Friday, 24 April 2015

Cancer and Construction

It has been seen through time that those working in the construction industries have a much higher risk of developing cancer from their job than other industries. Even today, with more stringent risk assessments in place, the danger is still much higher in the construction sector. However, many cases arise nowadays due to past exposure and this goes for many of the different types of cancers that face construction workers.
Silica is a huge killer of construction workers and is breathed in as a fine dust on building sites. Breathing problems and lung cancer are associated with over-exposure to silica. Diesel fumes have a long lasting effect on those who are exposed daily to these kinds of emissions, including lung cancer again.
Those construction workers who sand, paint, fill or spray are at risk of lung, bladder or stomach issues. Breathing in dust, solvent exposure or too much contact with lead can create problems to these kinds of workers.
A lot of construction work is carried out during sunny, daylight hours and often throughout the height of summer. This creates a high risk of skin cancer for those workers who do not protect themselves against the harmful UV light.
The biggest killer on the construction site however is asbestos. It’s estimated that in 2005 alone, asbestos was responsible for more than 2,500 deaths in the industry due to past exposures.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos belongs to a group of naturally occurring fibres in minerals found in the soil and rocks and can be separated into long fibres. The three most common types of asbestos are chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite. These fleecy fibres are incredibly strong and resistant to heat, acid, alkali and electrical conduction. Due to these characteristics, asbestos was (and still is in some parts of the world) widely used as fire-proof material, sound insulation and thermal insulation of piping and vessels. It was also used for the manufacture of paper, and can be found in ceiling tiles, linoleum, and mastic, paint, for automotive brakes and clutch pads, as well as structural beams.

Where can it be found?

It is found naturally in rock formations. Its properties of fibrous nature and physical-chemical composition make it resistant to high temperatures, acids, alkalis, to wear and many more qualities. It’s because of this that man has used it in a number of products for consumption: domestic, industrial, maritime, automotive, and construction.

Asbestos is present in:

·        Thermal insulation and heating such as radiators, boilers, water pipes, steam, gas and others.
·        Pipes and exhaust chambers, chimneys, etc.
·        Fireproof insulation in fire protection systems, supporting parts, coated steel, metal, concrete slabs, etc.
·        Acoustic insulation of machine rooms, movie studios, recording studios, theatres, etc.,
·        Constituent of adhesives, cement, tiles, water tanks, corrugated iron, asphalt paving, ropes, gaskets, cardboard, cloth, etc.
·        Friction elements, braking systems, clutches, etc.
·        Other varied and domestic uses.

Asbestos-related Diseases

The risks of asbestos are produced by inhaling asbestos fibres, as they often reach the lower airways. The length and configuration of the fibres (small size and long, thin shape) influences their ability to penetrate the airways, as they can remain suspended in the air for a long time and therefore are able to be breathed.
Once inside the lungs, the body's defence mechanisms try to break them and expel them, with many asbestos fibres staying in the body and remaining there for a long time.
The main health effects from exposure to asbestos are: asbestosis (pulmonary fibrosis), lung cancer and mesothelioma (pleural or peritoneal), and associations with other malignancies (gastrointestinal or laryngeal carcinomas) having also been found. It’s suspected, but not confirmed, that asbestos can cause other cancers (kidney, ovarian, breast).


Asbestosis, lung fibrosis or secondary exposure to asbestos is a variable disease evolution which may cause the following symptoms:
·        Progressive respiratory distress
·        Cough
·        Fatigue, weakness
·        Chest tightness
·        Chest Pain
Asbestosis is a serious disease that can eventually lead to disability and death.
Breathing lower levels of asbestos may cause alterations in the pleura, called pleural plaques. The effects of pleural plaques on respiration are usually not serious, but exposure to high levels can cause a thickening of the pleura that can restrict breathing.

Malignant Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is cancer of the lining of the internal organs of the abdominal and chest cavity. Unlike asbestosis, which occurs after prolonged periods of exposure, mesothelioma cases can occur after just one month of exposure. Some cases of mesothelioma have occurred following a single exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma has a latency period of 20-40 years and when symptoms occur, cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. Although there are treatments that alleviate symptoms, there is currently no cure possible, making it the most deadly form of asbestos related disease.
The vast majority of mesotheliomas are caused by exposure to asbestos (in 80-85% of cases, it is stated as occupational exposure). Smoking and the presence of metals and organic substances seem to have no influence on the risk of contracting the disease.

Lung cancer

The attribution of cancer to asbestos is based on the previous history of exposure to the product. Lung cancer from asbestos exposure may belong to any histological type, and its natural history is no different from cancer produced by other causes. There appears to be a relationship between the risk of lung cancer and asbestos exposure level; very low exposures seem to increase risk. The risk of lung cancer increases significantly if exposure to asbestos is combined with smoking.

