Alert Technology, a UK company, is currently soliciting investors to fund a groundbreaking project to bring to market the first real-time alarm that would warn people of the dangerous presence of airborne asbestos. This could be a game-changer for people who work in industries in which they are at risk of asbestos exposure. For the first time, technology could alert people that they should immediately exit an area where asbestos is airborne.
Dubbed an ALERT Rapid Asbestos Detection tool, or ARAD, the device would be similar to a carbon monoxide detector, which warns about another substance that is also potentially lethal, but also invisible and odorless.
An ARAD will be affordable and about the size of a hand drill.
Why Is an Asbestos Alarm Potentially Lifesaving?
Airborne, invisible asbestos fibers can become deadly when people inhale them. Eventually, the fibers that are lodged in the body, usually in the lungs or in the lining around the lungs, where they can cause lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma and other diseases.
Historically and still to this day, depending on the industry and country, this exposure has often occurred in industrial, manufacturing, construction, demolition, military, firefighting, shipbuilding and breaking, and other work settings in which materials containing asbestos are broken, crushed or allowed to deteriorate, thereby releasing the fibers and harming workers.
What Is the New Technology?
The new asbestos-detection technology is the culmination of research out of the University of Hertfordshire into the laser “light scattering of airborne particles” showing that “when a particle is illuminated with a beam of light, it will scatter the light in a pattern dependent on the particle’s size, shape, and structure.”
The next research step was taken in UH’s laboratories in which researchers looked at how asbestos fibers rotate in a magnetic field to help identify the fibers in the “fingerprint” shown in the light-scattering step.
The UH research was continued by a consortium of European research entities called ALERT, funded by the European Commission.
Now on its eventual way to market, the device is believed to be about 99 percent accurate by Alert Technology. Asbestos critics around the world will watch with interest in the hope that this device will eventually save lives.