Asbestos on ships. How to manage it safely

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1 Asbestos on ships How to manage it safely

2 Lloyd s Register Group Limited, its affiliates and subsidiaries and their respective officers, employees or agents are, individually and collectively, referred to in this clause as Lloyd s Register. Lloyd s Register assumes no responsibility and shall not be liable to any person for any loss, damage or expense caused by reliance on the information or advice in this document or howsoever provided, unless that person has signed a contract with the relevant Lloyd s Register entity for the provision of this information or advice and in that case any responsibility or liability is exclusively on the terms and conditions set out in that contract.

3 Contents Foreword 3 Part 1 A history of asbestos 4 1 What is asbestos 4 2 The rise of asbestos 7 3 Health and regulation 10 4 Testing for asbestos 14 Part 2 Asbestos on board ships 17 1 The increased risk in shipping 17 2 Where is asbestos found on ships 18 3 Regulation 21 4 How the marine industry s stakeholders can protect their workers 27 5 Tools for achieving best practice in management 30 Appendix Common asbestos areas on board ships 36 1

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5 Foreword This publication should help shipowners and operators understand how to deal with asbestos on board their ships and fleets and ultimately achieve compliance with maritime asbestos regulations from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). But it also takes a wider look at the material, exploring its history, composition and health effects in order to underline the vital importance of managing it correctly. The worldwide death toll due to asbestos-related diseases is sobering. Globally, it is estimated that more than 107,000 people die each year from mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis (the three major asbestos-related diseases) as a result of occupational exposure 1. And due to the material s delayed health effects we have yet to reach the predicted peak in fatalities in many places. Far from being a problem of the past, asbestos is still produced in many countries (including China and Russia) and is still widely used, particularly in developing countries. And it is of course present in many existing buildings and structures, including ships. Yet management of asbestos around the world is improving. Most industries and countries are increasingly aware of the risks and huge advances have been made in the amount of asbestos used and particularly the type: nearly all of the asbestos produced worldwide is now chrysotile, or white asbestos 2 which is considered the least dangerous form. What is vital is that we continue to guard against the risks that asbestos presents. Within the maritime industry, this publication should help further this aim. Lloyd s Register is particularly indebted to the Imperial War Museum and HMS Belfast for many of the photographs this publication contains. These have been invaluable in helping us illustrate where asbestos can be found on board ships and how it should be managed. Robin Townsend Regulatory Affairs Lead Specialist, Lloyd s Register 1 World Health Organization (2010). Elimination of asbestos-related diseases (Fact sheet N 343). Available at: 2 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) (2013). Asbestos Statistics and Information. Available at (Accessed: March 11, 2013) 3

6 Part 1 A history of asbestos 1. What is asbestos? Asbestos is a generic name given to the fibrous variety of six naturally occurring silicate minerals 3. Silicate minerals make up a large proportion of the rocks on the planet. All asbestos rocks occur in, or separate very easily into, very small fibres or fibrils with a diameter of only a few nanometres. The two groups Asbestos is generally categorised in two groups: amphibole and serpentine. There are five amphibole asbestoses and one serpentine. Amphibole asbestos is considered more dangerous than serpentine. The big three: blue, brown and white The most commonly recognised types of asbestos are blue, brown and white, and these are properly called crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile asbestos. Crocidolite and amosite are amphiboles and chrysotile is the only serpentine. Their common names relate to their natural colour and have nothing to do with how they appear in products: it is in fact impossible to tell the type of asbestos from the colour of a product. Type Name CAS Number Relative use in A: shipbuilding B: other industries C: total use today Relative danger A: mesothelioma B: lung cancer Actinolite A: Low B: Low C: 0 Asbestos family Amphibole (five types) Short, sharp fibres Amosite (grunerite) (brown) Anthophyllite A: Medium B: Low C: 0 A: Low B: Low C: 0 A: 100 B: Crocidolite (blue) A: Medium B: Low C: 0 A: 500 B: Tremolite A: Low B: Low C: 0 Amphibole (serpentine one type) Long, curly fibres Chrysotile A: high B: high C: 100 A: 1 B: 1 Table 1: Types of asbestos and their relative uses and dangers 3 R.L. Virta (2006). Worldwide asbestos supply and consumption trends from 1900 through 2003: USGS Circular Available at 4

