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Approximately 1.1 million new cancer cases occur in Africa yearly.

Seek Safer Asbestos Alternatives to Reduce Cancer-related Exposure – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says about 125 million people in the world are exposed to all forms of asbestos at the workplace and warned that it is mineral fibre is carcinogenic to humans.

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that is used due to their extraordinary tensile strength for poor heat conduction and relative resistance to chemical attack.

Despite its usefulness in building insulation and as an ingredient in the production of roofing shingles, water pipelines, fire blankets, clutches, brake linings, gaskets, and pads for automobiles, the WHO warned that they are carcinogenic to humans, hence the need for safer alternatives.

“Exposure to asbestos causes cancer of the lung, larynx, ovaries, and cancer of the pleural and peritoneal linings (mesothelioma). Asbestos exposure is also responsible for other diseases such as asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), and plaques, thickening and effusion in the pleura.

“Approximately half of the deaths from occupational cancer are estimated to be caused by asbestos. In addition, it is estimated that several thousand deaths in the world annually can be attributed to exposure to asbestos in the home.

“It has also been shown that co-exposure to tobacco smoke and asbestos fibres substantially increases the risk for lung cancer – and the heavier the smoking, the greater the risk.

“Many fibre substitutes for chrysotile asbestos assessed by WHO to pose a relatively low hazard to human health, though, the carcinogenic hazard of some fibre substitutes was found to be high.

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“However, there are many non-fibre low-hazard materials that can substitute for chrysotile asbestos in various uses, such as conventional building materials,” the report stated.

Due to the danger posed by other similar compounds to health, the World Health Assembly resolution 58.22 on cancer prevention, urged Member States to pay special attention to cancers for which avoidable exposure is a factor, including exposure to chemicals at the workplace and in the environment.

“With resolution 60.26, the World Health Assembly requested WHO to carry out a global campaign for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases, bearing in mind a differentiated approach to regulating its various forms in line with the relevant international legal instruments and the latest evidence for effective interventions.”

Cost-effective interventions for the prevention of occupational lung diseases from exposure to asbestos are among the policy options for implementing the ‘Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases’, as endorsed by the 66th World Health Assembly in resolution in 2013.

“Eliminating asbestos-related diseases is particularly targeted at countries still using chrysotile asbestos, in addition to assistance in relation to exposures arising from the historical use of all forms of asbestos.

“WHO, in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation and other intergovernmental organisations and civil society, works with countries towards the elimination of asbestos-related diseases by recognising that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos.

“The collaboration also helps in providing information about solutions for replacing asbestos with safer substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to stimulate its replacement and taking measures to prevent exposure to asbestos in place and during asbestos removal (abatement).”

Part of the measures highlighted as interventions for asbestos-related exposure includes improving early diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation services for asbestos-related diseases; establishing registries of people with past and/or current exposures to asbestos; organising medical surveillance of exposed workers; providing information on the hazards associated with asbestos-containing materials and products, and to raise awareness that waste containing asbestos should be treated as hazardous.

SOURCE: Healthwise