Nigeria: Workers to raise public awareness against asbestos

BWI organised a meeting on the dangers of asbestos on 2 November in Abuja, Nigeria which was attended by representatives from the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Civil Construction and Engineering Senior Staff Association (CCESSA), National Union of Civil Engineering Construction Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW), Ministry of Labour, Federation of Construction Industry (FOCI) and media.

BWI said that asbestos is a toxic product used in many housing projects, shipping and other household products. It said that it is highly carcinogenic, exposing many people, particularly workers and end users. 

Citing reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the global union said that about 125 million people globally are exposed to asbestos in workplaces. An estimated 170,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure.

In the said meeting, three (3) key observation points were stressed: 

  • Nigerian Data on Asbestos health related risk is inadequate or not available.
  • Inadequate information on the types of products that contain asbestos, related health hazards and control measures to minimise the negative effects and risks on end users.
  • Regulations / legislation on asbestos usage in Nigeria are negligible, exposing many workers.

Participants to the meeting proposed the creation of a think tank steering committee to develop a blueprint on awareness campaign and advocacy ready in 2022.

The Federal Ministry of Labour and the Federal Bureau of Statistic were also asked to establish a “data desk” for the purpose of information gathering and dissemination.

Relevant stakeholders, including the Federal Ministry of Health, NECA, NLC, TUC and media people, were also urged to be actively involved in raising public awareness on the dangers of asbestos.

The participants also identified the need to secure technical support from BWI and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to help mount a nationwide campaign on asbestos in the country in 2022.

In terms of policy, the establishment of a National Programme for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases (NPEAD) was proposed to come up with a consensus policy document that outlines the magnitude of the problem and the strategies for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases.