Recently, the Ministry of Construction has collected opinions to develop the roadmap to cease the use of chrysotile in AC roof sheet production by 2023. The information has created negative impact on the operation of businesses and workers in AC roof sheet industry.
Mr. Le Van Nghia – The General Director of Dong Anh Investment & Construction Materials JSC – expressed that in the first 6 months of 2018, the company had to reduce the production by half because of the information on potential ban due to the negative information on chrysotile. At the moment, 600 in the total of 800 employees of the company have had to quit their job. The company has invested and researched to produce roof sheet using alternative fiber but failed due to the poor characteristics such as water penetration and high price.
Mr. Nghia said: “We want to have a stable policy so that we can manufacture and invest in new technology. The company commits to meet the requirements of the management agency. Several years ago, the company complied with the instruction of the Government to invest in automated technology but a roadmap to ban was proposed after which no one can be assured to continue operating”.
The reason presented by the Ministry of Construction is that chrysotile is claimed to be a carcinogen. However, Ms. Le Thi Hang – the Director of the Hospital of Construction which is in charge of researching on occupational diseases in construction industry – said that there have been no cases of mesothelioma or lung cancer detected due to chrysotile exposure. In other industry such as the tile and brick production, the rate of silicosis is much higher. Ms. Hang has also conducted a study on people who live in houses with AC roofing, no chrysotile fiber was founded in the environment. The rate of cancer is within the average rate of the country.
“We have kept track on this issue since 1997 and no cases of cancer have been found. But some newspapers still report that there are cases of cancer. Some workers also wondered why while there is no cancer in workers as examined by the doctor, the media says that they have cancer?” stated by Dr. Hang.
Dr. Hang insisted that although we expected to protect worker’s health, the reason to ban chrysotile is not convincing, unfair and can impact on the benefits of workers. From the scientific evidences and studies, I can confirm that health reason cannot be used to ban the AC roof sheet producers. The authorized agencies should have a policy which allows enterprises to be assured to comply with regulation and standard. With the current treatment of policy making, we are causing unfortunate social consequences. We should learn from The experience of Thailand and China instead of hosting many seminars but the problem is left unresolved.
Disagree with the opinion that chrysotile causes cancer, Mr. Le Van Toi – The former director of the Department of Building Materials and Deputy President of the Vietnam Association for Building Materials said that although he had worked at an asbestos pipe production factory in Germany for 5 years, he did not have any health issue. “If the health impact of chrysotile in Vietnam has been proven, a detail roadmap is necessary. However, no evidence is available at the moment”. He recommended to form a cross-sector team to inspect and suggested the local authority to stop any enterprises which couldn’t meet the labour safety requirements.
Let the market to monitor itself
Mr. Thai Duy Sam – The Vice President & General Secretary of the Vietnam General Federation of Construction confirmed that the sudden ban on chrysotile would definitely create significant impact on the economy and workers. In fact, the economic situation at remote areas does not allow the people to afford other roofing materials.
Regarding in issue, Mr. Le Hong Tinh – The Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Science, Technology & Environment commented that while developing the roadmap, the Ministry of Construction should revise cautiously. The roadmap should consider the economic and social impacts especially when the issue remained a topic of debate. He added that the livestock farming in Dong Nai province had used a large amount of AC roofing, if the ban was issued, it would rise the investment capital and affect livestock industry as well.
From the field trips, Mr. Le Hong Tinh said that ASEAN countries have not issued any ban but only provide recommendations and let people to decide themselves according to the market economy.
As for the, Mr. Nguyen Van Sinh – the Deputy Minister of Construction acknowledged the contribution of fiber cement roofing in creating products that met the demand of the people. However, although the ban has not been issued, the consumption of fiber cement roofing has decreased, some businesses had closed, the amount of chrysotile imported had declined. This shows that the competitiveness of this product is weaken; as the living standard increase, people want to use more beautiful products.
The producers think that the deadline by 2023 is impossible since many companies have been established since 2011 which it is not enough time for return on investment. Moreover, there is only 4 years left including the time for compiling the law, issuing the regulation and decree, the companies do not have enough time for business transfer, employee training and alternative fiber research. Moreover, the demand for this product is still high, the ban on AC roof sheet production by 2023 is not suitable with the reality./.