7 Chrysotile asbestos from Brazil (image taken from Wikimedia Commons). Crocidolite asbestos (blue) Crocidolite asbestos is considered the most dangerous form (see Table 1 for the relative risks it presents). Some medical reports describe it as 100 times more dangerous than chrysotile asbestos. It has smaller, more jagged particles than either amosite or chrysotile asbestos, and has a higher iron content 4. It is also highly resistant to acid a feature that might have favoured its use in some applications. It is thought that the characteristics of crocidolite asbestos allow it to easily penetrate the outer coating of the lungs (the pleura) where it can cause some of the worst asbestos-related diseases. We also know from studies that crocidolite asbestos is far more persistent in the body than other forms. Amosite asbestos (brown) Amosite 5 asbestos is considered to be a little less dangerous than crocidolite, but still considerably more dangerous than chrysotile. Amosite asbestos, like other amphibole forms of asbestos, consists of straight fibrils with a small diameter which migrate more readily to the periphery of the lungs and penetrate the pleura where they can cause the disease mesothelioma (see page 12). Chrysotile asbestos (white) Chrysotile asbestos is considered significantly less dangerous than crocidolite or amosite asbestos. Its fibrils consist of double layers which roll up into hollow tubes with a diameter of around 25 nanometres. When these long curly fibres are breathed in they often stop in the upper respiratory tract and are therefore more readily cleared from the lungs. Despite chrysotile asbestos s reputation as a less dangerous form, it is often contaminated with other more hazardous forms (see A closer look at chrysotile asbestos contamination on page 6). 4 L. Prandi, M. Tomatis, N. Penazzi and B. Fubini (2002). Iron Cycling Mechanisms and Related modifications at the Asbestos Surface. The Annals Of Occupational Hygiene, Volume 46, Supplement 1. Available at 5 Its proper name is actually grunerite, but it is more commonly known as amosite after the company that ran the site in South Africa where it was mined. 5

8 Other asbestos types A closer look at chrysotile asbestos contamination Chrysotile asbestos may be considered less deadly than crocidolite or amosite but a study published in 2009 on 5,770 workers at chrysotile asbestos plants in North Carolina still showed a significantly increased risk of asbestos-related diseases 6. A similar study in China also demonstrated strong evidence for increased mortality risks. 7 One of the reasons cited for this risk is that chrysotile asbestos is often contaminated with the more harmful amphibole types of asbestos. A number of studies have found the lungs of victims who were expected to have been exposed to chrysotile asbestos to contain a large proportion of amphiboles such as tremolite. In China, ten samples from six mines were tested and all were found to be contaminated with tremolite although at very low quantities. 8 Another study which tested the lung tissues of seven dead workers who had worked in a pure chrysotile asbestos mine showed the fibres in the lungs were 71% anthophyllite, 9% tremolite and just 10% chrysotile asbestos. And yet another study of chrysotile asbestos workers showed 34 of 35 fibres were amphiboles. These latter two studies showed that chrysotile asbestos had naturally left the workers bodies but that the amphibole contaminants had persisted. These findings are reinforced by another study which found that chrysotile asbestos fibres tend to clear from the lungs, with a half life of less than 10 years, whereas amphiboles do not seem to clear. 9 Chrysotile asbestos accounted for over 95% of all asbestos produced and consumed between 1900 and Actinolite Actinolite shares the basic characteristics of crocidolite and amosite asbestos. It has been used, and therefore researched, far less than crocidolite, amosite or chrysotile. A significant characteristic of actinolite is that it is a common contaminant of talc (see page 26) and chrysotile asbestos. Tremolite Tremolite has similar characteristics to actinolite and its use has been equally rare. It is also a common contaminant of chrysotile asbestos. Significantly, the amount of tremolite found in the lungs of people who have died from exposure to it far outweighs the amount they were apparently exposed to. Anthophyllite Anthophyllite shares the characteristics of tremolite and actinolite. It is common to see it mentioned in paint contents as non asbestos anthophyllite. This refers to one of the major characteristics of asbestos, which causes understandable confusion the existence of non-hazardous types in which the fibres do not have the same crystalline characteristics as those in the true asbestos forms. Other substances This section leaves us with two questions which are beyond the scope of this publication. Firstly, are there other asbestos-like minerals that are not presently considered dangerous which might be added to the list in the future? The brief answer is yes, one example being a mineral called soda tremolite or winchite asbestos. The other question is whether the materials being used to replace asbestos may prove to be hazardous in the future. 6 D. Loomis et al (2009). Lung cancer mortality and fibre exposures among North Carolina asbestos textile workers. Occupational & Environmental Medicine, Volume 66, Issue 8. Available at 7 Xiaorong Wang et al (2011). A 37-year observation of mortality in Chinese white asbestos workers. Thorax, Volume 67, Issue 2. Available at 8 Antti Tossavainen et al (2001). Amphibole fibres in chinese chrysotile asbestos. The Annals Of Occupational Hygiene, Volume 45, Issue 2. Available at 9 Murray M. Finkelstein and Andre Dufresne (1999). Inferences on the kinetics of asbestos deposition and clearance among chrysotile miners and millers. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 35, Issue 4. Available at 10 R.L. Virta (2006). Worldwide asbestos supply and consumption trends from 1900 through 2003: USGS Circular Available at 6

