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NZ proposes new rules to ban substances risky to health

WELLINGTON, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand government is preparing to completely ban two substances with known risks to both the environment and human health, Environment Minister Nick Smith said on Wednesday.

"The government has proposed new regulations banning the import of new bulk hydrochlorofluorocarbons and asbestos-containing products," Smith said in a published speech to the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australia conference in Nelson.

"Already New Zealand has all but phased out these substances so the number of businesses expected to be affected is low."

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone-depleting substances ( ODSs) commonly used for products such as air conditioners, refrigerators and some foams, contributed to damage of the ozone layer and increased harmful ultraviolet radiation exposure.

The regulations would complete the phase-out of HCFCs in New Zealand by removing a residual category of wholesale import permits.

"This will enable us to meet our commitment to phase out ODSs by 2020 under the Montreal Protocol ahead of schedule, which is fitting given New Zealand's early championship of what is considered to be the most successful environmental protection agreement in the world," Smith said.

The government was also proposing to extend the ban on asbestos, a recognized carcinogen, and a leading cause of work-related disease and mortality.

"The importation of raw asbestos is completely banned already in New Zealand, but there is currently no ban on products that contain asbestos, which would bring New Zealand's regulations into line with that of many other countries," said Smith.

"The use of asbestos-containing products is limited to the marine, aviation and electricity generation and supply industries, " he said.

An inventory released by the Ministry for the Environment last year indicated that in most cases, alternative products were available.

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