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Asbestos - Killer Dust - Worker-community Guide - How to Fight Hazards of Asbestos and Its Substitutes(1)

Asbestos - Killer Dust - Worker-community Guide - How to Fight Hazards of Asbestos and Its Substitutes(1)

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worker/community guide:
how to fight the hazards of
asbestos and its





This document


The British Society for Social Responsibility in Science
was set up in 1968. BSSRS believes that science and
technology are not neutral, but are geared to profit and
the maintenance of the present political system. BSSRS
has a number of working groups, one of which is the
Work Hazards Group. Others include groups working
on Race and "Intelligence", the Politics of Food, and
Nuclear Power.
The Work Hazards Group is composed of local branches
around the country. We believe that significant im-
provements in working conditions can best be achieved
by workers becoming well informed, and by organising
at their place of work; and that in the long-term, the
conflict between profit and healthy working conditions
can only be resolved in a socialist society in which
working people have control over their lives.
We publish Hazards Bulletin, pamphlets and leaflets,
teach on Health and Safety courses for Trade Unionists,
and answer enquiries about health and safety.
We support the establishment of, and work with, area
committees of Trade Unionists and residents and local
Health and Safety Groups, such as those listed in
appendix I, and the provision of effective back-up
services on health and safety within the Trade Unions.

Published August 1979 by BSSRS Publications Limited,
9 Poland Street, London W1V 3DG, 01-437 2728.
Copyright © BSSRS Publications Limited, 1979
ISBN Pb 0 9502541 3 4



A worker/community guide:
how to fight the hazards of
asbestos and its

If you have any comments —

bad or good —

on this booklet,
additions and so on please let us have them for a revised edition.
We are

particularly interested in hearing of any organised action
taken over the hazards of asbestos and its substitutes —


ful or otherwise.

A booklet of this nature, with so much organised action, owes
much more to those who took the action and communicated it
than to any author. I hope to have gone someway to catching
the tremendous odds against such people and the fact that
despite this they have often won. Beyond the, in so many ways
depressing, story of the hazards of asbestos, their actions shine
like a light to us all. The capitalist system of exploitation and
reducing people to less value than the products they make or
use is not invincible. People acting together with a socialist
perspective will bring about its collapse —

as the difficult
struggles over asbestos show: sooner than expected perhaps!
Of all the people that helped me, below are those I can
remember. To those I've missed: thanks a lot and to all in-
volved, hope I have done justice to your efforts. Their names
are at random as they came into my head.
Tanya and Seb Schmoller, Pete Marsden, Jim 0 'Neil!, Nancy
Tait, Laurie Flynn, Barry Castleman, Terry Bellamy, Jim Burns,
Joe Walker, Tom McFadden, Jose Caba, Mike Kahn, Martin
Brewer, John McMorrow, Brian Hodge, Ellys Tynan, Pat
Kinnersly, H. Pezerat, George Corbyn, David Murray, Pat and
Margaret McFadden, Gail Yoakum, John Healey, Dan Berman,
John Bentley, Pat Twomey, Brian and Rosemary Cu bitt, Ben
Bartlett, Bryan Rees, Jean Grisel, Dave Hayes, Mrs E.J. Curtis,
Jim Franklin, John Todd, Micky Fenn, Les Stephenson, Leo
Puyker, Greg Cohn, Michael Siefert, Tom Amey, Mary Philips
and Tanw.ra Kalom.
Of course, none of the above bear any responsibility for the
final booklet which is the full responsibility of the authoi
Alan J.P. Dalton.
Cartoons and graphics are by Liz Mackie, P/it! Evans, Nick
Kavanagh, Fiona Carpenter and Oliver Duke.
Typesetting by Rosemary Ahmed, Printacolour (TU), 101 Praed
Street, London W2
Design, layout and front cover by Eve Barker, 232 Mare
Street, London E8 (01-986 5861).
Index by Robin Bonner
This pamphlet was produced with the aid of a grant from the
Joseph Rown tree Social Services Trust.
Printed by the Russell Press, 45 Gamble Street, Nottingham
NG 7 4ET (0602 74505).
Distributed by Trade Union Bookservice, 265 Seven Sisters Road,
London N4 2DE.


