Asbestos and the World Cup 2014  

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



When the 2014 Football World Cup was awarded to Brazil, ban asbestos campaigners in Brazil and abroad had serious concerns about whether asbestos would be used in the construction of the venues and ancillary buildings. Brazil is the world’s fourth largest producer of chrysotile asbestos and this substance, acknowledged to be a human carcinogen, is commonly used throughout the country in construction materials. Fortunately, these products were not deemed appropriate for these large infrastructure projects and, according to a well-informed source in Brazil, asbestos was not used to build the stadiums.1


Construction site of the Estadio Nacional de Brasilia [National Stadium of Brasilia] in September 2012.

This, it turned out was, however, only a small part of the problem. In order to build twelve stadiums in Manaus, Fortaleza, Natal, Recife, Salvador, Brasília, Cuiabá,, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, Rio de Janerio, Curitiba and Porto Alegre, the authorities sanctioned the demolition of houses in poor neighbourhoods in targeted areas. Asbestos-containing products such as roofing tiles, water tanks and sheeting, were omnipresent in the favelas. Despite six state laws and resolutions mandating measures to minimize the asbestos hazards caused by such demolition and the classification of the resulting waste as toxic, no particular attention was paid or guidance given by the government, the Brazilian football authorities or FIFA to the hazards being created.2

The wanton disregard of the potent risk to human life posed by the unregulated destruction and disposal of toxic material is just another manifestation of the callous attitude exhibited by World Cup stakeholders. Commenting on this situation, retired Brazilian Labor Inspector and Ban Asbestos Campaigner Fernanda Giannasi says:

“In my country, the asbestos sector propagates the myth of the ‘controlled use,’ of asbestos. Industry lobbyists say that Brazilian asbestos is safe when handled properly. As we have noticed throughout the build-up to the World Cup, there was no safe handling and no safe disposal. We weren’t properly informed where the asbestos materials in the areas cleared for the football arenas were. Everything about the World Cup was treated as top secret. No one knows how much toxic waste was created or where it was dumped. This legacy will continue to haunt Brazil long after the final whistle has been blown in the new stadiums.”

June 17, 2014


1 Neither the local Brazilian football confederation nor the FIFA [The Fédération Internationale de Football Association/ International Football Association] replied to questions about this issue.

2 Bertolino S. Favelas demolite per i mondiali di calcio: in Brasile scoppia l'emergenza Amianto [Favelas demolished for the World Cup: asbestos emergency in Brazil]. June 14, 2014.



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