Outline for the Development of National Programmes for Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases

This document is intended to facilitate countries, particularly those that still use chrysotile asbestos, in establishing their national programmes for elimination of asbestos- related diseases. It also addresses countries efforts to prevent asbestos-related diseases arising from exposure to the various forms of asbestos already in place and as a result of their use in the past.

Exposure to asbestos causes a range of diseases, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), as well as pleural plaques, thickening and effusions. There is also evidence that it causes laryngeal and possibly some other cancers.

Taking into account the rising number of cases of asbestos-related diseases due to the intensive use of asbestos in the past and the fact that some countries still continue to use chrysotile asbestos and even increase its use, the Thirteenth Session of the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health (2003) recommended that special attention should be paid to the elimination of asbestos-related diseases in future collaboration between ILO and WHO.

A national programme for elimination of asbestos related diseases should include: strategic policy, national profile; awareness raising; capacity building; an institutional framework and a national plan of action for elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Countries can adapt this document to the specific national and local conditions and the available resources.

ILO and WHO will further assist individual countries by providing policy guidance, expert advice and international tools for elimination of asbestos-related diseases, such as methodologies for estimation of the disease burden attributable to asbestos, information about safer substitutes of asbestos and alternatives to asbestos-containing materials, overview of best national practices, training materials etc.

Action on elimination of asbestos-related diseases has a sound international basis that includes primarily ILO international instruments, WHO recommendations and multilateral environmental agreements.