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Asbestos-Related Deaths Up

michael posted about 10 years ago | from the in-case-you-had-nothing-to-worry-about dept.

Science 39

jlowery writes "Seems that asbestos deaths have skyrocketed recently, which isn't suprising one you learn that it takes 40-45 years after exposure for peak deaths to occur. Reminds me of the time 25 years ago me and Dad were replacing the brakes on my old Datsun 510 and blew out the brake residue with compressed air. Dusty."

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Asbestos modeling compound in grade school (1)

Flexagon (740643) | about 10 years ago | (#9781671)

Does anyone else remember using asbestos modeling compound in elementary school in the '60s? It was served up as a powder (!) on small plywood work boards used at our desks. We added water, mixed into a play doh like consistency, and made sculptures.

Re:Asbestos modeling compound in grade school (1)

volteface (798935) | about 10 years ago | (#9781780)

It's scary to think that such a commonly used and widespread material could be so toxic without anyone realizing it for so many years.

"Does anyone else remember using asbestos modeling compound in elementary school in the '60s? It was served up as a powder (!) on small plywood work boards used at our desks. We added water, mixed into a play doh like consistency, and made sculptures."
That sounds more like Plaster of Paris to me. I don't know, I've just never heard of asbestos used for that. In fact a Google search on the subject turned up rather bare as well.

Re:Asbestos modeling compound in grade school (1)

Flexagon (740643) | about 10 years ago | (#9781996)

That sounds more like Plaster of Paris to me.

No, it was a gray largish powder, with a slightly crystaline look to it as I recall, and it never hardened like plaster. Also as I recall, our teacher said it was asbestos.

Re:Asbestos modeling compound in grade school (3, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | about 10 years ago | (#9781980)

Ahh yes, I remember it well. That stuff was called Cancerene brand modelling clay and it had a cute little dancing skeleton on the multicolored label. It was excellent stuff, and gained a lot of it's structural integrity from the asbestos fibers embedded in it. And I do remember that bugs wouldn't eat it because it had an arsenic/DDT ingredient too. The colors would stay bright for years because of the lead-based pigments. Except for the orange clay, which used uranium oxide as a pigment. Since it was a children's product, the clay smelled and tasted like bananas. Those crazy marketers sure knew what they were doing! I remember that our entire class spent a week making cute little plates, saucers, cups, and bowls out of the stuff. I still use mine to this day. Brings back a lot of memories, thanks.

Re:Asbestos modeling compound in grade school (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9782012)

Sorry no mod point's but that's the funnyest thing I have read on /. in a long time.

Re:Asbestos modeling compound in grade school (1)

Quikah (14419) | about 10 years ago | (#9782598)

I don't know if this is it, but I found a recall notice [] for something called fibro-clay.

FP (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9781718)


Brakes and sinuses (1)

Kevin Burtch (13372) | about 10 years ago | (#9781810)

"Reminds me of the time 25 years ago me and Dad were replacing the brakes on my old Datsun 510 and blew out the brake residue with compressed air. Dusty."

Yeah, any time you blow your nose and it comes out black, you have to wonder how much ended up in your lungs!

Been there, done that... a lot more careful now.

Re:Brakes and sinuses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9781974)

a lot more careful now.

Too late. Dead man walking.

Re:Brakes and sinuses (1)

nlindstrom (244357) | about 10 years ago | (#9784910)

I call dibs on your five-digit Slashdot UID!

My Office (1)

Plake (568139) | about 10 years ago | (#9781985)

The current building I work was built back in the 50's, it's one of the oldest buisness buildings in the whole city. When we moved in to the office we were told we were not allowed to put up pact poles for power/network cabling.

Upon furthur discovery we found there were large amounts of asbestos in the walls/ceiling. The building management company tried to say it was contained (which it was not) and then told us not to go to the WCB by threatening us with issues with our lease. We did go to the WCB and the building was closed (all 7 floors, yet we were on just 1 floor) to have the asbestos sealed/contained.

As this was all discovered we were still in the process of moving (only myself and 1 other guy were in the new place to setup the enviroment), so it didn't cause many problems it just delayed our move by a couple of days. I also filed with the WCB for record I've been exposed, I was told the odds of having any harm done from only a month of exposure is rare if none, but it's still recorded just in case for later in life.

We're still in the building to this day with the sealed asbestos and nothing happened with the management company and their idle threat.

