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Asbestos

CAS No-1332-21-4, Several varieties of asbestos exist- crocidolite, actinolite,anthophyllite, chrysotile, grunerite, tremolite, cristobalite.

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
1.00 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
0.1 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Water
0.1 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Waste Water
1.00 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Land
Disclaimer
This sheet is a generic summary, designed to give the reader a basic level of background information about the substance in question. Great care has been taken to represent as effectively and correctly as possible the broad range of (not necessarily consistent) information which is available from a variety of sources. The reader must accept therefore that this sheet has no legal status and cannot be relied upon in any legal proceedings. SEPA disclaims any responsibility or liability whatsoever for errors and omissions in this sheet.
What is it?
Asbestos is the generic term given to several types of mineral fibres naturally occurring in 2 types of rock-forming minerals (serpentines and amphiboles). It is found in the form of long, fine fibres. There are extensive deposits in Russia, China and South Africa. The main commercial varieties are Crocidolite and Amosite (an amphibole) and Chrysotile (a serpentine).
What is it used for?
Asbestos' heat resistant and insulating properties have led to widespread use in pipe coverings, furnace insulation, brake linings, building insulation, fireproof clothing manufacture, cements, inert filler media, and many other applications.
Where does it come from?
Asbestos fibres may become liberated into air via mining, milling and processing of asbestos containing products. Dumping of asbestos containing wastes also contributes. In addition releases occur as a result of maintenance work on asbestos containing structures and equipment. Building demolition continues to be a major source.
How might it affect the environment?
Effects vary depending on the exact variety of asbestos in question. Generally speaking, scientific evidence suggests asbestos is a carcinogen and a cause of various bronchial condidtions. It appears that asbestos does not tend to bind to the solids normally found in natural water systems; however some materials (notably trace metals and organic compounds) have a tendancy to bind to asbestos minerals. Asbestos is highly resistant to degradation via rotting, burning, chemical exposure, so is very persistent in the environment.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Asbestos mainly affects the lungs and the membrane that surrounds the lungs and is a known human carcinogen by the inhalation route. There has been little convincing evidence of the carcinogenicity of ingested asbestos. Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers for a long time may result in scar-like tissue in the lungs resulting in a disease called asbestosis, usually found in workers exposed to asbestos, but not in the general public. The ability of asbestos to cause lung disease is because the fibers, once deposited in the deepest parts of the lung, remain in place for many years and may never be removed from the body. Effects vary depending on the variety of asbestos. The burden of asbestos-related disease continues to rise due to the long latency periods. No safe threshold for asebestos has been set by the WHO. In 1987, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified asbestos as Group 1 compound, i.e. carcinogenic to humans (IARC, 1987). In 1998, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (CSTEE) concluded that chrysotile is a proven carcinogen. In 2005, an independent risk assessment was undertaken in the European Community, which confirmed that all forms of inhaled asbestos can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis and that there is no threshold level of exposure.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
Releases of asbestos are controlled through the UK Pollution, Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations. In addition the Control of Asbestos Regulations - (SI 2006/2739) bring together the Regulations covering the prohibition of asbestos, the control of asbestos at work and asbestos licensing. The Regulations prohibit the importation, supply and use of all forms of asbestos. They also continue to ban the second-hand use of asbestos products. Furthermore, existing asbestos containing materials must be monitored and managed by the relevant party (e.g. Building owner, employer, etc). This is enforced by Local Authorities and the UK Government Health and Safety Executive.