Removing asbestos from buildings is often an unnecessary expense and done in a panic, according to a document published on Thursday by Alkmaar’s mayor, two housing corporations and a university professor.
Removing asbestos on a major scale is expensive but does not generate much in terms of improved health, the writers say in their pamphlet. ‘If tenants could choose, they would rather have their home made more energy efficient or go for a new bathroom or kitchen than have asbestos removed,’ the pamphlet states.
Its publication coincides with a meeting of local council officials called by junior infrastructure minister Sharon Dijksma to make agreements on speeding up the removal of all asbestos roofs in the Netherlands.
The use of asbestos has been banned since 1993 but many earlier buildings contain it. Breathing asbestos fibres can lead to cancer and chronic breathing conditions.
‘Most asbestos is found in parts of buildings which do not have contact with the air,’ Nijmegen professor Ira Helsloot told the Volkskrant. ‘Even if some does come loose in, say, a fire, the risk is relatively small. Asbestos is like breathing in someone else’s cigarette smoke in a bar. It is only dangerous to your health if you do it day in day out.’
The government’s plan to ensure all asbestos roofs have been removed by 2024 is ‘complete nonsense’, Helsloot said. ‘It is money being thrown away for a false sense of security. Clean up that asbestos if a roof needs replacing but not before.’