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Chrysotile Cement Roofing Sheets: A Misunderstood Yet Vital Component of Sri Lanka Construction Industry

16 February 2021: Sri Lanka has a long-established history of using fibre cement roofing sheets, namely chrysotile roofing sheets which are otherwise referred to as white asbestos. Being the choice of construction giants across the local industry, chrysotile has maintained a presence of over 60 years in Sri Lanka.

The reason for the success of this material is quite simple, socio-economic conditions of those in rural areas of Sri Lanka along with the subset of the population who fall under the urban poor category depend on these sheets for essential roofing. In the past, such households depended on roofing methods such as palm leaves and other tree leaves.

Chrysotile burst into popularity thanks to its idyllic properties; UV ray resistance, corrosion resistance, durability, lengthy service life and of course, it came at a price that did not unsettle the poor who were in need of shelter.

As the industry stands today, chrysotile cement roofing sheets cover 35% of the total roofing sheet market requirement. Supplying this requirement year on year are four manufacturing plants which import roughly 400 metric tonnes of chrysotile each year from the Russian Federation. Moreover, the industry in Sri Lanka supports over 30,000 persons through direct and indirect employment.

However, regardless of the importance of chrysotile roofing sheets, the industry has faced constant backlash and baseless allegations claiming that these sheets pose a threat to the health of our society.

Debunking the myths

While roughly 400 minerals are drawn from the earth naturally in fibrous form, only the use of six of these (chrysotile included) are regulated by authorities. The collective term ‘Asbestos’ was used to refer to specifically two distinct types of minerals – Serpentine and Amphiboles. The use of the latter is banned globally, while serpentine chrysotile continues to be used by two-thirds of the world population.

The WHO is responsible for providing equitable, unbiased and research-based information to all governments around the world. However, research conducted by the WHO with regard to this burning issue has only been conducted in countries that use Amphiboles and not asbestos as a whole. Thus, the resulting report on Chrysotile put forward by the WHO is based on selective information. This information refers to asbestos in every form, regardless of established biochemical and scientific differentiation of fibre types.

Despite the constant dialogues on potential health hazards said to have been caused by chrysotile, It must be emphasised that there is no evidence to conclusively establish a significant correlation between health deterioration, particularly cancer, and exposure to chrysotile among the chrysotile cement roofing sheet users in Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, the confusion of naming two distinctively characterised fibre groups – the Chrysotile and Amphibole groups have also contributed to the negative image built around the particular roofing product which in turn may cause a negative impact on the future of the roofing industry.

An accountable industry with safe manufacturing processes

In order to ensure the continued success of this industry despite the many baseless allegations, manufacturers are compelled to remain responsible throughout the product life cycle.

In Sri Lanka, chrysotile cement roofing sheets are produced using 6-8% of fibre. The remaining component that makes up a roofing sheet is purely a cement mix. During manufacture, these fibres are encapsulated within the cement matrix so that fibres cannot be emitted into the atmosphere under any conditions.

As a result of this crucial process, public health risk is non-existent, thanks to this tried and tested manufacturing method.

Conclusive evidence that depicts zero public health and environment risks

The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) has conducted extensive studies on the air quality at various chrysotile cement roofing sheet production sites. The results from these studies have shown conclusive evidence that the emission levels of fibres are far below the standard recommended levels (almost zero).

In addition, the Ministry of Environment has also instructed the NBRO to check the quality of air in all government buildings that have used chrysotile cement sheets to clarify the presence of any health risks. To date, the NBRO has not reported any adverse findings, and all test results show almost zero fibres.

Even in schools around the island, chrysotile cement roofing sheets have been in use for nearly six decades. During this large expanse of time, there has not been a single health issue reported in relation to the use of these sheets. This shows that modern-day high density, non-friable Cement Roofing Sheets do not present risks of any significance to school children.


To an island nation where the majority of the population are poverty-stricken, the ability to access affordable materials for housing is essential. The chrysotile cement roofing sheet is not just construction material. It serves as a way to improve the standards of living for communities across the island. With that in mind, it is important for legislators to analyse the facts and understand that there is simply no risk involved in using these roofing sheets.



