Ten people trained in handling asbestos are in Gizo this week to remove the deadly substance from government houses destroyed by the earthquake.The team is part of a joint Solomon Islands Government-RAMSI project to train Solomon Islanders in the removal of asbestos from buildings. Asbestos, a building material that is very dangerous for people's health, has been used around the world and in Solomon Islands as a strong building material.
The training is teaching Solomon Islanders how to deal with the asbestos safely without harming themselves or the public. The Regional Assistance Mission has funded the training to increase the number of people in Solomon Islands that know how to remove asbestos safely.
Harry Sanau is the Director of Infrastructure for Solomon Islands Prison Service and is now qualified to supervise the removal of asbestos. "Asbestos has been in Solomon Islands for a long time without us knowing how dangerous it is."
The risk of asbestos depends very much on the period of exposure. Doctors have been able to draw conclusive findings on strong correlations between exposure to asbestos and two principal types of cancer: cancer of the lung tissue itself and esothelioma, a cancer that surrounds the lung and other internal organs. According to some local doctors, such health complications does not develop immediately, following exposure to asbestos, but appear only after a number of years.
According to reports, it is estimated that at least 50% of all government buildings across every province in the country contains asbestos. George Maere, a senior works officer from Makira Province, estimates that more than 80% of government buildings in his province have asbestos in them.
A carpenter spoken to stated that the use of asbestos is most commonly found in older homes, in pipes, insulation materials, textured paints and other coating materials, and floor tiles. Improper attempts to remove these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air in homes, increasing asbestos levels and endangering people living in those homes.