Public Health South is reminding homeowners to contact a Health Protection Officer (HPO) before attempting to disturb or remove potentially hazardous building material samples. This includes materials that might contain lead, asbestos or other potentially harmful chemicals and agents.

Health Protection Officers are available to provide advice to homeowners or occupiers from Monday to Friday 9 – 4.30 and can be contacted in Dunedin (03) 476-9088 and Southland (03) 211-8500.

Professional contractors, builders, roofers, flooring specialist, estate agents, insurance assessors and other such service providers should safely remove samples in accordance with Worksafe guidelines and submit them to an approved analytical laboratory.

After contacting a Health Protection Officer for advice, homeowners will be given a unique sample number which must be used if the sample is to be accepted and analysed.

“The aim of the domestic materials testing service is to support homeowners and DIYers to manage asbestos and other potential risks,” says Dr Marion Poore, Medical Officer of Health, Southern DHB.  “It is important to seek advice from a Health Protection Officer prior to collecting samples to help ensure any samples are collected and submitted safely.”

“This message has been prompted by an incident where asbestos-containing material was posted to Southern DHB without the sender having first contacted a Health Protection Officer to establish a safe way of delivering the substance to us,” Dr Poore says. “We appreciate that people are trying to do the right thing by getting asbestos tested, but we need to take precautions to protect the health and safety of our staff and community."

More information about accessing this service can be found on the Southern DHB and the Ministry of Health web sites.