ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan manufacturers of asbestos roofing sheets have urged the government not to go ahead with a proposed generic ban on all asbestos-related products, saying they are not harmful if used with proper care.
The four manufacturers that have formed the Fibre Cement Product Manufacturers Association to raise awareness of asbestos said the material was used in many countries and that alternative roofing material was more costly.
Anton Edema, co-ordinator of the association, said there was no scientific basis for a generic ban on asbestos products.
“We use only white asbestos which, if it enters the body, is not retained and is not harmful like blue or brown asbestos,” he told a news conference.
He said there were two basic types of asbestos; amphibole and serpentine.
“We use serpentine or white asbestos – called chrysotile – which lasts only a short while in the body.
“The other type, amphibole, is cancerous and lasts longer in the body if absorbed. We have asked the World Health Organisation to make a distinction between the two.”
Priyantha Jayasinghe, marketing manager, Rhino Roofing Products Ltd., part of the St Anthony’s group, said the proposed ban had led to the spread of myths about asbestos and cause alarm among consumers and users.
The Fibre Cement Product Manufacturers Association said in a statement that local consumers have trusted fibre cement sheets that contain a small amount of chrysotile for decades due to their long lasting, durable, easy to use, affordable and tropical weather resistant qualities.
“The products manufactured locally contain 70 percent cement, 22 percent water and only 8 percent chrysotile fibres,” it said.
“The blue and brown variants are not used in Sri Lanka at any of the manufacturing plants currently supplying roofing sheets and other fibre cement based products,” it said.
“Alternative products do not carry the same capabilities as roofing sheets do and come at a much higher cost.”
The association said more research in to safe manufacturing processes, usage and recycling practices, alleged health risks and the viability of alternative products in comparison with chrysotile based fibre cement products must be carried out before any arbitrary ban.
(Colombo/November 12 2015)