Damaged asbestos panels cleared from Mriehel factory

Factory littered with damaged and badly weathered asbestos panels cleared up following MaltaToday report  

Mriehel factory cleared of asbestos • Video by Ray Attard

Winter Mood’s latest single ‘Everlasting’ might not go down in pop music history but it has at least convinced the authorities to clean up a derelict factory contaminated with asbestos.

Following reports on MaltaToday and the Sunday Times on the band’s recent music video which exposed actors to cancerogenous asbestos panels, the site has been completely cleared and all asbestos panels which littered the factory floor have been packed and sealed in white sacks.

The building which after years of neglect became a cancer factory has now been cleared and once the sacks are removed it will no longer be a health hazard for the thousands of residents and people who work in the Mriehel industrial estate.

Asbestos is dangerous when it is dispersed into the air as very small fibres that are invisible to the naked eye.

All the asbestos on site was damaged and badly weathered. The material appears to have fallen from the factory ceiling, which is now one big gaping hole.

Asbestos removal must be carried out by licensed companies, however MaltaToday could not confirm whether the site was today cleared by professional workers or whether the workers took all health and safety precautions during the operation.

The Winter Moods music video, produced by MaltaFilm, was shot early last summer in the abandoned factory in Mriehel, now the property of the Malta Industrial Parks, a subsidiary of Malta Enterprise. In 2008, the roof collapsed, littering the ground with planks of asbestos and a few weeks ago works on the site started but the factory was only completely cleared today. 

The asbestos mineral was commonly used in the manufacturing industry for its resilience to damage by heat, electricity and chemicals. In the 1970s, it was discovered to be highly carcinogenic and was widely banned.

Breathing in asbestos fibres can lead to asbestosis, a scarring of the lung tissue or even lung cancer. If the asbestos fibres are only weakly bound into the product or material, because of the fragility or condition of the product/material, then that increases the risk of fibres being released.

According to a study by the European Commission, there have been suggestions that asbestos exposure may lead to cancer of the larynx or of the gastrointestinal tract. Ingestion of asbestos (e.g. in contaminated drinking water) has been suspected as a cause of gastrointestinal cancer and at least one study has shown an increased risk from unusually high concentrations of asbestos ingested in drinking water.

MIP had been alerted to the situation by an OHSA official back in 2008, and all apertures had to be sealed to prevent fibres being blown away by the wind. The Malta Industrial Parks’ former deputy chairman, Christopher Paris, explained that MIP had released a tender for the removal of the asbestos.

However, the tender process was halted in 2010 after security system company Alberta protested that the winning bidder did not have the necessary insurance policies to cover the removal of the asbestos.

An internal inquiry was launched, a technical error was discovered and the tender process was cancelled. The tender was re-released earlier this year and was awarded to PT Matic, a subsidiary company of Alberta, on 7 October 2014. The bulk of the asbestos has now been removed, packaged in jumbo bags and shipped out to contractors in Spain.

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