Workers at risk of asbestos-related diseases in Laos factories


VIENTIANE, Feb 20 (Vientiane Times/ANN): Over 500 workers and people living near factories in nine provinces are at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases in the next 10 years if factories continue using asbestos in the production process.

These diseases include asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos is often used in the production of construction materials such as roof tiles, wall sheeting, in mining, construction, and steel plants.

In Laos it is used in the manufacture of products such as cement roof tiles or sheets and in automotive parts. Minister of Health, Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong, addressed the topic at a meeting held in Vientiane recently to discuss the National Strategy for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases (2018-2030) and National Action Plan (2018-2022).

The meeting was attended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative to Laos Dr Mark Jacobs, Charge d’Affaires of the Australian Embassy to Laos Ms Jane Chandler, and other officials.

Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounkong said 16 factories are using asbestos as part of the production process and the Ministry of Health is concerned about the health of workers and people living nearby.

“I think the best way to eliminate the risk of asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of asbestos in these 16 factories. Other materials can be used instead, such as polyurethane foam, flour fillers, cellulose fibres, thermoset plastic flour and amorphous silica,” he said.

According to the WHO, about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace. The WHO estimated in 2004 that at least 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases due to occupational exposure.

The elimination of exposure to asbestos in the workplace starts from the recognition that stopping the use of asbestos is the most effective preventive measure.

The also meeting served to build understanding about the dangers of asbestos-related diseases as well as methods of protection from and elimination of these diseases.

The meeting also aimed to strengthen capacity in this sector and to develop networks to roll out the action plan to eliminate asbestos-related diseases and ensure better health for workers. - Vientiane Times/ANN

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