SBRS (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | about 10 years ago | (#9782031)

Several years back I was working at the Shoal Bay Receiving Station, just outside of Darwin Australia. A bunch of guys turned up, drilled holes in the airconditioning ducts, (large pipes running around the ceiling - fun to climb on when playing 'the floor is lava'), stuck a camera in and discovered they would be spending the next few months removing huge amounts of the stuff.

They placed several sensors about the building to detect airborn particles, though they were suspiciously quiet about the test results.

I sure hope I never end up dead from it....

Wonder if any other slashdot readers spent time at the bay... :-)

They haven't "skyrocketed recently" (4, Informative)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about 10 years ago | (#9782079)


The article says: Asbestos-related deaths have increased fourfold in the past three decades, according to a new CDC report.

Three decades is not recent and fourfold over 3 decades is not a skyrocket.

Lung cancer from asbestos is no joke. I lost my father-in-law to it and my grandfather to blacklung. Report the news, but report it honestly.

Re:They haven't "skyrocketed recently" (1)

jlowery (47102) | about 10 years ago | (#9782446)

I stand corrected -- 4-fold increase.

I'm not sure what how many other disease you know of that have increased 4-fold in three decades; seems skyrocketing to me, but that's subjective opinion.

> Lung cancer from asbestos is no joke.

It's called black humor: it's not meant to make light of a subject, that's why it's black.

Re:They haven't "skyrocketed recently" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9784745)

What it SHOULD be:

Starting this year, we'll strive to build every one of our digital devices to respect consumer rights

Asbestosis and smoking (2, Interesting)

dacarr (562277) | about 10 years ago | (#9782132)

A while back, a guy I knew who worked in insulation quipped that most of the asbestosis deaths he knew of were heavy smokers to begin with, so what he postulated was that it was more that the asbestos compounded the smoking related junk. Anyone know if there is truth to that one, or is he just...well, blowing smoke?

Re:Asbestosis and smoking (2, Informative)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about 10 years ago | (#9782174)

I've heard that smoking will promote asbestosis, but that non-smokers get it as well. My father-in-law was exposed to it in Navy ships' boiler rooms in the 40's. He died of asbestosis in the 80's having been a non-smoker all his life.

The grandparent has a point (1)

Engineer-Poet (795260) | about 10 years ago | (#9782278)

Lots of people fail to survive past their 80's even without asbestos exposure (or smoking). I agree that pointlessly adding risks to live is stupid, but we should be thinking of these things like prostate cancer: if intervention will create more harm than waiting for the moment, we should not intervene.

The analogy is not perfect, because we do have substitutes for asbestos for most purposes. Yet we should look at the harm prevented by asbestos as well as the harm it causes, and not create worse harm from non-asbestos risks just to avoid the boogieman of the day.

Re:The grandparent has a point (1)

Zerth (26112) | about 10 years ago | (#9782916)

He said "in the 80's" not "in his 80's"

You know, like the decade of hair-bands?

Re:The grandparent has a point (1)

SecretFire (578177) | about 10 years ago | (#9783143)

Yes, but if he in the navy during the 40s, it's quite possible that he's that old, or at least in his 70's.

Re:The grandparent has a point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9783244)

He could have been as young as 60 if he joined right out of school. Since the original poster didn't say which years, the time period could be as long as 60 years or as short as 40 years.

Okay, you got me. I mis-read. (1)

Engineer-Poet (795260) | about 10 years ago | (#9784642)


Re:Asbestosis and smoking (1)

Biff78 (694374) | about 10 years ago | (#9783728)

I worked in asbestos removal for a while (licensed inspector etc.) It's a bad idea to work around asbestos and smoke for a variety of reasons but most importantly the two act in synergy when determining likelihood of lung cancer. For example, if you smoke you are ~10x more likely to get lung cancer than a non-smoker. If you work around asbestos, you are ~5x more likely to get lung cancer than someone who does not work around asbestos. If you smoke and work around asbestos, you are ~50x more likely to get lung cancer than someone who doesn't smoke and doesn't work around asbestos. For this reason, most companies that remove asbestos won't higher smokers because their insurance won't cover smokers.

