Asbestosencompass naturally occurring mineral deposits that are impervious toheat and oxidization, and used in insulation, building materials, andfloor tiles, among others. Heavy contacts occur in the building andship construction or repair industries, predominantly throughout theelimination of asbestos constituents due to makeover, maintenances,manufacture or destruction (Stayner,Welch and Lemen 206).In this regards, the assessment of asbestos, its risks, products,uses, and connection to human exposures provide a framework forpeople to understand its threat to human life. By looking at itsuses, mining procedures, associated risks, and research conducted toevaluate its risks, the paper provides a rationale on the hazardsattributable to asbestos. In this regards, the paper containsbackground information of asbestos, methods and materials of theasbestos and results on the various monitoring assessments ofasbestos.
Asbestosis one of the many naturally occurring minerals on the earth. In thepast, it has been widely used in the construction and manufacturingindustry as well as in the military for its wide-ranging adaptabilityto many industrial applications (Stayner,Welch and Lemen 206).Asbestos is highly favored for its tensile potency, heat resistancecapabilities and favorable insulation characteristics. The mineralhas been widely applied in the manufacture of fireproof vests, homeappliances and more so in the commercial construction industry. Inthe past, it people weaved asbestos into fabrics, mixed with cementand widely applied in military services. Today, people consider themineral as highly toxic, which has led to its ban in numerouscountries as it has been attributed with rising incidences ofmesothelioma cancer (asbestos.com 2). This paper seeks to discussbroadly asbestos by incorporating literature published concerning it.
Overthe past millennia, people have used asbestos for a wide range ofhuman development activities. According to the available literature,it was used in Greece as wicks for torches used in the open, inancient Egypt, asbestos was commonly woven in fabrics for use inwrapping mummified bodies of the Pharaohs. In ancient Rome, asbestosfabrics were used as tablecloths and napkin as they were easilycleaned by placing them in burning fires, coming out as clean as snow(Stayner,Welch and Lemen 209).Archeologists have also found asbestos in ancient pottery dating backto the Stone Age.
Charlemagne,the King of the Franks is known to have used asbestos woven fabricsto awe his guests while Marco Polo, the great merchant explorer issaid to have found asbestos widely used in China. During this era, itwas noted that many of the slaves condemned to weaving asbestosfabric commonly suffered from lung disease.
Duringthe 19thcentury’s industrial revolution, as asbestos was a highly favoredcommodity which lead to great commercial exploits in mining themineral (Rice 239). Everyone commonly used most of the productsproduced at the time and as such the demand for asbestos-basedmaterial led to the establishment of asbestos factories in cities dueto demand for such products. The shipbuilding and railroadindustries extensively used asbestos for fireproofing and steamengine insulation. Asbestos was also widely used for manufacturingclutches, brakes and other friction inducing products in theautomotive industry.
Mostof the literature or method cultivated in the research involvesresearch conducted on the exposure and risks associated withasbestos. Research by NIOHS suggests that over 75 different varietyof jobs in U.S. expose employees to asbestos with a projected 30% ofall mesothelioma cases seen in military veterans (asbestos.com 10).As such, it is highly significant to understand the uses and types ofasbestos to advice firms and people accordingly on exposure and risksassociated with the mineral. In the United States, the GreatIndustrial Revolution saw the establishment of the first asbestosmining enterprise in the state of Georgia’s Sall Mountain region inWhite County (Stayner,Welch and Lemen 207).The last asbestos field to be closed down in the country was situatedin the state of California in 2002. This was after the adverseimpacts of asbestos exposure had been well understood and documented.It took more than a century to understand the adverse effects thismineral has on the human body, more so the lungs (Rice 239). It isimportant to point out that asbestos mining continues in other partsof the world such as in Russia and China.
Asmuch as it is still widely used in many parts of the world, the UShas not completely stopped the use of asbestos and requires companiesusing the mineral to notify workers of the adverse health effectsassociated with its exposure (Stayner,Welch and Lemen 211).At the peak of the US asbestos mining industry in 1973, nearly140,000 metric tons were produced from mining activities in thecountry (Rice 241). More than 50% of the mined product was consumedlocally while the rest of it was mostly exported into neighboringCanada. By 2009, the use of mined asbestos had fallen to fewer than900 tons though it is said that in the same year, global consumptionof the mineral was 2 million tons. The highest quantity minedaccording to records from recent history was 4.77 million tons minedin 1977.
W.R. Grace Company was a mining company operating in the state ofMontana and is attributed to thousands of deaths and ailmentsassociated with asbestos exposure. It mined the vermiculite typeasbestos, was later declared an environmental disaster area in 2002,and prompted a public health emergency by the EnvironmentalProtection Agency (EPA) in 2009.
TheEnvironmental Protection Agency categorizes asbestos into sixdistinct types anthophyllite, amosite, chrysotile, tremolite,crocidolite, and actinolite (asbestos.com 3). They are distinctrelative to their unique chemical composition but all are deemedhighly carcinogenic compounds.
