By George Psyllides
Parliament has asked for a study to measure asbestos concentration in the atmosphere in the Alassa area, in Limassol, and in the water of the Kouris reservoir nearby, it emerged yesterday.
House Health Committee chairman, AKEL MP, Adamos Adamou, said there was a need to determine the possibility of asbestos in the atmosphere since it has been proven to cause cancer and other ailments in contrast to swallowing the mineral’s fibres.
Yesterday, the committee discussed the natural accumulation of asbestos fibres on the shores of the reservoir and measures to protect public health.
Kouris lies on the foothills of Troodos mountain, whose geological composition includes asbestos.
Almost the entire Republic was supplied water from Kouris, Adamou said.
Water Development Department official Charalambos Demetriou told MPs that the water intended for drinking underwent filtering. Tests carried out after the procedure came up negative, he said.
However, Adamou said irrigation water was not tested and there are concerns about its effects on cultivations.
Adamou said it was not known whether swallowing asbestos fibres caused the same illnesses as inhaling it did.
The Geological Survey, Water Development Department, and Labour Inspection Departments, said their protocols did not include asbestos.
The Geological Survey Department said Troodos’ soil contained a low percentage of asbestos fibres, 0.2 per cent.
“We do not want to spread panic but to take the proper steps so that we can say with certainty that we do not have a problem,” Adamou said, “and the necessary measures were put in place to remove all elements accumulated on the shores of the river and the reservoir and the 3,000 tonnes of mud brought to the dam from Trimiklini (dam higher up).”
DISY MP Andreas Kyprianou said government services had been asked to carry out specific studies, which will determine whether there is high concentration of asbestos fibres in the water. They will also measure the atmosphere around the reservoir and the wider Limassol area.
Chairman of Thoracic Society of Cyprus Andreas Zahariades told the committee that exposure to asbestos raised the risk of lung cancer by 11 per cent. For smokers, that risk was 59 per cent, he said.