From the blog

Legacy Asbestos More Dangerous than Previously Thought

Published: January 20, 2023

A United Kingdom study is showing the dangers of legacy asbestos. Asbestos that remains in commercial and residential buildings can be more dangerous than previously thought. Researchers from the study found that two-thirds of the asbestos still in buildings was old enough or damaged enough to release fibers into the air. Around one million samples were taken during a six-month period. The National Organisation of Asbestos Consultants and the trade group Asbestos Testing and Consultancy performed the testing. The findings were reported at a Parliamentary event in London, showcasing the flawed asbestos strategy of the country.  People who left the asbestos in buildings thought it would be safe, but the asbestos was damaged. Damaged asbestos can release fibers into the air where they are inhaled, leading to cancer.

Asbestos causes lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of multiple areas of the body including the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles. Once inhaled or ingested, the fibers cannot be broken down in the body, leading to DNA changes in cells. Asbestos was banned by the United Kingdom in 1999, but asbestos is still in many places because of its widespread use. Most of the asbestos was put in place before the 1980s. Asbestos is not banned in the United States, but it is heavily regulated. The EPA is still undergoing a risk evaluation for asbestos as part of the Toxic Substances Control Act. The second part of the study that looks at legacy asbestos should be completed by the end of 2023.

In 2022, the UK contemplated a long-term plan to remove all asbestos from buildings within a 40-year timeframe. It decided against the plan because it would cost too much. Building owners usually don’t want to remove asbestos because of the cost, but the problem is current strategies that are managing asbestos in place are not working as intended. The United Kingdom has around 2,700 new cases of mesothelioma every year, which is one of the highest per capita rates in the world. There are some countries in Europe that banned asbestos and are removing it from all structures.

Asbestos mining hasn’t existed in the United States for two decades and asbestos importation has dropped significantly. The Chloralkali industry is the main user of asbestos, mainly on semipermeable diaphragms in the chlorine making process. There are alternatives for the industry, but manufacturers prefer asbestos because it is cheap. Asbestos containing products are also imported including vehicle friction items, sheet gaskets, and brake blocks. The main threat for the public is legacy asbestos though. People think that if undisturbed, it is not a threat, but this might not be the case. The U.K. is contemplating mandatory asbestos surveys of all residential and commercial buildings being sold that were built before 1999. All schools in the country, unlike the United States, have regular asbestos inspections. The goal is to prevent people unknowingly buying buildings with carcinogens and construction workers coming across asbestos when doing renovations.

“’Managed’ asbestos is a timebomb, says BOHS” Health and Safety Matters (December 14, 2022). [Link]
Contact Us
Have you received a diagnosis? *