(Click on the title for a link to asbestos regulations in Ireland)
There was a report in the Environmental Health News a while ago about eleven staff at Leinster House in Dublin being paid more than 1m-euro compensation in settlement of claims of exposure to asbestos. There are another 67 similar cases pending in a flood of compensation claims against the state by people alleging to have come into contact with asbestos. There are also 500 other cases pending across the country and the number is rising. The bill is expected to be about 50m euro but will probably go even higher. There was a programme to remove the product from 6000 state buildings that started four years ago and it is still in progress. A Dublin based personal injury lawyer claims that asbestos may be Ireland’s single biggest industrial killer and has expressed concern that landfill sites in Ireland are still unknowingly disposing of the waste.
WHAT WAS ASBESTOS USED FOR?
Asbestos was a widely used product up until 1978 when reports came out to alert the public of the dangers to their lungs. Small amounts of the fine particles were claimed to do no harm but it was the people who had long term contact that were at risk of contracting lung damage. The asbestos was used as fire insulation, soundproofing, heat insulation, lagging pipes, door gaskets on cookers, patching mixtures for cracks in walls and ceilings, the backing on lino floors and artificial coal in gas fires amongst other things.
WHO IS AT RISK?
If you live in a house that was built before 1978 then there could be asbestos in your house. Don’t worry though because as long as it is bonded with other materials like glue it is generally very safe. The problem of safety arises more for the unsuspecting tradesperson. Disturbing old boards and producing dust by drilling in the attic is very dangerous. The people most at risk are builders, plumbers, joiners, roofing contractors, computer installers and anyone else who does work in the house. Mechanics can also come into contact with asbestos through brake linings. Precautionary measures such as facemasks and proper safety clothing will help to minimise the risk. If you do have asbestos in your house then the advice that is given is to leave it alone! Asbestos sheds and roofs can be a problem if the boards have gone dry and brittle. Demolishing these could cause the dust to be inhaled. These jobs are best left to the experts with the correct equipment.
HOW CAN I DISPOSE OF ASBESTOS SAFELY?
Landfill sites and any council in Ireland don’t deal with the problem of disposing of asbestos. I can guess that this is because the councils are being very careful about claims against them. Exposed asbestos that is undamaged can be sealed with a resin to eliminate the possibility of it flaking if it is exposed to the elements. Removing the material off site is really the last resort. Disposing of asbestos is expensive if the proper channels are taken. The waste is collected and taken to Dublin where it is shipped over to Germany. On arrival in Germany it is land filled at a great depth and kept at a constant moisture level to delay any decomposition
I was talking to Alpha Asbestos Removal in Derry last week to see what services were available in the North. All landfill for asbestos is coming to an end in Northern Ireland and they are following the same path as us, to Germany. Staff at Alpha A.A. are contacted by people in Inishowen who want to get rid of their waste asbestos and are horrified at the cost. From anything like a carrier bag full to a skip load the price is the same of around €500 to €700 euro. (I told you it was expensive!) The company stressed that if you were considering removing an old asbestos shed or refitting the house or offices etc. it would be less risk to your health (and cheaper) to leave the complete job in the hands of the professionals. If you want to find out more about the disposal of asbestos, ring Alpha Asbestos Removal on 04871 269167