4.7.1 General Overview
Information on Asbestos in Tunesia is relatively hard to obtain. This is partly because different official positions are responsible for this matter, and their cooperation with eachother is currently limited.
Another reason is that the topic of Asbestos is not given special attention. In Tunesia Asbestos is classified as every other building material, without consideration of its potential dangers.
Asbestos is not produced in Tunesia. In 1991 about 7,000 t Asbestos were imported - primarily crocidolite and chrysotile. The imported fibers are processed into products such as Asbestos cement, insulation material or brake linings in 20 plants, which employ around 650 workers. The plants are between 5 and 30 years old and generally use out-dated production methods, compared to the western state of technology.
In Tunesia there is currently no legal regulations on the use of Asbestos.
The National Institute for Norms and Private Possession (INNOPRI) has only developed an industrial norm which refers to the health problems in handling Asbestos (NT 36.11). In 13 other industrial norms Asbestos is treated as a conventional building material (NT 21.12, NT 21.20, NT 21.47 through NT 21.49, NT 21.51 through NT 21.55). Furthermore, Tunesia has a general Occupational Protection Ordinance (Ordinance N=68.328 from 22 October, 1968), under which the Asbestos subject could perhaps be (indirectly) addressed.
Due to the lack of legal norms, there are neither limits for the handling of Asbestos nor corresponding federal supervision in this area.
4.7.3 Research and Development
One study on the health risks of handling Asbestos was recently performed in Tunesia by the uppermost health authority (Institut Superieure de Sante et Travaille, lSST) as commissioned by the Social Ministry. This study was due to be completed in January 1994, and will be published by ISST.
ISST has also initiated the founding of a "continual Asbestos committee." The members of this committee meet monthly to discuss and coordinate the research activities of ISST.
No information could be received on the private initiatives concerning research and development in the area of Asbestos substitutes. It is presumed that there are currently no such activities in this sector.
There are no activities in Tunesia on the direct substitution of Asbestos products due to their health risks. Asbestos substitutes are therefore only used, if they have corresponding cost advantages in manufacturing or application. For example, plastic pipes or simple cement pipes for water mains and bitumen sheets for roof coverings could be named. These substitutes can largely be manufactured within the country.
4.7.5 Risk Philosophy
In Tunesia neither the authorities nor private industries have a special awareness of the problems related to Asbestos.
Neither Asbestosis nor mesothelioma are recognized as occupational illnesses. Correspondingly, no worker's compensation is paid.
The only exception is the intiative of the ISST. According to this institute, after the conclusion of their study study, the following measures should be instigated: an import prohibition for crocidolite; the performance of air measurements; and the ratification of ILO Guideline No. 162 by the parliament. These should also be accompanied by measures such as medical supervision programs and employee training.
How such measures are to be performed is still largely unclear. They fall under the responsibility of the Health Ministry, the Social Ministry and the Economics Ministry.
In Tunesia there are currently no laboratory capacities for Asbestos air measurements. It is expected that corresponding measuring programs will be performed by the Social Ministry.
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