Tonga calls for tougher import controls of asbestos

Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni told a conference in Geneva the Tongan government wanted more action against the importation of chrysotile asbestos to the islands.

He also expressed his concerns over lack of support for Tonga’s move to make sure the hazardous chemical is controlled when it comes to the island countries.

Experts from overseas removed the chemical from some government buildings in Tonga since 2016 after it was discovered some building materials used for the construction of hospitals and schools in Tongatapu, Ha’apai and Vava’u contained asbestos.

In February this year Ngu hospital was the last to have its asbestos building materials removed.

Asbestos is a chemical that can create a health risk if the materials it contained were disturbed or broken up and fibres it made up with were released into the air.

“It is very pleasing to see Tonga taking a lead role in the Pacific push to prevent dangerous asbestos from being imported into our islands without our knowledge or consent”, the Deputy Prime Minister told the conference.

“It is however, very disappointing to note that this move has – for the sixth consecutive time – been blocked by a small number of Parties despite support from the majority.”

Hon. Sovaleni was speaking at the Rotterdam Convention in Switzerland last week.

“The two week-long Triple Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions aims to strengthen the three international treaties contributing to the global management of hazardous chemicals and waste”.

It was attended by 1,500 participants, 180 countries, 3 conventions and it ran for two weeks with a goal, “A Future Detoxified”.

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