World News Roundup: Asbestos Overseas

In the United Kingdom, the asbestos contamination previously reported in the Houses of Parliament is even more serious than had been believed, according to a report commissioned by Parliamentary authorities. According to the report, Members of Parliament and building staff are being exposed to highly dangerous levels of the toxic mineral. Despite numerous statements by authorities at the Palace of Westminster, steps to mitigate and control the asbestos exposure were not actually taken. Contaminated ventilation ducts were left unsealed, and even used by staff members to store cleaning equipment and other supplies. One ventilation shaft, which was so contaminated that health authorities say it should not even be entered by anyone not wearing full protective clothing and breathing masks, was left open to provide a cooling breeze in the kitchen, blowing asbestos fibers directly into the room. The report also says that visitors to the Houses of Parliament have been “exposed to potentially high levels of asbestos contamination despite warnings from experts monitoring the situation”. In Australia, passengers using the Gold Coast Airport may be exposed to asbestos over the next few months.

The terminal ceiling contains asbestos fibers, which will be displaced during construction and renovation work over the next six months as part of a $100 million construction project. Chief Operating Officer at the airport Paul Donovan says that there will be no risk to passengers or staff, as the asbestos will be removed only after hours, and that the cleanup team will follow occupational health guidelines to minimize the release of the deadly mineral fiber. The general public has not yet been informed of the plan for removal, and neither were members of the Transport Workers Union of Australia, which represents the facility’s baggage handlers. In Canada, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador has created a registry of mine workers who have developed asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma. The registry will record the names of all those worked in the Baie Verte Asbestos Mine, and will keep track of health information for the 3,000 or so miners who worked at the mine, which closed in 1995. Establishing the registry will help researchers studying the epidemiology of asbestos-related diseases, and will also be a starting point for workers seeking compensation for diseases contracted as a result of asbestos exposure. At least 140 of the former miners have developed one form of cancer or another.