Asbestos removed at Diaconessenhouse

On Monday, loosely bound asbestos was removed from a utility closet in the Diaconessenhouse. According to SSH, the damaged asbestos was found during an inventory of the building due to plans to demolish it next year.

Annemiek van Vondel, spokesperson for SSH, confirms that the loose asbestos was identified on 14 October. ‘It was closed off at that point. Because the residential assistants have to have regular access to the closet, the decision was made to clean up the asbestos’, Van Vondel says. ‘This occurred on 16 November and was completed by a company that was hired by De Huismeesters.’

‘Appropriate and professional’

According to the first email from SSH to the residents about the situation on 16 October, the closet could only be accessed by ‘people authorized and present on behalf of a licensed company who always wear a special suit out of precaution’ until it was properly treated.

That was problematic since it contained an electrical panel with fuses for the shared kitchen, says Karl Zimmermann, a resident of the student house who moved into the complex in September. He recalls that the closet where the asbestos was found, located on the ground floor next to a kitchen, was already sealed off when he began living there.

The students were informed on Friday, 13 November that the asbestos would be professionally removed on Monday, 16 November. Karl says the removal operation looked ‘appropriate and professional’, and the closet is once again accessible. ‘So far so good’, he says.

‘Severe mistake’

‘Our problem now, though, is that no one ever told us we were living this close to a cancer-causing substance such as asbestos and we have seen no proof that this closet was in fact the only contaminated area. We feel lied to and request SSH to make up for this severe mistake on their side.’

The email from SSH to the residents in October insisted that the containment and removal did not pose a threat to their safety. ‘Again, we would like to emphasise that the regulations on this matter are very strict. Should there be any doubt that living in the building is anything other than completely safe, it is mandatory for us to immediately evacuate the house and arrange alternative accommodation for the residents. From the research that was done, there is no reason found that requires such action. Should this come up however, we will of course take our responsibility.’


But Karl isn’t very comforted by the assurances. ‘Honestly, I am not sure if they would have openly said that the asbestos situation was in fact hazardous because it would have caused a panic and a lot of stress.’

The email from October says that when Diaconessenhouse was hired five years ago, an inspection for asbestos was conducted at the time. The building at Van Ketwich Verschuurlaan is a former hospital and was opened in 1965.

Prior to 1994 when legal standards changed, asbestos was a commonly used construction material for insulation and fireproofing. As long as asbestos remains firmly bound, it is not hazardous, but if fibers become loose, inhalation can cause lung or intestinal cancer.