The government of Nepal has announced that it is banning asbestos as a result of concerns about its health impact.
An announcement out of the capital city of Kathmandu stated that the toxic material, which has been traced to a number of serious and even fatal health conditions, will no longer be allowed to be imported, purchased or used. Asbestos has been widely used as construction material in the country.
The notification came from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE) and is supported by the Environment Protection Act (EPA), which passed in 1997. According to a notification that appeared in the Nepal Gazette, asbestos sheets and related products are being banned in order to protect human health as well as to protect the environment from the harmful consequences of its use in the construction industry.
Following the decree, the ban will immediately be effective 181 days after its publication.
Nepal’s actions follow the release of a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), which had identified asbestos as being a carcinogen dangerous to humans. Nepal joins over forty other countries in having banned the import, export and use of asbestos.
It is hoped that the number of countries abandoning asbestos will continue to grow, as it has been linked to lung cancer, asbestosis, and the always fatal cancer known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is caused strictly by exposure to asbestos fibers, which enter the body through the lungs and mouth.
Once ingested or inhaled, the tiny fibers of asbestos become embedded in the lining of the cells of the lungs and peritoneum, causing cell death and mutations that lead to cancer. Mesothelioma does not present symptoms until decades after exposure, but once it becomes known most victims die within several months.
In Nepal, concerns for human health and the environment are particularly focused on the Tarai region.
According to a statement by Ram Chariatra Sa, executive director of the Centre for Public Health and Environmental Development, “Since last year, civil society and experts have been advocating to address the related public health and environmental problems possibly resulted from unscientific burying of asbestos wastes in Maitighar Mandala in Kathmandu and its massive import and use in the Tarai region. Now we need effective implementation of this decision.”