SINGAPORE: More than half of St John's Island has been cordoned off after debris containing asbestos was found on the island, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said on Monday (Apr 23).
The areas blocked off to the public include most of the island’s facilities such as the nature trail, campsite, lagoon and the holiday bungalow area, said SLA, which manages the island.
The closure took effect last Tuesday, a day after samples taken from the campsite, lagoon and holiday bungalow area tested positive for asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which was commonly used as a construction material in the past. The use of asbestos in building materials has been banned in Singapore since 1989 due to concerns about health risks.
Senior consultant of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at the Singapore General Hospital, Professor Loo Chian Min, said the health risk was low for casual visitors to the island.
"We shouldn’t expect any health issues for visitors. I wouldn’t be particularly concerned," said Prof Loo.
“For someone who is occupationally exposed for a long time, they can develop a few things, such as asbestosis, where the lungs get scarred, which leads to breathlessness,” he said.
"The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma, which is the cancer of the lining of the lungs and the heart, are the main health risks.”
CAMPSITE TO REOPEN MID-2019
SLA said that removal works will start this Friday and will be completed by the end of the year. It aims to reopen the campsite by mid-2019.
Meanwhile, the authority has cancelled all bookings for the island’s facilities. Fewer than a dozen bookings have been affected, it said.
SLA chief executive Tan Boon Khai said it had yet to determine the source of the debris which tested positive for asbestos.
"It could have been there for some time, but we are investigating the matter," he said.
Regarding the two residents who grew up and live on St John’s Island, Mr Tan said they were in good health and have moved to the mainland after being informed of the asbestos.
SLA said it will continue to follow up with the two residents, and they will be allowed to return to their homes when the cordoned area is deemed safe.
The authority, which took over the management of the island from the Sentosa Development Corp in March last year, had been carrying out maintenance and upgrading works to enhance the existing facilities.
It was during the works that SLA's contractors discovered the debris, and extracted samples around the campsite, lagoon and holiday bungalow area for further asbestos testing on Mar 19.
Last Monday, the asbestos surveyor appointed by SLA confirmed the presence of asbestos in the samples. It was not detected on the rest of the island, which houses a Marine Aquaculture Centre.
The regular scheduled ferry timings to St John’s Island will continue to be available throughout the removal works. Visitors will still be able to cross the linkway which connects St John’s Island to Lazarus Island.