Muhammad Tariq Sheikh
Asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibres that can be separated into thin, durable threads. These fibres are resistant to heat, fire and chemicals and do not conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos has been used widely in many industries. Chrysotile is the most important commercially and represents about 90% of the total used. Asbestos finds its way into the environment around us through both natural and manufactured materials. Pakistan, like many other developing nations, uses asbestos in numerous manufacturing processes and products.
The material is used to make gaskets, roof coating, fabrics, gloves, clothing, clutches, construction material, heat-resistant insulators, furnace and pipe linings and much much more. Asbestos fibre is freed from rocks by blowing and crushing. During this process asbestos fibres become airborne.
The techniques used for extraction of asbestos are very unsafe. Workers use shovels for extraction and then with bare hands they spread it for drying and other processes and in this way they are continuously exposed to it which is very dangerous. Unsafe mining methods and handling of asbestos products poses serious threat to human health and environment.
The mineral’s fibres exposed workers associated with industries using it and local populations living in areas where its mines or industries exposed people to various deadly skin and lung diseases, Asbestosis, Mesothelioma, the cancer of soft lining of organs. Asbestos are most likely to have its fibres in water that may cause serious intestinal and stomach issues. The Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Resource Development recommended a complete ban on the import and use of asbestos in 22 industries.