It has recently been argued, by the committee on carcinogenicity, that children are now more vulnerable to asbestos than adults over their lifetime as a result of their longer life expectancy. From this comes a shocking statistic; a five year old child is much more likely than a thirty year old adult to develop the disease, Mesothelioma, if they both are exposed to asbestos at the same time.
Asbestos is the name attributed to the group of minerals that occur in the environment as a bundle of fibres. It is commonly used in buildings for the purpose of insulation, roofing and flooring. Another reason behind the scare is due to the fact that most school buildings contain the material asbestos, making it a reasonably hazardous location for children to grow up. Up to three quarters of England’s 24,000 schools are said to have asbestos within their buildings and organisations are being taken to court every other day and being fined due to asbestos risks.
The Department for Education has commented on the matter; “we welcome the Committee on Carcinogenicity’s report on the effect exposure to asbestos can have on children, and have committed to consider the findings when reviewing our policy on asbestos management.” They also stated that “schools already must comply with the strict legal duties on asbestos. We have also published guidance on the issue and work closely with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure asbestos is managed properly in all schools.”
Despite the fact that asbestos is now banned in the UK, many buildings prior to the year 2000 will still contain the harmful mineral as it was used extensively as a building material from the 1950’s through to the 1980’s.
The independent committee that advises the government on cancer, has uncovered this new evidence. In its final report, published after a two year long study, they state; “because of differences in life expectancy, for a given dose of asbestos the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about 3.5 times greater for a child first exposed at age five, compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about five times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30.”
Furthermore, the report argues that “from the available data, it is not possible to say that children are intrinsically more susceptible to asbestos-related injury. However, it is well recognised… that, due to the increased life expectancy of children compared to adults, there is an increased lifetime risk of mesothelioma as a result of the long latency period of the disease.”
It has been found that there have been over 2,000 deaths each year as a result of asbestos related lung cancer, proving that this is a matter to be taken very seriously. The majority of asbestos lung cancers usually take between 15 and 35 years to develop fully from the point of initial exposure to asbestos.
Despite this scare, asbestos is actually only dangerous to humans when it is damaged or disturbed. This enables it to be breathed in and consumed which is very damaging for the lungs. Once the asbestos has been damaged or disturbed, it must be removed immediately. There are many companies that deal with this situation, including some that also provide Asbestos Awareness Training, something which is vital for all construction companies, organisations need to prevent the risk of being taken to court for asbestos risks otherwise they’ll be looking at serious fines.