NEWS

Experts Share Knowledge Of Asbestos-related Diseases

Eliminating asbestos-related diseases is a challenge for smaller Pacific Island countries including Fiji. Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jone Usamate made this comment at the first ever Fiji
19 Dec 2017 11:43
Experts Share Knowledge Of Asbestos-related Diseases
Professor Ken Takahashi Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) speaking during 1st Fiji Asbestos Symposium at Pearl Resort and Spa on December 18, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Eliminating asbestos-related diseases is a challenge for smaller Pacific Island countries including Fiji.

Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jone Usamate made this comment at the first ever Fiji Symposium on Asbestos at the Pearl Resort in Pacific Habour yesterday.

Mr Usamate said for Fiji a number of buildings were fairly old and constructed around about 100 years ago or even beyond and various types of asbestos could still be present. He said with the theme “Equipping the Workforce with the Right Knowledge about Asbestos”, the knowledge gained from the two-day event through sharing experiences would be beneficial to participants and organisations represented in the symposium.

“Asbestos is a risk for human health if not dealt with appropriately,” Mr Usamate said.

“In June this year an “Asbestos Frenzy” hit Suva Town when a junior staff member of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) circulated wrong information on the containment of asbestos in the Suva Civic Centre area.

“They should have better control over their staff and information.”

Mr Usamate said despite the ministry issuing an assurance that the 30 per cent asbestos containment was only on the materials from the Suva Civic Centre that was tested and that the asbestos was not airborne, the damage was already done.

“The local media outlets and the social media sites went berserk. All kinds of rumours were spread,” he said.

“Some organisations near the Civic Centre went as far as preparing to issue face masks to their workers and sending their workers home.

“Political parties exacerbated the situation. Some closed their businesses.”

He said this caused unnecessary panic and any issue on asbestos must be dealt with appropriately and responsibly.

Mr Usamate urged participants to work together to ensure that any removal was dealt with properly and that all relevant stakeholders constructively consult to ensure that any outcome derived benefits that protected the general public.

“I sincerely hope we will not see any repeat of such events which resulted in unnecessary and unwarranted public panic,” the minister said

Two experts from Australia at the symposium are mapping out future programmes in-regards to asbestos.

Asbestos Disease Research Institute, University of Sydney, director Professor Ken Takahashi said that asbestos was not only about roofs and claddings, but there was a need to have a ban on the import of asbestos related materials.

Dr Takashi said consumers had to be careful and not having a ban, risks of importing asbestos material that affects human health, He said importation would increase the burden of asbestos-related diseases that already existed.

Edited by Percy Kean   

Feedback:  losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj



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