Asbestos not banned due to pressure - CEJ

by Ifham Nizam

The government would not ban asbestos as promised due to pressure from Russia, which supplies bulk of the country’s requirements of the materials, environmentalists said.

The Island reliably learns that the Central Environment Authority (CEA), too, is not pursuing the matter. CEA sources confirmed that they had nothing to do about it.

However, President’s Secretary Udaya Seneviratne, while serving as the Mahaweli Development and Environment Ministry Secretary, assured that Sri Lanka would ban asbestos from 2024.

"Even if the government changes, asbestos will not be banned here due to Russia’s threat to ban Sri Lanka tea in retaliation," said Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) Executive Director Hemantha Withanage.

A state official said that the government had not taken any clear-cut policy on banning asbestos, immediately.

He said that replacing asbestos roofing sheets would be a very costly affair. Thus, there won’t be immediate steps to ban it.

According to the World Health Organisation, all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic. Exposure to asbestos, including chrysotile, causes cancer of the lung, larynx and ovaries, and also mesothelioma (a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal linings).

Asbestos exposure is also responsible for other diseases such as asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), and plaques, thickening and effusion in the pleura. One alarming fact about these diseases is that it can take 15 to 60 years to develop the symptoms and once diagnosed it’s often too late to do anything.

 Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the ‘mesothelium’ – a thin lining in your chest and abdomen.

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