|Asbestos ( SEM image: amphibole asbestos fibers )|
mineral natural fiber
mostly bluish, white or green
|Fiber length||up to 300 mm (in the rock), 10 to 20 mm (after processing); in the µm range (> 5 µm) as fragments during processing and recycling|
|Fiber diameter||<3 µm|
|density||2.53-2.65 g / cm³ ( chrysotile ), 3.28-3.44 g / cm³ ( crocidolite ) and 3.40-3.60 g / cm³ ( grunerite )|
|tensile strenght||590–920 N / mm² ( chrysotile ) and 610–820 N / mm² ( crocidolite )|
|Chemical resistance||very inert, vulnerable to fluoride|
|Products||Asbestos cement , thermal insulation|
Asbestos ( ancient Greek ἄσβεστος asbestos , German , immortal ' ; historically as mountain flax or Amiant hereinafter) is a collective term for different naturally-occurring, fibrous crystallized silicate - minerals that are technically usable after processing fibers give different length. The fibers of the magnesia beckite or crocidolite from the hornblende group (also called blue asbestos ) are bluish, the fibers of the chrysotile ( serpentine group ) are white or green. Other asbestos-counting minerals are grunerite ( amosite, brown asbestos ), anthophyllite and actinolite . Chrysotile, also called white asbestos , was used by far the broadest technical application, for the most part as a reinforcement fiber in asbestos cement .
Asbestos was also called "miracle fiber" because it has great strength, is heat and acid-resistant, has excellent insulation and the asbestos fibers are spun into yarns and these can be woven. With these prerequisites, asbestos was able to establish itself in the shipbuilding industry for shipping , in thermal insulation , the construction industry , the car tire industry and for textiles in the field of occupational safety and filtration . As a result of the health hazards posed by asbestos, which have now been clearly established, its use is prohibited in many countries, including the USA (permitted for certain applications), the EU and Switzerland (since 1990). Today, disposal is mostly in the foreground.
Asbestos-like minerals occur in two fine-fiber, silicate mineral groups , which are categorized as follows:
|Asbestos group||Mineral names||Molecular formula||Common name||Remarks|
|Serpentine group||(Klino-) chrysotile||(Mg, Fe, Ni) 3 Si 2 O 5 (OH) 4||White asbestos||the most commonly used asbestos type in industry|
|Amphibole group||Grunerite / Ferro-Anthophyllite / Mysorite||Fe 7 Si 8 O 22 (OH) 2||Brown asbestos||"Amosite"|
|Riebeckite / Crocidolite / Magnesioriebeckite||Na 2 Fe 2+ 3 Fe 3+ 2 Si 8 O 22 (OH) 2||Blue asbestos|
|Tremolite||Ca 2 Mg 5 Si 8 O 22 (OH) 2|
|Actinolite||Ca 2 (Mg, Fe) 5 Si 8 O 22 (OH) 2|
|Anthophyllite||(Mg, Fe) 7 Si 8 O 22 (OH) 2|
Asbestos is very resistant to heat up to around 1000 ° C and weak acids as well as many chemicals and has a higher weight-specific tensile strength than steel wire. It is rot-proof and can be mixed very well with cement. At temperatures above 1200 ° C, asbestos turns into olivine and its modifications. Asbestos sublimates at even higher temperatures . Due to the fineness of the fibers, the material is very durable.
|World asbestos production 2011 (in tons)|
Canada closed its asbestos mines in 2012. In addition to the countries listed, Argentina , Afghanistan , North Korea , Romania and Slovakia are also among the asbestos-producing countries, but no reliable values are available.
History and use
Ancient and Middle Ages
Asbestos was first mentioned in the third century BC in a book about stones by Theophrastus . In Athens , the eternal flame on the Acropolis was operated with an asbestos wick at that time . The more common and more common name for asbestos in ancient Greek and the only possible name in modern Greek is not άσβεστος asbestos , but αμίαντος amiantos ; the words άσβεστος asvestos or ασβέστης asvestis stand solely for limestone in modern Greek .
