Africa Energy Indaba

Building Materials Watch List 3: Asbestos

South Africa finally banned the use, manufacturing, importing and exporting of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials in 2008. The banning formed part of the Environment Conservation Act of 1989. Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, increasing risks of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Asbestos is a mineral fibre that is used in a variety of construction materials for its strength and heat resisting capabilities. Exposure typically happens when asbestos fibres are released into the air during removal, demolition, construction and repair of asbestos-containing materials.

Known for its versatility, insulation and fireproof qualities, asbestos can be found in cement piping, corrugated roofing, insulating board, roof slates, plaster, vinyl floor tiles, adhesives, fireproofing and prevention materials, textured paint and stoves.

Asbestos structures and moulds are still commonplace at schools, buildings, factories and homes in South Africa. The challenge lies in the de-construction and disposal. If fibres are disturbed in the process then those exposed run the risk of injury and long-term disease including life-threatening lung conditions. Protective gear including masks must be worn when working with asbestos at all times.

Note: There are no safe levels of exposure to any type of asbestos. Any exposure to asbestos can cause injury or an asbestos-related disease.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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Green Building Africa promotes the need for net carbon zero buildings and cities in Africa. We are fiercely independent and encourage outlying thinkers to contribute to the #netcarbonzero movement. Climate change is upon us and now is the time to react in a more diverse and broader approach to sustainability in the built environment. We challenge architects, property developers, urban planners, renewable energy professionals and green building specialists. We also challenge the funding houses and regulators and the role they play in facilitating investment into green projects. Lastly, we explore and investigate new technology and real-time data to speed up the journey in realising a net carbon zero environment for our children.

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