I received an email from the Mesothelioma Center. Although based in the US, I agreed to host a guest post. Jensen Whitmer has written the post, which I hope will get more of us thinking about the risks our loved ones may face when working with asbestos.
Much like many regions around the world, the United Kingdom loved asbestos for decades. In fact, for a long time the use of asbestos was bountiful throughout the entire European Union. Now, though, it is now banned by all 27 members.
Asbestos was valued for its ability to insulate and fireproof materials. It was also cheap and easy to mix with products, making its way into a number of industries. Some of the most prevalent occupational settings for asbestos products included shipyards, manufacturing facilities, power plants, oil refineries, homes and even schools.
Asbestos bans by the European Union first began in the mid-1980s because of the mineral’s association to several health conditions, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. According to numbers gathered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the UK has more mesothelioma deaths than any other European Union member and is second to only Australia for most in the world.
The HSE, which monitors work-related health and safety, has been tracking mesothelioma deaths since 1967. Since then, the annual number of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related deaths has continued to climb. In 2009, more than 2,300 people in the UK passed away from mesothelioma cancer.
Asbestos Regulations in Europe
The UK instituted its first regulation on asbestos in 1985, banning the use and import of crocidolite and amosite asbestos. In 1992, a law was enacted to ban some uses of chrysotile asbestos, but this type of asbestos would receive a complete ban in 1999.
Additional asbestos-related regulations were implemented throughout the 1990s. Some focused on asbestos removal and set requirements to prevent the risk of exposure.
Others set standards for eliminating asbestos exposure in work environments. For example, new regulations set requirements for those at risk for exposure (such as construction workers) to be knowledgeable about proper asbestos removal procedures.
Some of the most common occupations at risk for asbestos exposure included:
- Construction workers
- Shipyard workers
- Factory Workers
- Power plant workers
How Exposure Occurs
Asbestos exposure typically occurs by inhaling airborne asbestos fibers. Asbestos fibers can become airborne in a number of ways, but one example is disturbing asbestos-containing materials during a renovation or demolition project in a home that contains asbestos. If safety precautions are skipped, serious health hazards can arise.
The side effects of asbestos exposure aren’t immediate. In most cases, symptoms of an asbestos-related disease take at least 10 years from the time of exposure to become noticeable. For mesothelioma, symptoms can take as long as 50 years to arise.
If you’ve worked in an environment where asbestos exposure may have occurred, it’s important to schedule annual visits with a doctor to check for an asbestos-related disease.
Bio: Jensen Whitmer has been writing for the Mesothelioma Center for more than three years and he has an interest in spreading awareness about the hazardous effects of asbestos exposure.