The History of Asbestos

Builders & Construction

Tuesday, September 24th 2019
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. These fibres are very useful in industry as well as construction because of the strength, poor heat conduction and resistance to chemical attack the fibres has. Asbestos materials have been used for insulation in buildings and in various products such as roofing materials, water supply lines and clutches, brake linings, gaskets and pads for automobiles. In addition, asbestos played a rule in ship building. It was very important compound in ship lining protecting the haul in case fires breakout in sensitive areas such as the engine rooms. Now days, chrysotile is the only commercial asbestos still in use. Mainly used in fibre cement boards. Russia, which mined around one million metric tonnes in 2015 is the largest producer of asbestos. The major mines are located in Asbest, around 900 miles northeast of Moscow. China mined over 400,000 tonnes, with Brazil coming in third and Kazakhstan fourth. In terms of importers, India, China and Indonesia each imported over 300,000, 200,000 and 150,000 metric tonnes, respectively, in 2015. Although asbestos is banned in more than 55 countries around the world, (Japan, Australia and EU countries) many third world countries continue to use asbestos products. In India and China in particular there are various products still made with asbestos. This production continue to use hundreds of thousands of metric tonnes each year. Inevitably, sometimes asbestos laced products are shipped to Western countries. Finally, having a band dose not mean that all use of asbestos has stopped. Millions of tonnes of asbestos still remain in buildings due to its use in the 20th century. Exposure to asbestos occurs mainly from breathing in fibres from contaminated air, disturbing these deposits can pose a health risk. Asbestos causes cancers of the lung, ovaries and larynx and is suspected to cause others, including gastrointestinal cancer. Once inhaled, asbestos fibres may stay in the body and cause asbestosis, a progressive inflammatory disease that scars the lungs. Medical experts say there is no evidence for a threshold of exposure for cancer: any amount of airborne asbestos fibre poses a risk. Smoking too is known to increases the risks of lung cancer with asbestos exposure. The World Health Organisation estimates that around 125 million people globally are exposed to asbestos in the workplace and that at least 107,000 people die each year globally from occupational exposure to airborne fibres. About half of the deaths from occupational cancer are estimated to be caused by asbestos. Relatively recent paper in The Lancet (Dec 2016) calculate the death numbers linked to ‘occupational exposure to asbestos’ at 180,225 in 2013. The burden of asbestos related diseases is still rising around the world, even in countries that banned the use of asbestos as early as 1990s. Click here for Asbestos Awareness Hazards & Risks CPD Training Course & Certificate