1 Asbestos Handling the risk communication paradox Dr Stephen Palmer Medical Officer of Health Presentation to Eco Design Advisors Workshop August 2014
2 Public health perspective Health risk analysis With a focus on wider community Risk communication Risk management This presentation is designed specifically for Eco Design Advisors Who predominantly work with home owners or occupants Not intended for the workplace setting
3 Asbestos - the silent killer Likely to exceed 300 deaths per year Just under 1,000 deaths per year from all workplace disease Asbestos = biggest cause of work-related mortality Mean latency = 40 to 46 years Most cases today: exposures during the late 1960s & 1970s, peak period of asbestos use in this country drop-off likely to be long & slow
8 Respiratory Physiology
9 Fibres can be deposited in the deepest parts of the lung Some fibres may move through the lungs and can remain in place for many years May never be removed from your body. Amphibole asbestos fibres are retained in the lung longer than chrysotile Physical effect rather toxic effect
10 Asbestos Register & Cancer Registry Notifications to asbestos disease register Disease Number of cases Mean age at diagnosis Mean latency (years) Male/female Mesothelioma /15 Lung cancer /2 Asbestosis /16 Pleural abnormali?es /10 Mesothelioma cases by age group (1994 to 2010 only) Cancer Registry Gender Age group Total < 50 50s 60s 70s 80s 90s Female Male Total Diagnoses of mesothelioma Cancer Registry Year Number Mesothelioma is very much a disease of old age with 49% of cases occurring to people aged 70 or over
11 Notified asbestos disease by occupation Asbestos Processors 7.5% Asbestos Sprayers 4.5% Carpenters/Builders 25% Electricians 7.5% Fric?on Products 1% No Known Exposure 1% Non- Occupa?onal 1% Other 9% Plumbers, FiTers, Laggers etc 37% Watersiders 6.5% Carpenters, plumbers and electricians are together responsible for 67% of all cases
12 Three Waves of Illness and Death Third Wave Non industrial users, mainly DIY home renovators who demolished asbestos cement products or structures during renovations Second Wave Asbestos disease, caused by exposures to asbestos in the years when asbestos was most used in NZ in the 1950s to 1970s First Wave Use of asbestos in thermal plants such as railway boilers, ship engine rooms and power stations from 1920s Unknown size Much larger Relatively small Australia = litigation & compensation!
13 Christchurch Earthquake Wave Seminar December 2013 https://www.youtube.com/playlist? list=pldmnougdrvliy7amlvo_6wbx3fdwv X0BR Risk to construction and demolition workers Presence of asbestos should be recorded on LIM report Helpful news media coverage???
16 Increasing regulatory control of asbestos in the workplace.
17 Pause Questions & Discussion
18 The News Media - Asbestos Asbestos is deadly When found an emergency should be declared You are advised to panic as you have already been poisoned Big government is not taking responsibility No one can be trusted Examples: Sommes Island Christchurch rebuild Also: Patea freezing works fire Broadcasting house fire
19 But WAIT! What does the Ministry of Health say? How much asbestos is safe, if any? Risk of disease depends on how much exposure occurred and over what time period Exposure to all forms of asbestos at sufficiently high concentrations of airborne fibres over long periods increases the risk of asbestos-related diseases People who are frequently exposed to asbestos, and who smoke, are at a much greater risk of lung cancer Most people who develop asbestos-related disease have had occupational exposure to asbestos In developed countries like New Zealand, most concerns about asbestos are for people who were heavily exposed to asbestos in their workplaces, prior to the 1980s
20 Ministry of Health continued The risk from exposure to asbestos in the non-occupational setting is generally considered to be low because the concentrations of airborne asbestos fibres are low and people are not exposed very often this is different to asbestos workers who may be exposed to significant amounts of asbestos on a daily basis People who have developed asbestos-related disease but who do not appear to have been exposed at work, nearly all seem to have either been regularly exposed to asbestos brought home on the work clothing of someone else or to have undertaken maintenance or renovation on asbestos-containing materials.
21 US - Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of CDC) Toxicological Profile & Public Health Statement & ToxFAQs Asbestos minerals are widespread in the environment Low levels of asbestos can be detected in almost any air sample. 10 fibres are typically present in a cubic meter (fibers/m 3 ) of outdoor air in rural areas (= fibres/ml) Typical levels found in cities are about 10-fold higher Levels are much higher near asbestos mines or factories levels may reach 10,000 fibres/m 3 Levels could also be above average: near a building that contains asbestos products and that is being torn down or renovated near a waste site where asbestos is not properly covered In indoor air concentration of asbestos depends on whether asbestos was used for insulation, ceiling or floor tiles, or other purposes whether these asbestos-containing materials are in good condition or are deteriorated and easily crumbled concentrations measured in homes, schools, and other buildings that contain asbestos range from about 30 to 6,000 fibres/m 3
22 What happens to all the fibres we breath in? Some of the fibres will be deposited in the air passages and on the cells that make up your lungs Most fibres are removed from your lungs by being carried away or coughed up in a layer of mucus to the throat, where they are swallowed into the stomach usually takes place within a few hours. fibres that are deposited in the deepest parts of the lung are removed more slowly.
25 Asbestos Register & Cancer Registry Notifications to asbestos disease register Disease Number of cases Mean age at diagnosis Mean latency (years) Male/female Mesothelioma /15 Lung cancer /2 Asbestosis /16 Pleural abnormali?es /10 Mesothelioma cases by age group (1994 to 2010 only) Cancer Registry Gender Age group Total < 50 50s 60s 70s 80s 90s Female Male Total Diagnoses of mesothelioma Cancer Registry Year Number Most workers that are exposed to Asbestos do not ever develop an asbestos-related disease!
