|Asbestos Overview and Handling Recommendations (GTZ, 1996)|
|Part IV Country analysis|
As already mentioned in the introduction, the Asbestos subject
is not a specific problem of the developing countries. As can be seen in Figure
6, however, in 1991 more than 75% of the world production of Asbestos was mined
in developing or verging countries or especially in the states of the former
Soviet Union. Therefore, Asbestos production represents a significant source of
income at least for some developing countries.
Figure 6: Worldwide Asbestos Production 1991
Source Asbestos - 1991, USA
From a political perspective on employment, however, Asbestos mining should not be an important factor either in the developing countries or in the industrialized countries, because of the low number of workers in this sector.
As for the processing of Asbestos, it may be presumed that in the industrialized countries Asbestos will soon be pushed out of its areas of application. In contrast, it is expected that in the developing and verging countries, particularly China and the countries formed from the former USSR, the trend to use Asbestos will continue for a long time. This is due to the fact that the necessary financial means to apply substitutes are not available, and the positive product characteristics of Asbestos are of primary importance. Since the processing of Asbestos products in developing countries is largely performed in small operations, which are often active in the informal sector of the economy, it may be assumed, that safety measures are only used to a very small extent. Another dilemma is the insufficient accessibility of statistical data, which hardly allows the country's own government to properly evaluate the Asbestos problem.
The legislation relevant to Asbestos is more developed in the industrialized countries than in the developing countries. With the example of Tunis, it was shown that in developing countries in some cases no legal norms of any kind exist. Furthermore, it is to be expected that such legal norms, where they exist, are not always obeyed to the desirable extent in developing countries.
The different interests of industrialized nations and developing countries in the Asbestos matter are documented in the corresponding number of research and development studies. In the industrialized countries, numerous projects are currently being performed, which are concerned both with the health hazards of Asbestos and with the development of substitutes.
For almost all areas of application of Asbestos, substitutes are currently available. Since in industrial nations an average of 15 years are necessary to develop a product from laboratory scale to the marketing stage, it can be assumed that Asbestos will be pushed out of all areas by substitutes in a few years.
In developing countries product introduction cycles are much longer and hard to predict. The currently only limited use of substitutes will therefore continue in the near future. This is especially to be expected, because substitutes are almost without exception developed in industrialized countries, and consequently the need for imports would exist at least temporarily. The know-how transfer to self-sufficient production of substitutes in the developing countries is very difficult and hindered by rivaling interests.
The inhalative intake of Asbestos fibers is now viewed worldwide as a grave health risk. In many countries there are limits for the maximum permissible fiber exposures, as a consequence of the experiences made with Asbestos. For particular types of Asbestos, particularly amphibole Asbestos (with crocidolite and amosite as the most hazardous forms), there is a general prohibition of manufacturing and use. In some countries these limitations on manufacturing and use are expected to be applied to all Asbestos forms, whereby some countries like the USA play an exemplary role.
With regard to the oral intake of Asbestos fibers and the resulting hazard, there is no clarity at present. Limits are implaced only in a few countries.