Asbestos and leisure. The hidden side of the mineral poison by Francisco Báez Baquet

Posted on July 6, 2018

By Francisco Báez Baquet

Leisure activities, facilities for this purpose, and gadgets designed for that use, may constitute as many opportunities that the presence of asbestos in those occasions and places may be determinants of affectations due to asbestos-related pathologies.

So we will have, first of all, that in Konetzke et al. (1990), the authors note in their cohort 14.9% of cases related to an exposure arising in leisure activities.

Similarly, in Marinaccio et al. (2012), these other authors identify, in their cohort of patients affected by mesothelioma, 1.6% of cases in which exposure to asbestos occurred during recreational activity.

In Marinaccio et al. (2015), an allusion is also made to the 188 cases of mesothelioma related to hobby or leisure activities.

The presence of asbestos in beach sand is the subject of the work of Germine (1986) -with 2 to 4% content of tremolite-, by Langer & Nolan (1987), and by Weber et al. (1990).

In the work of Cooper et al. (1979), the authors address the study of dust precipitation, along the paths and trails that were used recreationally in the Clear Creek area of San Benito County, California, located in the area of New Idria serpentinite.

It was found that in 90 percent, or more, of the personal samplers used by motorcyclists who used one of the trails, showed concentrations of chrysotile asbestos fibers, suspended in the air, ranging from 0.3 to 5,3 fibers per milliliter, according to the methods prescribed for the control of occupational exposure.

Paradoxically, the attendance at a leisure center, for which it is habitually assumed to be a plus in health and quality of life, can sometimes lead to situations that have nothing to do with such forecasts.

In Pearson & Sims (1992), the authors relate that in March 1990, after the careless removal of the asbestos-cement ceiling tiles, in a leisure center in North Devon, whereby the delay in the performance of the local authority, staff and members of the public were put at risk, having been ignored for four months.

A special case of the presence of asbestos in day-care centers and in kindergartens and public parks, is determined by the manufacture, with asbestos-cement, of slides for children’s sliding games. Such slides, are or have been manufactured by the Salvadoran company DURALITA and have been exported, at least, to the United States and Argentina.

Nahariya, coastal town in the north of Israel, in the Western Galilee, with a population of 48,000 inhabitants, and place of settlement of the asbestos-cement factory of the company “Eitanit” (formerly “Isasbest”), holds the unenviable world record of high rate of mesothelioma, equaled with Genoa in such nefarious ranking.

In addition, that rate was ten times higher than the national average per capita, according to a report (made by Dr. Shihab Shihab, head of the Acre district of the Ministry of Health), and addressed to local authorities.

Isasbest comenzó su actividad en 1952, y “Eitanit” fue cerrada en 1997. Fueron 45 años de incesante contaminación, tanto con crocidolita como con crisotilo.

To this situation, which affects both former workers of the factory, as their relatives and the mere neighbors of the environment, with 606 deaths by mesothelioma in the time interval between 1990 and 2008, and with an average, in In recent years, about 40 new cases per year at Nahariya Hospital, the practice, by the aforementioned company, has contributed decisively to getting rid of its manufacturing waste, throwing it into the factory environment. Lots of asbestos waste were discovered in many public places.

The mounds were found near public buildings, including schools, with friable and non-friable material lying on the beach and along the roads that bordered the factory, etc.

When an amusement park, called “Children’s World”, was to be built, the excavation showed that the land was totally contaminated, as a result of decades of uncontrolled dumping; a circumstance, which has allowed -Ben-Shlomo & Shanas (2011)-, to be able to carry out a study on the mutagenic effects of asbestos, in the long term, in the population of domestic mice, permanent residents in contaminated lands, concluding the aforementioned authors , as a result of its investigation, that asbestos constitutes a high risk for humans residing in the polluted area, according to the evidence provided by the pathological alterations observed in the animals studied. See also: Fornero et al. (2009).

The vermiculite, a mineral formed by iron or magnesium silicates, has been used as a support for hydroponics and gardening. This last use, in the case of vermiculite from Libby, Montana, naturally contaminated by amphiboles, has been determinant that it has been considered as a risk of non-occupational exposure, for children who in parks and gardens, with their games, they proceed to remove the earth, and with that also they do it with the added substrate, which includes friable asbestos.

In their article, entitled “Children’s exposure to Libby’s amphibole during outdoor activities,” the authors -Ryan et al. (2015)-, present the results of their inquiries in the area of Los Angeles, California.

The contamination by asbestos, of the colored pencils used by children in their school activities and in their children’s games, is a problem that reappears persistently, without finishing the solution.

This is what is denounced in Gupta (2015), pointing out that before, twice, in the years 2000 and 2007, works of public denunciation of the same question had already been published, without this having been an obstacle for the Last year of 2015, the same situation had to be publicly denounced again. See also: Environmental Working Group (2007), Gouldin (2007), Saltzman & Hatlelid (2000), Schneider (2007), Schneider & Smith (2000).