Re:Asbestosis and smoking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9789550)

won't higher smokers


I still have asbestos (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 10 years ago | (#9782469)

When I was a kid, my grandmother's brother, who worked at the asbestos mines in, well, Asbestos, QC, Canada, gave me a bunch of small baby food glass jars filled with asbestos at all the stages of processing, from the raw ore to the stuff that the mines sent to various industries.

I never bothered to open the jars to play with it, so it's probably a good thing.

Incidentally, my great-uncle didnt die from asbestos-related disease, but from diabetes complications.

Re:I still have asbestos (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | about 10 years ago | (#9782656)

Asbestos isn't a big deal until it becomes airborne. Most of the victims of asbestos-induced cancer are mechanics who were exposed to brake dust over a couple of decades.

Depending on where your grandfather worked, it's unlikely that he was exposed to much friable asbestos at all.

Re:I still have asbestos (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 10 years ago | (#9783262)

well, first, he's my great UNCLE, and he was a miner. IIRC he worked at various positions, operating the diggers, driving the big-ass trucks, etc. in mines such as this: g

Wow, is this timely, or what? (2, Informative)

Hallow (2706) | about 10 years ago | (#9783026)

I'm in the process of buying an old house (built in 1905!), so I've done quite a bit of research recently on Asbestos (and lead paint).

The epa has a pretty good section [] devoted to it. I also found The Asbestos Tragedy [] to be enlightening and more than a bit disturbing.

Asbestos, the state rock of California, is a mineral fiber. It's a rock that can be woven into fabric. It's very strong, chemically resistant, and fireproof. Being a natural substance, it's around us all the time and is part of the environment - as the rocks erode, the dust containing asbestos fibers are picked up by wind. (When an asbestos containing product is releasing fibers, it's termed friable).

It was used in a wide variety of household materials for decades. Things like heating system insulaton, vinyl/asphalt/rubber tiles, vinyl floor backing and adhesives, joint compounds, texturized paint, stove-top pads, oven mits, etc.. It was even used as stage curtains in theaters because of it's resistance to flame.

If it's in good condition (non-friable), meaning not cracking, crumbling, on an impact surface or otherwise releasing dust, then it's usually harmless if left alone. If it's friable though there are two methods for taking care of it - encapsulation (which is a temporary solution and must be maintained) and removal. Most states specify that only a licensed contractor or homeowner (friends and relatives can help, but cannot be paid, and all regulations must be followed) can deal with it.

When exposed to asbestos it will usually be caught by the mucus in the lining of your nose, mouth, and throat. This eventually gets swallowed (or hacked up I suppose). What's swallowed passes through you and winds up passing through and out of your digestive tract.

All it takes however is a single asbestos fiber to get past that defense system and get trapped in your lungs to potentially cause cancer. But like most cancers it's hit or miss who will be affected.

Oh, remember that part about it being a naturally occuring substance? It is quite possible that you could be exposed just by breathing fresh clean air.

The worst part is that it takes 20-40 years for any signs to show up, there's no way to test for it besides using x-rays to see if there's visibly damaged lung tissue, and there's no treatment. Our house inspector has had 3 friends die in the past 5 years or so due to asbestos.

Which brings me back to the house I'm buying - we found obvious asbestos insulation on the old radiator heating system under the house. The seller is going to have professionally removed (licensed asbestos contractor).

But there may still be asbestos lurking in other places. The texturized ceilings in a few rooms will have to have tested (the current owners have had the place ~10 years, and don't know exactly when it was painted) for both asbestos and lead before we do anything with them. Testing runs about $25-50 per sample.

Lead paint is much much easier to deal with. Blood levels can be monitored, encapsulation products are easy to apply (special paint,kinda pricey but much cheaper than abatement), and for wood surfaces the newer soy gel paint strippers make it much safer for do-it-yourselfers.

Basically we're going to have to be very careful and meticulus about any work we decide to do or have done to make sure our home is safe.

Re:Wow, is this timely, or what? (1)

selderrr (523988) | about 10 years ago | (#9784275)

I'm glad you're so prudent and educated about the dangers about asbestos. But as a sidenote, doesn't it make you feel a little guilty sometimes that you pay someone to clean up the dangerous shit ? I know, they have professional equipment and stuff, but usually it's people form the low end of the social ladder that do this kind of work. And as you said : it takes only one fibre to get past the defense system...

