Home / Healthcare/ 71st World Health Assembly concludes, shedding no light upon asbestos or related diseases

71st World Health Assembly concludes, shedding no light upon asbestos or related diseases

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 5 July 2018 00:00

One of the world’s biggest health summits, the 71st World Health Assembly (WHA), recently concluded its annual summit in Geneva, graced by the newly appointed Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Comprising 196 countries, WHA sits at the helm of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and plays a pivotal role in decision making on issues concerning health on a global scale. It was also significant that the WHA summit, which comprised of numerous rounds of discussions, did not bring the topic of asbestos or Chrysotile to light by WHO member states or other international agencies, NGOs or WHO staff. 

At the 71st WHA summit, the progress report on the Global Action Plan on Worker’s Health (2008-2017) was also not brought to notice. Only a brief mentioning was made by an ILO representative, focusing on the need to consider occupational health issues in tandem with other policies, in addition to the importance of collaborating with WHO on various issues like hazards and risks. Moreover, WHO’s General Program of Work (2019-2023) adopted by WHA last week too has made no reference with regard to workers’ health nor occupational policy. 

The Global Action Plan considers Global campaigns for elimination of asbestos-related diseases, while adopting a differentiated approach towards various forms of asbestos. During a quick debate, Committee B brought the matter of the Global Action Plan to light with a brief account. Several countries joined in for the debate, including Sierra Leone, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Comoros, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Burkina Faso, Qatar and São Tomé and Príncipe; however, none of these countries mentioned the Global Action Plan on Worker’s Health or its progress report. 

Considering the actions taken and actions eluded by the two prominent international bodies WHA and WHO, it can be deemed that WHO is contemplating on abandoning the idea of treating chemical exposure in general, as well as asbestos exposure, as an occupational matter. In other words, WHO seems to be changing its policy direction towards asbestos.

Therefore, in future, WHO will likely regard asbestos as an ‘environmental risk’ and asbestos-related diseases as ‘environmental diseases’, in line with its ‘All Policies’ approach characterised by the inter-sectoral perspective.

Despite ‘asbestos’ and its potential health hazards becoming a heated topic splattered across all local media in recent times, the issue was not taken up for discussion during the world’s most crucial health summit, the 71st World Health Assembly. Furthermore, one of the key drivers of WHO, the Global Action Plan on Worker’s Health (2008-2017) and its progress report, which was due to be tabled for discussion, was not given the expected prominence during the one-week long debate. Instead, the matter of providing access to water and sanitation was repeatedly taken for debate, under the patronage of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the recently concluded WHA summit.  

Share This Article


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.


Today's Columnists

Maximum Residue Level: Dilemma of agricultural product exporters in Sri Lanka

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Due to increased emphasis on consumer health, majority of developed countries such as EU, Japan and the US insist on MRL testing of food items which has to be done by the exporter. The Codex Alimentarius Commission which is an inter-governmental bod

East Container Terminal blunder: Learn from Chinese

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Minister for Ports and Shipping Mahinda Samarasinghe informed the press in August that Cabinet has approved the development of East Container Terminal (ECT) of Colombo Port by the Ports Authority. According to approval: nPorts Authority would develop

President Sirisena, playing with fire, must take note that smoke will get into his eyes

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Penchant for playing with fire President Gamaralalage Sirisena has always had a penchant for playing with fire. He did fire-play at the local government elections when he made a disastrous U-turn and went round country blasting the party and its lea

Response to claims that Sri Lanka was in a ‘debt trap’ in 2014 due to ‘Chinese loans’

Monday, 17 September 2018

Several Western analysts have carried out a relentless media campaign in keeping with their own geopolitical agenda, to suggest that China was luring Sri Lanka into a carefully engineered debt trap.

Columnists More