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Products that may still contain asbestos and be a risk

Hasn’t asbestos been banned?

The vast majority of adults that are aware of asbestos believe that it has been banned for many years and is no longer a problem. Children are largely unaware that asbestos even exists. However, the deadly mineral is still very much a daily risk in so many buildings that were built prior to 1999.

It might surprise you to know what asbestos was only fully banned in the United Kingdom construction industry in 1999. Blue asbestos, known as crocidolite and brown asbestos, known as amosite were banned in 1985. White, or chrysotile asbestos was not included in the original ban.

White chrysotile asbestos was banned in the United Kingdom in 1999, almost fifteen years after the first asbestos bans. This 1999 ban made the manufacture and supply of all asbestos products illegal in the United Kingdom.

Just because the United Kingdom has banned asbestos, it is still a clear and present danger in many buildings that were constructed before the bans took effect and the ban clearly doesn’t extend to other parts of the world. For example, if you think asbestos is banned in the United States, a country that we generally see much like the United Kingdom as a forward thinking democracy, you would be wrong! From 1973 to 1978, the United States Environmental Protection Agency did ban everything from asbestos pipework and asbestos block insulation to the use of asbestos in artificial fireplace embers and wall patching compounds. In 1989, the agency even managed to issue a final rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act, banning most asbestos containing products. Sadly, the ban did not have a long lasting effect.

In a matter of just a few years, the rule was vacated and remanded by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, most of the original ban on the manufacture, importation, processing, and distribution in commerce for the majority of the asbestos containing products was overturned. As unbelievable as it is, asbestos is still used in dozens of products, and you may not be aware of just how common some of these products are.

It is also worth remembering that asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, so it is vital to be aware of the products that still contain asbestos. More than eighty percent of mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos. The greater the exposure the greater the risk. A 2013 report suggested that about 125 million people worldwide have been exposed to asbestos at work. High rates of disease occur in people who mine asbestos, produce products from asbestos, work with asbestos products, live with asbestos workers, or work in buildings containing asbestos. Asbestos exposure and the onset of cancer are generally separated by about 40 years. Even washing the clothing of someone who worked with asbestos also increases the risk. Other risk factors include genetics and infection with the simian virus 40.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs, known as the mesothelium. The most common area affected is the lining of the lungs and chest wall. Less commonly the lining of the abdomen and on rare occasions the membrane surrounding the heart, or the membrane surrounding the testis may be affected. Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma may include shortness of breath due to fluid around the lung, a swollen abdomen, chest wall pain, a cough, feeling tired and lethargic, and the accelerated loss of body weight. These symptoms typically present themselves quite slowly.

Products that still may have asbestos present

Car Parts can still contain asbestos. These are usually in automatic transmission components, brake blocks, clutch facings, disk brake pads, drum brake linings, friction materials, and gaskets. One could assume that changing the brake pads on an car in the United Kingdom would be safe as the use of asbestos has been banned for quite some time, however, the country of origin of the old or new brake pads may not be subject to such a ban.

Construction materials may also contain asbestos in some form. Many homes built before 1980 already had asbestos in their flooring, insulation, plaster, and paint. Surprisingly it is still legal to manufacture, import, process and distribute asbestos containing construction materials such as corrugated cement sheet, some pipework, and shingle, non roof coatings, pipe laggings, some roof coatings, roofing felt, and vinyl floor tiles. Although there are more stringent rules governing such practices in the United Kingdom, some of these materials may still slip through the net.

Fertiliser and some types of potting soil may contain vermiculite, which may contain a type of naturally occurring asbestos called tremolite-actinolite. The mineral is used in potting soil for plant growth, and it appears as bright gold or silver flakes. Vermiculite is also used by some people in the herpitology world for incubating reptile eggs, although safer alternatives do exist, be aware that asbestos traces could be present depending on the origin of the material used.

Talcum powder used to be a source of asbestos in the home too. Who would have thought that you would be dusting yourself or your baby with asbestos after a nice relaxing bath? Fortunately talcum powder isn’t made with asbestos any more. Why was asbestos is talcum powder in the first place? The simple answer is that talc deposits occur naturally together with asbestos, and mined talc can easily become contaminated with asbestos. Some very well known manufacturers have been sued over talc products that have been found to contain asbestos. Fortunately today, the screening process to detect any asbestos present is strictly adhered too, so there is no need to double wrap and dispose of that baby pwder in the bathroom.

Managing asbestos

Although asbestos has been banned in the United Kingdom for quite some time, asbestos remains big business. There are many asbestos consultancies and removal companies, not to mention testing laboratories and of course software companies that produce innovative ways to effectively manage asbestos and the attached risk involved.

Simply because asbestos is no longer used in the United Kingdom, it is still present in buildings built prior to the ban. This asbestos has to be managed effectively to ensure that residents and contract workers such as builders, electricials and plumbers are not put at risk when working in such buildings.

The complete removal of all asbestos in all buildings is simply not a viable proposition. Such a direction would cost an absolute fortune and it is therefore better to manage the existing asbestos in situ. This is achieved by regular inspections to determine the condition of any asbestos and to make recommendations on how to manage or remove any asbestos present.

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