Love News has been following the story of a house renovation in Belize City that poses a threat to the health of residents nearby. The report is that the house’s roof is made of asbestos and the proper handling of the structure is not being done. Our newsroom reached out to the Department of the Environment and we were able to get confirmation that the matter is under investigation after the authorities saw the story on our newscast. According to Anthony Mai, Senior Environmental Officer, a Standard Operating Procedures guideline was developed back in 2016 when handling asbestos. Mai stated that these procedures are adhered to when removing and disposing asbestos roofs.
Anthony Mai, Senior Environmental Officer, Department of the Environment: “The first thing is at the DOE, Belize Solid Waste Management Authority and the person who wants to carry out this activity visit the site, look at the situation and the area is cordoned off so it is clearly demarcated with caution tape in terms of this area being you know a hazardous zone or at least it is being prepared for it to become a hazardous zone and so once that is done the person who wants to carry out activity will notify the DOE when it will commence so that the DOE and the Solid Waste Management Authority is present to supervise the activity. We will make recommendation as to the proper personal protective equipment that should be used and with this we normally recommend a full body suit we also recommend the use of steel toe boots, the use of chemical gloves and some type of respirator and so once each worker is equipped with this they will be able to enter the contaminated zone and begin the removal of the the asbestos. The protocols call for the asbestos sheets to be. for it to be at least to be moistened so that whenever you remove the nail or the screw or whatever that it doesn’t create lot of fiber and so normally from within the building you would with the asbestos sheet so that when you deal with it you don’t create a lot of dust and so normally the way this is done is that you have three groups or three teams on site you have one team on the roof so you wet the asbestos from the inside, you have one team removing the nails or the screws, you have one team removing and holding the asbestos sheet and putting it on the ground, you have another team on the ground that will take the asbestos and double wrap it in construction plastic and the protocol calls to be at least 6 mm thick and so you have the plastic laying on the ground, you have the asbestos sheets 6 to 7 sheets stockpiled and then you roll it up in one layer and you roll it up in another layer and then you completely take it and it has to be labeled and then you set that aside and the procedure continues as such. Finally the transportation of asbestos has to be done in a closed vehicle so a truck with a box truck, it iss taken to the hazardous waste fill out the mile 24 regional sanitary landfill and it is disposed of properly and that is the proper procedure just to summarize that should be done in terms of dealing with this type of material.”
Love News also spoke with the Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero spoke about the health risks if a person was exposed to asbestos without proper protective equipment.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “In terms of the removal it’s more the chronic exposure to asbestos that can give lung damage that has been linked ot some forms of cancer. Direct exposure will cause irritation be it in the eyes, the upper airways, skin but it’s the chronic exposure is linked to cancer and other conditions of the lungs. You can still have an acute exposure I mean if it’s a significant amount of asbestos that you’re taking it at a given point in time you can have immediate effects. As I said we will have to take a look at what specifically is there and I know that there was a building in Belmopan that there was a process of ensuring that that was taken care of properly to minimize exposure of anybody.”
Mai noted that asbestos was commonly used for building roofs many years ago until research showed the health risks.