South Africa Bans Use of Asbestos

– But Your Health May Still Be in Jeopardy

South Africa. As of March 2008, South Africa banned the use of asbestos with "immediate effect." Many residents, most especially those who work in industries where asbestos products are used, need to be aware that the ban on asbestos does not necessarily mean that they are no longer immune from the harmful effects of asbestos exposure.

South Africa joins approximately 50 other countries in the banning of this material.

According to the Regulations for the Prohibition of the Use, Manufacturing, Import and Export of Asbestos and Asbestos Containing Materials, which dictated part of the Environment Conservation Act of 1989, "a grace period of 120 days will be allowed for any person or merchant who is currently dealing in asbestos or asbestos containing materials to clear their stocks."

Those dealing with asbestos materials would have had to end the manufacturing, importing and exporting of asbestos products as of July 26, 2008.

Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has stated that South Africa first recognized the dangerous link between asbestos exposure and cancer in the 1960s, and that the nation held a summit in 1989 to discuss this connection and to discuss the "development of a national strategy to address asbestos pollution."

For South Africans, a complete ban on asbestos use is a step in the right direction. However, asbestos products, including attic insulation and floor and ceiling tiles, may still be found in residences and commercial buildings nationwide. If these products are damaged or disturbed, or if they begin to corrode as a result of the natural aging process, asbestos fibers may be released into the air, putting individuals at risk of inhalation.

If this occurs, these individuals may one day develop mesothelioma, a fatal type of cancer that has been conclusively linked to prior exposure to asbestos.

Minister van Schalkwyk asserted that workplace asbestos exposure in all areas of industry is regulated and controlled by the Department of Labour. The Department’s Asbestos Regulations, put forth in 2001, requires employers to register any asbestos-containing products utilized in their workplace, and, in addition, requires employers to conduct air quality assessments regularly in an effort to protect their workers.

As an employer, it is absolutely crucial that appropriate asbestos safety guidelines are prominently posted in the workplace, where all workers can see. Workers should also be provided with necessary safety equipment, and should be made aware of the dangers associated with asbestos exposure prior to beginning the course of their employment.

Any worker who suspects that they have been exposed to asbestos while in the workplace should consult with a physician to determine their risk of one day developing asbestos cancer.

For further information regarding the hazardous health effects of asbestos exposure, please visit .


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