Asbestos World Watch For March 9th, 2009

In AUSTRALIA, victims from the bushfires of early February were offered some relief by 800 caravans headed their way.

Many people were driven from their homes, which weeks later were still uninhabitable. Dangers lurking in their once comfortable abodes include leaking sewage and gas, live wires, and asbestos. The total number of homes destroyed by fires reached 1,900, and the number of homes damages to uninhabitable levels was close to 2,000.

Before the caravans were allowed to be used by the homeless victims, they were scheduled to be inspected by 20 inspectors for livability. The Department of Human Services was working with the Australian government to determine the best way to get residents back to their homes without putting them at risk.

Expediency was the key, but the department and the government wanted to prevent people from returning too soon. A guide passed out to residents and prepared by the Building Commission stated to fire victims that “it is not safe to return to live permanently on your land until the site has been cleaned up.” This includes the chemicals and asbestos that were present in many of the older home.

Inhalation of asbestos dust, a known carcinogen, can lead to several forms of lung cancer and mesothelioma. These diseases can take decades to develop, but once they do, the patient often has only months to live. Due to the seriousness of asbestos’ dangers, the Australian government wants to take no chances that displaced residents could be exposed.

In BUDO, UGANDA, a fire at the Budo Junior School was found to be started by an arsonist, but the results of a report following the fire brought to light the dangers surrounding the construction of Budo schools that continues to put students and staff at risk.

The Legal Brains Trust (LBT) conducted a survey of the educators and administrators in Kampala, Wakiso, and Mukono districts. Their findings highlighted the lack of fire prevention tactics being taken by the schools and the fears of the schools’ staffs.

All of the schools were found to be using dangerous construction materials. These included oil-based paint, wood, and asbestos roofing. A total of 23.5 percent of the schools surveyed still had asbestos roofing. This put the students and staff at both fire and toxin inhalation risk. The dangers of asbestos were known in Uganda, but some of the schools refused to replace their asbestos roofs.

Fires for the 2009 academic year were rampant; two broke out at Kakungulu Memorial High School and Kibibi SS, where two buildings were burnt.