From this week a number of key buildings around Tonga are being closed to allow the removal of asbestos.
The Tongan government's environmental officer Mafile'o Masi said the removal, being done through the European Union-funded Pacwaste programme by a European company, Polyeco, was expected to take about three months to complete.
She said about 6,000 square metres of asbestos needed to be removed and about two thirds of that was in the Prince Ngu Hospital on Vava'u.
"A lot of people are still using the hospital but we have received reassurance from the Ministry of Health that relocation of the patients and workers there is not a problem."
Several buildings in Nuku'alofa are affected, including the main hospital, Vaiola, but there the presence of asbestos is confined to a short covered walkway and its removal will not interfere with the hospital's operations.
The asbestos waste is to be sealed and isolated in landfills on Tongatapu and on Vava'u