Killing The Future: Asbestos Use In Asia

The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake 1995

The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake 1995

One of the consequences of Japan's widespread use of asbestos was observed after the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake which affected Kobe, Awaji, Ashiya and Nishinomiya and their surrounding areas. Post-earthquake atmospheric monitoring by the Environments Agency (Japan) showed an increase in ambient asbestos concentration in the stricken zone; a diffusion model was used to assess how much of this contamination was due to sprayed-on asbestos insulation/fire-proofing present in earthquake-damaged buildings at 16 sampling points. The scientists estimated that prior to the earthquake there had been 3,740 tonnes of sprayed-on asbestos stock in the affected buildings; the quake liberated 26.4 kg of asbestos into the environment.75 Experiments revealed that demolition without pre-removal of asbestos caused the highest levels of asbestos emissions into the surrounding areas; asbestos removal costs accounted for 68-94% of total demolition costs.

Notes:

75. Sprayed asbestos fireproofing and insulation products were used extensively in Japan; some sprayed asbestos products were prohibited in 1975 but the use of some sprayed products with lower asbestos fiber concentrations continued until 1995. An investigation of infrastructure contamination by sprayed assbestos which was carried out by three government ministries found that the categories of buildings worst affected were: national universities, private schools, public colleges and hospitals. Whilst the quantity of sprayed asbestos products in Japan is unknown, the amount of abestos-containing construction materials has been estimated at 40 million tonnes.

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