29 June 2006

Zimbabwe: Documentary Sets Tone for Debate

Harare — THE Asbestos Story, a 30-minute documentary, sets the tone for debate on whether the proposed ban on white asbestos is a question of health or economics.

White asbestos or chrysotile is mined in Zimbabweis used for making cement pipes, panels and roofing sheets.

The documentary comes in the wake of a proposed ban on white asbestos by South Africa.

The documentary will be screened on ZTV later today in order to bring the debate to the nation.

The documentary starts in Zimbabwe's mining town of Zvishavane, and then Harare before going to Johannesburg and Switzerland.

There are three types of asbestos - blue (amosite), brown (crocidolite), and white (chrysotile). The blue and brown asbestos were the more superior type widely used in Europe and extensively mined in South Africa.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) banned them after it was revealed that they caused cancer.

White asbestos is the only type that remains on the market today and is mined in Russia, Brazil, China and Zimbabwe.

It is widely used in the manufacture of brake pads, water pipes and irrigation systems and currently makes up 90 percent of roofing in the region.

Several EU countries subsequently banned white asbestos for unsubstantiated health reasons and South Africa has come up with a draft legislation to ban asbestos.

Featured in the debate include Everite, a leading South African lobbyist for the ban and a company that has come up with a new asbestos-free fibre, which wants the ban to be effected by midway this year.

There are also numerous interviews done with specialists in fields related to the safety of white asbestos.

A leading scientist in the fibre toxicology field, Dr David Bernstein, who is based in Switzerland, said most concerns raised in the debate are unfounded and that mining white asbestos was like mining any other dust related minerals such as gold and coal.

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