NZCTU deliver asbestos petition

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Following discover of asbestos in Kiwirail cars and in Christchurch homes.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions are presenting their petition - Asbestos needs a ban and a plan - at Parliament at 11.30am on Wednesday (1 April). Please join us if you can.

Sign the petition here

Asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in New Zealand. It has been known for at least thirty years that it causes cancer and other fatal and serious diseases. The demolitions in Christchurch make it clear that it is time to act urgently and catch up with the rest of the developed world in banning its use. In the meantime, we must have much better protections and training for people working with it or who might be exposed to it. I call on the Government to:

  1. urgently bring into force the planned new stronger regulations based on Australia’s existing regulations;

  2. follow Australia, the U.K. and Europe in stopping the use of asbestos by urgently banning the import, supply and new use of any products containing asbestos; and

  3. create and implment a plan to eradicate asbestos from the built environment by no later than 2030.

Asbestos fibres, once breathed in, can stay in your lungs for a long time. All types of asbestos can cause serious diseases including asbestosis, pleural thickening, mesothelioma and cancers of the lung, larynx and ovary, anything from 10 to 50 years later.

According to the World Health Organisation, no level of exposure to asbestos is safe, and this has been known at least since a declaration by the World Health Organisation in 1986. The World Health Organisation says that “the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos”.

Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in New Zealand. The government estimates that 170 deaths occur a year from asbestos-related diseases in New Zealand and that this will rise to over 300 as the results of the ‘asbestos boom’ of the 1970s take their toll. That’s as many as the current road toll. Even 170 is double the number of workplace deaths per year from injury – which itself is far too high, several times other countries such as the U.K. and Australia. These conditions are irreversible and the treatment options are only palliative.

The Government has set a target to reduce work-related fatalities and serious injury by at least 25 per cent by 2020. We also need ambitious targets and plans to reduce deaths by asbestos and other occupational diseases, which together cause an estimated 500-800 deaths per year.

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