A ban on asbestos by the government would cost the swine industry 125 billion baht if implemented, says the Swine Raisers Association of Thailand.
Repercussions would be most felt across the country by livestock raisers, farmers and the poor who would have to shoulder total costs of more than 500 billion baht in total, said the association's president Surachai Sutthitham.
"We ask the government to seriously reconsider this decision, as it will severely affect the livestock industry and general public. There is no solid proof that the mineral causes illness and death," he said.
Chrysotile or white asbestos is a type of mineral found in cement roofing tiles used nationwide in livestock sheds, households, temples and government buildings.
Up to 2 million Thais use such tiles each year, and a ban would mean having to change to new ones with asbestos-free materials.
The proposal to ban asbestos was initiated by the Public Health Ministry and non-governmental organisations.
Proponents of the ban say contact with the mineral leads to cancer, yet opponents including medical experts argue there is no tangible proof of illnesses or deaths due to asbestos in the country.
The decision is subject to approval by the cabinet before being passed to parliament for final endorsement.
A university in Thailand commissioned to study steps towards the ban has proposed it be implemented in five years time.
"If the ban goes ahead, will the government step in to help those who will be affected. We [the swine industry] will not chip in to change our roofs, if the government wants us to do it, they will have to do it for us," he said.
Mr Surachai also called on the government to inform the public about details of the ban.
"The people who will be affected by the ban don't know anything about it. When decisions were taken to initiate the ban, there was no public participation at all," he said.
Srichant Uthayopas, a former director of the Industry Ministry's Hazardous Substances Control Bureau, said most tile manufacturers have switched to using substitute materials such as paper fibre, polyvinyl chloride and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which make tiles brittle and perishable.
Tiles containing asbestos can last for half a decade, while those made of substitute materials last a lot less.
She said substances such as PVA are being used, and there is no scientific proof that these are not harmful to the human body.
Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, but its repercussions were felt by that country's swine industry very recently.
Changing the roofs and structures of livestock sheds and finding new ways of rearing livestock cost the industry as much as 6 billion (297 billion baht).
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- Writer: Soonya Vanichkorn