Residents' fears over asbestos
RESIDENTS fear for their long-term health after asbestos was allegedly released into the atmosphere by builders at a Newquay housing estate during the demolition of a wall.
People living at Tolcarne Mews were “horrified” to discover asbestos that had reportedly been broken up and left uncovered in the cul-de-sac on Friday.
James Langley, an environmental public health and protection officer at Cornwall Council, attended the scene immediately after being contacted by residents. He demanded that the owners of the properties, Sanctuary Housing, bring in a specialist company at once to remove the asbestos in the area.
Sanctuary Housing had decided to have the wall partly knocked down as it was deemed to be unsafe.
Resident Mark Johnston, who lives four metres away from where the asbestos was allegedly left, has good reason to be worried about his health following the incident. His father Brian died last year of mesothelioma which is usually caused by exposure to asbestos.
Mark said: “The builders took the wall down. The asbestos sheets were lodged in a cavity behind. It is unbelievable really.
“They should have done a proper risk assessment and brought in a specialist company with a licence to deal with asbestos.
“The asbestos was left uncovered and no signs were put up warning of the danger.
“It’s too late because we have already been exposed to the asbestos.
“I’m quite aware of how dangerous asbestos is as my dad died of mesothelioma last year.
“We’re all humans breathing it in through our lungs. Experts used to say it takes 20 to 30 years for asbestos to affect your health, but people are already dying as a result of mesothelioma following the Twin Towers terrorist attack in New York in 2001.
“Environmental Health was horrified when they came. They sent in a specialist team to take it away.
“A guy came in wearing a full mask and suit to load a van full of it.”
Sanctuary Housing says it took appropriate action after being made aware of the situation.
Sanctuary’s national planned maintenance manager, Nick Hill, said: “We appointed a specialist contractor over the weekend to assist with the works and they have also returned to the site this morning to carry out further checks and ensure everything is satisfactory.
“We are working together with the Health and Safety Executive to minimise any issues in
relation to asbestos on the garage roof of a neighbouring property.”
Housing company Chapter 1, which manages Tolcarne Mews in Tolcarne Road, for Sanctuary
Housing, attended the estate on Saturday after being alerted by residents.
A spokesman commented: “One of our staff went over to check things out.
"We contacted Sanctuary who arranged for the specialist company to remove the asbestos.
“The builders did not know until they started to take down the wall that there were sheets of
“When they left on Friday sheets of asbestos were visible as far as I’m aware.
“The residents were not happy about it, which is understandable.”
Following his inspection of the site, Mr Langley of Cornwall Council said: “I was contacted by a resident Saturday afternoon saying asbestos had been exposed by contractors taking down a wall adjacent to houses.
“Loose and broken asbestos had been left on top of an adjacent roof and the site was not properly secure.
“In my opinion, these sheets were at risk of being blown off out onto the street.
“I had concerns that this material might smash and release fibres.
“We contacted Sanctuary Housing and after a few phone calls they finally arranged for an asbestos contractor to come and remove the loose material,” Mr Langley added.
“I have been contacted by the local housing manager from Chapter 1 and the subcontractors will be now working with an appropriately trained asbestos contractor to remove and dispose of the rest of the material as they take the wall down.”
Independent surveyor Barry Gittins commented yesterday: “I have spoken at length (with the builders) who commented that they have uncovered the old corrugated asbestos cement between the two skins of blockwork as work was proceeding and had not touched it,
removed it or damaged it in any way.”
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