AN outraged couple has told how council workers in masks and protective suits descended on their block of flats without warning to remove deadly asbestos.
Council tenants Sandra Marshall and Ulrich Lauxen were stunned to open the front door of their Muirhouse flat to discover the men extracting the cancer-causing insulating material.
Asbestos can prove lethal when disturbed, releasing tiny crystals which cause killer illnesses if they are inhaled.
Ms Marshall, 52, and Mr Lauxen, 53, said they were completely unaware of the operation and slammed housing leaders for failing to inform them and other tenants who may have wanted to vacate the building.
Ms Marshall, a community worker, said: “I was wondering why there were people with suits and gas masks on in the building, yet the tenants were given nothing protective – it was a strange situation to be in.
“As far as I know, the law is that people have to be informed the asbestos is going to be removed from somewhere.
“If they had communicated that there was asbestos that had to be removed, then people could have got out. I’m angry this wasn’t done.”
Complaints came after specialist housing teams visited the Muirhouse block of flats on Thursday last week to remove a quantity of asbestos from its roof exterior as part of ongoing refurbishment work.
Ms Marshall and Mr Lauxen – who came to Scotland 11 years ago from Cologne, Germany – said removal teams were careful to make sure residents stayed behind closed doors while the asbestos was extracted and taken away.
But they questioned why more had not been done to let tenants know the potentially dangerous work would be carried out.
Mr Lauxen said: “I feel shocked – I think the residents should have been put in a hotel or a bed and breakfast for two days. We should have been moved for two days while it was taken out. That’s what you would do in Germany or Sweden or Norway.”
City housing bosses claim residents were notified about the refurbishment work and the dates on which it would take place. But the letter they sent to residents failed to mention workers would be removing asbestos.
A council spokeswoman defended the work, saying careful testing of the asbestos by specialist staff established there was no risk to residents.
She added: “As part of the refurbishment of Muirhouse Grove, some external roof-level materials containing asbestos were removed.
“The level and type of asbestos were carefully tested before specialist contractors began the operation and I can confirm there was no risk to residents or the public while this work was carried out.”
INHALATION LINKED TO SERIOUS ILLNESS
ASBESTOS is a naturally occurring mineral used in a range of building materials to make them more rigid and fire resistant.
The substance was used extensively in British construction from the 1950s to the mid-1980s, and any building erected before 2000 can contain it.
Health risks are generated by the thin, fibrous crystals which make up the asbestos. When asbestos fibres are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs. Over time, these fibres can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation.
Prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibres has been linked to a number of serious illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and dust-related lung diseases.