Fernanda Giannasi, in an article of the year 2005, in the online publication «SERTOX – toxicology service of the children’s sanatorium», stated the following: “The consumers are obviously not free of problems with asbestos, so the business entities, such as “Abrinq” and the “IQB-Qualidade do Brinquedo e de Artigos Infantis”, for example, have been totally against the use of the product in the equipment and toys for children. The authorities are aware of what is an asbestos tile, damaged, in dollhouses, in luxury condominiums, high-end, or even in conjunction with swings and slide with fiber-cement roof, present in most buildings of middle class, or of colored pencils and many other artifacts, that children use”.

In Silvestri et al. (2016), the authors report the use of asbestos, as an ingredient in the composition of the plasticine used by children in their school activities, and leisure.

In this regard, it is appropriate to point out that on the part of Barbieri et al. (2016) the observation is made that not all cases of mesothelioma of teaching teachers can be related to the presence of asbestos in the buildings in which they have developed their teaching activities, citing one of those cases, in which the Anamnesis showed that, on the other hand, it could be associated with the handling of plasticine made with asbestos as an ingredient of its composition, by the aforementioned teacher, in conjunction with it, with its successive students, in almost daily use, from mid-60’s of the last century, until the late 70’s.

In a paper entitled «Children’s exposure to Libby amphiboles, during outdoor activities» -Ryan et al. (2015)-, the authors reported the investigations carried out in Los Angeles, in those homes in which the vermiculite from the Libby, Montana mine had been used, which was heavily contaminated naturally, from its geological origin, with amphiboles. The concentrations of vermiculite and amphiboles were measured in dust and soil samples, and exposure during excavation, gardening, raking, and mowing operations.

From a total of 3154 residential properties, it was found that 44% had visible external vermiculite. Air concentrations in Los Angeles, where outdoor vermiculite was not visible, were 3 to 15 times greater, during excavation / gardening, raking, mowing, and similar activities, in comparison with homes without vermiculite visible exterior.

Drilling and gardening activities accounted for the largest contribution to the estimated concentrations, and 73% of respondents reported that they had participated in such activities, before six years of age.

In Hart et al. (2009), the authors of the article, entitled «An assessment of the potential occupational exposure by Asbestiform amphiboles near an old vermiculite mine», present the results of their study, consisting of exposure measurements, in simulations of occupational activities, supplemented with the corresponding samples taken from the fiber deposit on the bark of the trees in the forest areas of the vermiculite mine in Libby.

In this article they state the following: “Although the objective of this study was to evaluate the potential exposure associated with occupational activities, the potential for public exposure to asbestiform amphiboles can not be ignored. Libby and its surroundings are known for their clean water, for a beautiful landscape, and for recreational activities such as hiking, boating to practice hunting, and skiing. As noted above, the simulation areas are accessible to the general public.

The frequency of recreational use by the general public was not evaluated in this study; however, hunters were observed near the simulation site during the bark collection phase of this study. In an effort to inform the public about the contamination by amphiboles in the forest “Kootenai National Forest”, its management has published a brochure that describes the safeguards to minimize the generation of dust, and the transport of fibers in clothes”.

In Muravov et al. (2005), the authors, in the description of a study on the radiographic abnormalities detected among those exposed to the vermiculite of Libby, contaminated by amphiboles, indicate that in the composition of their cohort they included 199 members of the same, in which the exhibition had originated on the occasion of his recreational activities.

In Zielhuis et al. (1975), the authors, in an article entitled “Pleural mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos”, report that, in a few cases, the exhibition had taken place, not in the main occupation, but in leisure activities.

In Goung et al. (2014), the authors present the results of their study about the air quality inside the golf course rooms, such as the games rooms and the halls.

Among the potential contaminants investigated, was the asbestos.

A similar investigation, in Spain, would have even more reason to be carried out, given that an appreciable proportion of our golf courses are located in the coastal area known as «Costa del Sol», which can be geologically characterized as serpentine land, which has already been reason for the suspension of the project of a new direct access road to the city of Ronda (Malaga). On this question, see:

Antonio Bernardo Reyes, Paco Báez Baquet, Paco Puche / “Fever of white gold” on the «Costa del Sol» and in the mountainous area of Ronda” / “Rebelión” December 2013 and: “El Observador” – 16/12/2013

Exposure to asbestos, generated during leisure time (without specifying any specific activity), also has its appropriate reflection in the bibliography.

In Mensi et al. (2016), the authors of that article, entitled “Malignant mesothelioma with unknown exposure to asbestos: a re-examination”, found 36.4% of the cases re-examined, in which it could be concluded that the exposure had been extra-occupational, including domestic, environmental, and leisure activities.

In Skammeritz et al. (2011), the authors state: “One patient had a leisure exposure in his free time, while the rest of the exposures were of professional origin”.

Final reflection

When Günter Wallraff, in his work “The Undesirable Journalist,” tells us: “… they have the freedom of the murderous fury that has never been stopped, our rivers and our seas, our sick people, our old people, our children in the bowels of their mothers, our idleness, our families, our ability to trust, to love and to cry.”, it seems that he had asbestos in mind, and to those who exploited it and continue to dedicate themselves to it, despite all the tragic evidence provided by the trail of premature and avoidable deaths that have occurred throughout the world for that cause, and that continue to occur in our days.


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