Hundreds of quake-damaged homes have asbestos

Hundreds of earthquake-damaged Christchurch homes have tested positive for asbestos and more than 2000 are yet to be tested, new figures show.

But the Earthquake Commission, which released the figures, says the potentially toxic insulation material is not always removed.

Canterbury's Medical Officer of Health Alistair Humphrey wants all of the region's quake-damaged homes that have been found to contain asbestos listed on a public register.

The figures show that 875 individual homes have been tested and 297 have tested positive for asbestos contamination.

A spokesperson says a further 2099 properties with claims on them are waiting to be tested.

However, the commission says contractors are required only to encase undisturbed asbestos in damaged ceilings, rather than remove it entirely.

In a statement, EQC says it is following the relevant national guidelines and the recommended practice of Canterbury Public Health.

"All of our EQC field staff and Fletchers EQR supervisors have been given training in the correct identification of asbestos.

"If they suspect asbestos is present, then a sample is taken and sent for testing. This is completed by an independent specialist.

"Where contractors repairing homes find dangerous asbestos, it is always removed."

Dr Humphrey says while the number of contaminated houses is low, there still needs to be a public register.

By sealing off the ceilings, the EQC repairs hide the asbestos from tenants and future owners of the home, he believes.

Dr Humphrey says he has asked for a meeting with the Earthquake Commission, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to discuss future guidelines for asbestos treatment and removal. He says the commission refused the offer.

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