A Brief History Of Asbestos Use And Associated Health Risks

2936 words - 12 pages

I. Introduction
Asbestos and the dangers revolving around it have been acknowledged and regulated by OSHA since 1972. OSHA first implemented it’s regulation on asbestos exposure in the early 1970’s in order to protect American workers from grave dangers of prolonged asbestos exposure. Since it’s implementation, these regulations have significantly decreased the incidence of asbestos-related diseases and conditions ("Asbestos standard for," 1995). The following research analyzes the ways in which OSHA has addressed the issue of asbestos (in 1972 and since), and seeks to discover ways in which OSHA could further reduce the incidence of asbestos-related conditions.
II. Background Information
Prior to regulation asbestos was a commonly used material. This is largely in part due to asbestos’ high propensity to heat and acid resistance as well as it’s high tensile strength (Saldivar & Soto, 2008). Fundamentally, asbestos is an ideal material for building and manufacturing; it’s properties lend it to be a strong, versatile substance that is fire retardant and cheap. Before it’s toxicity was known organizations were not concerned with employee exposure to asbestos, as the use of asbestos allowed these companies to make strong, durable products at a low cost and high volume. The substance asbestos is a collective term used to describe six naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have specific chemical and physical properties (Saldivar & Soto, 2008).
The history of asbestos use extends far past modern times, with it’s roots traced back thousands of years. It’s historical uses as candle wicks, tablecloths, and napkins would never be deemed appropriate or safe in modern times, as it would put someone’s health and life at stake. The first large scale use of asbestos came about in the early 1800’s in the mining and industrial industries (Saldivar & Soto, 2008). As it’s versatility and strength was discovered, the production of asbestos increased. It’s production increased dramatically over the course of the next 150 years, reaching it’s peak production in 1977 with an astounding 4.9 million metric tons produced worldwide (Saldivar & Soto, 2008). At this time, levels of asbestos exposure had been regulated by OSHA for only five years and although it’s dangers were known, it is likely that asbestos was still used without sufficient control methods. Without sophisticated modern monitoring equipment, employers likely took preventative steps for asbestos exposure without the ability to precisely measure airborne asbestos particles.
Incredibly, in 2004 worldwide asbestos production was still 2.4 metric tons - only half the peak asbestos production recorded (Saldivar & Soto, 2008). Is regulation the proper way to combat the dangers of asbestos? According to Ramazzini (2011), regulation is not the answer - the solution is a ban on asbestos. The only way to effectively remove the danger of asbestos is through removing asbestos entirely. Today, fifty two...

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