May 3, 2012

Asbestos hazards

The lethal dust of asbestos despite being banned from residential and commercial buildings, however still inflicts deadly diseases which can only be restricted through strict implementation of the law. To save the public from asbestos exposure, legislation banning the import of this deadly asbestos and banning the use of the rest of the asbestos products is the imminent need of the hour.

The construction companies and their suppliers should through additional legislation be prevented to use this dangerous material which gives death to living beings. To prevent this health menace it’s extremely important to remove existing asbestos and demolish its entire construction works. Its not that the dangers posed by asbestos and its products to human health have gone unnoticed.

As far back as in the year 1970 the asbestos industry voluntarily banned the import of raw blue asbestos and from 1980 a similar voluntary ban was imposed on brown asbestos. Finally, in the year 1986, the United Kingdom Government legally prohibited the use, supply and import of the blue and brown asbestos, including asbestos spraying and fitting of asbestos filling.

Different laws such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, The Control of Pollution Act 1974, The Asbestos Products (Safety) Regulations, 1985, The Consumer Safety Act 1978, The Control of Pollution (Special Waste) Regulations, 1980, The Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations, 1983, The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987, as amended in 1992, The Collection and Disposal of Waste Regulations, 1988, The Water Act 1989, The Trade Effluents (Prescribed Processes and Substances) Regulations, 1989, The Control of Asbestos in Air Regulations, 1990, and The Asbestos (Prohibitions) Regulations, 1992, have already been enacted by Parliament.

The laws which directly regulate work with asbestos are contained in the Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations, 1983, the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987 as amended in 1992, and the Asbestos (Prohibitions) Regulations, 1992. The Institute of Occupational Medicine runs the national quality control scheme to monitor the ability of laboratories to count the fibres accurately.

Initially, the laboratories only counted the number of fibres present on membrane filters and identified the type of asbestos present in large samples. However after 1992 they also got approved to conduct air sampling in accordance with HSE method MDHS 39/3. At this time there are over 100 laboratories certified by National Accreditation of Measurement and Sampling for asbestos appraisal and 12 of which are approved for asbestos sampling. Samples which are drawn four times a year are sent to the laboratories which are categorized into 1, 2 and 3 groups. The group 3 is considered unacceptable.

The laboratories send their analysis back to RICE.The aim is to limit the exposure to asbestos to a minimum which is below the control limits of 0.01 respirable fibres/ml of air, and apply to people working with asbestos and not to other employees or the public. Even at this level there exist 10,000 fibres per cubic metre in the air. Since one human being requires one cubic metre of air to inhale per hour there is enormous risk involved. As per research in US, any person breathing this level of asbestos for ten years would have a 3 out of 1000 risk to develop asbestos cancer.