Incorrect asbestos roof cleaning leads to imprisonment and fines
Special care is required when handling asbestos. Asbestos dust can be released not only during renovation work but also when asbestos roofs are improperly cleaned. Those who disregard the regulations endanger themselves and their fellow human beings and risk heavy fines.
Roof cleaning company sentenced after improper work
In Austria, a contractor was recently sentenced to four months imprisonment on probation and a fine of 1,440 euros - for negligent environmental pollution and endangering health.
The roof renovation company removed moss and lichen from all roofs with high-pressure cleaners and later with a roof washing truck. According to his own statement in court, the contractor had proceeded in the same way when washing Eternit roofs containing asbestos as he had done with asbestos-free roofs since he had not known that asbestos could be released during cleaning. In almost 400 cases, asbestos fibers are said to have been released as a result of improper procedure. The contaminated cleaning water ran through the gutters into the sewage system.
Cleaning asbestos roofs: What is permitted?
The following applies not only in Austria but also in Germany: fiber-cement roofs containing asbestos (Eternit sheets, corrugated roofs) must never be cleaned with a hard water jet.
Prohibited is cleaning by:
- Low- or high-pressure cleaners
- Brushing (e.g. with a wire brush)
Cleaning of uncoated asbestos roofs is completely prohibited. Coated asbestos sheets may only be cleaned carefully with unpressurized water and a sponge or cloth. However, we generally advise against cleaning asbestos roofs, as even coated roofs become porous over the years and the risk of fiber release is too great.
Further details on handling asbestos are set out in the Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances 519 (TRGS 519) and in the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances (GefStoffV).
How can I tell if my roof contains asbestos?
If the AF mark is on Eternit panels, these panels are asbestos-free. However, not all fiber cement manufacturers have marked their building materials uniformly, and the mark may have become illegible over the years. Another indication is the year of construction of the building: If the house was built before 1993, there is a risk of asbestos. In most cases, only a professional asbestos test can provide certainty. To protect yourself and others from health hazards and high penalties, we always recommend: First have the asbestos tested, then renovate!
Sources and links for further reading:
- BVZ.at article "Danger from asbestos: roof cleaning company sentenced"
- Kurrier.at article: "Asbestos roofs incorrectly cleaned: Conditional imprisonment for contractor"
- CRB-News: "Weathering of asbestos cement: Do old asbestos roofs release fibers?"
- CRB News: "Dealing with asbestos: Lack of knowledge does not protect against punishment – first test, then renovate"
- More information on the asbestos test of Eternit, fiber cement