Asbestos Slows Down Chaplin Museum Plans

File this under “no laughing matter”: a proposed museum to honor film funnyman Charlie Chaplin has been delayed by the discovery of asbestos in the building meant to showcase his cinematic accomplishments.

Safely removing the asbestos will add three months and as much as $330,000 to the price tag for the $60 million project, according to the online news site Digital Journal.

Chaplin was a comedy star of the silent film era and is also considered one of the cinema’s greatest filmmakers. He is perhaps best known today for his movies starring the “Little Tramp,” a humorous figure who sports a moustache, cane, and bowler hat.

The proposed museum will be housed at Manoir de Ban, the entertainer’s home in Switzerland. Called “Chaplin’s World,” the museum will open in 2015 and is expected to draw 250,000 visitors annually.

But first the asbestos must be removed from the star’s former mansion. According to the French newspaper 20 Minutes, the project’s architect Philippe Meylan says the building has asbestos “in the paintings, the floors, the joints…everywhere.”

Building materials that contained asbestos were used during much of the 20th century to help insulate and fireproof homes and other structures in Europe and the United States. However, studies have linked asbestos exposure to mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that attacks the thin membranes lining organs in the chest and abdomen.

During renovation or construction projects – such as the proposed Chaplin museum – any damage to the surfaces of asbestos-containing materials can cause tiny particles of asbestos to become airborne, putting workers and others at risk of inhaling this toxic substance.

Asbestos is still is not banned in the U.S. despite the clear health danger it poses. In Switzerland, asbestos was banned in 1989.