Asbestos lay exposed before alert raised - New Zealand

Asbestos lay exposed before alert raised - New Zealand

Demolition rubble contaminated with asbestos lay uncovered in central Christchurch, New Zealand for weeks before it was contained.

The demolition of BNZ House in Cathedral Square was stopped last July 20 when asbestos was found on steel beams encased in concrete.

Contaminated demolition rubble from the building was stockpiled on a Hereford St site from the start of work in June until the asbestos was found.

The stockpile site was covered in tarpaulins after the July discovery and is now being sprayed with water to suppress dust.

The BNZ House demolition also contaminated Hereford St, where loose fibres of the harmful material were found.

Traces of white and brown asbestos were found at five points in Hereford St and nine points on the stockpile site, says a report commissioned by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), which is managing the demolition.

Cera has removed the loose fibres in Hereford St and is considering the best way to remove the asbestos-laden rubble from the stockpile site.

Specialists are stripping asbestos from the steel beams in BNZ House, but Cera has no date for when demolition will be complete.

Health experts say asbestos is most harmful if a person is exposed to high levels of the material during a long period. Prolonged, chronic exposure to asbestos can lead to the development of various lung diseases, including asbestosis and a form of lung cancer know as mesothelioma. It can take many decades after exposure for lung cancer to develop.

Other asbestos deposits were found in BNZ House last January, a Cera spokesman said.

It was found in service pipes, tile flooring, vinyl and paint, but was removed by a specialist before demolition began.

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British Lung Foundation


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