European Union and SPREP Support Emergency Asbestos Cleanup in Fiji

 Tamavua-Twomey Hospital Suva – site of the asbestos removal works.


Dangerous forms of brown and white asbestos, discovered in the Tamavua Twomey Hospital complex, in Suva, Fiji, are  to be removed  beginning 16 September 2014. The asbestos was discovered through the European Union’s Pacific Hazardous Waste Management (PacWaste) project, which is being implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

Given the serious ongoing human health risk and the need for immediate action, the EU, SPREP and the Fiji Ministry of Health have agreed to fast-track an asbestos cleanup under the PacWaste project to urgently address the situation through the targeted removal and disposal of the asbestos present at the hospital. This will later be followed up by a hospital-wide decontamination plan led by the Fiji Ministry of Health and assisted by the PacWaste project.

The PacWaste project has been conducting a field survey of asbestos in 13 Pacific island countries since May 2014. The data collected will be used to identify priority interventions to minimise human exposure to harmful asbestos fibres.

“Because the forms of asbestos found in the hospital easily become airborne, and therefore can be inhaled and cause lung diseases like cancer, it represents a grave health risk to the staff, patients and visitors to the hospital,” said the SPREP Project Manager, Mr. Stewart Williams.

“The PacWaste project’s identification of high risk sites, such as the Tamavua Twomey Hospital, highlights the value of first conducting country wide surveys before planning interventions, so that scarce resources can be prioritised and allocated to achieve the most positive effect.”

“This intervention on asbestos is just one of the first steps that the PacWaste project will take to improve the management of hazardous waste across the Pacific, through targeting priority infrastructure works, training of waste-workers, improved waste management systems and waste recycling programmes, particularly in the areas of asbestos, healthcare waste and E-waste,” said Ms Ileana Miritescu, Programme Manager at the European Union Delegation.

“These will have a profound effect, improving hazardous waste management and the environment in the Pacific island communities.”

The next steps for the PacWaste asbestos programme will include finalising the detailed regional asbestos survey and thereafter plan the follow-up needed. This will include stabilisation/encapsulation of buildings containing asbestos that may remain in use, asbestos remediation works for high risk sites, equipment purchases, capacity building, training and public awareness raising.

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