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My Chemical Store Had Asbestos

Updated on July 2, 2008

My first day as a Factory Cleaner

My first day in Saint Brendan's Cream Liqueur Factory was exciting. Four temporary cleaners recruited through recruitment agency Ranstad were sitting in the boardroom, human resources manager conducted the first day training: from company background to health and safety rules, both in presentation and video form. Finally, we went through a test and then were lead to her office. She asked me what's size of my shoes. I of course knew my shoes size, that's 40, but not in UK measure, which should be 7, but that time I didn't know the conversion size number, so I answered that I didn't know. She looked at my shoes, and said: it could be 7, but we haven't got so small size at the moment, I will order one for you.

The human resources officer transferred us to cleaning manager. She was an in placement undergraduate. She showed us around the whole factory, and at last the chemical and cleaning tools storeroom. She showed us the chemical, brush, towels and mops. What's the funny name on the detergent container was "Genitol", which reads like "Genital", a reproduction organ. My first job was using a brush to clean production line support. She said: brush the legs, see any legs, brush it.

I started working as part-time cleaner, then transferred to full-time, and then permanent family cleaner. The chemical storeroom had been my "office" for two year until all the chemical stuff and cleaning tools was moved to a new store-room.

asbestos on damaged steam pipe joint
asbestos on damaged steam pipe joint

Asbestos in Cleaning Storeroom

This room was a boiler house, but used as a "temporary" cleaning storeroom, it was very dark, and noisy. Large steam pipe running cross under the ceiling and on the wall. Some of the pipes were rustic and damaged, you could see the damaged asbestos wrappings on the steam pipe joints. The walls were very dirty, you could see some white frosty things on it. I were so familiar with that boiler house and "love" it that I even had tried to clean those pipes and walls! But I was shocked when I found out all these later.

Being exposed to asbestos could cause lung cancer, which has a special name "mesothelioma", even now I don't know how to pronounce correctly. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that develops in the lining around the lungs (the "pleura"), abdomen (the "peritoneum"), or heart (the "pericardium"). Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos.

But I knew these kind of stuff after I left St Brendan's factory, learned from a TV program, an middle-aged worker who suffered from lung cancer has been exposed to asbestos for about twenty years. A solicitor was helping him to fight for his case and won the compensations.

Background is the boiler house
Background is the boiler house

How did they clean asbestos in the chemical store

Asbestos is a fibrous, silicate material often used in insulation, such as steam pipe insulation wrapping mentioned above. Asbestos has also used in buildings for acoustic (noise-proofing) and decorative purposes since the 1940's. By the late 1950's, it became virtually standard practice for all large multi-storey buildings, and many hospitals and schools, to have asbestos sprayed on their steel girders for fire-proofing.

This widespread use of asbestos in buildings is an enormous problem. For example, sprayed asbestos will deteriorate over time, and if uncontrolled will crumble and send fibres into the air where they could be breathed in by people in the surrounding area and even circulated around a building by air conditioning systems. The demolition of buildings with asbestos insulation or lagging has the potential for the release of massive amounts of asbestos fibre.

There was an steam pipe explosion recently in New York city, more than half of the debris samples taken from the site of the steam pipe explosion came back positive for the toxic substance Asbestos, although due to the wet weather, asbestos dust settled down very quickly, so there was no asbestos found in the air.

More have I learned, more were I frightened by what I have been gone through, I still have after-shock of it, and have a suspicious mind of whether I have ACTUALLY infected by asbestos whenever I have a chest or back pain.

One day, my production manager let me remove all cleaning tools and chemicals out to another room. The next day, a special team came with all kinds of equipments. They sealed off the building, set up warning signs and barriers, close the doors and pathways nearby, they all wear white coveralls and an respirator, same as gas mask. I was frightened by this scene, and asked what's happened. My manager told me they were going to remove asbestos in the boiler house, I have never heard of this term before, but I could feel asbestos must be an extremely dangerous things.


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