2 Asbestos in developing countries
In order to focus on the specific problems of the developing countries (DC), it is sensible to review the development in the industrialized countries. In the 1960s Asbestos became a type of "magic word" for superior product properties with good availability, relatively easy production processes and the corresponding cost advantages.
Although at this time the resulting risks had been scientifically proven and the first occupational sicknesses due to Asbestos exposure in different countries had been acknowledged, for a long time the material characteristics were the focal point and were responsible for the many and massive applications of Asbestos and Asbestos containing products. Now this has changed with better availability of substitutes towards to the avoidance of Asbestos use.
Many DC currently see primarily the usefulness of Asbestos, its availability as raw material and its good ability to be processed to marketable products. In addition, some DC belong to the Asbestos producing nations and can and must acquire the necessary foreign currency through Asbestos production.
In 1986 the ILO (International Labour Organisation) passed an agreement on Asbestos at the international labour conference. At this meeting this conflict became apparent:
".. a representative of a developing country stated that many countries have a growing need for Asbestos products and that these products will play a part in improving the living conditions of many communities around the world "
(ILO, Occupational Safety and Health Series No. 67)
This already "classical dilemma" for DC, that an eventual use poses heavy risks, permits two methods of action:
• hazardous working substances are not used or only under strong limitations according to the stipulations of industrialized nations and multinational agreements,
• a corresponding use of these substances occurs under minimization of the respective risks.
Substances and goods which are present are not used, only if
• the application possibilities become limited (orders and prohibitions, legal regulations) and
• substitutes are available (general availability and the availability of inexpensive alternatives for Asbestos applications).
In Part II of the present study the different technically possible Asbestos substitutes were described. According to another questioning of the ILO, Asbestos substitutes are also manufactured in DC. Here it is to be assumed, however, that this is not the case for every application area. More important than a nearly perfect substitution is the provision of adequate Asbestos substitutes in the construction area, since here the main fraction of Asbestos containing substances is found.
In Chapter 4 the application of substitutes and the relevant legislation on Asbestos for selected countries is discussed further.
The latest developments in Asbestos legislation in South Africa have comparable values to those of European industrialized nations. At the same time, the vital interest in a future use of Asbestos as well as a mistrust against the developments in industrialized nations are apparent.
"Almost all countries in the world, including South Africa, now subscribe Jo the controlled-use approach to the regulation of Asbestos. In South Africa, the statutory limits are 2.0 f/ml for mining and 0.02 f/ml for residential exposure. In the EEC, which recently again rejected calls for a total ban of Asbestos, the occupational exposure limit is 1.5 f/ml. A small number of countries have introduced more restrictive measures calling for a ban or phase-out of Asbestos, including Sweden, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Switerland and Austria Significantly, most of these countries are major producers of substitute products. "
(in: The Asbestos Report, No. 16, November 1991)
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