Mine Safety Activities

Goodwin, Aurel ; Kraft, Diann ; Znamensky, V. S.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1986
This chapter deals with the Mine Safety and Health Administrations's (MSHA] concern and obligations with regard to asbestiform minerals. Asbestiform minerals are defined as the magical group of hydrated, silicate minerals that possess a fiberlike structure capable of being woven into cloth. Their unique combination of properties, such as resistance to heat and chemical attack, high tensile strength, and flexibility was recognized centuries before Christ. Pausanias, the early Greek geographer, speaks of golden lamps, made about 430 BC, with in- combustible wicks of Carpathian flax. The Ro- mans used asbestos as cremation clothes to con- serve the ashes of deceased persons of rank. Charlemagne had an asbestos table cloth that he used to pass through fire to clean (Lanza, 19381. Early recognition of the health hazards associated with exposure to asbestos was documented in the first century by Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist, and Strabo, a Greek geographer. Both wrote of slaves with sickness of the lungs, whose occupation was that of weaving asbestos into cloth. This concern for the health of asbestos workers disappeared over the ages. Today, with the use of modern technology, asbestos products have been greatly exploited. The asbestos output has increased over a hundredfold in the past 70 years. World production has jumped from 454 t/y (500 stpy) in 1900 to 4.5 Mt/y (5 million stpy) in 1978. An increase in health problems for asbestos workers accompanied this increased usage. However, it was not until the modern era that the association of asbestos with chronic respiratory disease was rediscovered. Reports were published at the turn of the century documenting the effects of asbestos exposure on textile workers. One such report in 1907 by H.M. Montague Murray described the post mortem findings on a 34-year- old carding machine operator. Murray de- scribed the lungs as showing extensive diffuse pulmonary fibrosis spicules of asbestos. Subsequently, more reports of pulmonary fibrosis following inhalation of asbestos were published, including an epidemiological study of asbestos miners in 1930 (Merewether and Price, 1930), at Thetford, Que., Canada. This study took place at the mine 52 years after large-scale mining of asbestos had begun. But, the cancer- producing potential of asbestos was not established until 1949 when a report by Merewether in England described an excess of cancer of the lung and pleura [the lining of the lungs) among individuals dying from asbestosis (Merewether, 1949). In the past decade much attention has been focused on asbestosis, mesothelioma, and bronchogenic carcinoma, as the three major biological effects associated with asbestos ex- posure. Parenchymal and pleural asbestosis is a fibrosis in the substance of the lung with thickening and often calcification of the membranes lining the thoracic cavity. Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor of the membranes lining the thoracic or abdominal cavities, and bronchogenic carcinoma is a cancer of the lung tissue itself. These diseases occur in various degrees and combinations. The severity and occurrence of these biological effects are directly influenced by conditions such as dose response relationships, intensity of exposure, duration of exposure, lapse of time since initial exposure, and cigarette smoking. Numerous studies indicate that the relationship between these conditions and the incidence of disease is proportional. Congress has recently concluded (Congressional Record, 1979) that, "exposure to asbestos fibers has been identified as significantly in- creasing the incidence of cancer and other severe or fatal diseases such as abestosis." Congress conveys its concerns for the safety and health of the nation's miners through the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 in which it gave MSHA the authority to set safe
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