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New Resources for Handling Nanomaterials

The EPA has completed a final risk evaluation for asbestos, part 1: chrysotile asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

In the final risk evaluation, EPA reviewed 32 conditions of use for chrysotile asbestos, the only form of asbestos known to be imported, processed or distributed for use in the United States, including in manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, occupational and consumer uses, and disposal.

In an effort to protect workers who handle products containing nanomaterials, CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training has released a pair of toolbox talks and an infographic.

Nanomaterials have at least one dimension (height, width, or length) that is smaller than 100 nanometers – thinner than a human hair.

According to the CPWR, hundreds of construction products such as cement, adhesives, and paints and coatings contain engineered nanomaterials.

When these materials are cut, sanded, or sprayed, the dust or mist produced can get into a worker’s lungs as well as cuts and cracks in the skin.

Each toolbox talk – Airborne Exposures When Working with Nano-Enabled Concrete and Right to Know About Chemical Hazards: Nanomaterials – provides guidance through a short story, key points to remember, and a graphic.

CPWR says workers can protect themselves by wearing a respirator, seeking training about nanomaterials and the products that contain them, and controlling for dust via wet methods or the use of a vacuum.


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In World First, Recycling Plant Uses Special Kiln to Make Disposing of Fibre Cement Safe For Future Generations

Nov 25, 2020

A recycling plant in England has created the world’s first socially and environmentally responsible way to process asbestos.

Thermal Recycling in the West Midlands town of Wolverhampton can take asbestos, remove it from the cement it’s mixed in, and turn “chrysotile asbestos into a material that is no more harmful than the cement from which it was derived.”

Famed as an electrical insulator and building material, asbestos is now well-known for its health hazards, as breathing the long silicate fibers released into the air when the material is cut or broken can cause fatal lung diseases.


Not only does their process remove the properties that make asbestos what it is, but it does so without any pre-treatment of chemicals, as other denaturing processes might require. This lowers costs of the final product and prevents the additional step of needing to dispose of chemicals.

Chairman Graham Gould noted at the opening of their test plant that “we can’t continue putting asbestos in landfill sites for future generations to deal with,” highlighting the unfortunate reality of asbestos disposal up until his groundbreaking innovation.

Thermal Recycling was also awarded the Innovate UK Smart Grant, which they’ll use to identify the exact best use for the post-asbestos cement aggregate material leftover from their process.

Short of dumping the end-use product in landfills, Thermal Recycling is the only environmentally safe option, and the value of their process, in terms of earnings or reductions in lung disease risk from dealing with asbestos disposal in the future, could be priceless.
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Scientific Study on Exposure of Fibre Cement

Study reports, Biodegradable Chrysotile Fibres break into short fibres and particles which clear by alveolar macrophages.

May 08, 2020

In a scientific study conducted by the seven-member team of international researchers led by D.M. Bernstein. The team published its two-part research in Elsevier’s online Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology journal in December 2019.

A research study evaluating exposure dose-response and fate in the lung and pleura of chrysotile containing brake dust confirms the major differences between the toxicology of chrysotile fibres and that of other asbestos fibres.

This rigorous, 90-day repeated dose inhalation study of brake dust in rats provides a comprehensive understanding of the biokinetics and potential toxicology in the lung. It included a particle control on chrysotile, commercial crocidolite and amosite asbestos.

As per the report, Chrysotile, being biodegradable, showed a weakening of its matrix and braking into short fibers and particles that can be cleared by alveolar macrophages and continued dissolution.


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Chrysotile variety, an ideal Fibre Cement roofing option

Chrysotile variety, an ideal asbestos roofing option

The Hindu BusinessLine

May 23, 2013 

Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association has said that the chrysotile variety used in India is safe for roofing and piping.

Asbestos cement is the most -deal roofing sheets for warehouse, factory or low-cost housing, a spokesperson for the association said here.


The asbestos industry had received a big boost when the Punjab High Court ruled in its favour, refusing to ban its application and use in the country, he added.

The order was delivered on February 6, 2012, by the High Court of Punjab Haryana in the Gobind Thukral and others Vs Union of India in Writ no. 21166 of 2011.

