The scare over asbestos around air tanks for emergency crews has engulfed five agencies, including the police and defence.
The fire and emergency services found out last month an asbestos roof contaminated an air intake for a compressor used to fill tanks at the Oakland Central Fire Station.
I was worried if asbestos fibers did not get into the compressor and breathing apparatus.
FENZ has filled 2100 air tanks from the compressor since 2018. At first FENZ downplayed a trade union proposal other agencies were also affected, but it is now reported that 110 air tanks for the police, defence, customs and mine rescue services have also been filled.
“We contacted the agencies after internal audits revealed that we had filled a limited number of cylinders over a four-year period,” Sarah Sinclair, deputy chief executive officer for organizational strategy and capability development, said in a statement.
Police said today they quarantined and checked breathing apparatus and informed staff who may have been affected. So far, six tanks have given a negative result.
Customs reported that it was in contact with 24 employees who may have been affected. “We continue to keep our staff fully informed and supported as they are understandably concerned about this message and what it may mean for them,” RNZ said today.
The mine rescue service reported that there was no exposure. The defense has yet to comment.
FENZ is working on how to test the old compressor, which was used in Auckland from 2015 to 2022 and was moved to Whenuapai, but is now decommissioned.
He laid out a draft plan for the firefighters union, Sinclair said. The union said its consultant has yet to advise on the proposed testing method, which is not straightforward.
One air tank filled with Oakland’s new compressor also tested negative. FENZ has said it will also be testing this new compressor.
Police said they “immediately took a number of precautionary measures” after being alerted.
“We have quarantined all potentially contaminated cylinders and breathing apparatus and had them tested by an outside supplier,” spokesman Mike Johnson said.
“A meeting has been arranged for all potentially affected employees to review the situation and have the opportunity to ask our medical advisor any questions.”
According to him, the test of the cylinders and the air in them showed a negative result.
Customs said FENZ warned about this last month. It usually used its own suppliers, but found that six air cylinders were filled at an Auckland fire station in mid-2021, resulting in the “potential exposure” of 24 staff at the time.
Asbestos usually takes years to affect people’s health.
“While the potential contamination remains to be confirmed, Customs is taking an early detection and intervention approach,” said Director of Intelligence, Investigations and Enforcement Terry Brown.
Employees were given access to a specialist consultant in occupational medicine and early medical monitoring. Trade unions were involved. “Customs is now awaiting the remaining test results from FENZ,” Brown said.