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Fibre Glass (Research)

Volume 927: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will update the information in his answer to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), Official Report, Vol. 904, c. 552–3, on fibre glass; and if he will make a statement with regard to the progress of research.

The Chairman of the Health and Safety Commission informs me that the joint programme of research into the health hazards of inhaled manmade mineral fibres planned by the Joint European Medical Research Board of the Comite International de la Rayonne et des Fibres Synthetiques (CIRFS) and the European Insulation Manufacturers Association (EURIMA) is now under way. Three linked studies have been funded by them: animal and other biological experiments are proceeding at the Medical Research Council's Pneumoconiosis Unit: the Institute of Occupational Medicine, Edinburgh, has investigated methods of sampling airborn concentrations of man-made mineral fibre and have begun a series of environmental surveys at manufacturing plant: and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organisation is well advanced in establishing populations of European workers manuafcturing man-made mineral fibres for a mortality study.The research on novel techniques for the recognition and estimation of fibres sponsored by the Health and Safety Executive is still continuing at the Medical Research Council's Pneumo- coniosis Unit. A description of the basic principles and how they might be applied was given by V. Timbrell in "Annals of Occupational Hygiene", volume 18, pages 299 to 311. Related research has also been commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive with the aim of producing a portable instrument providing for direct monitoring and rough-size classification of airborne fibres. This research is still at an early stage.As any serious health hazard arising from the inhalation of these fibres is likely to take many years to develop, the research now being planned or undertaken is unlikely to yield definitive results in the near future.In the meantime the Health and Safety Commission has set up a working party of representatives from industry, trades unions and Government to review the present policy in relation to the health risk from man-made mineral fibres and to make recommendations to the Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances.