While asbestos still poses public health questions today, concerns increasingly concern the environment. Indeed, illegal deposits are frequent, the offenders having nothing to do with the dangerous nature of this type of mineral.
A danger to health and the environment
Asbestos refers to certain minerals with a fibrous texture that are used in industry. Generally speaking, asbestos is naturally present in the atmosphere. The latter is not a threat until its fibers are stirred (or broken). However, let us add a clarification concerning bound (non-friable) asbestos as opposed to conventional (friable) asbestos. Indeed, materials and other products containing bound (or strongly bound) asbestos are not likely to release fibers, when they are not damaged.
Since 1996, France has banned the import, manufacture and marketing of varieties of fibers. However, as the National Research and Safety Institute (INRS) explains, asbestos is present in buildings constructed before 1997. Thus, this highly toxic mineral can be found in construction waste. Anyone can be exposed, from professionals to private individuals doing work in their home.
In 2010, asbestos-related diseases were still the second leading cause of occupational diseases. These were also the leading cause of work-related deaths in France – excluding accidents at work. Globally, asbestos kills as many as 250,000 people each year, according to a United Nations Environment Program (UNDP) publication from 2019. In its report, the UNDP was also interested in dangerousness of the presence of asbestos in the environment. Due to its toxicity, and despite the fact that it is a natural mineral, asbestos could indeed have an impact on flora and fauna.
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Frequent wild deposits
People facing asbestos during work must therefore take all the necessary precautions. The ideal is to protect yourself with a suitable mask (type FFP3) as well as with gloves. It is also essential to moisten the material during handling and to disassemble the parts one by one without damaging them before cleaning them with water. After work, it is the responsibility to enclose waste in regulatory bags, throw away used clothing and gloves and wash thoroughly, especially in the area of hair and beard.
The danger of asbestos makes illegal deposits a real scourge that must be taken into consideration. Since the start of summer 2021, many cases of illegal dumping in France have been reported in the media, such as Ajain (Creuse), Faches-Thumesnil (Nord) or even Licques (Pas-de-Calais). Offenders, visibly unaware of the dangerous nature of asbestos, prefer to abandon the waste in nature or in illegal dumps. When this kind of crime occurs, one of the only recourse is to call witnesses, so that very few offenders are fined.
However, this same waste must finish its course in a Hazardous Waste Storage Facility (ISDD). This waste can also be treated in a vitrification unit, but this process turns out to be much more expensive than landfill, and does not make it possible to manage the volume of asbestos waste produced in France.
But how to avoid the illegal deposit of asbestos? As a private individual, calling on a professional is common. The goal ? Ensure that construction waste containing asbestos is treated correctly. Unfortunately, scams and other abuses are frequent, especially on sales platforms between individuals. Ill-intentioned people charge a high price for waste collection. Above all, they do not hesitate to abandon this same waste in illegal landfills instead of bringing it to a safe place. These unscrupulous people can also appropriate the SIRET numbers of real companies in order to pass themselves off as professionals. It is still best to bring the waste to a treatment site yourself.