The Roman natural scientist Pliny the Elder reports of cloths made of "incombustible linen" used at the table, which could be cleaned by fire, as well as shrouds for kings made of asbestos fabric, with which the ashes of the body are safely separated from the rest after the corpses are cremated could.
Although asbestos was reported from Europe to China in the first millennium of our era , only very rich people could afford items from it. A legend is known which says that Charlemagne impressed his guests by cleaning his tablecloth in the fire.
In the Middle Ages, knowledge of its origin in Europe was lost and rumors arose that the asbestos could be the scales of dragon-like reptiles or even the feathers of the phoenix . Fraudsters tried to sell asbestos fabrics as part of Jesus' clothing .
19th and 20th centuries
In modern times, asbestos first found serious use in the 1820s. The fibers were made into fireproof clothing for firefighters . Applications such as fireproof roofs or thermal insulation for steam engines were soon added. The Seitz company was founded in Bad Kreuznach in 1887 after the wine merchants Theo & Geo Seitz discovered the excellent filtration properties of asbestos precoat filters .
On July 15, 1900, the Austrian Ludwig Hatschek, the owner of an asbestos goods factory, received an Austrian patent for Eternit . This marked the beginning of a boom in the use of asbestos to manufacture a wide variety of products ( e.g. fiber cement for shingles, corrugated roofing sheets, facade cladding, pipes, flower troughs, buttons , telephone housings, parts for electrical devices and the like). In Germany, the Fulgurit plant in Luthe was founded in 1912 and Deutsche Asbestzement AG (DAZAG) was founded in Berlin in 1929 .
During the Second World War, mail bags , beverage filters , toothpaste (as a polishing additive) and parachutes for bombs were made with or from asbestos. In buildings, load-bearing steel parts were sprayed with asbestos for fire protection. Asbestos was used to insulate pipelines on ships and submarines .
Asbestos was used as a temperature- resistant insulating material , as a fireproof intermediate layer for junction boxes and behind stoves in wooden houses, as a component of brake linings and seals (also as a soft cord for oven doors) and in laboratories as a fireproof base.
Welding gas cylinders ("acetylene gas cylinders") used to contain asbestos as a filling. The “dissous gas” in this porous mass is ethyne, a welding gas dissolved in liquid acetone under only moderate pressure . Asbestos has always been used here, later marked with an "a", in the meantime it has been replaced in the bottles by kieselguhr .
Asbestos-containing (or generally fiber-containing) talc could be used as a filler, release agent and lubricant, for example in the manufacture of cables, tires and rubber goods, according to TRGS 517.
In baby powder - the main component is talc - from the manufacturer Johnson & Johnson , small amounts of asbestos were repeatedly detected by internal controls from 1971 to the beginning of 2000, but these analysis results were never reported to the supervisory authority or published.
Discovery of health threats
As asbestos consumption increased, so did the health hazards. Asbestosis was discovered as a disease as early as 1900 . In 1943, lung cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos was recognized as an occupational disease , and asbestos fiber has been officially classified as a carcinogen since 1970. As the first asbestos product, spray asbestos was banned in the GDR in 1969 and in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1979. At that time, asbestos was already being used in over 3,000 products. Further restrictions followed until 1990 in Switzerland and Austria and from January 1, 1993 in Germany, the production and use of asbestos were generally banned. In the European Community , according to a directive issued in 1999, all member states had to introduce restrictions on the use and marketing of asbestos by 2004.
The non-fiction author Maria Roselli ascribes the fact that it took several decades to get from the knowledge of the health hazard posed by asbestos to the prohibition (see GefStoffV ) of the material due to aggressive lobbying. For example, the Swiss association "Asbestos Working Group" delayed the poison classification of asbestos in Switzerland by nine years through committed lobbying on behalf of the cement industry.
