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Government studying safer ways to remove asbestos in buildings

Though banned, material is present in older buildings

Published on Oct 23, 2012 6:00 AM
 

The Manpower Ministry is reviewing guidelines to improve the way asbestos is handled in Singapore. It will take a close look at how to implement safer ways of removing asbestos from buildings, and engage competent contractors to do such work. The review is expected to be ready for public consultation by early next year.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed this to The Straits Times when asked about a study on preventive measures to eliminate asbestos-related diseases in Singapore. The study found that the incidence of asbestos-related diseases has increased in the last four decades.

Before it was banned in 1989, asbestos was commonly used in buildings because of its good insulation properties and high tensile strength. It can be found in roofing sheets, ceiling boards and floor tiles. It was also used for brake linings in cars.

Though useful, the fibrous material is hazardous and inhaling it can cause a lung disease known as asbestosis. In the worst cases, malignant mesothelioma - a cancer of the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart - can occur. Because of the health threat, asbestos is banned in more than 50 countries. Singapore banned the use of raw asbestos in building materials in 1989, and in cars in 1995.

 
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Background story

 

Useful but hazardous material

  • Asbestos was commonly used in buildings because of its good insulation properties and high tensile strength. It can be found in roofing sheets, ceiling boards and floor tiles. It can also be used for brake linings in cars.
  • Inhaling it can cause a lung disease known as asbestosis. In the worst cases, malignant mesothelioma - a cancer of the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart - can occur.
  • Because of the health threat, asbestos is banned in more than 50 countries.
  • Singapore banned the use of raw asbestos in building materials in 1989, and in cars in 1995. Despite that, workers who demolish or renovate buildings constructed before 1989 would still be at risk of being exposed to the material.