The hazards of possible exposure to airborne asbestos fibre has been raised recently in relation to the demolition of earthquake damaged buildings in Christchurch. The use of asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) in building construction effectively ended in the early 1980s. However, there is still a significant amount of ACM in the form of corrugated roofing material, asbestos cement sheeting used as wall linings, drainage gutterings and downpipes, in vinyl floor tiles and backing on vinyl flooring, and in some decorative products. Many of these products are still evident in buildings in the Christchurch CBD.

Accumulated dust in the roof space under asbestos cement roofing material will potentially contain loose asbestos fibre. The hazards become significant when asbestos is damaged or abraded and releases fibres into the air which are then being capable of being inhaled. Risk factors involved include the type of asbestos fibre, the quantity of fibre in the air, and the duration of exposure. The average time for symptoms to appear after initial exposure is typically 40+ years. Mesothelioma, cancers, asbestosis, and other respiratory abnormalities attributable to asbestos exposure make up the almost 1200 cases reported to the National Asbestos Medical Panel since 1992 (Safeguard Update, May 2011).

Verification of asbestos fibre in solid material usually requires a laboratory analysis. The presence of fibre in air is determined by air sampling at the exposure point. TriEx can conduct air sampling and laboratory analysis, and provide advice on the management of risks associated with asbestos as the city clean-up proceeds.

To enquire about services available to help manage your risk, or any health & safety issue – contact TriEx Health, Safety & Wellness Ltd on (03) 343 2997 or info@triex.co.nz.