Economic impact of chrysotile ban – Case study of asbestos cement roofsheet in Vietnam

The ban of chrysotile presents economic impacts on users, workers, corporates and Vietnamese government. AC roofsheet is an optimal choice for the low-income consumer group, especially that in rural and mountainous areas and areas frequently hit by natural disasters. Based on the research of Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM), it proposes the following solutions and recommendations:

1. Implement approved policies and regulations on chrysotile production and usage which include: regulations on conditional business under the Law on Investment 2014. Chrysotile production is a conditional business and must comply with technical regulations and standards; Decision No. 1469/QĐ-TTg dated 22/08/2014 by the Prime Minister approving the Master Plan.on the development for Vietnam’s construction material industry towards 2020, with the orientation towards 2030. This is the significant legal framework for the AC roofsheet manufacturing industry to develop.

2. Issue all requirements on conditional business and technical regulations regarding producing and using chrysotile (regulations on products, environment, occupational safety and health standards,…). Enhance regular or random checks and supervise the working environment and worker’s health at factories. The examination can be done monthly, once per three or six months.

If chrysotile is continously allowed, a roadmap to eliminating asbestos related diseases is crucial. The most important thing in producing and using chrysotile is to ensure safe and controlled operational processes. It requires factories to commit to meet all technical regulations on environment, occupational safety & health and risks management. Encourage factories to creatively promulgate and introduce about occupational safety and health, protect the environment, ensure labour protection gears, and strictly monitor production processes.

3. Establish a Task Force to conduct studies on health and environment effects of chrysotile and AC roofsheet. This Task Force should comprise of representatives of stakeholders to ensure that collected evidences are transparent and consistent. These evidences should serve as the foundation for the Government to implement effectively and efficiently regulations on construction materials including chrysotile.

4. Similar to warnings on health effects of tabaco, warnings on health and environment effects of chrysotile should be communicated to users and leave the choice to the users. In reality, there have been obvious evidences about the harms of cigarettes; however, nation states including developed societies only advocate for the limited consumption of cigarettes instead of banning them. Thus, when chrysotile containing products such as AC roofsheets are yet efficiently and immediately substituted and when there are yet clear evidences regarding chrysotile effects on human health and environment, as well as when substitutes such as PVA are not well proved to be safe, the Government should allow the use of chrysotile in AC roofsheet manufacturing industry and require for strict control to ensure occupational and environmental safety.

5. Currently, there are large demands for roofsheets to be used in new buildings and to be reserved for areas annually hit by natural dissasters. Hence, the Government should promote to diversify types of roofsheets such as traditional tiles, glazed tiles, high quality decoration tiles, polycarbonate roofsheet,…; diversity different types of fibers in producing roofsheets such as PVA, chrysotile, plant fibers,…. Corporations also have had opportunities to develop non-chrysotile roofsheets such as PVA. However, paid attention to research and develop PVA related products is still little; the coordination between R&D units, factories, administration agencies and policy makers, public inputs,… is still lacking. The Government should develop policies to support R&D units as well as corporations to develop new products and seek opportunities in different market segments.

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