Page 7 Introduction
7 Total estimate UK asbestos deaths
8 The Hebden Bridge massacre


Chapter 1 What is asbestos?
17 World asbestos production


19 Types of asbestos

20 Chapter 2 What asbestos does to your health?

social background

21 Odds of getting asbestos disease
21 Asbestosis
25 Lung cancer
26 Asbestos smoking and lung cancer
27 Mesotheljoma (cancer)
34 Other cancers caused by asbestos exposure
41 Health checks for people exposed to asbestos

44 Chapter 3 Excuses, excuses
45 Asbestos cement is a special case
48 It's only white asbestos
52 Asbestos is indispensable
55 Brakes are dangerous

Chapter 4 Your protectors
57 The asbestos industry
62 South Africa: asbestos mines
64 The government
66 1969 Asbestos

Regulations —



Advisory Committee on Asbestos
79 Trade Unions
80 The good TUC submission to the


Committee on Asbestos —


87 Scientists and Doctors

102 Chapter 5 Substitutes for asbestos


103 Glass fibre health hazards

The prevention of

107 Health risks of other 'safe' replacements

asbestos diseases

for asbestos
110 Substitutes for asbestos —

what they are

and where to get them (table)
114 Agreed CEGB procedure for working with
man made fibres
116 A safer glass fibre standard

119 Chapter 6 Removal of asbestos dust
119 What is a safe dust level?
123 Measuring the dust level
129 Ventilation and extraction of the asbestos
135 Efficiency of some portable extraction
units (table)

141 Chapter 7 Working with asbestos and its
142 Dockyard asbestos disease
150 Servicing brake and clutch linings
157 British Rail
158 British Rail work methods
160 Sealing and

stripping asbestos
163 An improved stripping procedure at Yale
169 The basic stripping procedure

172 Chapter 8 Personal protection
174 An 'approved' respirator
176 Protective clothing

179 Chapter 9 Environmental asbestos
180 Asbestos in the air
188 Measurement of asbestos in the air
188 Typical asbestos levels in city and country
air (table)
191 Asbestos in water and soil

198 Chapter 10 The hospitals scandal

204 Chapter 11 Asbestos in housing estates
and schools


213 Chapter 12 Living near an asbestos
factory or dumps
227 Dumping asbestos waste near flats and a


232 Chapter 13

240 Chapter 14 Asbestos is political
241 Asbestos

industry profits
245 US asbestos industry exports hazards
249 Some examples of world wide actions
over asbestos hazards

249 America
251 Australia (including conditions won)
254 Canada

256 France
256 Greek workers fight asbestos hazards
256 Holland
257 Russia and China
258 Asbestos is the symptom, the disease is...

260 Appendix 1:

Help to fight asbestos
264 Appendix 2: Further

reading on asbestos

268 Appendix 3: Names and addresses of
makers of asbestos
267 Appendix 4: The identification and
analysis of asbestos includ-
ing table of organisations
undertaking analysis
278 Appendix 5: Asbestos survey from a TU
group (HASSEL)

283 Index


This booklet is dedicated to the many working
class people who have been murdered by the
asbestos industry and to those beginning to fight
back for the right for a healthy and safe work-


A US Government report released late in 1978
estimated that more than two million American
workers will

probably die of cancer because of
asbestos exposure at their jobs. The report b
the National Institute of Environmental Healt
Sciences also stated that work-related cancer was
responsible for 1 in 5 of total cancer cases. In
industrialised countries cancer is second only to
heart disease as the major killer. In Britain, with
roughly one quarter of the

population of the US,
work exposure to asbestos will kill 500,000 in
the next thirty years using these estimates. This
death rate should be compared with that caused
by some other disasters:
Some UK disasters



Armed forces killed in the Second World



Killed by the Black Death (bubonic, pneumonic
and septicaemic plague) 1347-50


Killed by the great flu epidemic (Sept.-Nov.


Estimate of number of people who will be
killed by asbestos (1978 -2018)

Asbestos exposure will kill more people in
Britain than were killed in the armed


during the Second World War.
This estimate represents a real epidemic of
asbestos-related diseases. It is no accident or
unforeseen disaster: as we shall see: it could have
been prevented. It wasn't because we live in a
society that allows companies to make a profit



irrespective of the effects of its products on its
workforce or consumers.

