Patients and staff at two Lisbon hospitals “at elevated risk” due to exposure to degraded asbestos

Patients and staff at two Lisbon hospitals “at elevated risk” due to exposure to degraded asbestos

Patients and staff at two Lisbon hospitals are at elevated risk due to exposure to degraded asbestos.

This is the warning from ‘specialist’ Rui Silva following analysis of ‘various photographs taken in the hospitals’, writes tabloid Correio da Manhã.

One shows a stretch of piping clad in asbestos in an advanced stage of degradation, says the paper.

The piping is in an old bathroom now converted into an office on the 8th floor in the neurology ward at Santa Maria hospital.

Two people work in that office, every day.

Silva’s instant reaction was: “Lives are at risk. These people cannot work there. If the administration was aware of the situation, areas like this would have to be shut and the asbestos removed. It’s urgent (that this happens)”.

Taking fibres from the cladding for tests, CM says it learnt from surgeon Jorge Cruz at the Champalimaud Foundation that “the Santa Maria staff members, and even patients (in the neurology department) are serious candidates for lung cancer and other illnesses that come from exposure to these fibres. This is serious and very grave…”

The tabloid appears to have discovered that the piping covered by asbestos can also be found in the two floors below the neurology department, one of them being the intensive care ward.

“I know these tube systems and am quite sure they run throughout the hospital”, Silva told the paper. “They could be hidden between conduits and false ceilings, but the asbestos is surely there. This is a risk to all patients. All these hospital wings should be closed”.

Says CM, the same goes for the situation at the country’s premier children’s hospital, D. Estefânia.

“The corridors of the hospital are traversed by a plumbing system that is in decomposition”, the paper affirms. “Lab exams to which CM has had access prove the elevated presence of asbestos in coverings. This hospital even has roofs with asbestos that has been ‘patched’ and walls covered by the same material”.

However, hospital directors appeared not to have any knowledge of the critical nature of the situation – and the ‘damning dossier’ of public buildings still containing asbestos has been kept very quiet.

Indeed CM accuses the government of having hidden it, while passing responsibility for asbestos removal from the environment ministry to the tax department.

The whole controversy surrounding public buildings carrying asbestos has seen teachers union Fenprof threaten legal action, both here and through the European Commission (click here), while CM recalls the comments made earlier this year by environment minister João Matos Fernandes who said asbestos was ‘not a dangerous substance’ (click here).

It is, in fact, ranked as one of the most dangerous materials ever to have been used in the building industry. What makes it worse is that asbestos-related problems develop slowly. It can take between 20-40 years for cancers to appear which is why ‘new cases’ are emerging all the time even though asbestos has been outlawed in Europe for almost 15 years.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com