The Daily Star – Threat of asbestos in Bangladesh

(Written by Md. Alamgir)

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14 May 2014 - ASBESTOS is a name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals contained within rocks, largely produced in Russia and other countries. Those who are working in the factories and industries must be cautious about the presence of asbestos material and must protect themselves from inhaling asbestos. The use of this substance is banned in many countries. Having known that it is carcinogenic and also the cause of some other fatal lung diseases, we must take steps to protect our people working in areas with presence of Asbestos.

Asbestos was extensively used for thermal insulation in factories like refrigeration, power plant, etc. The asbestos was commonly used in brake pads, automobile clutches, roofing materials, vinyl tile, cement pipe, corrugated sheeting, etc. These materials are still present in old buildings, ships and automobiles. Being unaware of the consequences there is a huge possibility that these are being recycled and still available in the second hand market and are being used by our people. Our people are at grave risk of inhaling asbestos fiber, which is a great concern for lung diseases. Unfortunately we are not attentive enough to control the spread of asbestos fiber in our air.
Most old ships that are scrapped in Bangladesh contain asbestos material in abundance. Knowingly or unknowingly this asbestos goes to our lung through our nose. Unsafe handling of asbestos can be observed in the Ship breaking yards at Chittagong. Asbestos is also available in the factories and industries. We are afraid if the owners of the factories are aware of controlling the spread of asbestos-fiber in the air.

Control of Asbestos: We must be aware of the products which were made of asbestos in the past. Similar products in the market now should have asbestos-free certificate issued by internationally accredited laboratory. When International Society is doing so much to ban use of asbestos, are we doing anything to control it? When one will buy furniture or a material that are suspected of containing asbestos, he should have asked for a proof that these are free of asbestos. The seller should be able to produce a certificate from the manufacturer of the product that the item is free of asbestos.

Compared to other countries in the world, health and safety of the people in Bangladesh could not be properly addressed by our government. This is probably due to our ignorance and poor economy. However, it may be controlled by banning use of asbestos in our country. Ministries of Health, Industry and Trade & Commerce should take collective measures to ban the use of asbestos. Our national media should take initiative to create awareness among the citizens.

The writer is Technical Advisor, Customer Service, DNV GL, International Ship’s Classification Society.