General information on asbestos

Asbestos is a fibrous form of naturally occurring silicate minerals. Asbestos is therefore a normal aggregate, which is chemically per se is a completely harmless compound, but microscopic small fibers pose a risk to health when entering the lungs. Only certain minerals can crystallize into very thin fibrous strands and these are called asbestos fibers. Asbestos forms include chrysotile, crocidolite, amositite, actinolite, antofyllitis and tremolite.

Asbestos has many good aspects that improve the properties of building materials. As a result, asbestos has been mined and used worldwide in building materials almost throughout the 20th century. Finland has also had its own asbestos mine until 1975. Nowadays, asbestos is very much in old houses, but it is important to note that asbestos is not dangerous for the building material. In practice, asbestos is only exposed when materials containing asbestos are discharged and, through dusting, asbestos gets into the airways.

Where can asbestos exist?

In Finland, asbestos has been used in building materials from the 1920s until 1994, when the manufacture, import and sale of asbestos-containing materials was banned. Until now, asbestos has been extensively used in various materials such as pipe insulations, floor coatings, lacquers, paints, adhesives in building boards, plastic mats, tiles, vinyl tiles, fire insulation and doors, roofing and facade materials.

Especially in the 1960s and 1970s, very much asbestos-containing materials were used. In Europe, the largest annual consumption is concentrated in the 80s and global consumption declined in the 1990s due to bans on the use of asbestos. It is very likely that asbestos has been used in some of the older materials used in older buildings.

Asbestos-containing products used in Finland(Source: Työturvallisuuskeskuksen Toimiva asbestipurku -published 2011)

Legislation

By the law of 2016, it was clarified that all objects constructed prior to 1994 must be subjected to asbestos mapping before any kind of demolition work or the like, where dusting occurs. The contractor is responsible for performing an appropriate asbestos mapping. The inventor is required to have sufficient familiarity with asbestos and related risk factors. In households, the contractor is a subscriber of a remodeling job, that is, in practice, the resident or owner is responsible for ensuring that, for example, an installer or plumber is not exposed to asbestos. In apartment buildings, asbestos dust migration to ventilation systems or stairwells also exposes other residents to asbestos. Failure to observe the asbestos survey can result in expensive invoices or fines if a case arises afterwards.

If asbestos is detected in the mapping from a landing site, work is to be done as " asbestos-free work" . Finnish legislation has carefully defined that asbestos-free work can only be done by certified asbestos-free work professionals. Asbestos removal should therefore not be carried out independently. The legislation also tightened associated with asbestos removal control of the latter so that, after the demolition of laboratory tests to ensure that the breathing air is captured in the dust of asbestos fibers by more than 0.01 / cm 3 .

Government decree on the dangerous asbestos work (Valtioneuvoston asetus asbestityön vaarallisuudesta 684/2015)

Act on requirements for certain asbestos workers (Laki eräistä asbestipurkutyötä koskevista vaatimuksista 798/2015)

Absestos in construction (Asbesti rakennustyössä Työterveyslaitos)

Health Effects?

Asbestos is a class 1 carcinogen, known to cause cancer in humans. The fibers in the asbestos dust are so small that they can not be seen with the eyes. Additionally, asbestos is odorless and tasteless Through breath, fibers run into the lungs where the body can not remove them. Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of contracting the following diseases

  • asbestosis
  • lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma or pleural or peritoneal cancer

The symptoms of these diseases will only emerge after decades of asbestos exposure. It should be noted that although there are serious diseases, the risk of illness is very small for a single exposure event. There is a real risk for workers such as renovators who may be exposed to asbestos dust on a daily basis. Therefore exposure should be kept to a minimum.

The risk of asbestos can be compared to tobacco. If you normally have a cancer risk of 1, the risk to the smoker is 10 times (about 1 strokes per day). The impact of asbestos is estimated to multiply the cancer risk by 5 times (daily exposure). The combined effect of asbestos and tobacco is estimated to be 50 times normal.