Japan's public speaks: Clean up the Asbestos mess!
Japan's asbestos cancer “time bomb” ticks louder day by day as the nation's average population gets older and decades-long incubation periods for asbestos cancer and other diseases caused by asbestos exposure end. Meanwhile, thousands of buildings and installations across the country still contain many types of asbestos, threatening future generations.
Several new technologies developed in Japan may make asbestos abatement and cleaning up the asbestos mess not only easier, but safer as well.
What does asbestos look like? Mineral asbestos in its natural form.
Asbestos has been used in a myriad of applications since ancient times, thanks to its rare combination of fibrous flexibility and heat resistance. Some sources state that the ancient Persians would cremate deceased royalty in shrouds of asbestos fiber so that the ashes would not become contaminated.
Even in modern times asbestos has turned up in some surprising places. Remember the “micronite” filters touted by Kent cigarettes in the early 1950s? Their active ingredient was crocidolite asbestos! Who can say how many smokers were harmed by smoking micronite-filtered Kents between 1952 and 1956?
Asbestos has proven to be so useful – and replacements so expensive – that enacting bans has proved to be problematic. Even so, most countries have banned the use of asbestos in its many forms though Japan has lagged in this respect, only finalizing a complete ban that takes effect this year. The problem is, asbestos products used over the past century (mainly in building construction, asbestos roof tiles and insulation) must be removed, and very carefully so as not to release carcinogenic asbestos fibers into the air. Once lodged in human lungs, tiny asbestos fibers can cause several rare and hard to treat cancers including asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Asbestos-related illnesses are not confined to mesothelioma and asbestosis
Crystal-Guard(TM) is the most promising of several new asbestos abatement technologies developed in Japan to safely facilitate asbestos removal, or in this case, safely manage asbestos in situ. Developed by M-Tec Co. Ltd., Crystal-Guard(TM) has recently been introduced by Greenstone Holdings, Inc. and according to the company's press release on the product, “Crystal-Guard is used to contain asbestos by spraying and encapsulating the asbestos preventing the asbestos from releasing toxic airborne particles into the air, which endanger people's health. Nonetheless, Crystal-Guard does not have an adverse effect on the original thermal insulation properties of the asbestos."
This video shows Crystal-Guard(TM) being applied by a trained technician:
A second, different asbestos removal technology announced by researchers with Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology involves melting asbestos using strong infrared (heat) rays. After melting the asbestos, the resulting liquid cools to a solid form that does not exhibit the toxic mineral's fibrous nature.
Safely sealed, the asbestos can then be safely handled and removed without putting workers and the general public at risk of asbestos poisoning. Of special note is that the infrared heat can melt asbestos out of concrete, cement, or other materials with which it is commonly mixed without compromising the structural integrity of the original composite.
How to find asbestos and asbestos products in your home
It is hoped that these new asbestos abatement technologies will find favor with governments and authorities around the world who are under severe public pressure to eliminate asbestos and asbestos products from existing homes, businesses and public facilities.
Already, asbestos lawsuits are beginning to make news headlines. For example, a $64 million class action asbestos lawsuit has been launched against the Government of Japan and 46 building manufacturers by a group of construction workers and family members of deceased workers. This groundbreaking asbestos law suit is the first of its kind in Japan, and if successful could lead to a flood of expensive new asbestos lawsuits as time goes by.