Asbestos, a natural mineral drawn from serpentine rock, stands up to intense temperatures. Prior to its toxic waste status, its outstanding resistance to heat, combined with its fibrous makeup and low cost, ushered it into the manufacture of thousands of products from toasters to ductwork for more than 60 years.
There are various asbestos diseases - the most common is malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the intestinal tract and lungs.
Do small amounts of asbestos in your home really pose a health threat? How can you determine whether or not your home contains asbestos? And if it does, what should you do about removal?
The good news is that asbestos is relatively easy to identify and if it presents an immediate hazard can be dealt with manageably.
Asbestos, is widely used in making roofings, cement pipes, and conduits for electrical cables. Finished asbestos products in themselves may not be harmful, but it poses a health hazard for the worker exposed to its fibres based on scientific research.
Asbestos is a term, that refers to six kinds of naturally occuring mineral fibres. Of these six, three are used more commonly. Chrysotile is the most common, accounts for almost 90 per cent of the asbestos used in the industry, but it is not unusual to encounter Amosite or Crocidolite as well. Crocidolite asbestos is banned in India. However in old insulation material, it can be found.
All types of asbestos tend to break into very tiny fibre, almost microscopic. Due to the small size, these remain suspended in the air for long duration. These fibres are indestructible and are resistant to chemicals and heat, and are very stable in the environment. They do not evaporate into air or dissolve in water, and they do not break down over time. Because of its high durability and with tensile strength asbestos has been widely used inconstruction and insulation materials.
After mining and milling, asbestos is processed through various methods and used for making cement products, gasket sheet material, friction material, heat resistant textiles, some special applications like in paints, thermoplastics etc.
In India, asbestos is used in manufacture of pressure and non pressure pipes used for water supply, sewage, irrigation and drainage systems, asbestos textiles, laminated products, tape, gland packing, packing ropes, brake lining and jointing used in core sector industries such as automobile, heavy equipment, petro-chemicals, nuclear power plants, fertilizers, thermal power plants, transportation, defence.
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) is raising public awareness about the hazards of asbestos.
Asbestos regulations in India
In India, asbestos is regulated under the Factories Act (1948), in which asbestosis is listed as a notifiable disease in the schedule 3 of the Act. Asbestos is also regulated under Air and Water Act and Hazardous Wastes (Handling and Management) Rules 1989 under the Environment Protection Act (1986). Besides these, Indian Standards Institution (ISI) has brought out a number of national standards and specification relating to asbestos mining, manufacturing and handling.