9 2. The rise of asbestos Asbestos has been used for thousands of years thanks to its extraordinary properties. Today, it is easy to forget how asbestos revolutionised our modern lives. It protects against fire and heat, adds strength to materials and insulates against electricity. It is pliable, forgiving, cheap and easy to use. No modern substance can provide all these engineering benefits and it is still without equal. A brief history of asbestos production Pre-history Evidence of asbestos mining has been found in Cyprus from as long ago as 3,000 B.C. Analysis of archaeological finds in Finland from a slightly later date shows that asbestos fibres were used to reinforce earthenware pots, and there is evidence that this practice spread within Scandinavia and Russia. Tremolite and chrysotile asbestos were mined by the Romans in the Italian Alps. Early reported uses In AD 800, Emperor Charlemagne was reported as having a tablecloth that never needed cleaning. When it became dirty, he simply threw it into the fire, and it came out clean and unburnt. The Greeks and Romans may have done the same thing, as reported by the famous historian Strabo in his Geography and Pliny the Elder in his Natural History. Indeed, it seems to have been a global habit since Marco Polo reported a cloth that thrown into the fire, remains incombustible. First large commercial mines Asbestos is known to have been commercially mined in Russia in Enormous deposits of chrysotile asbestos were found in 1844 near Asbest city. Even today the entire area looks like a vast open cast mine. The industrial revolution and the steam age Modern asbestos mining in industrialised nations began expending rapidly from the late 1800s, probably due to steam technology. Vast chrysotile asbestos reserves were discovered in 1877 at Danville in Quebec, Canada, and have been mined until very recently (see case study overleaf). A Roman glass crematorium urn, containing bones and traces of asbestos burial shrouds (Image courtesy of the British Museum.) A purse, made out of tremolite asbestos, brought to London by Benjamin Franklin, in He sold it to one of the founding fathers of the British Museum. It is presently in the Natural History Museum (Image courtesy of the Natural History Museum.) 7

