Asbestos Cement Products and Occupational Health Risks


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Asbestos Cement Products in Global Trade

The safety and well-being of workers should always be a top priority for any workplace. However, a recent study conducted by Occupational Knowledge International (OK International) has revealed that the installation and removal of asbestos cement products can lead to exposure levels of asbestos that exceed the limits established by the United States. This is a troubling finding as it means that many workers who have handled asbestos cement products have been exposed to high levels of asbestos, which can result in serious health issues such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Workers should be able to go to work every day with the assurance that their workplace is safe and that they will return home safely. Unfortunately, the high asbestos exposure levels highlighted by the study mean that many workers are at risk of developing asbestos-caused cancers. It is hoped that this report will serve as a wake-up call for stricter asbestos regulations and, ultimately, a global ban on asbestos (The EPA just banned Chrysotile White Asbestos in March 2024) Such measures are necessary to ensure that workers can work in a safe environment and that they do not have to pay the price of their health in the long run.

Asbestos Cement Products and Exposure Levels

The study’s findings are quite concerning as they indicate that the levels of asbestos exposure are significantly higher than the occupational limits set in the United States. Workplaces that may have been exposed to high asbestos levels include plumbers, pipefitters, manufacturing, and metal workers. Asbestos cement products, which are used for various purposes like pipe, siding, and roofing, account for more than 90% of global asbestos use.

Shockingly, the average asbestos exposure levels are over 50 times higher than the short-term limit established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This is particularly alarming when it comes to cutting asbestos board and roofing materials, where the average asbestos exposure levels are 24 times higher than the limit. In fact, the exposures for power saw cutting of AC sheets and pipes suggest that more than 86% of these tasks with AC sheets and 100% of the tasks with asbestos cement pipes exceed the US short-term excursion limit, which is quite concerning.

Global Impact of Asbestos Cement Products

In 2021, more than 1.2 million metric tons of asbestos were mined primarily for asbestos cement applications. Shockingly, Russia is the largest beneficiary of this hazardous trade, earning $185 million in 2021. Russia and Kazakhstan account for 80% of global asbestos production and export this material to over 25 low and middle-income countries. The largest importers of asbestos include India, China, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Thailand, which account for about 90% of global asbestos sales.

Unfortunately, thousands of workers in countries such as India and Vietnam are exposed to airborne fibers during the manufacture of asbestos cement products in hundreds of small factories. Even more concerning, tens of thousands of construction workers are exposed to airborne asbestos in excess of the short-term OSHA excursion limit while installing asbestos cement roofing, siding, cooling towers, and pipes. This highlights the need for better regulation and a complete ban on asbestos to protect workers and the environment from this hazardous material.

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Regulatory Landscape and Environmental Concerns

Asbestos is a dangerous material that has been banned in more than 60 countries. However, in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only recently started considering a complete ban on chrysotile asbestos cement products and other uses. Currently, companies are only required to inform the EPA before manufacturing or importing asbestos cement products, which is inadequate to protect workers and the environment from asbestos exposure.

Even if the EPA enforces a ban on new asbestos cement products, there are still more than 600,000 miles of aging asbestos water pipes with an average lifespan of 50 years. These pipes are approaching the end of their service life and will need to be removed, putting the workers who remove them at risk of exposure to asbestos. It’s essential to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of workers and the environment while removing these pipes.

Health Risks and Industry Practices

Asbestos cement products can pose a serious threat to the health and safety of employees and citizens. Until environmental regulations are properly enforced, this threat will continue to exist. It is the responsibility of those in positions of power to take action and protect employees from the dangers of asbestos exposure. The health consequences of asbestos exposure can be severe, including serious cancers such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to asbestos in your workplace, our team of trusted asbestos professionals is available to help. We can provide you with valuable information about the risks you may have faced and connect you with leading healthcare options. Additionally, we can assist you in taking legal action against employers who knowingly exposed employees to asbestos. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help and guidance in this matter.

Last updated on March 18th, 2024 at 08:07 pm

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