Building Materials Watch List 3: Asbestos

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South Africa finally banned the use, manufacturing, importing and exporting of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials in 2008. The banning formed part of the Environment Conservation Act of 1989. Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, increasing risks of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Asbestos is a mineral fibre that is used in a variety of construction materials for its strength and heat resisting capabilities. Exposure typically happens when asbestos fibres are released into the air during removal, demolition, construction and repair of asbestos-containing materials.

Known for its versatility, insulation and fireproof qualities, asbestos can be found in cement piping, corrugated roofing, insulating board, roof slates, plaster, vinyl floor tiles, adhesives, fireproofing and prevention materials, textured paint and stoves.

Asbestos structures and moulds are still commonplace at schools, buildings, factories and homes in South Africa. The challenge lies in the de-construction and disposal. If fibres are disturbed in the process then those exposed run the risk of injury and long-term disease including life-threatening lung conditions. Protective gear including masks must be worn when working with asbestos at all times.

Note: There are no safe levels of exposure to any type of asbestos. Any exposure to asbestos can cause injury or an asbestos-related disease.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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