Asbestos Safety: Safety Enclosures

Asbestos refers to six naturally occurring minerals containing silicate anions, these microscopic fibres can cause a number of different health conditions. Before the dangerous health concerns were discovered, asbestos was commonly used in buildings built before 2000 for insulation, roofing, flooring as well as being sprayed onto ceilings and walls. Asbestos poses little risk if it remains intact, but as it is destroyed, tiny particles are released into the environment which can cause health issues if inhaled. Better understanding of asbestos has resulted into regulations surrounding the removal of the material, protecting workers who are regularly exposed to the dangerous particles. Due to the dangers of asbestos, safety enclosures are essential in ensuring laboratory staff stay safe from the harmful particles. This article will investigate the dangers of asbestos and how safety enclosures can regulate the release of particles into the laboratory environment.

A report in 2013 found that approximately 125 million people have been exposed to asbestos through their work. Regular exposure to asbestos materials can cause a number of respiratory diseases to develop, many of these diseases can take decades to show symptoms. The most common diseases caused by the inhalation of asbestos is asbestosis and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is caused by inflammation and scarring throughout the lung due to asbestos inhalation, this causes the lung tissue to thicken and loose it’s elasticity. Typical symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing, however, the disease can develop into lung cancer and pulmonary heart disease. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the thin layer of tissue lining a number of the main organs, known as the mesothelium. Asbestos causes 80% of all cases of mesothelioma, with Australia and the United Kingdom reporting the highest number of cases. This commonality of this disease has increased massively since the1950s when the commercial use of asbestos increased significantly.

When analysing materials that could contain asbestos in laboratories, it is vital to use safety enclosures to prevent the release of asbestos particles into the local environment. Asbestos samples are usually inspected by stereo and polarised light microscopes, this helps to distinguish and classify asbestos fibres. The continuous air flow within fume hoods helps to remove the fume cupboard air and replace it with clean air back into the workplace, air should be drawn away from the operator to avoid harmful inhalation. The use of high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters helps to remove harmful asbestos particles that are larger than 0.3 microns, typically at a 99.97% efficiency rate. The filters remove volatile organic compounds, filters need to be removed regularly to ensure efficient gas filtration. All work on asbestos must adhere to the legislation published in HSE publication HSG 248 – Asbestos: The analysts’ guide for sampling, analysis and clearance procedures.

 Although investigation into asbestos is important to understand the chemical structure of particles, which will in turn will help us understand the pathogenesis of the diseases it causes, it is vital investigations are carried out safely. The use of safety enclosures helps to prevent any harmful asbestos particles from being inhaled by laboratory workers, reducing the diseases associated with regular exposure. Cabinets require a minimum airflow rate of 0.5ms-1 and HEPA filters to ensure recommended safety. In addition, fume enclosures should be cleaned and maintained correctly, including regularly removing and replacing filters, to protect handlers and adhere to set legislations.

Waysafe is part of the Solotec Scientific family who has been designing and manufacturing bench-top safety enclosures for over 25 years. All enclosures are made from Solotec Scientific’s state of the art facilities located in Greater Manchester, all designs are developed to the highest standards and in-line with the latest legislations. Our specialised team of experts have experience developing a number of bespoke enclosures made to custom specifications, all offered at highly competitive prices.

Servicing a number of clients both within the UK and internationally, Solotec Scientific has supplied a number of Waysafe enclosures to a range of sectors including food, asbestos, chemical and pharmaceutical sectors. Enclosures can be ordered and specified through Waysafe’s online store, the shop also contains a number of replacement parts including HEPA filters.

If you would like to find out more information about any of Waysafe’s bench top safety enclosures, speak to a member of the team on +44 (0)161 339 6187.

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