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Banning Asbestos

Banning Asbestos

 

The information on this page helps you understand the ban on asbestos under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (APCO).

 

1. What are asbestos and asbestos containing material (ACM)?

 

2. Where can asbestos be found?

 

3. Why do we need to ban asbestos?

 

4. How are asbestos and ACM banned?

 

5. Are there any non-applications?

 

6. What are the considerations for granting exemption?

 

7. Penalty

 

8. Illustrative examples

 

1. What are asbestos and asbestos containing material (ACM)?

 

Asbestos includes the minerals, and substances including the minerals, amosite, crocidolite, chrysotile, fibrous actinolite, fibrous anthophyllite and fibrous tremolite.

 

Asbestos containing material (ACM) means any material, substance or product which is made with or contains asbestos as determined by a method approved by the Secretary for the Environment.

 

2. Where can asbestos be found?

 

Asbestos had been widely used in friction, fireproofing, insulation and building materials before the mid-1980s because of its very high tensile strength and good heat and chemical resistance properties.

 

Among various applications, corrugated asbestos cement sheets are most commonly found at the cages, canopies or roofing structures of old buildings. For some of the old machinery/products used in construction sites, ACM may still be found. We have compiled a list of machinery/products in construction sites which may contain ACM to help the industries and general public to identify machinery/products that may contain asbestos.

 

As it is difficult for the general public to tell with certainty whether a material contains asbestos or not by its appearance or colour, it is more appropriate to take a precautionary attitude and treat it as suspected ACM unless proved otherwise by a registered asbestos laboratory.

 

3. Why do we need to ban asbestos?

 

ACM pose little health risk as long as they remain intact and undisturbed. However, if they are exposed and disturbed, very fine asbestos fibres which can stay airborne for a long time will be released. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause serious diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer has thus classified all types of asbestos as definite human carcinogen (Group 1). We therefore need to ban asbestos to better protect public health.

 

4. How are asbestos and ACM banned?

 

Under section 80 of the APCO, import, transhipment, supply and use of asbestos and ACM other than the exceptions listed in section 5 are banned.

 

A person tranships asbestos or ACM if he imported asbestos or ACM that:

(a) is consigned on a through bill of lading or a through air waybill from a place outside Hong Kong to another place outside Hong Kong;

(b) is or is to be removed from the vessel, vehicle or aircraft which it was imported; and

(c) is or is to be:

i. returned to the same vessel, vehicle or aircraft before being exported; or

ii. transferred to another vessel, vehicle or aircraft before being exported.

 

Supply includes:

(a) supply without consideration;

(b) offer or expose for supply;

(c) sell, or offer or expose for sale; and

(d) hire out, or offer or expose for hiring out.

 

Use, in relation to asbestos or ACM, means

(a) affixing, applying spraying or installing asbestos or ACM on or in any premises;

(b) adding, mixing or inserting asbestos or ACM to, with, into any material, substance product or article for manufacturing or producing any product or substance; or

(c) wrapping any material, substance product or article with asbestos or ACM.

 

Some illustrative examples are provided in section 8 to further explain the ban on asbestos and ACM.

 

5. Are there any non-applications?

 

The following three non-applications are outside the scope of the ban under section 80 of the APCO.

 

(i) Goods in transit

ACM will not pose health risk if it is undisturbed. As goods in transit are brought into Hong Kong solely for being taken out of Hong Kong and remain all the time in the vessel, vehicle or aircraft that brought them into Hong Kong, it will not be disturbed and thus will not pose health risk to the public. Therefore, goods in transit are not banned.

 

(ii) Registered proprietary Chinese medicine

Tremolitum and Actinolitum are Chinese herbal medicine which contain asbestos. Some proprietary Chinese medicine may contain Tremolitum and Actinolitum as active ingredients. As there is no scientific evidence indicating that ingestion of Tremolitum and Actinolitum would be harmful to health and registered proprietary Chinese medicine are in finished dose form, import, transhipment and supply of proprietary Chinese medicine which contains asbestos are not banned if the proprietary Chinese medicine is:

(a) registered under section 121(2) of the Chinese Medicine Ordinance (CMO);

(b) deemed under section 128(2) of the CMO to be registered; or

(c) exempted under section 158(5) of the CMO from the application of section 119 of the CMO.

