SAFETY DEBATE CONTINUES
“Friable” is the term used to describe asbestos containing materials which because of long time exposure can readily flake off and become dust. Unless it is completely sealed into a commercial or industrial product, asbestos poses the danger of becoming “friable.” These fibers, which are microscopic and more buoyant than ordinary dust particles, float in the air and can be inhaled or swallowed
While the scientific community agrees that asbestos, which is in a friable state, constitutes a health hazard there is vigorous debate as to the extent of the problem as it concerns “in place” asbestos used in buildings for fire-proofing, insulation, sound-deadening, decoration, roofing, and flooring. When asbestos is sealed it is not friable and therefore seems to pose no immediate health problem. However, the concern is how to protect the public from it becoming friable. The debate in the scientific community continues.
The American Medical Association position paper regarding Asbestos containment, concluded that in-place asbestos poses far less risk to building occupants than smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, or improper diet, and that Americans should learn to live with asbestos safely and that there is no evidence of any significant health risk posed by well-managed-in-place asbestos, so long as it is not in a friable condition. Doctors contributing to the study claim that $3 billion per year is spent on the asbestos abatement “craze”. Some believe that find that unnecessary removals are a much greater health threat than containment, because such action serves merely to “stir up” and make friable otherwise intact and non-hazardous asbestos. There is also debate that chrysotile asbestos, which accounts for more than 90% of the world’s production of asbestos, and accounts for 95% of U.S. in-place asbestos, is a carcinogen at low levels.
Dr. Irving J. Selikoff, the former director of the Mount Sinai Medical School’s Environmental and Occupational Health Division was the first to conclusively document the relationship between asbestos and lung ailments. The work of his group served as the primary catalyst for government regulation of asbestos in the 1970s and 1980s. Recognized as the most prominent researcher in the field of asbestos disease before his death in 1992, Dr. Selikoff steadfastly maintained that abatement presents a viable solution to the problem of in-place asbestos in buildings and, when it is properly and safely performed, abatement has the endorsement of the Mount Sinai camp.
Dr. Selikoff research has shown that all types of asbestos, which included the chrysotile asbestos, are just as carcinogenic. At an international asbestos conference held by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1990, the 56 papers presented were unanimous in expressing data that all types of asbestos fibers created some type of health risk.
Early in 1991, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) rejected the position of the Mossman camp, and stated that it believed that the results of some studies indicated that chrysotile fibers are at least as toxic as other asbestos fibers.