Policy Alternatives to Reduce the Health and Economic Effects of Continued Asbestos Use in the Philippines

Romeo R. Quizon,1 Hilton Y. Lam,2 Jaifred Christian F. Lopez,2
Marian Fe Theresa C. Lomboy1 and Ana Trinidad F. Rivera3

1Department of Environmental and Occupational Health,
College of Public Health, University of the Philippines Manila
2Institute of Health Policy and Development Studies,
National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila
3Environmental and Occupational Health Office,
Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, Department of Health

Objectives. Asbestos is a carcinogenic mineral substance formerly used widely in the construction industry, all forms of which, except for chrysotile asbestos, have been banned in the Philippines. This article aims to propose policy alternatives to reduce the health and economic effects of continued asbestos use in the country.

Methods. Records of asbestos-related diseases, and asbestos industry-related data in the country were consolidated. The impact of continued asbestos use on the national economy were estimated incorporating natural mortality, regulations of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and concepts of multiplier effect and net present value. Round table discussions validated data and generated policy recommendations.

Results. Filipinos directly and indirectly exposed to asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are 5,289 and 30,000, respectively. The contributions of these groups to the national economy were estimated at PhP 1.08 Billion annually for workers directly exposed to ACMs and PhP 6.83 Billion annually for workers indirectly exposed. Two policy options—adjustment of threshold limit values, and a total ban—are presented.

Conclusion. A total ban on all forms of asbestos is shown to be the more cost-effective policy option for the country. It is recommended that government agencies, stakeholders in the asbestos industry, and the general public be involved in strategies for improving surveillance on asbestos exposure, increasing public awareness, and promoting the use of asbestos alternatives.

Key Words: asbestos, health policy, threshold limit values