Earlier in January 2011, the Supreme Court also had refused to ban manufacturing and use of asbestos products.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in almost two-thirds of the earth’s crust. Depending on the region, every individual breathes in about 10,000 to 15,000 asbestos fibres each day.

There is no risk in living or working under chrysotile asbestos cement roof as the fibers are bonded and completely locked-in with cement, the spokesperson said.

These products have been in use in the country for over 75 years now. They are practically ageless and maintenance-free whereas metal sheets corrode and deteriorate with age and exposure.

They are also easy-to-install, strong and durable, apart from being cost-effective for weaker sections of society.

Russia, China, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, Ukraine and other emerging nations are among largest users of asbestos cement products, the spokesperson added.

As regards claims linking materials containing asbestos with cause health hazards, he clarified that various studies by official agencies of the Government have proven otherwise.

Issues reported in the West in the past on extensive and uncontrolled usage at that time of the blue and brown varieties of asbestos, production and usage of which has since been banned all over the world.

(Source – )



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A Life-long Job: A Veteran of Uralasbest Celebrated Her 90th Birthday


International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile” 

Dec 17, 2019 , 02:00 ET

MOSCOW, Dec. 17, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — The chrysotile industry in Russia is 300 years old, and dates back to the time of Peter the Great. Obviously, now there are no witnesses to the industry’s first steps in the XVIII century, but those who participated in the events of the 1960s, when the active construction of the production lines of the Uralasbest mining complex began, are still with us. On November 29, 2019, employees of the Railway Transport Directorate of the complex congratulated labour veteran Minnekhasiba Gilvanova on her 90th birthday.

For Uralasbest, Ms Gilvanova’s story is the rule rather than the exception. In 2018, the plant published the book “80+. A Generation of Winners”, which talks about the oldest veterans of the chrysotile industry, who worked for the benefit of future generations. For example, Viktor Stepanov worked at the complex for 25 years. Like many of his colleagues, he is a member of the Uralasbest Veterans’ Council, whose members are more than 6,000 retired employees of the complex. More than 300 of them helped defend their Motherland from Fascism by fighting during the Great Patriotic War or as home front workers, and 124 veterans are older than 90.

It’s no secret that people these days like to talk about the harm caused by asbestos, without distinguishing between the amphibole group and chrysotile. But there is a key difference: chrysotile when safe controlled use rule applied is safe, and the best proof of this is the life and health of the industry’s veterans. The retirees participate in demonstrations, are an example for young people, and actively participate in the life of their hometown and of the plant where they used to work. They know that, when handling chrysotile, compliance with labour discipline, a correct organisation of workplace safety, and measures aimed at protecting employee health create a safe work environment, in both the XX and the XXI centuries. Upon compliance with the production technology, chrysotile is safe for consumers as well.

This is why veterans of the chrysotile industry defend the complex and the domestic industry as a whole: they built it with their own hands, and know more than anyone else about it. After all, their lives are one of the most convincing arguments in favour of using asbestos: it gave them a meaningful job, a dignified old age and respect.

SOURCE International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile”



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The Hidden Truth About Chrysotile

April, 3, 2019
There is a popular adage in our society that goes ‘the devil is not as black as he is painted’. The devil’s blackness and the gradient of black are determined by its creators. Therefore, it’s inevitable for those with an inquisitive mind to seek answers to the questions, is there really a devil? Or if the devil is really black?

Our country has been plagued with stories of devils and goblins from time to time. Each time, these devils and goblins would cause a commotion and eventually vanish into thin air. Among these phobias there is one such phobia that has continued to resurface within the society for some time, and it’s none other than Chrysotile roofing sheets.

The local Chrysotile industry dates back to more than 60 years, in other words it has served customers spanning three generations. However, to date there are no records of any consumers suffering from health issues caused by these roofing sheets. Even the former Director of Maharagama cancer hospital has ascertained this fact. The turn of events makes it evident that there is an underhanded ploy to mask the truth about Chrysotile roofing sheets, spread a baseless fear and try to distance the product from the society.

What exactly is this hidden truth?