Harmfulness to health
Switzerland: 0.01 asbestos fibers / ml (fiber mass: length> 5 μm, diameter <3 μm, length: diameter ratio> 3: 1)
Asbestosis and risk of lung cancer
Asbestos fibers are released if asbestos is handled improperly and if materials containing asbestos are processed (e.g. with high-speed machines). If fibers with a fiber length of more than 5 µm, a diameter of max. 3 µm and a length / diameter ratio of at least 3: 1 arise, these asbestos fibers can get into the alveoli of the lungs and cause asbestosis even with low exposure . Due to their length, macrophages cannot always completely enclose the fibers and transport them away. The fine-fiber material can stick into the lung interstitium and migrate from there to the pleura . The critical fiber geometry is the reason for the health hazard.
The risk of developing lung cancer is increased. Exposure along with other pollutants can increase the risk of lung cancer. For smokers, for example, the risk of lung cancer from exposure to asbestos is around ten times greater than that of non-smokers. Asbestos is also one of the most important causes of pleural mesothelioma , a tumor of the peritoneum and pleura. Asbestos was therefore officially classified as a carcinogen as early as 1970 .
Inhaling asbestos fibers, which are released naturally or through abrasion or weathering, is primarily harmful to health. Particularly dangerous in this context are products with only weakly bound asbestos, which have a fiber content of 60% and more and which easily give off. The Palace of the Republic, built in Berlin from 1973–1976, was demolished mainly because of the health hazards of the weakly bound spray asbestos used in its construction, which - in contrast to (in cement) firmly bound asbestos ( asbestos cement ) - pollutes the interior space from released fibers was more likely and often actually given.
Asbestos cement, on the other hand, (most important trade name Eternit, Baufanit (new federal states) ) is still used in many buildings today and is largely harmless if it remains intact, is not weathered and is not mechanically processed. Examples are the fiber cement exhaust ducts in the GDR - prefabricated buildings as well as many buildings with roofs or wall cladding made of Eternit. These applications involve firmly bound asbestos products (with the help of cement), the fiber content of which does not exceed 15 percent by weight.
For some years now there have been more deaths from asbestos in Germany than fatal accidents at work. The employers' liability insurance association published the number of 1,068 deaths in Germany in 2003, a further increase compared to 2002 with 1,009 deaths. According to the German Statutory Accident Insurance , there were 1,630 deaths from asbestos-related occupational diseases in Germany in 2017. The main association of commercial trade associations knows, including older ones, of around 24,000 cases in which payments are made for asbestos-related diseases. Worldwide there are more than 100,000 deaths from asbestos-related illnesses each year.
The majority of Austrian employees are insured against occupational diseases with the Allgemeine Unfallversicherungsanstalt (AUVA) . There is an obligation to report to a doctor and the right to a “disabled person's pension” if there is a reduction in earning capacity of more than 20% (even if the person is no longer employed); there are comparable regulations in Germany.
The occupational groups of locksmiths, welders, electricians, plumbers, roofers, renovators in construction, furnace bricklayers, automotive technicians, tilers in the age group 50 and over are particularly exposed to asbestos. AUVA has also launched a special health aftercare program for this group of people, which provides early detection of secondary diseases. For this purpose, from 2002 "advice centers for people with occupational asbestos exposure" were set up in Vienna, Linz, Vöcklabruck, Kapfenberg, Klagenfurt and Innsbruck as suitable contact points for those affected.
Health protection in the present
In October 2008 Canada was the only western industrialized nation to prevent the so-called Rotterdam Convention in Rome , a UN institution that controls the trade in dangerous chemicals and pesticides , that there were stricter export regulations for asbestos and that the producing countries prevented their customers abroad via the Health risks should have informed. The Canadian Medical Association Journal accused the Canadian government of being the only Western democracy to consistently oppose international efforts to regulate the global asbestos trade. "And the Canadian government has done this with a shameful political manipulation of science", since it has so far kept under lock and key a report on the health risks of asbestos that was written on its behalf by international experts.
In contrast to the bans in most industrialized countries, asbestos is used more and more frequently in developing and emerging countries . The reason is that asbestos is significantly cheaper than suitable substitutes, and the dangerousness of this practical and inexpensive building material is apparently viewed as a secondary or luxury problem.
|Worldwide asbestos consumption 2007 (in tons)|
Today's dangers and handling
Even today, asbestos in existing buildings is one of the most important building pollutants and can still be found in construction and plant components. In particular, concealed products such as putties , tile adhesives and plasters can contain very small amounts of asbestos. In the event of accidental or improper processing ( e.g. during renovation / renovation ) this can lead to significant fiber release. Buildings that were built or modernized after the absolute asbestos ban of 1993 can still contain asbestos fibers in the fabric of the building.
