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Outcrop of smaragdite metagabbro with inclusions of veins of tremolite-asbestos (northern Corsica, 2013).
© Didier Lahondère
Issues and needs
Asbestos is a generic term that can refer to six minerals (one variety of serpentine and five varieties of amphibole) naturally crystallised as fine and long fibres. In the natural environment, many rocks contain fibrous serpentine and/or amphibole minerals and some of these are asbestos-bearing materials. Released into the air in the form of tiny dust particles, asbestos fibres can cause numerous diseases (pleural damage, asbestosis, cancer, etc.) in those exposed. Project owners and contractors therefore have an obligation to reduce the risks of exposure to asbestos for both workers and the wider population. This obligation may require locating and mapping any areas concerned by the presence of asbestos-bearing rocks and soil.
In compliance with the requirements of decree No. 2017-899 on detecting asbestos before starting work, this study must be conducted on an appropriate scale, reflecting the nature of the project and the geological complexity of the land in the area subject to investigation. In this respect, the InfoTerre website provides a first level of useful data concerning the likelihood of finding asbestos in rocks and natural soils with its geological maps on a scale of 1:50,000, but these data often lack the precision required for individual work sites.
For maximum efficiency, the mapping work carried out by BRGM is based on a methodology that takes account of the areas concerned and the complexity of the geological objects affected. This methodology complies with the regulatory requirements for detecting asbestos in the natural environment before starting work.
Extract from the map showing the likelihood of the presence of asbestos in the Haute-Corse département (northern Corsica).
Our added value
Building on its experience in geological mapping and in the petrographic and mineralogical characterisation of natural materials, BRGM supports the French General Directorate for Risk Prevention (DGPR) in implementing the National Environmental Health Plans (PNSE). In this respect, BRGM has conducted many studies on the characterisation of the asbestos-bearing potential of natural soils in mainland France.
Its qualified and experienced geologists are able to produce detailed cartographic documents, tailored to the specific features of your area of interest. For a given area or worksite, they are able to put in place an action plan to:
- Establish a summary of existing data;
- Conduct field surveys;
- Take representative and relevant samples;
- Define the analyses to be carried out in compliance with applicable regulations.
The results are then presented in the form of a final report, accompanied by a map showing the location of any areas marked by the presence of asbestos-bearing rocks and soil.
Tools and platforms
- InfoTerre: portal giving access to BRGM data relating to asbestos in particular
- Laboratories for the preparation and characterisation of rock materials
- Mapping showing the levels of likelihood concerning the presence of asbestos in the natural environment, on the scale of a massif or a French département.
- Mapping and mineralogy of environmental asbestos for one or more municipalities.
- Cagnard et al., 2020. Naturally Occurring Asbestos in France: Geological Mapping, Mineral Characterization, and Technical Developments. Environmental & Engineering Geoscience, Vol. XXVI, No. 1, February 2020, pp. 53–59
- Lahondère et al., 2019. Naturally occurring asbestos in an alpine ophiolitic complex (northern Corsica, France). Environmental Earth Sciences. 78:540. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-019-8548-x
- Lahondère et al., 2018. TEM and FESEM characterization of asbestiform and non-asbestiform actinolite fibers in hydrothermally altered dolerites (France). Environmental Earth Sciences (2018) 77:385. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-018-7549-5.
- Lahondère et al., 2021. Do these rocks contain asbestos or not? The Ersa-Centuri case study (northern Corsica, France). Submitted for publication
- Lahondère et al., 2021. Morphological and chemical characterization of asbestos fibers in solid rocks: Towards an in-situ and combined analytical approach. Submitted for publication