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Response to media enquiries by Housing Authority spokesman
The following is issued on behalf of the Housing Authority:

     In response to media enquiries on the condition of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in building components in old public rental housing (PRH) estates, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) replied today (October 20) as follows:

     The findings of the latest comprehensive survey on the condition of ACMs in building components in old PRH estates conducted by a registered asbestos consultant engaged by the Housing Department (HD) show that the majority of the building components are basically in good condition.

     The survey results show that only a small number of building components require follow-up action. After seeking advice from the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Labour Department (LD) on the methods of handling the ACMs, the follow-up works for this small number of components have already been completed, one after another.

     ACMs were commonly used by the construction industry before asbestos was known to be harmful to health. Starting from 1984, the HD has stopped using ACMs in building construction. But some older buildings built in or before 1984 might have used ACMs. Most of the ACMs have already been removed. The small amount remaining are mainly in encapsulated balcony grilles in domestic units, staircases and lift lobby grilles, and chimneys of old estates. Asbestos fibres in these ACMs are bonded with cement, plaster or bitumen. As these bonded materials, unless broken or damaged, have very low possibility of releasing asbestos fibre into the air, they are unlikely to cause health hazards under normal circumstances.

     The HA started establishing a comprehensive management programme for ACMs in 1988. In August that year, the HD, together with the EPD and the LD, set up an Asbestos Working Group (AWG) to formulate an asbestos management strategy in PRH estates, to advise on the HD’s ACM abatement strategy, to receive and consider ACM data, and to review ACM removal procedures. In October that year, the HD engaged a specialist consultant to conduct a comprehensive review and survey in PRH estates to ascertain the presence of ACMs and their condition. Pamphlets on “Asbestos in Public Housing” giving general information on asbestos, ACMs in PRH and the HA’s asbestos management strategy were first distributed to PRH tenants in the same year. In addition, the summary record on ACMs, which is more accessible to tenants, has been uploaded to the HA/HD website and available for public viewing since 2009.

     The HD has also maintained records of ACMs in old PRH estates, including their types, locations and conditions. The records are kept at respective estate offices. The HD also conducts regular monitoring and condition surveys, maintains an asbestos consultancy, enhances contract specifications, holds internal staff seminars, posts notices at ground floor lobbies, updates records on the HA/HD website and holds AWG meetings.

     The existing management measures for ACMs are largely effective. After discussing with other departments concerned, we decided to enhance the existing system, especially in publicity and communication, hoping to strengthen communications with our tenants and other stakeholders.

     The HD submits regular reports to related committees of the HA. The findings of this survey were reported to the Building Committee of the HA today.
Ends/Thursday, October 20, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:23
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