Asbestos removal from the built environment, Portugal

A long battle against the harmful material finally brought in Oct 2017 to the Portuguese parliament's order of asbestos removal from private buildings and facilities (approximately 4,200 interventions), including housing.


Asbestos is a pathogenic fiber that has been recognized as a carcinogen by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Widely used in Europe from the 1970s to the 1990s, asbestos is now banned in over 50 countries. One of its main uses was to make fiber cement (asbestos cement), which is commonly used in the construction industry for fiber cement roofing, for instance.

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Basic Data
NameAsbestos removal from the built environment, Portugal
Accuracy of LocationLOW country/state level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific CommoditiesAsbestos
Project Details and Actors
Project Details600,000 buildings contain asbestos structures (approximately 200,000 are public buildings which represents 16% of the total Portuguese public buildings)
Type of PopulationUrban
Start Date01/01/2005
Relevant government actorsMEC (Ministry of Education and Science), Instituto Nacional de Saúde Dr. Ricardo Jorge (Dr. Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAssociação Nacional de Conservação da Natureza (Quercus)

Associação Portuguesa de Direito do Consumo (APDC)

Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses-Intersindical Nacional (CGPT-IN)

Federação Nacional dos Professores (FENPROF)

School communities (teachers, students, employees)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other A report from Dr. Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute informed that the incidence of mesothelioma cases in Portugal has registered a steady increase in the past decade. In 2012, 40 people died.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Environmental EJOs worked together with the professors union and workers union for the first time.
Development of AlternativesUnderline cases where the asbestos removal is priority and important.

Implement actions for preventing, minimizing, and mitigating negative health effects on the exposed population.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.NEW

The pressure coming from the protests forced the Portuguese Government to fulfill an action program which previously had no priority for them. However, the removal of asbestos is still delayed and slow until March 2018.
Sources and Materials

Diretiva Europeia 1999/77/CE

Resolução nº 24/2003

GOVERNO DE PORTUGAL. Resumo da evolução da legislação relativa a amianto em Portugal, Outubro de 2014.
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JANELA, José Manuel Esteves Marques; PEREIRA, Pedro José Silva. História do amianto no mundo e em Portugal. Centro de Investigação Transdisciplinar-CITCEM. Revista Cultura, Espaço e Memória-CEM, n. 7, pp. 193-206. 2016.
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News Article. Asbestos deaths
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Article. Blog of Ocupational Health
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News Article. Quercus and Fenprof acted together
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Asbestos concern
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Media Links

Video about protests against asbestos in schools
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Milhares de pessoas ainda vivem em casas com cobertura de amianto
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Mais de dois mil edifícios públicos no país podem conter amianto
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Videos about Asbesto in Portugal
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Other Documents

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Protestos contra o amianto NEW

Fonte: SIC
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Remoção do amianto de prédios públicos NEW

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Fábrica em Matosinhos com amianto em decomposição NEW

Fonte: RTP
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Amianto em decomposição NEW

Fonte: diário de la construcción.
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Manifestação em escolas NEW

Estudantes e professores protestam contra o amianto em Portugal.
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Meta Information
ContributorLays Silva, Lúcia Fernandes and Stefania Barca
Last update17/04/2018