Friday, November 30, 2001

Clove extract neutralises asbestos fibres

Cloves are legendary for their power to numb toothache and, unlikely as it seems, the aromatic spice looks destined for a role in removing asbestos, the fibrous mineral once used routinely to fireproof buildings.

Alternatives to conventional techniques are desperately needed. Usually buildings have to be sealed off during mechanical removal, with air pressure differentials imposed to stop the deadly fibres escaping into the air.

Workers must wear protective clothing to avoid breathing in the lethal fibres, which cause lung cancer and mesothelioma - a cancer of the lung cavity. Even with these precautions, fibres can linger in the air for more than four years, according to research by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Now Italian chemists have neutralised the lethal fibres using an extract of cloves. When the liquid extract touches the surface of asbestos, it instantly hardens into a polymer similar to lignin, which gives wood its strength. All the potentially hazardous fibres are harmlessly embedded in the polymer and can't float off into the air.

Source New Scientist


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