Asbestos World Roundup

In Israel , the Firefighting Authority is taking steps to protect firefighters from asbestos contamination, which is believed to be the largest long-term health risk facing firefighters. A fire in the city of Keshet gave the firefighters the first chance to test the new procedures and protocols. Israel Fire Commissioner Shim Romach told reporters that firefighters worldwide have a life expectancy about ten years shorter than the average, and that most of this difference is attributable to exposure to smoke, asbestos, and other toxins in the course of fighting building fires. The new regulations encourage firefighters to use more protective equipment and to thoroughly wash off after fires to minimize exposure to asbestos . In Japan , the national government announced plans to increase the number of buildings subject to twice-annual checks on their management of asbestos and related issues.

Currently about 260,000 buildings are subject to the inspections, and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is expanding the list of covered buildings to a total of about 2 million, including retail shops and hotels. Schools, single-family homes, and wooden buildings will not be included, as they are covered by other regulatory agencies. The current standard is to check only large facilities such as factories built between 1956 and 1989, when asbestos was widely used as a building material. The ministry will assign higher priority to examining buildings constructed before 1975, when regulations on use of asbestos were greatly tightened in Japan , and also will prioritize buildings with heavy public access. In the United Kingdom , repair and renovation work on hundreds of council houses (public housing units) has been halted after two recent asbestos scares. About 600 householders were left with their homes half-repaired after contractors were pulled off the job. The work stoppage was put in place after asbestos fibers were found in flats, and the residents were placed into temporary housing. There is no word on how long the work will be stopped.