About 673 small-scale asbestos mining and milling facilities and 33 large - scale asbestos manufacturing plants, (17 asbestos-cement product manufacturing plants and 16 other than asbestos-cement product plants) are situated in India. The present study reveals the exposure of commercial asbestos (chrysotile) in the occupational as well as ambient air environment of the asbestos-cement (AC) sheets industry using membrane filter method of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The fibre concentrations in 15 samples collected in the occupational environment at ingredient feeding site, sheet-producing site, fibre godown were 0.079, 0.057 and 0.078 f/cc, respectively and in five samples from surrounding ambient air at factory gate resulted fibre concentration of 0.071 f/cc. All the samples have shown fibre concentration lower than the threshold limit values (TLVs) prescribed by BIS. Morphological analysis of samples, further under phase contrast and polarized microscopy indicates the presence of chrysotile asbestos, which acts as carcinogen as well as co-carcinogen. A clinical examination of exposed subjects reveals that there was no case of clubbing, crepitation, ronchi and dyspnea on exertion; however, obstruction and restriction were 10.9 per cent and 25 per cent in exposed subjects, respectively while in control there were 12 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively. The study revealed that chrysotile asbestos is emitted in the occupational as well as ambient environment that may cause adverse health impact.
Keywords: Asbestos-cement sheets; chrysotile; pulmonary function test; respiratory morbidity.