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Proceeding Paper

MMVFs Onboard Ships: From an Observational Study to the Development of MMVFs Safety Plans †

Margherita Congiu
Antonio Collovà
1 and
Antonio Salzano
Territorial Unit (UT) of Porto Torres, USMAF SASN Campania Sardegna, Ministry of Health Office, 07046 Porto Torres, Italy
USMAF SASN Campania Sardegna, Ministry of Health Office, 80133 Napoli, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Presented at the Public Health Congress on Maritime Transport and Ports 2022: sailing to the post-COVID-19 era, Athens, Greece, 21–22 October 2022.
Med. Sci. Forum 2022, 13(1), 3;
Published: 23 November 2022


Man-made vitreous fibers (MMVFs) are widely used in shipbuilding. Some MMVFs are “suspected of causing cancer” in Annex VI of Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 and can be easily found in ships (asbestos free or not ones). This study is an overview of the conditions/confinement of MMVFs onboard ships, focusing on the measures taken to reduce the risk of exposure and on the perception of risks, in analyzed ships. We suggest to improve on-board MMVFs safety plans (as for asbestos risk-management) and to strengthen National and European Authorities’ supervision/network on this theme also by the EU SHIPSAN ACT Joint Action’s tools.

1. Introduction

Man-made vitreous fibers (MMVFs) are a widely used large subgroup of inorganic fibers also used in shipbuilding because of their thermal/acoustic insulating and fireproof properties. Some MMVFs can have effects on human health, including carcinogenic effects [1]. Moreover, Annex VI of Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 ([2], Table 3.1), includes them in the list of harmonized classification and labelling of hazardous substances: 650-016-00-2 MMVFs have carcinogen category 2, H351 “suspected of causing cancer” and 650-017-00-8 MMVFs have carcinogen category 1B, H 350i “may cause cancer by inhalation”.
Our aim is to study MMVFs onboard ships mooring in ports where the Territorial Unit of Porto Torres, USMAF-SASN Campania Sardegna, Italian Ministry of Health Office (UTPT) is the health competent authority, to detect their presence, to assess their state of conservation, risk of decay and air dispersion, the coexistence of asbestos and the prevention measures taken to reduce the risk of exposure.

2. Material and Methods

After the UTPT note n. 538, 6 July 2018 addressed to all shipping companies, asking for monitoring reports about MMVFs on board, in ships mooring in the UTPT jurisdictional ports, reports written by accredited laboratories after samplings in 2019 have been analyzed using a specific schedule to extract data and Excel® software to create a database and process data. During the COVID-19 pandemic, no laboratory performed samplings on board.

3. Results

In total, 349 mass samples and 219 air samples were taken in 22 passenger transport ships. Table 1 shows the distribution of mass samples.
Many of 43.8% of the MMFV samples come from panels. These are generally vertical sandwich-structured bulkhead panels with MMVFs inside two outer layers, or ceiling panels, placed above the metallic ceiling of cabins, halls, restaurants, consisting of pressed materials, without an insulating envelope. Another, 36.4% are textile pipe coverings and 17.5% are cushion pipe coverings at pipe intersection points.
MMVFs were found in all ships analyzed: 33.3% of the ships have MMVFs H351 on board and the mean of positive samples is 51% (23.1–100%) for each ship.
The findings show that 9.1% of the ships have both asbestos and MMVFs H351, 22.7% have asbestos materials without findings of MMVFs H351, 22.7% have MMVFs H351 materials without asbestos and finally 45.5% only have MMVFs not suspected for carcinogenicity (MMVFsNSC).
A total of 55.8% of the 111 pictures attached to reports show MMVFs “on sight”, without containment/confinement of fiber dispersion (Figure 1).
Regarding MMVFs H351, 96.2% of their pictures in the submitted reports show no measures of prevention of air dispersion.
Air samplings: Table 2 shows the location of air samples.
A total of 68.2% of reports use the ACGHI TLV-TWA threshold [3], the same as the Circular note from the Italian Ministry of Health n. 4, 15 March 2000 [4]: 1 f/cm3 or 1 f/mL. A total of 31.8% use more restrictive Italian thresholds: standards for post decontamination of settings from asbestos [5]: 20 ff/L by phase-contrast optical microscopy (MOCF) and 2 ff/L by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). 100% of air samples are below the thresholds.
All ships have prescriptions from UTPT: confinement/safety restoration (100%); MMVFs mapping update (76.2%); MMVFs risk of decay assessment (71.4%); periodic assessment of the condition of MMVFs materials (71.4%); implementation of “prudent action to take”, according to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 (71.4%); SEM air sampling (42.9%).

