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14.06.2005 General News

Ban asbestos, it kills - Union


Accra, June 14, GNA - The International Metalworkers' Federation has reiterated its call to governments to ban the manufacture and the use of asbestos because it kills about 100,000 people each year.

The Federation said governments could do that through the ratification and implementation of the International Convention adopted by the International Labour Organisation in 1986 calling for the global ban of the product. Mr Napoleon Kpoh, General Secretary of Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), who was briefing newsmen in Accra on Tuesday on his return from Vienna where the Federation of 850 members embracing 177 countries passed a resolution calling for the ban of asbestos. He said the conference noted that millions of workers were exposed to asbestos and its fibres which killed more than 100,000 people each year because certain employers and governments persist in using the substance, despite a number of safer alternatives being available.

Quoting from International Monetary Fund (IMF) Report, Mr Kpoh said, "It has taken three decades of continual effort and the emergence of suitable alternative substances for a comprehensive ban on the manufacture and use of asbestos to be adopted in a number of industrialised countries." The Report said the reluctance of some governments to acknowledge the risks associated with asbestos use even extended to their refusal to accept international conventions and guides that, although not as comprehensive as a ban, provide some minimum standards. It said despite the continued controversy surrounding the use of asbestos, demand appears to have expanded in 2003, enabling world production to increase by 5.4 per cent over 2002.

Mr Kpoh said many governments appeared to be in no hurry to ratify and implement the convention and that out of ILO's 177 member states only 27 have ratified the convention. Asbestos can cause cancer in humans because it has microscopic daggers and when inhaled, lodge into lung tissue and "the body's defences cannot break them down, so increased or prolonged exposure can cause a build up of fibres, which work their way deeper into the lungs."

According to the Report, "Inhalation of asbestos fibres could lead to serious diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lungs or lower digestive tract) and asbestosis (a chronic fibrosis of the lungs.) Mr Kpoh said ironically some developed countries have banned the use of asbestos in their countries yet they were marketing it in developing countries. He said if the substance was banned there were sufficient safe substitute to replace it and ILO has directed that workers who would be out of job should be absorbed in other productive areas that would include social protection as well.