Potential risk factors for asbestos exposure amongst six-months-old infants living in the township of Soweto, South Africa
Von Schirnding, Y.E.R.
De Wet, T.
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During recent years there has been increased attention paid to public exposure to asbestos in the nonoccupational environment. As part of a longitudinal cohort study of urban child health and development (the Birth to Ten Project) undertaken in Soweto– Johannesburg, environment and health conditions were assessed, including the potential for exposure to asbestos in low-income housing settlements. Respondents from Soweto reported that 52% of a sample of 1488 six-month-old infants, were living in asbestos-roofed houses. Analyses in relation to the asbestos-roofed houses, showed that more than 63% were older than 20 years, and that ceilings were absent in 62% of such houses. Leaking roofs, water damage and flaking interior paint in 17%, 13% and 14% of asbestos-roofed houses, respectively, indicated considerable infrastructural decay. In 6% of houses, household members themselves had undertaken work involving cutting or sawing the asbestos roofs, during the six-month period prior to the interview. Only 10% of respondents thought that asbestos could adversely affect their health, or that of their children. The study indicated a need for vigilance in relation to the potential for current and future community exposure to asbestos in low-cost, ageing housing settlements in South Africa.
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