Authors: SJ Milne, E Garton, G Nelson, J Murray, JCA Davies, JI Phillips

Source: Occupational Health Southern Africa 2013; 19(6)



Background: Asbestos mining and other activities have left a legacy of environmental contamination. Asbestos was used in a large number of manufactured products but little is documented about the nature and location of these products. Compliance with asbestos regulations depends on accurate identification of the presence of asbestos. The National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) has been identifying asbestos for regulatory purposes since 2003.

Objective: To analyse a database of samples submitted for asbestos analysis to the NIOH.

Methods: Asbestos was identified using scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy. The data were analysed using STATISTICA version 11.

Results: From 2003 to 2012, 1514 samples were analysed. Asbestos was identified in 59.9% of the bulk samples and crocidolite was present in 45.4% of these. Information about samples containing asbestos, including their origin and associated activities, are described.

Conclusions: Although asbestos is no longer mined or used in South Africa, workers remain at risk of exposure due to asbestos-containing materials which persist in the environment. Knowledge of these materials gained from routinely collected data may assist in the safe removal of asbestos and prevent further adverse health effects.

KEYWORDS: asbestos-containing material, asbestos regulations, environmental contamination, mesothelioma