The public is being urged to follow stipulated guidelines in dealing with the removal of asbestos from their properties as it could pose serious health hazards.

This caution has come is coming from Senior Environmental Officer in the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Trevor King, who has expressed concern that persons are not following the guidelines, or getting the necessary permission before removing the harmful material from their homes.

"People are getting carpenters to remove asbestos roofs and trying to take it to the disposal site without first getting the necessary permission, and then saying they were not aware," he said.

Mr. King added that some of those contracted to remove asbestos were breaking it up into parts; an act that could pose major health challenges for all those exposed.

But the Senior Environmental Officer explained it was important to remove asbestos sheets as whole as possible with minimum breakage. "When it breaks that is when the danger comes because the fibres will escape," he explained.

When that happens, all those not wearing the appropriate clothing or protective gear are at risk of inhaling the asbestos fibres. However, it may be up to 10 to 15 years before symptoms develop from that exposure, which could result in ailments such as lung cancer or scarring of the lungs.

"There is no cure, and it can be very painful before you succumb to it," he warned.

Given the health risks asbestos pose, Mr. King pointed out that the Ministry of Environment and Drainage had developed guidelines for contractors, workers and other people engaged in the removal and disposal of the harmful material.

Furthermore, he indicated that only trained contractors were given permission to remove asbestos. ??????

Anyone desirous of removing the harmful material from their home or building must first seek permission from the Director of the EPD, indicating the dates of intended demolition at least 14 days prior to starting the operations.

EPD officers will then conduct a site inspection to assess possible risks before giving written approval for the asbestos to be removed by a trained and approved contractor.

During the removal of asbestos, all workers must wear protective clothing such as disposable overalls, respirators, gloves, footwear and hard hats; the site must be secured against trespassers during the operation; breakage should be kept to a minimum; asbestos material kept wet even as it is lowered onto the transport vehicle; the asbestos material must be covered during transport; and the interior of the building from which asbestos is removed must be cleaned by a wet process after demolition.

All asbestos material should be disposed of at the approved site at Rock Hall, St. Philip, Monday to Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Fridays between 8:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

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