10 Crocidolite asbestos was discovered in the Northern Cape province of South Africa in 1812 but was not commercially produced until The properties of crocidolite made it particularly well suited for spraying, and sprayed crocidolite asbestos products were first marketed in the UK in 1931 by J.W. Roberts Ltd (JWR) at its factory in Armley. Amosite asbestos deposits in Penge in the Transvaal province went into proper production in Mass production and usage By 1920, the world was using nearly 200,000 tonnes of asbestos, of which 150,000 tonnes were consumed by the US, 40,000 by Europe, 7,000 tonnes by Asia and the Middle East, and 2,000 tonnes by Africa 11. By 1930 this had almost doubled to 388,000 tonnes. By 1940 the figure was 522,000 tonnes. The second world war and subsequent re-construction led to a boom in the use of asbestos. The US alone used over half a million tonnes of asbestos every year from 1947 to Interestingly, it only started using the most dangerous types (crocidolite and Amosite) in By 1960, global asbestos consumption was well over 2 million tonnes. In 1970, consumption was at 3.5 million tonnes and still rising. In 1975, it was 4.3 million tonnes and in 1980 consumption was at 4.7 million tonnes. The decline The decline in asbestos use only began in 1985 when production fell to 4.3 million tonnes. The decline was slow. In 1990 production was still 4 million tonnes, despite major bans already being in force around the world. Finally, in 1995 significant reduction started to take place. Consumption had almost halved from the peak to 2.5 million tonnes, although even by the year 2000 consumption was still comparable with 1960 at 2 million tonnes. Today, world production remains relatively steady at 2.03 million tonnes 12. Canada: asbestos mining stops for first time in 130 years 13 Canada s Lac d Amiante (literally, asbestos lake ) mine in Quebec shut down in early November, This followed a shutdown at the only other operational asbestos mine in Canada, Jeffrey Mine about 90 kilometres away. Both shutdowns appeared to be for operational or financial reasons and both mines are pursuing plans to re-open. The Vancouver Sun, in its edition of 24 November, 2011 reported: Earlier this year, the Canadian Government had blocked the listing of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. This would have meant that exports and imports would have to have been declared and thus countries could refuse to accept chrysotile asbestos. The report of the meeting published on the Rotterdam Convention website 14 does not record an intervention from Canada, although Canada is conspicuous by its absence from the list of signatories to a declaration against chrysotile asbestos made at the conference in June In September 2012, Canadian newspapers were reporting anti-asbestos sentiment in Canada but also that the asbestos mines were hoping to re-open in spring Country e Brazil Canada China Kazakhstan Russia Others Total 270, , , ,000 50, , , , , , ,000 1,000,000 1,000,000 1,000,000 21,000 19,000 20,000 2,010,000 2,030,000 2,000,000 Table 2: Recent global production of asbestos 15 e = estimated 11 R.L.. Virta (2006). Worldwide asbestos supply and consumption trends from 1900 through 2003: USGS Circular Available at 12 R.L.. Virta (2011). USGS 2011 Minerals Yearbook Asbestos. Available at 13 CBC (2011). Asbestos mining stops for first time in 130 years. Available at (Accessed 13 March, 2012) 14 Report of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade on the Work of its Fifth Meeting (2011). Available at 15 Source: USGS Asbestos Mineral Commodity Summaries 2012 and Available at and 8

11 Asbestos The on Black ships Lake how asbestos manage it safely mines in Quebec, Canada 9

12 3. Health and regulation A health problem for the Greeks and Romans? There is conjecture over whether the Greeks and Romans recognised the health problems associated with asbestos. Some people assert that Pliny the Elder, the Roman author and naturalist, described protection against asbestos, but others claim he was referring to different problems. His Natural History makes no direct mention of asbestos. The first recognised cases of asbestos-related disease The first report of asbestos-related disease in England was in 1906 when Dr. Montague Murray reported an asbestosis fatality to the Parliamentary Departmental Committee on Compensation for Industrial Diseases. It wasn t until the mid 1920s that more reports started to appear and asbestosis became recognised as a medical term. Asbestosis became the first fatal disease to be definitively linked to asbestos exposure (see The case of Nellie Kershaw ). The case of Nellie Kershaw 16 Nellie worked with asbestos for nearly 20 years. She died aged 33 in She suffered from a series of health problems that culminated in her being rendered permanently unfit for work in The primary cause of her death was established as pulmonary fibrosis of the lungs due to inhalation of mineral particles. Her GP, Walter Joss had characterised her illness as asbestos poisoning. Nellie was unable to get health insurance during her life because the condition was not recognised. However, Nellie s case led to an inquest which ensured that a pathological examination was carried out, by Dr. William Cooke. He subsequently published an article in the British Medical Journal which attributed her death to asbestos. Three years later, in 1927, he definitively attributed her death to asbestosis. This was the first time the term had been used in this way in a medical publication. Nellie may be considered the first recognised victim of asbestosis and the starting point for all the investigation and research that followed. In March 1928, at the inquest of Walter Leadbetter of Aviary Mount in Armley, Dr. H. De Carle Woodcock, a well-known lung specialist, drew attention to the inhalation of asbestos dust as the cause of the deceased s fibrosis of the lungs. In 1930, Merewether and Price, two medical inspectors from the Factory Department 17 delivered research on the asbestos textile industry in Britain it identified that 25% of the 363 workers examined had pulmonary fibrosis. It was in the 1930s that workers with asbestosis first started suing their employers. The beginning of regulation These reports and research led to the 1931 Asbestos Industry Regulations. While this legislation only reduced the dust levels in factories, at the time it was believed to have solved the problem of asbestosis. Asbestos, cigarettes and the link to lung cancer So far, no direct link had been established between asbestos and lung cancer (although a connection between asbestosis and lung cancer had been made). Key to understanding this is the enormous increase in cigarette smoking after the First World War. The negative health effects of this trend were starting to appear at the same time as the effects of asbestos exposure. To the medical profession, they appeared to be the same problem. The link between lung cancer and smoking was eventually established in the 1950s, and it was only in 1955 that countries started recognising unexpectedly high instances of lung cancer among asbestos workers. Mesothelioma and a problem that could no longer be ignored In the 1960s an alarming rise in the previously extremely rare disease mesothelioma was attributed to asbestos. The rarity of the disease made its link to asbestos exposure all the more dramatic, and it became increasingly impossible to ignore asbestos risks. This led the UK to revise its asbestos regulations over a five year period resulting in new regulations in 1969 which effectively banned crocidolite asbestos. The response of industry It would be hard for major industry players to deny that from the late 1950s to the late 70s there was systematic self protection and a lack of assistance to injured parties, ranging from a reluctance to undertake investigations that were clearly needed to deliberate suppression of evidence. Such behaviour undoubtedly delayed action and exacerbated an already dire situation. 16 Source: Peter W.J. Bartrip (2001). The Way from Dusty Death: Turner and Newall and the Regulation of the British Asbestos Industry, 1890s Athlone. 17 Factory inspectors were first appointed under the Factory Act of A central office, later named the Factory Department, was established and supervised by the Domestic Department, and later the Industrial Department, of the Home Office. Taken from the National Archives at (Accessed 13 March, 2013) 10

