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Ground breaking Asbestos workshop in Laos

Feb 25, 2021

A National Workshop to review the National Action Plan to Eliminate Asbestos Disease took place in Laos in February 2021. All key ministries within the Lao Government, a key committee of the National Assembly, Australian government representatives, the Asbestos Disease Research Institute and APHEDA took part in the workshop which saw the Laos Health Minister call for the full phasing out of asbestos imports in Laos.

Asbestos workshop makes big news in Laos!

February 2021 was a big month in Laos. The meeting of the National Committee implementing the National Strategy to Eliminate Asbestos Disease had been delayed due to COVID. The meeting finally took place for the first time in over a year and it made big news in Laos, hitting the front page of the Vientiane Times!

 

Congratulations to the Laos Ministry of Health and the staff at APHEDA’s Lao Office for the great result. The 2-day workshop was supported by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) and Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA. The workshop, hosted by the Ministry of Health, was attended by all key Ministries, the Laos trade union and NGO’s and was co-facilitated by the Laos Minister of Health, Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong, the Deputy Ambassador of the Australian Embassy in Laos Ms Jane Chandler and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Laos Director Dr Mark Jacobs.

Collaborating for an Asbestos-Free Laos

International presentations from the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute – ADRI, Union Aid Abroad- APHEDA and WHO urged quick action from Laos to learn lessons from Australia and other countries and ban asbestos as soon as possible. The Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), Ministry of Labour and the Health University also covered issues of awareness raising, compensation for occupational diseases, alternative products to asbestos containing materials, the fist Laos cases of mesothelioma, gaps in current surveillance and regulation in regards to safe removal and disposal and, most importantly, a timeline for the phasing out and banning of imports of chrysotile asbestos.

LFTU OSH Division Head Mr Bauvanh Chanthongdy presenting at the workshop

500 workers at risk of Asbestos Related Disease in Laos

Over 500 workers who have been directly working in asbestos roof sheet manufacturing have been identified as being at high risk of contracting an asbestos related disease. Speaking at the meeting, the Lao Health Minister said ‘I think the best way to eliminate the risk of asbestos related diseases is to stop the use of asbestos in all 16 factories (producing asbestos roof sheet). Other materials can be used instead such as polyurethane…cellulose…silica’ he said.  

The strategy has 6 key action areas covering steps needed as advised by WHO and ILO including regulation enacting a phase out and ban of imports, awareness raising to the exposure risk, safe disposal, building medical capacity for diagnosis and monitoring and surveillance.  A technical committee established by the Ministry of Health will continue to work with Ministries and the National Assembly to build broader engagement on the strategy. Important activities for 2021 include updating of import and use data in regard chrysotile asbestos to assist policy makers in assessing timetable for a ban. Building capacities to test for asbestos in materials imported or used is also a priority in managing remaining asbestos or monitoring any ban regulations.  

Join the Campaign to Ban Asbestos

We are building a movement of people in Australia to join with unionists and campaigners across South East Asia to support their struggle to ban asbestos and eliminate asbestos-related diseases. We want to secure an asbestos-free future because as long as asbestos is being used anywhere, it remains a risk everywhere.

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