Decontamination of asbestos cement roofs less costly than doing nothing

6 November 2009

Decontamination of asbestos cement roofs less costly than doing nothing

On Friday, SP Member of Parliament Remi Poppe presented a report to an enthusiastic group of farmers on the need for decontamination of asbestos cement roofs. In the report, the SP argues for decontamination of the roofs, widespread on Dutch farms, because of the high degree of risk they carry for public health.

Remi PoppeThe government, unfortunately, disagrees. According to Poppe, Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer of the PvdA (Labour Party) is not taking the problem sufficiently seriously. “The minister is only looking at the costs of a clean-up," he says, "but she underestimates the risk to public health. In the case of a shed or barn of 1,000 square metres that's older than twenty years, more than a kilo of asbestos a year can be released.”

The minister is also forgetting, Poppe says, that every year of inaction costs millions of euros, given the regularity with which asbestos is released in fires. The SP research bureau has looked into the costs of such disasters and discovered that costs run into many millions annually. “These millions thrown away on men in white suits cleaning up asbestos after it's spread, and on all the accompanying bureaucracy and legal procedures could be better spent on preventive decontamination of the roofs. And that's to say nothing of all the health risks to people living in the area where these events occur, or to people working for the services which have to deal with them."

The official state Health Council will shortly produce an advisory report on the quantity of asbestos which can safely be present in the atmosphere. A preliminary note which appeared in July indicated that the Health Council believes that current limits are set fully fifty-five times too high. “There are nationally millions of square metres of asbestos in roofing materials, mainly on farms," says Poppe. "In the vicinity of these roofs such standards are never attained. Decontamination is therefore the only option.”

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