Asbestos in Latvia 

by Maija Eglite



Asbestos has been widely used in Latvia since 1940. On the way to European Union Latvia has ratified following EC Directives concerning asbestos

I – Directives concerning requirements for safe working conditions in asbestos works:

89/391/EEC;  83/477/EEC;  91/382/EEC;  90/394/EEC;  97/42/EC

II – Directives concerning use and trade of asbestos:

76/769/EEC;  83/478/EEC;  85/610/EEC;  91/659/EEC;
1999/77/EC;  98/12/EC;  71/320/EEC

Latvia has acknowledged that according to EC Directive 1999/77/EC any use or sale of asbestos products will be banned in EC from 2005.

There are several legal acts in Latvia specifically dealing with asbestos. The most important are:

  • Regulations No. 158 (from 25.04.2000) by Cabinet of Ministers "Regulations on restrictions and bans of use and trade of chemical and hazardous chemical substances" issued in accordance with "Law on chemicals and chemical products"

  • Regulations No. 317 (from 25.08.1998) by Cabinet of Ministers "Regulations of workers safety and health protection in work with asbestos" issued in accordance with "Law on Labor protection"

Regulations No. 158 specifically prohibits sale and offer in the market of all kinds of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos from 1st of January, 2001. It is allowed to continue use of asbestos products already in use under conditions that they are properly marked.

Mainly chrysotile asbestos is used in Latvia. It is imported from Southern Ural Mountains and Kazahstan. Total amounts of imported asbestos has been decreasing since 1993.

The total import of asbestos in period 1993 – 2000 has been from 4575 to 1490 tons of asbestos products per year.

According to latest data from 2001 (January – February) 1380 tons of asbestos products (asbestos cement products and products containing asbestos fibers) has been imported although according to Regulations No. 158 any sales of asbestos are forbidden since 1st of January 2001.

Asbestos use in Latvia is controlled by:

State Sanitary Inspection
State Environmental Inspection
State Labor Inspection

State Labor Inspection is in particular responsible for control of conditions set by Regulations No. 317

In year 2000 State Labor Inspection has received 18 applications for work with asbestos or asbestos demolition works (required by law). This is relatively small number of application taking into account asbestos amount in use.

The largest companies using asbestos in Latvia are:

"Brocenu Metala Sistemas" – former Brocenu Cement – Slate factory – using 1100 tons of asbestos per year;

"Valmieras Stikla Skiedra" – factory producing fiber glass – using around 3.5 tons of asbestos pear year for thermal isolation;

"Lokomotive" – factory repairing railway engines – using around 4450 tons per year for thermal isolation

The problem of control mostly concerns small and medium size companies where asbestos is widely used in small amounts mainly for thermal isolation.

The Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health (IEOH) of Medical academy of Latvia is providing air quality measurements of asbestos fibers as well as research of asbestos use and asbestos related diseases in Latvia. IOEH has also provided air quality measurements at Brocenu Cement – Slate factory.

In 1994 concentrations of asbestos fibers were 3-4 times higher than Maximal Allowable value (MAV), in 1998 – situation has improved and in 2001 after decrease of production of slate asbestos concentrations are higher only at asbestos dosage. MAV in Latvia for asbestos fibers till 2001 was 1 fiber/cm3 but from 2001 – 0.6 fibers/cm3.

In 2000 IOEH have performed air quality measurements at different asbestos demolition works showing that mean concentrations were 3.3 – 4 – 6 fibers/ cm3.

In our opinion most important problem in near future will be demolition works as preliminary assessment of asbestos concentrations in demolition areas shows that requirements of asbestos demolition are not followed fully.

When analyzing annual incidence of occupational diseases in Latvia we see that incidence of occupational diseases in Latvia is 10 times lower than incidence of occupational diseases in Europe. In 1999 we have revealed 35.6 occupational diseases per 100 000 workers.

The number of occupational diseases incidence have tendency to increase during last years. We explain it with improved diagnostics and training of physicians.

Respiratory diseases rank first place among all occupational diseases.

Among them during period from 1974 until 2000 44 persons have been registered in State register of Occupational diseases as persons having asbestos related diseases. We understand that large number of asbestos related diseases are under diagnosed.

We also have analyzed mortality from mesotheliomas in Latvia during period from 1985 until 1999.

It is well know that there is a connection between amount of asbestos used in certain period and increased number of cancers in exposed population after 25-30 years. In Latvia asbestos was very widely used in late 70’ies but since 1993 its use have decreased rapidly.

Number of mesotheliomas in Latvia has risen significantly. In 1997 – 1999 there were 52 cases revealed. Maximum was reached in 1998 when incidence of mesotheliomas was 0.8 per 100 000 inhabitants. So we can see the rise of mesothelioma incidence 25-30 year after high exposures of asbestos.


1. Problems of asbestos usage are still a problem for occupational health in Latvia despite legal requirements. Demolition works will be a new source of asbestos exposure if not properly controlled.

2. Number of revealed asbestos related diseases does not show real situation as occupational diseases are still under diagnosed in Latvia.

3. Better control of asbestos use and import are necessary with detailed tasks for each institution and detailed instructions for asbestos marking inmarket.

June 8, 2001



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