Asbestos in buildings still a problem

New guideline offers advice, also aimed at non-specialists and do-it-yourselfers

hellgraue Wellplatten aus AsbestzementClick to enlarge
Building products which contain asbestos can be harmful to health when renovation is being done..
Source: goccedicolore / Fotolia.com

Several million buildings in Germany built or refurbished before October 1993 may still contain asbestos today. In addition to asbestos cement products, the carcinogenic substance is contained in plasters, floor coverings or tile adhesives, in places where the asbestos is not immediately visible and poses no risk under normal use. As soon as these materials are processed - by drilling, chipping or sanding - there is a risk that carcinogenic fibres are released. A new guideline offers advice, especially to non-specialists, on what to consider when planning renovation and DIY work. The guideline was jointly developed by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA), Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR) and the German Environment Agency (UBA).

Up until 31 October 1993, it was legal to use asbestos in buildings, which is why it is still traceable in many buildings today. The debate is currently focused on products in which asbestos is embedded in the product and in which normal everyday use does not cause any problems for anyone occupying the rooms. Examples of such products are plasters, tile adhesives or fillers containing asbestos, as well as (intact) floor coverings and asbestos cement products containing asbestos. The situation becomes critical when such products are processed, for example in the course of building refurbishment and minor renovation work, and when room users are unaware if asbestos is present in the building materials in their own homes. A new guideline for asbestos detection in preparation for work in and on older buildings (in German) explains how to trace this material and what the layperson can do to avoid exposure to unnecessary risks during renovation and DIY work.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau
Germany