Call for UAE Asbestos Ban  

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



According to the most recent available data, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consumes approximately 17,000 tonnes of asbestos every year. The threat posed to workers and members of the public who are exposed to asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) was explained in no uncertain terms by experts who participated in the September 29, 2009 community lecture sponsored by the Emirates Environment Group (EEG), a voluntary non-governmental organization working to raise awareness of environmental hazards. Speakers who took part in the event held at the Emarat Atrium Building, Dubai “noted that there remains a substantial risk of exposure to asbestos because of the heavy presence of ACMs, particularly on account of the massive construction activities.”1 The vast majority (70-90%) of the houses in the UAE contain ACMs.2

Details highlighted by the speakers included:

  • the majority of asbestos imported into the UAE goes into the manufacture of asbestos-cement water and sewage pipes;
  • construction workers are at high-risk of hazardous occupational exposures on a daily basis;
  • UAE cases of asbestos-related diseases will increase in the coming decades due to widespread asbestos usage and high levels of exposure;
  • although other countries in the region – Oman, Egypt – have introduced comprehensive bans on asbestos, the UAE has not.

In 2006, although the UAE Government banned the use of asbestos panelling, the manufacture and use of asbestos-cement pipes remained unregulated. These pipes are produced in several plants across the UAE and are still widely used in public sector projects. In his presentation to the meeting Charles Faulkner, having pointed out the long latency period of asbestos diseases and the widespread complacency about safety standards, called for a blanket ban to protect workers. This call was reported by the UAE media.


Faulkner, a principal consultant at WSP Environment and Energy, said: “There is no reason to use asbestos at all any more. I would like to see it banned completely in this country.”3

Although Federal laws stipulate that asbestos decontamination must be carried out on buildings prior to demolition, this does not always happen. “There is,” said one conference participant “a large number of unscrupulous contractors who… do not fulfil obligations outlined by the municipality.” In addition, prohibited asbestos-containing building products are being recycled via the black market. Ed Ferrero from GTS Holdings (Dubai) – a company which specialises in building demolition and asbestos removal – told the meeting that in 2008, his company was involved in the removal of thousands of tonnes of asbestos from a cargo area in Port Rashid:

“During the project, we had everyday people approaching us asking if they could buy the asbestos sheets that we were removing.”

As the sale of asbestos sheets is now illegal, these approaches were rebuffed.

Speaking about the importance of this meeting, the EEG Chairperson, Habiba Al Maraashi, commented:

“Many people still do not realise the tangible threats posed by asbestos to their health and the welfare of the entire society. The lecture was a significant step in our efforts to draw the public's attention to the risks related to asbestos exposure and to create awareness about the efforts being undertaken to reduce the negative impacts of ACMs.”

October 2, 2009


1 Press Release. EEG's 9th Community Lecture exposes impacts of using asbestos containing materials. September 30, 2009.

2 Croucher M. Expert Calls for Complete Ban on Asbestos. September 30, 2009.§ion=theuae&col=

3 See: Plea for asbestos ban, September 28, 2009.



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