Seafarers have been warned about the dangers of using old equipment after gas masks containing asbestos were found on board a bulk carrier.

The Paris MoU said the Human Environment & Transport Inspectorate (ILT) recently found masks with filters containing the carcinogen during a regular inspection.

Crew members were using them as respiratory protective equipment when checking phosphine levels in the fumigated cargo holds.

As the inspector suspected that they were Soviet filter canisters containing asbestos, a sample was taken with the captain’s permission.

Laboratory tests showed the presence of asbestos, Paris MoU said.

Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause lung cancer, asbestos cancer (mesothelioma) and asbestosis.

The organisation explained that online marketplaces and vintage markets ensure that gas masks including filter canisters remain a popular product among consumers.

In 2021, the ILT warned about internet adverts offering army cases containing these gas masks and filter canisters for sale.

“The ILT now finds these gas masks with filter canisters containing asbestos are being used in maritime shipping,” Paris MoU added.

“In the past year-and-a-half, there have been three instances where shipping inspectors on board international ships accidentally came across these filter canisters containing asbestos.”

The ILT recommends that the masks be properly disposed of immediately.

In the international shipping industry, such asbestos-containing materials have been banned since 2002.

The ILT engages with the European Maritime Safety Agency and the International Maritime Organization to highlight the dangers.

Asbestos was widely used in construction until 1994 because of its fire-resistant properties.