ABSTRACT

In France, asbestos was banned by national decree (no. 96-1133) in 1996. The regulatory texts and standards adopted to implement this ban are concerned primarily with asbestos-containing manufactured products and are difficult to apply to asbestos-bearing natural materials (i.e., rocks and soils). Considering problems related to asbestos-bearing natural materials, the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Energy has mandated the French Geological Survey to map locations where asbestos-bearing rocks are found. Mapping was prioritized to geological domains where naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) was predictable (e.g., the Western Alps and Corsica). These studies integrated field expertise, sampling, and laboratory analysis data to characterize the potential of geological units to contain NOA. Additionally, studies were conducted on geological formations exploited to produce aggregates. These studies were focused on quarries excavating massive, basic or ultrabasic rocks likely to contain NOA and quarries mining alluvium likely to contain asbestos-bearing rock pebbles. These studies highlight the difficulty of establishing robust analytical procedures for natural materials. The distinction between cleavage fragments (resulting from the fragmentation of non-asbestos particles) and proper asbestos fibers is particularly problematic for laboratories. Thus, a recent study by the National Agency for Health Safety, Food, Environment, and Work recommends applying the asbestos regulation to elongated mineral particles (length/depth > 3:1, length > 5 μm, depth < 3 μm) with chemical composition corresponding to one of the five regulated amphibole species regardless of their mode of crystallization (asbestiform or non-asbestiform). The upcoming regulatory changes are part of a decree published in 2017, including the prior identification of asbestos in natural soils or rocks likely to be impacted by ground-disturbing construction activities. Specific protocols will be defined for sampling, analysis, and characterization of natural materials that may contain asbestos.

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