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Ministries discuss asbestos ban with Australian experts

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CCF officials meeting with Australian asbestos experts to discuss its local impacts on September 17. CCF

Ministries discuss asbestos ban with Australian experts

Cambodian officials met a delegation from Australia along with the National Asbestos Profile Working Group to discuss ways of determining the reach of asbestos in the Kingdom and how it can be safely managed.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate fibrous silicate mineral used in dozens of products, mainly building materials and insulation. Many nations have banned or restrict its use because it is extremely hazardous to breathe in uncontained asbestos fibres as it can lead to rare forms of lung cancer later.

The discussion of asbestos in Cambodia was held on September 17 in Siem Reap, as Cambodia hosted the 54th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and related meetings. The Cambodian side included representatives from the ministries of Labour and Vocational Training; Commerce; and Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. Also in attendance were unions involved in the construction sector.

Phan Oun, head of the Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression Directorate-General (CCF), said on September 18 that he and other relevant senior Cambodian officials met with the assistant trade minister from Australia and with other government representatives to discuss the issue of asbestos.

He said the meeting was to review the draft roadmap prepared by AFIDA for a formal decision on whether to restrict or ban asbestos at the national level through the National Asbestos Profile Working Group.

“At the technical level, we intend to limit asbestos to certain products. When it comes to cosmetic products, in ASEAN member countries, we must ban the use of it in all cosmetic products,” he said. “Other products have also been requested or suggested for bans, especially some construction materials. Therefore, we are considering those requests so that we will not have a final outcome that is incompatible with our ASEAN obligations,” he said.

According to an AFIDA report, it was estimated that in 2021 nearly 300 tonnes of asbestos and more than 5,000 tonnes of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) had been imported into Cambodia. According to the latest research by the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute in 2019, 170 Cambodians had died of diseases caused by this substance in recent years.

The report said these findings were formally presented by AFIDA on September 15 in a report titled “Draft Roadmap on Reducing the Impact and Risk of Asbestos Diseases in Cambodia”.

Sok Kin, president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, said it was time for the Kingdom to ban the use of asbestos in construction materials, as this substance is known to have serious impacts that harm human health and mostly affect workers who are labouring directly in their field.

“Relevant parties clearly understand that asbestos has effects causing cancer. Therefore, we should instead use other materials without asbestos in it. If the [Cambodian] government has the intention of eliminating the use of products-containing asbestos, then they can just eliminate it by banning the import of asbestos,” he added.

To research asbestos in Cambodia, the Australian government has provided laboratory assistance in the analysis of asbestos for the first time in the Kingdom to the CCF.

Oun told The Post that the lab was capable of analysing asbestos in detail and in very small quantities or even after it has been ground into dust or mixed into other products.

“We have advertised and encouraged businesspeople who produce and import construction materials to produce samples to analyse for the presence of asbestos at the CCF lab on a voluntary basis. This is to provide greater trust to consumers so that the products distributed are confirmed to have no presence of asbestos,” he added.


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