Holiday Paradise? Asbestos a World Wide Problem


Recent reports of asbestos products at two holiday hotspots highlights the world wide problem that this hazardous material presents.

Following routine beach checks in early December 2008 asbestos was discovered on a sand dune at the Muriwai Beach, New Zealand. Asbestos products were found with broken glass and remnants of steel where a surf life saving club had previously been positioned.

The find was made by Park Manager Scott De Silva who stated that he noticed what he thought to be asbestos following his surveillance of the area and therefore instructed a professional to investigate the material. It was later confirmed that there was in fact asbestos material in the dune.

Asbestos is seriously harmful to health, but the professional has confirmed that the material in its current form is not a risk or dangerous to the public.

Following the discovery a section of the beach was closed off to members of the public and steps were taken to remove the asbestos. The removal resulted in chunks of the dune being removed and the area is now safe and open to members of the public.

Further evidence of the extent of this worldwide problem is evident from the recent reports that asbestos has been found in the Maldives.

The Maldives which is considered to be a tropical paradise made up of thousands of islands in the Indian Ocean hides a dirty secret that it homes the worlds largest rubbish island.

A few miles and a short boat ride from the Maldivian capital Male there is an artificial island known as Thilafushi. The island which began life as a reclamation project in 1992 was built to solve Male’s refuge problem which is the upshot of the increased tourism.

Due to the constant refuge deposits the island is growing at approximately 1 square metre a day and now covers over 100acres. On the island there are currently a number of factories, a mosque and homes for Bangladeshi migrants who are employed to filter through and sort the refuse each day.

Environmentalists have reported that 330 tons of rubbish is brought to the island each day most of which comes from Male. The rubbish which comes from ships is taken ashore and sifted by hand. Some of the waste is incinerated, but most is buried on the island in the land fill sites. It has been reported that there is an alarming rise in batteries and electronic waste being dumped on the island and into the surrounding waters.

An environmentalist in Male has been quoted as saying “we are seeing used batteries, asbestos, lead and other potential hazardous waste mixed with the municipal solid waste being put into the water. Although it is a small factor in total these wastes are a source of toxic heavy metals and it is becoming an increasingly serious ecological and health problem in the Maldives”.

It is hoped that the media interest worldwide arising from these reports will promote increased awareness of the dangers of asbestos and in turn encourage countries to reconsider current policies on hazardous material disposal to ensure that asbestos materials and other hazardous waste is disposed of safely.

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