13 The industry attitude of the time could perhaps be gauged from the words of E. A. Martin of Bendix Corporation. He is reported in various sources (including plaintiffs records and the Congressional Record) as writing the following in a letter dated September 1966: My answer to the problem is: if you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products why not die from it? There s got to be some cause. The situation today In 1983 Iceland became the first country to place a general ban on all recognised forms of asbestos, although with exceptions. The European Commission announced its almost complete ban on all asbestos in July It came into effect on 1 January, However, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia, are not presently verified as being compliant by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) 18. Globally, IBAS lists 54 countries 18 as having banned asbestos. This means that the following countries still allow it. US (2011 usage was 1,100 tonnes) India China Russia Brazil Mexico Panama Liberia Philippines Indonesia Singapore Taiwan With India, China, Indonesia and the US on the list, it appears around half the global population does not have proper protection from asbestos production. Brazil, China, Kazakhstan and Russia still mine large quantities of asbestos (see page 8). A look at asbestos exposure in India In India it has been estimated that 100,000 workers have been exposed to asbestos, but only 30 have been compensated. A study of 181 workers at just one asbestos composite mill in Mumbai found that 22% had asbestosis 19. This echoes the lack of recognition of the problem experienced decades earlier elsewhere in the world. Asbestos-related diseases Asbestos causes a number of health problems of varying severity. Pleural diseases (non-malignant) Pleural diseases include two non-cancerous conditions diffuse pleural thickening and pleural plaques. They take their name from the pleura the two-layered membrane (or mesothelium 20 ) which encloses and protects the lungs. Diffuse pleural thickening is general thickening of the pleura which extends over a large area and restricts expansion of the lungs. It is thought that asbestos fibres cause the disease by irritating the pleura, causing scarring and hardening. Pleural plaques are generally less serious than pleural thickening and may not display any symptoms. Many asbestos workers with pleural plaques may never realise they have them unless they are X-rayed. The plaques occur as bundles of collagen (a fibrous protein that connects tissues and other items in the body) on the pleura. Asbestosis The term asbestosis is commonly misused by the media to describe any illness caused by asbestos exposure. It is in fact a form of pneumoconiosis any lung disease caused by breathing small particles; in this case, asbestos fibres. In an asbestosis sufferer, the air sacs (alveoli) which control gas transfer in the lungs become scarred and healthy lung tissue is replaced by fibrous tissue. This prevents the alveoli from working and reduces the effectiveness of the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, fatigue, laboured and rapid breathing and chest pain. Asbestosis is irreversible, has no known cure and can be fatal. In 2009, 411 deaths were attributed to asbestosis in the UK. 18 IBAS (2012). Current Asbestos Bans and Restrictions. Available at (Accessed 13 March, 2013) 19 V. Murlidhar and Vijay Kanhere (2005). Asbestosis in an asbestos composite mill at Mumbai: a prevalence study. Environmental Health, Volume 4. Available at 20 The general term for membranes that protect organs in the body cavity (see also Mesothelioma on page 12) 11