- Asbestos cement ("Eternit"): roof coverings and exterior wall cladding, wall cladding around wash basins
- Asbestos in old tile adhesives and fillers
- Asbestos in screed and stone wood (covering)
- Asbestos sheets, for example intermediate layers under electrical junction boxes and ballasts, behind stoves in older wooden buildings, often as asbestos cardboard, i.e. weakly bound
- Asbestos in older electrical devices (irons, electric blankets, night storage heaters, toasters, electric grills, hair dryers , carbon arc lamps, thermocouples, temperature measuring resistors, high load resistors, heating resistors, NH and HH fuses , tube radio receivers and others)
- Asbestos as a component of very old brake pads and seals
- Asbestos as a component of old plastic floor coverings
- In the 1960s and 70s in Germany, asbestos was sold on a large scale in the building materials trade as a supplement for all liquid or viscous building materials and was therefore used accordingly. TÜV Rheinland now assumes, based on findings of asbestos contamination in wall paints, plasters and masonry mortar, that almost all building materials of this type from this construction period can be contaminated.
- Old window seals often contain cords containing asbestos.
- Lids and / or side doors of oil stoves were provided with asbestos cord as a seal, stove screens between hot stoves and furniture or walls made of wood were sometimes made of asbestos cardboard, which was also used to seal the passage of stove pipes through a wooden wall or ceiling.
- The chemical company Dow Chemical uses chrysotile as a sealing material in the Stade plant for chlor-alkali electrolysis . A total of 38 tons of asbestos were imported from Canada to Germany in 2009. There is an exception for this.
- Existing asbestos-cement pipes still play an important role in the supply of drinking water today. The replacement with modern materials (e.g. polyethylene ) often takes place in the course of redesigning the road structure.
In addition, it happens that illegally asbestos-containing products are imported from countries such as the People's Republic of China , where asbestos is still legally processed. These can include:
- Spacers in vacuum jugs (between the two layers of glass, visible from the inside as dark points; asbestos is only released when the glass body breaks)
- Sealing rings
- Fiber cement products
- Toasters, heaters and other electrical appliances
- Garden torches
Asbestos can be roughly identified by its gray color, its fibrous structure, or by how long the buildings, components and equipment were manufactured. However, it can be confused with the substitute materials used later ( glass fibers , rock flour panels, mineral fibers ), since the asbestos-free panels are also sold under the brand name Eternit .
Regulations and laws
According to the European Waste Catalog (implemented in Germany in the Waste Catalog Ordinance ), waste materials containing asbestos are marked as hazardous waste with * in the corresponding key number. The catalog names the following types of waste (each preceded by the waste code number ):
06 07 01 * Waste containing asbestos from electrolysis
06 13 04 * Waste from asbestos processing
10 13 09 * Wastes containing asbestos from the manufacture of asbestos cement
16 01 11 * Brake linings containing asbestos
16 02 12 * Used equipment that contains free asbestos
17 06 01 * Insulation material , the asbestos contains
17 06 05 * building materials containing asbestos
This means stricter technical precautionary rules and, in some cases, approval requirements for handling this waste. For example, when handling the fragments generated during building demolitions or maintenance work, collecting, storing or transporting them. This includes special labeling and documentation obligations and an obligation for unveiled handover exclusively to specially approved waste facilities.
The German Recycling Law (KrWG) draws a waste disposal (landfill) the waste treatment before - if possible. After the practically absolute ban on the use of asbestos in Germany in 1993 ( GefStoffV ), the question of orderly disposal arose . Asbestos was not allowed to be accepted in most landfills because this substance was not covered by their operating license. As a result, the disposal prices for asbestos-containing material rose to six to ten times the price customary up to then, which made the development of disposal processes by research and industry interesting. Various waste recycling processes were developed from which mixed types were then formed.
