Asbestos removal in action

FIOH is active in the research and diagnostics of asbestos-related diseases, and offers workplace-level occupational hygienic services for solving asbestos-related problems.

FIOH participates actively in, for example, EU and WHO activities in the prevention of asbestos-related diseases (ARDs).

This microsite contains relevant information concerning asbestos, as well as key documents, summaries and information regarding:

  • any upcoming meetings on the prevention of asbestos hazards
  • safety issues in the handling of asbestos materials

Asbestos in Finland

Despite the use of new asbestos practically ceasing a quarter of a century ago in Finland, asbestos continues to cause health problems for decades, due to exposures in the past. In addition, demolition work may still also pose new health risks if workers are not protected in accordance with guidelines.

New cases of asbestos-related diseases (ARD) are notified yearly. In 2012, a total of 4404 cases of occupational diseases or suspected occupational diseases were notified to the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Register of Occupational Diseases (FROD). Among these were 726 cases of recognized and suspected occupational diseases caused by asbestos. To put this into context, Statistics Finland estimates the number of people in employment in Finland to be around 2.5 million (2013).

There were formerly two asbestos mines in Eastern Finland, one of which continued operating until 1975. The industrial production of anthophyllite was 350 000 tons in total, of which 120 000 was used in Finland, mainly in cement, insulation and roofing materials. Total cumulative consumption in Finland has been estimated at more than 300 000 tons.

As the metal ore mining industry in Finland has been growing in recent years, the demand for occupational hygienic measurements of asbestos in mines and concentration plants has also been increasing. The limit value for asbestos in asbestos work (0.1 fibres/ cm3 air) has been exceeded in some mines because of an abundance of asbestos minerals in the bedrock. There is an obvious need for guidelines concerning asbestos in the mining industry. FIOH has played an active role in advocating the publication of these guidelines.

Between 1990 and 1992, FIOH carried out broad-based screening of asbestos-related diseases, which showed that 22% of circa 19 000 housing construction and shipbuilding workers had changes in their pleura and/or pulmonary fibrosis.

The removal of asbestos in buildings is subject to licence and is supervised by Occupational Safety and Health Authorities. According to legally binding regulations, the asbestos demolition workers must be trained and must use acceptable methods and equipment, as well as efficient protective devices in their work.

Instructions for good work and protection practices are available from The Building Information Foundation RTS.

FIOH’s role

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has played an active role in preventing health hazards caused by asbestos. FIOH´s 1987‒1992 National Asbestos Programme constituted the key instrument for the implementation of the National Strategies. The four tasks of the Programme were:

  1. Minimization of exposure to asbestos
  2. Determination of the number of people exposed to asbestos, and identification of asbestos-exposed individuals
  3. Assessment of the health risks caused by exposure to asbestos
  4. Development of diagnostics for asbestos diseases in Finland.
    Finland was one of the first countries to ratify ILO Convention No.162 in 1988.