The Associated Labor Unions (ALU) appealed to the Labor department to intervene and save thousands of Philippine central bank employees from an ongoing improper removal and disposal of cancerous asbestos and asbestos-containing materials at the BSP building in Manila.
“This is to bring to your attention and immediate intervention on the possible exposure of asbestos disposal workers and the thousands of employees of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in Manila for improper removal of asbestos from its building,” said Gerard Seno, ALU national vice president and coordinator of ALU advocacy Ban Asbestos Philippines, in his letter to Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and BSP governor Amando Tetangco Jr. dated December 12, 2011.
Witnesses accounts, still pictures and video of workers on-site taken during BSP renovation and repair work showed blatant safety removal and disposal protocol violations contracted by Safeco Environmental Services Inc.
Some of the health and safety violations identified by the campaign were: (1) workers doing actual removal and disposal work are not wearing proper and sufficient personal, protective equipment which would protect them from primary and secondary exposure to asbestos dust, (2) the two sites in which abatement activities are being done were devoid of enclosures and air devices that ensures asbestos dusts are confined within, (3) the plastic containes and vacuum cleaner used in the procedure are improper and sub-standard, and (4) the labelling of asbestos and asbestos-containing debris is deplorable.
Safeco should be held liable for this serious safety lapses that gravely endangers the lives of BSP employees, Safeco workers, and to BSP’s highly populated surrounding neighbourhood, Seno added. Around 100 Safeco workers worked on rotation since the renovation began on January this year while there about 4,000 regular and contractual BSP employees.
Asbestos in BSP are located in ceilings as insulators against changing weather. It is also used to coat pipes and steel trusses. Primary symptoms of asbestos-related diseases includes shortness of breath, wheezing, persistent cough that gets worse over time, blood in the sputum coughed up from the lungs, pain or tightening in the chest, difficulty swallowing, swelling of the neck or face, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and anemia. These are apparent 10 to 30 years later after exposure.
Since 1977, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) maintained that there is no safety threshold to it, meaning even a small amount of exposure to all kinds of asbestos dust either inhaled or swallowed can cause incurable cancers and various diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and pleural plaques and effusions. Recently, there are growing anecdotal evidences showing exposure to asbestos dust also causes cancer in the ovary and the larynx.
ALU’s Ban Asbestos Philippines began its advocacy in 2004. It partners with Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) in advocating to ban and phase out asbestos and asbestos containing materials in the country. Alan A. Tanjusay, ALU Policy Advocacy Officer