I'm having an ethical fight with myself these days : we've removed the carpet, and now the glue residues need to be removed with a very toxic product. I can either do it myself, and expose myself to an unhealthy dose of it, or pay some immigrants who would practically eat a plate of it for a few euro and do this dangerous shit all the time... It's not an easy choice !

Re:Wow, is this timely, or what? (1)

Scarblac (122480) | about 10 years ago | (#9784472)

Are you sure there is no alternative? That's either an alternative to the very toxic product, or to removing them?

Re:Wow, is this timely, or what? (1)

selderrr (523988) | about 10 years ago | (#9784656)

we tried 5 or 6 products. None of them could remove the glue. That's glue put on in the 1950's... serious stuff, and they were pretty damd generous with it (i.e. a fully covered floor) on a wooden floor that we want to get back to its orinigal wooden state. With that particular product, it goes pretty fast. But it's one damd SOB of a product :-( the only alternative would be to put carpet again. But that's not hygienic (sic?) and with kids age 1-3-5, you're asking for trouble. A kork floor would be cool, but tha's really expensive.

Re:Wow, is this timely, or what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9784846)

Here comes a flood of "well I used this", or at least this one.

If it's black tarry mastic used for linoleum we faced the same problem. Horrible stuff, couldn't scrape it off. Tried some citrus-type products that were "guaranteed" to work but barely made a dent. We wanted to avoid the hardcore removal products.

Turns out if you pour a solution of boiled water and sunlight (yes the dish detergent) onto the mastic, left it for 30 minutes, the stuff scraped off like an orange peel. It took the glue right out of the grain of the wood leaving glorious floors ready for sanding.

disclaimer: ymmv :)

Re:Wow, is this timely, or what? (1)

ArsonPerBuilding (319673) | about 10 years ago | (#9788925)

I've dealt with that mastic before, it a serious pain in the ass. If the water and detergent solution doesn't work, you can try chiseling it but there is a trick. Get a block of dry ice and some heavy rubber gloves because you need to literally freeze the section that you're chiseling to make it brittle enough to chip away. Good luck and YMMV

Re:Wow, is this timely, or what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9789600)

Have you tried burning it out? That would cause the asbestos to be harmlessly carried away by the wind.

Re:Wow, is this timely, or what? (1)

Hallow (2706) | about 10 years ago | (#9802900)

Sorry it took so long, but have your tried bean-e-doo [] ? It's a soy based carpet/linoleum adhesive remover with no fumes and that leaves no residue. I don't know if it's available where you live, or how well it works, but I've been told their soy based paint stripper is amazing (non-toxic, bio-degradeable, safe to touch, no fumes, binds lead, works fast and well).

As far as the ethical dillema, I don't really see one. I don't know about your country or locality, but in my state licensed asbestos contractors and workers must take many hours of classes and pass certification tests in order to acheive their state license and be legally allowed to remove the asbestos. Any homeowner or business that knowingly hires someone without a license to remove asbestos faces very stiff penalties, as does anyone who forges or otherwise lies about not having a license. They should have the training and tools to be able to handle the material safely. I have no qualms about paying a properly insured and licensed professional to do a job.

Not quite the state rock (1)

OldButNotWise (415531) | about 10 years ago | (#9784923)

Asbestos, the state rock of California...

The state rock is Serpentinite [] , which may contain Asbestos.

Re:Wow, is this timely, or what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9789574)

it's resistance to flame.


Not surprising. (1)

b-baggins (610215) | about 10 years ago | (#9783136)

The most dangerous exposures to asbestos occurred in the process of removing it. The stuff is perfectly safe in slabs between sheetrock. When you start tearing it out you create all sorts of poisonous asbestos dust. But try telling that to Chicken Little Americans who go into hysterical panics over anything containing the phrase cancer-causing.

I'd like to see demographics (1)

Neil Blender (555885) | about 10 years ago | (#9785203)

Owning a house built in 1909, I've read about asbestos and most of the people who get cancer from it (mesothelioma) were in construction, shipbuilding and other heavy industries that used a lot of asbestos. These people received prolonged heavy exposure to it, often for decades. If you haven't worked in these industries between 1900 and 1980, I think you have little to fear. The spike can easily be accounted for by the length of time the cancer takes to develop. It will probably rise for another decade or two, then fall off.

As far as single exposure or limited exposure goes, it is highly unlikely that that alone will cause cancer. It is simply not that toxic, few things (that you are likely to come in contact with) are.
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