Asbestos Cancer; the least known facts

Normally I write these articles a week or two before it is published, and today 4th of February while I am writing this article I am listening to the local radio talking about the World Cancer Day and immediately remember those of us who work in the construction industry and  are been exposed to cancer through the manipulation of the many thousands of square meters of asbestos still existing throughout Spain.


It is estimated that, worldwide, there are about 125 million people exposed to this material in their workplace alone.


Asbestos = Cancer.

Asbestos is a carcinogen that causes half of all deaths from occupational cancer. Although in Spain it is forbidden its use since 2002, each year more than 200 people get cancer associated with asbestos pleural mesothelioma. Recently, research pointed that most deaths from pleural cancer (mesothelioma) attributable to asbestos exposure are not recognized as such by the Spanish Institute of Social Security. With this article I will try to describe, what is asbestos, where can you find it and what disease can provoke its exposure.

In this country, despite that the use of asbestos has been banned since 2002, still causes harmful effects, although not all are recognized as such as suggested by a Spanish study published recently in the International Journal of Occupation and Environmental Health which it warns that in Spain, there is an infra-registration cancers number caused by this material. Between 1906 and 2002, the measly figure of twenty five million tons was imported into this country.

Asbestos Cancer facts and figures.

93.6% of men and 96.6% of women who died between 2007 and 2011 in Spain by a type of pleural cancer (pleural mesothelioma) it is attributable to occupational exposure to asbestos, but have not been sustained by the National Institute of Social Security (INSS). From all presented cases, only 6.4% in men and 4.4% in women has have been recognized by the INSS. This is one of the conclusions of the study by researchers at the University of Granada and the Ministry of Health.

It is estimated that thousands of deaths associated with domestic exposure occur each year, although in these cases is difficult to establish a legal cause-effect.

Research "Asbestos-related occupational Cancers compensated under the Spanish National Insurance System, 1978-2011" has shown little recognition of this disease caused by asbestos exposure, which leaves victims in a vulnerable situation. Each year over 200 people die from asbestos-related pleural mesothelioma, and this figure must be added the deaths from other cancers caused by the inhalation of this mineral.

In this work, the authors analyzed all cases of asbestos-related cancer, recognized by the INSS as occupational diseases in Spain between 1978 and 2011. They could see that only 164 had recognized cancers of this type, with an average annual rate of 0.08 per 100,000 employees, representing a very low number compared with other countries in the European Union and Norway (7.32 recognized cases per 100,000 employees).

The carcinogenic asbestos.

Despite being banned for more than a decade, asbestos can still be found in some buildings. It's been widespread use for its tensile strength, thermal insulation, by its low conductivity which gives high resistance to flame (fire retardant) and its relative resistance to chemical attack. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) today is still used in some countries as buildings insulation, as tiles component, water pipes, fire blankets and medical packaging, as additive in plastic and in the automotive industry, clutches, brakes, seals and dampers. This organization puts the number of people worldwide who are exposed to this material in workspaces at about 125 million.

About 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos.

The principal varieties of asbestos are chrysotile (white asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos), amosite and, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite. Must take into account that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans. A characteristic of these diseases is that they have a very long latency period, and from being in contact with the agent until the disease is detectable may take up to 30 years.

Asbestos is a set of natural mineral fibres, which releases tiny particles that can penetrate into the lungs, and its inhalation (in a work environment in places near its  extraction, dwellings or buildings constructed with this material) causes various diseases. In addition, it is estimated that thousands of deaths each year are associated with domestic exposure, although as mentioned before in these cases it is difficult to establish a cause-effect relationship.

To finalize this article I would like to suggest that if you think you are living or working in an environment that may be exposed to asbestos, do contact a professional or the local authorities for advice. It is just is not worth taking any risk with this vicious material.

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