| GATE - 4/94 - West and Central Africa - will the crisis boost the AT approach? |
Eschborn - Asbestos comes in the form of microscopic mineral fibres which find their way into the dungs via inhaled air and can cause cancer. The variety known as soft asbestos is particularly dangerous.
However, asbestos is more common in a permanently bound form, asbestos cement, which is still widely used in developing countries as a low-cost, easy-to-use building material. And it is usually cost reasons that discourage users in developing countries from using substitutes, such as fibreglass instead of fibre cement products.
At the end of 1993, a firm of consultants in Bensheim (FRG) prepared a study on behalf of GTZ with recommendations for handling this dangerous material in developing countries.
In accordance with the material flow approach four stages in the asbestos life-cycle were studied: the extraction of as asbestos-containing materials, the use of asbestos containing products, safeguarding against contact with asbestos and its removal, and final disposal.
As a general recommendation, say the experts, the use of asbestos-containing products, in particular amphibole asbestos and lightly bound asbestos materials, should be avoided.
The extraction and processing of the highly dangerous asbestos types crocidolite and amosite should be prohibited. However, this would result in economic problems for certain countries such as those in southern Africa, the main producing region for these two types of asbestos. Moreover, only the production of permanently bound asbestos materials should be permitted in the future.
In any given situation, the possibility of replacing asbestos with a different substance must also be checked. According to the study the use of asbestos can only be justified if the health risks resulting from it are calculable. Otherwise the use of asbestos is justified if substitutes are uneconomical, technically inadequate and difficult to obtain.
All use of asbestos in schools, kindergartens and hospitals should be prohibited. With regard to the handling of products containing asbestos at workplaces, the study recommends minimizing release of the dangerous microfibres and wearing protective clothing. Identification of asbestos-containing substances with an "a" should be made compulsory world-wide.
An English version of the study will be published in spring 1995.