News - Asbestos found in new buildings in African countries despite a call for an international ban

Anthesis Consulting Group details the issue of Asbestos being found in new buildings and construction projects in multiple African countries, and its unfortunate continued use in the construction sector.

Asbestos pipe insulation found in African hotel

Asbestos pipe insulation found in African hotel

Continent of Africa

Asbestos is being used in the majority of African countries despite outcries for an international ban on the dangerous construction material, and despite the knowledge people now have regarding the fatal dangers of Asbestos.

Once a popular building material, asbestos is banned in more than 60 countries worldwide. When disturbed it releases small airborne fibres that penetrate deep into the lungs. Breathing them in can lead to an acute reaction with pneumonia-like symptoms. Chronic exposure can lead to lung scarring, pleural disease, Asbestosis, mesothelioma and even Asbestos related lung cancer.

Globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 125,000 people lose their lives as a result of Asbestos related disease every single year, with the continent of Africa contributing significant amounts to the death toll.

At the time of writing it is understood that Asbestos is still being used, or through a lack of legislation enforcement, can be purchased in the following African countries;

Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Republic of the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Eritrea, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland (renamed to Eswatini), Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Prohibitions are now in place in the following African countries:

Algeria, Gabon, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa.

“The World Health Organization’s policy on asbestos is unequivocal and asbestos-related diseases can and should be prevented. The most efficient way to prevent direct and secondary exposures to asbestos is to stop the production and use of all forms, including chrysotile,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

The only way to reduce the hazards of Asbestos in the construction industry is to prohibit the use of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) (voluntarily and legislatively), use safer substitute materials, and proactively manage the remaining residual risk from each of the activities that are associated with Asbestos exposure.

From a legal and ethical point of view, employers must understand that prevention to exposure is paramount and where this is not possible they must assess the work and provide their employees with the appropriate procedures, control measures, personal protective equipment and respiratory protective equipment. Any existing current legislation must be adhered to, and a best practice guideline implemented.

Only by collectively acknowledging that there is a risk from ACMs in the construction industry and addressing that risk can we play our part in putting an end to unnecessary asbestos related deaths.