With government legislation coming through that would allow the public to know what buildings contain asbestos, the local health region and city are being proactive.
At the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, an asbestos survey that began in 2008 was completed a couple months ago.
Available on their website, www.paphr.sk.ca, the report highlights which facilities have asbestos identified in them.
Although asbestos is in all of their buildings constructed built before about 1980, that’s nothing unusual, vice president of operations John Piggott said.
“As long as it’s sealed and not disturbed, I think it’s said to be safe,” he said, noting that any asbestos that was found has been sealed.
“You’re going to find it in things like (pipe) elbows, and things containing heat, like insulating pipes,” he said. “You find it in some stuccos and ceilings, in particular. Sometimes you find it in walls, but most frequently of all any hot water pipes.”
Although safe when contained, renovations and maintenance efforts might expose staff and patients to the cancerous material.
“We’ve marked as much as possible, we’ve marked where there is asbestos and we’ve made that available to our staff and contractors so they don’t disturb it,” Piggott said.
“There’s a fair variability of amount of asbestos in these facilities -- sometimes you get a lot, sometimes not too much.”
The list of asbestos-containing buildings within the city includes the Victoria Union Hospital, 1521 Building, Pineview Terrace Lodge and Family Futures.
In Prince Albert, the Herb Bassett Home, Mental Health Services, Mont St. Joseph Home, Family Treatment Centre, Detox Centre and the new Pineview Terrace Lodge do not have asbestos in them.
You’re going to find it in things like (pipe) elbows, and things containing heat, like insulating pipes. You find it in some stuccos and ceilings, in particular. Sometimes you find it in walls, but most frequently of all any hot water pipes. - Prince Albert Parkland Health Region vice president of operations John Piggott
The buildings the health region leases haven’t been inspected yet, Piggott said, noting that this is one area that the program needs to expand into.
When asbestos does have to be removed due to a renovation project, Piggott said that the health region has four employees trained and qualified to safely do the work.
The City of Prince Albert has undertook an annual asbestos review of all of its buildings since 2007, with community services director Greg Zeeben noting that many buildings contain the material.
With asbestos posing no harm unless it’s airborne, the asbestos review is annual, so the city knows whether sealed asbestos has become exposed due to building damage.
The results will be made public through city council in the near future, Zeeben said, noting that this report is also submitted to the provincial government on an annual basis.
Bill 604 -- labelled Howard’s Law -- is the asbestos legislation currently making its way through the legislative assembly.
Put forth by NDP Leader Cam Broten, the private member’s bill is currently going through its committee stage, after which it’s expected to be implemented, judging from MLAs unanimous support of its second reading last week.
Howard’s Law is named after Howard Willems, a building inspector who died last year as a result of mesothelioma -- a cancer that comes from inhaling asbestos fibres.
His dying wish was for the government to produce a publicly available list of buildings that contain asbestos.
The Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (SADAO), the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Canadian Cancer Society and Lung Association of Saskatchewan have all supported Willems’ wish.