14 Pulmonary fibrosis Pulmonary fibrosis is the general term for diseases which progressively scar the lung, interfering with the ability to breathe. It is used when the cause of scarring is not known and therefore appeared in the early descriptions of asbestosis. Mesothelioma Mesothelioma is a form of cancer which affects the body s mesothelial membranes, those surrounding organs in the body cavity such as the heart, lungs and stomach. It is believed that asbestos fibres migrate through the lungs to these areas. The most common form of mesothelioma (and the one most associated with asbestos exposure) is malignant pleural mesothelioma which affects the pleura the mesothelium surrounding the lungs. Before the widespread use of asbestos, mesothelioma was rarely diagnosed. Once asbestos exposure was recognised as a causal link, the reporting rate increased and we now know that 80% of mesotheliomas are caused by asbestos. Mesothelioma is far more indicative of asbestos exposure than lung cancer, which is relatively common due to other factors such as smoking. Mesothelioma tends to appear as a series of tumours. The only possible cure is to completely remove them. However, because mesothelioma is normally diagnosed only after significant spreading of the disease, surgery is unlikely to do more than provide short term relief from certain symptoms. Most treatment for the disease is therefore palliative. The case of Shirley Gibson 21 Shirley Gibson was a teacher in the London Borough of Greenwich. She died of Mesothelioma in 1993 at the age of 37. The inquest concluded that the disease had probably been caused by exposure to asbestos in the classrooms of the school she worked at. She only worked at the school from 1983 to Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer. Less than 10% of sufferers survive more than two years after diagnosis and sufferers of malignant pleural mesothelioma often survive only a few months. In 2009, 2,321 people died of the disease in the UK. Incidences of mesothelioma have yet to reach their peak because of the 15 to 40 year lag time between exposure and the appearance of tumours. Lung cancer Because lung cancer is caused by many factors, including smoking, it is difficult to definitively attribute cases of the disease to asbestos exposure. In the UK it is thought that asbestos-related lung cancer is less common than mesothelioma, but the US believes it is more common. Smoking appears to greatly increase the risk of lung cancer being caused by asbestos exposure. The disease consists of the uncontrolled growth of tumours or lesions in the lung tissue. In malignant tumours, cells can break away (metastasise) and travel to other parts of the body, normally via the bloodstream or lymph system, to form new growths. Benign tumours do not metastasise: they can be safely removed via surgery and will not recur. Lung cancer can be treated by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or all three. The level of surgery varies depending on the spread of the cancer. It is more usual to remove one lobe of a lung than the entire lung. Survival rates for lung cancer are better than for mesothelioma: approximately 20% of people diagnosed with the disease may survive five years. Other diseases There is evidence that asbestos can cause other cancers such as bowel, stomach, oesophagus, pancreas and kidney. Greenwich council conducted a survey of the 120 schools in the area, but initially refused to inform parents of the results. In 2004, Greenwich council paid 135,237 to the family of Shirley Gibson. Cases like Shirley s have led to better management of asbestos in the UK s schools today. 21 Source: The Free Library (1996). One teacher dead and millions of children at risk... Available at (Accessed 13 March, 2013) 12

15 One fibre can kill evaluating the real risk The words one fibre can kill have appeared numerous times in relation to asbestos but they are highly misleading. While it is true that any exposure to asbestos carries risk, loading is highly significant, just as it is with smoking: in short, the more asbestos you are exposed to, the more risk you have. A typical acceptable airborne concentration of asbestos specified by health and safety regulation is 0.1 fibres per cubic centimetre (cm 3 ) of air averaged over a four hour period. Simply put, if every breath you take fills your lungs with two litres (20,000cm 3 ) of air, it is acceptable for each breath to contain 2,000 particles. The typical number of fibres found in the mixing area of a typical asbestos textile factory in the 1950s was between 2,000 and 4,000 per cm 3, 20,000 to 40,000 times higher than the presently acceptable limit. 22 Of course, none of this means that people never die from small exposures to asbestos. The case of Shirley Gibson (see page 12) illustrates this point. And there are well documented cases of the wives of asbestos workers who died from asbestos-related diseases, whose principle exposure was only from washing their husbands overalls. In the same way, people who smoke heavily all their life may never get lung cancer while other people who have never smoked may be killed by relatively minor exposure to passive smoking. Table 3 summaries the results from various studies of people who worked in crocidolite asbestos mines or in manufacturing using crocidolite asbestos. When interpreting figures like these, it is important to note that many factors may have influenced the differences in results, including cases not being reported. Location Industry Number of people studied Timescale Number of cases Year of study Canada Gas mask manufacturer probably mesothelioma Australia Mining 6, cases mesothelioma South Africa Mining 3,430 Before mesothelioma, circa 20% abnormalities UK Gas mask manufacturing s to mesothelioma Table 3: results of studies of crocidolite asbestos mine and manufacturing workers 22 K. Morinaga et al (2001). Asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma in Japan. Industrial health, Volume 39. Available at 23 Alison D. Mc.Donald and J. Corbett McDonald (1978). Mesothelioma after crocidolite exposure during gas mask manufacture. Environmental Research, Volume 17, Issue 3. Available at 24 A.W. Musk et al (2007). Mortality of former crocidolite (blue asbestos) miners and millers at Wittenoom. Occupational & Environmental Medicine Volume 65, Issue 8. Available at 25 J.M. Talent et al (1980). A survey of black mineworkers of the Cape crocidolite mines. Biological Effects of Mineral Fibre E.D. Acheson et al (1982). Mortality of two groups of women who manufactured gas masks from chrysotile and crocidolite asbestos a 40 year follow up. British Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 39. Available at 13

