João Pedro Matos Fernandes - Photo: Tiago Petinga/ Lusa

Environment minister in new stink: asbestos “can go into everyday landfill”

Environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes has fallen headlong into a new stink.

Questioned over the measures in force for the removal of asbestos – particularly from schools – he said that as far as he knew this went ahead under “conditions of safety” but that “as asbestos is not a dangerous substance”, it can be treated, once removed and accumulated, as everyday waste matter and go into regular landfills.

The response over social media has been mass stupification.

“A perfect imbecil”, said one commentator on a post put up by Algarve anti-oil platform PALP.

“This is what you get when people are nominated for political reasons and not for qualifications or experience”, said another.

PALP itself has highlighted the minister’s comments, saying: “Is it us who are not well informed, or is this gentleman always seriously irresponsible?”

It is not meant to be a question.

PALP then highlights the EU directive in which building and insulation products containing asbestos are deemed to be ‘dangerous’.

As one commentator suggests there “doesn’t exist a (building) material more dangerous” than asbestos – which is why it has been outlawed throughout Europe, and why environmentalists and parents and school associations are so keen to see the government remove it from all public buildings.

Suffice it to say that this is just the latest embarrassment involving Matos Fernandes.

The familygate allegations have not helped his reputation, neither has the rest of the speech about ‘safely removing asbestos’.

The “conditions of safety” adopted appear to involve ‘working when children are not on site, working at weekends and working after dark’.

“I have no news of any concern over the final destination of asbestos”, he told the PCP MP who questioned him, “nor over the lack of rules that guarantee the work-safety of all those handling the material”.

Other than each person wearing a protective mask, Matos Fernandes appeared to be saying that ‘safety’ involved removing asbestos when the least number of people were around to be affected by particles which have been deemed to provoke cancers.

Indeed he said it was in the interests of workers removing asbestos to work on Saturdays.

Climate change activist João Camargo has remarked that Matos Fernandes’ strategy “is to guarantee that no environment gets in the way of destruction”.

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