Why Asbestos Still Poses a Threat Today

The deadly threat from exposure to asbestos is not leaving us just yet. Because of its widespread usage in worldwide construction for much of the 20th century, the next asbestos linked scandal is never far away. The Guardian found that “every year, more people die from asbestos exposure than road traffic accidents.” Despite being banned in the UK in 1999, asbestos is still found within 12,600 schools across England and families are still being awarded compensation for the loss of loved ones due to asbestos related deaths. Because of this, asbestos remains an ever present threat.

What are the known health effects of asbestos?

When the human lungs are exposed to asbestos fibres, the body is attacked for decades after any initial contact with them. This happens because the fibres stick to lungs which then cause scarring and mutation. This is likely to lead to asbestos related diseases such as Mesothelioma – an aggressive form of cancer which leaves little chance of survival. Asbestos is also known to cause cancer within ovaries and the larynx as well as gastrointestinal cancer. A smoking habit also greatly increases the risks of lung cancer after those lungs have been exposed to asbestos.

Who is still mining asbestos?

in 2015, Russia mined 1 million metric tonnes of asbestos. India, Thailand and Indonesia are still known to be using asbestos as part of their construction work – alarmingly, its use is unregulated in these countries. The US still allows for a very small use of asbestos in car brake pads and floor tiles.

How much asbestos is still present in the western world?

The western world has shunned the use of asbestos and most countries have banned its use and asbestos productions completely. With countries like China still using thousands of metric tonnes of asbestos each year, products containing asbestos still end up being shipped to the western world.

Despite its ban, there are many buildings across the world that still contain asbestos. Disturbing these asbestos deposits poses a huge health risk when breathing in the fibres of the contaminated air.

Why is asbestos still used today?

Asbestos is a cheaply mined fibre that can be used in various ways due to its unusual fire resistance and durability. The only commercially available asbestos fibre is Chrysotile, a white asbestos which makes up for 95% of the asbestos in the US. The asbestos industry continue to champion the use of Chrysotile, as they claim it is a safer asbestos fibre to work with. The International Chrysotile Association say that the body’s immune cells can break down the asbestos fibres within the lungs. It is campaigning like this by the asbestos industry that has stopped asbestos becoming a prominent global issue.  

The World Health Organization dismissed the evidence presented by the asbestos industry. A motion to ban the substance worldwide was put forward to the Rotterdam Convention in 2015 but Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, Russia, Syria and Zimbabwe all voted against the ban of Chrysotile. This was because a unanimous vote had to be achieved for an outright ban. It has since been blocked again from being placed on the harmful substances list in 2017.

Are there new fibres fibres that can replace asbestos?

Yes. Materials such as steel, glass and ceramic fibres can be used instead of asbestos. Calcium silicate and even perlite and silica can be used in other applications. These materials do cost more than asbestos but with the huge health benefits, the extra costs should not be balked at when it comes to considering public health.

How can I take an online asbestos awareness course?

Taking those steps to be educated on the dangers and health risks of asbestos is vital. If you’re a construction worker, private contractor or any type of tradesperson, you need to be vigilant of the presence of asbestos within in buildings erected before the year 2000. SSD Online Asbestos offer asbestos awareness courses online that are IATP approved, RoSPA approved and UKATA approved.

The threat of asbestos is still very much alive. Until the entire world comes together to eradicate the use of asbestos in the US and the developing world, asbestos related deaths are only going to increase. Until the asbestos industry cease to profit from the harmful substance, asbestos exposure will still pose a threat to public health well into the 21st century.

Contact us today to find out more information on our asbestos awareness courses and how you can book your course today.