Portuguese environmental organisation Quercus has warned that asbestos is being improperly dumped in normal rubbish bins, scrubland and disused quarries, and has reiterated the dangers of the hazardous material on health.

Two weeks ago the association SOS Amianto, which is supported by Quercus, warned that a ban on non-hazardous waste landfills receiving fibre cement residues, issued by the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), could lead to an increase in illegal dumping.

The technical rule issued in April determined a ban on the deposit of asbestos-containing fibre cement in eight national landfills, which left the use of such facilities reduced to existing options in Chamusca, Santarém district.

Quercus says it has received several complaints about the dumping of asbestos waste, adding it is worried about the current situation, since asbestos is a carcinogenic and toxic substance and poses serious risks to public health.

Speaking to TV broadcaster SIC, spokesperson Carmen Lima affirmed the organisation has no doubt that this situation is due to the APA’s procedures for disposing of asbestos, and that waste not being sent to Chamusca is, allegedly, being deposited “in undifferentiated waste bins, in scrubland or in abandoned sand and stone quarries”.

This, the association fears, will have an impact “not only on the health of the people who are handling it, who are often unaware of the risks of exposure to asbestos and do not protect themselves adequately, but also, if it is placed in an undifferentiated waste bin, it will have an impact on the health of urban hygiene workers, and if it is left in scrubland or quarries it will have an impact on the health of those who take walks there”.

Quercus believes the proper solution would be to compel landfills to adapt to the requirements of directives and international good practices.

If the situation is not controlled, it warned, Portugal may have to invest in cleaning up the waste.

A lack of inspections and training of workers who are in contact with asbestos are other problems that could have serious consequences.
According to SIC’s report, last year, only four out of 11 landfills were inspected by authorities.

The use and commercialisation of asbestos has been banned in Portugal since 2005.

A large number of buildings and structures in Portugal incorporate the dangerous material, as its use was widespread, including in schools.
To this end, the government has launched an initiative to start removing it. In July it announced a national programme that will see asbestos gradually removed from more than 250 schools in Lisbon, the Alentejo and the Algarve, for a total investment of €60 million.

The Education Ministry signed an agreement with 58 municipalities for the removal of asbestos in 255 schools in Lisbon and Vale do Tejo, the Alentejo and the Algarve.