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Amianto: De problema laboral a riesgo ambiental, 1960-1980

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The objective of this seminar is to explore the process of consideration of asbestos as a risk to the general population. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral with fire retardant qualities used in many industrial processes and manufactured products. International alarms that emerged in the mid-sixties on the carcinogenic properties of asbestos and the environmental dimension of the problem had little impact on our country. The treatment in media of the risks of asbestos in the seventies abounded in its perception as a labour problem of Pneumoconiosis circumscribed to certain areas of risk. However, at the beginning of the democratic transition, the news that focused on the treatment of the occupational hazards of asbestos associated with industrial disputes, they soon gave rise to the consideration of asbestos as a risk for the general population given its carcinogenic nature and its ubiquity in many industrial products and consumer goods. The trade union movement played a key role in this process of social redefinition of the problem, articulating its public denunciation campaign around labour and environmental carcinogenic risks. This commitment to the denunciation of the environmental dimension of the problem and the enactment of the Regulations on Works with Asbestos Hazard in 1984, finally contributed to minimise the labour impact of occupational risks of asbestos in Spain.

Alfredo Menéndez-Navarro is Professor of History of Science at the University of Granada. His main research interest is the history of occupational health. In his doctoral thesis (UGR, 1992, Special Award), he analised occupational hazards and the process of health care resources introduction in the Almadén mercury mines in the 18th c. and 19th c. Afterwards, he has analysed the professionalization of work medicine in our country and he has devoted special attention to the development of campaigns against occupational hazards and diseases such as silicosis and hookworm in contemporary Spain. Currently, he leads the project “Los riesgos del amianto en España (1960-2002) (“The risks of asbestos in Spain” 1960-2002), a multidisciplinary project whose main objective is the historical analysis of the emergence of health problems caused by occupational and environmental exposure to asbestos in Spain, as well as strategies of such risks and their evolution in our country from 1960, a period in which consumption intensified, and their final prohibition in 2002.

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