Exposure to asbestos amongst the human population

Asbestos is are naturally occurring fibrous minerals that are consists of thin, soft and soft needle-like fibers that are resistant to heat, corrosion and electricity. Exposure to asbestos is known to be the number one cause of death in the workplace throughout the world therefore causing 90,000 deaths each year with approximately 125 million people being at risk of occupational exposure to asbestos. Many communities all over the world (including construction workers and miners) have been affected by the exposure of asbestos in their homes/workplaces and researchers have determined that there is a correlation between exposure to asbestos and the development of cancer in the human body. There are evidence that supports that those who have been directly exposed to asbestos have proven to have some form of cancer that can negative impact the livelihood of each individual.

Exposure to asbestos can cause a lung disease such as asbestosis which can then cause 90% individuals to have a high risk of contracting mesothelioma (a rarely curable cancer manifested in the on the linings of the major organs). Asbestos also cause other familiar forms of cancer such as lung, ovarian and laryngeal cancer which can all take about 15-30 years to develop as well as to cause many deaths in the human population. An example of first impact of the exposure to asbestos include the premature deaths of 22+ miners working at the Jeffrey Mine which led to the discovery of how asbestos is linked to cancer/death of workers.

The human population are naturally exposed to asbestos in outdoor settings in extremely low levels but the main environmental sources of asbestos exposure that could harm the human body is in disturbed building materials, disposal/manufacture of asbestos-containing products, discarded mine/mill tailings, crushed rocks from road construction, etc. According to research done in a hospital in Laval, Quebec, it was determined that these environmental sources of exposure can most significantly impact the construction and mining communities as they are most directly exposed to asbestos therefore causing many premature deaths through the development of cancer. The exposure of asbestos is considered to be a workplace and chemical environmental hazard since an increase in exposure of this toxic mineral can cause detrimental effects to the human body therefore causing the development of cancer amongst homeowners, workers, etc.

There are many policies that currently exist in Ontario to mitigate the exposure of asbestos amongst workers since asbestos is known

to cause a significant increase in cancer/deaths and these policies were needed to prevent the asbestos from harming and affecting more of individuals. Some policies to mitigate the exposure of asbestos amongst workers include:
  • Making the workers wear personally protective clothing and equipment like jumpsuits, respirators, etc. whenever asbestos was discovered in an area to prevent direct exposure/inhalation of the fibers greater than 5µm.
  • Establishing safe work practices/procedures to handle and treat the asbestos in a particular area to be able to remove the hazard.
  • Establish safe transportation of asbestos from the site exposed to asbestos to the dangerous goods landfill (those handling asbestos must require a special certificate and training).
  • Homeowners are required to inform workers of the presence and suspicions of asbestos in their homes.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) under the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Public Health Ontario and the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) all work together as the primary policymakers in Ontario to create policies to help mitigate the exposure to asbestos amongst the human population. It is important for each of the organizations/associations to come together and bring their knowledge and expertise of asbestos to the table to discuss potential solutions to improve the issue. The importance of these primary policymakers is to unsure that proper safety precautions are implemented to help prevent the development of cancer as well as death.