Asbestos found at Porirua kindergarten

RHIANNON MCCONNELL
Last updated 10:25 01/04/2014
abestos
RHIANNON MCCONNELL/FAIRFAX NZ
DANGEROUS FIND: Kyle Mitchell points out asbestos found at his daughter's kindergarten in Pukerua Bay.

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A parent at a kindergarten north of Wellington was shocked to discover children playing around asbestos.


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Builder Kyle Mitchell was in the garden at Pukerua Bay Kindergarten, in Porirua with his daughter when he noticed pieces of asbestos protruding from the ground.

"I pulled a big piece out," he said. "I was pretty shocked. That's pretty dubious stuff. The kids have actually been running on it."

The father of three raised his concerns with teachers.

"It's bloody terrible that the kids have been have been exposed to the hazardous substance for some time."

Barriers were put up by the kindergarten and a removal specialist was called in last Thursday afternoon.

Pukerua Bay Kindergarten head teacher Carrie-Ann Stark would not discuss the issue. When asked for a kindergarten committee spokesperson, she said that was her too, but she still would not comment.

Wellington Kindergartens Association spokeswoman Jenny Varney, who said she was also speaking on behalf of the kindergarten, said the kindergarten acted quickly after learning of the asbestos.

"Forty-eight hours from whoa to go it was gone. It was identified and removed," she said.

"Many years ago we disposed of things very differently than we do now. It is a historic thing and we can only carefully monitor it."

The kindergarten was established in 1977.

Varney said she believed rain had recently uncovered the material and she did not believe anyone had been at risk.

"We are always concerned about pupils' safety, but there's no reason to believe anyone has come in contact with [the asbestos] in the past."

Mitchell said the asbestos did not look as if it had been uncovered recently.

"It's been there for years. Some of it's been sticking out for ages," he said. "It should have been cleaned up."

He suspected the area was once used as a dumping ground.

"I spoke to one of the teachers and they said that in the past they had also found big shards of glass and that it must have been some sort of dumping ground and [the kindergarten] never bothered to have the play area cleared of this rubbish."

Mitchell said the clean-up was a good start, but the area needed to be fully checked and cleared for it to be safe.

His wife, Rachael, said the kindergarten was focused on safety and she believed it would do what was best for the children.

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"My view is they weren't aware of asbestos there and as soon as they were they went into protection mode."

Varney said the kindergarten did not believe there was any more danger, but it would be careful.

"We would be foolish not to keep an eye on things," she said. "Now that this happened we will be extra vigilant." 

 'I'LL BE BANNING MY KIDS'

Lower Hutt GP Stewart Reid said it would be very hard to be sure if the children at Pukerua Bay Kindergarten had been exposed to asbestos.

"I don't think there's any way you can detect if any significant exposure has occurred," he said. "The issue is that nothing much happens until many years later.

"If it was me, I'd be banning my kids from being near there." Reid said asbestos was only dangerous if inhaled. "If it is in a garden, there is a reasonable chance that some of it could break down and get dusty. "If there is no asbestos dust it is OK," he said.

WHAT IS ASBESTOS?

Asbestos is a group of minerals made up of many small fibres. It is a risk to health when breathed in as dust.

Fibres can get stuck in the lungs and body, leading to breathing difficulties and even lung cancer.

If asbestos is exposed or damaged it can be dangerous.

Before the dangers were known, it was popular because of its fire- resistant, insulation and reinforcement properties. It became popular in the 19th century as a cheap building material. Many old buildings in New Zealand contain asbestos. Its use is banned in many places.

- Kapi-Mana News

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