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Latest Asbestos News

HSL investigation refutes asbestos claims over safe cement

The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) have investigated claims that chrysotile in asbestos cement changes into a non-asbestos fibrous material called Casitile. The claims also suggested that this process is 100% efficient and no chrysotile asbestos remains in the matrix and no release of airborne chrysotile fibres can occur.

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Asbestos Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the name applied to six naturally occurring minerals, of which three are most commonly used. chrysotile (white asbestos) is the most common, although crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite (brown asbestos) are often encountered.

Asbestos is virtually indestructible and is resistant to heat and chemicals. Asbestos also does not break down over time.

Asbestos is usually mixed with other materials to form a 'product'. This product can be anything from acoustic insulators or thermal insulation to floor tiles and linoleum.

Q. Where can asbestos be found?

Currently asbestos can be found in over 3,000 different products.

Examples of common uses of asbestos are:

  • Asbestos cement (white asbestos)
  • Insulation boards (usually brown asbestos)
  • Pipe lagging (white asbestos)
  • Sprayed coatings (blue asbestos)
  • Caulking materials (white or brown asbestos)
  • Asbestos ropes (white asbestos)
  • Asbestos cloths and textiles (white asbestos)
  • Gaskets (usually white asbestos)
  • and many many more

Q. Are all products with asbestos a health risk?

No. Only when asbestos fibres are released from the material or product and become airbourne into the air we breathe.

These fibres are so small that they are invisible to the human eye, with some fibres being up to 700x smaller than a human hair. Because these asbestos fibres are so small, they may often stay suspended there for hours or even days.

Q. What makes asbestos a health risk?

The microscopic bundles of fibres, when airbourne, can be inhaled into the lungs where they can cause very significant asbestos related diseases, which often go unnoticed for 15-40 years.

These diseases include, but are not limited to:

  • Asbestosis - As asbestos fibres are inhaled, they may become trapped in the lungs. The body tries to dissolve the fibres by producing an acid, that due to the nature of asbestos, does little to damage the fiber, but instead damages the surrounding tissue. Eventually, this damage may become so severe (taking as long as 25-40 years) that the lungs cannot function.
  • Mesothelioma - A cancer of the outer lining of the lung and/or the abdominal wall. This form of cancer is peculiar because the only known cause is from asbestos exposure. The latency period is often 15-30 years.
  • Cancer - The effects of lung cancer caused by asbestos are often greatly increased by cigarette smoking . Cancer of the gastrointestinal tract can also be caused by asbestos. The latency period for cancer is often 15-30 years.

Asbestos does not cause any immediate symptoms. The effects often go unnoticed for 15-40 years, making asbestos a silent, but very dangerous, killer.

Q. How could I be exposed to asbestos?

We are all exposed to low levels of asbestos in the air we breathe. This is generally higher in cities and industrial areas.

Employees in industries that mine, produce or use asbestos products and people living near these industries may be exposed to high levels of asbestos in the air.

Asbestos fibres may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos based material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling.

Asbestos exposure may also occur when asbestos based materials are disturbed in some way as to release particles and fibres into the air. This disturbance could include product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance.

Drinking water may contain asbestos from natural sources or from asbestos-containing cement pipes.

Q. When is asbestos a hazard?

Asbestos is not always an immediate hazard. In fact, if asbestos can be maintained in good condition, it is recommended that it be left alone and periodic surveillance performed to monitor it's condition. It is only when asbestos containing materials are disturbed or the materials become damaged that it becomes a hazard.

Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable. The term 'friable' means that the asbestos is easily crumbled by hand, releasing fibres into the air.

Asbestos-containing ceiling tiles, floor tiles, undamaged laboratory cabinet tops, shingles, fire doors, siding shingles, etc. will not release asbestos fibres unless they are disturbed or damaged in some way. If an asbestos ceiling tile is drilled or broken, for example, it may release fibres into the air. If it is left alone and not disturbed, it will not.

Damage and deterioration will increase the friability of asbestos-containing materials. Water damage, continual vibration, aging, and physical impact such as drilling, grinding, buffing, cutting, sawing, or striking can break the materials down making fibre release more likely.

Q. How are asbestos containing materials maintained?

Friable asbestos can be maintained in place utilizing several techniques. For example: Encapsulation, which involves applying a thick layer of an encapsulant, much like latex paint, that binds the surface of the material together and prevents fibre release.

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