Fresh push to outlaw asbestos

BANGKOK POST Issued date 23 November 2014
NANCHANOK WONGSAMUTH
>> The Industry Ministry will resubmit a proposal to the cabinet to ban the use and production of asbestos by 2020.
The move will add Thailand to the list of more than 50 countries which have banned the use of all forms of asbestos, which has been linked to health problems including cancer.
Industrial Works Department director-general Pasu Loharjun told the Bangkok Post Sunday that manufacturers will be given a grace period of two to five years before a complete ban of the mineral. Under the ban, it will not be mandatory for households and businesses with asbestos sheeting already installed to remove the material.
Mr Pasu said the proposal will be similar to the one submitted to the cabinet last year, which did not go through due to parliament being dissolved.
In the previous plan, asbestos in rubber tiles and flat sheets was to be phased out in three years, and in roof tiles, high-pressure water pipes and vehicle brakes and clutches in five years.
Mr Pasu said the ministry will work with related agencies to provide information on the safe removal of construction material containing asbestos.
The plan also covers the development of substitute materials including ethylene vinyl acetate and basalt fibre.
Once the industry ministry approves the draft plan, it will be passed to the cabinet for further deliberation. The draft will then be given to related government agencies for approval before ministerial regulations are issued.
According to a recent study by King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, the economic burden for business operators, consumers, households, pig farms, schools and hospitals would total 464.8 billion baht if a ban was enforced.
There are two kinds of asbestos – amphibole and chrysotile. While the former is banned in all countries, chrysotile is banned in more than 50 countries. In the Asean region, only Singapore has issued a national ban.
In Thailand, chrysotile has been used mainly in the production of high-density roofing materials for more than 50 years.
The Siam Cement Group stopped using asbestos in 2007, followed by Mahaphant in 2011, but Oran Vanich and Diamond Roof Tiles still use it.
Manufacturers say they will use the product until Thai researchers provide medical proof of a cancer link, despite the World Health Organisation recommending that all asbestos use be stopped.
Term Termpitipon, managing director of Kevtex Co, a manufacturer of truck and bus brakes, said the company’s recent switch to using rock wool as a replacement material has increased costs by 30-40%.
“Although our customers still can’t handle the price hike, [the change] is necessary, since we have to be ready in case the government implements a complete ban of imports,” he said.

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