İzmir residents inhale threatening levels of asbestos, expert warns

The Aegean province of İzmir suffers from threatening levels of asbestos, Asbestos Dismantling Experts Association (ASUD) Chair Mehmet Ensari said. Most recently, a Brazilian military ship arrived in İzmir for dismantling, despite reports of containing 600 tons of asbestos.

Older building construction techniques often relied on asbestos as insulation, expert Mehmet Ensari noted.

Cihan Başakçıoğlu / DUVAR

The Aegean province of İzmir suffers from dangerous levels of asbestos pollution in the air as a result of unsupervised demolition of damaged buildings in the city, as well as the ship dismantling industry, Asbestos Dismantling Experts Association (ASUD) Chair Mehmet Ensari said. 

Most recently, İzmir welcomed a military ship named "NAe São Paulo" from Brazil that will be dismantled in nearby Aliağa, even though it's thought to contain 600 tons of asbestos.

The city has also been suffering from a large number of unsupervised demolitions in the aftermath of the massive earthquake that struck the region on Oct. 30, 2020, Ensari noted.

"These demolitions are carried out without any planning. İzmir municipalities don't care about asbestos. They'll obtain on-paper clearance for asbestos and go straight for the demolition," Ensari said. 

Any demolition should be followed by a cleaning of asbestos from the structure, Ensari said, adding that asbestos will continue to dissipate from the rubble otherwise.

"A 10-year-old in İzmir today can easily suffer from cancer when they're 30. There are kids who are playing out on the streets while these demolitions take place," Ensari noted. 

Older building constructions in Turkey often relied on asbestos for insulation, Ensari noted, adding that asbestos is still available to purchase in Turkey under the name of "rock wool" or "slag wool."

"Asbestos is forbidden but slag wool is allowed. You can order products that contain slag wool off the Internet. That's scandalous," Ensari said. 

ASUD is working on an asbestos map of İzmir, the chairman noted, adding that the risk map is almost entirely made up of high-risk zones.