News - Asbestos found in new buildings in Central/Eastern Europe and Western Asia despite a call for an international ban

Anthesis Consulting Group details the issue of Asbestos being found in new buildings and construction projects in Central and Eastern European countries

Asbestos cement pipes on a building roof

Asbestos cement pipes on a building roof

Central and Eastern Europe

Asbestos is being used in new buildings despite outcries for an international ban on the dangerous construction material. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have estimated that about one third of the 850 million people in the  European Region live in countries that have not yet banned the use of all forms of Asbestos mineral, and this potentially exposes them at work and in the environment. In countries where asbestos is banned, exposure persists from past use, however in countries where no prohibition or ban is in effect people can be additionally affected by new construction projects or maintenance and refurbishment.

Once a popular building material, asbestos is banned in more than 60 countries worldwide. When disturbed it releases small airborne fibres that penetrate deep into the lungs. Breathing them in can lead to an acute reaction with pneumonia-like symptoms. Chronic exposure can lead to lung scarring, pleural disease, Asbestosis, mesothelioma and even Asbestos related lung cancer.

It is estimated that 15,000 Europeans lose their lives as a result of Asbestos related disease every single year.

Companies specialising in its safe removal say their core business is getting rid of asbestos from old buildings, but they also extract it from new projects where there is a requirement due to corporate HSE policies or international financing requirements.

At the time of writing it is understood that Asbestos is still being used in the following Eastern European/Asian countries;

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Prohibitions are now in place in most European Union nations as well as Romania and Serbia.

The only way to reduce the hazards of Asbestos in the construction industry is to prohibit the use of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) (voluntarily and legislatively), use safer substitute materials, and proactively manage the remaining residual risk from each of the activities that are associated with Asbestos exposure.

From a legal and ethical point of view, employers must understand that prevention to exposure is paramount and where this is not possible they must assess the work and provide their employees with the appropriate procedures, control measures, personal protective equipment and respiratory protective equipment. Any existing current legislation must be adhered to, and a best practice guideline implemented.

Only by collectively acknowledging that there is a risk from ACMs in the construction industry and addressing that risk can we play our part in putting an end to unnecessary asbestos related deaths.