Over 30 members of staff will be sent for medical examination today after the highly toxic asbestos material, a known cause of mesothelioma cancer, was discovered at President’s House.
This was revealed by the Office of the President in a media release yesterday, two days after the Urban Development Corporation of T&T Limited (Udecott) alerted President’s House officials that asbestos was found in the vinyl floor tiles within the laundry lining fabrics storage room.
Despite the hazardous nature of the asbestos, the Office of the President said the authorities responsible for renovation of President’s House were tardy in alerting the Office about the danger.
“What is of grave and critical concern is that it appears that the authorities responsible for renovation of President’s House have been aware of this asbestos contamination for some time but failed to inform and alert the Office of the President of this hazard,” the statement said.
As such, arrangements were immediately made for all workers to be tested within a three day period to determine whether they were affected by the asbestos contamination.
Apart from chest x-rays, workers will be given testing of their blood count, renal function, liver function and possible spirometry if available at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.
“Those affected employees who came into contact with the contaminated area on a regular basis will commence medical tests over a three-day period at the Industrial Medical Unit at EWMSC,” the statement added.
Udecott in a letter sent to the Office of the President on Thursday said, “Records provided by the previous Ministry assigned with the Restoration of President’s House (Ministry of Works and Infrastructure), indicated that the vinyl floor tiles within the laundry lining fabrics storage room, contains asbestos.”
Specific procedures were outlined by Udecott before the asbestos material could be removed.
“Udecott further advised that the logistic for temporary relocation of affected staff is being prepared for transmission to the relevant authority. A specialist team from Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) held discussions with personnel from the Office of the President following the asbestos discovery and revelation,” the Office added.
In the event that other parts of President’s House are affected by the hazardous asbestos, the CARIRI team carried out a preliminary visit of the facilities and committed to dispatch three technicians from the Industrial Materials Unit – Metallurgy, to carry out a detailed inspection of compound.
“The three-member team will first carry out a visual inspection of the different materials present in the compound and determine which may be a suspect for future sampling,” the statement added.
CARIRI noted that the team will need to have access to all roofs and ceilings, “since these materials are prime suspects of containing asbestos fibres. Old visible water pipes are also of concern.”
The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) department is also expected to be alerted about the danger today.
WHAT IS ASBESTOS?
Asbestos has been recognised for its heat resistance and insulating properties but was banned in over 50 countries after research showed it contributed to cancer and other ailments.
The most common way for asbestos fibers to enter the body is through breathing.
Asbestos containing material is not generally considered to be harmful unless it is releasing dust or fibers into the air where they can be inhaled or ingested.
Many of the fibers will become trapped in the mucous membranes of the nose and throat where they can then be removed, but some may pass deep into the lungs, or, if swallowed, into the digestive tract.
Once they are trapped in the body, the fibers can cause health problems. (http://oregonstate.edu/ehs/asb-when)