Kusu beaches, lagoons closed after asbestos debris found

The beaches and lagoons around Kusu Island are closed to the public after pieces of debris containing asbestos were discovered, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said in a statement last evening.

The potentially toxic material was, however, not detected at the island's other main public attractions like the Da Bo Gong (Tua Pek Kong) temple, wishing well, tortoise sanctuary, temporary hawker centre and jetty.

These areas will remain open to visitors. Regular scheduled daily ferry services to the island will also continue. SLA said it will conduct asbestos removal works, which it expects to be done by October.

The discovery of asbestos on Kusu follows checks by the SLA and other agencies after asbestos was found on St John's Island on April 16. Affected areas on St John's were also closed off and the SLA expects them to re-open only in mid-2019.

Checks were also done on Lazarus Island, Pulau Seringat and Kias Island. They have been declared safe. Checks are still being done for Pulau Hantu.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was once a popular component in construction materials. Due to its links to health problems such as lung cancer, its use in buildings was banned in Singapore in 1989, but many earlier structures still contain the substance.

Structures containing asbestos pose no risk to humans if they are intact. However, when there is damage or disturbance - such as sawing and cutting - fibres may be released into the air and inhaled.

Asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis occur mainly in people with many years of continued exposure to high levels of asbestos, and this is commonly work-related. The risk of developing an asbestos-related disease for persons with incidental exposure, including visitors to affected islands, is low.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2018, with the headline 'Kusu beaches, lagoons closed after asbestos debris found'. Print Edition | Subscribe