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The Asbestos Threat Still Exists


For more than half a century builders used asbestos in buildings to insulate pipes and boilers, in walls as a fire protection in walls and they even used it in roofing and guttering.

Asbestos does not generally pose a health risk so long as it remains intact and in good condition. Once asbestos is damaged however its fibers are released into the air and if inhaled they can have very serious effects on health.

The World Trade Centre towers were opened to the public in 1973 and at the heart of each tower was a vertical steel and concrete core which housed its lift shafts and stairwells and all the steel was covered in concrete as were the floors but because of its high melting point however and because it's a fire retardant, asbestos was used to fireproof its beams.

In the 1960s, when it was discovered that asbestos is a carcinogen, many countries banned the material but by the time the ban was enforced and strict guidelines were implemented, the builders on the World Trade Centre had already completed the first 40 floors of the north tower and had used asbestos in them.

It is said that the subsequent construction was completed with hopefully safer materials but there is scant evidence of this.

According to the newspaper, 'The New York Times', the US Environmental Protection Agency analyzed 97 air samples from 11 sites in Lower Manhattan and four sites in New Jersey and stated, "Seven samples at or near the World Trade Centre attack site had marginally higher levels of asbestos, which exceeded the E.P.A.'s level of concern for long-term exposure. Rescue workers in this restricted area have been provided with respirators. As the rescue and clean-up operation continues, frequent air samples will have be taken to ensure that workers involved in the clearing of debris as well as investigators are not at risk of acquiring an asbestos-related disease".

Various medical experts have warned that exposure to asbestos fiber when broken down into dust can cause a multitude of terminal diseases and asbestosis which is a lung disease characterized by shortness of breath is of major concern.

Another concern is mesothelioma which is a rare cancer of the lining of the abdominal cavity and the surrounding internal organs and pleural disease which can result in a calcification of the lungs.

Other cancers related to asbestos fiber include lung cancer (worsened by cigarette smoking) and cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum.

A major problem is that a great many cases of asbestos related symptoms only appear decades and in some cases as many as four decades after the original exposure.

More that 3,000 people a year die of asbestos related diseases in the UK and the number is predicted to rise to 10,000 a year by 2020.

Those at the highest risk are builders, electricians, plumbers and shipyard workers who drilled into insulation boards and used it for construction purposes.

However teachers, children and nurses are also believed to have been put in danger since asbestos was used in the construction of a great many schools and hospitals.

The families of those who work with asbestos can also be infected since asbestos particles can be brought home on their clothes.