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Thread: WWII Aircrew & Asbestos

  1. #1
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    Default WWII Aircrew & Asbestos

    Did WWII Aircrew (as opposed to Groundcrew) run significant risks of Asbestos contamination?

    Reason for asking - just seen use of Asbestos type gloves by US Marine machine gunners (Pacific on SKY) and this caused me to wonder!!! my Dad died from Mesiothelioma (spelling?) and when we tried to track his work history, didn't come up with any obvious Asbestos contact

    But he was a WWII A/G - RAFVR - 205 Group - 31 & 34 SAAF Liberators and also for a brief while RAF Armoured Cars in Palestine/Transjordan

    Not looking for Compo - too late anyway he died in 2001, but a possible answer

    Thanks

    PZULBA - Out of Africa (Retired)

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    This does not answer your question re aircrew exposure to asbestos but to give you some indication as to the usage of asbestos, when I was being dragged kicking and screaming through the Scottish educational system in the 1960's and early 1970's, within every classroom was a red cylindrical container which contained a fire blanket. These fire blankets were made of white asbestos (chrysotile). Fire resistant gloves worn by Armed Forces personnel were almost certainly made from the same material.

    Asbestos containing materials were everywhere in the UK during the mid part of the 20th. century e.g. in insulation, in some types of ceiling tiles, in vehicle brake pads, within some types of floor tiles etc. etc. I have had many not so pleasant hours spent surveying for asbestos containing materials in the community for a former employer. Nowadays, asbestos materials remaining in situ should be encapsulated and away from direct contact with people.

    Douglas

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    Default Asbestos

    PZULBA, Hi,

    I think that the answer to your question is 'Undeniably, Yes!!', and, in some respects, the same sort of thing that has been 'noised abroad' on this (and other) fora wrt radium paint instrument illumination.

    This from http://www.asbestos.com/products/general/asbestos-gloves.php.

    Asbestos gloves typically contain anywhere between 40 and 100 percent asbestos. The manufacture and use of asbestos gloves and other asbestos protective clothing continued well into the 1980s and it is likely that they are still in use in certain industries. The use of asbestos in most construction products has been banned since the late 1970s due to the known dangers of this fibrous substance.

    Exposure to asbestos can cause several different diseases, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that only develops in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma is a particularly harmful disease due to its long latency period of two or more decades. There is no cure for mesothelioma and because diagnosis is often a difficult process, the prognosis for patients is typically poor.

    Asbestos-related diseases commonly develop in the lungs of people who inhale asbestos fibers. More rarely, some types of mesothelioma develop in the heart or abdomen as a result of other methods of ingestion. Asbestos gloves and other protective clothing are dangerous when the user is able to inhale loose fibers from the fabric.

    I also understand that the precise type of asbestos can affect the dangers. All I know is that when I joined the RAF environment (in the early 50's) there were 'fire retardent' blankets in almost every cook-house/section kitchen. Asbestos gloves were also supplied for dealing with hot (either physically, or chemically!) substances/processes.
    The uses, then, of various toxic substances -without suitable protection - would make a modern 'Elf & Safety Officer expire on the spot! I think that the lagging of high pressure steam pipes on HM ships/submarines (and its subsequent removal) is an HSE case in point
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    The dangers of asbestos have to examined in context to the state that it is in. When used for fire retardent clothing, especially when the material is layered between other materials, or if the clothing has not been damaged (i.e. decaying) then the actual danger of inhaling particles/fibres is small. Asbestos related diseases also require a prolonged period of exposture to such decayed/decaying asbestos (or where asbestos materials are produced).

    So, the benefits of using asbestos during the war far outweighed the dangers.

    A
    RAF Armoured Car Companies 1920-45 http://www.rafacciraq.com/

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    This discussion brings to mind the Bristol Freighter fleet delivered to the RNZAF in the 1950s. These aircraft had a cabin heating system entirely lagged with asbestos, the greater part of the system being fully exposed within the upper reaches of the passenger cabin; this system was apparently intended to counter the fact that the cabin itself was completely unlined and uninsulated in any way. The thought of the constant vibration from two thundering Bristol Hercules sleeve-valve engines bringing down a non-stop cascade of tiny particles onto the inhabitants of the cabin throughout the life of these aircraft (retired in 1977) must be very sobering to all the persons who ever traveled in these aircraft, especially those who traveled on the longer legs from New Zealand to Singapore or Fiji. However at the time, nobody knew that this was a risky way to travel. Considering that the danger to the hearing of all who traveled aboard these aircraft was well known at the time, it would seem in retrospect a pity that they did not decide to (unknowingly) kill two birds with stone and provide a superior form of insulation and sound-proofing which would have pretty well eliminated the need for heating system, and simultaneously saved the eardrums of one and all. Occupational health at the time was actually taken quite seriously, but if the "fix" included spending large amounts of tax-payers money, then those in danger might be waiting for a very long time to see any improvement in the situation.
    David D

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    WW2 respirators also contained a layer of asbestos to keep the fiter mediums in place.

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