Engineers find more asbestos in 24 Sussex than previously reported

Engineers find more asbestos in 24 Sussex than previously reported
From CBC - March 14, 2018

The prime minister's official residence has more asbestos in it than previously thought, according to a third-party review.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau moved into government, he opted not to move his family into 24 Sussexinstead choosingRideau Cottage over the drafty and deteriorating official residence that was his childhood home.

Seizing on the empty home, the National Capital Commissionthe Crown corporation responsible for 24 Sussex's upkeephired consultants to poke and prod the Confederation-era building ahead of any hoped-for renovations.

In 2015, the engineering firm Exp Services Inc. sent its investigators into the grounds' main building, the pool house and the neighbouring RCMP building to survey for hazardous materials, including asbestos and lead paint.

The Exp specialists drilled into the plaster 15 times with a vacuum to extract samples. They were given past asbestos reports on the home as a starting pointbut they noticed an error.

"Previous reporting identified the plaster within the building as being non-asbestos. However, sampling programs completed as part of the building assessment have demonstrated that grey coarse plaster within the building is asbestos-containing," reads the report, obtained by CBC News through the Access to Information Act.

Asbestos has been condemned by the World Health Organization as a health threatand the once-common fireproofing material is now banned in some 50 countries around the world.

Canada was once a leading world supplier of the carcinogenic mineral. It'slinked to mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that can developin the lining of the lungs as a result of inhaling asbestos dust and fibres.

The stone mansion's grey plaster "forms the majority of the walls/ceilings" of the main building, notes the report. Inspectors found that while the building's white plaster did not contain asbestos, they felt it could not be easily separated from the contaminated plaster.

Plaster in good condition

On the plus side, the plaster was in good condition and the engineering team said the walls could be left as long as 24 Sussex is simply re-occupied or maintained as-is.

"However, in the event that the building is to be renovated, it is recommended that the plaster be removed," said the report.

Laura Lozanski, an occupational health and safety officer with the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said asbestos in plaster especially in older homes can be easily disturbed by rubbing up against it or drilling a hole into it, which canrelease toxic fibres.

"Once the fibres are disturbed they go into the air and that's how we either breathethem in or ingest them. So we always have quite serious concerns," said Lozanski, who hasbecome one of Canada's most active asbestos educators.

"I am going to assume this plaster is oldIt's probably been releasing fibres from time to time over the years."

Lozanski said being exposed to asbestos does not automatically lead to an asbestos-related disease.

"But if you have been exposed, the risk is there," she said.

Previous inspections of 24 Sussex had unearthed asbestos in the home's drywall and in the pipe insulation.

The Exp report noted that noasbestos has been removed from the buildingsince 2011, when a team pulled vermiculite asbestos from one of the home's rooms.

Lozanski said the risk is not borne only by the families that have lived at 24 Sussex, but also by any staffers or construction workers who have spent time in the residence.

$1 million to address asbestos


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