Certainly the effects of global climate changed have been thoroughly documented in recent years but there are several hazards of the fossil fuel industry that have not been as widely publicized. Among these is exposure to asbestos. While many believe asbestos to be a problem of the past, (it was banned for general use by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the late 1970’s) when in fact asbestos exposure is a real threat to human health, particularly within the procession of fossil fuels.
Asbestos is in fact, not a man-made creation, but a naturally occurring mineral that was included in insulation compounds because of its strong and flexible fibers. These attributes made asbestos ideal for inclusion in a myriad of insulation products including piping, electrical insulation, drywall, boilers, and various kinds of wall insulation. Asbestos was popular because its fibers we small and adaptable to a number of different compounds. This however, was before we knew what we knew today, that asbestos was slowly killing thousands of industrial workers.
Asbestos is not considered dangerous until it is rendered “friable.” When asbestos containing materials are rendered friable, they are considered to be extremely hazardous. Friable means simply that the materials are old or damaged. Asbestos containing materials become abraded by age or other
damage; they release the microscopic asbestos fibers into the air supply, leaving those in the vicinity at risk of a harmful exposure. When asbestos is inhaled, the fibers lodge in the pleural lining of the lungs, which over time can lay the groundwork for pleural mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer whose only cause is asbestos exposure.
Certainly the health effects of the fossil fuel industry do not begin and end with asbestos exposure (skin cancer rates are higher than anywhere in the world in South Africa and Australia where the ozone has been rapidly depleted), but recently researchers have seen an influx of asbestos related
health complications directly related to exposure at oil refineries and other processing centers. However, this is not simply a hazard to the long term vitality of our planet but a real danger to the current inhabitants of our green planet. For more information about not only mesothelioma, but the growing connections between industrial activity and the health of the planet’s inhabitants, please visit the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center.