A long-term problem – Why asbestos poisoning will remain an issue for decades to come

Asbestos restrictions started in the 1970s. Since then, dozens of countries have banned it outright while in most other countries it can only be used in very specific circumstances. Despite this, asbestos is still a significant threat: according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 239,000 deaths were attributable to occupational exposure to asbestos in 2019*.

Asbestos still has an impact

You may find it surprising that a substance that has been regulated for 50 years continues to have such an impact. The reasons why asbestos is still killing people are related to time.

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring materials that have been used in many, many industrial applications since the 19th century, most notably as insulation and fireproofing in buildings and ships. Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause potentially fatal lung conditions – the most serious are lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an especially devastating disease, affecting the lining of the lungs. The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is 12 to 21 months.

Causative links are hard to confirm

These illnesses both have very long latency periods, so symptoms can begin several decades after exposure to asbestos. This made it harder to confirm the causative link between asbestos and these illnesses, and it means that people suffering from asbestos-related illnesses now are likely doing so from exposure sometime last century.

In addition, asbestos exposure is more likely when demolishing or renovating existing buildings. When insulation or construction materials are removed, broken up or otherwise disturbed, asbestos fibers can be released into the surrounding environment. Asbestos exposure – both today and in the future – is likely to come from asbestos put in place decades previously.

So, the impact of asbestos is sadly likely to be felt for many decades to come, because of its presence in older buildings and the delayed onset of illness.

Long-term problems with long-term solutions

It’s a long-term problem, but fortunately there are long-term solutions for protecting against exposure. Any dust or debris possibly containing asbestos fibers should never be swept up with a broom or a domestic vacuum cleaner. Instead, hazardous particles must be extracted with specialized, certified equipment. There are new extractors certified for asbestos use in multiple territories and countries, and combine powerful extraction and HEPA filters with a protective box for ensuring dangerous materials can be collected and disposed of in line with applicable legislation.

This short article is not, in any way, intended to be a complete guide to the risks of asbestos exposure. Wherever you are based, there are likely to be local, national or international regulations and guidelines that must be observed. Nevertheless, effective extraction is a fundamental requirement for dealing with these hazardous substances.

* https://www.healthdata.org/results/gbd_summaries/2019/occupational-exposure-asbestos-level-4-risk

Check out the video to learn more about our story. And if you wish to know how to prevent hazardous particles from entering your lungs contact your nearest reseller! Or send an e-mail to support@dustcontrol.se

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