The Turkish Health Ministry confirmed that high levels of asbestos have been discovered in 379 villages across Turkey, but it did not require the evacuation of entire villages.
After news of an asbestos alarm surfaced in Turkish media outlets, the ministry issued a statement saying that they had detected the dangerous material in villages, some of which have populations of up to 150,000 people.
Asbestos, a fibrous mineral, is banned in more than 50 countries, due to the risk of lung diseases and cancer when inhaled. It has been widely used in the past, especially in insulation of residences, as it is highly resistant to heat, fire, chemicals and electricity.
The ministry said asbestos exposure is mostly found in the world's industrial sites, and about 500,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer due to exposure in the next three decades. "Unfortunately, asbestos is widely used in rural parts of Turkey, especially in houses," the statement said.
The government took steps to examine the extent of asbestos exposure in 2009 and the ministry had assigned scientists to study its effects on the population. The ministry said the evacuation of villages in their entirety was not needed, as exposure was limited. Instead, houses will be repainted and asbestos resources were closed.
The ministry's statement said about 3,000 possible cases of cancer in the near future will be prevented with simple measures such as the removal of asbestos.