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Aspestos to be removed from MoH building

Small amounts of asbestos in material to be removed from main Ministry of Health building

Material containing very small amounts of asbestos will be removed from the Ministry of Health head office in Wellington over the next few months, starting when the Ministry is closed for the Christmas break.

Corporate and Information Deputy Director-General Debbie Chin said the material is in the Molesworth St building stairwells, on the underside of the concrete ceiling above the stairs. The asbestos was discovered following a routine maintenance inspection by contractors working for the building owner, Capital Properties Ltd.

``Samples were tested and the material was found to contain a very low amount of Chrysotile or white asbestos, which is the least harmful type of asbestos fibre,'' Ms Chin said.

``There is a very low risk because the material is in a good condition, and asbestos quantities are a low three to five percent. However, Capital Properties Ltd has chosen to remove the material as a matter of policy, and at their cost. Because the asbestos removal firm will be operating under strict Occupational Health and Safety regulations, the best and most convenient time to remove the bulk of the material is when people are not around.''

The Ministry will be closed from mid-day, Tuesday 24 December to Monday, 6 January, 2003. The asbestos material from the main stairwell will be removed from 27 December to 31 December. Work on the other six fire escape stairwells will be carried out at weekends, during the next few months.

Removal will be carried out by a specialist firm, ALL Asbestos & Insulation Ltd. Independent company Site Safe NZ Ltd, employed by Capital Properties Ltd, will ensure that proper procedure is followed and will monitor the process. It will take air samples for testing at the end of the work.

The 400 Ministry staff who work in the Molesworth St building have been asked not to visit the premises during the removal process.

The Ministry has leased the 20-year-old building since 1990.

Asbestos-related diseases are associated with occupational exposures such as people mining or manufacturing asbestos products, or their families involved in activities like laundering workers' clothes.

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