Activist accuses Nakuru county of exposing locals to toxic asbestos

Nakuru county government has been accused of exposing tenants in residential estates and traders to cancer causing material. The county is renovating municipal houses and in the process dumping the old asbestos roofing material in estates despite their hazardous nature.

Cancer being the third highest cause of morbidity in the country (7 per cent of deaths per year), after infectious and cardiovascular diseases, residents’ exposure to cancer-causing material should be a health concern.

The affected estates are Kivumbini, Flamingo and Bondeni where tenants are using the asbestos to construct semi-permanent houses, fences and kiosks. James Wakibia, an environmental activist, has blamed the county of ignoring a National Environment Management Authority (Nema) public notice on management and safe disposal of asbestos.

“Residents are using asbestos to build temporary structures not knowing the dangers they are putting themselves into,” said Wakibia. Asbestos fibre, which was initially used to make roofing sheets, is highly toxic and causes cancer of the lungs and stomach with Nema classifying it as hazardous.

He said the Nakuru county government was taking advantage of residents and traders lack of information about health dangers of asbestos. James Ochieng’, a tenant at Flamingo estate, said he was not aware of the danger associated with asbestos.

“I thought the roofing asbestos is harmless because I have lived here for more than five years with no major complications. I have also not been informed about its danger,” he said.

Nema director general Prof Geoffrey Wahungu in legal notice No. 121 of the Environment Management and Coordination (Waste management) Regulations 2006, says waste containing asbestos is classified as hazardous waste.

Acting Nakuru Housing County Executive member Bernard Maina was at pains to explain the haphazard disposal l of asbestos. “I am aware of the issue and it is being handled by Nema office, but we should wait for a substantive executive member after County Assembly completes vetting,” he said.

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