Asbestos at ChristChurch Cathedral no health hazard for Anzac Day service

Health officials are confident those who attend an Anzac Day service near the ChristChurch Cathedral will be safe despite traces of asbesto being found in the ground. 

Recent soil sampling at the cathedral has shown traces of asbestos in the hard fill that was delivered to the site in 2012 to cover paving stones after the earthquakes, Church Property Trustees (CPT) general manager Gavin Holley says. 

The annual service is held at the war memorial near the Cathedral.

Mr Holley says, "There has not been very much disturbance of the site since then, so we are confident that there have been limited circumstances for any exposure to asbestos by anyone visiting the cathedral or looking at it through the gates."

Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Cheryl Brunton says the risk to people visiting the site is very low, given the amounts of asbestos in the soil are very small and the area has not been disturbed.

Dr Brunton says there are no short-term adverse health effects from exposure to asbestos. 

Health conditions in those who have prolonged exposure usually develop many years or decades after high levels of exposure.  

The area where people will walk to lay wreaths on Wednesday will be covered to ensure there is no disturbance to the soil.

CPT recovery programme manager Suzanne Price says, "Our clean-up plans now need to involve the removal of the asbestos, which will see experts extract the contaminated hard fill from the site with the appropriate health and safety measures in place. 

"Of course this makes the wider clean-up of the site more complicated than previously thought."