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Typhonium flagelliforme

Effects of Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma in Indonesia

Although many countries have enacted regulations against asbestos, several developing nations still have a thriving asbestos industry – including Indonesia.

Indonesia’s government has not yet ratified the Rotterdam Convention, a treaty that promotes responsible use of industrial products. One of the major tenets of the Rotterdam Convention is the regulation of asbestos fibers, which Indonesia heavily utilizes for construction products and insulation.

Asbestos Use in Indonesia
Indonesia began consuming asbestos in 1959. The country is still a heavy asbestos user, primarily purchasing their asbestos from China. Indonesia is also one of the main purchasers of Brazilian asbestos.

In 2003 alone, the country imported over 45,667 tons of asbestos. This was a significant increase from prior years, with only 21,079 tons of asbestos being imported in 1998.

Indonesia also produces some of its own asbestos. The primary asbestos mining sites in the country include Seram Island, North Halmahera and Papua.

Much of the asbestos consumed in Indonesia is used in industrial materials. Asbestos is often incorporated into caulking, tiles, adhesives and roofing as a form of insulation. The materials are cheap to manufacture and often sold in areas where the economic status is lower than average.

One estimate from the Indonesia Toxics-Free Network has suggested that about 7,000 employees from 26 different facilities have produced materials that were contaminated with chrysotile asbestos. Many other jobsites may have exposed workers to other types of asbestos, including amosite and tremolite.
Other high exposure asbestos industries in Indonesia include:

  • Railways
  • Power plants
  • Asbestos cement shops
  • Chemical factories

Mesothelioma in Indonesia
Once asbestos has been inhaled, it is easily trapped within in the mesothelial lining of the lungs. It can also become lodged in the lining of the stomach or heart. When this occurs, bodily changes such as scarring, inflammation and genetic alterations can occur and potentially lead to the development of an aggressive cancer known as mesothelioma.

One of the large hospitals in Persahabatan, Indonesia, has reported numerous cases of mesothelioma, but does not attribute any of them to asbestos. However, research suggests that almost all cases of mesothelioma can be traced back to asbestos exposure. 

Author Bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.


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