The Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers Association in Sri Lanka claimed that government’s decision to ban the use and import of asbestos cement roofing sheets by 2018 has created an unnecessary ‘scare’ with negative information reaching society.
“Though there are many forms of asbestos, Sri Lanka imports only the white variety of asbestos (Chrysotile) for production of roofing and ceiling sheets,where asbestos is mixed with cement acting as a binding agent reducing fiber escape. “Though,it has been scientifically proven that only blue and brown asbestos fibre can cause cancer, it has been accepted that white asbestos has no adverse impact on human health.The decision of the government to ban asbestos roofing sheets will be highly controversial here,”Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association Coordinator Anton Edema said.
Compared to Asbestos Blue form, the dangers from Chrysotile products are arguably zero because its soft magnesium silicate fibers rapidly dissolve in the human lung. Chrysotile is currently used in 152 countries across the world including the USA,Edema said.
This decision has been made without conducting a proper scientific study to prove health hazards linked to asbestos. For more than 60 years Sri Lanka imported white asbestos mainly from various countries.There is no concrete evidence to prove that inhaling white asbestos fibres causes lung cancers .Although the cancer is considered as one of the leading causes of deaths in Sri Lanka, not even a single case of asbestos-related lung cancer has been reported .
“The government decision to ban the use of asbestos roofing sheets would directly affect the poor and middle class who struggle to put up a house of their own.Many people are so confused and they are bombarded with negative information convincing that a harmless asbestos roof might somehow pose a lethal danger. The organization has already come up with a proper marketing campaign to build a genuine confidence with the product. We have tried our best to communicate with the relevant authority in this regard. However we haven’t been invited to discuss the issue at length.” Rhino Roofing Products Limited Marketing Manager Priyantha Jayasinghe said.
The importation and the use of Blue and Brown asbestos has been banned under the Consumer Protection Act and Imports Regulation Act in Sri Lanka since 1970.
Relevant government authorities have allowed themselves to be talked into confusing the genuinely dangerous forms of asbestos with those that pose no risk - simply because they share the same general name,asbestos.