16 4. Testing for asbestos The subject of testing for asbestos could fill several books by itself. There are many different testing techniques which suit different circumstances, such as the way an asbestos sample has been extracted and prepared or the substance it has been extracted from. All techniques have their own advantages and limitations so it is often necessary to combine methods in order to get the most accurate results. This section describes the principal methods. The recognised International Standard for laboratory quality is ISO 17025:2005. Many countries run proficiency programmes, sending random samples to laboratories to see how accurate they are. Most labs perform very well and easily exceed the criteria for accuracy. Stereoscopic microscopy (20x). This test quantifies the number of fibres in a sample but not the type. If you do not need to know what your fibres are for example you are doing an air sampling filter examination and you only expect asbestos fibres then you can do this count to ensure you are below the required threshold. It is very quick, simple and cheap. Polarized light microscopy, PLM. This is one of the simplest and most reliable methods, especially for bulk samples, and is probably the commonest. It identifies the type and percentage of asbestos using a phase contrast microscope with polarising filters. Its limit of detection is somewhere between 0.1% and 1% which means it may be insufficient by itself if absolute accuracy is needed at these levels. In these cases it will need to be supplemented by other techniques. It is a very fast technique and therefore good for statistical analysis. X-ray diffraction (XRD). In this technique the object is bombarded with X-rays. The rays are reflected by the asbestos particles, producing an x-ray spectrum which is characteristic of the substance. XRD is sometimes used instead of PLM, or to supplement it. However, XRD has limitations: it cannot describe size or shape and so is only really quantitative. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM). TEM uses a very thin section of the sample (unlike SEM, which scans the surface). It works on the same principle as an ordinary light microscope but uses electrons instead of light. Electrons are very much smaller than light and so the resolution is correspondingly higher. It is therefore a more sensitive test than PLM. However, this sensitivity means that a coarse test sample can cause problems. Further, because TEM relies on area ratio estimations to determine asbestos concentration, it can have limitations at low asbestos levels. This can be a problem if your legislation specifies a low asbestos limit (say, 1%) and can mean the same sample may pass at one lab and fail at another. Gravimetric analysis. This test is used to determine the quantity of asbestos in the sample and works by removing all other substances. The sample is weighed and then ashed in a furnace to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It is then weighed again to determine the amount of VOCs that have been lost. The sample may then be acid washed to remove other likely compounds such as carbonates and weighed again. At this point a more sensitive analytical method, such as PLM or even TEM, is used to identify asbestos fibres so that the quantity of asbestos in the original sample can be estimated. This test is fast and efficient but is only really relevant when you know your sample contains asbestos. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM). SEM scans the surface of the sample and uses the reflection from the scattered electrons to create a picture. The advantage of SEM is that it magnifies the image up to 300,000 times. It is particularly useful for bulk sampling. SEM is normally the most definitive technique, and can be enhanced by x-ray spectrum analysis. 14

