Asbestos

Background

Prior to 1980, asbestos was used in over 3,000 different products as a result of its manifold potential applications. From the mid-1960s to the end of the 1970s asbestos imports reached an average of around 170,000 tonnes per year in the Federal Republic of Germany and up to 70,000 tons per year in the German Democratic Republic. The imposition of increasingly far-reaching bans on asbestos production and usage and the accompanying increase in the use of asbestos substitutes saw asbestos consumption in the Federal Republic of Germany fall to zero by the early 1990s.

Occupational safety and health (OSH) measures significantly reduced occupational asbestos exposure across many German industrial sectors before the ban on exposure had even been introduced. Asbestos nevertheless remains a much-debated topic, as the symptoms of serious asbestos-related occupational diseases often only emerge after a significant period has elapsed. Demolition and renovation work is now the primary risk of exposure to asbestos dust.

The German Ordinance on Hazardous Substances (GefStV) has banned the marketing of asbestos and materials containing asbestos since 1993. Since 2005 that ban has also applied at European level. The German Ordinance on Hazardous Substances also requires activities which may expose employees to asbestos (demolition, renovation, handling of mineral raw materials) to adhere to the utmost in protection standards.

Occupational diseases

Appendix 1 of the German Occupational Diseases List currently lists four asbestos-related syndromes:

BK 4103 – Amianthosis (asbestosis) or pleural disease caused by asbestos dust.

BK 4104 – Lung cancer or cancer of the larynx

  • in conjunction with amianthosis (asbestosis);
  • in conjunction with pleural disease caused by asbestos dust; or
  • in the instance of the verified influence of a cumulative workplace dose of asbestos fibre dust of at least 25 fibre years (25 x 106 [(fibres/m3) x years]).
BK 4105 – Pleural, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma caused by asbestos.

BK 4114 – Lung cancer caused by interaction between asbestos fibre dust and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons with proof of the influence of a cumulative dose which corresponds with a probability of causation of at least 50% as set out in Appendix 2 of the German Ordinance on Occupational Diseases (BKV).

Prevention target

One of the central prevention targets defined by the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) is the prevention of occupational diseases. Primary protective measures were introduced some time ago, with asbestos eventually banned. Today, asbestos-related  diseases are the consequence of exposure suffered many years ago at a time when there was insufficient knowledge of the danger of asbestos and substitute materials were not yet available. This places particular importance on the early detection of asbestos-related  occupational diseases (secondary prevention). Even though asbestosis and mesothelioma are not yet or only partly curable, early diagnosis can improve the likelihood of a positive therapy outcome or a more favourable course of illness.

Contact

Dr. Markus Mattenklott
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA)
Dusts - Fibres
Tel.: 02241 231-2548

Dr. Robert Kellner
Safety and Health Department
Rules and regulations
Tel.: 089 62272-180

Dr. Thorsten Wiethege
Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident Insurance (IPA)
Core Services and Interdisciplinary services
Tel.: 0234 302-4507