Occupational Knowledge International shared a study conducted on the dangers and exposure types occurring to construction workers when working with asbestos. The company is promoting a call to action to ban asbestos concrete products.
According to the company:
A recent research study has raised significant concerns about the dangers of asbestos exposure for workers in the construction industry. The study, published in the Annals of Work Exposures and Health, reveals that the installation and removal of asbestos cement products pose grave risks, with exposure levels far exceeding the occupational limits set in the United States.
The research, conducted by Occupational Knowledge International (OK International), focuses on the levels of airborne asbestos arising from ongoing, permitted uses of asbestos in many countries. Key findings of the study include:
- Extreme Exposure Levels: When asbestos cement pipes are cut, the average exposure to asbestos is over 50 times higher than the short-term limit established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the U.S. Similarly, when cutting asbestos boards and corrugated roofing materials, the average asbestos exposure levels are around 24 times higher than the permissible limit.
- Widespread Usage: Asbestos cement products, including pipes, siding, and roofing, account for more than 90% of global asbestos use. This study challenges the asbestos industry's claims that these materials can be used "safely and responsibly."
Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of OK International and the author of the study, stated, "We found that exposures from asbestos cement products could be alarmingly high and certainly disproves the asbestos industry’s contention that these materials can be used in a ‘safe and responsible’ manner. The study demonstrates that there is an immediate need to ban all asbestos cement products that are sold in many countries as these are still being installed in millions of homes and commercial buildings."
Despite more than 60 countries having banned asbestos, the United States lags behind. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now considering a total ban on asbestos cement and other existing uses. Currently, the EPA only requires companies to notify the agency before manufacturing or importing asbestos cement products.
In the United States, approximately 600,000 miles of aging asbestos water pipes with a typical lifespan of 50 years pose a significant concern. Water utilities often replace these asbestos water main sections as part of ongoing system improvements, increasing the risk of exposure to workers as the pipes are removed.
“This groundbreaking study calls for urgent action to protect workers in the construction industry from the dangers of asbestos exposure and highlights the need for stricter regulations and a complete ban on asbestos cement products,” said attorney Justinian Lane, a subject-matter expert in asbestos and asbestos exposure. “The health and well-being of workers must be a top priority in the construction sector. The risks of mesothelioma and other cancers resulting from asbestos exposure are too great and it’s vital that workers know about the importance of having annual chest x-rays to help manage the risk of contracting asbestos-related cancers down the road.”