17 Test type What does it do? Good for Speed Level of fibre identification Ease of use Investment /cost per sample Drawbacks Stereo microscopy Magnifies the sample for initial checking Initial examination and screening Fast None. Only gives an indication of likely materials Simple to use. Can be hand carried. Can cost less than $500. Cheap. Not a test for asbestos. It only performs an initial check, to indicate how the sample should be further prepared and what proper tests are likely to be best. Polarised light microscopy (PLM) Magnifies the sample 100 to 400 times and uses other techniques such as polarisation and dyes to do basic fibre and quantity analysis Speed, simplicity and cost Fast Medium. Can be very good with specific types of asbestos bound up in a simple matrix Simple to use. Portable. Can be set up anywhere. Less than $10,000. Cheap. Poor at levels of accuracy below 1% and limited for fibre analysis Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) Uses electrons to scan the sample and produces massively magnified 3D images to find and identify fibres Accuracy, detail and images Slow Good Complex. Non-portable equipment in a dedicated laboratory Huge investment. High. Cost. Very slow for quantitive analysis. X-ray diffraction (XRD) Uses X-rays to examine crystal properties, but does not produce an image Speed of quantitive analysis Fast Poor. Cannot identify between asbestos and non-asbestos forms of the same material. Moderately easy to use Large investment. Medium (depends on set up and usage). Does not give fibre morphology Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) Fires electrons through a very thin slide of the material and produces massively magnified images (10 to x) to identify fibres Accuracy and detail Slow Good Complex. Non-portable equipment in a dedicated laboratory Large investment. High. Cost Gravimetric analysis Through weighing and reduction of the sample, it finds the mass percentage of asbestos Quick quantitive estimation Fast (once sample has been prepared) None. Does not identify asbestos and relies on other techniques to do this first. Moderately easy Low. Cheap to medium. Preparation time can be very slow Table 4: Comparison of asbestos testing methods 15

18 A steam plant containing asbestos 16

19 1. The increased risk in shipping For a number of reasons, ships can present an increased risk of asbestos exposure. First, the use of asbestos in shipbuilding over the years has been unusually high, and has included a disproportionately large amount of blue and brown asbestos the worst types. Second, some of the most dangerous asbestos application methods, such as spraying, have been particularly prevalent in ship construction, and these methods also increase friability (see Friability a vital consideration ). Part 2 Asbestos on board ships Added to these construction factors is the fact that ships are not stable environments: they roll, pitch, yaw, heave, surge, sway, slam and vibrate, and in the engine room these issues are magnified by vibrating machinery. These conditions make friable asbestos far more likely to emit fibres. A UK study estimated an increase of 61% over the expected presence of asbestos in shipyard workers 1. A similar study in Trieste, Italy, showed that of 153 men who had died of malignant mesothelioma 99 had worked in shipbuilding, 19 had been in the navy/merchant marine and 7 had been dockworkers 2. Friability a vital consideration The level of danger presented by asbestos depends mainly on the substance it is bound up in and how easily that substance can be damaged. This is referred to as friability. For example, asbestos solidly bound in concrete which is well protected and in good condition might be considered safe, but exposed concrete which can easily be damaged or become dusty is highly friable and dangerous. Asbestos contained in a plastic, such as a floor tile, is considered safe and even if the tile is damaged it is unlikely to become friable and release fibres. The subject is explored in more detail in the Appendix. 1 I. Doniach, K.V. Swettenham, and M.K. Hathorn (1975). Prevalence of asbestos bodies in a necropsy series in east London; association with disease, occupation, and domiciliary address. British Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 21. Available at 2 L. Giarelli, C. Bianchi and G. Grandi (1992). Malignant Mesothelioma of the pleura in Trieste, Italy. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 22, Issue 4. Available at 17

20 2. Where is asbestos found on ships In the worst cases, you can find asbestos virtually everywhere on a ship. It can be in: the concrete and tiling on the floor the wall and ceiling panels and the fire insulation behind them the doors the glues and sealants in the windows and furniture heat insulation and lagging electrical cables brake linings and gaskets mooring ropes firemen s outfits boiler cladding furnace firebricks, and welding shop curtains and welders gloves. The list goes on. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has published a detailed list of areas where asbestos can be found 3 (see Table 4). Pipes and cables. These could contain asbestos but if maintained in good condition they will be safe. 3 The International Maritime Organization is a specialised agency of the United Nations, with one hundred and sixty nine member states. The IMO s main regulatory instrument is the Convention. Once a convention has entered into force, any ship trading internationally is bound to comply fully with it anywhere in the world. The list of asbestos areas was developed in support of the IMO s 2009 Hong Kong International Convention on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (the Hong Kong Convention) and is used by The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) in its guidance on the subject. 18



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