26 The PARADOX What side are Eco Design Advisors on? ACC Worksafe Unions News Media Public Health Left to deal with the collateral damage
27 How do people respond to risk? Hazard is the objec?ve, technical aspect of the risk; the probability and extent of damage possible Outrage is the extent that people are upset, frightened or angry
28 Outrage (and fear) Factors How NORMAL people assess most hazards Safe Natural Voluntary Controlled by self Trustworthy sources Responsive process Not memorable Familiar No moral relevance Not dreaded Chronic Knowable Fair Risky Industrial Involuntary Controlled by others Untrustworthy Unresponsive process Memorable Unfamiliar Moral relevance Dreaded Catastrophic Not knowable Unfair
29 Three Risk Communication Tasks High Outrage Management People excessively concerned about a small hazard Crisis Communication People are rightly concerned about a genuine threat Outrage Low Low Hazard Precaution Advocacy Grabbing the attention of an uninterested audience to arouse proper concern and motivate precaution- taking High
32 What is asbestos? Group of naturally occurring minerals that take the form of long thin fibres and fibre bundles Asbestos Serpen?ne Group Amphibole Chryso?le ( white ) Ac?nolite Tremolite Anthophyllite Amosite ( brown ) Crocidolite ( blue )
34 Asbestos containing products used in houses Bonded asbestos products The vast majority of asbestos-containing products used in houses were bonded asbestos cement materials, including: roofing shingles and siding (villaboard and similar) exterior and interior wall cladding eaves fencing thermal boards around fireplaces water or flue pipes asbestos cement materials will become friable when they are sufficiently damaged, badly weathered or otherwise deteriorated
35 Asbestos containing products used in houses Friable asbestos products Some friable asbestos products may also be found in houses, including: asbestos-rope door gaskets in wood stoves loose fill roofing insulation (not common) spray-on insulation or soundproofing low-density asbestos fibre board insulation on hot-water pipes, domestic heaters and stoves (e.g. lagging) backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring carpet underlay (not common) textured paints, decorative ceiling coatings heat-resistant fabrics brick and plaster sealants, fillers and some adhesive products hail or fire damaged, or badly weathered asbestos cement materials
36 Typical older style houses that are likely to contain asbestos Many older terraced houses, townhouses and units have very close neighbours who might be affected when asbestos is disturbed Asbestos cement shee?ng in eaves Asbestos cement brick cladding Asbestos cement ﬂue and cowl... and in the gable end of a garage Asbestos cement shingles Asbestos cement corrugated rooﬁng Typical old vinyl ﬂoor?les that might have asbestos in the backing material Friable asbestos lagging on pipes Broken asbestos cement materials from a demoli?on... and in a disused outbuilding If you are not sure if a product in the house contains asbestos, play it safe and assume that it does. Alternatively, you can get advice from a certified asbestos contractor or have the product tested at a laboratory.
37 Asbestos only poses a risk to health when asbestos fibres are breathed in Undisturbed asbestos cement materials in good condition do not pose a health risk because the asbestos fibres are bound together in solid cement. Crumbling bonded materials, and all friable products must be carefully managed to prevent the release of fibres into the air. Fibres are released into the air if the material is friable (damaged or crumbling) disturbed by breaking, cutting, drilling or sanding Friable asbestos products such as spray-on insulation or asbestos-rope gaskets in wood stoves and heaters also produce airborne fibres during normal use or ageing
38 Indoor vs Outside Indoor contamination = much greater risk to occupiers Outside Dilution effect Equilibrates with background levels within 1m or so!
39 Typical older style houses that are likely to contain asbestos Many older terraced houses, townhouses and units have very close neighbours who might be affected when asbestos is disturbed Asbestos cement shee?ng in eaves Asbestos cement brick cladding... and in the gable end of a garage Asbestos cement shingles Typical old vinyl ﬂoor?les that might have asbestos in the backing material Friable asbestos lagging on pipes Broken asbestos cement materials from a demoli?on... and in a disused outbuilding Only two indoor examples Mostly outside: Asbestos cement ﬂue and cowl Asbestos cement corrugated rooﬁng Pose much less risk
40 Six steps for reducing risk Know where asbestos-containing products could be in the house. If in doubt get products tested or for safety s sake assume it is asbestos Maintain asbestos-containing products in good condition use of paint or other surface finishes, enclosures and capping Replace asbestos cement materials if they are damaged or are being temporarily dismantled for any reason ensure all friable asbestos is removed Plan ahead to prevent disturbing and releasing asbestos fibres particularly when renovating or demolishing a structure Get advice from local Public Health Unit? Territorial Authority Worksafe certified contractor Engage Worksafe certified contractor when undertaking major home renovations or demolitions
41 Always keep things in perspective Asbestos is not an emergency! Most people that are exposed to Asbestos do not develop an asbestosrelated health problem! But remember the 3 rd wave!
42 People respond more to Outrage than Hazard! Peoples emotions about asbestos: Upset Frightened Angry Grief - their lifesaving investment is contaminated Convinced that they have been poisoned and will almost certainly die from asbestos exposure Guilt they have poisoned their children Their lifesaving investment now significantly dropped in value Government has failed them and cannot be TRUSTED! Anxiety can cause more harm?
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