Asbestos deaths could have been prevented
In 1899 a British asbestos spinner aged thirty-
three went to see a chest specialist about attacks
of 'bronchitis'. He told the specialist, Dr
Montague Murray, that he was the last survivor
of ten workers in the shop with whom he first
started working. They all died at about thirty
years of age. He himself died in April 1900. A
port-mortem confirmed that he did not have
tuberculosis (consumption), but died from
extensive lung scarring (asbestosis) caused by the
breathing of asbestos dust. This was reported to
the 1906 British Government enquiry into
compensation for industrial diseases.
By 1930 the British Government had woken up
and an official enquiry, the Merewether and
Price Report, confirmed that there was a real
epidemic of asbestos diseases among British
asbestos workers. As a direct result limited
Government regulations concerning the 'safe'
use of asbestos were introduced in 1931 and
became effective in 1933. The problem of asbes-
tos diseases was therefore assumed solved. Little
more was heard about the health hazards of
asbestos for the next thirty years.
Then, in the 1960s, the truth began to seep out,
at first in medical journals and then in the news-
papers. The lid finally blew in March 1976 with
the horrifying revelations by the Ombudsman,
Sir Alan Marre, into the massacre of asbestos
workers at Cape's Hebden Bridge asbestos

The massacre at Hebden Bridge
The investigations into the massacre at Hebden
Bridge have revealed the real side of the 'respon-
sible' asbestos industry. Cape Industries, who
ran the asbestos mill from 1939 until its closure
in 1970, are no backstreet outfit. They are a
multinational concern second only to the UK
asbestos giants Turner and Newall.
In 1939 Cape Asbestos Ltd (now called Cape
Industries) opened a factory named Acre Mill at

Acre Mill asbestos factory,
Hebden Bridge is the
large building at the top
of this photo. So far 262
out of 2,200 workers

have asbestos-related
diseases. (Michael Kahn)


Bridge near Halifax. This

factory made
mainly asbestos textile products from raw asbes-
tos and was therefore

subject to the 1931

Asbestos Regulations. The

factory closed thirty-

one years later in 1970

leaving a legacy of death

and suffering for the

surrounding community.
Approximately 2,200 workers have been em-
ployed at the factory during the thirty-one
years of its operations. After the Second World
War many immigrant workers were


and it has proved impossible to trace

many of
these. But, so far 262 (12 per cent) of the work-
force have developed crippling asbestos diseases.


Late 1 940s — women
eating and drinking among
asbestos at Acre Mill,
Hebden Bridge. (Report

Deaths at Hebden Bridge due to asbestos

Lung cancer or Mesothehoma


Heart failure






Six people from one extended family have con-
tracted or died of asbestos-related diseases, and
over £2,000,000 compensation has so far been
paid out.
Most of the workers who suffered were employed
directly in the manufacturing process, but
others worked as

gardeners, office workers,
canteen workers, painters and lorry drivers. As
the local specialist, Dr Bertram Mann, comments:
'There is clearly a real hazard . . . among workers
not directly engaged in the handling of this


Bertram Mann, 'Pulmonary Asliestosis with Special
Reference to an Fpidcmic at I-lebdcn Bridge,Journal of the
Royal College of Physicians, vol 12. July 1978, p.297.


77 have died of the following complaints related
to asbestos exposure:

Asbestos workers speak:

Brian Schnacke, who
worked at the factory from
1954-59: 'The extractors
were blocked most of the
time. We often stood in the
blue dust a foot deep.'

mineral.' Symptoms took from two to thirty
years to develop, with an average of eighteen
years. One thing Dr Mann found out was that
you can be suffering from asbestosis with no
apparent change in your chest X-ray. One worker
was employed for only nine weeks stacking
asbestos materials on a conveyor belt when he
was thirty-five years old. By the time he was
forty-three an X-ray showed that he was suffer-
ing from serious lung damage. He died of deadly
asbestos cancer —

Mesothelioma —

at the early

age of forty-eight.
From 1949 onwards the factory inspectorate
found conditions at the asbestos factory were
unsatisfactory and breaking the 1931 Asbestos
Regulations, yet nothing was done: an illustra-
tion of the pathetic state of our industrial
policemen —


watchdogs, watching

people die.
It's worth noting that the factory inspectorate
considered this factory, in terms of its dust
coi?rol methods, 'at least as good as average, if
not better.' So you can imagine (or can you?)
the bad factories.
The response of the British Government to the
revelations of the Hebden

Bridge massacre was,
predictably, to set up an enquiry. The asbestos
industry itself launched into a massive £500,000
advertising campaign to convince people that
asbestos was safe.


Brian Schnacke (Michael Kahn)

John Montgomery, who
worked there in 1942-43
and 1946-47 'One mask
was provided for 12
workers and we had no idea
of the dangers. During the
war 4-ft extractor fans
faced houses across from
the factory, and blew dust
straight at them and the
school. At the asbestos tip
the kids used to make snow-
balls of it.'

