RPS has been able to speed up the process of reliable asbestos analysis in the Netherlands with the deployment of the mobile electron microscope (SEM / EDX) – recently completing analysis in less than 24 hours for businesses in the centre of Roermond, Limburg following the major blaze at Het Steel marina that destroyed two boat sheds and dozens of yachts occurring around 2200h on December 16th. The structural fabric of the boat sheds contained asbestos: fibres of which were released and spread by the wind across the centre of Roermond.
The area was transformed into a ghost town as it was shut down during investigations and clean-up operations. Downtown shops and schools were closed, and several thousand local residents were quarantined – having to go through decontamination procedures before leaving the affected area. Trains could not stop at the city and the main access roads were closed. Asbestos inspectors from RPS carried out the risk assessment on a Thursday night, and the analysis was complete – confirming that the buildings were asbestos free – the next day.
RPS analysed the air and adhesive samples that were taken on the Friday on location, inside a van with a sensitive mobile electron microscope in the protected area: allowing the inspectors and ultimately the client fast access to the analysis results. The client lost minimal business hours and was able to open the premises to the public again during that day. The causes of the fire remain uncertain at time of press.
Asbestos was widely-used in the mid twentieth-century until the 1990s due to its excellent fire retardant and insulating qualities – notably in internal and external building cladding, ceiling tiles, insulation, ventilation flues, fire doors and soffit boards. Short or long-term sustained exposure to asbestos fibres can present serious long-term health hazards. Mesothelioma (arising from sustained exposure to toxic fibres such as asbestos) is noted as the single largest cause of work-related fatalities in the developed world. However, provided that materials containing asbestos are not damaged, structures that incorporate asbestos in their fabric do not pose a risk.