Doctors demand to replace drinking pipes made of PVA with asbestos-cement

“Is it worth burning the bridges behind you, or should you leave your escape route?” This question arises very often in situations where an Egyptian citizen is caught between two fires; this phrase best reflects the issue of the production of asbestos-cement products, which worries all our citizens, the official and legislative bodies of the country. Due to the existing potential health hazard to workers, factories producing asbestos-cement products were closed, and instead of asbestos, other materials were found to replace it.

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However, the conference, hosted by the Egyptian Research Academy, highlighted the views of scientists specializing in preventive medicine, health and safety, environmental protection, and industrial safety; they are asking for the reopening and reopening of asbestos-cement factories, which would restore jobs for 3,500 workers and technicians. This request was made due to the fact that chrysotile asbestos as a material does not pose a danger to the life and health of workers, provided that all the necessary industrial safety and labor protection measures that have been determined for these industries are observed and ensured. The conference was attended by over one hundred researchers and experts in the fields of labor protection and environmental protection. Several aspects of the functioning of the asbestos-cement industry in Egypt were discussed: one of these aspects is that the annual consumption of asbestos in Egypt is relatively small – it does not exceed 2000 tons per year, compared to other states such as Russia (750 thousand tons ) and China (350 thousand tons). Chrysotile asbestos is used in the manufacture of pipes, brake pads, baffles and in the textile industry; one of its advantages is its high strength and non-flammability …

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Sibayen, professor at the Department of Commerce at Cairo University, said: “When the asbestos-cement plants were closed in 2004-2005, which produced asbestos-cement pipes for drinking water pipelines, their total sales were 170 million Egyptian pounds per year. After stopping 7 production lines, sales fell to 40 million Egyptian pounds a year. The total number of jobs in these enterprises was 3,500 people, and the salary payments were 25 million Egyptian pounds per year. 200 workers were laid off due to redundancies and remained in their positions in the company as “freelancers”; before the shutdown of production, the company’s annual revenues were 10-12 million Egyptian pounds, at the moment the producers are losing about 20 million Egyptian pounds a year.

All necessary studies and tests have been carried out to find a suitable replacement for asbestos fiber, in order to use this material in the production of pipes for drinking water pipes. As a result, it turned out that there is no better material than chrysotile-asbestos, because it does not react with chlorine contained in drinking water, unlike pipes made of PVC or cast iron, which enter into such a reaction.

Dr. Ahmel Abd Al-Wahhab explained that asbestos-cement plants operated in Egypt from 1952 to 2005, they employed 3,500 workers, and, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Health, no evidence of hazardous exposure was identified, that is, there were no reasons to close the asbestos-cement plants that produced 50 million meters of pipes annually to build the safest and most extensive water supply network in the Middle East; this pipeline has been able to function for hundreds of years and has been highly praised by leading international organizations.

During the construction process, pipes were laid in trenches and poured with concrete; this process is carried out in a liquid environment and prevents any emission of fibers, so it does not pose a danger to humans. The pipeline under construction should be expanded to cover more villages and villages, namely 2,400 settlements awaiting connection to the drinking water pipeline.

Regarding the often cited American model used in the US litigation, a proposal from the EPA (Department V), which outlined the need to eliminate the use of products made from white asbestos, was rejected by the court. Plants for the production of such products received the right to use chrysotile asbestos in their production from the date of the relevant court decision, while the court clarified that replacement materials proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as cast iron and PVC, are not only no less hazardous to health human, but sometimes even more dangerous. Thus, the EPA apologized and acknowledged that the use of chrysotile asbestos in pipe production does not pose a danger to human health..

Dr. Abd Al-Hakim Mahmood, professor, expert on pulmonary diseases at the Faculty of Medicine of Al-Qa’ar Al-Einiy University, explained that asbestos has a negative effect on the respiratory system only if we inhale its dust with air for a long time period of time; in this case, one of the varieties of asbestos causes bronchitis or cirrhosis of the lungs and makes breathing difficult, and can also cause lung cancer or long-term allergies. These diseases may appear no earlier than 10-60 years..

Professor Dr. Mahmoud Mohammed Amr, Director of the National Center for Clinical Poisons and Environmental Protection of Egypt, confirmed that asbestos fibers can be inhaled through the respiratory system due to their small size, lack of odor and their ability to remain suspended in the air for a long period of time; in addition, he said that all the hazards arising from the processing of asbestos are not associated with drinking water and theoretically can enter the human body only with inhaled air.

Dr Majed Al-Shiouhi, professor of industrial hygiene at the Ein Al-Shams Faculty of Medicine, added that workers in such factories underwent medical examinations in 2000; it turned out that their state of health was very good, and the plant itself was recognized as safe for all workers with full compliance with all health and safety measures. Following the modernization, renovation and transformation of state-owned asbestos-cement plants, a series of environmental tests were conducted under the supervision of Dr. Ahmed Abd Al-Kerim, professor at the Research Center, which specializes in such tests. Test results have shown that the presence of asbestos dust is tolerated when water hoses are used on pipelines, provided appropriate precautions are taken to help control such dust for personal safety through the provision of protective clothing and face masks. Simply put, the results of all tests showed that chrysotile asbestos is absolutely safe for human health and will not harm the environment when it is produced in factories..

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