The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has urged all relevant ministries and institutions to eliminate the use of asbestos in Cambodia.

Asbestos, the substance mostly found in roofing tiles and other construction materials, is harmful to health and causes cancer and other diseases.

A ceremony to launch an updated print edition of the Kingdom’s asbestos profile was held on October 4 by the ministry in collaboration with AFIDA and ILO/Japan to promote health standards and labour safety in the construction sector in Cambodia.

At the ceremony, labour minister Ith Samheng said the second national asbestos profile had been prepared with the full cooperation of the leadership of all of the ministries and institutions concerned.

“This book will play an important role in forming development policy and identifying challenges in the industry. It will help us to identify and prepare activities which will mitigate asbestos fibre impacts on human health, especially among construction workers,” he added.

He said that a working group will be established to share the dangers of this material more widely to the public, in order to curb its use.

He explained that asbestos is a substance which is mined from the earth and used in more than 3,000 products, especially in the construction sector, friction materials, fireproof materials and some textiles.

Since the 1970s, many countries have responded to the evidence of human health impacts through asbestos inhalation, by banning its use. It has been shown to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer, pleural effusions, pleural plaques and respiratory diseases.

Tun Sophorn, the coordinator for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Cambodia, praised the government for the launch.

“This was a joint effort by our working group to update the Cambodia national asbestos profile. It will enable the relevant officials to set priorities to eliminate the use of asbestos in the workplace,” he said.

Australian ambassador Cambodia Pablo Kang said asbestos has a serious impact on human health. It causes lung and throat cancers, and many other conditions which people are not aware of.

He hoped that the event would encourage all participants to pay closer attention to learning about how to reduce the use of asbestos.

As of 2021, 67 countries had prohibited the use of chrysotile asbestos and replaced it with safer products.

The Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression Directorate-General (CCF) established an asbestos laboratory in 2019 to test for the presence of the material in products. Asbestos analysis costs 120,000 riel per test.

Asbestos in most commonly contained in cement, tiles, plaster, car and motorcycle brake pads and other non friction materials, it added.