Pakistan could Ban Asbestos

Pakistan officials could be close to banning asbestos, a deadly mineral that is the cause of mesothelioma and other potentially fatal diseases like asbestosis. Pakistan’s National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Resource Development is recommending that the country permanently ban the use and importation of asbestos.

The recommendation comes on the heels of a series of hearings about asbestos and its association with mesothelioma. Raja Ahsan, Federal Human Resource Secretary, told the committee that asbestos is a “major threat” for mesothelioma and other diseases among Pakistan’s industrial workers. A recent study shows that asbestos consumption rose from 1,590 tons in 2000 to 9,170 tons just four years later in 2004.

On the other hand, the director of the Centre for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment argues that a total ban is too strong and that certain products that contain asbestos are not a threat. He argues that the ban should exclude products where asbestos is sealed.

Mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos, is a cancer that affects the cells that line the major organs in the body. The disease often doesn’t display any symptoms until decades after asbestos exposure, and many patients don’t survive more than a year after diagnosis with mesothelioma.

In 2006, a letter to the Pakistani government from the All Pakistan Federation of United Trade Unions stated, “The scientific and medical evidence on the dangers of this building material is beyond doubt.” The National Assembly’s recommendation for a ban will be sent to the Ministry of Commerce and Federal Board of Revenue, which is responsible for banning imports.”

Most of the European Union joins the 55 countries that currently have asbestos bans in place.

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