Tsunami and asbestos
I have NGO contacts in Sri Lanka and I understand that the advice from the World Health Organisation http://w3.whosea.org/EN/Section23/Section1108/Section1835/Section1864_8658.htm is not being followed. This includes teams coordinated by USAid. (Further reference to the risk of asbestos debris being recycled http://w3.whosea.org/EN/Section23/Section1108/Section1835/Section1864_8700.htm.)Asbestos products are still manufactured and used extensively in Sri Lanka. The situation is likely to be the same in other countries in the affected area. These products were banned in the UK in 1999, where there is considerable controlling legislation (see references for health and safety information).
Failure to follow this advice will lead to further tragic consequences. Those exposed to damaged or abraded asbestos or in reconstruction will need to seek medical advice and likely to need a regular health surveillance programme for many years to come.
ALL asbestos containing materials (ACMs) are hazardous (including for example corrugated asbestos cement sheets). There are safe, cost-effective substitute materials on the market.
Please ensure that this message gets disseminated through your contacts to the people on the ground (residents, volunteers, workers, etc.). I would appreciate your comments. I work for a large housing association and have knowledge in this area.
In her recent report Asbestos, 2005: A Silent Tsunami? for a Galle-based NGO, Dr. Valerie Bresnihan comments in regard to the asbestos health problem in clearance and reconstruction that “the enormity of this situation cannot be underestimated”.