The presence of asbestos in various infrastructures and buildings throughout Spain continues to cause alerts and complaints due to its great danger. In the Madrid and Barcelona subways, investigations have been carried out, several stations have had to be refurbished and wagons removed after their presence was found.
It has also caused the death of many workers who have been exposed to this element. He the most recent case is that of José María Iñigo, who died in 2018 as a result of a pleural mesothelioma; the family has started a judicial process to prove that this death was due to exposed to asbestos in the Prado del Rey studios from TVE.
What is it?
Asbestos, also called asbestos, is a mineral that was widely used at the end of the last century in construction. Antonio Somoza, member of the platform Zero Asbestos from Malaga, points out that it was considered a “fantastic” material because it was cheap and good thermal and moisture insulator.
It was mainly used in the manufacture of uralite, although it was also present in items such as brake pads and protective clothing for firefighters.
However, already in 1975 WHO warned that it was a “first-level carcinogen” and recommended its ban. Spain vetoed the use of this material at the beginning of the century.
What sources does it come from?
Josep Tarrés Olivella, pulmonologist, medical doctor and expert on the subject, points out that currently the main source of asbestos emission is precisely the facilities that have corrugated iron, a material made with fiber cement that contains between 7 and 10% asbestos.
These plates have a duration of about 35 years, after which the cement loses its coherence and degrades, leaving the asbestos it contains free.
“The problem is thousands of tons of corrugated iron installed throughout Spain, and that they are reaching the end of their useful life “, indicates Tarrés,” Most of the plates are installed in the 80’s, even the 90’s last century, and they are already reaching their expiration date. “
How does it enter the body?
When released, asbestos particles remain floating in the environment and can get into the environment. human body respiratory tract.
The main problem, points out the expert, is that a minimum level of security. With “little asbestos entering the body”, if it is a predisposed person, they can develop cancer associated with that material
What type of cancer does it cause?
Tarrés indicates that asbestos causes three types of cancer:
Mesothelioma: He is the one who caused the death of José María Íñigo. “Is a cancer of the pleura quite rare, very aggressive and it has the peculiarity that it is only produced by inhalation of asbestos “, he explains.
Lung cancer: It is estimated that asbestos is responsible for between 10% and 18% of these cancers.
Laryngeal cancer: Tarrés indicates that asbestos also causes an as yet undetermined number of this type of cancer.
Other diseases: Formerly asbestos was responsible for a large amount of cases of inflammation in the lungs, which later resulted in fibrosis, a hardening of the pleura.
“It was when the most important contagion in working lifeBut now it is in the background, “he considers.” To have a disease of this type takes a lot of time and a lot. “It occurred mainly among workers in the manufacture of materials with asbestos.
How long does it take to appear?
Cancer associated with asbestos takes a long time to appear. The pulmonologist indicates that there is a mean latency period of 45 years since the substance enters the body and can manifest itself in cancer.
Some cases only take 20 years to develop cancer, although Tarrés mentions that he has seen others with latency periods of up to 90 years.
Is there possible protection?
For Tarrés, the protection against asbestos inhalation It is very difficult. The only solution is remove all the uralite and other components of the infrastructures in which it is still present “The only way to protect yourself is to eliminate the source of emission,” he warns. “Once you have it inside, there is nothing to do.
Therefore, Tarrés points to the “severe irresponsibility of politicians and social agents” to focus on this issue. “If our generation does not act, it will be responsible for the death of our children and grandchildren for this neglect. The disarray of the entire country must be considered very seriously. “
Tarrés, an expert who advises various official bodies on the subject and has a doctoral thesis related to asbestos, points out that there are some calculations on how many deaths can it cause per year, but indicates that they have the problem of not being entirely accurate.
However, he gives as an example Cerdanyola del Valles, the town where he resides, where the cases of cancer caused by asbestos have gone from being 7 or 8 a year a few years ago to being up to 12 recently.