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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
Name of conflict:Asbestos removal from the built environment, Portugal
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country 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 commodities:Asbestos
Project Details and Actors
Project details

600,000 buildings contain asbestos structures (approximately 200,000 are public buildings which represents 16% of the total Portuguese public buildings)

Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:01/01/2005
Relevant government actors:MEC (Ministry of Education and Science), Instituto Nacional de Saúde Dr. Ricardo Jorge (Dr. Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Associação 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)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Involvement 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 Health impacts 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-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court 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 alternatives:Underline 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain: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 & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

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.
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries


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.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Article. Blog of Ocupational Health
[click to view]

News Article. Quercus and Fenprof acted together
[click to view]

News Article. Asbestos deaths
[click to view]

Asbestos concern
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video about protests against asbestos in schools
[click to view]


Milhares de pessoas ainda vivem em casas com cobertura de amianto
[click to view]


Videos about Asbesto in Portugal
[click to view]


Mais de dois mil edifícios públicos no país podem conter amianto
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Lays Silva, Lúcia Fernandes and Stefania Barca
Last update18/08/2019
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