China Increases Asbestos Restrictions
Revised Feb 27, 2011
News received on November 3, 2010, confirmed rumors that a new industry standard had been adopted in China which prohibits the use of asbestos in siding and wall materials for construction. The prohibition is part of a Chinese national standard (GB50574-2010)1 which will be implemented as of June 1, 2011. There can be no doubt that the new guidelines will impact on the profitability of China's asbestos-cement industry. One observer speculated that the new criteria would depress sales of asbestos-cement flat sheet products, generally used in permanent constructions, but have less impact on sales of asbestos-cement corrugated sheeting which is, on the whole, used for basic and/or temporary constructions.
In China, different standards can and do co-exist. This one, which will further increase Chinese restrictions on asbestos use, has been adopted by the academy overseeing construction design and approved by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. In China, architects are allotted the role of choosing the raw materials to be used in a building. As this standard is issued by an industry body concerned with building design, the ban on asbestos is bound to impact on materials selected for construction projects. Whereas formerly asbestos-cement flat sheets might have been chosen, in light of these developments, safer alternatives will be specified. As well as curtailing demand for this segment of China's asbestos market, the new standard could constitute an omen for vested interests in the world's most lucrative national asbestos market.
This is not the first time that official bodies in China have acted decisively on asbestos. In 2003, China banned the use of asbestos in automotive friction materials; in 2005, the import and export of amphibole asbestos, including amosite and crocidolite, was banned.2 In light of the restrictions, increasing numbers of producers are turning to asbestos-free technology with some trade bodies in China lobbying their members to phase out asbestos use. In high-profile building projects, like the construction of the Beijing Olympics (2008) and the Asian Games (2010) the use of asbestos was forbidden. A spokesperson for a building supplier based in Guangzhou confirmed that his company had sold in excess of 1.5 million square meters of asbestos-free fibre cement products for use in the infrastructure of the Asian Games. As restrictions grow ever tighter on the use of asbestos in China, it is no longer impossible to think that one day China will join the ranks of nations which have banned the use of all asbestos products.
November 3, 2010
1 The English translation of the name of this standard is not yet available but it is believed it will be something like: Uniform Technical Criteria for the Application of Wall Materials for Building Construction.