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Ministry warns of risks from asbestos exposure

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times Share:
construction workers
A ministry survey done last year found that asbestos was present in 53 percent of 117 buildings. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Labour Minister Ith Samheng yesterday urged officials to disseminate information about the dangers of asbestos which is widely used in the construction industry.


Speaking at the launch of the ‘Cambodian National Asbestos Profile’ booklet in Phnom Penh, he asked the ministry’s working team to prepare pamphlets about risks associated with exposure to asbestos for public distribution, especially those working in the construction and garment industries.

“I am glad to see that this booklet containing information about asbestos has been launched,” he said. “We need to update it regularly and inform the public about steps being taken to address the problem.”

Asbestos is a very small fibre and is the common term used to describe a group of natural silica minerals (Silicate) that has been mined and distributed worldwide for a long time. There are six types of asbestos but the most common type is called chrysotile (white) asbestos.

Mr Samheng said that the chrysotile asbestos has been recognised as having many advantages for industrial use because it is very strong and resilient, but tiny particles which it releases can be harmful to health if people inhale them.

“Asbestos is very useful for industry, but exposure to chrysotile asbestos can also affect health,” he said. “It can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer, pleural effusions, pleural plaques and thickening and atelectasis.”

“In order to prevent these risks, I want the working group to list down the dangers posed by asbestos and educate the public about them,” Mr Samheng added.

Leng Tong, director of Occupational Health and Safety Department at the Labour Ministry, yesterday said that unlike some countries, Cambodia does not presently have laws to eliminate the use of asbestos, but is planning to have them.

“This is the reason why we brought out this booklet,” he said. “We hope to educate people and relevant organisations about what asbestos is, where it is used, and the dangers it poses.”

Mr Tong noted the working group will start disseminating information about asbestos to the public, especially construction workers, from next month.

Asbestos can be found in different industry sectors and products in countries that still allow its use.

Examples of products which may contain asbestos are ceiling panels, fibro cement sheets and other building materials, heat and sound protection systems, firefighting equipment, insulation materials, vinyl floor tiles, clothing, frictional materials (brakes), gaskets (boilers) and packaging materials.

Sok Kin, Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia president, yesterday said that there are not many people, especially construction workers, who know about the impact of asbestos.

“Now that the Cambodian National Asbesos Profile has been launched, we will expand and spread information about it to the public and construction workers through our working group network,” he said.

According to the booklet, Cambodia currently imports asbestos because the Kingdom does not mine or produce the fibrous minerals.

A ministry survey done last year found that asbestos was present in 53 percent of 117 buildings and other products which were samples.

The survey noted that friction products contained the highest quantity of asbestos, over 40 percent in many cases.

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