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Potential risk factors for asbestos exposure amongst six-month-old infants living in the township of Soweto, South Africa

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During recent years there has been increased attention paid to public exposure to asbestos in the non-occupational 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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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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