There have been some interesting recent comments on asbestos in Thailand. So I am opening up a post specifically on this issue in case there are more contributions. Here are the comments so far (in order of posting):

Mariner. I was wondering what you guys thought of the front page of the Bangkok Post which reported on dangerous air borne dust particles, and his majesty’s preparedness to step in to resolve the issue. Surprising is that there is no mention of asbestos dust and the vast amounts spewed into the air daily as workers cut, grind and saw asbestos cement on almost any residential and commercial building. I have yet to see a Thai worker wearing protective gear. I have never, in Thailand, seen an asbestos containing product labelled as such. If you live in Thailand ask yourself where that dust from the new housing estate being built down the road ends up? If you dare, then look in the internet under ‘asbestos + health.’ Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the largest importer of asbestos Siam Cement? Isn’t Siam Cement the largest money earner of the crown property bureau? And isn’t Thailand now one of the world’s formost asbestos importers? I’m left wondering if asbestos dangers will ever get a mention given the royal linkage -certainly not in the utterly gutless Banglok Post and the (almost) equally pathetic Nation.

Ralph Cramden. Good question on SCG, Mariner. There is quite a bit at various sites on asbestos in Thailand and Asia. See:

Observer. I spent quite a lot of time on the Chiang Mai air issue several years ago. The big issues were agricultural burning and vehicle pollution, largely from mafia operated taxis and shuttles, which were untouchable. I don’t recall asbestos ever getting even the smallest mention in surveys of pollution sources. Finally, I haven’t seen asbestos cited as a major of worker injuries or sickness. Siam Cement is doing much motre damage to the environment by burning coal and all sorts of junk in its kilns.

Ladyboy. I see asbestos roofs on houses throughout Thailand and question people about the dangers – they are totally unaware or are mai bpen rai about it. Do hospitals diagnose for asbestos related deaths? It’s an insidious product that could be causing great damage to working people. Canada exports but cannot use asbestos in its own industries.

Mariner. Srichant Uthayopas, director of the Industrial Works Department’s Hazardous Substance Control Bureau, stated a couple of years ago that ‘Safety and environmental protection are important, but economics is more so.’ I think that sort of sums things up. Onto specific questions: Why is it that in spite of declaring the import of the most dangerous form of asbestos (crocidolite) illegal in 1992, figures for the year 2002 from the Thai Customs Department show that 451 tons were imported? Why is it that the Thai government defines the safe occupational exposure to asbestos as 5 fibers per ml, a figure which is 50 times (I believe)the minimum exposure level permissible in the US? Finally, I think I’m correct in saying that, to date, no cases of asbestos disease have been reported to the Workmen’s Compensation Fund -do I detect a cover up somewhere?