STIB staff concerned over the presence of asbestos in metro tunnels
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STIB staff concerned over the presence of asbestos in metro tunnels

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STIB employees have spoken out on their concerns of the presence of asbestos in the subway tunnels following a broken water pipe at Simonis station.

Staff are concerned because the sign to warn workers of the presence of asbestos when carrying out work was initially only in Dutch, while many workers and subcontractors are only French-speakers, or do not speak either language, La Capitale reports.

As a result, there was a very real risk that someone would carry out repairs without the necessary protective clothing. An additional French-language warning was only issued after the editorial staff of La Capitale started asking questions.

STIB, however, has refused to admit any error, saying that the Dutch word ‘asbestos(e)’ is also used in French, even though the French word used much more often is ‘amiante’. “Moreover, the sticker that warns against asbestos is present at various places in the network and is therefore easily recognisable,” it adds.

While asbestos can be dangerous, it doesn’t present a health risk if left undisturbed. But if the material containing asbestos is damaged, it can release a ‘fine dust’ that contains asbestos fibres. When the dust is breathed in, the asbestos fibres enter the lungs and can gradually damage them over time.

The tunnel in question is at Simonis station, and is used by metro drivers to get to and from their vehicles, Bruzz reports. Staff raised concerns about potential works on the pipes leading to fibres spreading in the air.

STIB has confirmed an expert established the damage to the water supply in October: “But, given the nature of the damage, the risk of asbestos fibres in the air was very small”.

According to La Capitale, the deteriorated materials are only present at Simonis (two water pipes) and between Louise and Porte de Namur (a ceiling measuring sixty by twenty metres).

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times