Ban Asbestos Initiatives Thailand, Japan, Estonia, the Balkans
Grassroots groups, medical professionals and academics have been working to raise public awareness of the asbestos hazard in countries where widespread usage has compromised occupational and public health. Initiatives are making use of traditional and new broadcasting media to assess national asbestos realities and disseminate the truth about asbestos in the face of ever-present propaganda campaigns by commercial interests.
This year, the Health Protection Project launched a new website for the NO Asbestos in Thailand project which provides much needed impartial information on the asbestos hazard in a useful format for speakers of the Thai language.1 Information is conveyed in narrative as well as pictorial form such as the comic book at the link: http://www.noasbestos.org/comic/index.html
In Japan a lively website entitled Freedom from Asbestos (FREA) Protect Children from Asbestos has useful and well-written material explaining what asbestos is, where it's used, why it's dangerous, and what to do if you find it. The layout and language (in Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog and Thai) are designed for target audiences with one section for younger school children and another for parents.2 The text is informative without being frightening:
It is advisable, if possible, to stay away from Asbestos materials, however that does not mean that a single fibre will be harmful... Try to avoid Asbestos materials. 3
The page detailing where asbestos can be found is informative as it contains a number of typical examples of installed asbestos-containing products.4
Research undertaken by the Estonian National Institute for Health Development and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health to assess whether Estonia was in compliance with EU asbestos regulations revealed an overwhelming dearth of effective measures and enforcement. In 2006, the European Commission took action against Estonia for failing to protect workers from the asbestos risk as stipulated under Asbestos Directive 2003/18/EC.5 Although an Estonian decree was issued in 2007 to address the infringements of EU law, adequate sanctions and the political will to enforce the regulations remain absent. The situation continues: In contacts with the ministries, universities and hospitals the prevalent attitude among ministry staff and medical experts can be described as pronounced nonchalance (don't know, don't care.).6
It is to be hoped that an ongoing project: Capacity Building for Banning and Phasing out Asbestos in West Balkan Countries will be more successful in achieving its stated objectives:
The €250,000 EU project was scheduled to be completed in 18 months by partners from academic institutions and non-governmental organizations in Macedonia. Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
December 13, 2010
2 The Japanese website went online in November 2008; all languages were made available in April 2009.
See report paper by Yasuko Nagamatsu: Development and Usage Conditions of an Asbestos Information Site for Children and Parents
5 Directive 2003/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 March 2003 amending Council Directive 83/477/EEC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work (Text with EEA relevance).
6 Tossavainen A. The Estonian-Finnish Twinning Project: Managing Occupational Risks Related to Asbestos.