Debate over asbestos diffusion heats up in Turkish capital Ankara

Debate over asbestos diffusion heats up in Turkish capital Ankara

ANKARA
Debate over asbestos diffusion heats up in Turkish capital Ankara

The debate over potential diffusion of asbestos into the air as part of the dismantling work for a decades-old factory in central Ankara, which is certified of bearing 350 tons of the carcinogenic material inside its building, is heating up, as professional chambers and Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek make contradicting statements. 

Both the Ankara bureau of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects’ (TMMOB) and the Chamber of Chemical Engineers (KMO) said a quarantine area must immediately be declared around the factory, which contains asbestos, and applied to court for a halt to the dismantling process. However, the Mayor Gökçek denied the claims presented by the chambers.

The TMMOB released air-based asbestos surface measurements that were conducted close to the factory and said amphibole, which is the most dangerous asbestos type, was determined to be at a dangerously high amount in the area. 

Noting that the report and accompanying visuals would be presented to the court, Tezcan Karakuş Candan, the head of the TMMOB’s Ankara branch, said the area should be urgently placed under quarantine as the process of decontamination is carried out. 

The chamber also called on the Education Ministry to close all schools around the factory until the dismantling work is complete. 

The Ankara Municipality issued a statement saying it had taken widespread measures against the potential diffusion of asbestos into the air at the coal gas factory in the Maltepe neighborhood. It added that the dismantling works had begun in garage areas and a depot that do not contain asbestos.

Ankara Mayor Gökçek previously said the operation was aimed at “preventing a problem for Ankara and a leakage that it might be subjected to.”

Candan, however, criticized Gökçek for not taking enough precautions, while also calling on him to resign. He also said they would file complaints against the mayor for “intending to kill people.”

He said asbestos had been spread all over Ankara by heavy machinery and earth-moving trucks leaving the factory, adding that asbestos fibers might also have entered closed spaces. 

“The Ankara Municipality started dismantling works in a building that includes 350 tons of asbestos. They are now trying to make a show of taking precautions after we brought the subject to the agenda. Gökçek says, ‘Don’t believe in the words of provocateurs, we are taking precautions,’ but we are acting in accordance with science,” Candan said, adding that workers in the area were also at risk. 

“There are no shower tools in the working area, there are just primitive containers. The workers are under threat. You can’t get rid of asbestos with water. When it dries, poison will be spread. You have to back up your words with scientific data. Everyone living in that area is under threat,” he said. 

Gökçek has continued to reject the criticisms and claimed that “leftist companies” are behind the allegations.

“They say that this [dismantling] should be done by experts. Our tender was one in which only specialized companies could enter. The firm that was most equipped took the tender and started the work. The research they have done is not correct. They have leftist firms in their hands and they probably made one of them do the research. Those companies write whatever they are told to,” Gökçek told daily Hürriyet on March 1.