by Wendi Lewis
Asbestos available on black market in DubaiA recent report in the Khaleej Times says asbestos is still readily available in Dubai on the black market, despite a government ban on the substance. While representatives from the Dubai Municipality Environment Department say they are not aware of any black market trading of the hazardous material, the news agency says industry sources confirm it is easy to find illegal asbestos sales in Deira and Satwa.
The United Arab Emirates passed a law in 2006 banning the sale of sheets of asbestos. Asbestos has been linked to diseases including asbestosis, a severe scarring of the lungs; and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and, more rarely, the abdomen.
The Dubai Municipality is striving to put checks in place that would oversee the removal of asbestos from demolition sites and ensure that it is disposed of properly, but workers says they are regularly approached by people offering to buy the asbestos they are removing from a site, the Times reports.
It is estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of homes in Dubai contain some asbestos. The material is found most commonly in asbesots building sheets, but has also been identified in asbestos water pipes, floor tiles and decorative wallpaper.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral with long, thin fibrous crystals. The word asbestos (ἄσβεστος) is a borrowed Greek adjective meaning inextinguishable. The Greeks termed asbestos the miracle mineral because of its soft and pliant properties, as well as its ability to withstand heat.
Asbestos can be toxic. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma (a type of malignant neoplasm dependent mostly from exposure to asbestos), and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis). Since the mid 1980s, the European Union and most developed countries have banned asbestos. Since January 1 2005 the European Union has banned all types of utilization of asbestos Directive 1999/77/EC and extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos products Directive 2003/18/EC.
Asbestos generally is not dangerous unless it is disturbed, when it releases microscopic fibers that can be inhaled and which remain in the body indefinitely. A large part of the problem is that people are unaware of the lurking danger and expose themselves to these fibers during home renovation projects.
Asbestos has been popular because of its low cost, so it is more commonly found in lower cost accommodations, the Times reports.
Original Post: Asbestos Still Being Sold Despite Ban
DUBAI – Potentially carcinogenic asbestos building materials are still being sold on the black market, despite a government ban, experts have warned.
Between 70-90 per cent of homes in Dubai contain some asbestos, which can cause cancer when particles are inhaled, according to two demolition industry managers charged with asbestos removal.
Ed Ferrero, senior manager at GTS Holdings in Dubai, said that building sheets containing asbestos were still available in some areas of the country.
“We were involved in a major project in a cargo area of Port Rashid last year which required the removal of 600,000 tonnes of asbestos,” he said.
“During the project we had everyday people approaching us asking if they could buy the asbestos sheets that we were removing. I was horrified.”
Hamdan Al Shaer, Head of the Environment Department at Dubai Municipality, said that he was not aware of anyone selling asbestos on the black market, but stressed that it was illegal. “Asbestos sheets are no longer allowed to be sold,” he said.
However, industry sources say that several small “back-street traders” in the Deira and Satwa areas of Dubai still sell asbestos sheets.
In 2006, the UAE Cabinet issued a law stating that sheets of asbestos, which has fire-resistant properties, could no longer be sold.
In addition, the law states that a survey needs to be conducted before demolition to see whether there is any asbestos in the building. If any is found, it must be removed and disposed of an approved way.
However, in some cases, asbestos can remain in a building if a survey is carried out by someone who does not have proper training. The issue becomes a problem once demolition begins.
Using the traditional demolition technique of a ball and crane was inappropriate, Ferrero said. “This causes massive amounts of asbestos dust to explode in the air and cover nearby communities. There are many cases where residents have complained because of worries over health.”
Asbestos fibres are normally only harmful when they are stirred up in dust form, for instance at the time of demolition.
In the United Kingdom, some 5,000 workers die every year through illnesses linked to asbestos exposure, according to the Health and Safety Executive.
Dubai Municipality has also introduced a local law where officials can check whether a survey and removal has been carried out before granting a demolition permit.
Companies in the UK require a ‘Hazardous Waste Carriers’ license before they can carry out asbestos removal. Ferrero said no formal certificates is required in the UAE and many demolition companies here simply did the survey and removal themselves.
“We carry the formal qualifications from the UK and we were registered with the Dubai Municipality on those grounds,” said Chris Ferguson, technical director at Angus Asbestos Removal. “However, a lot of those who have also been registered do not carry the same qualifications.”
Despite the Cabinet ban against asbestos building sheets, several other asbestos products, such as water pipes, have remained legal to sell and use in building.
In the UK, asbestos sheets were banned as early as 1970 but asbestos pipes were banned only in 2000.
According to Ferguson, asbestos can be found in other products such as floor tiles and decorative wallpaper. “The absolute majority of homes in Dubai have some form of asbestos in them,” he said.
Since asbestos is a cheap building alternative, it is typically more often found in low-cost accommodation rather than large villas, he said.
Mesothelioma, more precisely malignant mesothelioma, is a rare form of cancer that develops from the protective lining that covers many of the body’s internal organs, the mesothelium. It is usually caused by exposure to asbestos.
Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles, or they have been exposed to asbestos dust and fibers in other ways, such as by washing the clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos.
Malignant mesothelioma is not the only problem. Prolonged accumulation of asbestos fibers in your lungs can cause scarring of lung tissue and shortness of breath. This condition is known as asbestosis. Asbestosis symptoms can range from mild to severe, and usually don’t appear until years after exposure.
Symptoms of asbestosis include:
- shortness of breath, initially only with exertion but eventually even while resting
- chest pain
- decreased tolerance for physical activity
- finger deformity (clubbing) in some cases
Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos and glass particles, or they have been exposed to asbestos dust and fiber in other ways. It has also been suggested that washing the clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos or glass can put a person at risk for developing mesothelioma. Unlike lung cancer, there is no association between mesothelioma and smoking, but smoking greatly increases the risk of other asbestos-induced cancers.[ Those who have been exposed to asbestos have collected damages for asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma. Compensation via asbestos funds or lawsuits is an important issue in law practices regarding mesothelioma (see asbestos and the law).
The symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath due to pleural effusion (fluid between the lung and the chest wall) or chest wall pain, and general symptoms such as weight loss. The diagnosis may be suspected with chest X-ray and CT scan, and is confirmed with a biopsy (tissue sample) and microscopic examination. A thoracoscopy (inserting a tube with a camera into the chest) can be used to take biopsies. It allows the introduction of substances such as talc to obliterate the pleural space (called pleurodesis), which prevents more fluid from accumulating and pressing on the lung. Despite treatment with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or sometimes surgery, the disease carries a poor prognosis. Research about screening tests for the early detection of mesothelioma is ongoing.