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Asbestos scare sweeps S. Korea

(Xinhua)

15:50, September 29, 2011

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- An asbestos scare spreading rapidly among the public in South Korea has forced the government to take full-fledged action for the safe management of asbestos.

Local media have reported that high levels of asbestos have been detected in the soil at baseball stadiums and many school playgrounds, raising public concerns over escalating health risks.

The Asian Citizen's Center for Environment and Health said on Monday that after analyzing 18 soil samples taken from the five ballparks across the country, it found 0.25-1 percent of asbestos in each sample.

At Sajik stadium in the country's southeastern port city of Busan, one of the five professional baseball stadiums, the asbestos concentration in the dirt samples was 1 percent.

The civic group immediately called for a halt to games at those baseball parks, citing health risks to both players and spectators. This year, the number of spectators of country's professional baseball matches has hit six million.

The ballparks, however, will be in use for a while, after authorities including the Ministry of Environment chose to go ahead with game schedules of the ongoing professional league.

As an emergency measure, it was decided to spray water on the ground at the stadiums from time to time to prevent asbestos fibers from getting into the air.

Also, the Education Ministry said on Tuesday it is inspecting playgrounds of all schools where the cancer-causing agent has allegedly been turned up.

The Asian Citizen's Center for Environment and Health claimed that it had found asbestos in soil collected from eight schools.

The playgrounds are currently covered with tents to keep students off, according to local media reports.

South Korean environmental rules have banned the manufacture, import and use of products that contain more than 0.1 percent asbestos since 2009.

In the face of growing concerns over public safety and health, the government announced a slew of measures for safe management of asbestos.

The fresh measures set a guideline on the use of asbestos and demand schools and public buildings constructed before 2009 to undergo periodic inspections for asbestos.

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