Asbestos in Asia: Breaking Through the Silence in Lao PDR

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA project officer, Matt Hilton, talks about the threat of asbestos in developing countries and APHEDA’s expansion of its asbestos disease prevention project into Lao PDR.

Australians know that asbestos kills. We are historically one of the highest per capita miners, manufacturers and consumers of asbestos in the world. Almost all public buildings and around one third of all private houses were built with asbestos. And the toll was heavy – by 2020, Australia will have had 13,000 cases of mesothelioma and over 40,000 cases of asbestos related cancer.

Broken bags of asbestos cement lie in open storage

Broken bags of asbestos cement lie in open storage at a factory in Laos.

Globally, it is estimated that 107,000 workers each year succumb to asbestos or asbestos related cancers. And the centre of this new epidemic is Asia. The World Health Organisation estimates that 60% of the 125 million people exposed to asbestos in their homes or workplace are in Asia. And that figure is set to increase – already half of asbestos consumption occurs in Asia with 90% of the global increase in consumption between 2000 and 2004 occurring in Asia. Continue reading

Asbestos: Embarrassing photos for Quebec mine

This story comes to us courtesy of Laurie Kazan-Allen of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. 

Bent over in the middle of a dump, a child rummages in waste with bare hands. Behind the child, adults are using large bags to recycle plastic, wood and pieces of cement. Their bags carry the logo of Lab Chrysotile, an asbestos mine situated at Thetford Mines, Quebec.

These photos were taken on August 6 in a waste site of the factory Djabesmen, the biggest manufacturer of chrysotile asbestos roofs in Indonesia. They “clearly establish that [Canada’s] national policy of exporting asbestos is so negligent as to be criminal,” states indignantly Dr Fernand Turcotte, professor emeritus in preventative medicine at Canada’s Laval University.

This image shows people, including children, in a dump full of asbestos. The dump contains waste from the Djabesmen factory, the biggest manufacturer of chrysotile asbestos roofs in Indonesia. Bags can be seen with the logo of Lab Chrysotile, an asbestos mine situation at Thetford Mines, Quebec. Photo: Muchamad Darisman

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Photos from our projects

Big thanks to Christine W for this post. Christine was here with us last week as a work experience student.


These women from Uatiliana village in Timor-Leste, began learning to read and write in their native Tetum one year ago. After starting with the basics, the 15 women, including a mother and daughter, are now learning local place names and other essentials for daily life.


Mae La Oo Camp

Mae Ra Moe Camp

Tens of thousands of refugees live in these camps on the Thai-Burma border . The conditions are cramped and there is little to do. All structures need to be non-permanent (made of bamboo and natural material). The camps have been there for over 25 years.  For the babies born in the camps this has been their only home.


APEHDA and the national institute of Labour protection formally launched the Vietnam Asbestos Disease Prevention Project on 8th February 2010. Vietnam continues to use asbestos extensively putting workers at risk of asbestos disease. This project will establish a permanent National Resource Centre to produce research, conduct health checks for at risk workers and promote protective equipment and alternatives.


APHEDA supports health care for the elderly Palestinian residents of Bourj Al-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

APHEDA at cutting edge of Asbestos disease prevention in Vietnam

Opening Board of the Conference

Report from the Strengthening Capacity of Research and Information on Asbestos-Related Occupational Diseases Conference in Hanoi

Supporters familiar with APHEDA’s ideology and practice might be scratching their head as to why we are sponsoring a conference? True, APHEDA’s modus operandi is direct capacity building, community development and tangible results. But this is no conference for a conferences’ sake, rather, it marks the formal launch of the National Resource Centre for Asbestos Related Disease. This centre will be the first centre dedicated to researching asbestos disease in Vietnam and crucially is located within the trade union movement who in many countries, including Australia, have lead the charge to protect workers from asbestos related disease. Continue reading