The debate on whether using chrysotile can cause cancer: technology improvement is necessary

[Thanh nien] While it remains controversial on whether the production and use of chrysotile are hazardous, most experts emphasize the importance of technology improvement.

Mr. Nguyen Quang Cung, the President of the Vietnam Cement Association, presents that the chrysotile fiber has tube structure with numerous smaller fiber thus firmly adhere to cement mixture which makes it impossible to spread loose chrysotile fiber into the environment. Even the broken AC roof sheet does not release free chrysotile fiber. This is why no case of asbestos-related diseases have been detected in Vietnam. However, the AC roofing production industry should enhance their competitive advantage by diversifying the design, otherwise, the consumers will switch to other options. “It is necessary to improve technology in produce production to ensure occupational safety, especially pay attention to the closed and automatic production line to control dust in the production area” Mr. Cung suggested.

Mr. Nguyen Anh Tho, the Deputy Director of the Labour Safety Department, Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs also admits the need to safety control the use of chrysotile instead of a ban. “The control should be a complete process targeting all products that hold certain risks on human health, not just a particular product. Along with the safety and risk control, it is necessary to implement a comprehensive measure to both domestic and import products, invest in the production technology, enhance the safety in production and use of the product” says Mr. Tho.

Mr. Ngo Vinh Bac Duong, The Head of Economic Laws of the Institute of State and Law suggests: “The management agencies should provide regulation and and strictly monitor those regulations; it should shut down any enterprises complying with the regulation rather than ban the materials”.

Doctor Le Thi Hang says that a ban on chrysotile at the moment is inappropriate in term of workers’ health. Therefore, the management agency should have clear policy on the use of chrysotile so that the factories can improve the production technology to protect workers’ health because many factories have not innovated the technology due the to fear of the ban.

As for healthcare, the AC roof sheet factories should register to conduct health examination for workers at healthcare entities which have enough competence and equipment to diagnose any abnormality in workers’ health.

There are different groups of asbestos in 02 main groups namely amphibole and serpentine in which chrysotile is only fiber. Asbestos in amphibole group is difficult is be disposed from human lung and can cause cancer after 10-20 years of incubation. Therefore, this group has been prohibited worldwide including Vietnam.

Source: The report on the recommendation on the use of chrysotile in Vietnam of the National Assembly Committee on Science, Technology & Environment. (No 483/BC – UBKHCNMT14, dated 21.8.2017)