The production of chrysotile-cement products.
On August 2, 2019, as the direction of the Chairwoman of the National Assembly – Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, the Committee on Science, Technology and Environment issued Official Dispatch No. 1441/UBKHCNMT14 to propose ministries and relevant agencies continue to study to prove whether there are the dangers of chrysotile for human health. The Committee also recommended clarifying the reason why most countries still use chrysotile, including both developed countries and neighboring ones with Vietnam.
It may take time for the final conclusions of the specialized agencies. Meanwhile, all AC roof sheet businesses are looking forward to a result soon after a wait of 20 years.
All studies have not found a case of cancer
According to the Vietnam Roofsheet Association, the impact of AC roof sheet on human health is a popular topic of health authorities. Previously, when studying areas covered with AC roof sheets in Australia, Germany and Austria, international researchers have reported that the concentrations of chrysotile in these areas are not different from the chrysotile concentrations in the nature (0.001 f/cc) – the levels rated by WHO, Ontario Royal Commission on Asbestos and the Royal Society of London as “acceptable”, “insignificant” and “… have no basis for additional control” respectively.
Over 130 years of exploitation and use of chrysotile, the Russian Government has carried out many researches on the effects of natural chrysotile fibers. Until now, it is confirmed that the mineral fiber, with a controlled manner, does not affect human health.
In Vietnam, the scientific studies of the Agency of Health Environment – Ministry of Health, Construction Hospital – Ministry of Construction or National Profile on Asbestos developed by the Ministry of Health and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health – Vietnam General Confederation of Labor performed on objects such as workers, long-term users of AC roof sheet have not found any case of cancer due to exposure to chrysotile.
Studies have not found any case of cancer due to exposure to chrysotile in roof sheets.
Substitute products have failed already
Until now, chrysotile fiber is still an important and irreplaceable input for the AC roof industry. Experimental projects on plant fibers such as jute, sugarcane and coconut fibers failed with the properties of low insulation and thermal insulation compared to chrysotile.
PVA – synthetic organic fibers are propagated as a good substitute for chrysotile had the same failure. Participating in the project of asbestos-free roof sheets of Japan, Navifico and Tan Thuan Cuong admitted that PVA fiber has higher price and unstable quality. The product did not meet the consumer’s demand, which caused Navifico to close their factories two years ago while Tan Thuan Cuong decided to produce chrysotile-cement sheets for continual operation.
With experience in the production of chrysotile-free roof sheet in 2001 and 2014, Mr. Le Van Nghia – General Director of Dong Anh Construction, Investment & Construction Materials claimed that the product has shortcomings. For example, PVA-containing roof sheet consumes lots of electricity during the production process. Moreover, it is difficult for pulp and PVA to adhere to cement, which creates cement emissions. The product intensity is only 50 percent of the chrysotile-containing roof sheet while the proportion decreases by 20 percent. According to Mr. Nghia, the PVA-containing sheet is not suitable for the climate of Vietnam because of the absorption under the rain and the warping in hot weather.
Chrysotile is used in many other industries, not just in the industry of AC roof sheet
In Vietnam, chrysotile is used in other products such as brake pads of aircraft, cars, motorcycles, elevator, fireproof clothing, insulation in air conditioners, and seals in heat-resistant pipes, details of machinery, insulation, thermal insulation of mechanical industry, cement production, thermoelectricity, oil refining, water plants and so on.
However, the ban of chrysotile is only proposed for the industry of AC roof sheet. Meanwhile, the Government must ban all chrysotile-containing products and the import to completely eliminate the fiber. However, this is an obstacle that both Vietnam and other big countries cannot implement.
Fireproof clothing, insulation, and electrical and thermal insulation equipment are also made of chrysotile.
Along with the ban on chrysotile in other field of production, the Government will also face the problem: How to prevent cheap chrysotile-cement roofing sheet of China and Thailand from importing to Vietnam?
This is a possible scenario because China and Thailand not only have favorable geographical positions but also possess a huge market and volume of cheap chrysotile-cement sheets. Once the ban is issued, the import from neighboring countries will be strengthened to occupy the segment of cheap roof sheets in our country. While international import and export are related to global trade cooperation agreements, the Government will hardly be able to ban the products from these countries.
The elimination of AC roof sheet industry needs a fund of trillions VND
According to the research “Assessing the economic impact of the ban on chrysotile in Vietnam – Case of chrysotile-cement roofing sheets” (2015) of Central Institute for Economic Management – Ministry of Planning and Investment, the burden of a ban on the use of chrysotile in AC roof sheet industry is huge. Accordingly, 454.5 VND trillion is the cost the Government has to spend for the replacement of 80 million sqm of AC roof sheets. 183.5 VND trillion is the total cost for consumers if changing to PVA roof sheets. Finally, 395.2 VND billion is the cost for AC roof sheet industry when changing technologies, installing equipment and re-training labor.
However, whether it is necessary to create an economic burden for the country while the impact of chrysotile has not been clearly, especially many countries are still allowing the controlled use of the fiber?
As the most developed economy in the world, in April, the US has just published a document on the Significant new use rule (SNUR), which brings favorable conditions for businesses to trade chrysotile-containing products. Accordingly, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to remove chrysotile-cement products such as water pipes and AC roof sheets from the list of products “requiring additional risk assessment”. From now on, US businesses only need the permission of EPA for the production and import of chrysotile-based products.