Asbestos Use Worldwide and Protective Laws Against Asbestos Exposure

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Asbestos is a mineral categorized into two groups: amphibole and serpentine. It is also categorized as blue, brown and white. The blue one is called crocidolite and it is the most dangerous type of asbestos. Its particles are smaller than the other types' and it also contains a large amount of iron. This feature helps crocidolite get easier in the lungs than any other asbestos fibers. The brown one is called amosite and it is a little less dangerous than the previously mentioned because its fibers are straight and a little thicker than those of the crocidolite's. The white one is called chrysotile and it is the least dangerous among all types of asbestos. It is still harmful due to its structure: it has double layers that roll up into hollow tubes and a diameter of around 25 nanometers. It is considered to be the least hazardous because the curly fibers stop in the respiratory tract most of the times. This way, it is easier to eliminate them.

A short history of asbestos reveals that it was discovered in South Africa in 1812 and it was commercially produced after several decades, in 1893. The first attestation of marketed asbestos was in Armley, the UK in 1931. In 1920, asbestos was used worldwide, its amount being doubled decade by decade but the most dangerous types were used since 1956. The decline of manufacturing products with asbestos started only in 1985.

Nellie Kershaw was the first person who officially received the diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease. In 1924, young Nellie Kershaw was dying at the age of 33 after working with asbestos for nearly 20 years. Thus, in 1931, Asbestos Industry Regulations appeared as legislation in order to reduce the dust levels in power plants and factories. In 2002, the SOLAS Convention was rising as the most powerful asbestos ban, prohibiting nearly all use of asbestos, except for vanes used in rotary vane compressors, watertight joints used for the circulation of fluids when there is the risk of catching fire at high temperatures and supple and flexible thermal insulation assemblies when used at temperatures higher than 1,000 Celsius degrees.

Regarding the ships built before July 1, 2002, these are allowed to contain asbestos in their components only if there is a sign that warns the workers of the presence of asbestos there. Even so, the asbestos amount on every ship is difficult to be accounted. The removal of the toxic mineral by specialized personnel at the level of the contaminated products would be an easier way to protect the personnel from being exposed to asbestos. Another solution would be an initial inspection of the ship accompanied by a serious inventory list with all the places that might contain asbestos in order to evaluate the situation further.

In the case of the US Navy, the crew has the right to know the dangers of asbestos exposure. Second of all, asbestos-containing products should be labeled. Protective blue plastic wrapped around damaged products is a good way to keep the asbestos far from one's lungs.

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