It’s Global Asbestos Awareness Week incorporating the 15th International Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference running in Washington DC from April 5-7.
We’ve commented extensively in the past on the issues surrounding asbestos in our society and this dreadful material has even become the cause of legal action alleging that Johnson & Johnson “knew for decades that its iconic baby powder could be contaminated with asbestos fibers but failed to warn the public or inform regulators”.
Accepting that we can’t undo the past and can’t simply eradicate the presence of asbestos in pre-2000 buildings we went looking for some positives for this post.
We started with a Google search for “good news stories asbestos” with good news in quotes and results limited to the past year but that was a tough search for Google to comply with and we found stories of asbestos in crayons and baby powder as mentioned above.
So we’ve created our own “good news” around the topic.
The simple fact that we have people dedicated to raising awareness as exemplified by all at Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation is a huge positive.
As a country we’re aware of the dangers of asbestos and have taken steps to both eradicate use of the material in new buildings (post 1999) and manage the asbestos in place in buildings built prior to this time.
Our awareness of the health risks is also dramatically improved compared to 40 or 50 years ago.
We have the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. It’s focus is on regulating work in buildings that will disturb, or potentially disturb, asbestos in that building, thereby, eliminating workers’ risk from asbestos exposure.
While the focus of CAR 2012 is on the management of asbestos, subsequent all-party parliamentary group reports focus more on eradication with recommendations to remove asbestos from all public buildings by 2028. Published in 2015, this report reinforces CAR 2012 and the importance of both management and eradication of asbestos.
Further, breaches of CAR 2012 are being investigated and prosecuted.
CAR 2012 does provide clear guidance on the duties, responsibilities and processes for dealing with asbestos in buildings. The schematic of the process is shown below and a copy can be downloaded using this link. Note that it’s a one click download and the PDF will be placed wherever you have your downloads set to.
This is the process that is built into e-permits. To see how that process works, we held a webinar set on April 11th, 2019. You can access that webinar here.
Of course there really is no ‘good news’ about asbestos. Until it is a distant memory, removed from every building, and the related 5,500 annual deaths (UK only) have trended to zero, it will blight society. Given the very long latency period between exposure to asbestos and the development of related disease (25-50 years) and the time it will take to remove asbestos totally from our buildings, we’re realistically 50-100 years from that time. That’s sobering.
The very least we can all do is not to cut corners and to follow CAR 2012 on any and every project where we’re going to disturb the fabric of a building built prior to 2000. When simply pushing a drawing pin into a wall can disturb 4,000 asbestos fibres (and any one of them can kill), that should be on every project we undertake.