Is asbestos harmful to health?
Until the seventies of the last century, asbestos was widely used in various industries, primarily in construction. Then attention was drawn to its danger to health. As a result of numerous studies, it was included in the list of carcinogens of the first category according to the IARC classification. At the end of the twentieth century, the use of asbestos in European countries sharply declined, and since 2005, the use of this material has been banned in most Western countries. In Russia, it is still one of the most sought after materials.
What's the matter? Is asbestos harmful to health and how dangerous is contact with it in living conditions?
Asbestos - what is it?
This concept hides a whole group of materials. Therefore, in order to find out how harmful this substance is to health, one must first understand: what is it - asbestos? This is a group of materials from the class of silicates of natural origin. In Russia, large deposits of chrysotile asbestos are located in the Urals.
The mineral has a special fine-fibrous structure, the microscopic tubes of which form flexible tufts. Because of this, it has excellent technological properties. The strength of the material is comparable with the best steel grades, has low electrical conductivity and high heat resistance. Chrysotile asbestos is chemically inert: insoluble in water, not destroyed by oxygen, solar radiation , ozone. The material is characterized by high fire resistance. When chrysotile is processed, the fiber fluffs out and acquires a high ability to absorb other chemicals.
The essence of the question of the dangers of asbestos is that there are two types of material. They differ in fiber structure and chemical composition. Amphibole asbestos is more dangerous for health, therefore, at present, its extraction and use is prohibited in all countries. Previously, this material was mined mainly in Europe, the USA and Australia, so the main foreign studies on its harm are related to amphiboles, that is, to doubtful, unclear.
Therefore, further, the issue and the impact on the body of chrysotile asbestos, which is less harmful to health, will be considered, but still belongs to recognized carcinogens, but with a special mechanism of action.
Where is asbestos used
Asbestos is widely used in industry due to its unique properties and low cost. It is used in the production of:
- roofing products (slate, etc.);
- front plates;
- wall products (foam concrete, chrysotile cement sheets);
- thermal insulation materials;
- asbestos products (filters, friction parts, brake bands);
- rubber products;
- protective layers in the tunnels;
- various construction, lubricants, adhesives, asphalt and other mixtures.
The health risks of asbestos depend on the degree of airway contact with asbestos dust.
The effect of asbestos on the human body
Chronic asbestos poisoning develops for a long time and is caused not so much by the mineral itself, as by the structural disorders that it causes, accumulating in the lungs.
Inhalation of asbestos dust, which is formed during the production of this material or the mechanical destruction of products from it, part of the fibers enters the lungs. Due to the fact that chrysotile asbestos dissolves even in a weakly acidic environment, its accumulation in the lungs requires a significant dose of dust and a long time of exposure to it on the body. And even in this case, the harm of asbestos to a person can manifest itself in ten or more years.
The development of bronchitis is most likely caused by mechanical irritation of the respiratory tissue tissues with microfibres. It is also possible that the development of asbestosis - in this disease, dust that has settled in the lungs causes cicatricial changes in the lung tissue.
What is harmful to health asbestos in terms of cancer? It has been established that it is not in itself a carcinogen, but belongs to a group of promoters - substances that contribute to the effect of carcinogens on cells. It is associated with a rare cancer - mesothelioma.
According to studies by Russian scientists, the risk of cancer in industries, due to chrysotile asbestos, is 1 per 100 thousand. This figure is several orders of magnitude lower than for a group of smokers (8800 cases per 100 thousand). After the development of new standards and sanitary rules, subject to compliance with the MPC (maximum permissible norms), no cases of asbestosis have been recorded at asbestos-producing enterprises in Russia for 20 years!
To date, the use of amphibole asbestos in all forms is prohibited.
The technology of asbestos spraying on metal structures was removed from use.
Chrysotile asbestos is recognized as a safe material subject to its controlled use. The list includes:
- the use of high-density products that do not crumble when dry;
- control of the level of asbestos fibers in the working area at the production site (MPC 1 vol / ml);
- dust and waste should be stored in an airtight container and disposed of under special conditions;
- workers at risk are systematically examined.
In the domestic environment, it is imperative to follow the recommendations on sanitary standards:
- asbestos-containing building materials must have a corresponding certificate;
- wall panels and partitions of this material are covered with two or threefold coating;
- in premises where wet cleaning and disinfection are carried out, asbestos products must withstand an appropriate mode of exposure to disinfectants;
- Asbestos may not be used in ventilation ducts.
Despite the fact that, according to the hazard class, asbestos is referred to as carcinogenic materials, its main harm to the body is the development of asbestosis during prolonged inhalation of dust in large quantities. This disease manifests itself in organic changes of the lung tissue (formation of scars and nodules). When complying with safety and health regulations, this building material does not pose a threat to health!