Widespread ignorance of new technologies and a refusal to pay for safer alternatives are preventing the adoption of non-asbestos gaskets in the chlorine industry, claims a leading gasket industry figure.
According to John Hoyes, technical director of gasket supplier Flexitallic, there is no reason for the chlorine industry’s exemption from forthcoming regulations which will ban the use of asbestos seals.
The Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions is to ban the use and supply of white chrysotile asbestos from 24 November. But use of the material as a sealing material will still be allowed until January 2001 for saturated steam, superheated steam and particularly hazardous substances.
In the case of chlorine the derogations will last until January 2003, while for the chlor-alkali process for manufacturing chlorine the exemption is unlimited.
Hoyes, although praising the Health and Safety Executive’s pragmatism in the light of industry’s fears, believes the derogations are not necessary. He argues that other materials are just as well suited and the main reasons industry has avoided using them is its innate conservatism, and the fact that equivalent non-asbestos seals cost between two and three times that of their asbestos rivals.
`In my opinion there are no problems with non-asbestos gaskets. Non-asbestos gaskets can match the performance of asbestos gadgets in every area, including lifespan.
`Firms could and should have complete confidence in non-asbestos sealing products. This is because during the development work associated with the provision of non-asbestos seals, some entirely novel forms of sealing materials, such as biaxially orientated PTFE, exfoliated graphite and Thermiculite have evolved.’
Hoyes claims that when these new materials are combined with new seal forms, such as spiral wound gaskets, kamm profiles or sheet seals, they perform better than the original asbestos-based gaskets which they were developed to replace.