Blue asbestos has been banned on the island of Sri Lanka since 1987, but a decision by the Sri Lanka cabinet has imposed controls on all asbestos. Importation and use will end on January 1, 2018 and manufacturing of asbestos-related products will be prohibited by 2024.
This ruling was enacted to protect the health of citizens and reduce the impact asbestos has on the environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) identified all types of asbestos as carcinogens that can cause lung cancer, cancer of the larynx and ovary, as well as the deadly disease, mesothelioma. These diseases are created when the tiny asbestos fibers are inhaled. This fiber-intense ‘dust’ occurs in the manufacture of products such as pipes, cement, and the brake-pads of vehicles. The manufacture of roofing sheets accounts for about 80 per cent of asbestos imported into Sri Lanka.
In addition to inhalation during the manufacturing process, products made from the mineral can release fibers into homes or businesses if the material is disturbed through remodeling, demolition, or in a natural disaster.
The government of Sri Lanka should be commended for controlling this lethal mineral through these bans. Even with this significant step, however, mesothelioma often occurs 20 to 50 years after exposure. This means the deadly affects of asbestos will continue for many decades into the future.