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Asbestos forces firms from Tour Montparnasse

Ben McPartland · 28 Aug 2013, 10:30

Published: 28 Aug 2013 10:30 GMT+02:00

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The Tour Montparnasse is said to offer workers the best views of the French capital, but it appears there is still a potentially dangerous downside to working in the 210-metre high skyscraper.

Authorities in Paris have asked the building's owners to launch a probe after a “significant number of exposures to asbestos dust” were recorded in recent months.

The existence of the asbestos dust is caused by the ongoing works to remove the potentially carcinogenic insulator.

In all, there have been 72 recorded occasions when the level of asbestos has exceeded the safety threshold of five fibres per litre since 2009. 

The problem of asbestos in the tower, which dates back to 2005, has become so acute that certain companies were forced to evacuate their workers earlier this summer.

Staff from the firm Amundi, a subsidiary of the banks Crédit Agricole and Société Général, were evacuated from the tower due to levels of asbestos dust exceeding the safe threshold.

This week AFP reported that Amundi’s bosses have decided against returning to their old offices on the 59th floor of the building and will seek a new location elsewhere.

Authorities in Paris are keeping a close watch on the situation and even threatened in August to evacuate all of the building’s offices until the situation was resolved," the newspaper Libération reports.

The existence of asbestos in the tower, which houses 5,000 workers and is visited by 600,000 tourists each year, was revealed in 2005 and made front page headlines.

The building's owners ordered works to remove the asbestos to begin in 2007 but the painstaking nature of the work as well as the fact the building remains occupied means they are not expected to be completed before 2017.

Story continues below…

While most of the skyscraper is now believed to be safe, there have been difficulties in removing asbestos from fire escapes.

Around 4,000 tests are carried out each year to make sure the levels of asbestos dust do not exceed five fibres per litre of air.

According to the owners, works to remove the substance, which was banned back in 1997, will cost €250 million.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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