Ron Slattery, who worked
at the mill for four years in
the 1950s
'How this firm got away
with their dust exposure was

really criminal. I have seen,
in the Sectional Department,
the dust extractors blowing
it back seven or eight times
a day. After this experience
of the dust continuously
blowing back, I vomitted
into a bowl of clean water
and I brought up a ball of
asbestos dust off my stomach

it rolled out in a perfect
ball, and my wife picked it
up, and I thought of going
Out Ofl the golf course with
it! I led the lads out it was
so dusty — of course they
said we had to wait till the
week-end before the ducts
could be cleaned. I want to

see this never happen again.
You know what they call
this pub (the Swan)? The
Asbestos Arms! It's very
weak for union activity
around here — that's why
they got away with it.'



Michael Morris and Angela Singer,'l'heatre Company
Sacked after Ashesiosis I'lay', Guardian, 24 August 1978.

No plays on asbestos
In August 1978 .Northern theatre group

Theatre Mobile —

was sacked by its sponsors
the Mid Pennine Arts Association. They had just
put on a play about the massacre at Hebden
Bridge. The subject of the play, Arthur
Montgomery, an asbestos worker at Hebden
Bridge, died in August 1978 in his early fifties.
He, his father and father-in-law had all contacted
asbestosis. In May 1978 Cape Industries, the
owners of the Hebden Bridge asbestos factory,
had taken legal action to secure the return of a
confidential internal memo, Background Notes
on the Anti-Asbestos Lobby, that Cape's had
sent the theatre group by mistake.2

Confusion over asbestos
There is public confusion over asbestos, Typical
of it is this letter sent to the British Society for
Social Responsibility in Science in May 1977:
I recently read an article in the Evening
Standard regarding the risks attached to
asbestos which has caused me a consider-
able amount of concern. In November of

last year a local firm of plumbing contrac-
tors installed central

heating for us. This

necessitated an old Aga cooker

being dis-

mantled. On returning home that


the whole kitchen/breakfast

and hail area were covered with a white
dust. There was also a pile of this dust on
my front doorstep, which, of course, my
one year, three and five year olds soon got
their hands into. At the time we were
assured it was white dirt, so I was not much
concerned, but simply annoyed by the lack
of care the contractors had shown in tidy-
ing up their mess.
Three weeks later, on New Year's Eve to be
exact, we were advised that this was white

Obviously this news was a tremen-

dous shock. I

phoned the doctor who said
it wasn't a risk, and that nothing was
medically necessary; I then phoned the
Asbestos Information Centre who endorsed
this opinion and gave me a considerable
amount of reassurance.

Perhaps you can imagine my reaction when
I read this article? I'm basically not a neur-

person, but I feel my house, the out-
buildings (where the Aga parts were stored
for four weeks), and the yard (where the
bags of asbestos had been left) have been
contaminated. This is a

very old house and
I feel it will be years before this dust has
been completely eradicated from all its
nooks and crannies.
I should be very grateful for your comments,
but please don't send me any booklets etc
regarding symptoms of asbestos-associated
diseases, which I feel would only cause me
further concern. My husband has told me
not to write to you as he feels

any informa-

tion you

five me will

only aggravate the
problem. I m afraid Ijust can't forget about
it as he

suggests and am

really just hoping

to get a sense of

proportion about the

whole thing.

Compare the attitude here of the doctor and the



Asbestos Information Centre (presumably Com-
mittee), with the following statements by world
authorities on asbestos:
At present it is not possible to assess
whether there is a level of (asbestos) ex-
posure in humans below which an increased
risk of cancer would not occur.3 Evaluation
of all available human data provides no
evidence for a threshold or 'safe' level of
asbestos exposure.. . only a ban can ensure
against Carcinogenic (cancer) effects of

Clearly there is possible an increased health risk
to the family described in the above letter —
however small, and it could have been prevented.
Obviously the asbestos industry benefits from
the state of confusion it has helped create as
regards the real hazards of asbestos. The purpose
of this pamphlet is to help eliminate this con-
fusion, and also to help anyone exposed to
asbestos — whether at work or at home —


minimise, if not eliminate, the health risks to
themselves, their family and friends.


'AsbestoS', International Agency for Research on Cancer,
vol 14, World Health Organisation, 1977.


'Revised Recommended Asbestos Standard', covering
letter from Dr John F. Finklea, Director, US National Institute
for Occupational Safety and Health, 15 December 1976.


r4 T$E.


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