Anthophyllite: This form of asbestos is commonly found in Finland. In the US, anthophyllite was extensively mined in the states of Georgia and North Carolina. It is not as common as other asbestos types in the global market as it not as widely found as the other forms of asbestos. Amosite: South Africa has huge natural deposits of amosite and has short fibers with a distinct brown pigment. It is regarded as being much more toxic as compared to chrysotile and is mainly used in the construction industry.
Chrysotile: It is the most widely used form of asbestos in commercial enterprises. It has curly fibers that are notably longer compared to other types of asbestos. Proponents of asbestos application consider it as the least poisonous though scientific research provides that it is just as toxic as other types of asbestos.
Tremolite: This asbestos mineral is found together with chrysotile, talc and vermiculite. It is famously regarded though in a negative way for the contamination on the Montana mine. It was widely used in millions of American homes for attic insulation according to statistics provided by the Environmental Protection industry.
Crocidolite: This type of asbestos has less heat resistivity as compared to other types and is there not as widely used. It is also referred to as blue asbestos and its fibers are quite thin and easily penetrate the human skin. It is thus considered the most toxic form of asbestos.
Actinolite: It has characteristic dark and short fibers and is normally combined with the mineral vermiculite in the production of insulation materials. It is commonly used to formulate paints and drywall for the construction industry.
Resultsand conclusions: Hazards associated with asbestos exposure
Inthe US, federal agencies like OSHA and EPA have held extensive publicawareness programs outlining the many health hazards associated withasbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers are quite minute such that theyare hardly visible with the bare eye. Inhalation of asbestos fibersleads to lung disease, the most common disease associated with themineral being asbestosis. Inhaled fibers cause the lung tissues todevelop scars inhibiting normal lung functions leading to disabilityand eventually death (OSHA 2). Asbestos inhalation has also beenwidely associated with lung cancer and other diseases likemesothelioma of the pleura (Stayner,Welch and Lemen 212).This is a life threatening malignant tumor, which affects the stomachand lung cavity membranes. Evidence from epidemiologic supports thefact that all forms of asbestos lead to mesothelioma in human beings.
Asbestoshas hit livelihoods in the construction business the hardest, asNIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) suggest(asbestos.com 11). People in the construction industry such aselectricians, pipefitters, and plumbers, among others have sufferedthe blunt or have been most vulnerable to illnesses related toasbestos due to exposure. In addition, electrical power firms andshipbuilding have encountered high exposures. However, althoughstudies trace majority of asbestos-aligned diseases to occupationalexposure, other risks such as second-hand exposure exist(asbestos.com 12). On the other hand, builders filled homes andapartments with asbestos before 1890, which means that any wear andtear to those homes result to the exposure of the asbestos. Studieshave traced asbestos in roofs, floor tiles, plumbing, fireplaces,appliances, furnaces, and window caulking, which leaves most peoplevulnerable. In fact, WHO asserts that more than 43,000 people dieannually from these exposures (asbestos.com 13). Sadly, builders inthe developing countries still use asbestos-related products inbuilding, and due to the long dormancy period of the products,generally 10 to 50 years between acquaintance and diagnosis ofcancer, the number of people with such illnesses remains uncertain.
SpecificOSHA standards address worker exposure to asbestos hazards for theconstruction, general and shipyard industries (OSHA 3). These canonslessen the threat to workers by demanding that employers provideindividual exposure watching to evaluate the threat and hazardresponsiveness training for processes possible exposure to asbestosexist. As such, airborne intensities of asbestos should never exceedlegal employee contact limits. In addition, the OSHA standards decreethat there is no "harmless" level of asbestos contact forany category of asbestos fiber, and any exposure for a short periodcan cause mesothelioma in humans (OSHA 3). Each or any work-relatedcontact to asbestos can result to damage of disease eachwork-related contact to asbestos contributes to the threat ofcontacting an asbestos interrelated disease. In case, of contact,employers must establish regulated areas and situations, regulatespecific work practices, and institute engineering regulations tolessen air levels. As such, by using organizational controls andprovision of protective equipment, employers ensure that the levelsof exposure remain low thus, reduced risk to asbestos-relateddiseases. However, employers should use medical monitoring proceduresof employees when their areas of work or situations exceed legallimits and exposure times.
Asbestos.com."Asbestos." -Complete Overview of.Asbestos.com and The Peterson Firm and , 23 May 2014. Web. 23 June2014. <http://www.asbestos.com/asbestos/>.
OccupationalSafety & Health Administration (OSHA)."Safety and Health Topics | Asbestos." Safetyand Health Topics | Asbestos.OSHA, 10 Apr. 2014. Web. 21 June 2014.<https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/>.
Rice,James. "The Global Reorganization and Revitalization of theAsbestos Industry, 1970-2007." InternationalJournal of Health Services41.2 (2011): 239-254.
Stayner,Leslie, Laura S. Welch, and Richard Lemen. "The worldwidepandemic of asbestos-related diseases." Annualreview of public health34 (2013): 205-216.