In the course of time, various recycling processes have been tested:
- Mechanical shredding processes that assume that if the fibers are adequately shredded (less than 1 µm fiber length), a hazard can be excluded. The processes work well with pure asbestos, but the mills fail with the inhomogeneous mixture resulting from asbestos disposal.
- Thermal processes, glazing , which bring the asbestos to temperatures above its transformation point and thus produce another non-fibrous material. Glass furnace builders and rotary kiln specialists brought most of their knowledge with them. The glass furnace builders failed because of the inhomogeneity of the delivered waste, which led to the formation of unpredictable minerals and thus to the destruction of the furnace. The rotary kiln operators came next, they were able to demonstrate systems in operation. Due to the new, previously unknown procedure, the approval authorities made almost unsatisfactory demands. The fiber content in the exhaust air should be zero, which led to the abandonment of these developments.
- During tempering , the water of crystallization is removed from the asbestos fibers , which converts them into harmless minerals. Then the - then harmless - fibers can easily be destroyed by mechanical stress (e.g. mortars). This process was practically carried out in Hockenheim in an old brick kiln (tunnel kiln). In the warm-up phase, however, dioxins can be produced when contaminated . Whether the fibers are actually destroyed depends on many parameters such as burning time, temperature, load, packing density and is very difficult to control. The high energy consumption and CO 2 emissions make this process economically and ecologically questionable. The operator of the plant is insolvent, the successor has been banned from operating because of violations of the permit, criminal proceedings are ongoing, including due to incomplete conversion of the asbestos.
- Chemical processes based on the use of acids containing fluoride . They have the same problems as the other methods with the inhomogeneity of the asbestos-containing waste, but after several years they can obtain the approval of the authorities to operate the plant within a large chemical plant. However, local councils withdrew previously granted permits.
- Integration processes that completely incorporate the waste in cement or other binding agents, pour it into barrels and then preferably deposit the barrels underground. These processes have the advantage of being available quickly because the asbestos does not have to be destroyed beforehand. This procedure is common for the disposal of weakly bound asbestos.
None of the recycling processes mentioned have proven to be optimal and technically feasible, so that the disposal of asbestos-containing waste currently only takes place via DK I, II or III landfills (formerly household waste landfills or landfills for hazardous waste) or through local recycling centers that then take the asbestos cement to the landfill. The asbestos-containing waste packaged in “ big bags ” is deposited on the landfill and covered with mineral material so that fiber is no longer released. The price in Germany depends on the respective regional authority and is quite different. Larger amounts of asbestos-containing waste must be reported to the landfill operator in good time.
Asbestos removal in buildings
Sampling of suspicious building materials
Samples for later examination in the laboratory are taken from soft materials using the BT31 punching process with a handle punch and a punch lock, or from hard materials using the BT32 chisel process with a flat chisel and a mortise lock. The punching or caulking sluice ensures that only a small amount of the suspected asbestos material is released when the sample is taken.
Dismantling and decontamination
Asbestos removal is very time-consuming. The adjacent picture shows work on an asbestos-treated steel structure. Such structures support relatively thin concrete ceilings, but must be protected from heat in the event of a fire. To do this, they used to be wrapped in asbestos fibers. In the picture you can see the exposed steel structure with the flaky asbestos. This is now detached from the construction by hand and removed by a suction system. After the fibers have been completely removed, the surfaces are usually treated with residual fiber binder. After cleaning and drying of the residual fiber binder, room air measurements are carried out in accordance with VDI guidelines (VDI 3492, 10/2004). The building can only be entered and used normally again if the limit values are not reached ( clearance measurement ). In the case of this asbestos removal, the steel girder structure is given a color that foams up in the event of a fire - it fulfills the same purpose as the asbestos coating applied in the 1960s.
TRGS 519 ( Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances: Asbestos) applies to renovations in Germany . Since the damage to asbestos products leads to the release of the fibers, the renovation construction site in buildings must be sealed off from the environment in a dust-proof manner. The interior must be kept under negative pressure during work. The work areas may only be entered and exited via lock systems. The locks are usually inserted into a doorway and then glued airtight. In the locks, which have several chambers inside, cleaning systems are then available so that all asbestos residues can be rinsed off the protective clothing.
