Earthquake Asbestos Contamination Risk

On the 4th September 2010 a massive earthquake caused substantial damage throughout the city of Christchurch, New Zealand including substantial loss of life.


The aftermath of such events can have long-standing impacts that are not immediately apparent at the time, or shortly after the event.  When the earthquake came, it demolished domestic and commercial buildings alike, many of which contained asbestos.  Asbestos has been widely used in New Zealand in many buildings and therefore it was a sure bet there was some in the 8,000,000 tonnes of building rubble which resulted from the quake.

ISIS carried out an investigation which reviewed asbestos use in NZ, then using rudimentary data that was available compared this with the typical amounts of asbestos that were released by the collapse of the World Trade Centre on 9/11/2001, which equated to approximately 400 tonnes of asbestos, in 1.5-2.0 million tonnes of building rubble.

The Christchurch wastes are in process of being systematically removed to a landfill at Bottle Lake, Christchurch for safe disposal. Our 2012 study looked at the risks from the release of airborne asbestos fibres based on comparable studies and the potential impact of this in the areas surrounding the landfill and transport routes.