Asbestos has been proven to be hazardous for human health. Despite this, many countries are still using it including Brazil. In this article, we will understand how asbestos is regulated in Brazil.
Despite scientific data warning about the toxicity levels of handling asbestos the extraction, industrialization, use and trade of chrysotile asbestos - white asbestos - is allowed in Brazil by Federal Law, although spraying chrysotile asbestos and trading it in bulk in the form of powder fibres is forbidden. Additionally, other asbestos of the amphibole group are totally forbidden in Brazil.
Where is it forbidden?
The use of any kind of asbestos, even chrysotile asbestos, has been forbidden since 2001 in five different states in Brazil, as of 2014 they are:
- São Paulo
- Rio de Janeiro
- Minas Gerais
- Rio Grande do Sul
- Mato Grosso
The state of Mato Grosso do Sul also had a legislation forbidding the use of any kind of asbestos, but a Federal court decree upheld that law, deeming it unconstitutional.
But, despite the ban on asbestos in these states, some companies succeed in using them. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, for example, the asbestos-cement manufacturer Eternit obtained a judicial exemption which enables it to continue production, as it awaits a final decision by the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of asbestos ban in the state. In the state of São Paulo, two other companies obtained similar exemptions to continue using asbestos.
Asbestos industry in Brazil
As of 2014, 92% of asbestos production in Brazil was destined for the production of asbestos cement or fibre cement, used mainly in civil construction. This industry generates around BRL 2,5 billion per year in Brazil, as fibre cement roof tiles are present in more than 25 million houses in Brazil. A ban on the asbestos industry could result in increased prices of 35% in the civil construction sector, according to specialists.
It is important to mention that Brazilian asbestos production increased by 55% in 2011, when the last results were disclosed. Brazil produced 302.300 tons of asbestos in 2011, making Brazil the third largest producer of asbestos in the world, accounting for 13% of the global market share. The largest producers of asbestos in the world are Russia, accounting for 48% of global production and China, accounting for 20%. Brazil exported 61% of its asbestos production, being the second largest exporter of asbestos in the world.
The only asbestos mine in Brazil is located in the municipality of Minaçu, in the state of Goiás.
The mine of Minaçu is managed by S.A. Minerações Associadas, SAMA, which sells 40% of its production to the domestic market and exports 60%. Among its main domestic customers, the most important are:
Disposing of asbestos
The Conselho Nacional do Meio Ambiente, which is Portuguese for National Council of Environment, Conama, regulates the disposal of products containing asbestos. According to Conama, products containing asbestos must be allocated to landfills licensed for this purpose according to specific technical requirements, ensuring non-dispersion of asbestos fibre.
Asbestos removal must be performed with the use of proper equipment in order to prevent asbestos fibres from spreading. Also, its packaging must be disposed in a special container and must showcase the letter “A” and the following warning: “Atenção, contém amianto. Respirar poeira de amianto é prejudicial à saúde,” which is Portuguese for “Warning, contains asbestos. Breathing asbestos dust is harmful to health”.
The transportation of asbestos products must also be made by a transportation company duly authorized by the ANTT - the Agência Nacional de Transportes Terrestres, which is Portuguese for National Agency of Land Transports - for transporting hazardous waste. Finally asbestos products must be disposed in landfills of Class 1 Waste - Dangerous.
It is important to mention that there is no way to recycle asbestos.