It’s time to act on asbestos

Sunday July 7 2019

A closer view of an asbestos roof. Health

A closer view of an asbestos roof. Health experts warn that exposure to broken asbestos could cause cancer of the lungs, ovary, and other organs, as well as breathing complications. File photo 

Ugandan authorities remain conspicuously silent on the continued use of asbestos across the country which puts millions to risks of cancers and other such complications associated with the carcinogenic material. We are now faced with a question of how long this will go on unchecked and at what cost?

Despite a worldwide ban, many colonial era buildings such as schools, private homes, police stations, markets remain roofed with this dangerous commodity that has been linked to deadly cancers. Asbestos, especially as a roofing material is most notorious in old school buildings, dilapidated police stations and housing quarters, among other places.

In Entebbe Municipality, the entire Central Market located in Entebbe Town, for example, is roofed with the deadly material putting thousands that go through or operate in the market at risk. Institutions like Makerere College School and Makerere University continue to grapple with the problem.

The UK based Health and Safety Executive notes that when materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything.

Asbestos is linked to a number of fatal diseases including mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum), asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis, among others.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), exposure to asbestos causes different types of cancer, especially that of the lung, larynx, ovaries, and mesothelioma.
Uganda should emulate Canada, once the world’s top producer of asbestos, and other countries that have not only banned the material but are taking steps to wipe the same from the surface of their respective countries.


Over the years Parliament has made directives to phase out the use of asbestos sheets as roofing materials in all schools and technical colleges, among other places, to avert the health and safety hazards associated with its usage. Local authorities should condemn facilities in their respective jurisdictions that are still roofed with asbestos or use other asbestos materials such as pipes. Government should put a special vote (resources) to gradually replace asbestos in all public facilities.

Both government and private individuals should take interest in addressing the issue starting with replacing the deadly roofing material. The potentially negative health, social and economic effects are many. The cost is high.

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