4. Discussion and Conclusions

The reports show the presence of MMVFs H351 in one-third of ships, in a considerable quantity, including ships not asbestos-free. The report pictures show evidence of remarkable decay of MMVFs and, frequently, absence of insulation, probably due to inadequate monitoring of the condition of materials. The lack of reports before UTPT note 538 may show a general low perception of risk.
MMVFs represent a chemical risk that should be effectively monitored by shipping companies, ship masters, occupational physicians and health authorities. Increased health risk could arise from co-presence of MMVFs H351 and asbestos, or from MMVFs H351 and past exposure to asbestos. This might be a matter of concern considering the incidence of mesothelioma in seafarers [6,7]. MMVFs of unknown chemical classification should be confined. MMVFsNSC should also be confined to avoid excessive fiber dispersion. We suggest improving on-board MMVFs risk management through the use of MMVFs safety plans (As for asbestos risk management or water safety management) based on standardized steps: identify the team; map the MMVFs onboard; identify the hazards that contribute to MMVFs decay and assess the risks while also prioritizing them, through Versar method-like models for instance; determine, validate and monitor control measures; develop, implement and maintain an improvement/upgrade plan; verify the effectiveness of the plan. Moreover, it is essential to implement education and information on this subject on board; to educate selected seafarers to periodically verify the condition of materials (with appropriate PPEs) and immediately communicate MMVF confinement problems; to involve shipping companies to get in touch with certified societies for MMVFs census, risk analysis, periodical reports, samplings and restoration of insulation.
To promote chemical safety on board, it could be useful to strengthen the supervision of MMVFs by increasing the number of ships screened at a national and European level. It would be useful to have a European partnership/network also for broader data collection and analysis. The EU SHIPSAN ACT Joint Action’s tools could be helpful for these purposes.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, M.C.; methodology, M.C.; software, M.C.; validation, M.C., A.C. and A.S.; formal analysis, M.C.; investigation, M.C.; resources, M.C.; data curation, M.C.; writing—original draft preparation, M.C.; writing—review and editing, M.C.; visualization, M.C; supervision M.C., A.C. and A.S.; project administration, M.C., A.C. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research comes from the analysis of ships’ documents about MMVFs on board. Software and hardware for the study belongs USMAF SASN Campania Sardegna (Italian Minister of Health), the authors are USMAF SASN Campania Sardegna (Italian Minister of Health) employees.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable for studies not involving humans or animals.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

This research adheres to “MDPI Research Data Policies”.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  1. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Man-Made Vitreous Fibres; International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC); IARC Press: Lyon, France, 2002; Volume 81, Available online: (accessed on 2 September 2022).
  2. European Parliament and Council. Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures, Amending and Repealing Directives 67/548/EEC and 1999/45/EC, and Amending Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006. Available online: (accessed on 2 September 2022).
  3. Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents—Biological Exposure Indices; American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist (ACGIH); Signature Publications: Cincinnati, OH, USA, 1 January 2017.
  4. Ministry of Health. Circular Note N. 4, 15/03/2000. Italy. Available online: (accessed on 2 September 2022).
  5. Minister of Health. Decree of the Minister of Health, 06/09/1994. Italy. Available online: (accessed on 2 September 2022).
  6. Petersen, K.U.; Pukkala, E. Cancer incidence among seafarers and fishermen in the Nordic countries. Scand. J. Work Environ. Health 2020, 46, 461–468. Available online:,Norway%20and%204399%20in%20Sweden (accessed on 2 September 2022). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  7. Lemen, R.A.; Landrigan, P.J. Sailors and the Risk of Asbestos-Related Cancer. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 8417. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
Figure 1. Examples of pictures taken during mass sampling on board ships: (a) MMVFs H351, sampled in “air conditioning room 7.4.01 Deck n. 7”. (b) MMVFsNSC, sampled in “bow engine room—high temperature line P1 Deck 1”.
Figure 1. Examples of pictures taken during mass sampling on board ships: (a) MMVFs H351, sampled in “air conditioning room 7.4.01 Deck n. 7”. (b) MMVFsNSC, sampled in “bow engine room—high temperature line P1 Deck 1”.
Msf 13 00003 g001
Table 1. Sites of mass samplings.
Table 1. Sites of mass samplings.
Mass Sample SitesN.%
Generators/compressor/refrigerator room, other machinery spaces9025.8
Common spaces/hallway5616
Air conditioning/fire protection rooms5515.8
Cabins/café/restaurant/other passengers’ spaces4312.3
Engine room4011.5
Offices/main deck/other seafarers’ working spaces3510
Living spaces of seafarers113.2
Not specified113.2
Total amount349100
Table 2. Sites of air samplings.
Table 2. Sites of air samplings.
Air Sampling SiteN.%
Cabins/café/restaurant/other passengers’ spaces 8438.4
Offices/main deck/other seafarers working spaces 3516.0
Common spaces/hallway2812.8
Engine room167.3
Generators/compressor/refrigerator room, other machinery spaces125.5
Air conditioning/fire protection rooms125.5
Living spaces of seafarers62.7
Total amount219100
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MDPI and ACS Style

Congiu, M.; Collovà, A.; Salzano, A. MMVFs Onboard Ships: From an Observational Study to the Development of MMVFs Safety Plans. Med. Sci. Forum 2022, 13, 3.

AMA Style

Congiu M, Collovà A, Salzano A. MMVFs Onboard Ships: From an Observational Study to the Development of MMVFs Safety Plans. Medical Sciences Forum. 2022; 13(1):3.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Congiu, Margherita, Antonio Collovà, and Antonio Salzano. 2022. "MMVFs Onboard Ships: From an Observational Study to the Development of MMVFs Safety Plans" Medical Sciences Forum 13, no. 1: 3.

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