It's official: Asbestos to be banned in SA

Final regulations for the banning of asbestos will come into effect on Friday, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said.

Addressing a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday, Van Schalkwyk said the regulations would prohibit the use, processing, manufacturing, and import and export of any asbestos or asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

Exemptions would only be granted in very specific circumstances and where this was the case, they would be strictly controlled.

Penalties for the continued use of asbestos would included a fine which would not exceed R100 000 and/or imprisonment of under ten years.

Draft regulations were first gazetted in November 2005 for public comment and again in September 2007.

South Africa mined crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile asbestos extensively from the late 1800s until 2001.

Van Schalkwyk said the country had been continuing to phase out asbestos since 2003 and therefore the impact on the economy would not be huge.

These regulations will be gazetted on Friday and South Africa will join more than 50 other countries that have banned asbestos.

Once promulgated, a grace period of 120 days would be allowed to give any person or merchant currently dealing in asbestos or ACMs to clear their stock.

He said the regulations would not prohibit the continued use of asbestos-containing materials that were already in place such as asbestos-cement roof sheets or ceilings as the department was satisfied that there was “no undue risk”.

“Over time, however, they should be replaced with asbestos-free materials, we believe that will be a natural process.”

Currently asbestos is used in some gas tanks, in electrical switch gear on some trains, brake-blocks in the mining industry and gas kits in the manufacturing industry.

He said requests by Zimbabwe and Canada to be exempt from the prohibition had been denied.

He said South Africa would no longer import asbestos or ACMs from Zimbabwe.

However under strict conditions and if registered with the department, South Africa would allow products to pass through its borders while in transit.

Building company Everite said on Thursday that it supported the government’s ban on imports from Zimbabwe. - Sapa

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