Safety of chrysotile products

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The Health and Safety Commission and the International Programme on Chemical Safety, as well as otherorganisations, note that compared to other occupations, workers in the chrysotile industry are not at greater health risk when safe-use regulations are in place.

Chrysotile Cement is primarily a cement-based product where about 10% to 15% w/w asbestos fibres are added to reinforce the cement. Chrysotile cement products have a cement-rich surface with the fibres encapsulated within.

A number of important epidemiological studies have been conducted in "chrysotile only" plants. These studies have shown that at low levels of exposure (e.g. 1 to 2f/cc) workers, smokers and non-smokers alike, were not at increased risk of lung cancer. There is also broad consensus that asbestosis will be a disease of the past if worker exposures are kept below 0.5f/cc - 1.0f/cc. Chrysotile Cement Products pose very low occupational and public risk. It is supported by many epidemiological studies.

“The overall relative risks for lung cancer are generally not elevated in the studies of workers in asbestos-cement production and in some of the cohorts of asbestos-cement production workers.” (IPSC, EHC 203, 1998)
Recently Health and Safety laboratory has made a comparison of the risks from different materials containing asbestos (please see the full report by Health and Safety Commission (HSE), “A comparison of the risks from different materials containing asbestos”, page 4, 2006). The outcomes of the study presented below.

According to HSE, only sprayed asbestos insulation poses great risk but not the high-density asbestos-cement materials. As indicated in document“crocidolite and its products as well as the spraying of asbestos have been banned under ILO Asbestos Convention, 1986”. These facts allow concluding that the current structure of chrysotile use predominantly in the chrysotile-cement industry is safe under controlling conditions.


Figure 1: Annual risk of death in the work place


Figure 2: Comparison of asbestos product group and annual risk of death per million to other work place fatalities **Note: Asbestos risk based on 10% of time actively removing ACMs from age 20 to 40 years with limited controls and no RPE

References

1. Environmental Health Criteria 203, International Programme on Chemical Safety by United Nations Environmental Programme, International Labour Organisation and World Health Organization, 1988

2. A comparison of the risks from different materials containing asbestos, Health and Safety Executive, 2006

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