Natural outcrops of asbestos
Current knowledge on exposure, health risks and management practices in France and abroad
Natural asbestos is found in France around rocky outcrops for example in the Haute-Corse département and in New Caledonia. Through erosion or specific earthworks, these outcrops can become a source of exposure to asbestos fibres, with the associated health risks. In order to assess these risks, the Agency evaluated the situation and published a report in November 2010.
Natural asbestos is found in France around certain rocky outcrops including some in the Haute-Corse département and in New Caledonia. Through erosion or specific earthworks occurring during construction, roadwork and infrastructure development, these outcrops can become a source of exposure to asbestos fibres, with the associated health risks. In December 2007, ANSES received a formal request from its supervisory ministries calling for:
- a critical literature review on studies carried out in France and internationally concerning epidemiology, measurement and evaluation of exposure around these asbestos-bearing areas;
- a study on practices adopted in other countries confronted with this issue in order to help local decision-makers and risk managers define concrete prevention measures suitable for this type of asbestos exposure.
For this topic which was not the subject of risk assessment, ANSES conducted an internal expert appraisal.
The report published by ANSES provides a summary of the knowledge available on measurement and evaluation of population exposure and health effects. It also presents a review of management practices for asbestos outcrops in France or in other parts of the world.
Available evidence from the scientific studies assessed shows that there is a risk to local populations and workers when asbestos-bearing rock is moved or used.
A review of management practices showed that certain measures are standard but that they are applied in different ways from one country to another (inclusion in urban planning, control of open-air work, management of excavated material, etc.). The report demonstrated that local management initiatives, particularly in France, are effective and could be implemented in other regions faced with similar risks.
Based on this review, ANSES recommends various ways of improving and supplementing current management practices, specifically to reinforce protection of populations exposed to earthworks on land where asbestos is found. These recommendations should assist decision-makers and risk managers in enhancing or defining measures suitable for the specific conditions found in France and for the exposure situations found on asbestos-bearing land.