Twenty Metro Stations in Madrid still Contain Carcinogenic Asbestos
Despite being banned in Spain since 2002, asbestos can still be found in certain buildings, including around twenty Metro stations in Madrid. The carcinogenic material is said to be encapsulated, and therefore poses no risk to workers or commuters, according to the Metro company.
Although asbestos removal work was carried out on the section of line 6 that goes from O’Donnell to Avenida de América last year, several stations continue to have asbestos present on their roofs. These stations include Concha Espina, Herrera Oria, Lucero, Ventilla, Núñez de Balboa, Artilleros, Avenida de América, Barrio del Pilar, Cruz del Rayo, Estrella, Ibiza, Pío XII, Ciudad Universitaria, Vicente Aleixandre, Sainz de Baranda (lines 6 and 9), Cuzco, Bernabéu, Alto Extremadura and Puerta del Ángel.
In April of this year, Herrera Oria station on line 9 had to close for almost seven hours after a part of the false ceiling came off, revealing fiber cement plates that contain asbestos.
The Community of Madrid has allocated 170 million euros to the asbestos removal plan, which was initially due to end in 2025, but has since been extended until 2028. As of April 2023, the Community had removed 43.6% of Metro’s asbestos, meaning that five more years are required to eliminate the remaining stations of this toxic material.
Why is Asbestos Considered Dangerous?
Exposure to asbestos has already led to the death of thirteen Metro de Madrid workers. Asbestos is a generic term that includes six silicate minerals. Since it is fireproof and has fibrous properties, the construction sector began using it for various purposes, including fiber cement, filters, mechanical components, pipes, insulation, and railway mechanical elements.
However, if asbestos is disturbed by handling or degradation, it produces microfibers that enter the body through the respiratory tract and remain in the respiratory system for decades. Asbestos causes lung, larynx, and ovarian cancer, according to Jaume Ferrer, head of the Vall d’Hebron Hospital Pneumology Service, which is why persistent exposure to asbestos leads to two main ailments, asbestosis and mesothelioma.
The first symptoms of asbestosis appear between ten and twenty years after exposure to asbestos, and it can take between twenty and forty years for any type of cancer caused by asbestos to manifest.
In a report titled “Próxima estación: asbestos,” which was published in 2020, El País explained how asbestos fibers are used, including in fiber cement plates, pipes, and railway insulation. According to the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), asbestos has also been used in Spain in insulation, channels, tanks, and even personal protection materials such as gloves and aprons.