One of the main causes of the so called Chrysotile roofing sheet phobia is the opinion established in the world towards asbestos. In addition, the society lacks awareness on the differences between amphibole asbestos and serpentine chrysotile. Despite Serpentine Chrysotile – a natural resource – being classified under asbestos, there are several key differences between amphibole asbestos and serpentine chrysotile. Several research experiments have proven that Chrysotile does not cause any health issues. Declaring its stance on Chrysotile in 2007, the World Health Organization stated that, ‘Controlled and well managed use of Chrysotile will create no health hazards to those working in the Chrysotile industry or the consumers.’

Even though amphibole asbestos is harmful for health, serpentine chrysotile does not cause any health hazards. Due to this reason many countries in the world have banned the use of amphibole asbestos, however over 150 countries including the U.S.A are still using Chrysotile based products with no restrictions. In other words 2/3 of the world population is presently using Chrysotile based products, hence debunking the baseless claims.

Chrysotile fibre is used by the local producers to manufacture Chrysotile fibre cement roofing sheets. The Chrysotile fibre cement mixture contains only 8% of Chrysotile fibre while the remaining 92% consist of water and cement. This further clarifies that only a fraction of Chrysotile fibre is used in the manufacture of roofing sheets. Therefore, instead of continuing its perennial name which has created many myths, the product will be rightfully and aptly referred to as ‘Chrysotile fibre cement roofing sheets’ henceforth as a means of addressing the problem of misrepresentation.

Chrysotile fibre cement roofing sheets are not only durable but are also quite affordable. In comparison to its counterparts in the market, the product’s cost per square inch is clearly low. It is also conveniently available and requires no regular maintenance. Furthermore, less wood is required for the installation which in turn helps to cut down the construction cost. These roofing products are available in a variety of colours, giving more charm to the most significant part of the house.

Users of Chrysotile roofing sheets benefit from a number of advantages such as having a roof with high fire resistance, sound absorption, ability to withstand any climate or environmental condition, leaving no spaces for venomous creatures, and the ability to withstand external impacts made by leaping monkeys.

These characteristics denote the significance of Chrysotile roofing sheets in comparison to other roofing products available the market. And there is no doubt that you too may have enjoyed its numerous benefits by now.

Therefore, as intelligent and responsible consumers, it’s important to gain a correct understanding in order to select the right product for your requirement. Knowing more about Chrysotile fibre cement roofing sheets will no doubt help you gain better product awareness, while paving the way towards building a long-lasting product loyalty.



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Chrysotile Industry Workers Celebrate Chrysotile Fibre Cement Protection Day

Apr 29, 2019
The International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile” congratulated chrysotile industry workers on April 16th, the Chrysotile Asbestos Protection Day. On this day, workers from Russia, Kazakhstan and other countries call on people to remember the role that the chrysotile industry plays in providing millions of people with affordable products made with chrysotile asbestos.

Workers all over the world celebrate the Chrysotile Asbestos Protection Day

The Alliance “Chrysotile” believes that a controlled use of chrysotile is indispensable. Studies conducted by independent research organisations, institutes (Analysis of Link Between Working Conditions and Health of Workers Employed in Extraction and Refinement of Chrysotile, Russia, Izmerov Research Institute of Occupational Health under the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2000) and independent groups of researchers claim that when used under controlled conditions, chrysotile is safe both for workers employed in asbestos production facilities and for end-consumers.

Nevertheless, the issue of including chrysotile on the list of highly hazardous substances is regularly raised at meetings of the Rotterdam Convention. Those opposed to chrysotile cite irrelevant studies of already banned types of asbestos which have no similarity to chrysotile.

The International Chrysotile Protection Day in Russia and Kazakhstan featured events aimed at supporting the position of the Alliance and its supporters. Thus, the Uralasbest industrial complex supported the publication of the book called A Generation of Winners, which tells stories of the oldest veterans of the chrysotile production industry.

A dance show called the Golden Threads of the Urals was also organised for the veterans, during which female students of the Ailis oriental dance school performed dances tied to the idea of chrysotile. What’s more, the Chrysotile Protection Day also featured a meeting of the Women for Safe Labour and Social Stability movement. The participants talked about projects they had already completed and discussed plans for the future.

