A young Christchurch family is demanding answers after discovering they were exposed to asbestos when earthquake repair work was done on their home.
They say Fletcher Building and its contractors failed to follow guidelines and now Canterbury's top doctor is calling for a mandatory asbestos register.
It looks harmless, but a panel cut from the ceiling of a Christchurch house could be responsible for exposing up to 100 people to asbestos.
Having warned earthquake contractors about the possibility of asbestos, owners Daniel Moore and Nicola Allen assumed tests were negative. But 18 months they later discovered that was not the case.
"A lot of them didn't even have dust masks," says Mr Moore. "They were sweeping up with brooms at the end of the day, so they were making the stuff airborne. So they would have had a lot of exposure and a lot of them still don't know until today that they've been exposed."
Having moved in as soon as repairs were done, the couple hold grave concerns for their health and that of their son who developed respiratory issues soon after.
"My baby was six months old," says Ms Allen. "They don't have a test on what that does to a developing lung. He's my baby."
Paperwork shows Fletchers and the company that carried out the repair received a positive test result in June last year. They've failed to respond to requests for an interview.
Mr Moore and Ms Allen's suspicions were confirmed when they ordered their own tests this month.
"You'd think that they'd follow proper policies," says Mr Moore. "They had policies in place and they did not follow the policies."
The issue has raised the hackles of Canterbury's top doctor, who is calling for a mandatory register of all concealed asbestos.
"Every tradesman needs to know if they're going to cut into a ceiling, if there is asbestos underneath the gib. they should be able to find that out very easily before they cut a hole in the roof," says Alistair Humphrey.
He described asbestos as an insidious toxin and a silent killer.
"Short-term exposure you don't need to worry about, but long-term exposure as some of these workers have, indeed as some of these residents have, are likely to lead to a problem later on," says Dr Humphrey.
The asbestos is still there. The contractors simply put up a new false ceiling under the old one.
But the owners say it was a bad job and that they are still being exposed to the stuff, and they want their house properly repaired.
source: newshub archive