delegates that local and imported asbestos had contributed to the high national incidence of various cancers. “The environmental and occupational health and safety laws remain inadequate and even absent,” she said. What is worse, she added, is that the national consumption of asbestos is increasing. Hazardous exposures to asbestos occurred from the use of asbestos in furniture and the consumption of large amounts of asbestiform talcum powder. The data which formed the basis for Dr. Jehan's presentation came from a unique study conducted by the researcher over several years.

Dr. Jehan's demand that a ban on the import of asbestos be imposed was endorsed by Dr. Mahmood Khwaja of the SDPI who agreed that none of the laws in Pakistan dealt with the import, use or sale of asbestos, asbestos-containing products and asbestos waste. Dr. Atab Turabi, from the International Islamic Medical College Trust, believes that a lack of awareness of the asbestos hazard was why the use of this lethal material continued; he called for laws to end these practices. Anis Alam, from Shifa International Hospitals Ltd., highlighted the need to raise public awareness of the asbestos hazard.

The seminar attracted considerable media interest and the calls for a national asbestos ban were repeated in newspaper articles in TV and radio reports.

January 10, 2006



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