Asbestos: 100 000 deaths between 1995 and 2025

After a worrying report from the French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety, the government is redoubling its vigilance on asbestos. Prohibited since 1997, asbestos continues to wreak havoc by releasing fibers responsible for cancers.

Asbestos: the risks associated with small fibers underestimated

The report of 17 February 2009 of the French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (Afsset) 1 will undoubtedly date. After three years of analysis of the scientific literature, this agency deems it necessary to review the regulations to protect workers and the general population.

Asbestos: new sanitary measures in view

Toaster, fibro-cement plates, brake linings, paints ... Very good insulator and resistant to thermal and chemical aggressions, asbestos has long been popular in the United States until its late ban in 1997. Yet as early as 1906, Consequently, the collective expertise of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) estimates the human cost of this policy to be 100,000 deaths between 1995 and 2025.

Today, "asbestos" regulations are based on the proven toxicity of asbestos fibers "longer than 5 millionths of a meter in diameter and more than 0.2 millionths in diameter" or long fibers, Detection techniques.

But by the early 2000s, several articles 3, 4 demonstrate that the carcinogenic role of asbestos exists regardless of the length of these fibers. In 2005, the Ministries of Health, Labor and the Environment informed Afsset on this issue in order to know the reality of the risk linked to fine or short fibers.

On February 17, 2009, and after three years of work, the agency made its report: "The expertise of Afsset concluded that fine fibers have a significant carcinogenic effect. For short fibers, nothing can rule out an effect Carcinogenicity, although current health data have many limitations of interpretation. "

However, it is mainly short fibers that disperse in nature when decomposing materials containing asbestos. Thus, certain floor coverings (asbestos vinyl slabs) installed in the corridors with strong passages of certain schools dating back to the 1970s release such fibers without for the moment being taken into account by the regulation ...

Afsset therefore recommends

On the same day, the government responded by a joint communiqué 5 of the ministries involved and announced a revision of the exposure limit values ​​for employees. The threshold for triggering work in the general indoor environment (establishments welcoming the public) will also be revised. The issue of short fibers should be the subject of consultation. Moreover, all cases of mesotheliomas (cancers linked to asbestos) will be registered, irrespective of the location of the tumor, from 2010. The Institute for Public Health Surveillance (InVS) is in charge of this device. Finally, the Ministry of the Environment will also conduct an exhaustive inventory of the amiantiferous zones throughout the national territory.

For its part, the National Association for the Defense of Asbestos Victims (Andeva) 6 believes that Afsset's report will be a landmark. As regards the regulatory developments, it asked to be consulted. In addition, it points out that: "In view of the recurring findings on work sites where employees are exposed to asbestos, it asks that sufficient resources be made available to monitor the effective implementation of the enhanced prevention measures, As dissuasive penalties for offenders. "

1 - "Consideration of the dimensional criterion for the characterization of health risks related to the inhalation of asbestos" - Afsset report - 17 February 2009 2 - Health effects of asbestos substitution fibers - Inserm 1996; 3 - Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2005,208 (3): 201-10; 4 - Crit Rev Toxicol. 2008 - Press release issued by the Ministry of the Environment, Health, Labor and Housing - 17 February 2009 6 - Andeva Communiqué - 17 February 2009

National Association for the Defense of Asbestos Victims, French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety

To better protect professionals, to lower the current regulatory threshold (occupational exposure limit value) and to add fine fibers to asbestos dust. In order to do this, the measurement must necessarily be done by microscopy. For all buildings, lower the current regulatory value of 5 fibers per liter, which defines the maximum residual level now permitted inside buildings To create a new specific regulatory threshold for short asbestos fibers, applicable in indoor environments (establishments receiving the public ...)
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