The International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations “Chrysotile” calls on the participants of the Rotterdam Convention to pay close attention to the mineral’s uses and establish their decision on the basis of scientific conclusions which have demonstrated that controlled use of chrysotile is safe.



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Chrysotile Cement Products: Sustainable, Reliable, Affordable

MAY 2, 2019

For many years, the chrysotile producers and users’ community has been promoting the safe and secure use of the chrysotile fibre. Many recent scientific studies have confirmed that the use of chryso-cement products, under the current regulations, doesn’t create an unacceptable level of health risk for people, or for the environment.

In all chryso-cement products, the fibres are encapsulated and can’t be airborne. Those products are durable, high performance and available at affordable costs for emerging countries. Their use therefore allows for an increase of their population’s quality of life, in such countries where chryso-cement products constitute a key component of sanitary and drinking water infrastructures.

Through their crusade against chrysotile, the anti-asbestos lobbies ─ against all fibre types ─ end up implicitly supporting the big industrial producers of substitutes for chrysotile products and fibres. Yet, they are well aware that for too many of these products and fibres currently available haven’t so far been submitted to scientific evaluations that would assert their safety or whether their use creates risks for human health.

Big, occult interests have been feeding this noxious crusade that pictures chrysotile in a totally unfair manner when compared to potential replacement products and fibres. Such double standards policy doesn’t seem to worry people advocating the precaution principle and the famous zero risk approach when dealing with chrysotile, while remaining absolutely silent on the potential risks for human health associated with the use of substitutes.

ICA invites you to read this document which sums up the numerous advantages of chryso-cement products and the precautions used by the chrysotile industry. The most recent scientific studies clearly establish that the controlled use of chryso-cement products is as safe if not safer than those substitutes promoted by the anti-asbestos crusaders.

The methods and processes employed today in the chrysotile industry are the results of decades of the businesses and unions’ joint efforts to ensure its’ safe and responsible use. A working environment in which a level of 1/ff.c.cube or less of chrysotile type fibres is associated with a health risk level so negligible that it becomes practically non-measurable.

This is why “Science Must Prevail” and that competent authorities in various countries currently under relentless pressure from anti-asbestos crusaders must make sure they differentiate facts from myths and aren’t falling for what amounts to propaganda. The anti-asbestos crusade can be quite misleading…


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Beware of People with a Mission!

FEBRUARY 19, 2019

One should always be suspicious of all-out crusaders, who know no limit when it comes to promoting their cause. In January 2019, an anti-asbestos activist posted an article on the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)’s website, bemoaning the fact that the Canadian Government is not imposing stricter regulations, totally banning all form of asbestos use.

The exclusions provided for in the Government’s regulations, which are taking effect in early 2019, aim namely at protecting and supporting sustainable economic development through the deployment of a new industry which looks at exploiting serpentine mine tailings that communities inherited from mining companies. This represents an opportunity to put this resource to good use while creating well-paying jobs regionally.

Alas, anti-asbestos crusaders don’t seem to include employment and the communities’ life in the list of their preoccupations. It’s not in their mission’s job description, no more than those regional communities’ quality of life, or for that matter, that of the citizens of developing countries who use the product. They also display a total disregard for the needs of countries for whom chrysotile represent an opportunity to improve the quality of their water and sanitation infrastructures at a reasonable cost.

According to the article’s simplistic explanations, any form of asbestos exposure will lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer or any other form of cancer. They don’t offer any further explanations on the differences between the various type of fibres, in terms of their chemical structure or their respective degree of dangerousness.

The article avoids specifying that it’s amphibole type fibres who are responsible for cancer, not serpentine – chrysotile ones.

As time goes by, it becomes clearer and clearer that the anti-asbestos crusaders’ position remains unchanged, notwithstanding new evidence revealed by the most recent scientific research, based on serious and thorough data collection and analysis.

The ICA deplores that these activists’ life and positions remain stuck in the past, that they refuse to enter a dialogue based on the most recent scientific data and that they choose to stick stubbornly to their original stances and ignore important progress in the use of a natural resource that can prove remarkably useful for communities’ development, while fully protecting residents’ health and safety.