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Asbestos

Volume 932: debated on Tuesday 24 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what research work is being carried out regarding danger to health arising from concentrations of blue and white asbestos is homes and places of employment; and what conclusions have so far been reached.

The effects of occupational exposure to all forms of asbestos are being widely studied both in this country and abroad. Some of the more significant studies are listed below.A long-term study of asbestos workers was initiated by the Employment Medical Advisory Service in 1971. The main purposes of this research is to learn as much as possible about the natural history of exposures to asbestos of different types of varying but measured doses of dust; and to provide the evidence of the need for, and ultimately the effectiveness of dust control measures of all types.The Health and Safety Executive is also carrying out research which aims to improve the methods of determining concentrations of asbestos in dust samples and in monitoring techniques. Research is also being sponsored into the use of automatic counting techniques for asbestos fibres. A study of post-mortem material is being carried out under the auspices of the Medical Research Council to determine whether crocidolite (blue asbestos) has a different pattern of causation of death from that of other asbestos. This study has been going on for approximately two years.Among the other research projects being undertaken are the following: experimental studies of the fibrogenic and carcinogenic action of the principal types of asbestos, the development of immunological techniques for the surveillance of populations at high risk, and the effect of size and shape of fibres on their fibrogenic and carcinogenic action.The EEC is also concerned about the effects of asbestos both in the environment and in the work place, and a research study commissioned by it on the public health risks of exposure to asbestos has recently been published. This study contains an extensive list of references to research work on asbestos. Reference should be made to the individual papers for the writers' conclusions.Most of this work is directly related to asbestos exposure at work, but it is anticipated that the results will also be helpful in dealing with any risk that might arise in the home.