Nov 19 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is in the process of setting quality standards for red clay roofing tiles while increasing productivity to reduce cost of production upon the ban of asbestos roofing by 2018, an official said.
“We have developed standards to cover red clay roofing tiles industry. We presented the draft standards to the President of Sri Lanka and those standards will be open for public comments,” Mahendra Jayasekara, president of Lanka Ceramic Council said at a press briefing held in Colombo.
“We hope these standards will be implemented in the near future and red clay industry will be benefited by implementing those standards.”
Sri Lanka plans to ban importing or manufacturing of asbestos roofing by 2018, as it generates health issues to the users.
World Health Organization has said that all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).
But asbestos is a cheaper roofing option, which is one of the most expensive parts of building a house, compared with wood and clay tiles.
According to WTO currently about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace.
In 2004, asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis from occupational exposures resulted in 107,000 deaths and 1,523,000 Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs).
In addition, several thousands of deaths can be attributed to other asbestos-related diseases, as well as to non-occupational exposures to asbestos.
However, experts argue even though red clay roofing provides better health conditions the cost is much higher and will cost even more for replacing as its life cycle is comparably low to asbestos roofing.
“I think at the moment the cost is higher. But we can come to a very good cost of production through increasing the yields and productivity. With that I do not think it will be much higher than the asbestos roofing sheets in the future,” Jayasekara said.
“And if you make a good product it will be long lasting.”
One of the main problem with the current red clay roofing tiles is its higher water absorption Jayasekara said.
“If we can reduce the water absorption and make it a quality tile then it will last a life time. So there won’t be a need for repairs or replace,” he added.
“If you go back to 50 years, we did not have asbestos sheets. All our rural hoses are with red clay roofing tiles, in that sense we cannot say it will be un-affordable but may be for the sake of health they will have to pay a slightly higher price. But I think there will be lot of alternative products that will come to Sri Lanka so that we do need to rely only on red clay roofing tiles.”
Jayasekara said that there will be alternatives roofing other than red clay tiles as Sri Lanka opened the market environment friendly roofing methods.
“I know at the moment people are looking at setting up plants here in Sri Lanka to make fiber cement sheets which will not be cheaper in price compared with asbestos but will be selling at a reasonable price. Those products will be available in the market as options,” he said.
“Those are the product that have been internationally accepted. So we have to go towards those products which are environmentally friendly.”
However Fibre Cement Product Manufacturers Association, who represent the Sri Lankan manufacturers of asbestos roofing sheets have recently urged the government not to go ahead with a proposed generic ban on all asbestos-related products, as they are not harmful if used with proper care.
The association said more research in to safe manufacturing processes, usage and recycling practices, alleged health risks and the viability of alternative products in comparison with chrysotile based fibre cement products must be carried out before any ban.