While the use of asbestos was banned in 1993, exposure (both environmental and occupational) to it still occurs due to renovation of buildings, repairing of ships, soil decontamination, and the presence of asbestos in the environment.
The most common health effects of exposure to asbestos are pleural and peritoneal cancer (mesothelioma) and lung cancer. Recently, the Dutch Health Council (GR) reassessed the studies aimed at the relation between asbestos exposure and cancer (see www.gr.nl).
Based on the latest survey, the GR concluded that the current Dutch environmental limits for asbestos – depending on the type) – should be reduced by a factor 30 or 40.
The GR has also calculated the asbestos concentrations that correspond to the two levels of risk within the working condition policy (risk level 4.10-3
). The concentrations corresponding to the highest risk are a factor 10 to 48 times lower than the current Dutch limit (0,01 fibers/ml), again depending on the type of asbestos (see table
). What the final occupational exposure limit
will be depends on the opinion of the Social and Economic Council and the decision of the State Secretary of Social Affairs.
In asbestos related compensation claims, Caesar Consult repeatedly stressed the possible role of environmental exposure in the development of mesothelioma. Other experts often downplayed this role, while the Health Councils report shows that this not correct. In the 70s and 80s of last century, the ambient asbestos concentrations in cities varied from 1.000 to 10.000 fibres/m3 (expressed in measurements with TEM 2000-20000 fibres/m3.
These concentrations are therefore well above the currently recommended environmental limits (Maximum Permissible Risk for white asbestos: 2.800 fibres/m3, for mixed exposure: 1.300 fibres/m3.The concentration of asbestos in big cities during the 70s and 80s was even 1 to 10 times higher than the suggested new occupational exposure limit.
Table showing current and recommended standards for asbestos in the workplace