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Tuesday 18, April

Berlin’s asbestos problem isn’t going away

Last year, Berlin bought more around 11,500 asbestos-contaminated apartments and will assume the costs for their repair.

Microscopic asbestos fibres can cause cancer. Photo: IMAGO / Eckhard Stengel

Tuesday 18, April

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Berlin state-housing buys 11,500 asbestos-filled apartments

It took Germany until 1993 to ban use of the substance

Given that the first documented death related to asbestos occurred all the way back in 1906, it seems pretty strange that it took Germany until 1993 to ban use of the substance. However, the extremely widespread use of the toxic material for everything from vinyl floor coverings to insulation means that it is pretty much everywhere across the city, something which was confirmed again recently following a parliamentary question from the Greens.

State-owned housing associations in Berlin bought around 11,500 asbestos-contaminated apartment last year alone. After purchasing these properties, the state must assume the costs of their repair. The portfolios of just six companies in the city contain a total of 55,000 apartments affected with asbestos, with the districts of Neukölln, Spandau and Tempelhof-Schöneberg particularly affected.

What’s more, there are believed to be more than 200 contaminated schools, with a large number of these containing weakly-bound asbestos which is especially dangerous since these can release more toxic fibres as the building ages