Background: Very high fibre inhalation exposure has been measured while people were wearing personal protective equipment manufactured from chrysotile asbestos. However, there is little data that relates specifically to wearing asbestos gloves or mitts, particularly when used in hot environments such as those found in glass manufacturing. The aim of this study was to assess the likely personal exposure to asbestos fibres when asbestos mitts were used.
Results: Three types of work activity were simulated in a small test room with unused mitts and artificially aged mitts. Neither pair of mitts were treated to suppress the dust emission. The measured respirable fibre exposure levels ranged from <0.06 to 0.55 fibres/ml, with no significant difference in fibre exposure between aged and unused mitts. The use of high localised ventilation to simulate convective airflows from a furnace reduced exposure levels by about a factor of five. Differences between tasks were statistically significant, with simulated "rowing" of molten glass lowest and replacement of side seals on the furnace highest. Estimated lifetime cancer risk from 20 years exposure at the upper end of the exposure range measured during the study is less than 22 per 100,000.
Conclusion: People who wore asbestos mitts were likely to have been exposed to relatively low levels of airborne chrysotile asbestos fibres, certainly much lower than the standards that were accepted in the 1960's and 70's. The cancer risks from this type of use are likely to be very low.