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Asbestos Class Action Timelines And Expectations
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By: Georgia Frangioudakis Khatib Georgia Frangioudakis Khatib Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 1, * , Julia Collins Julia Collins Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 1, Pierina Otness Pierina Otness Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 2, James Goodeorg James Goodeorg Stacey Scholar Stacey Tomley Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 1 Peter Franklin Peter Franklin Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 2, 4 and Justine Ross Justine Ross Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 1
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Received: July 3, 2023 / Revised: August 2, 2023 / Accepted: August 3, 2023 / Published: August 7, 2023
(This article relates to a special issue on sustainable practices for the detection, management and removal of asbestos in the built environment)
Asbestos remains ubiquitous in Australia’s built environment. About 50% of the 13 million tons of asbestos products installed in previous decades remain in place today. Due to the extensive use of asbestos in the past and the increasing age of these products, the potential for exposure to asbestos fibers both indoors and outdoors remains high, although the actual level of exposure to asbestos is usually very low. Sources of this exposure are the disturbance of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) in situ, for example during renovations or after disasters such as fires, cyclones and floods. However, our understanding of the risk of asbestos-related disease from long-term exposure at low or background levels is poor. We provide the most up-to-date overview of the risks of asbestos exposure currently affecting different groups of the Australian population and the conditions under which it may occur. Thus, there is a need for low-level asbestos monitoring, and further research is needed to determine whether current exposure monitoring approaches are adequate. In addition, we support proactive asbestos removal to reduce the ongoing risk of asbestos contamination and exposure from deteriorating, disturbed or damaged ACM while improving the long-term sustainability of the building as well as the sustainability of limited resources.
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Asbestos exposure causes diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and cancer of the lungs, ovaries, and larynx . Historically, the most significant source of workplace exposure has been asbestos mining and manufacturing. However, the presence of asbestos in millions of homes and public and commercial buildings across Australia today means that the workers most at risk of exposure are those involved in removal, repair, maintenance, renovation and other work on older buildings. This includes builders, electricians, plumbers and painters. Examples of work that involves or may involve asbestos disturbance include removing asbestos-containing floor tiles during renovations, cutting or drilling an asbestos-cement sheet wall, demolishing an asbestos-containing structure, or handling asbestos-cement pipes. .
Previous non-occupational exposure came from living with an asbestos worker or being near an asbestos mine or factory. These exposures have been consistently associated with disease . With the gradual restrictions on the mining and manufacture of asbestos and asbestos products beginning in the 1960s and finally following a ban in late 2003 in Australia, this exposure became less common. Home renovators are now the most at-risk group for non-occupational exposure, as they have little or no training in asbestos handling and removal and are less likely to implement protective controls to reduce exposure [4,5,6,7•, 8] .
Asbestos fibers are also released due to general wear and tear (weathering) and damage to ACM, as well as damage caused by disasters such as fires, storms, cyclones and floods. These events can cause a temporary increase in the number of fibers in the air, require complex control measures and are expensive to remedy. In some cases, long-term soil contamination remains with asbestos fragments and fiber bundles. Other potential sources of exposure include illegal asbestos disposal, historic fill materials, and waste recycling (see Section 4). Imported goods containing asbestos fibers in violation of the import ban could also pose a risk of future exposure.
This article provides an up-to-date overview of the risks of asbestos exposure in Australia and the conditions under which they may occur. It also examines current and future approaches to addressing these risks and identifies gaps in knowledge. To achieve this, we considered the potential release of asbestos fibers from in-situ products, an analytical framework for measuring asbestos exposure, the current setting of potential asbestos exposure (including case studies), and the development of a comprehensive national asbestos prevention system. exposure. .
Australia was one of the largest per capita users of asbestos in the world until the 1980s. After this time, the use of asbestos products in buildings was phased out and banned until the end of 2003, but most in situ products are much older . Like any building material, ACM deteriorates with age. The amount of damage caused by general aging depends on several factors, including how well the products are maintained. Very low concentrations of asbestos fibers have been measured in most urban centers in industrialized countries such as Australia , and asbestos fibers can be found in the lungs of many people who have not been exposed at work [11, 12]. A simple measure of asbestos consumption has been shown to be associated with asbestos-related mortality, even in countries with high consumption in the past, such as Australia, as well as in developing countries that are relatively new users of ACM .
Indoor products are likely to behave more slowly than outdoor products and damage occurs due to physical contact (eg general wear and tear) and building movement (eg vibration). Renovation activities may temporarily increase the concentration of fibers in the premises, depending on how carefully they are carried out (see section 4.2). However, the airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers in buildings where there is no product disturbance are generally not in measurable amounts or very low, similar to outdoor concentrations [14, 15, 16].
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In a 2008 study of 752 buildings over a ten-year period, including schools, universities, public buildings and homes, Lee and Van Orden  found that although indoor concentrations were higher than outdoor concentrations, “ACM would not lead to increased asbestos content. in situ in a building atmosphere that approaches regulatory levels and does not pose a significantly increased risk to building occupants”. On average, the highest indoor concentrations were found in schools, probably due to higher activity in these buildings .
Aging, deterioration and restoration of asbestos products can potentially increase the amount of asbestos fibers in the air or dust, while ventilation and ongoing cleaning activities will reduce the amount of asbestos fibers indoors. A 2022 study on changes in asbestos fiber concentrations in typical Eastern European buildings found that fiber concentrations in indoor air are generally low and decline over time, with ventilation being an important factor in reduction .
Asbestos products that are placed outdoors (such as exterior siding, fences, and roofs) are more exposed to weathering and damage than indoor asbestos products. Damage to outdoor products can be very noticeable. Cracked and broken ACM fences and wallboards are common where these products have been used extensively. The overall damage is not as obvious, but erosion of the ACM can remove cement particles and cause asbestos fibers to become loose. It is very difficult to quantify the impact of damaged and weathered materials on urban asbestos contamination.
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Typical levels of asbestos fibers in ambient air in urban areas are approximately 0.0001 f/ml, which is ten times higher than in rural areas (excluding any specific source of asbestos) . A factor that limits the number of airborne fibers even for damaged products with visible debris is that the debris and bundles of fibers are larger than the respirable size fraction (unpublished; Otness and Franklin), meaning they are not measured by currently used air monitoring tools. methods. (see section 3). The sources of elevated concentrations in cities are varied, and although the release of fibers from individual products, even if highly degraded, may be minimal, many of these products are
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