Asbestos and Asbestosis: discussion


10 March 1999
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


10 March 1999



Documents handed out

Asbestos Summit: recommendations by Working Group

Asbestos Summit: recommendations of four parallel commissions


This meeting looked at environmental and health problems cased by asbestos pollution. Discussion focused on procedures to be followed in addressing health problems. It was agreed that there is not enough time for the committee to deal with this issue as their term of office was coming to an end. The process requires long-term monitoring and co-ordination. Problems requiring attention were identified as:

1. The health of asbestos workers

2. Protection of the public from pollution

3. Compensation to victims

4. Setting up of a national database

5. Rehabilitation

6. Enforcement of control.

It was agreed that several departments should be co-opted to share this responsibility as parliament closes soon.


The meeting started late due to a lack of quorum.

The chairperson, Ms G Mahlangu, briefed the members of an invitation made by Transnet to the Portfolio Committee to hold a committee meeting on the Blue Train. The members would be flown to Johannesburg where they would catch the Blue Train and thereafter hold a meeting on the way to Cape Town. The chairperson proposed the 15 March. The members failed to reach agreement on the date and a final decision could not be made.

The members, having had a chance to peruse all asbestos documents, were requested to guide the chairperson on a starting point.

Mr September (ANC), supported by Mr de Wet (NNP), suggested that committee should lead the way in finding solutions to the contamination problem as one cannot allow people to continue staying in the contaminated areas.

The Chairperson pointed out that the committee has a time problem. Parliament is closing in a week's time and that is not enough time to monitor the process. The question is : Who does what ? Clearly, on the basis of time this portfolio committee cannot monitor the process.

Mr Williams suggested that as various departments have a stake in this issue, joint responsibility should be taken in dealing with this issue.

The Chairperson said they should work out a time frame for dealing with the issue, make a report for Cabinet including in it the suggestion that other departments should play a role. It was agreed that due to the time factor, the issue be handed over to the Departments of Environmental Affairs, Health as well as Mineral and Energy affairs.

Ms Chalmers asked what was the status of the committee's own working group with regard to this problem?

The chairperson asked the working group to identify those issues of a short term nature which the committee could consider focusing on.

The working group responded:

1. Fred Gona (Cosatu):

Thank you chair, we have been longing for this opportunity. To begin with, on the side of workers we have the issues of a house keeping nature. It takes up to two years for a contaminated employee to discover his asbestos contamination.

Perhaps we should see how the Health Department can get involved.

2. Ms Liz McDaid added that:

The Asbestos Summit did identify things like the need for rehabilitation, the setting up of national data base to increase awareness on asbestos-related problems to the public, and the process of compensation. In this area there is a need to address, at least in the short term, issues of fraud and corruption. Lastly, the issue of increased enforcement of controls on the use of asbestos. These were the issues identified by the summit as short term.

Mr Williams (ANC) commented that the committee should ensure structures are in place to address the problems at least between now and the next parliamentary seating. There should be some mechanism to facilitate the process.

The Chairperson emphasized that a commitment regarding some action was needed from this committee. Most of the suggestions identified in the meeting kept referring to what departments outside of this committee needed to do. Another meeting is needed, together with the working group, to write to the Ministers of Health, Environmental Affairs, Labour, Minerals and Energy Affairs and other related ministries. The committee needed to push the issue so that it could be ready to be presented to parliament.

Ms Vilakazi wanted to know what would happen to those who were incorrectly diagnosed and died. The chairperson said that this question can be addressed by the health department as they are more directly linked to that area than any of the members of this portfolio committee. Dr Kirsting was asked to give her opinion.

Doctor Kirsting explained that the families and relatives of people who died of this illness without correct diagnosis come forward with evidence. All deserving cases should be entertained on merit. Ms Vilakazi was satisfied with this response.

The chairperson added that there are places, such as Cato Ridge in KZN, which have been identified as serious areas needing to be visited by the committee. There is a need for the committee to witness the actual places where the problems are happening.

The meeting was concluded with the agreement that proposals will be made to the ministers of other departments requesting them to contribute by addressing areas which are related to their ministries. The date for another meeting with the working group will be communicated via the internal mail system.


The working group was thanked for their contribution and the meeting closed.

Asbestos Summit: recommendations by Working Group

Given that:

• Parliament has achieved an international precedent in involving all stakeholders in one summit to begin a national integrated process to address the asbestos issue.

• The outcomes of the summit are contained in the proceedings of the summit distributed by the DEAT in December 1998 and need to be considered by the committee.

• The momentum raised by the summit needs to be continued

• The portfolio committee of parliament has been asked by the summit to continue to provide leadership to address the asbestos issue.

