“Care for what?” I bet you would ask that other question before you answer the main question. “Yes I do care”. In fact that is why I am posing that question specifically to East Africa Portland Cement Company (EAPCC). The other day I was online searching for the best products for a project I have in mind. Generally, when I am shopping especially for groceries I get so particular on the ingredients in whatever products I am buying. I would say I am an informed shopper, but there are many times I have bought products with scanty or zero information about their contents. Those times I have done that I have done that from sheer ignorance or just because I have used the items or products before without any complications. However, I become finicky about some products because of my tastes and preferences, allergies, medical conditions and information I have about certain things.
So this time as I do my product comparisons online, I bumped into something very shocking. It was shocking based on my knowledge and because it left wonder if people out there knew about it, when buying the product. I was tempted to ignore it with the usual and statement “who cares?” I actually did ignore it for a few days, but the question – who cares – kept echoing back. I realized I cared, especially for the people who purchase certain products without adequate information. I wondered if EAPCC cares. If it really cared care the health of the people who bought their products. Well, I cannot speculate they would answer that question but I am sure that they do not care. They do not care because they still make and sell to their customers asbestos products.
I looked at their health and safety commitments, and all I could find was a totally laudable rant unrelated to asbestos. Quoting from their site, “EAPCC is fully committed towards the general health and wellbeing of its employees and surrounding communities. The Company has conducted aggressive healthcare campaigns such as an Anti- cholera drive and Influenza immunizations that were conducted for staff members, their families and the surrounding community…” Cholera, Influenza, AIDS. What about Cancer? How about creating social awareness about the effects of exposure to asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which is a silicate compound. It occurs as bundles of fibers that can be separated into thin, durable threads. These fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity. Asbestos is widely used in many industries for instance; in building and construction industries it has been used for strengthening cement and plastics as well as for insulation, roofing, fireproofing, and sound absorption; in automotive industry it is used in vehicle brake shoes and clutch pads. Asbestos has also been used in ceiling and floor tiles, paints, coatings, and adhesives.
Do you know what the roofing, the tiles, the paints or the pipes in your homes are made of? Many of the things we use, or are found in our offices, homes and schools may actually contain asbestos. But do we know that? Or if we are aware, do we really care?
Well, exposure to asbestos has adverse health implications. In fact, many medical researches and reports confirm that significant exposure to any type of asbestos will increase the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, nonmalignant lung pleural disorders including asbestosis; pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and pleural effusions, gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers. One such report which confirms the evidence that exposure to asbestos fibers causes various diseases is one by the Joint Policy Committee of Societies of Epidemiology (JPC-SE).
For health and safety reasons, asbestos usage has been banned in many developed countries. These countries include the EU, Swiss, Norway and Iceland in Europe; in the Americas the ban exists in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Honduras; in Asia there is a ban in Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, S. Arabia and S Korea; in Africa there is a ban in Egypt, S. Africa, Gabon and Seychelles; and Australia has also banned use of Asbestos. All these countries know the risk of exposure to asbestos its people and the overall effect the exposure will affect their economy.
Despite the calls by the World Health Organization, the World Federation of Public Health Associations, the International Commission of Occupational Health, the International Social Security Association, the International Trade Union Confederation and the World Bank, asbestos is being used especially in low to middle income countries. JPC-SE reports that there is actually little awareness in these countries of the health exposure risks of asbestos, more over weak or no safety asbestos regulations exist.
Kenya banned the use of asbestos in 2006 however, there has been continued used of asbestos. Government institutions, including educational facilities and residential estates built in the 1950s and 1960s still have it on their roofs. In fact, EAPCC still sells asbestos products. JPC-SE warns of public health disaster with the continual use of asbestos.
Kenya has been reporting an exponential increase of cancer recently. Possibly and on closer scrutiny, the cancer incidences arise could be attributed to products containing asbestos.
When will we start caring? Asbestos is being used, and people are dying from its exposure unknowingly. This can be avoided if we started to care. The government ban of use of asbestos should be supported by a regulation(s) and sanctions to be meted upon those who violate regulations.
EAPCC should do more in their corporate social responsibility and educate the masses on the effects of asbestos. I am not aimed at bashing EAPCC, I do not have a personal vendetta with the company, I only care that the company still produces and sells products made of asbestos. I know it is not the only company with asbestos products, and this call for the abatement of asbestos goes to all companies out there, those that we do not know yet, those that put the lives of people at stake for profits. People should also strive and find out what different products they use at home, schools, hospitals or offices are made of. Let’s be informed, we can avoid what we can.