Australians know asbestos kills. We banned this deadly substance in 2003. But in many of our neighbouring countries, thousands of tonnes of asbestos materials are imported and used in everyday products like roof and wall sheeting. Over a million tonnes of asbestos is still exported annually into Asia, the world’s biggest consumer, with most coming from the two top producers, Russia and Kazakhstan.
Indonesia, Laos PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam, all key trading partners with Australia, are actively importing asbestos, some are manufacturing asbestos-containing materials and none have introduced a much-needed ban, with one smaller exception.
In Bandung, the capital city of West Java in Indonesia, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA’s Indonesian partner organisation, the Local Initiative for OSH Network (LION) successfully campaigned for a ban of asbestos in commercial buildings.
Given that there are around 26 asbestos product factories in Indonesia, most of which are located on the island of Java and that Indonesia imports over 100,000 tonnes of raw asbestos each year, this is a remarkable story of success. And it didn’t end there. Once the ban was introduced, the local council in Bandung followed up by expanding the ban to private houses.
To tell this story, Dr. Anna Suraya and Mr. Surya Ferdian of LION have been invited to speak at the 2022 Asbestos Safety and Management Conference, 18-20 May in the Blue Mountains, NSW organised by the Australian government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA).
The continuing use of asbestos in Asia undermines Australia’s ban as it makes its way into manufactured goods entering Australia. Border Force has found that all or the majority of consignments tested for asbestos in imported products come back positive. Thanks to the support of ASEA, as well as the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) and the Asia Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN), the Indonesian delegates will be joined by union and government representatives from Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA’s partner organisations in Laos PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam to exchange experiences and learn about Australia’s experience with asbestos.
This Southeast Asia/Australia exchange will give APHEDA’s Asbestos – Not Here, Not Anywhere campaign a massive lift in these countries, where a total ban remains an ongoing challenge. Australians know about the toxic legacy of asbestos all too well. The only way to protect future generations is to ban asbestos now.
“Many people in Vietnam, Laos PDR, Indonesia and Cambodia are committed to achieving a ban of asbestos, but they face challenges from an active industry lobby spreading misinformation and promoting continued use. We hope the delegation are inspired by the path Australia took 20 years ago to ban asbestos. Importantly, without country-level bans on asbestos, people will continue to be exposed to asbestos and die, in Australia and right across our region.”
Kate Lee, Executive Officer, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA
For interviews with members of the delegation and further information: Steve Mullins, Asbestos Campaign Coordinator, 0498638886