Asbestos was also used in the Palace of the Republic , the International Congress Center in Berlin , the Paris Tour Montparnasse , the World Trade Center in New York City and many other public buildings. After the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001, tens of thousands of people working there and those living in the neighborhood breathed in dust with various pollutants and asbestos fibers. Many of the people suffer from lung cancer or its consequences. So far, around 2,400 people have died from the long-term effects of the collapse, and tens of thousands more have fallen ill (as of 2019).
Measurement of asbestos
Measurement of asbestos fibers in the air
Asbestos measurements in the air can have the following reasons:
- Determination of the fiber load in workplaces
- Determination of the fiber load of the general population
- Determination of the fiber concentration in interiors before and after a renovation measure
- Monitoring of the separation performance of exhaust gas cleaning systems
A good correlation between the amount of dust released and the number of asbestos fibers released when processing asbestos-containing material cannot be assumed. That is why a simple dust measurement is usually not enough to make statements about the fiber concentration in such cases.
To determine the fiber concentration in the indoor air are phase contrast microscopy , scanning electron microscopy or transmission electron microscopy applied. Before that, the air to be sampled must be actively passed through a filter designed as a HEPA filter . Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy in conjunction with scanning electron microscopy (SEM-EDX) enables the fiber concentration and chemical composition of the particles to be determined. However, this is not always sufficient to make clear statements. Knowledge of the materials containing asbestos must therefore be included. The detection limit of the methods mentioned is 300 fibers / m³. For comparison: in the outside air the fiber concentration is normally below 100 fibers / m³.
Asbestos cannot be detected in passively collected air samples.
Measurement of asbestos in technical products
Asbestos contents of less than one percent can only be measured in a product with increased effort. When sampling products, greater care is required because of the possible release of asbestos fibers. Appropriate countermeasures must be taken if there is a risk of dust swirling. The sample substance only needs to weigh a few milligrams, but must be representative. The analysis of the sample substance can be carried out using
- Infrared spectroscopy ,
- X-ray diffraction ,
- Phase contrast microscopy or
- Scanning electron microscopy / energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy
Measurement of asbestos in dust deposits
The sampling of potentially asbestos-containing dust on surfaces is carried out using so-called contact samples, in which a medium with an adhesive surface is pressed onto the area to be sampled. The analysis is then carried out using scanning electron microscopy / energy dispersive X-ray analysis (SEM / EDXA). The fiber structure is recorded in a scanning electron microscope and then classified using the X-ray spectra obtained by energy-dispersive X-ray analysis.
The use of asbestos can be almost completely dispensed with by using appropriate substitutes. At low and medium temperatures asbestos, by far less harmful to the mineral wool to be replaced counting glass or rock wool. However, these materials have to meet special requirements in order to be placed on the market. At high temperatures, the natural mineral wollastonite or various artificial ceramic fibers can be used as asbestos substitutes . For example, wollastonite fibers are completely broken down in the body within a few weeks.
In heat protection clothing, friction linings or seals, asbestos is often replaced or supplemented by various fiber forms (as filament yarn, staple fiber, short cut and pulp) of aramid .
Asbestos was used particularly often in roof construction, as its fibers are practically incombustible, tear-resistant, flexible and very resistant. An environmentally friendly alternative to roofing is, for example, slate or titanium zinc ; roof tiles are also suitable. The choice of material for a new roof also depends on the rafter inclination. From an incline of 15 degrees, the roofing can be done with tiles or pans, for slate the rafters must be inclined at least 22 degrees. Titanium zinc is suitable as a covering for very flat roofs, as this material can be used from an incline of 3 degrees. If the rafter inclination is not sufficient, heights that lead to a higher roof inclination can help. The renovation of connections and closures on the roof, on the other hand, is unproblematic.
Ceramic wire nets replaced the asbestos wire nets in the chemistry laboratory.
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