• that this session of parliament is very short and there will be many new faces in the next session:

The working group recommends:

that parliament provide guidance in terms of the next steps particularly around issues such as:

• the role of the working group including the possibility of expansion to include MP’s from other relevant committees (Health, Labour, Minerals and Energy) and mandated officials from other relevant departments

• the need to identify resources to continue the functions of the asbestos subcommittee and working group, as identified by the summit;

• consideration of the DEAT as secretariat for a steering committee or expanded working group which will drive the process.

• the need to ensure coordination between government departments in addressing the issue and the possibility of the sub committee meeting with certain high level officials to this effect. The importance of officials with a mandate from their ministers should be emphasised.

• the role of DEAT in the implementation of the outcomes of the summit, including acting as lead agent to draft possible cabinet memo to ensure all departments prioritise asbestos issues.

• The need to ensure that the provincial report back workshops which were agreed at the preparatory workshops do occur possibly through a letter of reminder to all participants.

• The coordination of further report backs to parliament regarding the progress of implementation of the committee’s recommendations.

• the need to appoint another chairperson of the subcommittee given Hon Jerry Ndou’s future deployment outside the parliamentary structures.

Asbestos Summit: executive summary


This summary complements the Declaration adopted at the National Asbestos Summit of 24-26 November 1998 and provides a concise summary of the findings of the four commissions. The final report of the summit will be presented for discussion to the Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism at the next sitting of the National Assembly of Parliament.

Commission 1:

Community Development and Rehabilitation

1. Rehabilitation should involve transparent partnerships between Government, communities and contractors. Early involvement of communities is essential and should include:

• involvement in the annual budgeting of the government rehabilitation programme

• a skills transfer/ intern exchange programme involving staff from the Dept of Minerals and Energy (DME) and Potchestroom university rehabilitation unit and community reps.

2. A number of pilot projects should be initiated:

• Maintenance of rehabilitated dumps including controlled grazing

• Evaluation of different rehabilitation technology/ products - start within 3 months

3. Government (Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism - DEAT) should set up a national database including locations of asbestos (dumps, industrial locations, transport etc.), and develop a programme to raise public awareness.

4. A standard protocol and guidelines for asbestos rehabilitation in a variety of settings must be developed in consultation with stakeholders, with a first draft within 6 months. DME is to take initial responsibility but also involve DEAT.

5. A national task group to be set up, supported by Provincial task groups, to raise funds for asbestos rehabilitation and compensation. A national fund must be started within 6 months.

Commission 2:

Health Remediation and Compensation

Health Services:

1. Public Awareness and Education

• Existing proposals for District Health Services to be implemented so as to improve health service delivery at local level.

• Access to information regarding asbestos related diseases (ARD’s) must be broadened to include both an understanding of diseases as well as how to prevent further exposure.

• Information about ARD must go hand in hand with necessary service provision – as people become more aware of problems they should know how and where to take it to

2. Division between different community structures (traditional leadership and more recent structures) should be addressed to ensure co-ordinated approach. Communities, local government and the Dept. of Constitutional Development to be involved.

3. Resources should be co-ordinated to avoid duplication. Resources strategy needed for preventative campaign and other identified programmes. Sources to include: Dept. of Health (DoH), Dept. of Labour (DoL), DME, employers, labour organisations.

4. The DoL, DoH, and the DMEA should work together to ensure that there is no need for the involvement of lawyers and other outsiders around the compensation issue.

5. The above should be in place within 18 months i.e. by June 2000.

6. Health training: -

As a matter of priority, a letter should be sent to Minister Zuma re incorporation of asbestos training in curricula of all health workers including doctors, nurses, and environmental health officers and building control officers.

• Health care providers should be trained at primary, secondary and tertiary levels to diagnose, manage, rehabilitate and apply for compensation for ARD (and other occupationally related diseases)

7. Workers and communities should be involved in the health monitoring process which should include outreach programmes such as participatory research.

• Trade Unions must be able to obtain an independent opinion (medical audit) on their asbestos health status

8. Health care providers must include applications for compensation as an integral part of health care provision.


1. The compensation system must be supplemented to include compensation for the element of pain and suffering

2. A Presidential Trust fund must be established through which to channel funds for reparation and sustainable development projects with full community participation

3. A National Commission of Enquiry must be established to review the compensation system. This should be driven by Parliament and a proposal for a new system must be in place within 18 months:

4. The new compensation system

• must include compensation for environmental ARD.

• must be decentralised in its administration

• must address the current fragmentation of the compensation system under different departments

• must be independently monitored by a strong committee

• must not be based on earnings as this further discriminates against the poor

• must review1st and 2nd degree as well as the percentage system of compensation for ARD

• must accept oral evidence.

