UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Occupational Exposure to Asbestos among Civic Workers : A Risk Assessment of Low-dose Exposure Ramsden, Rachel; Smith, Jennifer; Turcotte, Kate; Rajabali, Fahra; Garis, Len; Thomas, Larry; Pike, Ian

Abstract

Asbestos is a human carcinogen and has been prohibited in many countries around the world. Long-term exposure to asbestos can lead to negative health outcomes including mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural thickening, and lung cancer. The incidence of asbestos-related disease has been increasing in industrialized countries over the past decade. Exposure to asbestos and the risk for developing a serious health condition is dependent on the cumulative dose of exposure to asbestos, measured by the quantity of exposure and the length of time exposed. These diseases often do not present for 20 to 40 years after initial exposure and have poor prognoses. Asbestos poses a potential risk to the general population when it is used in buildings and infrastructure, however this risk is minimized if the dust fibres are left undisturbed. In an occupational setting, asbestos fibres have an increased risk of friability (becoming airborne), and therefore pose greater risk to workers, necessitating protective efforts. Occupational exposure to asbestos is typically classified into three risk levels - low-, moderate-, and high-risk, and in recent years, the prevalence of asbestos exposure in the workforce has shifted from the mining and manufacturing professions, to those occupations involving construction, electrical work, and automobile repairs. WorkSafeBC recognizes that any person who repairs, renovates, or demolishes older buildings is at an increased risk for inhaling asbestos fibres. This paper aims to summarize the available research related to asbestos exposure and asbestos-related disease and the estimated risk among British Columbian civic workers who are exposed to minimal doses of asbestos.

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