 

Besides, a person or an institution that is exempted in respect of a proprietary Chinese medicine which contains asbestos under section 158(1) of the CMO from the application of section 119 of the CMO is not prohibited from importing or supplying the proprietary Chinese medicine.

 

(iii) Use of asbestos or ACM in work carried out in industrial undertakings

As work with asbestos in industrial undertakings is banned by the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Asbestos) Regulation, the APCO does not ban use of asbestos and ACM in industrial undertakings to avoid double control.

 

6. What are the considerations for granting exemption?

 

Application for exemption may be made in writing to the Authority, i.e. Director of Environmental Protection. The Authority may exempt a person from a prohibition imposed under section 80(1) if the Authority considers that the exemption:

(a) is warranted; and

(b) would be unlikely to lead to a health risk to the community.

 

In consideration of whether the exemption is warranted, the Authority will take into account the following factors:

(a) whether an asbestos free substitute is available,

(b) whether there will be serious disruption to a public service if the application for exemption is not granted; and

(c) whether there will be serious safety problem or risk to human life if the application for exemption is not granted.

 

In consideration of whether the exemption would be unlikely to lead to a health risk to the community, the Authority will take into account the following factors:

(a) the quantity of the asbestos or ACM involved;

(b) the precautionary measures to be taken to prevent release of asbestos into the air;

(c) the location and activity involved; and

(d) the likelihood the asbestos or ACM involved will be disturbed.

 

7. Penalty

 

A person who illegally imports, tranships, supplies or uses asbestos or ACM commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of $200,000 and to imprisonment for 6 months.

 
8. Illustrative examples

 

Example 1: The roof of Mr. Chan’s house is made of corrugated asbestos cement sheets (CACS). Does Mr. Chan need to remove the roof of his house?

 

ACM pose little health risk as long as they remain intact and undisturbed. Therefore it is not necessary for Mr. Chan to remove the roof of his house which is made of CACS. If however the conditions of the CACS deteriorate, Mr. Chan has to hire registered asbestos professionals to remove and dispose of the CACS properly.

 

Example 2: Mr. Chan keeps some brand new CACS in his storeroom. Is it illegal? If some of the CACS of the existing retaining wall and fencing in his farm land were partly broken, can Mr. Chan replace the broken CACS with new CACS?

 

Since ACM pose little health risk as long as they remain intact and undisturbed, storage of asbestos or ACM is not banned. Mr. Chan may keep the brand new CACS in his storeroom. As the APCO prohibits any person from installing any ACM on or in any premises, Mr. Chan cannot replace the broken CACS with the new CACS. He should hire registered asbestos professionals to remove and dispose of the CACS properly. If Mr. Chan wishes to rebuild the retaining wall and fencing, he should use materials which are free of asbestos.

 

Example 3: Can Mr. Chan sell the ACM now kept in his storeroom. If not, can Mr. Chan give them to his friend as gift?

 

Under the APCO, the meaning of supply includes sell and supply without consideration, As supply of ACM is banned under the APCO, Mr. Chan cannot sell the ACM or give them to his friend as gift. He should consider disposing of the ACM in accordance with the requirements of the Waste Disposal Ordinance.

 

Example 4: Mr. Chan is a trader of Chinese medicine products. Can Mr. Chan import, tranship and sell Chinese medicine products?

 

If the Chinese medicine products do not contain asbestos, Mr. Chan’s business is not affected by the ban on import, transhipment and supply of asbestos and ACM under the APCO. However, Mr. Chan cannot import, tranship or sell any Chinese medicine products containing asbestos (such as herbal Chinese medicine Tremolitum and Actinolitum). Nevertheless, Mr. Chan can still import, tranship or sell proprietary Chinese medicine which is:

(a) registered under section 121(2) of the Chinese Medicine Ordinance (CMO);

(b) deemed under section 128(2) of the CMO to be registered; or

(c) exempted under section 158(5) of the CMO from the application of section 119 of the CMO.

 

Example 5: Mr. Chan is a contractor of the construction industry. He has a few old transformers which contain asbestos. His construction work has just been completed and he wishes to take the transformers to another site for his new project. Can Mr. Chan relocate his old transformers?

 

Some old machinery such as transformer may contain asbestos. As the asbestos containing parts are embedded inside the transformer, relocation of the transformer will not disturb the asbestos inside. Therefore, relocation of machinery containing asbestos is not banned. Mr. Chan is free to take the transformers to another site for his new project.

 

User review date: 
Tuesday, 27 January, 2015