The Malcolm technical team from Australia will offer training to the General Department of Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Prevention (CCF) to inspect products for asbestos as officials continue to discuss the establishment of a law which will ban the use and import of asbestos-containing products.

Cambodia has not yet passed legislation prohibiting the import and use of asbestos. However, the CCF has just opened its first laboratory for asbestos analysis, with the support of the Australian Government.

On September 13, CCF officials met with representatives of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) in Cambodia to discuss the potential of the new lab.

Phan Oun, the Royal Government delegate in charge of the CCF, told The Post on September 14 that in October, the Australian Malcolm technical team will come to train officials in the latest techniques for the analysis of asbestos.

He said the training would focus on the technical skills needed to operate the laboratory, adding that Cambodia intended to seek further support from the Australian government.

“We want the team to come and teach us in more detail how to use the laboratory. We will also ask for continued support, because in the future we want the CCF to be as capable as possible of guaranteeing the safety of all products imported into the Kingdom,” he said.

According to Oun, there is no detailed study on the products that are present in the construction industry in Cambodia, although products in the cosmetics sector are banned from using asbestos. He added that technicians from the relevant institutions are discussing how to govern the substance within the existing policy framework.

“The CCF encourages all businesses which are connected with the construction industry to analyze their products for the presence of this harmful material. Our lab can detect it, and if they find no trace, they will be able to reassure their customers that their products are safe,” he said.

Sok Kin, President of the Federation of Construction and Forestry Workers’ Unions of Cambodia, said that the fact that Cambodia now has a laboratory which can detect asbestos is a positive step towards improving the management of the armful substance.

He said the information about the risks associated with it was not widely known in the Kingdom, but one study had identified more than 3,000 products which contained it.

“I am not sure just how much asbestos-containing products are used in Cambodia. However, Cambodia has a high import rate of products containing this substance, according to the Cambodia Import-Export Inspection and Fraud Repression Directorate-General. We need to study the experiences of countries that no longer use asbestos and urge the government to introduce specific regulations to ban it,” he said.

Sok Kin added that the effects of the substance are inevitable, both directly and indirectly. It puts construction workers and their families, as well as homeowners, at risk.

“Asbestos is a substance which is mined from underground, and there is no drug or substance that can cure it. Once it enters the human body through the respiratory tract, it increases the risk of developing lung cancer, and could cause death within 20 to 30 years,” he explained.

On September 15, the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training organised a workshop to draft a roadmap on reducing the impact and risk of asbestos disease in Cambodia, according to the agenda of the seminar.

The workshop was attended by officials from several ministries, development partners, civil society organisations, unions and employers, and discussed and presented research on the roadmap.