Reliance residents exposed to asbestos during demolition of cinema
Residents of Reliance, East Canje, Berbice were exposed to asbestos a few days ago as the Rajmahal Cinema in the area was being demolished. The demolition exercise came about as a result of the cinema, which has been closed for over a decade, being sold to a West Berbice rice farmer who began dismantling the building last Thursday.
The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious diseases of the lungs and other organs.
These diseases may go unnoticed until years after the exposure. For instance, asbestosis can cause a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs and result in loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and death. Asbestos fibers associated with these health risks are too small to be seen with the naked eye.
According to residents, they were not informed about the exercise even as a wave of dust permeated the area resulting from the harmful material which laces the windows, walls and ceilings of the old structure.
The Rajmahal Cinema was once one of Berbice’s top past times. It was constructed and opened in 1953 and was destroyed by fire a few years later but was subsequently rebuilt.
Its popularity and name faded into the sunset as with most of the cinemas in Guyana since DVDs and television came on the scene.
After an outcry from a few residents late Thursday, the sanitary inspector finally showed up on the scene and instructed workers performing the demolition exercise to follow the proper procedure by removing the asbestos and burying it in a nearby dumpsite.
“The problem lies with the asbestos— it’s cancerous!—the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) should have sent somebody from the Head Office and let them look into it (the demolition exercise)”, said one resident.
“You can inhale it today and it can take effect 10- 15 years later,” said another resident.
“From the first day they came to dismantle, we objected to it,” said a roadside snack vendor, whose stall is located nearby the cinema.
“They stopped me on Thursday from selling and the sanitary inspector stopped me. I already prepared things to sell!” complained the vendor.
The residents alleged too that the sanitary inspector may have “taken pay- off” in the entire matter since the rice farmer was allowed to start dismantling the structure without the requisite supervision.
“Some people skin started to scratch them that day!” complained another angry resident.
The residents are not blaming the rice farmer since they said that he may not have known the building contained asbestos, rather, they are blaming the EPA and the Neighbourhood Democratic Council in the area. Efforts to contact both agencies proved futile.
The demolition is scheduled to continue today.