South African Manufacturer Bans Asbestos 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Although South Africa has not yet banned the use of chrysotile (white asbestos), a leading manufacturer has taken pre-emptive action and adopted an asbestos-free technology after more than 60 years of asbestos-based production; the last bag of asbestos was used at the Everite factory in Kliprivier, Gauteng on December 13, 2002. Asbestos, which had accounted for 10-15% of the composition of Everite’s building materials, has been replaced by wood-cellulose. The resulting mixture “exhibits high performance properties specifically strength, durability and thermal properties when compared to alternative building materials.” The asbestos-free Nutec range of fiber cement products include “roofing and necessary accessories, ceilings, windowsills, internal and external cladding, walling and facades.”

A spokesperson explained the company’s decision: “We took a proactive position in eliminating asbestos from our manufacturing process and embraced the call from lobbyists and the market. Furthermore, we are delighted with their positive response to our achievement.” Protests over asbestos exposures from South African trade unionists have increased in recent years. On February 10, 2002, the Department of Labour published Asbestos Regulations designed to minimize exposures to workers, their families and the public in South Africa1. The twenty-five page document goes into great detail about the measures to be adopted stating:

“11.(1) An employer or self-employed person shall ensure that the exposure of a person to asbestos is either prevented, or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled…

(2) Where reasonably practicable, an employer or self-employed person shall control the exposure of a person -

(a) by using a substitute for asbestos…

14.(1) Where asbestos forms part of the structure of a workplace, building, plant or premises, the employer or self-employed person shall -

(a) take reasonable steps to ensure that he or she determines the location of asbestos in such workplace, buildings, plant or premises, where that asbestos is likely to release asbestos dust that could impact on health or pollute the environment;

(b) make and maintain an inventory of the location of asbestos in such workplace, buildings, plant or premises.”

Observers believe the South African Government’s reluctance to ban asbestos is due to its support for Zimbabwe, a country which relies on the foreign exchange generated by chrysotile exports. Everite Executive Stephen Rault acknowledged the ticklish nature of the problem, saying: “the issue of continued asbestos cement product imports from Zimbabwe… would be raised at appropriate forums.”

January 5, 2004





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