Asbestos Dust – The Silent Killer
On 28 March 2008 South-Africa banned the use of asbestos. The use of asbestos in any new construction project was prohibited. Do yourselves a favour and drive through neighbourhoods and industrial areas and you will see thousands of houses, warehouses, factory buildings and office buildings constructed with asbestos sheeting. Many of these sheets are damaged and the risk of airborne asbestos fibres is increasing every day.Asbestos has been directly linked to lung cancer, fatal asbestos disease, mesothelioma, emphysema and gastric cancer. Worn and weathered asbestos can result in a loose friable surface that can expose the harmful asbestos fibres.
Regulation 14(6) (c)of the Asbestos regulations states”The employer or self-employed person shall assess the risk of exposure to such asbestos as contemplated in subregulation (1) and document the action necessary to ensure that-
(c) any material containing asbestos and which may create a risk of Exposurebecause of its state and location, is repaired or if necessary removed:…..”
The regulations impose a duty of care on employers and self-employed people the intention of the legislature is clear, it also imposes a duty of care on the OWNERS of industrial, commercial and residential properties.
Regulation 15(1)(h) states “An employer or self-employed person who erect, maintain, alter, renovate, repair, dismantle, or add asbestos-cement roof sheeting, wall panelling, gutters, fascia boards and related products to a building shall ensure that-once installed and where reasonably practical, the relevant items are painted or otherwise sealed with a protective coating to limit the release of asbestos dust, combat weathering and inhibit growth of lichen or moss:
If one looks at the wording of this regulation it is clear that the intention of the legislature is not only to impose a duty of care, but to enforce the compliance of Regulation 15(1)(h) on employers, self-employed and Owners of buildings.
You don’t have a choice you shall paint or otherwise seal the asbestos with a protective coating. The De Facto situation in the RSA is that 95% of building owners don’t act according to the asbestos. The regulations are there but only a few comply with these regulations. Regulation 23 clearly states that it is an offence not to comply with regulations 14and 15.In fact the Government, Private building owners, tenants of buildings are contravening these regulations and everybody remain silent.
3. The magnitude of asbestos dust danger
On 17 October 1997 Andy Duffy wrote in the Mail and Guardian “A report on the effects of ‘low-grade’ asbestos sheeting used in Soweto has been put aside “
Duffy used the research of Mr Enoch Mogomotsi as one of his sources for this article.The findings of this report by Mogomotsi was produced in 1995.
Mogomotsi, who lived in Soweto, ran the study in 10 locations across the township, picking asbestos roofing in good condition andbad. In many cases, the asbestos had crumbled or cracked, and been patched up. The results of the samples he took inside the houses shocked him. In one, he came across a reading of 0, 9 fibres per millilitre of air-against a guideline figure of 0, 1.Brain Gibson of EVERITE the asbestos-cement sheeting manufacturer found Mr Mogomotsi‘sresults very surprising. Gibson said Mogomotsi’s findings were never officially published and Everite had doubts about their accuracy.
It is twenty years after the findings of Mr Mogomotsi and still nothing has been done.On 26 February 2014 Mr Penwell Dlamini wrote an article in The Times Live, he reported on a speech delivered by the then chief of operations in the Gauteng Human Settlement Department, Mr Malibongwe Kanjana. Kanjana said that the Gauteng Provincial are committed to eradicating asbestos in the entire province, the department is considering a range of replacement roofing materials.Kanjana said tiles would be ideal.
In the Northern-Cape and other provinces schools were built with asbestos sheeting. Visit industrial areas all over South-Africa and you will see many asbestos roofs, panelling and side walls.
The magnitude of the challenge is so complex that the Asbestos regulations are ignored by the role players.
4. What should Building owners and the Government do to comply with regulations?
To remove and dispose of asbestos is not cost effective, demolition of asbestos structures, transport and dumping asbestos at the designated dumping sites will cost this country Billions.
In fact scientists have discovered that attempting to remove asbestos from a building is more harmful than simply covering it up .When asbestos has been disturbed, small particles of the toxin drift into the air. As a result, an air space can quickly become contaminated.
If we take the scenario that asbestos has to be removed in SOWETO, you have to move the people out of their houses, barricade the site, adhere to all the safety regulations and dump the asbestos at designated dumping sites.The issue of dumping the asbestos is already a contentious issue in South-Africa.
The solution to this challenge is the encapsulation of asbestos. Encapsulation means to seal the asbestos with a protective shell.
Different encapsulation methods:
a) Paint the asbestos surface with roof coating or other paint. Roof paint doesn’t strengthen the asbestos sheets. The lifespan of roof paint is limited. Paint can flake and the asbestos sheeting can still crack.
b) Use polyurethane spray foam.
This technique is by far the best technique. You spray the closed cell polyurethane foam between 20-30 mm thick on the outside of the asbestos sheeting. On the inside of the sheeting you can spray it between 15-25mm thick.
– The polyurethane foam expands and seeps into the gaps of the asbestos. The natural expansion of the polyurethane foam and the curing process help with the encapsulation, reaching otherwise unfilled spaces. This technique was tested by Adherent Technologies, Inc. Development Laboratories for use in the US Navy. This method ensures total encapsulation.
– Using this method you can repair damaged sheeting.
– Polyurethane foam strengthen the asbestos structure. Tests were run by Thermamasta one of the leading applicators of polyurethane foam in Southern-Africa, we took a worn asbestos sheet and drop a weight of 80 kg’s on the sheet needless to say the sheet broke in half, we took the broken sheet foamed together the broken sections and dropped the weight on the foamed sheet- the asbestos sheet remained intact.
– The application of polyurethane foam takes place on site with minimal disturbance to the occupants of the building if you foam outside.
– The lifespan of polyurethane foam on the outside of buildings is forever if you keep the foam protected with elastomeric coating to protect the foam from the UV.
– Polyurethane foam is a versatile product, by encapsulating the asbestos in the same go you insulate, waterproof, dust proof and sound proof the building.
– This technique is cost effective, safe, effective and a quick solution.
Encapsulation with closed cell polyurethane foam completely remove the hazards of asbestos fibres and dust. Using this technique will ensure a healthy as well as an asbestos dust free environment.
6.1 Dlamini Penwell – The Times Live 26/02/2014 – Gauteng will pay for poor people to replace their asbestos roofing in a programme aimed at eliminating the health hazards caused by the material.
6.2 Duffy Andy – Mail & Guardian17/10/1997 – Soweto’s dust danger ignored.
6.3 Gosau Jan- Michael, Shkindel Tetyana, Allred Roland E – Encapsulating foam system for Asbestos Remediation Adherent Technologies, Inc. Development Laboratories 11208, Cochiti SE Albuquerque, NM 87123
6.4 Steyn Jason De Wet : Thermamasta Asbestos Test results – 12/08/2014 – Sasol Midlands Sasolburg
6.5 Asbestos Regulations, 2001 (Act no 85 of 1993) RSA