Vicky Wireko
Vicky Wireko

Asbestos roofing sheets: Why are they still in the market?

Earlier this week, I was at Kantamanto timber market in Accra with my carpenter to get aluminum roofing sheets and some wood for a small job at home.

I discovered it to be a sprawling market and a one-stop shop for building materials. Quite impressive, I thought.

However, something that piqued my curiosity was the display and active selling of asbestos roofing sheets alongside other types of roofing sheets in some of the shops.  

I engaged one of the shop owners in a conversation on asbestos and whether they knew of its health consequences to humans, especially its particles.

This shop owner countered that once they were being produced in the factories, they were only putting on display a variety roofing sheets to customers.

He said as any product seller, theirs was to give the customer a choice giving him or her a line-up of varieties to select their preference based on their pockets.


Though I was not blaming them but only sharing information, I felt a bit disappointed.  My disenchantment was not with the sellers but with the kind of regulations we have and which govern manufacturing. 

It felt that anything goes, with no reference to their effects.  I moved on to search for what I was looking for.

But really, why are we allowing the manufacturing of asbestos roofing sheets and for that matter, any products with asbestos in them, in this day and age?

I wondered if the Science Association and/or the responsible regulatory authority for the building sectors had any set standards to regulate manufacturing in view of human health and safety, especially with what one has been made to understand is a harmful product if exposed to it over time. 

Cancer causing

I recall that as far back as the early 1980s, United Kingdom (UK) for example banned the use of asbestos-based materials in their building sector.  

Their scientists had linked asbestos or its particles to a form of cancer when breathed in over a period of time.  
When the news broke, it became headline news at the time.  So keen to protect their citizens, particularly pregnant women and vulnerable children, they went as far as identifying public institutions, including schools, which had asbestos particles in their buildings to rip them off.  

The reason, I remember, is that asbestos, especially the particles, was said to be a cause of cancer for those who continually breathed it in over a long period.

I followed the story at the time with keen interest because asbestos sheets were used a lot in the building sector in Ghana.  
Unfortunately, to date, I have not heard any warnings from any quarter.

Years after the UK ban, and when I was building my own house, my contractor gave me the option of asbestos roofing sheets 

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