What is Asbestos?
Asbestos refers to a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals, that are found within the ground and are commercially mined and refined to form Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) building products. Asbestos has six sub-classifications: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. Among these, chrysotile and amosite Asbestos are the most common.
Asbestos fibers are extremely resistant to fire and most chemical reactions and breakdowns. These properties of Asbestos were the reasons that ensured its use for many years in a number of different commercial and industrial capacities. The strength of Asbestos, combined with its resistance to heat, allowed it to become the material of choice in a variety of products, including, but not limited to insulations, ceiling tiles, cementitious materials, floor tiles, textured coatings, gaskets, textile products, and adhesives. Asbestos is now regulated in many countries as exposure to this toxic mineral can now be directly and scientifically linked to a number of lung and respiratory health disease and conditions.
Asbestos in the Middle East
Asbestos has been used commercially in the Middle East since the 1960’s. The increase in oil and gas exploration within the region at this time led to a rise in the increase in construction and infrastructure projects, which in turn led to an increased Asbestos consumption. At one point in time the Middle East consumed 20% of all of the Asbestos produced within the global market.
A number of countries within the Middle East have now banned the use of Asbestos within new construction properties, however as recent as 2007, 65,000 tonnes of this toxic mineral were imported in to the region for use in the construction industry.
Since the 1960’s millions of tonnes of Asbestos have been imported in to the Middle East, and despite recent prohibitions and Asbestos bans there is evidence that Asbestos is still being used in new construction projects.
Health Effects of Asbestos
Breathing in the microscopic particles of Asbestos dust can cause diseases of the lungs and respiratory system. Repeated and even short term exposure to Asbestos dust and fibre can lead to the following three main Asbestos related diseases:
- Asbestos related lung cancer
Diagnosis of any of the conditions listed above is effectively a death sentence, as there is no known cure for an Asbestos related disease. Typically individuals with an Asbestos related disease have less than two years to live and quality of life is significantly impaired.