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China Adopts New Asbestos Prohibition

The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) reported in November 2010 that China adopted a new national industry standard to prohibit asbestos in construction siding and wall materials. China’s rule will go into effect June 1, 2011.

The rule focuses on “flat” products which are used generally in permanent structures. It is being issued by an industry body concerned with building design and so the architects, who are responsible for choosing the raw materials to be used in construction projects, will likely specify safer alternatives.

The rule may, however, have less impact on asbestos-cement corrugated sheeting which is often used for temporary buildings or for more low-end construction.

China is today the world’s largest asbestos consumer and also maintains a large asbestos production industry.

For such a large consumer and producer, this new standard is a strong statement, and it’s not the first of its kind. In 2003 China acted decisively, banning asbestos in automotive friction materials. In 2005, importing or exporting amphibole asbestos, including amosite and crocidolite, was banned. China also prevented asbestos use in large-scale efforts such as the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2010 Asian Games building projects.

In light of these restrictions, increasing numbers of producers are turning to asbestos-free technology with some trade bodies in China lobbying their members to phase out asbestos use altogether.

This new industry standard is an important step forward towards a total ban on asbestos use and production. And it should be seen as a clear warning to the asbestos industry that the movement to ban asbestos is gaining ground.

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