Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: Asbestos: A Miracle and a Menace
Asbestos has been around since ancient times, and it was the Greeks who first wrote about the miraculous material that was all but inextinguishable. At the same time, they recorded how slaves developed “sickness of the lungs.” Since those times, asbestos has been used in many products, most effectively as an insulator and fire retardant material.
Occupational exposure to asbestos is most likely to occur in the construction industry, especially as it is removed during renovation or demolition. In manufacturing, workers may be exposed when working with types of textiles, friction products, insulation, and other building materials. Asbestos is a mineral and a fiber, and unlike other fibers such as fiberglass, asbestos does not disintegrate over time. The body’s macrophage defense mechanism tries to dissolve the fibers, but is unsuccessful. Over time, continued exposure can cause scarring of the lungs, abestosis, and lung cancer.
“Asbestos is especially deadly because it’s nearly indestructible, and it can travel deep into the lungs and remain there.” explains Gary R. Ticker, CIH, CSP, of OccuSafe, Inc, “As a result, both OSHA and the EPA tightly regulate asbestos.”
Occupational use of asbestos is addressed in OSHA standards for general industry, construction, and shipyard employment.
- Identification. In order to protect workers, sources of asbestos should be identified, and there are many providers that can help in that determination. Without proper identification, workers can inadvertently disturb asbestos material and release it into the environment.
- Testing. Testing should be conducted to determine if asbestos is being released into the air and whether it is friable (can be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by the pressure of an ordinary human hand).
- Controls. Proper warnings, procedures, engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and training may be needed to prevent asbestos exposure.
Despite regulations that limit its manufacture, asbestos is still present in our workplaces and environment. Exposure may take years to manifest itself in the form of negative health effects. However, through proper identification, evaluation, and controls, workers can be protected.
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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