NTTL asbestos addressed at inaugural FAAM Conference

On Thursday and Friday, 08-09 November, IOSH presented the asbestos phase of its No Time to Lose (NTTL) campaign at the first annual Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM) scientific conference organised by NTTL supporter the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), in Manchester.


In Britain, asbestos-related cancer claims at least 5,000 lives a year. All these cancers are preventable. This two-day conference brought together asbestos management practitioners and trainers, regulators, campaigners, leading researchers and epidemiologists, and other experts from around the world to discuss the latest developments in the assessment, management and control of these deadly substances.

The three key topic areas were asbestos-related diseases, current understanding and advances in their treatment; methods of analysis for asbestos: roles and limitations; and asbestos management and control.

In his NTTL presentation, IOSH Vice-President Jonathan Hughes:

  • highlighted the findings from the IOSH-commissioned survey to find out how much construction workers know about asbestos
  • explained how IOSH joins forces with organisations to reach high-risk workers including small businesses in trades in construction such as roofing and plumbing, as well as young people
  • encouraged organisations to get involved in the No Time to Lose campaign by supporting it and pledging to take action
  • and showcased our free practical resources to help businesses manage and control asbestos exposure.

IOSH PR Manager Simon Butt-Bethlendy, who exhibited NTTL resources and discussed the campaign with delegates, said:

“As soon as delegates arrived, they flocked to the No Time to Lose stand, picked up our asbestos packs and asked questions about the campaign. Many were shocked listening to powerful presentations by the amazing MesoWarrior Mavis Nye and IOSH VP Jonathan Hughes.

“Some of the results of our survey of construction workers revealed levels of ignorance and uncertainty that caused industry professionals to want to use NTTL to communicate more widely. We’re grateful to BOHS for their continued partnership in this and look forward to working more closely with BOHS FAAM on spreading the word about this campaign.”

Among experts gathered at the conference were pioneering scientist Jean Prentice, who has analysed asbestos using microscopy and other methods for over 50 years; John Addison, a renowned mineralogist who is one of the world’s leading authorities on identifying asbestos and industrial minerals, their toxicity and their effects on human health; and Sean Fitzgerald, a US expert on testing who recently identified asbestos in toys and in Claire’s cosmetics worldwide.

Addison revealed there are more than 40 definitions of asbestos in the US and how a ‘typo’ in French testing guidelines may cause their results to vary widely from the UK’s and others. Some of the many types of asbestos are so novel even he struggles to name them.

Fitzgerald described how preparing samples in the right way for testing by scanning electron microscope can reveal asbestos hiding in talcum powder. And Prentice explained how heating asbestos to over 900 degrees can destroy its dangerous fibres – but that the thermal insulation properties of other materials in cement can make this process difficult.

Dutch campaigners and asbestos management consultants Yvonne Waterman of the European Asbestos Forum Foundation and Jasper Kosters from Admanstars described the grim reality of globalised trade in asbestos. They revealed the volume of goods transported across borders every day, the ease with which anyone can buy things online and lack of recognition of terms like chrysotile and actinolite means even descriptions of types of asbestos go unrecognised.

Among the shocking pictures they showed were screen grabs from leading online retailers selling Chinese green tea advertised as containing the asbestos fibre actinolite and how the asbestos industry is actually growing, not contracting, with two mines in Zimbabwe recently reopening. Adverts praising asbestos on social media are used daily to target people in developing countries.

Andrew Darnton, an analyst for the UK’s HSE, and Andrey Korchevskiy, Director of R&D at Chemistry and Industrial Hygiene Inc in the US, explained how epidemiologists calculate time-weighted averages, exposure doses and other factors including asbestos fibre length and width to determine the likelihood of developing mesothelioma and other cancers in a population.

They also revealed ways of accounting for statistical deviations in testing and modelling for airborne exposures – and how computational fluid dynamics (used in computer modelling of jet engines and F1 cars) can predict exposure to fibres blowing around from soil that contains asbestos.

For more information on IOSH’s NTTL campaign and to download free materials to control asbestos exposure, visit

To find out more about the BOHS’s FAAM, visit the website.