Asbestos Profile: China
For decades, China has been one of the worlds leading producers and consumers of chrysotile (white) asbestos. Between 2014 and 2017, China averaged annual production of ~200,000 tonnes [t] and consumption of ~300,000t [Asbestos Statistics and Information 2018 tables-only release] [Latest Global Asbestos Data]. Given the vast quantities of asbestos used, it is not surprising that asbestos-related mortality has escalated rapidly over recent years [China's Explosive Rise in Asbestos Disease].
Chinas massive demand for asbestos resulted from the countrys rapid industrialization and economic growth; while the majority of asbestos consumed was incorporated into asbestos-cement building material, the remainder went into friction products, textiles and insulation. In 2007, it was estimated that 100,000 people were routinely exposed to asbestos at worksites including chrysotile mines and factories with the most hazardous conditions being found in small-scale units rather than state-run facilities. As many asbestos-processing factories were located in densely populated areas, environmental contamination was not unusual [Killing the Future Asbestos Use in Asia (Pages 9-10)].
Groups working in Hong Kong were pivotal in raising the alarm over workplace and environmental asbestos contamination, mobilizing grassroots efforts to identify areas of concern, support the asbestos-injured and lobby for change in government policies. In April 2009, 200 delegates from 20 countries met in Hong Kong for the Asian Asbestos Conference; the provision of translation of conference proceedings into Mandarin and Cantonese as well as Korean, Japanese and English was a great aid to communication. [Asian Asbestos Conference 2009] [Chinas Asbestos Challenge].
Over the last twenty years, the Chinese Government has restricted some asbestos use, albeit at a glacial pace, banning: amphibole asbestos imports and use (2002); the production of asbestos-containing automotive friction materials (2003); the use of asbestos in the construction of the Beijing Olympics and 2010 Asian Games (2008); the use of all types of asbestos in siding and wall construction material (2011).
In recent years, the flow of information about asbestos-related issues on Mainland China has increased considerably with articles, academic papers and scientific reports being published quantifying the size and nature of the countrys asbestos challenges; some of those documents can be accessed via our news archive News Archive.