High risk of occupational cancer: WHO
About half the deaths from occupational cancer are caused by exposure to asbestos, the World Health Organisation says.
About 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos in the workplace. At least 90,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure, according to the WHO.
In Hong Kong, the Buildings Department Practice Note stipulates that asbestos should not be used in buildings built after 1986. The Air Pollution Control Ordinance has banned the import and sale of the more dangerous types of asbestos - amosite and crocidolite - since May 1996.
Since June 1997, a registered contractor must be used to remove asbestos corrugated cement sheets and written notice given to the Environmental Protection Department. Contractors should place the waste in metal drums or strong plastic bags in a safe place and arrange a licensed collector to remove it quickly.
A breach of these procedures is an offence under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance, carrying a penalty up to a HK$200,000 fine and six months' jail.
A Hospital Authority spokesman said: 'Generally speaking, it is not recommended practice to remove asbestos which is properly contained and in good condition until there is a renovation project.'