Friday, March 2, 2012

More on exporting asbestos

The CBC is reporting on a wikileak cable about Canada exporting asbestos to Vietnam. Canada and Vietnam voted against classifying asbestos as a hazardous substance last year.

The Canadian government has been indicating that asbestos is safe when used properly. That is a contestable claim on a number of levels. The most compelling criticism of exports is that developing countries simply don't have adequate capacity to enact basic protections. The US embassy in Hanoi assessed Vietnam's abilities in this regard as deficient:
Existing safety and health standards [in Vietnamese factories] are inadequate to protect worker health and few companies follow even these minimal standards….Vietnamese attempts to limit the health effects of asbestos seem doomed to fail due to lack of manufacturing and technical capacity, weak political will, and limited funding and investment.
The cable also notes that high rates of smoking (>50% of males 15 and up) will massively compound the health effect of asbestos exposure, both in the workplace and in homes where asbestos will be used as a roofing product.

-- Bob Barnetson

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