Asbestos in Istanbul buildings puts lives at risk

Asbestos in Istanbul buildings puts lives at risk

İdris Emen - ISTANBUL
Asbestos in Istanbul buildings puts lives at risk

Checks for asbestos, which is considered carcinogenic material by the World Health Organization, is only obligatory in seven of the Istanbul districts ahead of demolition works, experts have warned.

“When we have a look at the data from the seven municipalities [where checks on asbestos are obligatory] we see there are asbestic materials in about 25 percent of the buildings to be demolished,” Cevahir Efe Akçelik, environmental engineer and executive at the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), said on March 23.

“When a building is to be demolished, samples should be taken and analyzed. If any asbestos is detected, those parts should be removed in accordance with the related provisions of the regulation before the demolition goes ahead,” he added.

In Istanbul’s districts of Beşiktaş, Şişli, Maltepe, Tuzla, Bağcılar, Kadıköy and Ataşehir, it is obligatory to show an “Asbestos Inventory Report” before getting a demolition permit from the local municipality.

Data show that asbestic materials were found in 385 of the 1,594 demolished buildings in 2017 in six districts of Istanbul. After detections, tons of hazardous wastes were disposed by authorized companies.

Using asbestos in any products was banned in Turkey in 2010. However, asbestic materials were used in the construction of thousands of buildings, especially as an insulation material. Cement products, coating materials, tiling adhesives, roofing materials, plasters, pipes and acoustical ceiling systems might be asbestic.

Since being exposed to asbestos causes serious health problems, the Turkish Environment Ministry and Urbanization prepared a regulation in April 2017 but since the draft regulation has not brought obligatory measures, it is the local municipalities who decide to implement it or not.

Removal process takes one week

The asbestos detection and removal process in a building takes a week at most and costs about 2,000 Turkish Liras.

When asbestos is detected by a laboratory analysis, the removal experts set up a security zone around the building. Experts wearing special protective suits, put the asbestic materials into packages and take them to the facilities for disposal.

“Most of the asbestos removal companies are based in Istanbul and other big cities. There are only a few of them in the countryside. Since asbestos is seriously hazardous for human health, a relevant inventory report should be prepared before the demolition of any building, factory maintenance a or home renovation,” said Cafer Fidan, head of the Asbestos Removal Experts Association.