• must consider civil claims against companies,

• must review section 35 of COIDA to enable ARD sufferers to sue employers

5. Government should sue foreign companies responsible for - human suffering, environmental degradation, seeking repayment of government millions spent on rehabilitation, remediation and health service provision.

6. While the new system is being set up, the following should be addressed as a matter of urgency:

• fraud and corruption;

• all outstanding claims to be expedited;

• establish dedicated diagnostic and compensation services at community and provincial level (build on existing structures);

• investigate whether the system of payment could be linked to Dept of Welfare.

Risk Assessment

1. There is a need for responsible public awareness and education to enable people to deal with the issues

2. It is important to have continuous assessment to identify where asbestos is, where it is used, what is the risk to health, what should be done

3. There need to be regulations in place which prioritise the prevention of ill-health, and a "cradle to grave" approach.

4. Areas and communities most affected should be given priority

5. Community-based research is to be encouraged (consider existing research funds such as DME, National Cancer Registry)

6. A National data-base is to be established which should have networking links with other databases

7. When assessing the risk always consider that compensation and rehabilitation should go hand in hand with empowerment of community members for sustainable development..

Commission 3:

The Regulatory System

1. Asbestos Ban: that there be an immediate ban on amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophylite, actinolite; and that chrysotile should be phased out in line with a phase in of substitutes and alternatives.

2. A Multi-disciplinary Asbestos Advisory Group (MAAG) should be formed. This body is to

• develop practical mechanisms and code of practice for the implementation of the ban.

• audit asbestos related laws which are currently highly fragmented;

• investigate licensing/authorisation

• investigate mechanisms for asbestos identification and certification (buildings)

• investigate labelling

• investigate legal ways for the development and adoption of substitutes/alternatives

• propose effective enforcement through both incentives and penalties and by evaluating enforcement institution options such as:

a parastatal

using and building existing institutional capacity

• make proposals regarding product liability

• make proposals regarding international obligations

• identify a departmental co-ordinating structure and advise on a co-ordination process.

1. The Portfolio Committee including the Asbestos Subcommittee is to take responsibility for setting up the MAAG. The composition of the MAAG is the current Working Group with experts seconded as the need arises.


2. MAAG to be set up before the end of January 1999.

3. MAAG to complete its mandate before the end of September 1999.

4. The work of MAAG to be financed by govt. departments, industry and donor funding.

Commission 4 -

The Asbestos Industry and Future Applications of Asbestos

1. Phase out use of asbestos as soon as practically possible, noting that there may be no suitable alternatives for certain applications

2. Controlled use can only be considered as a necessary interim measure until full substitution or product withdrawal takes place. Industry must pursue a substitution programme. This programme including its timetable should be subject to intense public scrutiny

3. All stakeholders to have an oversight role to ensure that industry’s decisions are acceptable to society as a whole. Therefore a research task group is proposed who will oversee the substitution programme, particularly with regard to the timetable.

4. The Research Task Group will report to the Asbestos Sub-Committee and will be representative of all stakeholders: Government x2, Labour sectors x2, Industry sectors (management and labour) x4, NGO’s x2, Community x2.

5. The Research Task group will be advised by a Technical/Scientific Reference Group as and when required, including health, industry, economic, chemical.

6. The substitution programme should be funded in the main by industry and should be completed within 2 years.

7. In the interim: Controlled use of chrysotile:

• Standards need to be reviewed:

• Department of Labour (DoL) to liaise with Environmental Portfolio Committee on revised Asbestos Regulations.

• Industry Recommendation on Exposure Limit:

• to be reduced 50% to 0,5f/ml in six months

• thereafter for 0,2 f/ml

8. Need to improve enforcement in the interim controlled use period:

• Strengthen DoL capacity

• Appoint "accredited" independent inspectors

• Improve accreditation and monitoring of :

• laboratories

• specialist services such as

• removal

• waste management (deserves special attention because waste is often regarded as out of sight, out of mind.)

9. Develop Code of Best Practice for interim controlled use of Chrysotile. This should be negotiated by Government/ labour/industry; and would include:

• qualitative criteria

• health surveillance

• education and information (labelling)

• upstream and downstream impacts

10. DWAF (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry) and DEAT should look at legislative framework with specific reference to asbestos.

11. An education programme should be put in place on the basis that people should have a right to know what risks they are taking.


What next?

• The National Asbestos Summit to give formal feed-back to Portfolio Committee (and public)

• Retain the Asbestos Sub-Committee

• Retain and expand the Working Group

• Ensure mechanisms are in place for implementation of the conclusions of the commissions.

• Plan for a second summit in the year 2000

D. Executive Summary:

Recommendations of the four parallel commissions.

Recommendations from Working Group re: implementing the outcomes of the asbestos summit




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