Warning of asbestos contamination in cyclone clean-ups

7:21 pm on 26 March 2023
Chair Solutions which suffered a fire in July has asbestos in the roof and now workers in the are angry after recieving a positive test for asbestos coating their work vechiles.

There are warnings that people may encounter asbestos in clean-up efforts after Cyclone Gabrielle. (File photo.) Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

An asbestos removal company believes there could be people in flood and cyclone-affected areas exposing themselves to the toxic silicate mineral.

The Insurance Council said more than 40,000 claims following Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland floods have been lodged so far.

Auckland-based firm Contaminated Site Solutions said staff have occasionally seen home owners unknowingly exposing themselves to asbestos when removing carpet.

Its director, Victor Boyd, said as time goes on, more people could be exposed.

"As it goes on and there's not enough people to help with the recovery, it could get bigger.

"Because people are getting frustrated waiting and then attempt to start to remove some of the stuff themselves, not realising, you know."

More public health messaging may be required as many New Zealanders have a casual attitude. Boyd said.

Boyd said our knack for "getting on with it" was fraught with risk.

"It's the old kiwi attitude, you know, she'll be right, and we get stuck into it.

"They're ripping it off and it's only when someone else comes along and says 'hey guys, that might could be asbestos there', that's when they realise that they have to step back from it."

It could take several years before the physical effects of asbestos exposure were felt, Boyd said.

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