A new report in the Journal of Environmental Management warns that asbestos-bans should be supported by coordinated asbestos hazardous waste management strategies. Asbestos is classified as a Class I Carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Sixty countries have bans on asbestos. The US, China, India, and Russia are not among them.
Nonetheless, asbestos is still part of the daily life of the population as asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are still present in many buildings constructed and renovated before the 1990s. Asbestos has been used by many automobile, construction, manufacturing, power, and chemical industries for many years. Asbestos was a popular insulator because it resists heat and flame. The identification and coordinated management of asbestos hazardous waste is still a considerable challenge.
Asbestos is still responsible for severe human diseases. This is particularly true in areas where there is a lack of coordinated asbestos management plans. Or where there is a reduced awareness about asbestos health risks or a delay in the implementation of asbestos-ban. These issues are more prevalent in developing countries.
Occupational Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is one of the world’s deadliest cancers. It is caused by breathing in or swallowing asbestos dust. This usually happens at work.
The dust may look harmless enough. But microscopic asbestos fibers are like shards of cancer-causing glass. They become embedded in the tissue and wreak havoc over time. It can take decades for mesothelioma to develop after occupational asbestos exposure. But once it does, patients usually have less than a year to live.
Some jobs are known to pose a mesothelioma risk. Asbestos miners and manufacturing workers, Naval veterans, shipbuilders, firefighters, electricians, pipefitters, boiler makers, and other construction trades are jobs with a history of occupational asbestos exposure.
But teachers, actors, and textile workers have also developed mesothelioma after encountering asbestos on the job. This includes handling asbestos hazardous waste. Most had no idea they were even near the deadly toxin.
Many countries still use asbestos, including the United States. And few have a coordinated asbestos hazardous waste strategy.
The international team led by Dr. Liseane Thives identified three significant global challenges regarding asbestos. “First, asbestos is still present in the existing buildings constructed or renovated before asbestos-bans. Second, the development of methods to recover soil contaminated by asbestos-containing products. Last, the asbestos disposal and its impact on the environment.”
Asbestos mining is still ongoing in some developing countries. The team warns that asbestos-bans should be supported by coordinated asbestos hazardous waste management strategies. This support is critical to preventing public health risks.
Asbestos is still a global problem in the world, particularly where asbestos-bans as coordinated management plans have not been implemented.
Thives, Liseane P., Enedir Ghisi, Juarez J. Thives Júnior, and Abel Silva Vieira. “Is asbestos still a problem in the world? A current review.” Journal of Environmental Management 319 (2022): 115716. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.115716