Major leap forward in fight against mesothelioma
A Birmingham firm, Datatecnics, has developed the world's first asbestos-sensing polymer
, in so doing finding a way to help protect construction workers and building occupants
from the threat of mesothelioma
Asbestos which has been widely used as building insulation can cause the fatal lung disease, mesothelioma
. Although left alone asbestos
does not usually pose a health threat, as it disintegrates
over time (or is disturbed
due to repairs or renovations) fibres
can become airborne
and, if inhaled
, even a very small amount can cause cancer such as mesothelioma
It has long been acknowledged that mesothelioma is a threat to construction workers
. However, recent surveys have found that many more people are at risk than once thought. Teachers
and others who work in older buildings containing asbestos have been discovered to suffer from the illness.
Explains Datatecnics CEO Mohammed Zulfiquar: "Asbestos is in a lot of public buildings. The government estimates that 70% of UK schools
contain it and the guidance from the Health and Safety Executive is to manage most of it, not remove it."
The new polymer, called an 'asbestos disturbance automated alert system (ADAAS)
is made with a fine web of micro-sensing tracks. Connected to a central control panel, the polymer detects any breaches and triggers a warning alarm for any disturbance that might release asbestos fibres.
Although the World Health Organisation now estimates over 100,000 annual deaths worldwide from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, monitoring and/or removing asbestos from all buildings that contain it is time-consuming and impractical. Even the simple removal of asbestos can send enough fibres into the air to create grave risks for those involved.
Datatecnics says the ADAAS wall covering, which can be painted or papered over, will save time and money by eliminating the need for manual asbestos inspections, potentially reducing cases of mesothelioma. The company is now looking for investors to help it bring the material to market.Emma Costin, head of Asbestos Illness and Industrial Disease
at Simpson Millar comments, "This simple idea has the potential to save many lives. We really are sitting on an asbestos time bomb, time and again we advise victims of asbestos who say when first asked that they had no idea they were working with asbestos or in many cases that it was dangerous."
"Ignorance of the location of asbestos in our buildings and of what it looks like when disturbed really is one of the major factors in the current asbestos epidemic."