If you have any suspicions that there may be some asbestos in your workplace or home, then should contact a licensed contractor, who will commit to further tests and inspections. As an employer, it is advised that you don’t carry out non-licensed work on asbestos, unless you’ve got all the appropriate information, instruction and training.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Removing Asbestos

Why it is essential to use asbestos specialists

In many old buildings, there is still asbestos present. It is a fibrous material which is not flammable. It was employed mainly as a fire protective covering during the construction of buildings.
As we know today, asbestos can cause cancer and lead to scarring of the lung tissue. If there are is certain concentration of asbestos fibres measured indoors, the building must be made completely free of asbestos. This is also called asbestos removal.
It depends on the scale, but removing asbestos can be a tricky process. Often, steel structures were wrapped with asbestos fibres to ensure fire safety and these fibres must be removed by hand. It is often also worked with a suction system, so that the restoration can be done more effectively.
So that no one health threat is exposed, the building needs to be unoccupied for a period after removal. When the toxic substances are present in the atmosphere, removal workers must be equipped with a special protective suit. Only after measurements are carried out and the building is thoroughly cleaned, can it be re-entered normally.
The asbestos removal can be quite an undertaking and as such, the building at which the works are being carried out will need to be conditioned appropriately. Only a specialised company would have the experience and knowledge to do this effectively. This includes a dust-proof sealing of the building so that the tiny glass fibres are not released into the environment. The interior of the building in which such rehabilitation is carried out, must also be kept under negative pressure. The rooms may only be entered or exited through a lock system.
In an asbestos removal, the proper disposal of affected materials plays a major role. Because asbestos contains certain toxins, most landfills will not accept this kind of waste. Different waste treatment methods have been developed however. However, since there are – as yet – no ideal forms of disposal, bringing the asbestos waste to a local recycling centre can be the only option. It is then wrapped in large packages and covered with mineral material to prevent the release of toxic fibres.
As an individual cannot perform asbestos removal due to the complexity and risks attached, it must be commissioned through a company that has been approved by the competent authorities. To attempt otherwise, could mean becoming contaminated inadvertently.
For further information about asbestos removal, call us on 0845 459 4842 or visit our contact us page to fill out a short enquiry form.

What an Asbestos Management Plan should specify

The greatest risk when removing asbestos occurs by inhaling its fibres. This is more likely to occur to those who repair or remove asbestos-containing materials as any remaining suspended particles may be released into the atmosphere. This is more likely when considering brittle or eroded materials or those which are subject to cuts or abrasions when being removed.

Therefore, when one removes or repairs materials containing asbestos, or works in potentially contaminated sites with asbestos naturally, it’s advisable to follow the following recommendations:

Precautions when removing asbestos

It is recommended that asbestos removal is performed by specialist companies that have qualified personnel and are equipped both to diagnose its presence, and to proceed to withdrawals and the major overhaul of material.
It is very important that you do not handle or remove loose materials containing asbestos yourself. Always contact experts in asbestos removal, as they have the relevant experience in carrying out jobs like this in the correct manner.
Before the beginning of each job, the company must prepare an asbestos management plan.
The plan should specify:
• Description of work to be done specifying the type of activity that applies: demolition, removal, maintenance or repair work etc.
• The types of material involved, whether friable (lagging, insulating panels, etc.) or non-friable (cement, vinyl asbestos, etc.), indicating the quantities of asbestos or materials handled.
• Location where they will be doing work.
• The starting date and the expected duration of work.
• Nominal list of employees directly involved in work or contact with material containing asbestos and occupational categories such as trades, training and experience of such workers in the specified jobs.
• Procedures to be followed and the particularities required for the adequacy of those procedures to perform specific work.
• The preventative measures referred to limit the dispersion of asbestos fibres into the environment and the measures taken to limit the exposure of workers to asbestos.
• The equipment used for the protection of workers, specifying the nature and number of decontamination units and the type and usage of personal protective equipment.
• Measures taken to avoid exposing others in the vicinity where the work is performed.
• Measures to inform workers about the risks they are exposed to and the precautions to be taken.
• Measures to put waste, in accordance with current legislation indicating a landfill manager and company.
• Procedure for the evaluation and control of the working environment in accordance with the standard regulations.

Asbestos Information and Resources

If asbestos is affecting your home or business or if you just want to know more about the subject, then listed below are a range of valuable websites packed with useful advice.  One of the best places to begin your search, the HSE contains all kinds of information, extra resources, FAQs and advice for all. This includes tradespeople, building owners, licensed contractors or members of the public. With facts on asbestos, the dangers and up to date news stories too, you should definitely take a look here.  The Asbestos Information Centre is another massive resource with countless articles and information. Featuring the latest in regulations, technical information, lists of asbestos removal companies, and lots of asbestos management tips, the AIC website is the perfect place to visit.  This handy website is especially good if you need to know how aspects of the law affect sites with asbestos. There is also well mapped out sections on the science behind asbestos, advice and image galleries too.  This is a site dedicated to tenants, this page on asbestos could well prove helpful to you if you discover asbestos in rented accommodation.  From a DIY website, this page may be short, but it packs some very useful information. This includes a video clip highlighting how to safely remove asbestos after inspection and a link to a Local Authority Database, so you can find out more information in your area.
Following on from this, it is advisable that you always contact your Local Council website for more information about how to deal with asbestos where you live. For a succinct breakdown of what asbestos is, then read this small website. It has 5 clear pages, all concisely written and includes where asbestos can be found, what the risks are and information for those that work close to asbestos.  Focusing mainly on the health side of asbestos, the dangers, consequences and tips for those affected, this is a large resource that is full of important advice.  Useful for businesses that have a responsibility for the management of asbestos in the work environment, ARCA introduces a training course for all those interested in asbestos awareness.  Related to the above is the iatp website, which specialises in finding your company the best asbestos training course available. With a huge database and other information on asbestos, this fulfils a lot of criteria if you want your staff trained in asbestos awareness.